Pharyngula

Four bad arguments against evolution

Bryan Fischer claims that anyone is capable of defeating Darwin in 4 easy steps, all they have to do is remember his four “scientific” arguments. I’ve got an easier strategy for creationists: be really stupid, lie a lot, and ignore anything a scientist tells you. See? Only three steps, and none of them require any thought whatsoever. Besides, it’s really what Fischer has done, too. The only thing new is that he has distilled creationist inanity down to four easily dismissed lies, and they actually are fairly representative of common creationist misconceptions.

So here you go, Bryan Fischer’s easily trounced arguments.

First Law of Thermodynamics. This law (note: not a theory but a scientific law) teaches us that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. In other words, an honest scientist will tell you that there is nothing in the observable universe that can explain either the origin of energy or matter. By logical extension, then, matter and energy had to come into being by some force outside the universe.

Intelligent Design theory offers a Prime Mover, evolution does not.

There are actually several errors here.

Right off the bat, he makes the common error of assuming there is some universal authority that ranks scientific ideas into “laws” and “theories”, with laws having some objective priority. This is not true. It’s largely arbitrary. If you come up with a description of something that can be typically written out in a short and easily testable mathematical formula, it tends to be called a law: for example, Newton’s laws, including F=ma, etc., or the ideal gas law, PV=nRT. Laws tend to be short and simple. This is not always true, of course (arbitrary, remember?): for example, Ernst Haeckel called his description of the relationship between development and evolution the Biogenetic Law, which has the virtue of being a counter-example that is neither mathematical nor in any way formally correct.

Theories, on the other hand, tend to be descriptions of more complex phenomena, and are often not easily reducible to a formula: for example, cell theory, germ theory, and the theory of evolution. They are neither more nor less true than a law, and a scientific theory is nothing like the colloquial meaning of “theory”, a guess. Theories can also encompass many ideas that we call laws. Evolution, for instance, includes concepts like the Hardy-Weinberg Law and Dollo’s Law.

So in the first sentence of his first argument against evolution, Fischer reveals his scientific illiteracy. Perhaps I need to define a Myers’ Law that says every creationist argument will be built on false premises that expose the arguers ignorance — keeping in mind that anyone can declare a statement to be a law, and calling something a law is no promise of validity. It seems to hold up fairly well in Fischer’s case, at least.

The rest is irrelevant. The Big Bang is not part of evolutionary theory, which describes the history of life on earth. Even if physicist discovered that the Big Bang was a result of a cataclysmic battle between Odin and a gang of frost giants, it would not perturb our understanding of life’s history here. It would make the cosmologists freak out, which would be fun, and it would shape our philosophical understanding of our presence here, but evolution is built on evidence on this planet, evidence that will not go away whatever the physicists discover about events 14 billion years ago.

As for that last sentence … I’ve seen a lot of belittling of Dawkins “Ultimate 747″ argument from The God Delusion, but it really is a key point for these people. There is a naive assumption that every action must have a causal intent behind it, which is not true; they even acknowledge it when they exempt their god from this “law”. It’s fair game to turn it around on them and remind them that they postulate something infinitely complex and powerful which has no cause. The other strategy I use (keep in mind, I’m not a cosmologist) is to argue hypothetically that what if there is an eternal and timeless substrate of something more fundamental than space and time that bubbles up universes, like ours, spontaneously — it is not a god, nothing that cares about us personally, but it does have the attribute of never requiring a creation event, like their hypothetical god. Even claiming a causal event at the beginning of the universe does not imply Jesus.

Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law (note: not a theory but a law) teaches us that in every chemical or heat reaction, there is a loss of energy that never again is available for another heat reaction. This is why things break down if left to themselves, and why scientists tell us that the universe is headed toward a heat death.

This law teaches us, then, that the universe is headed toward increasing randomness and decay.

But what does the theory of evolution teach us? The exact opposite, that the universe is headed toward increasing complexity and order. You put up a theory against my law, I’m going to settle for the law, thank you very much.

All right, another repitition of the false law/theory dichotomy, with extra emphasis. Still wrong.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics argument is one of the hoariest, silliest claims in the creationist collection. It’s self-refuting. Point to the creationist: ask whether he was a baby once. Has he grown? Has he become larger and more complex? Isn’t he standing there in violation of the second law himself? Demand that he immediately regress to a slimy puddle of mingled menses and semen.

Nothing in evolution violates laws of physics or chemistry, and the properties of organisms depend on the second law. We burn food, increasing its entropy, to decrease entropy locally in our bodies; the net change is an overall increase in entropy, but the bit we care about, ourselves, can use that increase to drive a local decrease. All of this is obvious, with even a minimal understanding of the principles involved.

Fossils. Realize that the fossil record is the only tangible, physical evidence for the theory of evolution that exists. The fossil record is it. There is absolutely nothing else Darwinians have they can show you.

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? This is an argument that relies entirely on a profound ignorance of the science of biology. No, this is not true; in fact, fossils are only a tiny part of the evidence for evolution. It’s a kind of sexy, tangible, concrete piece that doesn’t require a lot of background to appreciate, and historically it is very important, but in modern biology, it’s probably the least of the elements that support the theory.

First of all, the fossil evidence is flawed and imperfect, which every evolutionary biologist will tell you, and as creationists are fond of quoting. Even Darwin’s Origin goes on at length to document the imperfection of the geological record — all it can do is demonstrate a long pattern of change and diversity over earth’s history (which does contradict literalist interpretations of the bible) and hint at transitions and connections between lineages … and even the fossil lineages are a product of a connect-the-dots sort of exercise. Fossils disprove a literal Genesis, which is probably why the creationists focus on them so much, but they provide only a sketch outline of the history of life on earth and are not the key evidence for the process and mechanisms for evolution.

For that, we rely on evidence in living organisms. Read this summary of the evidence for evolution, for instance; a small part of it is a description of transitional fossil forms, but most of it is molecules, comparative phylogenies, development, genetics, biogeography, experiments … and especially molecules, molecules, molecules. Modern evolutionary biology is dominated by molecular analyses — everything from traditional ecological field work to embryology has become reliant on looking at genes and proteins. In the field I follow most closely, evo-devo, there is virtually no fossil evidence of any kind, nor can there be — we’re interested in the dynamic process of gene expression and interaction during the formation of embryos, and none of that can fossilize. You can read some of my articles on evolution, and you’ll find relatively few fossils discussed — it’s mostly about molecular mechanisms. Similarly, my Seed articles have all been on evo-devo and molecular genetics. That’s where all the action is at, not in fossils.

This isn’t even new. Darwin himself vested little effort in a discussion of fossils as evidence, but instead discussed variations under domestication and in nature, his mechanism of natural selection, hybrids, biogeography, and development, and prefaced his chapter “On The Geological Succession Of Organic Beings” with a chapter “On The Imperfection Of The Geological Record”. This has always been the case in evolutionary biology, that the primary evidence has come from extant forms, not old bones.

Fossils have just always been handy tools to bonk creationists over the head with, while telling them their myth is wrong.

Genes. The only mechanism — don’t miss this — the only mechanism evolutionists have to explain the development of increasingly complex life forms is genetic mutation. Mutations alter DNA, and these alterations can be passed on to descendants.

The problem: naturally occurring genetic mutations are invariably harmful if not fatal to the organism. Rather than improve an organism’s capacity to survive, they invariably weaken it. That’s why the phrase we most often use to refer to genetic mutations is “birth defects.”

Wait…Fischer has just told everyone that the only evidence “Darwinists” can muster is the fossils, and then in this last point he mentions genes? So he does have a vague notion that biologists do look at something other than mineralized bones, which implies that he was simply lying in his third argument.

Whenever Fischer says “the only…”, I think we can take it as a given at this point that he’s just making stuff up. Evolution is not “only” about mutations. Mutations provide a substrate of random variation on which other mechanisms, such as selection and drift, can operate to produce change in a population. That’s the first grand error in this claim, and it’s a fairly common misconception, implying that all there is to evolution is random chance assembly of functional organisms.

The second big mistake is the claim that genetic mutations are invariably harmful. This is simply not true. Most mutations are neutral, some are harmful, and a smaller number are beneficial. The whole point of Darwin’s great idea, though, is that there are mechanisms (the ones Fischer claims don’t exist) which can select for and increase the frequency of the beneficial mutations over time, while winnowing out the harmful ones.

We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that most mutations can’t be harmful, or we’d all be dead. We know this because we understand genetics, unlike Mr Fischer, and we know that every human being on this planet is born with a substantial collection of novel mutations. I’ll just cite Larry Moran’s succinct calculation:

The haploid human genome is about 3 × 109 base pairs in size. Every time this genome is replicated about 0.3 mutations, on average, will be passed on to one of the daughter cells. We are interested in knowing how many mutations are passed on to the fertilized egg (zygote) from its parents. In order to calculate this number we need to know how many DNA replications there are between the time that one parental zygote was formed and the time that the egg or sperm cell that unite to form the progeny zygote are produced.

In the case of females, this number is about 30, which means that each of a females eggs is the product of 30 cell divisions from the time the zygote was formed (Vogel and Rathenberg, 1975). Human females have about 500 eggs. In males, the number of cell divisions leading to mature sperm in a 30 year old male is about 400 (Vogel and Motulsky, 1997). This means that about 9 mutations (0.3 × 30) accumulate in the egg and about 120 mutations (0.3 × 400) accumulate in a sperm cell. Thus, each newly formed human zygote has approximately 129 new spontaneous mutations.

Is Mr Fischer walking around with over 100 “birth defects”?

One last, relatively minor complaint, but it is a pet peeve: most birth defects are not a consequence of genetic changes at all, but of epigenetic errors — factors in the environment that perturb the pattern of development and cause aberrations in form. Most of the malformations that Fischer would label birth defects have no genetic basis, while virtually all of the genetic changes that occur in every one of us would not even be recognized by him. It’s symptomatic that basically everything Bryan Fischer says is a 180° reversal from the truth.

But then, what else would you expect? Fischer has no knowledge of biology at all. His training is in theology (surprise!), which seems to have only taught him arrogance and pretentiousness, that he thinks expertise in making stuff up from old books means that people with real degrees in the sciences are doing likewise. The tragedy is that this clown is the head of the Idaho Values Alliance, which means he believes his patent ignorance qualifies him to tell other human beings how to live their lives.

Comments

  1. #1 Alan Kellogg
    April 19, 2008

    I can outthink Darwin, he’s dead.

  2. #2 marc buhler
    April 19, 2008

    Well, I’m convinced.

    (… falls off chair giggling.)

    Of course, I can *still* hear Ben Stein calling out my name. (Sort of.)

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    April 19, 2008

    Is Mr Fischer walking around with over 100 “birth defects”?

    Must. . . resist. . . obvious. . . cheap. . . shot. . . .

  4. #4 MAJeff, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Well, when Ambassador Keyes wins the Constitution Party nomination (he’s left the Republicans), and then goes on to win the Presidency, this guy will be a science advisor. This will all come about because of the glorious re-awakening of American yesterday!!! [/keith]

  5. #5 La Rana
    April 19, 2008

    OT, but entertaining. The crazies are trying to take control of the comments section accompanying the brutal NYT pan of Expelled.

  6. #6 Zeno
    April 19, 2008

    No doubt Mr. Fischer thought the “laws of science” were enacted by the National Academy of Sciences. Or perhaps the College of Cardinals. You know, one of those organizations with a nice letterhead and long red robes.

    Hmmm. What if someone introduced a measure to repeal some of those laws? Then we could have perpetual motion machines! And cold fusion would finally start working.

  7. #7 Akitagod
    April 19, 2008

    Thanks for the awesome post, PZ. Its nice for those of us fighting Fischer on his home turf — and believe me, its an exhausting wave of stupidity to try to hold back. The downside to this post is twofold: you just put his activism on a larger stage and probably just doubled the size of his ego. But, that’s OK. Its all he’s got.

  8. #8 Ted D
    April 19, 2008

    Even if physicist discovered that the Big Bang was a result of a cataclysmic battle between Odin and a gang of frost giants, it would not perturb our understanding of life’s history here.

    I’m sick and tired of the constant aesir-bashing on this blog! Are you not worried about being denied dying in battle and thus not getting to enter Valhalla? I’ll sacrifice a goat for you.

    Ahem. Sorry. Too much time on my hands, and nothing useful to add. Carry on.

  9. #9 Jim Thomerson
    April 19, 2008

    Didn’t Dobzhansky in his 1937 book, “Genetics and the Orign of Species” falsify the mostly deleterious mutations argument? Also interesting to read E. O. Wiley and others on the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the driving mechanism for evolution. Can’t recall the name of the Nobel Laureate who showed that the Second Law could lead to increase in complexity.

  10. #10 Dennis
    April 19, 2008

    It always fascinates me how many times, when I follow your links to your opponents, I find they almost never link to you or other evolutionists. It would also be nice if just once they would link to the informtion they claim to be quoting, I guess that would be too much to ask.

  11. #11 Jit
    April 19, 2008

    Tell the creationist fellow that the universe actually has zero net energy (gravity being the negative part).

  12. #12 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 19, 2008

    To quote the Firesign Theatre:

    “Eww! It’s a big bag of shit!”

    “Yes, but it’s really GREAT shit!”

  13. #13 Ted D
    April 19, 2008

    OT, but entertaining. The crazies are trying to take control of the comments section accompanying the brutal NYT pan of Expelled.

    Posted by: La Rana | April 19, 2008 11:34 AM

    I love how some commenters turn the bad review into proof that the movie is right:

    Will anyone have the courage to review the film objectively??? This is patently absurd elite propaganda of its own. The review is so one-sided, it simply confirms the point of the movie!”

    ’cause it couldn’t be that Expelled is a piece of crap and there’s no way not to notice that.

  14. #14 Christian
    April 19, 2008

    Can’t recall the name of the Nobel Laureate who showed that the Second Law could lead to increase in complexity.

    Ilya Prigogine?

  15. #15 Jit
    April 19, 2008

    Theology = study of nothing, if God does not exist. That is no qualification to talk about science.

  16. #16 Mantecanaut
    April 19, 2008

    Great article. Though it’s a bit depressing to have to constantly rebuff these crappy arguments against evolution. Why will they never listen?

  17. #17 Dan
    April 19, 2008

    You know? One of my favorite things is how these gomers will gurgle and rant that scientists are not qualified to discuss theology. And yet, here we have a theologian trying (and failing rather comically) to discuss science.

  18. #18 SteveF
    April 19, 2008

    PZ,

    Are most mutations strictly speaking neutral, or are many of these something slightly either side of neutral? In particular many being very slightly deleterious.

  19. #19 Patrick Albers
    April 19, 2008

    Oh, thank you for this. It’s actually too funny to be true, and it’s so sad that it is actually true. But in his own experience, there must have been some atheists, who were debating with Fischer, and they must have given him similar answers. Or are these “arguments” new to him and he never heard similar explanations? If yes, then he is not competent enough. If no, then he is a bloody liar … or just an idiot… just like:
    Fischer: “What do you have to say about my arguments against evolution?”
    Biologist: “Well, I will explain you every detail. So…”
    Fisch” “LALALA I can’t hear you LALALA”

  20. #20 student_b
    April 19, 2008

    First Law of Thermodynamics. This law (note: not a theory but a scientific law) teaches us that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

    Oh, I just created matter last week. But that’s umpossible!

    Well, it wasn’t that much and not for very long. But still:

    I am a god!

    Or can it be, that this gawdfly just doesn’t know his Einstein? ;)

  21. #21 Screechy Monkey
    April 19, 2008

    “Demand that he immediately regress to a slimy puddle of mingled menses and semen”

    I’ve been doing that to creationists for years anyway; I had no idea I could tie it into an actual argument. Thanks!

  22. #22 Hank Fox
    April 19, 2008

    Ha, read this:

    Bryan Fischer is the Executive Director of the Idaho Values Alliance, whose mission is to make Idaho the friendliest place in the world to raise a family. He has an undergraduate degree in Philosophy (from Stanford University) and a graduate degree in theology.

    Yeah, friendliest place in the world to raise a family until you decide you want your kids to have a read science education, and not a know-nothing fundamentalist religious one.

    Bryan Fischer is a grinning, smug enemy of science and reason, executive director of an organization that appears to hate gays, medical research, reproductive choice and public schools, and works tirelessly to promote the exclusively Christian viewpoint in public venues.

    Interestingly, his son J.D. Fischer majored in molecular biology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Be interesting to know what HE thinks of evolution, and dear old Dad’s anti-science hijinks.

  23. #23 Olaf Davis
    April 19, 2008

    “there is nothing in the observable universe that can explain either the origin of energy or matter”

    There’s nothing in the observable universe that can explain the origin of god. What’s your point?

  24. #24 Hank Fox
    April 19, 2008
  25. #25 Sastra
    April 19, 2008

    That perplexing ‘Second Law of Thermodynamics Argument’ gives insight into just how stupid creationists think scientists must be. Do they really think that thousands of working biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, etc. are going to somehow not notice they’ve been unknowingly violating the laws of physics for over a hundred years — and then all of a sudden an engineer is going to run up and tell them their perpetual motion machine isn’t working? Oops, will their faces be red.

    What the hell sort of image of evolution does this indicate? If there are no violations of natural law in what they call MICRO-evolution, the little picture, then it’s not suddenly going to appear if you pull back a distance and look at the big picture. Another instance of what’s called “the discontinuous mind.”

  26. #26 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    Holy smokes, does this clown actually think that the physicists who study the Big Bang and the origins of energy and matter are unaware of the 1st law of thermodynamics, and fail to take it into account?

    They know full well about the first law; in fact, they know more about it than he learned in Bible class.

    I always find it interesting when people think their ignorance is an argument for anything (again, using ignorance in the true sense of the word). It’s like the old story about how “science showed that a bumblebee couldn’t fly.” True (maybe?), scientists at the time could not account for how a bumblebee could fly. However, they didn’t use that to conclude a bumblebee couldn’t fly, they took it as an indication that their knowledge of how it flew was lacking.

    That’s what Fischers is doing here. He is doing the equivalent of applying simplistic analysis and interpretation and acting as if it applies to the real system. Sorry, dude, bumblebees can fly no matter what _your_ version of the physics says. Perhaps you should consider that, if your version of the 1st law doesn’t accomodate the Big Bang, then it is your interpretation of the 1st law that is wrong, and not the Big Bang?

    If I were talking to him, I wouldn’t get past the first point. He demonstrates himself to be an ignorant fool, so nothing else he has to contribute is worth listening to.

  27. #27 Richard Simons
    April 19, 2008

    Like so many of these creationist / ID pundits, Bryan Fischer makes no provision for comments. I wonder which is uppermost in their mind when they do this, ‘I am the Authority Whose Word is Law’ or ‘if I allow comments someone might make a point I can’t rebut’?

  28. #28 raven
    April 19, 2008

    I love how some commenters turn the bad review into proof that the movie is right:

    Will anyone have the courage to review the film objectively??? This is patently absurd elite propaganda of its own. The review is so one-sided, it simply confirms the point of the movie!”

    You have to remember, in the fundie creo world, anyone with and IQ over 80, a high school education, or a brain larger than a walnut is….an elitist.

    I’m sure they think their dog is a smart ass elitist too.

  29. #29 Landon
    April 19, 2008

    I find it interesting that the actually scientific blogs (for instance, this one) have a space for anyone to add comments. Creationist sites, on the other hand, almost never have such a space. Perhaps they are afraid of someone bursting the bubble of lies they build around their gullible readers?

  30. #30 Chupacabras
    April 19, 2008

    Re Genes: I guess there are mutations, otherwise all brothers and sisters would all be exact look-alikes.

    There should be a Law that forced these people back to school.

  31. #31 Mark
    April 19, 2008

    Interesting exercise: See how many points can be rebutted by using the Answers in Genesis page on arguments creationists should not use.

    (I see at least points 2 and 4 addressed, as well as the false theory/law dichotomy)

  32. #32 StarbucksOffersLatte386sx
    April 19, 2008

    Even Aristotle saw that behind the existence of the universe had to be what he called a Prime Mover or an Unmoved Mover.

    Well if it’s so obvious that even Aristole saw it… even Aristole could see that one by golly.

    Intelligent Design theory offers a Prime Mover, evolution does not.

    Big deal anybody can offer a prime mover. You have to do more than just “offer”, otherwise anybody who “offers” something has a better theory by default. Hey everybody let’s go around “offering” stuff all day! “Offer” “offer” “offer” “offer” “offer”!!

  33. #33 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    This law teaches us, then, that the universe is headed toward increasing randomness and decay.

    “But what does the theory of evolution teach us? The exact opposite, that the universe is headed toward increasing complexity and order.”

    No, it doesn’t.

    Do you think lying generates more heat than telling the truth? Fischer would be an excellent subject in such an experiment. In fact, you might be able to tell a lot about randomness, decay and heat death by studying the grey matter of your typical creationist proponent. Teh stupid; it burns.

  34. #34 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    That perplexing ‘Second Law of Thermodynamics Argument’ gives insight into just how stupid creationists think scientists must be. Do they really think that thousands of working biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, etc. are going to somehow not notice they’ve been unknowingly violating the laws of physics for over a hundred years

    True, although I would note that biologists, geneticists, and paleontologists are not as expert in the concept of the statistical distribution of energies as others, such as physicists or physical chemists. I mean, biologists might have had some thermodynamics training in their coursework, but that’s asking quite a bit for paleontologists.

    That’s why I focused on the 1st law stuff. Physicists, OTOH, were the ones who developed the whole “Laws of Thermodynamics” things, and most physicists have highly advanced training in thermodynamics, and it’s applications (as in statistical mechanics, which is all about thermo). Yet, he implies that these folks are so stupid to not account for the 1st law? Hokey smokes, I am not an expert in Big Bang physics in any way, but I know darn well that “energy balance” is a huge component of everything they do.

  35. #35 Lout
    April 19, 2008

    Golly, gee, I can demolish Darwinism with a single argument.

    1. All that evolution has going for it is evidence. Without that, it is nothing.

    (Yeah, it does take your breath away, doesn’t it?)

  36. #36 HG
    April 19, 2008

    I’ll admit I am no scientist, but it sounds to me like Myers is saying a “law” is only such because some human being says so, and therefore one should not assume a scientific “law” to be valid or objective, but arbitrary? This then means that Fischer’s understanding of a “law” is something unscientific and therefore he is wrong. Am I getting this correct?

  37. #37 386sx
    April 19, 2008

    “But what does the theory of evolution teach us? The exact opposite, that the universe is headed toward increasing complexity and order.”

    This guy looks like he’s getting some of his theories mixed up or something. Not exactly the brightest bulb, if you know what I’m saying.

  38. #38 Richard Simons
    April 19, 2008

    Do they really think that thousands of working biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, etc. are going to somehow not notice they’ve been unknowingly violating the laws of physics for over a hundred years

    and in addition not one out of hundreds of thousands of physicists has noticed that biologists have this ‘theory of evolution’ thingy that violates basic physical laws?

  39. #39 Ivan
    April 19, 2008

    It does not matter if we call it theory or law, the important issue is if our model work and can be tested. Evolution is a primitive theory and requires so much faith that, sorry to say, it turns to be a religion followed by people who do not want to be brave enough to reject God but want to hide themselves behind science. Believing or not in God is not a science thing, believing in God or not is a pesonal decision.

    Finally PZ Meyers, I saw a clip about your comments about religion in the Expelled movie and I found them prepotent, silly,wrong,simple, ignorant and childhood. Your conspiracy about killing religion departs from the assumption that religion is just a hobby thing. Well why natural selection created it in the first place?. Secondly, killing religion seems to be an unnatural process, as you said, you should try to do something against it, otherwise it will exist. Hope you are quite aware that you will die, your childrens and your grandchildrens and religion will still be there because even if your dream become true and Darwinism mindset is the only prevalent serious thought, sooner than later you will realize that the Darwinish is, in fact, a religion.

    By the way, you guys are not the intelligent ones.

  40. #40 Martin
    April 19, 2008

    Mindless creationist blather landing on runway 38!

  41. #41 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Ivan, just out of curiosity, what is your field of expertise? Do you have one?

  42. #42 Stuart Ritchie
    April 19, 2008

    Right at the start:

    ‘Before we even start, we ought to notice that, if evolution is true, there would be no way to know it. Because evolution teaches that everything that exists is the product of the random collision of atoms, this logically includes the thoughts I am thinking about evolution. But if my thoughts are the product of the random collision of atoms, there is no reason to think that any of them are true — they just are.’

    Ah, yeah. Because all they do in neuroscience departments all day is sit and twiddle their thumbs. ‘Not much for us to do – everything in there is just totally random…’

  43. #43 Ben
    April 19, 2008

    That was entertaining stuff.

  44. #44 Johnny Vector
    April 19, 2008

    Martin (#39) For The Win!

    Especially delicious if you know how runways are numbered. Because the creationist world is that special kind of world where a circle can too have 380 degrees of rotation, I don’t care what those elitist geomertrey professors say!

  45. #45 QrazyQat
    April 19, 2008

    You refutation of the nonsensical creationist 2nd law of thermodynamics claim doesn’t work for them though. You ask if they are not themselves more complex; they answer of course. You point out that this contradicts the 2nd law; they point out that this is because God did it, just as God did it for evolution, just as God hears every sparrow’s call. To them this is proof of God, because none of these things would work — according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics — without God mucking about with the machinery all the time.

    Cogito ergo boggum.

  46. #46 Stuart Ritchie
    April 19, 2008

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for joining in the discussion with your well-thought-out comments and lucid style!

    You’re going to fit in really well around here. PZ, a Molly award for this man! Cheers!

    Love from,
    Stuart.

  47. #47 Rebecca
    April 19, 2008

    Ooh, Brian Fischer has also decided he’s qualified to assess the validity of AGW.

    http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/fischer/080417

    CO2 isn’t a pollutant at all! It’s plant food! Whew, what a relief. Time to switch from a bike to a car so I can feed me some plants.

  48. #48 Jsn
    April 19, 2008

    Okay, it’s not exactly spare and pithy but I’m all in favor of putting up plaques of PZ’s rebuttal instead of those silly ten commandments. “Thou shall not kill, steal, bear false witness”, I try to live by, but the “no god before me” is bizarre. Where would America be without coveting? It drives our economy dammit.

    Observation:I suspect english is not Ivan’s first language; if it is then the irony is just tragic. Any way you slice it though, he’s a clueless idiot.

  49. #49 MAJeff, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Posted by: Ivan | April 19, 2008 1:21 PM

    I wonder how much vodka it takes to get this ridiculous.

  50. #50 George Cauldron
    April 19, 2008

    By the way, you guys are not the intelligent ones.

    “I know you are — but WHAT AM I??”

    Snap!

  51. #51 LP
    April 19, 2008

    I KNOW WHAT ENTROPY IS!! I JUST LEARNED THAT IN CHEMISTRY!! YAY!

  52. #52 SteveM
    April 19, 2008

    it sounds to me like Myers is saying a “law” is only such because some human being says so, and therefore one should not assume a scientific “law” to be valid or objective, but arbitrary? …Am I getting this correct?

    No you are not. A scientific law isn’t just because “someone says so”, its because it is an accurate codification of real phenomena. Like Ohms’s Law. What usually distiguishes a “law” from a theory is that a law is essentially a single statement typically expressed as an equation, e.g. V=I*R. A theory is a coherent collection of laws and a model of why those laws are in the form they are, i.e. theory of electromagnetism.

  53. #53 HG
    April 19, 2008

    SteveM,

    Please clarify Myers use of the words “arbitrary”, “valid”, and “objective”. Also, your explanation reflects Myers own, but Myers goes a little further. He says that not all “laws” are expressed as an equation and that such a law is an example of the arbitrary — if I am not mistaken.

  54. #54 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Okay, it’s not exactly spare and pithy but I’m all in favor of putting up plaques of PZ’s rebuttal instead of those silly ten commandments.

    It’s been Dugg does that count?

  55. #55 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    April 19, 2008

    As evolution applies to all organisms, let’s make Fischer happy by instituting the law of evolution.

    I’m only halfway joking. Let’s assume we find life elsewhere in the universe. What are the likelihood that this life is found to be static, eternal, singular individuals as opposed to adaptable, competitive organisms in a population?

    Not quite as bad as the “Ultimate 747″ probability perhaps, but the way to bet is that evolving life forms kicks others ass.

    Hokey smokes, I am not an expert in Big Bang physics in any way, but I know darn well that “energy balance” is a huge component of everything they do.

    I’m not an expert either, but I doubt an energy balance matter (which is another way of saying that Fischer is wrong).

    Looking at an entire initial singularity (the whole shebang) there are presumably some varieties that allow constraints. But until a full theory of quantum gravity exists, I’m not sure how valid they can be.

    Looking at larger volumes in later stages of the process (for egality, let us call it this a “hebang”), there is presumably no such thing as a definable global energy in general relativity. Seems one can motivate and use various energy conditions for rather large hebangs though.

    Now as mentioned AFAIU the local energy density of the current cosmology comes out as zero, since empty space is as perfectly flat as can be observed. So energy balance seems to be a result, if nothing else.

    One can blame it on inflation, I suppose. Which in turn can be blamed for setting up a conveniently large universe instead of a dud.

  56. #56 PZ Myers
    April 19, 2008

    No, actually, it is pretty much arbitrary. You can call anything a law — there is no governing body overseeing the nomenclature with a set of categorical guidelines. Lately, I’ve had a string of creationists trying to shout me down with a “Law of Causation” and a “Law of Biogenesis”, neither of which really exist as laws.

    But in an operational sense, you’re right: the laws that persist are the laws that work. Ohm’s Law? Nice, clean, measurable, usable, it’s one of the things that makes my computer function. The law that says the force of gravity is proportional to the masses divided by the distance squared? Sure, that one seems to predict behavior very accurately, I’ll call it a law.

  57. #57 dave
    April 19, 2008

    I really don’t understand how creationists can spew the same stupid disproved arguments over and over and over and over. Well I can see one positive aspect to it, it helps me to further understand the fact of evolution. But ah, not sure on the numbers but I think >70% of the earths population doesn’t believe or have a proper understanding of evolution so evolution still needs to be taught to >4 billion people, who are most likely being brainwashed in their churches with this same crap. What a daunting job we have ahead of ourselves.

  58. #58 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    April 19, 2008

    “What are the likelihood” – What is the likelihood.

  59. #59 Johnny Vector
    April 19, 2008

    A scientific law isn’t just because “someone says so”, its because it is an accurate codification of real phenomena. Like Ohms’s Law.

    That’s “Ohmses’s Law”. Unless it’s been past-tensededed.

    Or rather: Just so. Trying to argue that PZ is wrong on the basis of whether one should call A a law and B a theory is like deciding who to vote for based on what lapel pin they wear.

    Ohm’s law is a concise mathematical statement, which is consistent with theories of Electromagnetism and solid state physics. It is not more or less true than those theories.

    The point is that the terms “law” and “theory” in science are not part of a hierarchy, and trying to win your argument by labeling things with those terms and then claiming one beats the other as a result of those labels is lunacy.

  60. #60 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    Now as mentioned AFAIU the local energy density of the current cosmology comes out as zero, since empty space is as perfectly flat as can be observed. So energy balance seems to be a result, if nothing else.

    By “energy balance is a huge component” I didn’t mean to suggest that there is always an energy balance, but that the energy balance is always something considered. It could be that there is an energy balance, or it could be that “there is presumably no such thing as a definable global energy in general relativity,” or something maybe something else. Regardless, the concept of energy balance is addressed in some way in the various models. It certainly is not ignored, and under no circumstances are they proposing an actual violation of the (real) 1st Law. It’s just that under Big Bang conditions where GR treatment is required, it can be hard to pinpoint what the 1st law actually requires.

    But the point remains, physicists know this stuff, and realize that their models need to account for it in some way.

  61. #61 Richard Simons
    April 19, 2008

    What usually distinguishes a “law” from a theory is that a law is essentially a single statement typically expressed as an equation, e.g. V=I*R.
    Mendel’s Laws illustrate the arbitrary nature of what distinguishes laws from principles or postulates as they are not expressed as equations and had to be modified to allow for effects such as linkage.

  62. #62 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    But in an operational sense, you’re right: the laws that persist are the laws that work. Ohm’s Law? Nice, clean, measurable, usable, it’s one of the things that makes my computer function.

    And notice that even Ohm’s law fails to describe superconductors.

    (I once heard someone argue that there couldn’t be superconductors because they would violate Ohm’s Law)

  63. #63 Rey Fox
    April 19, 2008

    “Demand that he immediately regress to a slimy puddle of mingled menses and semen”

    Regress?

  64. #64 Christian
    April 19, 2008

    A scientific law isn’t just because “someone says so”, its because it is an accurate codification of real phenomena.

    Actually not of real phenomena per se, but of models of real phenomena.

  65. #65 Michael Ralston
    April 19, 2008

    To put it another way that might be clearer: Scientific laws are not in the least arbitrary. Neither are scientific theories. Both are beholden to testing against reality.

    What scientists call a law as opposed to a theory is arbitrary, though.

  66. #66 Johnny Vector
    April 19, 2008

    And notice that even Ohm’s law fails to describe superconductors.

    Oh FSM (For the Sake of Molly)! Ohm’s law works just fine on superconductors. E = I * R. You got your superconductor, that’s got that R equal to zero. So whatever I is, E is zero too. Works like a champ.

    Which reminds me of a story I heard Nth-hand, of a guy in the British (I think) army, taking a test to be a radio operator. One question asked him to write down the three equations of electronics. Three? he wondered. Which set of equations has three? Let’s see…

    Ohm’s law. There’s just the one.

    Kirchoff’s laws. Two of them.

    Maxwell’s equations? Four.

    He finally gave up on that question. Upon asking about it later, he was patiently informed that the three equations were:

    E = I * R
    R = E / I
    I = E / R

  67. #67 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    Oh FSM (For the Sake of Molly)! Ohm’s law works just fine on superconductors. E = I * R. You got your superconductor, that’s got that R equal to zero. So whatever I is, E is zero too. Works like a champ.

    So how much current flows if you hook the two ends of a superconductor up to a 9 V battery?

  68. #68 Hank Fox
    April 19, 2008

    Ivan (#38): Parody or Punditry?

  69. #69 Kadath
    April 19, 2008

    Fischer sez: Laws of Thermodynamics blah blah i am a moron

    I really wish people (mostly creos, but sane folks do it, too) would stop conflating information entropy, engineering thermo, and statistical thermo. The more “sophisticated” Second Law arguments almost always conflate energy entropy with information entropy, and always fail at understanding statistical entropy.

    Also, the First Law argument is so entirely bizarre I don’t know what to do with it.

    (No creo ever seems to abuse the Zeroth or Third Laws of Thermo, either. Let’s give temperature some love!)

  70. #70 SteveM
    April 19, 2008

    So how much current flows if you hook the two ends of a superconductor up to a 9 V battery?

    As much as the battery can supply. The problem is not Ohm’s Law, but your circuit model. A battery is a very good, but not a perfect, voltage source. Include an accurate model of the battery and things will work out just fine.

  71. #71 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    Include an accurate model of the battery and things will work out just fine.

    So what is the current if you apply a 9 volt potential difference across a superconductor?

    You claimed above that E = 0. But if I apply a non-zero source, then E =/= 0. You cannot have both E = 0 and E > 0.

    The problem is that 0*infinity is not defined. Hence, your claim that “anything times 0 is 0″ is wrong.

  72. #72 DH
    April 19, 2008

    #39:

    Oh, I hate to pick apart your most excellent burn, but I’m picky for the details. Runway numbers don’t go above 36 (numbered according to their magnetic heading in degrees, rounded off to the nearest 10 and the zero dropped).

    A Pilot and Biologist

  73. #73 Johnny Vector
    April 19, 2008

    Pablo (#67):

    I = E / R, as always when Ohm’s law applies. Thevenin says you can model the battery as a pure voltage source in series with a resistor. Since the superconductor has no resistance, the internal resistance of the battery is the total resistance in the circuit.

    There’s always some resistance in your power source, unless you just make a loop out of the superconductor wire. In which case you now have a constant amount of current flowing in the loop, with zero voltage. If that current is nonzero when you create the loop, presto! Big ol’ electromagnet that lasts forever! (Or until you bring a big power supply too close to it, resulting in the magnet being pulled against the side of the dewar, causing a thermal short and boiling off all your helium so suddenly it’s not superconducting any more. Not that I have any experience with that.)

    If you’re worried about writing the equation as I = E/R and dividing by zero, you can stop worrying! In that case you need to take the appropriate limit, like you do any time a denominator goes to zero. You remember that from High School calculus, right?

    The pirate physicists hijack the thread! Avast!

  74. #74 Johnny Vector
    April 19, 2008

    DH, I explained it all in comment #44. Well, I didn’t explain the numbering convention, I was trying to keep it all secret-y so those of us in the know can keep our elite status.

    But now you’ve let the cat out of the bag. And my trophy wife out of town, too. How depressing.

  75. #75 Sonja
    April 19, 2008

    I think the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a case for Sun worship.

    Truly, no life would exist on Earth without the Sun and all life derives its sustenance in some way from it. The Sun is the source of energy that allows us to defy entropy.

    Sun worship is the only religion with some basis in science. The Sun is real and tangible and is proven to be the source of life. And after the winter we’ve had here in Minnesota, I plan pay much homage to the great and powerful Sun this summer!

  76. #76 Pablo
    April 19, 2008

    If you’re worried about writing the equation as I = E/R and dividing by zero, you can stop worrying! In that case you need to take the appropriate limit, like you do any time a denominator goes to zero.

    A superconductor is not “in the limit where R goes to zero,” is where R = 0. If you want to be more precise and say “Ohm’s Law says that the E = lim I/R as R goes to zero” then that’s a very different statement than E = I/R (but the limiting definition is probably closer to true, yes?)

    If there is some residual resistence, it is not a true superconductor, just a great conductor.

    Granted, this is an important practical aspect, but it is still true. You cannot describe the behavior of a true superconducting circuit with Ohm’s Law. However, any real system you try to create will work.

    It’s kind of the inverse of the perfect gas law, pV = nRT, which doesn’t actually apply to any real system.

  77. #77 jsn
    April 19, 2008

    /Ivan (#38): Parody or Punditry?/

    Had he signed off as Ivan Yakkinoff, I would vote parody, but there was a quaint earnestness to his rant that suggests punditry, irrationally based and poorly spelled.
    The world may never know…

  78. #78 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008
  79. #79 ihedenius
    April 19, 2008

    I think scientists got more careful and reticient about naming observations of nature as ‘laws’ after Newtons Laws was found to be less than accurate in all situations (replaced by relativity).

    Laws implies something absolute. The modern view is about models of reality. The best models of reality as supported by the evidence.

  80. #80 robhoofd
    April 19, 2008

    …fossils are only a tiny part of the evidence for evolution. It’s a kind of sexy, tangible, concrete piece…

    I know my collection is a total babe magnet.

  81. #81 Michael Bishop
    April 19, 2008

    I laugh every time I see Bryan Fischer and members of his Right Wing Christian gang walking down the streets here in Idaho (ranks 50th in the nation where only 25% of high schoolers go to college; more go to a church sermon than to an academic lecture).

  82. #82 Bob V
    April 19, 2008

    @#28 Landon – I’m glad you also noticed this – no comments allowed at that site. I also took the time to read this entire columm and even delved into a few of the links. The author seems a fairly educated man and puts forth his views on this very succinctly, using easily read and scientifically and historically-appearing knowledge. I noted too, that he has a degree in philosphy as well as theology. So there is little doubt that he must be very qualified to write and publish an entire column that effortlessly demolishes the Theory of Evolution.

    It looks like the perfect answer to people who might be looking at this controversy and poking at their own boundaries, yet need reassurance in their beliefs. They found it in spades in this “scientific” article.

  83. #83 Bryan Fischer
    April 19, 2008

    So far, no one has actually refuted any of the arguments I set forth. No one has yet to argue that, in fact, there is some mechanism in nature that can actually create either matter or energy out of nothing. I’m waiting.

    Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.

    The argument that we all grow after being born won’t work. After all, most of the people who have used that argument have decayed to the point where they’re now dead.

    Nor has anyone tried to argue that there aren’t enormous gaps in the fossil record, right where we should expect to find them were evolution true. PZ just changes the subject when fossils come up.

    Nor has anyone tried to argue against the demonstrably true fact that the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial. Pointing to natural selection won’t work, because natural selection will only work if it’s given something superior to select.

  84. #84 Marcus Ranum
    April 19, 2008

    something more fundamental than space and time that bubbles up universe

    Something that bubbles and steams and blorps universes out onto the stove-top like a pot of spaghetti sauce??? Hmmmm??????!!!!

    I trounce you darwinists so easily! Ha!

  85. #85 SteveM
    April 19, 2008

    You cannot describe the behavior of a true superconducting circuit with Ohm’s Law. However, any real system you try to create will work.

    So wasn’t that my point to begin with, that this is an equation describing real phenomena? Superconductors really do have zero resistance and can hold a current with zero voltage. You cannot connect an ideal voltage source to a superconductor since there are no ideal voltage sources, they all have internal resistance, or a finite amount of energy which would limit the amount of current generated.

    Anyway, there’s a much better paradox in electronics than the superconductor. Put a charge on a capacitor, calculate the energy stored, now instantly connect an uncharged capacitor in parallel calculate the energy. If the two capacitors are the same “size” then the energy after will be only half of the original, but there are no dissipative elements. Thus conservation of energy is refuted and therefore … uh … God!

  86. #86 MAJeff, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.

    If you put your cursor over the blue text that says “Second Law of Thermodynamics argument ,” you will see a refutation of that claim. The fact that it is blue should indicate to you that it is what we call a “link.” By clicking on it, you get directed to another page, one the author thinks is relevant to both the text he typed, and as a response demonstrating you don’t know that the hell you’re talking about.

  87. #87 Steve_C
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan.

    The entire goddamn post above refutes your pathetic refusal to grasp reality and understand the science.

    He even bothered to address your bad arguments with science.

    What? He didn’t answer them well enough for you?

    Why don’t you go point by point through each paragraph and show us where he’s wrong.

  88. #88 Jim Thomerson
    April 19, 2008

    So far as there never having been a theory predicting creation of energy and matter (they are the same thing, E = MC*2) out of nothing, I suggest you check out the late Fred Hoyle’s theory of continuous creation. Not in vogue at the moment, but was well considered some years ago.

  89. #89 SteveM
    April 19, 2008

    I would like to also remind us all of comment #11 above:

    Tell the creationist fellow that the universe actually has zero net energy (gravity being the negative part).

    While it seems “everyone” knows about the position and momentum formulation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, there is also the energy and time form that allows energy to be spontaneously created for a time such that the product is less than Plank’s constant. Thus, as long as the total energy of the universe is very close to zero it could exist for a very long time.

  90. #90 Bryan Fischer
    April 19, 2008

    MAJeff – I was actually looking for someone to include arguments in the post itself. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to summarize your own views on the Second Law of Thermodynamics for us.

  91. #91 Citizen Z
    April 19, 2008

    Nor has anyone tried to argue against the demonstrably true fact that the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial. Pointing to natural selection won’t work, because natural selection will only work if it’s given something superior to select.

    First of all, your first sentence is simply false. Second, you don’t even realize you are refuting yourself. Natural selection will work if it’s given something superior, which happens when a beneficial mutation occurs. If it’s just a “vast majority” of mutations that are harmful, then beneficial mutations exist. It’s not that difficult to figure out.

  92. #92 Those Pesky Darwinists
    April 19, 2008

    What PZ Meyers is actually saying is that there are NO arguments against evolution. Darwinian Evolution is simply immune because for Darwinists, everything is so evident it happened by chance and luck and therefore all arguments for design fail by default.

    So according to PZ Meyers logic, there is only one thing we really need to know:

    a) Darwinian evolution is a religion based on faith because by definition (and according to PZ Meyers) scientific theories (especially ones which relate to the Darwinist faith) are unfalsifiable

  93. #93 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    the only question spawned by your idiotic strawman of a comment is:

    PZ Meyers

    who is this “Meyers” fellow to whom you repeatedly refer to?

  94. #94 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    shorter Bryan:

    “I stick my fingers in my ears and claim victory, HA!”

    oh, might as well add the inevitable:

    WATERLOOOOO!!!!

    sometimes, the “arguments”presented by creobots are so damn repetitious, and so often refuted previously, it’s hard to even get up a head of steam to get mad at them.

    yet another link to the Index To Creationist Claims is in order:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

  95. #95 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008

    post 92, utter hanging hairy bollocks.

    evolutionary theory is falsifiable.

    heres a prediction. If evolution were true we would find that the genome of orangs is closer to that of humans, than either is to colobus monkeys. This kinship was inferred earlier by anatomy.

    i’ll bet my bottom $ that you share more DNA with a hairy orang than you do with the colobus. If this is true then evolution hasnt been proven per se, but it hasnt been falsified, technically it could be, but to date it hasnt, thats why its taught to kids the world over. if its NOT true then either anatomists have got their anatomy seriously wrong or it would make every evo biologist start asking some serious questions.

    the day people start quoting from the origin of species and saying its true BECAUSE its in origin is the day you can say evo is a religion, ive never even read the book.

    there are many, many other ways that evo can be falsified it just so happens that every time a prediction is made it just happens to be correct, never once has it failed, thats why its the currently accepted theory as to why there is diversity of life on this planet.

  96. #96 George Cauldron
    April 19, 2008

    Darwinian evolution is a religion based on faith because by definition (and according to PZ Meyers) scientific theories (especially ones which relate to the Darwinist faith) are unfalsifiable

    “Therefore goddidit, and Darwinists are Nazis. I win!”

    Please, try and work up some new material.

  97. #97 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    yes, for Bryan, the correct response is simply the ICC, for the person spamming the link to Uncommonly Dense, the correct response is probably just another link to:

    Expelled

  98. #98 Chris Bell
    April 19, 2008

    Re: Calling something a “law” or a “theory”

    I’m half asking, half arguing here, but I thought there was a subtle difference between a law and a theory. As I understand it, a law is a universally true observation. A theory is a tested explanation for an observation.

    The reason the distinction is fuzzy is that laws are often explained by theories, making certain statements both laws AND theories. For example, we could talk about the law of gravity (“things are always observed to fall at a certain rate”) and the theory of gravity (“things fall according to this formula”). Ohm’s law is another example. To accurately state a law is to state a theory, sometimes.

    I think the subtle distinction is that we don’t always have to have an explanation for a law, it’s just something that always seems to happen. The law of conservation of mass/energy, for example. It’s more of an observed fact than a theory.

  99. #99 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Evolution, for instance, includes concepts like the Hardy-Weinberg Law and Dollo’s Law.

    Of which the latter contains a lot more exceptions than people used to think.

    Fossils [...] provide only a sketch outline of the history of life on earth and are not the key evidence for the process and mechanisms for evolution.

    This, too has exceptions: when you get to diatoms or radiolaria or coccolithophores, it’s much more than a sketch outline, and fossils are the only evidence on gradualism and punk eek.

    Are most mutations strictly speaking neutral, or are many of these something slightly either side of neutral? In particular many being very slightly deleterious.

    Nope, most are completely neutral because they don’t change anything — changing one codon into another usually doesn’t change the amino acid of the protein the gene codes for. Most of the remainder are still neutral, because the exact amino acid in most places of a protein does not matter.

    Re Genes: I guess there are mutations, otherwise all brothers and sisters would all be exact look-alikes.

    That’s a very small part of the reason. A much bigger one are diploidy and crossing-over during the production of gametes. That’s also why identical twins are just that.

    However, the reason for why such variability exists in the first place so that the two chromosomes of a pair can be different at all is… mutation.

  100. #100 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Hey Bryan Fischer and all you Creationists out there, listen up!

    You are correct: “This law teaches us, then, that the universe is headed toward increasing randomness and decay.” But there is nothing about the second law of thermodynamics that says the entropy has to be a uniform process. Nothing! “There is nothing about the second law that prevents one part of a closed system from getting more ordered, as long as another part of the system is getting more disordered”

    As long as there is a source of energy, (the sun, thermal vents, whatever) life can become complicated. There is no lawbreaking going on.

    Now, if your were to tell me that the sun, or any other source of energy, will keep on supplying complexity enabling energy forever then that would contradict the second law of Thermodynamics. Complexity building can’t go on forever, but it can happen, and it is obvious that it does happen.

    I’m not even a scientist and I know these simple things.

    I leave far more educated people than I to further inform you, but somehow I doubt that it will do any good because, after all, in evolution–THERE’S NOTHING TO WORSHIP!! RUN AWAY!

  101. #101 Sastra
    April 19, 2008

    What would falsify evolution? Plenty. Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian for one.

    The theory of evolution provides a model which makes specific predictions: life on earth will exhibit a branching pattern of relationships, and ancestors will appear before their descendants. It also provides a mechanism – replication, variation, and selection — which we can observe happening today.

    What does so-called ID “theory” give us? No model. No predictions. No mechanism. All you can do is look at whatever happened, point to it, and say “look what God hath wrought.” How? “Suddenly a miracle occurred.”

    Tell us your test for God. If you’re “not supposed to test God” — then get the heck out of science.

  102. #102 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Hmmm… Maybe I should have said, “Complexity building can’t go on forever at the same rate of energy transfer. I’m not sure what current thinking on this is.

  103. #103 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008

    creationist stupidity never ceases to amuse.

    i was having a conversation with a person who was quite happily discussing with me selective breeding of a particular mammal (just a random topic, it had been on the TV) anyway heres the funny part. said person then says ‘to think that you can change that animal to such a degree in just 20 generations, so much for darwins theory of evolution, hahaha’ I realised with utter stupifiaction that the person was actually serious! I then calmy expalined that selective breeding perfectly DEMONSTRATES evolution:variationselection>traits passed on>repeat. said person looked like they were in shock from my revelation, anyway said person never mentioned it again.

    its a bit like eating a giant bowl of strawberries and then saying ‘ugh, a totally hate strawberries’.

  104. #104 MAJeff, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan, is the earth a closed system?

    Look to the sky, answer that, and you’ll see a large part of the problem with your “argument.”

  105. #105 Bryan Fischer
    April 19, 2008

    Citizen Z – when I said “vast majority” of mutations, I was being charitable. To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position. That’s why we have to spend so much time, money and energy developing new responses to mutating viruses in order to protect people’s health and save their lives.

    RamblingDude – your idea sort of works, except no one can demonstrate that any other exception exists to the Second Law anywhere in the universe. So how do you explain “The Privileged Planet,” and why is it the sole exception we know about?

    But even this is weak ultimately, because even you admit the sun is wearing out, meaning eventually the earth will go dark and lifeless. So much for increasing order and complexity. Plus, even if I give you the sun as a source of energy, you’ve got to have a mechanism to convert that energy into more advanced forms of life. All evolutionists have are genetic mutations, but that won’t work because they invariably are harmful or fatal to the organism and therefore make it weaker and less likely to survive than stronger and more able.

  106. #106 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008

    quote: Nor has anyone tried to argue that there aren’t enormous gaps in the fossil record, right where we should expect to find them were evolution true. PZ just changes the subject when fossils come up.endquote.

    wow, brains on speed here. that chicken carcass that i left on my lawn last night, well im really dissappointed that it hasnt turned into a fossil yet, in fact its gone, its already halfway to being coyote shit as i write, oh and my great, great, great grandad, well ive tried to find him as a fossil, but he just aint there.

    im not misunderstanding bryan here am I? he is saying that the rather patchy fossil record is somehow a weakness of evo theory??
    actually im not sure what the hell hes going on about.

  107. #107 Steven
    April 19, 2008

    Oh snap!

  108. #108 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    But even this is weak ultimately, because even you admit the sun is wearing out, meaning eventually the earth will go dark and lifeless. So much for increasing order and complexity.

    But…in the meantime… Life. Goes. On.

    If you are incapable of understanding, or admitting, or accepting this simple truth then I am quite done with you. I have a wall to go talk to that has more intellectual capacity and integrity.

  109. #109 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008

    quote: But even this is weak ultimately, because even you admit the sun is wearing out, meaning eventually the earth will go dark and lifeless. So much for increasing order and complexity.endquote.

    my god. bryan actually IS stupid. do the words ‘local’ and ‘order’ not actually mean anything to you??

    bryan, maybe you need to talk to a few top physicists who will give you the details on entropy and all that, oh, of curse, you are the expert right?? you know something they dont??

  110. #110 Peregrine
    April 19, 2008

    To Brian Fischer # 105

    “To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed.”

    Just stumbledupon this article. Is this what you’re looking for?

    http://www.wildbiology.com/research/Lizards_Undergo_Rapid_Evolution_After_Introduction_To_A_New_Home.asp

    Can someone who’s a more competent biologist than me confirm that this is indeed yet more evidence of evolution in action? Lizards that, in response to a change of environment, develop new (complicated) structures in their gut, to help them digest the hugely increased quantity of plant matter?

  111. #111 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Oh, hello, Mr Fischer!

    MAJeff – I was actually looking for someone to include arguments in the post itself. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to summarize your own views on the Second Law of Thermodynamics for us.

    What for? Why don’t you just follow the links? Are you afraid of something? Why don’t you even follow the link to Answers in Fucking Genesis that says your “arguments” shouldn’t be used because they’re wrong?

    But just to demonstrate how easy it is, I’ll take your first comment apart:

    So far, no one has actually refuted any of the arguments I set forth.

    No, you just haven’t noticed.

    No one has yet to argue that, in fact, there is some mechanism in nature that can actually create either matter or energy out of nothing. I’m waiting.

    You seem to have overlooked the allusions to Heisenberg’s uncertainty relation. More importantly, you seem to have glossed over the explanation why this is simply irrelevant for the theory of evolution. Evolution is descent with heritable modification — there is no descent, inheritance, or modification in the origin of energy.

    On a more trivial point, you seem to have overlooked Einstein’s famous discovery of E = mc: creating and destroying matter is entirely feasible, because matter is just another form of energy. The total amount of energy, matter included, is conserved.

    Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.

    So you still don’t know what the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics actually says?

    It says that entropy cannot decrease in an isolated system. An isolated system is one that neither matter nor other forms of energy can enter or leave.

    The Earth is not a closed system. For crying out loud, the sun shines. That’s what comment 75 alludes to, in the form of a joke that you evidently didn’t get.

    Nor has anyone tried to argue that there aren’t enormous gaps in the fossil record, right where we should expect to find them were evolution true. PZ just changes the subject when fossils come up.

    Because he has underestimated your sheer ignorance. Your ignorance, that is, of taphonomy (go look up what this word means) and of the things we have found. The most famous example is Tiktaalik (go google for it). Lastly, follow this link (pdf file).

    Nor has anyone tried to argue against the demonstrably true fact that the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial.

    I have done it meanwhile, and none of what I say in comment 99 is new.

    Pointing to natural selection won’t work, because natural selection will only work if it’s given something superior to select.

    You seem to completely miss the fact that “superior” is relative for two reasons.

    Firstly, everything that is good enough to function at all is selected for, no matter if it could be even better. It is relative to the other existing solutions, not to some absolute standard. Witness the stupid design of the vertebrate eye, the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the relative positions of esophagus and trachea, the relative positions of the birth canal and the pelvis, the fact that DNA falls apart when stored in water so that we spend lots of energy to constantly repair it, and so on for hours and hours.

    Secondly, has it never crossed your mind that what is harmful under one set of circumstances, in one environment, can be beneficial in another? Textbook cases abound: sickle-cell anemia, lactose tolerance, skin color, and so on.

    I conclude that you simply don’t know what you are talking about, that you haven’t grasped the uttermost basics, and that you really believe that thousands upon thousands of biologists, chemists and physicists have, for 150 years, been stupid enough to not notice that the theory of evolution contradicts basic physics. Think a little on where the stupidity really lies.

  112. #112 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Plus, even if I give you the sun as a source of energy, you’ve got to have a mechanism to convert that energy into more advanced forms of life. All evolutionists have are genetic mutations, but that won’t work because they invariably are harmful or fatal to the organism and therefore make it weaker and less likely to survive than stronger and more able.

    Honestly, I can’t believe that you just wrote that and presented it as an argument.

  113. #113 extatyzoma
    April 19, 2008

    2nd law. some idiot thinks that the earth is the ONLY exapmle of the second law being broken!! give us a freakin break, you cannot possibly be so ignorant, no you have to be joking.

    #1 the law isnt broken.

    #2 any universe that inst a homogenous spread of energy has lots of places with local order, a star is more ordered than the interstellar space (somebody correct me if im wrong here) as are galaxies, and there are billios upon billions are there not????

    is it me or bryan who is missing something here?

  114. #114 Citizen Z
    April 19, 2008

    Citizen Z – when I said “vast majority” of mutations, I was being charitable. To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    Your ignorance is not an argument against evolution. Beneficial mutations have been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses does work because the mutations are beneficial for their own survival. You haven’t bothered to educate yourself on the subject, and it looks like you couldn’t think your way out of a wet paper bag, so I don’t think I’ll be responding to you further.

  115. #115 Azkyroth
    April 19, 2008

    HG:

    Please clarify Myers use of the words “arbitrary”, “valid”, and “objective”. Also, your explanation reflects Myers own, but Myers goes a little further. He says that not all “laws” are expressed as an equation and that such a law is an example of the arbitrary — if I am not mistaken.

    In addition to SteveM’s explanation, calling something a “law” doesn’t make it a Law, just like calling a cat’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

  116. #116 George Cauldron
    April 19, 2008

    Shorter Bryan: “At my current, carefully-protected level of ignorance of evolutionary biology, I don’t see how evolution could work. Therefore evolution is wrong.”

  117. #117 Ed Darrell
    April 19, 2008

    Idaho Values Alliance?

    Well, you know what the old Idaho license plates used to say: “Famous Potatoes.”

    You found one, P.Z.

  118. #118 thalarctos
    April 19, 2008

    with even a minimal understanding of the principles involved

    Well, there’s your first problem right there…

  119. #119 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Because it’s irrelevant to the argument, I forgot that it’s not even true that the theory of evolution predicts an increase in complexity. It predicts diversification. That’s all.

    Tell us your test for God. If you’re “not supposed to test God” — then get the heck out of science.

    No. Then he’s already outside of science. What is untestable is not scientific. Period.

    Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    So you don’t even know that not all bacteria are parasites?

    But even this is weak ultimately, because even you admit the sun is wearing out, meaning eventually the earth will go dark and lifeless. So much for increasing order and complexity.

    And?

    If all living things die, evolution will end. That should really be obvious. So, even if the theory of evolution actually did predict “increasing order and complexity” (see above: it does not), its realm of validity would end there. It’s a theory about populations. Living things have populations; languages have populations; certain computer simulations have populations; and that’s it. The theory of evolution is not a theory about the universe as a whole.

    Can someone who’s a more competent biologist than me confirm that this is indeed yet more evidence of evolution in action? Lizards that, in response to a change of environment, develop new (complicated) structures in their gut, to help them digest the hugely increased quantity of plant matter?

    Of course. Due to mutations, the lizards have variously complicated guts; normally, simpler guts are beneficial, because they require less energy to grow and maintain and are good enough for digesting insects; on the other island, more complicated guts are beneficial, because they allow the digestion of plants, which are easier to get than insects. So, in the old environment, simpler guts are selected for, while in the new one, more complicated guts are selected for. As I just wrote: what is beneficial and what is harmful depends on the environment.

    It really is that simple.

  120. #120 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 19, 2008

    Shorter Bryan: “At my current, carefully-protected level of ignorance of evolutionary biology, I don’t see how evolution could work. Therefore evolution is wrong.”

    Bingo.

  121. #121 Christian
    April 19, 2008

    Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    Qu?

  122. #122 Vic
    April 19, 2008

    I think MC Hawking most succinctly put to rest the whole ‘second law of thermodynamics’ argument against evolution:


    Creationists always try to use the second law
    to disprove evolution, but their theory has a flaw
    the Second Law is quite precise about where it applies
    Only in a closed system must the entropy count rise
    The earth’s not a closed system, it’s powered by the sun
    so fuck the damn creationists, [DJ] Doomsday, get my gun

    Bryan Fisher, PK, other idiots, read ‘em and weep. It’s funny how you just try to blithely ignore the hundreds of comments here where people have already given you the explanations and refutations you claim to be asking for…

  123. #123 Sastra
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan Fischer #105 wrote:

    But even this is weak ultimately, because even you admit the sun is wearing out, meaning eventually the earth will go dark and lifeless. So much for increasing order and complexity.

    Huh?

    The more I contemplate this non sequitur, the more it begins to look as if Mr. Fischer is projecting religious features into a science theory, and then complaining — rightfully — that it is just another religion. In his version, it is. He seems to be working from a rather bizarre understanding of evolution — one which, he says “predicts increasing order and complexity.”

    Now, my understanding is that it’s not strictly true that evolution predicts increasing order and complexity — species die out, and sometimes they go from more complex to less. But there can be no possible conflict between the theory of evolution and the death of the sun UNLESS you see evolution, not in terms of an explanation for “increasing order and complexity,” but as a Driving Force working towards the teleological goal of increasing order and complexity.

    If the earth is destroyed, then, in Mr. Fischer’s view, evolution doesn’t stop. It’s shown to have been wrong in the first place. Evolution was supposed to make sure all those flowers and insects and animals kept on getting “better and better,” growing and progressing under the Law of Evolution.

    A comet smashes into the planet? The sun blows up, or the universe gets cold and dies out? Looks like evolution didn’t manage to do its job. It’s a failure.

    It’s a false god, all right. But it wasn’t made in the image of the evolutionists.

  124. #124 Etha Williams
    April 19, 2008

    ‘Entropy’ is a priceless misused argument. I still have difficulty believing this sentence, though: “The problem: naturally occurring genetic mutations are invariably harmful if not fatal to the organism.” I had honestly never had the misfortune of hearing this blatant falsehood uttered until watching expelled clips. It’s a little shocking.

    My favorite creationist argument:

    Creationist: So I was thinking about carbon dating, and it struck me: who says Carbon-14 can’t be a stable isotope?
    Me: Ummm…well-established, repeated experimentation in chemistry?
    Creationist: Oh, well, I’m not an expert on chemistry….

    Obviously not. Nor on biology, or any kind of real science, it would seem.

  125. #125 Sili
    April 19, 2008

    I find it depression how the whole mindset apparently can be summed up as “Whatever you do, DON’T THINK!”

  126. #126 George Cauldron
    April 19, 2008

    My favorite creationist argument:

    I still have a soft spot in my heart for “why do we still have monkeys?”, followed by complaints that one has never seen a ‘dat’.

    The classics are classics for a reason.

  127. #127 Azkyroth
    April 19, 2008

    I was actually looking for someone to include arguments in the post itself. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to summarize your own views on the Second Law of Thermodynamics for us.

    Read it yourself. You’re too old to be spoonfed.

  128. #128 molliebatmit
    April 19, 2008

    Sastra, #123:

    Now, my understanding is that it’s not strictly true that evolution predicts increasing order and complexity — species die out, and sometimes they go from more complex to less.

    You’re exactly right — species/geni/families tend to go from less complex to more complex over the history of their lineages, but that’s only true because there’s a limit on how simple an organism can be. Species tend to move away from that simplicity limit because there are more ways to become complex than there are ways to become simple.

    Changing topics, I can think of several documented cases of beneficial mutations off the top of my head:
    1. CCR5del32, a deletion of 32 nucleotides in the sequence coding for a chemokine receptor. This mutation appears to make its homozygous carriers unable to contract the AIDS virus, and perhaps was involved in resistance to plague in Europe in the Middle Ages.
    2. A mutation in the erythropoetin gene which causes the body to produce more red blood cells — apparently several Olympic distance athletes have been shown to have this mutation.
    3. Our great primate color vision is due to the duplication of genes for cones in the retina — our red and green cones are very closely related duplicates.
    4. Playing with the timing of expression of the genes Cux1 and Cux2 appears to have been a factor in the great expansion of the primate cortex (the upper surface of the brain) relative to the rodent cortex.

    I’m sure I can come up with more, given a bit of time with Pubmed. We are just starting to scratch the surface in terms of knowing the extend of human genetic diversity, and we’re finding that there are quite a few beneficial mutations lurking in the human genome.

    Evolution is really quite analogous to cancer (or, in some sense, cancer is a disease of evolution). Most mutations a cell acquires will cause the cell to die. However, if one cell acquires a mutation that gives it a growth advantage (e.g. inactivation of a tumor suppressor such as pRB or p53 or activation of an oncogene such as Ras or EGFR), it will tend to outcompete other normal cells and form a tumor. These mutations are not beneficial for the host, but they are certainly beneficial for the cancerous cell.

  129. #129 red rabbit
    April 19, 2008

    Ex-high school teacher here. Re: Bryan. Post #83.

    This particular statement is being laughed at because it demonstrates an inability to understand the actual link between the two:
    “Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.”

    Thermodynamics talks about an entire system, in this case the universe. The whole shebang over a REALLY long time.

    Evolution also covers a long time but only talks about a tiny part of the universe: life. Life can do whatever it wants in the universe without touching any thermodynamic laws: it has an energy source (the sun), which allows it to locally (on earth) become more and more organised as long as energy is being put into it.

    Entropy won’t matter to life for an awfully long time, like well after the sun has burned out.

    And life, as big as it seems to us, is having little to no effect on the universe as a whole. So that’s really why all the laughter, the two theories (or laws or whatever) are completely talking about different things.

    As for the mutation thing, maybe another post.

  130. #130 Nick Gotts
    April 19, 2008

    To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position. That’s why we have to spend so much time, money and energy developing new responses to mutating viruses in order to protect people’s health and save their lives. – Bryan fischer@105

    Here we get to the core of Mr. Fischer’s invincible stupidity, and not surprisingly, it lies in his religious beliefs: he thinks “beneficial genetic mutation” must mean beneficial to human beings, because he thinks the whole universe was designed around us. Mr. Fischer, the reason we have to “spend so much time, money, and energy developing new responses to mutating viruses” is BECAUSE THE BLOODY THINGS KEEP EVOLVING TO COPE WITH THE DRUGS WE USE TO KILL THEM. They mutate randomly, and some of those mutations happen to make them more resistant to particular drugs. That’s called NATURAL SELECTION, Mr. Fischer.

  131. #131 Hank Fox
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan Fischer actually showed up?? Whoa. Now we’re in trouble.

    Bryan, I’m still curious: What does your molecular biologist son J.D. think of evolution, and your objections to it?

    Is he following in your footsteps as a creationist, and does he hope to base some of his future work on intelligent design principles?

    I know he can speak for himself, but what I’m really wondering about is your understanding of what his answers would be.

  132. #132 ajani57
    April 19, 2008

    Mr. Fischer,

    Okay, for the sake of my argument, let’s say that a loving god designed my irreducably complex eyes. And let’s say that this same loving god saw fit to make me farsighted. What do I do? Do I go to church or an eye doctor? Do I pray or get glasses?

    Don’t you see?!? The scientific revolution began in earnest when humanity became convinced that this loving god was not interested in keeping people healthy. The church had 1500 plus years to investigate their hypothesis that praying and becoming more godly would cure disease.

    Google 1347 and read, Mr. Fischr. Praying didn’t make the plague go away, science did. Praying won’t make me see better, glasses will.

    The same loving god that saw fit to wipe out millions with the plague, and saw fit to make me unable to see much, why, he’s the same god that you say makes all those harmful mutations called birth defects. Loving indeed!

    I propose that when it comes to science, you creationists should put away all your silly naive arguments about laws of thermodynamics and complexity and such, and instead treat your god the same as you treat the number one in algebra. You know, when you write the letter X, it is understood that there is a one in front of it. And we all could agree that there is no useful purpose to mentioning that one for each and every equation. If all of you agreed that the words ‘loving god’ began every scientific sentence then perhaps we could get to the science part and try to figure out how nature works. And reduce some birth defects.

    You already agree to this with many aspects of your life. When you pay for anything by the hour (lawyer, gardener, car mechanic, accountant, pool boy) do you really want to pay for them to discuss reasons your god saw fit to make you require their services? Or do you insist that they get to work actually solving your problem?

    Science, Mr. Fischer, is about solving problems. Maybe I’m blind because I pissed god off or maybe I just inherited bad genes. Either way, when I go to the eye doctor, I want science. Please quit trying to take that away from me.

  133. #133 Reed
    April 19, 2008

    when I said “vast majority” of mutations, I was being charitable. To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed.

    Your admission of complete ignorance of the subject is noted. Perhaps you should rectify that before pontificating on the subject.

    Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position. That’s why we have to spend so much time, money and energy developing new responses to mutating viruses in order to protect people’s health and save their lives.

    Wow. You actually think that for a mutation to be “beneficial” it must be “beneficial to humans” !?!

    In the context of evolution, it means beneficial to the organism that mutated. For a bacteria which is likely to be exposed to antibiotics, this a mutation conferring antibiotic resistance is clearly beneficial.

  134. #134 Etha Williams
    April 19, 2008

    “To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.”

    In an attempt to give credit where none is due, I’m going to assume that this incoherent statement is referring to the idea that it is not good for an organism to kill off or severely incapacitate its host, as that means it will no longer be able to feed off that host. In other words, parasitism should be excluded in favor of mutualism. This is patently false, though it would be nice if evolution led to solely mutualistic types of symbiosis. In fact, the organism only needs to live long enough in its host to reproduce). As long as the mutation confers resistance to the antibiotic long enough for that to happen (and the life span of bacteria is typically very short), it’s long enough for the mutation to be selected for in offspring, which can then continue to live in that host or, that failing, move to a new host (ever heard of the spread of germs?) where they will continue the practice of reproduction with random mutation and natural selection.

    This interpretation of your statement is very charitable to your intelligence. If you were actually saying that bacterial mutations can’t be considered beneficial just because they don’t help *humans*…well, then, I suggest you leave your anthropocentric views to religion and start thinking like a *scientist* when judging scientific theories.

  135. #135 Tom von Alten
    April 19, 2008

    Don’t feel badly about this clown being the head of the Idaho Values Alliance; the organization seems to serve no purpose beyond providing a begging basket and tax dodge for Bryan, Debbie and Jana Fischer.

    Its amended Articles of Incorporation specifically eschew “the carrying on of propaganda”… who says legal documents can’t be funny?

  136. #136 ajani57
    April 19, 2008

    Fischer: Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    Me: But I thought my digestive system was full of bacteria. Helpful bacteria that I couldn’t live without. And what about the ones in my eyelashes?

    Fischer: That’s why we have to spend so much time, money and energy developing new responses to mutating viruses in order to protect people’s health and save their lives.

    Me: Yes, hurry, we have to save their lives from the viruses god gave them to punish them for their sins. So can you quit talking about this here intelligent designer for a while so we can concentrate on fixing the mess he gave us?

  137. #137 thwaite
    April 19, 2008

    #18 asked
    Are most mutations strictly speaking neutral, or are many of these something slightly either side of neutral? …
    Per PZ’s original post, Most mutations are neutral, some are harmful, and a smaller number are beneficial. David Marjanovic sketched why (#99).

    It should be interesting to realize that (apparently far from the public eye) there’s been active analysis of neutral & near-neutral mutations over the last forty years: Neutral theory of molecular evolution. This started when the first large-scale population data of genetic variation became available via gel electrophoresis surveys, and revealed much more variation than expected. Neutral theory hasn’t in any way disproved the role of natural selection in evolutionary theory.

  138. #138 Michael Bishop
    April 19, 2008

    I honestly don’t know why everyone is wasting their time arguing with Bryan Fischer. His whole group is full of “nut jobs” that give Idaho a bad image. Let’s move on and use this time/energy for something useful.

  139. #139 John C. Randolph
    April 19, 2008

    The whole idea of there being such a thing as a theology degree strikes me as absurd.

    -jcr

  140. #140 Gary Bohn
    April 19, 2008

    Although I strongly suspect that Mr. Fischer will not return – he seems to have fulfilled his post and run apologetics requirement for the day – if he does return and just happens to read this post I suggest that he come here with an accurate and reasonable understanding of evolution and physics. Creating straw men and then burning them down might be an enjoyable and somewhat rewarding past time, at least as far as it boosts the ego, that practice in scientific debate, which this is supposed to be, is a waste of time and effort. It shows, quite clearly, the creationist tendency to talk first then learn later, or not at all. It is a large part of why people laugh at creationists.

    If he is wondering why his comments have stirred up a hornets nest of sharp comments full of name calling and acidic remarks, it is not because any of us here feel our ‘religion’ is under attack, that is an emotion for him and his friends to embrace, but because the nonsense he has based his comments on have been so frequently debunked that it has become frustrating.

  141. #141 Hypatia's Girl
    April 19, 2008

    this is a little off topic, but “menses and semen” isn’t quite what he’d be reduced to. Wouldn’t it be more “oocyte and sperm”?

    Unless, of course, he’s regressing back to Aristotle’s man providing the form and woman providing the matter…

  142. #142 ajani57
    April 19, 2008

    Fischer: If you walk into an office and you see one of those toys with the steel balls swinging left to right, right to left, virtually endlessly, the one thing you will know for an absolute certainty is that some force outside that toy had to start the whole thing by lifting the first ball and releasing it to clack against the others. The process you observe could not possibly have started all by itself.

    Me: OMFSM, you are posing as an expert in thermodynamics and yet you never even played with a Newton’s Cradle? The law of gravity (mostly) makes it stop in about a minute but you say the steel balls go back and forth “virtually endlessly.”

    That was an unfortunate slip on your part. “Virtually endlessly” implies a perpetual motion machine. A perpetual motion machine would defy the laws of thermodynamics of which you are wont to appear the expert.

    Gee, my eighth grade students could poke holes in that. But that’s probably because I teach them science, not creationism.

    Newton’s cradles are probably available on eBay for about five bucks. You should put down your bible and get one, and start learning some eighth grade physics.

  143. #143 SteveC
    April 19, 2008

    “a) Darwinian evolution is a religion based on faith because by definition (and according to PZ Meyers) scientific theories (especially ones which relate to the Darwinist faith) are unfalsifiable” — by Those Pesky Darwinists, #92, above.

    I’ll ignore that it simply isn’t true that the theory of evolution is based on faith, and pick on another aspect of this post.

    The fact that you accuse those who have figured out that the theory of evolution has mountains of evidence supporting it of using faith — tells me something about you.

    It tells me that deep down, you know there’s something wrong with faith, that faith doesn’t work, that faith is not a good way to know what is true from what is false.

    Faith is an ancient con man’s trick to get you to feel good about yourself for believing his con. Faith is inherently dishonest, because it involves lying to yourself about how certain you should be. Why is it a good idea to coax yourself to be more certain than the evidence warrants, and call this coaxing faith, and consider it to be a virtue? Why is that a good idea? It isn’t, any you know it isn’t. Despite that Christians and religious people in general everywhere consider faith to be virtue.

    Even you, deep down, know faith sucks.

  144. #144 William
    April 19, 2008

    “No one has yet to argue that, in fact, there is some mechanism in nature that can actually create either matter or energy out of nothing. I’m waiting.”

    The creation of particles from the vacuum by an expanding space-time is a well-understood consequence of general relativity and quantum theory. I recommend the reference “Introduction to Quantum Effects in Gravity” by Mukhanov and Winitzki. It is meant to be understandable to anyone with the equivalent of an undergraduate physics education. If you are interested, Dr. Fischer, I would be happy to point you to the relevant portions (I don’t have my copy handy).

  145. #145 pough
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan is a satire. Has to be. And the way he showed up here and actually upped the dumb was masterful in execution. Bravo, sir! Bravo!

    [stands and claps]

  146. #146 William
    April 19, 2008

    “No one has yet to argue that, in fact, there is some mechanism in nature that can actually create either matter or energy out of nothing. I’m waiting.”

    The creation of particles from the vacuum by an expanding space-time is a well-understood consequence of general relativity and quantum theory. I recommend the reference “Introduction to Quantum Effects in Gravity” by Mukhanov and Winitzki. It is meant to be understandable to anyone with the equivalent of an undergraduate physics education. If you are interested, Dr. Fischer, I would be happy to point you to the relevant portions (I don’t have my copy handy).

  147. #147 Ray C.
    April 19, 2008

    Speaking of laws, Bode’s Law supposedly described the orbital radii of the then-known planets. Then Neptune turned out to be much closer to the Sun than predicted. This law has been consigned to the history books.

  148. #148 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    Even you, deep down, know faith sucks.

    I thought it blows?

  149. #149 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    The whole idea of there being such a thing as a theology degree strikes me as absurd.

    funny, even some theology professors feel the same way:

    http://www.philrs.iastate.edu/avalos.shtml

    http://www.prometheusbooks.com/catalog/book_1904.html

    IIRC, we even had a thread discussing the issue here a few months back.

  150. #150 Ethan
    April 19, 2008

    I believe in God and I believe in good science, and the two are not mutually exclusive. I also love blogs like this, because there is a lot of poor logic out there espoused by Christians which, although well intentioned, fall short vis-a-vis the light of scrutiny, thus becoming an easy target for ridicule! Many times I’ve sat in church, while the pastor purports to defeat Darwinism in a few easy steps, not unlike the arguemts posted by Mr. Fischer, leaving me head in hands, almost grieving the fact that many in the church will leave, armed with loaded blanks.
    I find it curious to note, however, that the tit-for-tat, back and forth argumentation, on BOTH sides, invariably degenerates into abstract rhetoric, fraught with arguments ad hominem, and the volleys resemble excercises more in mental masturbation than an actual pursuit of that which we/they seek to understand.
    If we parse down arguments in a Cartesian manner, we might discover this: Cogito, ergo it takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe either side. The Creationists have faith in a Being they cannot perceive; the evolutionists have faith that they have a monopoly on science and reason. It’s faith. It’s irony. Think about it.

  151. #151 Russell Stewart
    April 19, 2008

    Nice job, PZ. But there’s another howler that you missed:

    This Law [the First Law of Thermo] teaches us that matter and energy can neither be created or destroyed…

    Uh, no. There’s no such thing as conservation of matter. That’s what physicists used to think. And then Einstein came along with his little equation E=mc^2. Matter, in fact, can be destroyed — by being converted into energy. This is done all the time in nuclear reactors. And, if you have the resources, you can even create matter out of raw energy. This is often done in particle colliders.

    This, combined with the strictly deterministic view of the universe which has been supplanted by the probabilistic view of Quantum Mechanics, shows that Mr. Fischer’s knowledge of science is about 120 years out of date.

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    I believe in God and I believe in good science, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

    many humans are capable of functional compartmentalization.

    but why bother?

  153. #153 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    If we parse down arguments in a Cartesian manner, we might discover this: Cogito, ergo it takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe either side.

    no, that’s not Cogito; that’s just projection on your part.

    no wonder you think no discussion on these issues proceeds in substantive fashion.

  154. #154 Hematite
    April 19, 2008

    Kadath (#69), can you suggest a good book that deals with information entropy vs. energy entropy? I did Computer Science, but I only have high school physics and I wouldn’t know where to start.

  155. #155 Ethan
    April 19, 2008

    Ichthyic,
    Great comments! I wish I could respond, but I’m not smart enough to know what functional compartmentalization is. (The cell bio textbooks at my Christian school sure had a lot of blacked-out text in them, especially when it came to evolution! ha ha)
    I do like your name, however. Now every time I see one of those Christian fishes on the back of a car, (you know, the ones right next to the bumper sticker that says “Know Jesus, Know Peace; no Jesus, no Peace”), I’ll think of you! Now THAT’S textbook irony for you!

  156. #156 Vic
    April 19, 2008

    Ethan:

    The Creationists have faith in a Being they cannot perceive; the evolutionists have faith that they have a monopoly on science and reason. It’s faith. It’s irony. Think about it.

    You should do more thinking of your own. Provisional acceptance of facts currently in evidence, subject to future revision upon receipt of more facts, is NOT ‘faith’. It’s, well, science and reason.

  157. #157 Richard Simons
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan Fischer said

    Nor has anyone tried to argue against the demonstrably true fact that the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial.

    yet on his web page he has

    The problem: naturally occurring genetic mutations are invariably harmful if not fatal to the organism. Rather than improve an organism’s capacity to survive, they invariably weaken it. (My emphasis on both quotes)

    So which is it, Bryan? Was that a slip of the fingers that you will correct on your web page or do your moral standards allow you to leave in place something you know to be incorrect?

    To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    I find it instructive that, with the arrogance of so many fundamentalists, you clearly consider ‘beneficial’ to mean ‘beneficial to humans’. However, if you are solely interested in human beneficial mutations, in addition to those mentioned by Molliebatmit (who clearly knows more about the subject than I) there is the Milano mutation that confers resistance to atherosclerosis.

  158. #158 Ethan
    April 19, 2008

    Vic,
    You raise a very good point. I will, however, thank you to give me the benefit of the doubt that I have indeed thought a lot about these issues.
    My concern, though, is that to call the absolutist acceptance Darwinists have of the theory of Evolution “provisional” is, at the very least, disingenuous. Admittedly, I haven’t studied these issues nearly as intensely as most of the respondents to this blog obviously have; however, I do know that there are a lot of really smart people on the Creationist side to cause me to think, “Damn. There just might be two sides to this coin!”

  159. #159 Tyler DiPietro
    April 19, 2008

    Ethan,

    Admittedly, I haven’t studied these issues nearly as intensely as most of the respondents to this blog obviously have; however, I do know that there are a lot of really smart people on the Creationist side to cause me to think, “Damn. There just might be two sides to this coin!”

    That’s really nothing more than an argument from personal incredulity. Since it involves only your “gut feelings” and no evidence, it’s pretty much impossible to argue against. If you have evidence that you think favors the creationist position, present it.

  160. #160 Zarquon
    April 19, 2008

    I do know that there are a lot of really smart people on the Creationist side to cause me to think

    In science it doesn’t matter how clever you are, it matters what the facts are. Once you figure out that science has all the facts and creationists deny facts it is obvious which “side” is winning.

  161. #161 Ethan
    April 19, 2008

    Tyler,
    You’re absolutely right. Gut feelings and warm fuzzy thoughts about a benevolent Creator of which you cannot disprove are indeed impossible to argue against. A lot of people try to go down that path of “You can’t disprove God, so He must exist,” which I think is intellectually dishonest, but that’s another issue.
    When you ask me to provide evidence which favors the Creationist position, unless we define terms, we risk a regress into a fight over semantics.
    Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but your idea of a Creationist is one who thinks God just magically spoke the universe into being, physical and biological processes be damned, and that’s all there is to it. Neither is there no evidence for it, nor is that what a Creationist is.
    The evidence for a Creationist is going to be the same evidence any other scientist sees.
    The INTERPRETATION of that evidence is what’s at issue here. You say the evidence points away from God; I say it points toward God. Does that make me stupid?

  162. #162 Ichthyic
    April 19, 2008

    Ichthyic,
    Great comments! I wish I could respond, but I’m not smart enough to know what functional compartmentalization is.
    (The cell bio textbooks at my Christian school sure had a lot of blacked-out text in them, especially when it came to evolution! ha ha)

    well, there’s your problem, compartmentalization would be defined in a text on psychology, not biology.

    http://www.planetpsych.com/zpsychology_101/glossary.htm

    Compartmentalization: A process of separating parts of the self from awareness of other parts and behaving as if one had separate sets of values.

    I do like your name, however. Now every time I see one of those Christian fishes on the back of a car, (you know, the ones right next to the bumper sticker that says “Know Jesus, Know Peace; no Jesus, no Peace”), I’ll think of you! Now THAT’S textbook irony for you!

    indeed:

    http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/symbols/bldefsvesica.htm

    I also find it ironic how often xians haven’t a clue about where they co-opted their symbols from.

  163. #163 Epikt
    April 19, 2008

    Bryan Fischer:

    Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.

    Unsurprisingly, your assertions about entropy and the second law are too vague to qualify as arguments, but do succeed in demonstrating your fundamental misunderstanding of those concepts. The only “tension” evident is that between what you assert, and what is known.

    As you’ve no doubt read but have chosen to ignore, the second law applies to a closed system, that is, a system that exchanges neither matter nor energy with its surroundings. Are you referring to such a system? What is it?

    Or are you talking about the universe as a whole? Then may I assume you know how to calculate the entropies associated with the various components of it? The photon field? Dark matter? Dark energy? There is nothing in the second law that prohibits local increases in entropy, provided that the entropy of the whole system remains the same or increases. The fact that stars and planets exist (you do agree to that, right?) does not contradict the second law.

    This stuff is not controversial. It’s known. Most of it has been known for a long time. Please educate yourself about such things before making assertions that fly in the face of reality.

    …and specifically,

    evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.

    Evolution predicts no such thing. Increasingly complex biological entities may evolve over time, but they are not closed systems, and their evolution does not violate the second law, any more than does the local aggregation of mass to form stars and planets.

    And one final thing–your constant assertions to the effect that, because there is some hole or other in our current, evidence-supported understanding of some phenomenon, that somehow the existence of a god is implied, is just silly. We may never discover precisely what went on in the very early universe, but if we do, it will be through the application of the methodology that has proven so effective in understanding the universe. Standing with your hands in your pockets and mumbling, “Goddidit” has no explicative or predictive utility. It’s the intellectual equivalent of running up a white flag in abject surrender.

    I’ll leave the rest of the points–the biology-specific ones–to the biologists, since they’re vastly more knowledgeable about their specialty, and I’m not arrogant enough to think that I can explain their field better than they can. You might want to think a bit about that last.

  164. #164 Tyler DiPietro
    April 19, 2008

    Ethan,

    “The INTERPRETATION of that evidence is what’s at issue here. You say the evidence points away from God; I say it points toward God. Does that make me stupid?”

    Actually, I’m saying that the evidence very clearly favors evolution. One of the key requirements for something to be science is that it makes specific predictions that allow it to be tested. In general, if you can’t think of a potential observation that could falsify something, it isn’t science. It isn’t simply an issue of “interpretation”. A myriad of observations can falsify evolution (e.g., if comparative genomics didn’t reveal any indications common lineage of separate species). Nothing similar can be done for Intelligent Design, as “design” is an appeal to magic that can be shoehorned into anything.

    Full disclosure: I am of the opinion that the modern picture of the world painted by science leads naturally to atheism, or at least cleanly undercuts traditional theistic concepts. But that is relatively tangential to the discussion at hand, which concerns the evidence the clearly comes down in evolution’s favor.

  165. #165 ajani57
    April 19, 2008

    Ref # 150: “Cogito, ergo it takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe either side.”

    How much faith do I need to believe that the diabetic kid in my class is alive? He is alive because science gave him insulin.

    Is that kid the product of parents that are christian? Muslim? Jewish? Did he pray? Observe any other rituals?

    It doesn’t matter and that is the beauty of science. It takes the people out of the situation and looks at the observable measurable repeatable data.

    Choosing to ignore that data causes all kinds of problems for our species… from sounding like an idiot in a comments section to denying a kid medicine that would save her life to trying to deny a proper education to every kid in the nation. Instead I am supposed to teach them to say goddidit and sing some praises.

    I’ll tell you what really takes faith: Believing that someday the creationists will shut up about evolution just like they finally shut up about geocentrism. Well, most of them, anyway.

  166. #166 Reuben Stanton
    April 19, 2008

    You say the evidence points away from God; I say it points toward God. Does that make me stupid?

    Ethan, you have already clearly stated that you haven’t actually examined the evidence that we are looking at:

    Admittedly, I haven’t studied these issues nearly as intensely as most of the respondents to this blog obviously have…

    And I am confused by your two apparently contradictory statements. You say:

    The evidence for a Creationist is going to be the same evidence any other scientist sees.

    and yet:

    When you ask me to provide evidence which favors the Creationist position, unless we define terms, we risk a regress into a fight over semantics.

    If you wouldn’t mind explaining how the evidence that you have examined points towards God (and I’m assuming you refer to one specific god here, not Zeus, Krishna or otherwise), we’d all be happy to hear it and discuss why we think otherwise.

  167. #167 Stanton
    April 19, 2008

    To my knowledge, no naturally occurring beneficial genetic mutation has ever been observed. Citing bacteria and viruses won’t work, because they are ultimately harmful to their host, which is evidence in favor of my position.

    Your knowledge is extremely faulty, as if you were purposely refusing to research anything at all, such as the fact that the ability to produce lactase beyond childhood has evolved in humans no less than twice among dairy-producing cultures, and that people who are heterozygous for sickle cell anemia are more likely to withstand malaria. And then there’s the fact that more and more people are found to be able to produce minute quantities of chitinase, possibly as a response to dust mites.

    Then there’s the fact that the evolutionary history of the “antifreeze glycoprotein” gene has been thoroughly documented in Antarctic icefish, having arisen in the icefishes’ closest relative, a fish from off the Argentinian coast, through a stretch of nonsense DNA near the gene for bile-production having a start codon spliced in front of it, then being copied twice, and then translocated to the chromosome that housed the genes for hemoglobin production sometime during the Miocene.

    Furthermore, if you actually knew how to read a biology textbook, you would have known that not all bacteria require hosts to live, and that the bacteria that evolved the ability to produce the enzyme nylonase are free-living bacteria.

    And not all viruses are harmful: one strain of virus attacks tumor cells in humans.

  168. #168 RamblinDude
    April 19, 2008

    Ethan,

    I do know that there are a lot of really smart people on the Creationist side to cause me to think, “Damn. There just might be two sides to this coin!”

    Yes, I have heard their arguments, too. It was one of the reasons I learned more science. The more science you learn, the more obvious it is that the creationists are wrong. But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

    In fact, stick around. Try reading some of the posts PZ has written up on the left of the page under “A Taste of Pharyngula”

    You’ll find that, in the main, the commenters on this blog are very accommodating to those who actually “seek to understand.” I’d go so far as to say that many are delighted by their visits.

    Real scientists like PZ, and David Marjanovi?, OM will patiently explain things, all kinds of helpful links will get posted, recipes get shared! Heck, you don’t even have to agree on everything. In fact, you can still believe in God. Really!

    But one thing you cannot do is be willfully ignorant, lazy minded and contentious on absurdly basic and well known facts that any seventh grader should know. (You know, like arguing that evolution contradicts the second law of thermodynamics)

    Also, you’ll find that trying to save our souls won’t get you anywhere.

    Enjoy your stay.

    The INTERPRETATION of that evidence is what’s at issue here.

    You naivet is showing. I urge you to learn more science.

  169. #169 Citizen Z
    April 20, 2008

    The evidence for a Creationist is going to be the same evidence any other scientist sees.
    The INTERPRETATION of that evidence is what’s at issue here. You say the evidence points away from God; I say it points toward God. Does that make me stupid?

    Creationists go well beyond “interpretation” into outright fabrication and denial. They would also like you to believe that the issue is whether or not God exists. This is a ploy mentioned in their “Wedge Strategy”. You may want to do a search on that phrase, and also the phrase “theistic evolution”.

  170. #170 Hank Fox
    April 20, 2008

    Ethan #150 said:

    I find it curious to note, however, that the tit-for-tat, back and forth argumentation, on BOTH sides, invariably degenerates into abstract rhetoric, fraught with arguments ad hominem, and the volleys resemble excercises more in mental masturbation than an actual pursuit of that which we/they seek to understand.

    Oh, Ethan. If ten thousand scientists working together over a hundred years come up with something so well supported by huge amounts of evidence that you’d have to be a complete boob to actually study it and refuse to believe it, and then someone pops in from outside the field and refuses to study the evidence, but only says “I don’t believe it!” And THEN refuses to listen to anything said in explanation, and keeps repeating “I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it!” … how do you deal with that?

    And then if someone like you pops in and says “I don’t think either one of you knows! It’s all just abstract rhetoric and name-calling!” … how would you deal with that?

    It’s interesting to ME that you “believe in God and science both,” and the effect on you is this confusion that every sort of belief is “faith,” no matter whether you came up with it last night after your fifth beer, or whether you and thousands of others worked it out and proved it over and over through a dozen different fields of science over the past hundred years.

    I sometimes default to name-calling when I realize that the person I’m talking to is simply not interested in listening. That they only appear to be talking about the subject at hand, and are instead playing some sort of triumphant mind-game for their own amusement. After about the dozenth time that happens to you, and you’ve exhausted your own patience at attempting to explain, you get to where you can recognize the game-pattern of such people almost instantly. Open-mindedness and closed-minded, aggressive ignorance both provide easy clues.

    This guy Bryan Fischer is almost certainly unreachable … by ANY argument. Because he isn’t even interested in evolution, or science. He’s simply not listening, and probably not even capable of listening, because he has an entirely different agenda filling his head.

    I have strong doubts about you, too.

    In both cases, I’m pretty sure it’s not even any use talking to you, except in necessary self-defense. I doubt that you’re even interested.

    You can probably imagine how frustrating that might be. It’s like talking to children with attention span problems, or old people with Alzheimer’s, answering the same question over and over and over: It’s Tuesday, Dad. Dad, it’s Tuesday. Today is Tuesday, Dad. You just asked me, Dad, and it’s still Tuesday.

    Only it’s worse, because people like Fischer are neither children nor Alzheimer’s patients. Here’s the evidence, Bryan. Bryan, here’s the evidence. Here’s some evidence right here. Bryan, you already asked that, and the answer is still the same: lots and lots and lots of evidence, collected over a hundred years and more, by thousands and thousands of people.

    And worse still, you and Bryan both have the EVIDENCE that all these supposedly-doubtful theories work: Medicine works. Computers work. Geology works. Physics works. Nuclear chemistry works. Biology works. Evolution works. You walk around with the everyday miracles of these sciences shouting at you 24/7, and you’re going “La la la la! I’m not listening!”

    It could be that there’s some simple explanation for what these people (you?) do. Some sort of helpless fear that they’re dealing with as best they’re able. But I have a hard time believing that, because they’re not just sitting home and dealing quietly with their own confusion – they’re going out and actively spreading malicious lies. From this side of these arguments, their actions look deliberate, aggressive and malignant.

  171. #171 Bryan Fischer
    April 20, 2008

    Re: mutations: even the “beneficial” ones cited so far, e.g. for bacteria and viruses, can’t explain evolution. What you have after the mutations are still bacteria and viruses. Re: other examples wrongly cited by evolutionists: Darwin’s finches are still finches; peppered moths are still moth; fruit flies are still fruit flies. Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether. Never been observed, never been engineered.

    I’ve noticed a tendency by evolutionists on this post to sneak time into the equation anytime they can’t explain something. You complain that ID people say “God did it” when they run into something they can’t explain. “Time did it” is no different and certainly no better.

  172. #172 Tyler DiPietro
    April 20, 2008

    “Re: mutations: even the “beneficial” ones cited so far, e.g. for bacteria and viruses, can’t explain evolution. What you have after the mutations are still bacteria and viruses.”

    You’re gonna wear yourself out moving those goalposts that far back.

  173. #173 Hank Fox
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan, if you’re talking direct observation, you can’t SEE the back of your own head.

    Doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to know it’s there.

    Snicker. Well, for most people, anyway.

    I’d be interested in knowing how you got where you are. Just why you hate science so much, and why you work against it. Just how much modern medicine, plant genetics, electronics, etc., you take advantage of, and how you’d feel if you were suddenly forced to do without it.

    And again: I’m still curious what your molecular biologist son thinks of all this?

  174. #174 Zarquon
    April 20, 2008

    Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether.

    Evolutionary theory says that speciation doesn’t cause an altogether different species. In fact new species are closely related and closely similar to their parent species. Even after several million years, humans and chimpanzees are still very similar, sharing the same organs, blood types etc.

  175. #175 Stephanie Z
    April 20, 2008

    Well of course fossils are the only tangible evidence of evolution. Genes are way too small to see and holding actual animals in your hand might get you bitten or stung or something.

    Can we kill off all of Fischer’s bacteria for him? They’re obviously bad for him. Look what they’re doing to his reasoning.

  176. #176 molliebatmit
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan Fischer, you asked for examples of beneficial mutations, not for examples of speciating mutations. Perhaps you missed my post #128, where I gave five examples of beneficial mutations, not just in animals, nor just in mammals, but actually in humans.

    I can certainly come up with more, but it’s difficult to do the research, since no one codifies this information anywhere — scientists don’t put a “BENEFICIAL MUTATION” tag on every fitness-increasing polymorphism they find, simply because they don’t find it astounding that some sequence variants increase fitness. So I have to search manually based on half-remembered gene names and papers.

    Regarding the moved goalpost, there are certainly published genetic comparisons of closely related species, showing at which particular points in which particular genes the two species diverge. We will see more of this research in coming years, as it becomes easier and quicker (and cheaper) to sequence the genomes of many different species.

    If this doesn’t satisfy you, what sort of evidence, may I ask, would?

  177. #177 fly44d
    April 20, 2008

    PZ and all of the great folks adding to this, thanks for the tutorial. This is great stuff for a 50 yr old aero engineer to read and understand. Why do the religious cling so much to their beliefs? They are like little kids who really really want a cookie (heaven) and are going to hold their breaths to get it. It is just so pathetic and frustrating. Thanks all! Keep it up!

  178. #178 mothra
    April 20, 2008

    Ethan, stick to your day job (furniture salesman??). Interpretation of the evidence is NOT what is at stake here! Atomic theory makes predictions about the properties of atoms, we test and find these properties. If the properties had not been found- exit one theory. Dimetri Mendeelev created the first periodic chart of the elements, he left blanks in his scheme for elements not known to exist but which were predicted by his theory. Germanium, and I think Vanadium, were two such elements, discovered by searching for atoms having the properties predicted by atomic theory.

    Evolution theory predicts that species have lineages forming a branching pattern, that all species are related, and together, a pictorial representation of that relatedness would be a tree or bush. Fossils confirm this prediction. DNA base sequencing confirms this prediction. Speaking metaphorically, because non-scientists have trouble with simple statements: DNA evidence gives us the ‘shape’ and ‘branching sequence’ of the tree, fossils tell us how the tree appeared in ‘past seasons.’

    About interpretation, many paleontologists have spent years, or entire lifetimes studying fossils, say Archaeopteryx for example. What they have found is a tooth-jawed (not beaked), boney-tailed (not fused pygostyle), dinosaur with feathers. When a creo, such as Duane Gish makes a preposterous statement such as “a tail with one proud feather for all the world to see,” this is not a difference in interpretation, it is a willful lie, or, it is ignorance.

    About beneficial vs harmful genes. Many others have posted about this already, I will add a personal touch. I am legally blind. This means, in an auto- based society there is a definate disadvantage I must deal with daily. It also meant that I could go to college (disability services footed early bills). Once in the door, I recieved scholarships and later was admitted to grad school, MS, Ph.D. and the whole sequence was even possible due to a disadvantageous ‘dice roll.’ Genes disadvantageous in one environ can be beneficial in another.

  179. #179 John
    April 20, 2008

    I disagree with the “fossils are a tiny part of the evidence” bit. By the way, it’s playing into creationist’s hands too; they at least know that fossils are an important piece of the evolutionary puzzle. I think PZ is conflating his evo devo interests and background with the broader history of evol biol. Downplaying the importance of fossils may help make molecular work seem more important, but it’s not necessary (and is divisive) to do so, and hurts the field of evolution to denegrate any valuable evidence, especially if history is ignored.

    Imagine if we had no fossil record; I’d say evolution would be considerably weaker. No hominins, theropod dinosaurs, early whales/tetrapods, basal arthropods, etc… Recall that >99% of all species that have been, are extinct.

    Fossils played a significant part in Darwin’s ideas and still do today; how else can you tell how major transitions in evolution were achieved, broad patterns of tempo and mode, extinctions and replacement, etc? Molecules certainly play a big role especially today, but they weren’t even in the game until the late 1800s at best, and evolution was already reasonably well-accepted by then (albeit with controversy over mechanisms). Even in evo devo journals there is a fair amount of discussion of fossils- e.g. Sean Carroll and Neil Shubin, recent Cambrian organism finds, etc (e.g. Zimmer’s great At the Water’s Edge and more recent books like Your Inner Fish).

    Phylogenies, too, depend on fossils (warts and all), and phylogenies are the main framework in evol biol.

  180. #180 Ichthyic
    April 20, 2008

    Imagine if we had no fossil record; I’d say evolution would be considerably weaker. No hominins, theropod dinosaurs, early whales/tetrapods, basal arthropods, etc… Recall that >99% of all species that have been, are extinct.

    Imagine there’s no fossils,
    it’s easy if you try.
    no Burgess Shale in BC,
    no Fossil Butte in WY.
    Imagine all our ancestors,
    as if they did not exist.

    You might say that I’m a fuckwit,
    but I’m not the only one.
    I hope someday you’ll join us,
    and the world will be as done.

  181. #181 Leigh
    April 20, 2008

    Hank, your comment at #170 is brilliant. Would you mind if I crosspost it at Origins of Life? I’m dealing with someone exactly like Bryan Fischer over there, and you make that whole “Here’s the evidence, and here’s some more, and here’s a bunch more, and WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU LISTENING?” frustration so clear.

  182. #183 melior
    April 20, 2008

    Here’s a bit of recent evidence, Bryan, that you simply can’t explain away by Godidit.

    Early Elephant [Ancestor Species] ‘Was Amphibious’

    Creationism fails in hilarious fashion to provide a logically coherent explanation for this fact. Surely you can’t expect anyone to believe that a perfect God created creatures that can swim, but somehow failed to survive the biblical flood? (Maybe they were EVIL elephant ancestors!)

    Natural selection explains very simply what happened: descendants of these beasts survive today, such as elephants and dugongs, which are better adapated to their modern and historical conditions.

  183. #184 Hank Fox
    April 20, 2008

    Leigh, be my guest. Cross-post at will. And thank you. :)

  184. #185 peter
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan -
    denying them the use of time is the smartest thing I’ve seen in your arguments: if that doesn’t work, are you going to deny them the use of one of the 3 spatial dimensions as well?
    As for the 2nd law: even at elementary level, you’re told the first words should be “In a closed system”, and any formulation without that is wrong. Several posts above point that out and ask whether you think the earth is (thermodynamically) a closed system. You don’t respond.
    I’m with fly44d #177 on the educational value of this thread: tremendous stuff – the harmfulXbeneficial mutations contributions especially – that is one argument (I think the only one) of ID’ers that this layperson has to pause at.
    Peter

  185. #186 Stuart Weinstein
    April 20, 2008

    “Didn’t Dobzhansky in his 1937 book, “Genetics and the Orign of Species” falsify the mostly deleterious mutations argument? Also interesting to read E. O. Wiley and others on the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the driving mechanism for evolution. Can’t recall the name of the Nobel Laureate who showed that the Second Law could lead to increase in complexity.”

    That would be Illya Prigogine who won the Nobel prize in Chemistry.

  186. #187 Stuart Weinstein
    April 20, 2008

    “So far, no one has actually refuted any of the arguments I set forth. No one has yet to argue that, in fact, there is some mechanism in nature that can actually create either matter or energy out of nothing. I’m waiting.”

    Instead of waiting for divine guidance, actually try to read some of the responses you have been given. It could be that you’re too ignorant to understand the arguments given to you.

    Nobody claims that matter and energy came out of *nothing*. The Big Bang singularity was not *nothing*. In canonical BBT, the Big Bang singularity was everything. Its just gotten a whole lot bigger and happier.

    “Nor has anyone reconciled the evident tension between the law of entropy, which predicts increasing decay and randomness, and evolution, which predicts increasing order and complexity.”

    There is no tension, as the *laws* you describe apply to equilibrium thermodynamics. Nor is there any violation of thermodynamics. The only thing that is violated is your kindergarten (and I don’t mean to insult little kids) level understanding of those laws. If those laws were every where stictly applicable, there would be no life, we’d all be dead along with everything else. Life exists because of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. We maintain this non-equilibrium via metabolism. When we stop eating we die.

    I suggest you consult the works of Illya Prigogine, Nobel prize winner in chemistry. He received his Nobel prize for his work in nonequlibrium thermodynamics.

    “The argument that we all grow after being born won’t work. After all, most of the people who have used that argument have decayed to the point where they’re now dead.”

    I haven’t used that argument. Besides your remark is stupid.

    “Nor has anyone tried to argue that there aren’t enormous gaps in the fossil record, right where we should expect to find them were evolution true. PZ just changes the subject when fossils come up.”

    PZ changes the subject to transitional forms. By the way Tiktaalic is found just where it was expected. Read Neil Shubin’s book, “Your Inner Fish”. There are plenty of transitional forms.

    Continuing their logic, its a wonder creationist nitwits don’t argue it never rains cuz they can’t collect all of the rain drops.

    “Nor has anyone tried to argue against the demonstrably true fact that the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial.”

    There is no such fact. There is also no Santa Claus. Did you know that?

    “Pointing to natural selection won’t work, because natural selection will only work if it’s given something superior to select.”

    Explain why A-1 Milano is not a beneficial mutation. From the wiki:

    ApoA-1 Milano is a naturally occurring mutated variant of the apolipoprotein A1 protein found in human HDL, the lipoprotein particle that carries cholesterol from tissues to the liver and is associated with protection against cardiovascular disease. ApoA1 Milano was first identified by Dr Cesare Sirtori in Milan, who also demonstrated that its presence significantly reduced cardiovascular disease, even though it caused a reduction in HDL levels and an increase in triglyceride levels.

    Discovered by accident, the mutation was found to be present in about 3.5% of the population of Limone sul Garda, a small village in northern Italy. It has been traced to a mutation in a single man who had lived in the village in the 1700s and passed it on to his offspring.

    Anything else?

    Now run along and tell your parents how you picked on us poor scientists.

  187. #188 Dada
    April 20, 2008

    God’s equation:

    lim God     = 0
    Science ? ?
    
  188. #189 DLC
    April 20, 2008

    Anyone here recall Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series, in which he spends some time discussing the invisible dragon in his neighbor’s garage ?
    The dragon’s existence does not matter because it cannot be sensed, nor does it influence it’s surroundings.
    There is no evidence supporting it’s existence.
    Now, turning to evolution, there is a literal mountain of evidence supporting the theory originally written about by Charles Darwin. Before you gainsay evolutionary theory, I urge you most strongly to read the literature, study the science, and observe the methodology.
    Sagan said that science is good because it “Delivers the Goods”. Evolutionary theory has long since delivered the goods, and it continues to do so.
    (note: quotations of Sagan here are not exact as they are based on my memory of the program when it originally aired in the 1980s)

  189. #190 Dada
    April 20, 2008

    About superconductors and battery : connecting a 9 V battery to two ends of a superconductor is like connecting the battery terminals (“+” and “-”) the one to the other: short-circuit and the battery loses its charge rapidly.

  190. #191 peter
    April 20, 2008

    If the discussion on Ohm’s “law” is still open, can’t resist giving my 2 euro-cents worth: it’s a tautology: i.e. Ohmic conductors behave ohmically. Even then, not necessarily all of the time. All the rest is electrical engineering.
    Peter

  191. #192 Reed
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan in #171

    Re: mutations: even the “beneficial” ones cited so far, e.g. for bacteria and viruses, can’t explain evolution.

    Your previous claim was that they didn’t happen or were so rare as to be irrelevant:

    The problem: naturally occurring genetic mutations are invariably harmful if not fatal to the organism

    and

    the vast majority of naturally occurring mutations are harmful rather than beneficial.

    Yet beneficial mutations have been observed within our lifetimes, in multiple species. Note that antibiotic resistance is only one example. A little research (or even reading the responses in this thread) would show you many more. Once you address these errors, you’ll be in a better position to understand what part they play in “explaining evolution”

    What you have after the mutations are still bacteria and viruses.

    So ? Sudden (in human timescales) emergence of radically different organisms would be evidence against our current theory of evolution. Major changes take too long for us to observe in our lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we can’t observe speciation happening. Domestication and ring species both provide a compelling examples.

    You complain that ID people say “God did it” when they run into something they can’t explain. “Time did it” is no different and certainly no better.

    Unlike God, time is widely accepted as a scientific fact. So is the ability of gradual processes to have progressively more effect as time increases.

    Moreover, how long something should take to evolve provides us with specific predictions. We can measure the rates at which mutations occur, the genetic differences between existing populations, and the ages of their fossil ancestors. We can also dig up old genetic material, date it, and compare it with modern individuals. For evolutionary theory to be correct, all these things have to be consistent.

    So no, “time did it” is clearly better than “god did it”. The former is a testable hypothesis, while the latter is an appeal to supernatural with no explanatory power.

  192. #193 Nick Gotts
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan Fischer: Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether. Never been observed, never been engineered.

    See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
    for many examples of speciation. Of course, you think you’ve cleverly left yourself an “out” by including “turning into a different one altogether”. Well, interspecies hybridization in plants can produce some pretty radical novelties, which then breed true, as outlined in the URL above. However, no doubt you will say that’s not enough, what you want is something on the order of cats turning into dogs within a few generations. (Note: of course, neither cats nor dogs are ancestral tot he other; they share a common ancestor some tens of millions of years ago.) If such a thing were to happen, it would actually be strong evidence not just against the modern theory of evolution, but that there is indeed some sort of superintelligence interfering in earthly events – at least, I can’t think of any alternative explanation.

  193. #194 Just Al
    April 20, 2008

    Several posters here have lamented the fact that, no matter how often you point out the fallacies and straw men from nimrods like Bryan Fischer, they never seem to recognize it. But there’s a bigger dynamic at work here, a subtle one, that makes it all worthwhile.

    First, just pointing out how many times Bryan has contradicted himself, and how often he has to change his argument to account for overwhelming evidence, and the number of times he pointedly ignores direct replies, demonstrates a simple little thing: He doesn’t believe his own arguments.

    So if he doesn’t believe, what’s he making a big deal for? Because he hopes that somebody, somewhere (and actually, a whole lot of people) are ignorant enough to buy it. Keep it simple, make statements that “any idiot can see it’s flawed,” and hope those same idiots aren’t quite smart enough to understand that people who have actually studied the fields in question just might know a little bit more about it than they themselves do. In other words, his targets are the insecure people who desperately want to believe they have some magic answer, and willfully ignore any evidence to the contrary.

    But really, those targets are few and far between. The vast majority of readers actually have some recognition of the limits of their knowledge (and indeed ours, as a species), and are willing to learn more about it. And a lot of them can make that leap from, “Gosh, this guy with his four simple steps can’t demonstrate how even one of them works,” to, “Does he really think I’m dumb enough to buy all this?” And begin to realize that most arguments against science don’t have anything to do with science, but are simply ways to manipulate people, and the more ignorant, the better.

    So, for all those posters who wonder what the point is, have at it! You’re reaching a larger audience than you suspect. Who cares if you reach Bryan Fischer? He isn’t convinced by his own arguments in the first place. But you’re being given a golden opportunity to reach his intended targets, and that’s the beauty of it. HE brought them here!

    And Bryan? Don’t go away – we’re not done with you yet ;-)

  194. #195 Tulse
    April 20, 2008

    Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether. Never been observed, never been engineered.

    Ever see a chihuahua and a Great Dane? Do you think they can mate naturally? If not for human assistance, would they not be two species? Isn’t that an example of an engineered speciation?

  195. #196 Citizen Z
    April 20, 2008

    First, just pointing out how many times Bryan has contradicted himself, and how often he has to change his argument to account for overwhelming evidence, and the number of times he pointedly ignores direct replies, demonstrates a simple little thing: He doesn’t believe his own arguments.

    I’d say it’s more that he doesn’t care about his own arguments. It’s also why he doesn’t even understand his own arguments. The creationists have the answer they want to reach, and will throw any dumb argument at the wall in the hopes it will stick. It’s why he’s able to turn on a dime with regards to his beneficial mutations argument. Doesn’t faze him in the slightest that one* of his 4 arguments is nonsense, he just keeps on plugging away.

    *Yes, all his arguments are nonsense, I mean the one that he himself now understands was wrong. If he eventually understands how the other 3 are wrong, he’ll just come up with 4 more nonsense objections.

  196. #197 Rick Schauer
    April 20, 2008

    Hank Fox,

    And worse still, you and Bryan both have the EVIDENCE that all these supposedly-doubtful theories work: Medicine works. Computers work. Geology works. Physics works. Nuclear chemistry works. Biology works. Evolution works. You walk around with the everyday miracles of these sciences shouting at you 24/7, and you’re going “La la la la! I’m not listening!”

    Simply, brilliant!

    That’s exactly why I think we should require creationists to rely on prayer to cure themselves of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, broken bones, etc…rather than use precious medical resources. After all, creationists seem so smug and sure about His creation and salvation in the afterlife…that; shouldn’t we do all we can to encourage them to seek an early exit to be with Him? And allowing them prayer rather than hospitalization or medical care for a life threatening disease could provide us a morally sacrosanct means of accomplishing that! What do you think?

  197. #198 Richard Simons
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan Fischer said (#171)

    Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether. Never been observed, never been engineered.

    Really? Have you never eaten a nectarine, a grapefruit or a cultivated strawberry? How about a loaf of bread or brown mustard? Other plants include triticale, Primula kewensis, Spartina townsendii and Fatshedera lizei? Then there are Culex molestus and Helacyton gartleri (the last-named is disputed although it clearly cannot interbreed with its ancestor species. You might want to find out why it’s disputed).

    Have you changed your web page yet to reflect the new information or are you content for it to have wrong information? Remember, every time we see it we will know you are lying, and every time you see it you will know you are breaking one of the Commandments.

  198. #199 Josh Taylor
    April 20, 2008

    I’d just like to add a comment about his fourth point. Evolution in general comes from the mutation of genetic switches that determine whether a protein will be coded for or not, not from a mutation in the gene that codes for a protein. The former is more effective because it only affects the protein’s activity in one location, at one stage of development. This more often leads to beneficial change. If mutation only happened in the latter form, Fischer might have a point, but as it stands, he just doesn’t understand evolution.

  199. #200 Julian
    April 20, 2008

    Beyond this, all the first law of thermodynamics says about the creation of the universe is that all the matter and energy in the current, expansive universe was present in the pre-bang compressed universe. You don’t need a prime mover to change a highly compressed ball of matter/energy (which, under the conditions of the pre-bang universe were non-differentiated) into an expansive and cooling field of differentiated particles, you merely need a change in equilibrium. You see this in all matter, at all states of matter, in the universe. Suns are relatively uniform and compact until changes in equilibrium weaken the force of their gravity so much that they explode and cool, creating complex elements from what was initially hydrogen and helium. Water exists in a steady state until atomic movement increases to a point where it breaks the bonds holding one instance of the chemical to the rest and they begin to float free as steam. Is it so difficult to imagine a similar process, where the explosive potential created by increasing compression of the pre-bang sphere under its own gravity became greater than the compressive force and caused catastrophic expansion?

  200. #201 CortxVortx
    April 20, 2008

    Re:#90

    I was actually looking for someone to include arguments in the post itself.

    Obvious lie. If you wanted feedback, you would have a comments section.

    But you lying ignorant inhumanists never allow that!

  201. #202 peter
    April 20, 2008

    Josh Taylor #199
    That reminds me of an article recently (SciAm?), which said that even apparently startling differences (I think the example was a dog’s face and the human face) can be explained by when and for how long the identical genes in the two species are switched on. I think there was even a name for the phenomenon.
    Peter

  202. #203 ajani57
    April 20, 2008

    @171

    I’ve noticed a tendency by evolutionists on this post to sneak time into the equation anytime they can’t explain something. You complain that ID people say “God did it” when they run into something they can’t explain. “Time did it” is no different and certainly no better.

    So how would you explain the difference between a seed and a flower without using the word time?

  203. #204 PeteK
    April 20, 2008

    Darwinism could apply to cosmology, if baby univserses are selected, by virtue of their properties etc…

    Matter and energy are created from nothing – the quantum vacuum – routinely. Particles materialise from the vacuum all the time.

    The universe appeared at a point, out of nothing at all, because it contains no energy at all – zero overall energy divided evenly between mass and negative gravitational energy…

    Now, where did the quantum vacuum come from? The underlying physics that describe it ? If anything outside the universe created them, then the creator would be by definition be incomprehensible, and hence meaningless even to discuss…

  204. #205 Vadjong
    April 20, 2008

    The 2nd law of thermodynamics argument against life is refuted with every breath it is uttered with.

    It takes quite a bit of digestion to provide the energy to keep a complex organism (even YEC’s) ticking along.

  205. #206 Nick
    April 20, 2008

    The way he keeps (wrongly) using the word ‘invariably’ in his final argument reminds me of ‘The Princess Bride.’ “You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  206. #207 windy
    April 20, 2008

    Phylogenies, too, depend on fossils (warts and all), and phylogenies are the main framework in evol biol.

    No, they don’t “depend on fossils”. You can construct a phylogeny with or without fossils, and in the latter case you can use fossils for calibration to estimate divergence times, but that is not a requirement.

  207. #208 extatyzoma
    April 20, 2008

    OMG, that business about ‘time did it’ as a knock on the evolutionists arguments!!!

    well as i look in a mirror im not sure i look anything like the vigorous creature that stared back about 15 years ago, and furtherback, not much like the pharyngula i once was, sob. Im sure time can be included somewhere in the equation, indeed only a split second is needed to take a head from a body and thats quite relevant for the subject im sure, time seems to be default to our situation.

    creationists are getting so desperate its pathetic, all for the love of jesus. was he really so impressive?

  208. #209 brokenSoldier
    April 20, 2008

    Even you, deep down, know faith sucks.

    I thought it blows?

    Posted by: Ichthyic | April 19, 2008 9:23 PM

    Ichthyic — I think both are true…it just depends which side of faith you’re actually standing on…

  209. #210 brokenSoldier
    April 20, 2008

    “…the evolutionists have faith that they have a monopoly on science and reason.”

    Your mistake here is in your characterization of what ‘evolutionists’ DO… They don’t claim to have a monopoly on science and reason, its just that they use them. And since most on the creationist/ ID sign choose not too, it just SEEMS to you that they have a monopoly. hardly their fault…

  210. #211 Vic
    April 20, 2008

    Ethan:

    You raise a very good point. I will, however, thank you to give me the benefit of the doubt that I have indeed thought a lot about these issues.

    No, you really haven’t, if you’re still making basic errors like this one:

    My concern, though, is that to call the absolutist acceptance Darwinists have of the theory of Evolution “provisional” is, at the very least, disingenuous.

    … since it is obvious from your mangled wording here, seeing as it bears NO relation to what I wrote, that you are either lying or just don’t get it.

    The examination of evidence by Darwin led him to posit his theory. Others looked at the evidence – they saw what was right, observationally speaking, and what was wrong – so they tested it, and refined the theory. Then those refinings were tested, and further refined. At every point, like looking through a blurry camera lens and playing the focus knob, the view of what was really happening became more and more clear – and more detail was uncovered, giving us more to see, and more to test, which ultimately refined the theory even more.

    Now, to nimrods like you and other creationists, this is a weakness, but it’s actually THE STRENGTH of science – proceed only from facts, use trial and error and peer review to verify findings, eliminate error and bias, and ultimately, over time, refine our view of reality.

    And, the best part, is that it requires absolutely NO FAITH.

    And if, by some weird chance, some evidence came up that blew evolution away as a theory, most scientists would be okay with that – because there would be EVIDENCE for it.

    Creationists? They got nothin’…

    Admittedly, I haven’t studied these issues nearly as intensely as most of the respondents to this blog obviously have; however, I do know that there are a lot of really smart people on the Creationist side to cause me to think, “Damn. There just might be two sides to this coin!”

    And did it escape your notice that:

    A) those smart people might be LYING?
    B) those smart people might be MISTAKEN?
    C) those smart people might not be smart?

    It’s not about the people – it’s about the EVIDENCE. Again, creationists, they got nothin’…

  211. #212 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 20, 2008

    If we parse down arguments in a Cartesian manner, we might discover this: Cogito, ergo it takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe either side. The Creationists have faith in a Being they cannot perceive; the evolutionists have faith that they have a monopoly on science and reason. It’s faith. It’s irony. Think about it.

    You said you believe in science. This means you’re doing it wrong. Learn what science is first…

    The evidence for a Creationist is going to be the same evidence any other scientist sees.

    You wish!

    Invariably, it turns out that creationists don’t know what they are talking about. Mr Fischer here is an especially shining example, but Dr Behe is no exception either.

    The INTERPRETATION of that evidence is what’s at issue here. You say the evidence points away from God; I say it points toward God. Does that make me stupid?

    Wait a minute. I thought you were talking about the theory of evolution. Now suddenly you’re talking about atheism?

    And then there’s the fact that more and more people are found to be able to produce minute quantities of chitinase, possibly as a response to dust mites.

    Wow! Where was this published?

    near the gene for bile-production having a start codon spliced in front of it, then being copied twice, and then translocated to the chromosome that housed the genes for hemoglobin production sometime during the Miocene.

    And this?

    Re: mutations: even the “beneficial” ones cited so far, e.g. for bacteria and viruses, can’t explain evolution. What you have after the mutations are still bacteria and viruses. Re: other examples wrongly cited by evolutionists: Darwin’s finches are still finches; peppered moths are still moth; fruit flies are still fruit flies. Still no evidence presented – zip – that demonstrates speciation, that is, one species turning into a different one altogether. Never been observed, never been engineered.

    I’ve noticed a tendency by evolutionists on this post to sneak time into the equation anytime they can’t explain something. You complain that ID people say “God did it” when they run into something they can’t explain. “Time did it” is no different and certainly no better.

    So you accept all of the points we have made here, give up, take the goalposts out of the ground and carry them elsewhere? That went fast…

    Your new argument is just the usual creationist delusion about “kinds”. Moths are still moths? Flies are still flies? Humans, my friend, are still primates. If I remember that right, the bacterial species Escherichia coli contains about as much genetic diversity as all primates together — humans, bushbabies, the whole shebang.

    On observed speciations, let me repeat this link. It simply can’t be said often enough.

    Speaking metaphorically, because non-scientists have trouble with simple statements: DNA evidence gives us the ‘shape’ and ‘branching sequence’ of the tree, fossils tell us how the tree appeared in ‘past seasons.’

    Not quite, no. Fossils, too, give us the shape and the branching sequence. The fact that the fossil-derived trees and the DNA-derived trees look so similar is non-negligible evidence for evolution. And while fossils have disadvantages (lots of organisms never fossilize), they also have advantages: DNA doesn’t last longer than 100,000 years or so, except under circumstances that are much rarer than ones that allow the preservation of hair as a fossil — therefore only a small number of branches of the tree can be sampled for DNA, and the fewer branches you sample, the more likely it is that statistical artifacts will distort the tree.

    Culex molestus

    Culex molestans, the London Underground mosquito. As the name says, this species occurs only in the Tube.

    (Someone should have a look at the mosquitos in the Paris Underground. One of them stung me yesterday. I wonder what species they belong to.)

  212. #213 George Cauldron
    April 20, 2008

    Culex molestans, the London Underground mosquito. As the name says, this species occurs only in the Tube.

    Ah! But I have Bryan’s answer!

    one, two, three:

    “But it’s still just a mosquito! Mosquitos can’t change into dogs!”

  213. #214 Rey Fox
    April 20, 2008

    “Well, you know what the old Idaho license plates used to say: “Famous Potatoes.”

    They still do.

    And please don’t insult potatoes by associating them with Bryan Fischer. I’m not sure if that’s the real Bryan Fischer here, I would think he’d add a link if it was. He’s very busy being a societal parasite, you know.

  214. #215 Laser Potato
    April 20, 2008

    I *want* to be famous :(

  215. #216 Laser Potato
    April 20, 2008

    “But it’s still just a mosquito! Mosquitos can’t change into dogs!”
    So if you had a half-dog, half-mosquito, would it be filled with an overwhelming urge to suck its own blood?
    *rimshot*

  216. #217 Etha Williams
    April 20, 2008

    BF: “You complain that ID people say “God did it” when they run into something they can’t explain. “Time did it” is no different and certainly no better.”

    …are you actually serious? Firstly, as another poster aptly pointed out, time is a well-accepted scientific reality; ‘God’ (or gods, or non-terrestrial intelligence, or goddesses, or…well, it goes on and on) is not. Secondly, even “Time did it” is an inaccurate representation of evolutionary theory. In fact, it is “time, and self-replicating molecules that encode biological information with random variation” did it.

  217. #218 bipolar2
    April 20, 2008

    ** How the Invisible Hand kills off “designer” gods” **

    Methodologically, whenever so-called *sacred* writings make claims about the natural world, they are subject to exactly the same forces of refutation as any other empirical claim. There is no “executive privilege” for God.

    There are no longer any naive arguers from design. All of them died before 1930.
    Since then they’ve all been liars.

    >> The Invisible Hand writes its own script.

    Complex systems can and do arise from simple events, including random events.

    The first adequate theoretical explanation of the emergence of earth-bound empirical complexity from simple events in a determinate context arises (I think) from the Scottish economic philosopher, Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations (1776).

    Smith’s famous unintended “invisible hand”, which is microeconomic capitalism, arises from simple economic exchanges in a context of fair competition among self-interested vendors. The market is an emergent (abstract) complex entity which arises from a sum-over of simple exchanges conditioned by their “environment.”

    There is no need for a ‘god of economics’ to design the microeconomic market — under specified mechanisms of exchange. It forms itself. (There’s a large literature on “self-organizing systems.”)

    >> Speciation by descent, not by divine fiat.

    Darwin solved a supposedly insuperable empirical puzzle for a very wide (not universal) set of events in the history of life: how do new life forms arise. Darwin refrained from publicizing his answer for 15 years.

    Darwin knew how maligned, even shunned he would be by Society — he was after all a bona fide *gentleman* quite aware of the perks of his class and the esteem earned by his vast and thoroughly *respectable* empirical research which occupied him in support of his novel theory.

    Forced to come out in 1858, Darwin did not refer to his view with the already suspect term “evolution” but as “descent with modification.” What was so radical, so disturbing to his contemporaries? His mechanism for “descent with modification”, “natural selection”.

    What makes natural selection so uncomfortable? In operation, it has no goal and achieves no purpose. Speciation is a random trial-and-error process dependent upon differential reproductive success — in a determinate ecological setting. (Darwin proposed no account of the origin of life . . . as the title of his great work makes clear — On the origin of species. 1859.)

    Life in its multitudinous forms requires no spiritual force, no lan vital, no teleological principle, no purpose, no design.

    A designer for evolution is as superfluous as a designer for economics. And for exactly the same reason.

    bipolar2
    2008

  218. #219 Monado, FCD
    April 20, 2008

    If the Creationist argument on the 2nd law of thermodynamics were true, then snowflakes wouldn’t form, either, unless there were little, tiny, energy-free angels pushing the water molecules together.

    The 2nd-law mistake, failing to notice the sun, is repeated when anti-evolutionists say that a minor variation in appearance wouldn’t be effective camouflage. Not only does the sun appear in the morning, it’s eclipsed at night. And at some dim light level, a minor variation in appearance may be enough to let an animal, egg, or whatever escape notice.

  219. #220 Monado, FCD
    April 20, 2008

    Actually, Sili [125], it’s “Can’t think for myself or God will smite me!”

    You can get it on a T-shirt.

  220. #221 Ichthyic
    April 20, 2008

    (Someone should have a look at the mosquitos in the Paris Underground. One of them stung me yesterday. I wonder what species they belong to.)

    David-

    translation error?

    mosquitos don’t sting, they bite.

  221. #222 Monado, FCD
    April 20, 2008

    And the proof that genetic inheritance could result in the appearance of irreducible complexity was published by Herman Muller in Genetics in 1918. See TalkOrigins letter of the month for Sept. 2006, “Irreducible Complexity as an Evolutionary Prediction.” Muller later won a Nobel Prize (1946) for his work in genetics.

  222. #223 Bryan Fischer
    April 20, 2008

    Hank Fox – you’re right – I can’t see the back of my own head – but other people can. But no “other people” have ever observed speciation.

    Mothra – your blindness served you because of the kindness of people and your own hard work. Random chance and natural selection had nothing to do with it.

    Peter – the universe is a “closed system,” meaning evolutionists have to have a coherent explanation for why the earth is a “Privileged Planet” that appears to be the only one which can take advantage of incoming energy. They have no explanation. Plus, they have to have a mechanism for converting this energy into higher life forms, and genetic mutation is all they have. Because of the overwhelmingly harmful nature of naturally occurring mutations, that mechanism is not a rational or defensible one. Mutations are vastly more likely to make an organism less adaptable to its environment than more. Re: the bacteria and virus examples: just what we need! More resistant bacteria and viruses!

    Julian – where did that “pre-bang compressed universe” come from?

    Etha – where did these “self-replicating molecules that encode biological information with random variation” come from? I can see where an Intelligent Designer could make something “self-replicating” and could “encode” it with “biological information,” but I think it is utterly foolish to think it could happen through the random collision of atoms.

  223. #224 RamblinDude
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan, you are a fascinating and sterling example of true and unshakeable faith.

  224. #225 Ichthyic
    April 20, 2008

    f true and unshakeable faith.

    huh.

    that’s what you call it?

    I prefer:

    projection and denial.

    fits much better.

  225. #226 molliebatmit
    April 20, 2008

    Mutations are vastly more likely to make an organism less adaptable to its environment than more. Re: the bacteria and virus examples: just what we need! More resistant bacteria and viruses!

    Well, it certainly isn’t just what we need, but it is quite fortunate for the bacteria themselves. Which is the entire point.

    Plus, they have to have a mechanism for converting this energy into higher life forms, and genetic mutation is all they have.

    Actually, photosynthesis is the mechanism for converting energy from the sun into “higher life forms”, if you want to put it that way.

    I’m curious as to your thoughts about the beneficial mutations in humans we have offered you (listed by me in #128, by Richard Simons in #157, and by others whom I am sure I have missed). I’m surprised that you have failed to comment on them thus far, and I hope you won’t deny us the pleasure of reading your thoughts on the issue.

    In another example of beneficial mutations, I am studying two very closely related genes — they are about 75% identical, and clearly evolved from the same ancestral gene. They are expressed in different cell populations — for example, gene A is expressed only in B cells in the immune system, and gene B is expressed only in T cells. These related genes are instrumental in the development of two closely-related types of cells.

    Come to think of it, the immune system is another area in which mutation is clearly highly beneficial. During development, cells in the immune system purposely instigate a program of DNA mutation and deletion in order to produce a huge variety of different B cells and T cells for recognizing foreign proteins (e.g. those from invading bacteria and viruses).

  226. #227 molliebatmit
    April 20, 2008

    Sorry, one more thought:

    Mutations are vastly more likely to make an organism less adaptable to its environment than more.

    This is not surprising, and in fact is precisely the point.

    The majority of mutations are either neutral or harmful. However, a small number of mutations are beneficial: a few are strongly beneficial, but most are only moderately beneficial. However, natural selection works because even the moderately beneficial mutations give a cell/organism a better shot at surviving and reproducing than its non-mutant brethren.

    The secret of natural selection (and of cellular processes in general) is that you don’t have to be that much better than your fellows in order to win out.

  227. #228 JM
    April 20, 2008

    Bryan

    Amazing you have not learned a single thing from this long thread. Faith truly is blind. Please tell us all you have just been funnin with us all along. That would make more sense rather than believing the nonsense I’ve been reading from you.

  228. #229 RamblinDude
    April 21, 2008

    Ichthyic,
    “I prefer: projection and denial. fits much better.”

    Yeah, that’s exactly what his faith is. I was insulting him, although I doubt he has the mental capacity to understand it. Faith has eroded his ability to think. Too bad.

  229. #230 Hap
    April 21, 2008

    Mr. Fischer :

    1) “Argument from incredulity” (response to Etha) is not considered evidence in most circles – there is the possibility that you (either consciously or unconsciously) don’t know what you’re talking about, and being incredulous doesn’t help distinguish between “your contention doesn’t make sense” and “I don’t know what I am talking about”.

    2) Evolution talks about transformations between species, not abiogenesis (the generation of life from nonlife – aka molecular evolution) or the creation of the universe (which is the realm of astrophysics). Since astrophysicists don’t know from where the Big Bang’s energy or mass came from, they don’t make statements that they do. “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer when you have no evidence or not enough to sustain a theory – people don’t like to be wrong, and talking about a theory for which they have no evidence is an easy way to do so.

    3) Evolution hasn’t argued we’re privileged – but being that it’s the only planet for which we have evidence of life (and hence evolution), we can’t say that we are or are not privileged for sure. Again, if you don’t know anything, “I don’t know” is a reasonable answer. Also by the thermodynamic definitions, the Earth is an open system – it exchanges both energy (sunlight in, heat and mass (asteroids in, satellites, spacecraft out) with the universe. We can’t tell yet if the universe is closed – it’s hard to tell if it’s exchanging mass or energy with anything else if we don’t know where all the mass is (and so can’t count it).

    4) No speciation? see post #110. Thanks for playing.

    If what you believe requires willful ignorance and dishonesty to sustain it, perhaps it is not the world at fault, but either you (in misinterpreting the source of your belief incorrectly – taking the wrong answer from the right idea) or your belief is wrong. At this point, having seen so much dishonesty from ID people, it seems as if ID advocates make a better argument for “thought and religion are mutually exclusive” than Prof. Myers could hope for.

  230. #231 Yojimbo
    April 21, 2008

    You guys are amazingly patient. You get people like Bryan who show up, make incredibly incorrect statements based on incoherent, illogical, or otherwise flawed arguments. You take the time to read what they say and explain why they’re wrong, complete with links to where they can find out more information in detail.

    They respond by not reading what you wrote, repeat the same inane garbage, and act as though they are in some kind of dialogue.

    I see this over and over in different blogs and I’m always astonished by how you patiently trea these trolls with respect (at least at first), when it is clear all they want is an audience for their monologue. It is like a serial killer wanting to get on the evening news.

    More patience than I have…

  231. #232 Etha Williams
    April 21, 2008

    “Re: the bacteria and virus examples: just what we need! More resistant bacteria and viruses!”

    You’ve got to be joking, right? Did you not read any of the incredibly numerous refutations to your claim that somehow, evolution should favor mutations that are beneficial to humans? This seems to be more an argument against ID (assuming the designer is primarily concerned with humankind) than against evolution, which just states that mutations will be selected such that they are beneficial to the organism in question (in this case, the bacteria and viruses).

    “Where did these “self-replicating molecules that encode biological information with random variation” come from? I can see where an Intelligent Designer could make something “self-replicating” and could “encode” it with “biological information,” but I think it is utterly foolish to think it could happen through the random collision of atoms.”

    As #230 pointed out, the argument from personal incredulity holds no water in scientific thought. And while theories of abiogenesis cannot conclusively answer this question (yet), scientists are not afraid to say, “I don’t know.” That doesn’t automatically mean a leap to ‘god’ or a ‘higher intelligence’. If it did, there would be nothing to compel further scientific experimentation and discovery, and scientific progress would stagnate.

  232. #233 Joel
    April 21, 2008

    One of the more rational comments at the New York Times.

    movie is completely void of merit….
    …but worth sneaking into at the multiplex after viewing the other film you paid for.

    The documentary fully exposes the abject contempt of creationists for logic and reason. If you are not now convinced intelligent design proponents are a bunch of crackpot yahoos, you will be after viewing what must be the most insipidly vacuous film ever made.

  233. #234 Etha Williams
    April 21, 2008

    Yojimbo @231:
    “You guys are amazingly patient. You get people like Bryan who show up, make incredibly incorrect statements based on incoherent, illogical, or otherwise flawed arguments. You take the time to read what they say and explain why they’re wrong, complete with links to where they can find out more information in detail.

    They respond by not reading what you wrote, repeat the same inane garbage, and act as though they are in some kind of dialogue. ”

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. But my hope is that even though the people initiating the ‘dialog’ won’t listen, maybe at least one ‘undecided’ lurker will read both sides and realize how incoherent, irrational, and vacuous ID is. I don’t really expect to convert the people who post this nonsense, but if it clarifies evolutionary biology vs ID for some reader who is confused about the topic, it’s worth it.

    Besides, slacktivism is a great way to waste time instead of doing real work….

  234. #235 RamblinDude
    April 21, 2008

    Sastra 123#: was right on the money. Christians like Bryan are taught to be keep their eyes on the prize, (their eternal soul in eternal heaven). Only that which is eternal has true significance and is pure. Ultimate Truth is eternal, God is eternal, the reward of being a Christian is eternal.

    All these physical processes that science describes are inherently temporary and, therefore, corrupt and could not have been responsible for creating the eternal human soul!

    There is no truth seeking from hard core creationists like Bryan, only greed.

  235. #236 JM
    April 21, 2008

    Etha

    @234

    You’re quite right, and it is good to keep the rest of us, not as informed as you guys are, up to speed. Good job.

  236. #237 Richard Simons
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan;
    I list 10 or more examples of observed speciation (#198) then an hour later you repeat the claim that no speciation has been observed. Are you accusing me of lying? Either have the guts to admit that you were mistaken or make the direct accusation. It’s repeated behaviour like that that convinces many people that fundamentalist Christians are the scum of the Earth.

  237. #238 Ichthyic
    April 21, 2008

    It’s repeated behaviour like that that convinces many people that fundamentalist Christians are the scum of the Earth.

    well, they CAN be scum, they can also be just living in a state of perpetual denial.

  238. #239 peter
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan -
    Thanks for your reply.
    On the universe as a closed system: this is really just reformulating your 2nd proposition as the 1st proposition, which the great PZ dealt with himself way up there: despite appearances, most people on this blog are not megalomaniacs, and are happy just to pass at the question “why is there something rather than nothing?”. This has just nothing to do with evolution on this earth, whose existence we are happy to accept as a given “something”.
    I don’t accept that the earth is a “privileged planet”, any planet with a sun to warm it will get energy input. As to the earth being “the only one which can take advantage of incoming energy”, do you know something that we don’t, that there is no extrasolar life out there?

    The harmful vs. beneficial mutations point is more interesting, and I’m way out of my depth. But on the mechanisms: by the middle of the 19th Cent., the evidence for evolution of species was impossible to ignore, which is why C. Darwin and others (some even before him) came to the theory while having no or very little idea about the mechanisms. Since then we’ve learnt vastly more about them, and if gaps and puzzles remain, the history of “the evolution of evolution” seems to justify a confidence that an explanation will be found without having to resort to supernatural intervention. Josh Taylor #199 is very illuminating on this point, and coincidence-of-coincidences, there’s a highly relevant article in the May Scientific American.
    Peter

  239. #240 Nick Gotts
    April 21, 2008

    “But no “other people” have ever observed speciation.” – Bryan Fischer

    Mr. Fischer, you have repeatedly been given links to discussions of observed speciation events. Why do you not address the examples described? However many times you repeat your lie, it does not magically become true.

  240. #241 Carlie
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan, here’s something else for you. I doubt that you will do it, since you haven’t even read the speciation links kindly provided to you, but just to show you the amount by which you are wrong:

    Go to this link: Agricola.

    It doesn’t hurt, I promise. It’s something called a “database”. This is a repository of information on research, and is easily searchable. There are lots of them! This one, in particular, focuses on agriculturally important research. Just highlight the part that says “article citation database”, hit the button that says “connect”, then type in “speciation” in the first box the cursor goes to and hit enter. It’s that easy! Then you can see that there are over three thousand recent entries just on speciation.

    If for some reason you don’t think agriculture counts as a valid area in which to discuss speciation, try the same thing with PubMed. That is also one of those “databases”, and is even more easy to search, and focuses on human health. Just type in “speciation” as soon as the page comes up! Oooo, over seven thousand there.

    See how easy that is? And those don’t even begin to cover the extent of scientific research; in fact, most phylogenetic studies are referenced in a different database, Biological Abstracts (available at your local college library), so what you see is only the tip of the iceberg.

    So when you say that “no other people have observed speciation”, what you really mean is “none of the people who go to my church”. Please do something about your ignorance, really; it must be embarrassing to say things that are that wrong.

  241. #242 Bryan Fischer
    April 21, 2008

    Engineered speciation would simply prove our point: it takes intelligence and design to generate more complex life forms. Doesn’t happen without guidance and direction. The random collision of atoms won’t cut it.

    I leave you with a quote from evolutionary bacteriologist Alan Linton, from 2001: “Throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another … Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution … through the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.”

    Looks like you folks claiming that naturally occurring speciation has occurred have a problem with Dr. Linton rather than with me. I’d suggest you take it up with him.

  242. #243 Hank Fox
    April 21, 2008

    Haha, Bryan! Looks like you got in the last word with “you folks.” Good gosh, the evil science of evolution, and all its devilish, dishonest conspirators – those who seek to destroy everything you hold dear – have been foiled by your wise and timely intervention!

    I’m only glad I was here to see it happen, and I hope you retire satisfied, secure in the knowledge that an entire world of biologists, their mad prophet PZ Myers, and even such lesser beings such as myself, have been corrected by your skeptical brilliance.

    But as you know, Bryan, rust never sleeps, and evil never takes a holiday. This mighty battle must be fought again and again, with you as our hero and hope, and the forces of science, and education, and the liberal destroyers of our good Christian American traditions, as the implacable enemy.

    This is the goal before you: Stay as you are, never let one new fact into your head, deny and reject everything that your don’t already know to be true in Jesus name, for only in this way can the world be saved.

    All you have to do is keep believing you’re right. Though others may descend into destructive hubris, nothing bad can come of it in your case because Jesus is on your side. And after all, it’s YOU.

  243. #244 Hank Fox
    April 21, 2008

    Ahem. ” … that YOU don’t already know to be true …”

  244. #245 molliebatmit
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan Fischer, you can’t have it both ways: either you want an example of human-observed speciation, or you want an example of human-free speciation.

    It’s easy to make a claim if you disallow all geological examples of speciation, but also disallow all speciation events observed in the laboratory.

    Still, artificial selection is no different mechanistically from natural selection. Artificial selection acts only on the mutations present in the gene pool, created by the “random collision of atoms”. It just happens much faster, and in a goal-directed way.

    From an embarrassingly short PubMed search:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006662 (a recent research paper on speciation in species of seabird)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15851678 (a review of speciation in birds)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16467837 (speciation in a fish)

  245. #246 Carlie
    April 21, 2008

    Wow, Bryan, you really got us on that whole “bacteria haven’t been seen speciating” thing! Oops, too bad someone forgot to tell Campylobacter.

  246. #247 brokenSoldier
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan,

    If you’re going to quote a scientist as support for your positions, it would probably behoove you to quote someone who is not considered as resistant to fact and evidence as you have shown yourself to be on this thread. A search of the name Alan Linton + bacteriologist led straight to this site:

    http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2006_08_13_archive.html

    I’m sure many here are familiar with this blog and its author (Denyse O’Leary) and her book championing Intelligent Design. Anticipating your feigned ire at my apparent dismissal of two accomplished scientists, I merely offer that it would have done you a better service if you had been able to find a quote from someone who has no history of using these same refuted arguments again and again.

    You alspo might want to check the intent of the publication you quote, also, or you might (re: you re in this case) guilty of severe quote mining. For the benefit of the rest of us, we can go to the following site, and see that the book quoted by Bryan – Scant Search for the Maker – also has a subtitle that quite contradicts Bryan’s intent.

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=31&storycode=159282

    The entire title of the book Linton has reviewed is Scant Search for the Maker: The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism by Niles Eldridge. Unfortunately, since this was a review and not a scientific text, Linton was not compelled to pprovide any evidentiary backupp for his statement, other than his efficient compprehension of what another scientist had wrote in his own book. And the Times Higher Education article reviewing this book said the following in its introductory paragraph:

    This book was written to defend the theory of evolution against the powerful and influential anti-evolution lobby of creationists in the United States who wish to ban the teaching of evolution in science curricula in schools and colleges. It is an up-to-date examination of the evolution-creation debate and provides a useful review of arguments on both sides.

    And in case we’re wondering why it contained the quote so skillfully mined by Bryan, it is obvious upon actually READING the book that, just like any good science text, it sets up the familiar arguments in order to refute them in the following discussion.

    So, in order to avoid the sin of false context so artfully committed by Bryan, the following quote from the Times Higher Education review of the book is simply in bold amidst its surrounding text – that way we all know what page we’re supposed to be on, according to science.

    The author rejects the creationists’ arguments for order and design in nature but the extreme complexity of structure and function in all living things cannot be disregarded. The biochemical complexity of cascades of enzymes required to perform a single function in the cell is mind-boggling, and for a structure or function to be selected it must be functionally complete. The formation of amino acids from ammonia and methane under extremes of pressure and temperature is quoted, but this synthesis is nothing compared with the complexity of a single protein enzyme, let alone a series of highly specialised enzymes functioning in a cascade sequence. Such irreducibly complex systems are of no selective value unless they are complete. The author naively states that “all biochemical steps leading to the formation of the first organism… have yet to be deciphered”.

    The text in bold illuminates the exact motives and pre-judged alignment of Linton in writing this review. For him to state that it is naive of a scientist to state that there are steps in a process that are not fully understood yet is laughably arrogant, since the gaps in our knowledge are exactly WHERE science is intended top be applied in the first place.

    Of course, THAT is the primary difference here between us and Bryan. In science, gaps in knowledge represent potential advancement, while in Bryan’s field – theology – gaps in knowledge betray weakness.

  247. #248 Hank Fox
    April 21, 2008

    brokenSoldier:

    In science, gaps in knowledge represent potential advancement, while in [theology] gaps in knowledge betray weakness.

    Damn, that was well said!

  248. #249 Etha Williams
    April 21, 2008

    #247 brokenSoldier –

    Wow, I’m always impressed by how disingenuously creationists are willing to quote mine. I’d be embarrassed to post a quote taken so far out of context that it appears to say the opposite of what it actually says, but apparently, creationists feel no shame at this kind of disingenuous lying for Jesus.

    The bible is contradictory on a lot of things, but one thing it has always seemed fairly clear about is that it is a sin to bear false witness. Oh well….

  249. #250 Etha Williams
    April 21, 2008

    Also, to call attention back to the OP, PZ wrote, “I’ve got an easier strategy for creationists: be really stupid, lie a lot, and ignore anything a scientist tells you.”

    It looks like Bryan Fischer is following these three steps extremely well.

    *Be really stupid — I think we’ve got that covered with the first set of “4 scientific arguments” presented. Check.
    *Lie a lot — See, for example, the most recent quote-mined “evidence” he presented. Check.
    *Ignore anything a scientist tells you — The fact that we’re still having this discussion is demonstration enough of this one. Check.

    It’s kind of funny, really, how Bryan has inadvertently demonstrated PZ’s point…

  250. #251 RamblinDude
    April 21, 2008

    brokenSoldier, nicely done, way to go!

    Bryan this is you, holding your lies steadfastly in front of you like a crucifix: “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! …”

    Except you not confronting a mottled faced demon girl, you’re facing a bunch of scientists who know their stuff and you just look silly.

    Really, you look ridiculous and you make religion look very bad.

  251. #252 brokenSoldier
    April 21, 2008

    Except you not confronting a mottled faced demon girl, you’re facing a bunch of scientists who know their stuff and you just look silly.
    Really, you look ridiculous and you make religion look very bad.

    Posted by: RamblinDude | April 21, 2008 1:19 PM

    (I put in the bold type above for emphasis)

    How true…Except for one thing, and I get great enjoyment from this – I’m not even close to being anything remotely resembling a scientist. I’m a graduate student (and just beginning my studies no less) in philosophy. How sweet it is…

  252. #253 RamblinDude
    April 21, 2008

    brokenSoldier,

    Yeah, I thought about that after I posted.

    Let me amend my statement to “you’re facing a bunch of scientists and well informed people who know their stuff.” ; )

    (If there were an edit button on comments, I would wear it out)

  253. #254 brokenSoldier
    April 21, 2008

    (If there were an edit button on comments, I would wear it out)

    Posted by: RamblinDude | April 21, 2008 3:30 PM

    Ditto…I guess I just wasn’t designed well enough to not make mistakes in my posts the first time around…

    I’m sorry — I couldn’t resist.

  254. #255 Ichthyic
    April 21, 2008

    a mottled faced demon girl

    where!? where!

  255. #256 Arnosium Upinarum
    April 21, 2008

    PZ: THANK YOU for saying what desperately needs saying (and repeatedly)…and much better than most physicists manage!

    Well done! Cheers!

  256. #257 CJO
    April 21, 2008

    As regards SLoT, what really amuses me is that, when confronted with the absurdity of the claim that thermodynamics precludes any local order or increase in complexity, creationists then start talking in terms of “violations of” or “exceptions to” SLoT and when and where they’re allowed. (cf, this Fischer dumbass: “no one can demonstrate that any other exception exists to the Second Law anywhere in the universe. So how do you explain “The Privileged Planet,” and why is it the sole exception we know about?”)
    They simply cannot abandon the notion that it’s some way, somehow, a good argument. I mean, I could understand if the Sermon on the Mount was all about entropy or something, but I am just constantly amazed that people who evidently can do stuff like feed themselves can consider this viable reasoning in the complete absence of support for it from any quarter.

  257. #258 Arnosium Upinarum
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan Fischer avers, “Intelligent Design theory offers a Prime Mover, evolution does not.”

    Therein lies the unscientific (and unsavory) heart of creationism and intelligent design…

    There is no “prime mover” requirement. If one wishes to hypothesize one, one must FIRST find decent theoretical arguments for the necessity (namely, a GOOD “reason” for thinking so), or better still, find real evidence for it. There are no good argumentative reasons (SCIENTIFIC hypotheses) nor (SCIENTIFIC) evidence for anything Out There independent of nature who calls the shots. If one thinks so, it must perforce be an agency that is entirely UNnatural (perhaps – just floating a simple hypothesis out there to explain why, utilizing Occam’s Razor – it’s just a FIGMENT of the IMAGINATION…isn’t that possible? Isn’t THAT a good working hypothesis for what it is and why it isn’t supported by evidence?).

    It’s quite clear by now that nature requires no idiotically restrictive human notion of conscious intent to operate. Nature is what it is, and we have to figure out how nature does what it does without telling it what it is. (I make sure to keep the female metaphor out of that statement for sensibly obvious reasons).

    Again, therein lies the entire problem. The creationism-intelligent design idea isn’t a train of thinking that has been derailed; it’s a choo-choo that never got on the tracks to begin with.

  258. #259 brokenSoldier
    April 21, 2008

    Bryan Fischer avers, “Intelligent Design theory offers a Prime Mover, evolution does not.”
    Therein lies the unscientific (and unsavory) heart of creationism and intelligent design…
    There is no “prime mover” requirement.

    Posted by: Arnosium Upinarum | April 21, 2008 6:01 PM

    Nicely put, especially the “prime mover” bit. Wasn’t the whole basis of ID’s divergence from creationism the fact that it DIDN’T involve God? Wasn’t it ‘scientific’ because they claimed to not assume the identity of the ‘designer’? I imagine that if ID wasn’t creationism in disguise, they wouldn’t have ridiculed Dawkins so much for suggesting panspermia as a possible theory of our ultimate origin…

  259. #260 Jay
    April 22, 2008

    Bryan, please stick to dealing with matters well within your understanding…….like trying to cut the crust off of your pb&j without cutting your finger.

  260. #261 cheryl
    April 22, 2008

    I always thought the difference between creationism and id was either ‘god’ did it, or the whole shebang is some extraterrestrial’s eight grade science fair project.

  261. #262 Stanton
    April 22, 2008

    I’ve lost track: Has Mr Bryan ever gotten around to demonstrating how Intelligent Design “theory” is a science with his hollering and holier than thou hooplah?

  262. #263 Mike T.
    April 22, 2008

    Having been a student of paleontology my entire life, I would take exception to your comments about the fossil record. However, your piece is so clearly written I will not. Thanks. And by the way it’s worth emphasizing that Natural Selection is cumulative and non-random.

  263. #264 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    April 28, 2008

    Catching up on old threads:

    @ Pablo:

    the concept of energy balance is addressed in some way in the various models.

    Why would they need to do that? In the papers I’ve read on WMAP there isn’t any reason to do that. Cosmology works well anyway.

    It would be easier if you have any references to show what you are alluding to.

    A superconductor is not “in the limit where R goes to zero,” is where R = 0. If you want to be more precise and say “Ohm’s Law says that the E = lim I/R as R goes to zero” then that’s a very different statement than E = I/R (but the limiting definition is probably closer to true, yes?)

    Um, no. Limits are possible in theoretical physics, even if you need to take some care of how to do it. (Don’t make the mistake of confusing an idealized model for reality.)

    Kirchoff’s laws, Ohm’s law et cetera applies for all materials, even superconductors or the new superisolators.

  264. #265 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 4, 2008

    David-

    translation error?

    mosquitos don’t sting, they bite.

    Oh, yes, translation error. So English is actually closer to biology than German is here…

  265. Hah typical evolutionist/atheist is so terrified that he/she might be wrong. it seems like all your motivation isnt to prove your own theory right, but to disprove the other. you cant run from the truth forever.

  266. #267 Steve_C
    May 6, 2008

    Dumbass.

  267. #268 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2008

    Hah typical evolutionist/atheist is so terrified that he/she might be wrong. it seems like all your motivation isnt to prove your own theory right, but to disprove the other. you cant run from the truth forever.

    If that isn’t a prime example of projection I don’t know what is.

  268. #269 Marcus Tullius Cicero
    December 30, 2008

    “Darwinism is a theory of a posteriori assumptions, and can be shown to be a theory
    > based on post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. Darwinism appears to satisfactorily
    > explain many assumptions concerning biological evolution, but on closer inspection
    > its explanations are untenable. Furthermore, it fails to take notice of those
    > features of evolution that are immediately contradictory to its proposed
    > mechanisms.
    >
    > All observations made today, including the evidence gleaned from archaeology,
    > some of which beautifully depict examples of temporally sequential species
    > derived from a presumed common ancestor, are by definition observations of the
    > results of past events. Although the evidence, the artifacts, are real, there
    > is no way to prove causality leading to their existence. What is being argued
    > here specifically, however, is not that the evidence is false or that the fact
    > of evolution is in doubt. While that facticity could be doubted, and an
    > argument could be made that what evidence we do see was planted, so to speak,
    > all at once ( pick your time: 6006, 10,000, 100,000 years ago ), such is not the
    > path we are following here. Creationism of that genus we leave for others. Our
    > inquiry is instead focused on causality.
    >
    > Biological evolution, writ concretely as manifold physical, behavioral or
    > physiological evidence of currently existing species, is a wonderfully rich area
    > of scientific investigation, because it is everywhere manifested. Each piece we
    > see today, however, is the effect of a forces or forces on life forms
    > pre-existent; we do not see the force itself. To say that B results from A via
    > a force F is to say that B is related to A in such a way that A is necessary to
    > the existence of B. F, however, can only be presumed to exist if we can show
    > that a now present A is demonstrably changed to a B existent in any moment later
    > in time than that at which F acted on A. If only B’s exist, F can no longer be
    > demonstrated: it’s reality must be taken as assumption. Note that the
    > hypothesis: “B results from A via the Force F” does not exclude the possibility
    > of A’s remaining as A’s after being acted on by F, with the result of B. But,
    > in either hypothesis concerning F, the non-existence of A, in the presence of B,
    > precludes any possibility of proving the reality, now or past, of F. Thus,
    > species B, alive and well today, is thought to be descended from species A,
    > existing now only as an artifact; but the force or cause that was sufficient to
    > change A into B, or Natural Selection as the Darwinians call that cause, can no
    > longer be demonstrated in this instance of evolution. That it can be presumed
    > is without a doubt true. But presumption is not proof. And nothing argues
    > against the assumption that all cataloged evolutionary events were accomplished
    > by intelligent design, except the principle of “Ockams Razor”.
    >
    > If it can be demonstrated that intelligent design adds an unnecessary layer of
    > explanation to a pure, or “blind”, theory of evolution, then the burden of proof
    > resides with the advocates of that form of creationism. If it cannot be shown
    > that intelligent design is any less “provable” than is Darwinism, then it will
    > remain a viable alternative explanation. If, however, Darwinism cannot be
    > demonstrated to be operative now, in the sense of beginning with an organism now
    > and observing permanent, genetically-based changes in its offspring over time,
    > making them more fit as external conditions either change or remain the same,
    > then intelligent design theory will be the better explanation, in the sense of
    > being simpler, until such time as another theory proves better. It must be
    > admitted, however, that even should Darwinism be shown not to “work”, on a
    > now-to-future basis, this does not prove the intelligent design hypothesis;
    > rather it allows it greater credibility.
    >
    > There are two points that need to be addressed:
    >
    > First, Darwinism cannot be used as an explanation in any example in which
    > breeding, experimentation, or any other intervention or force provided or
    > manipulated or modulated by humans is in any way whatsoever involved. Why?
    > Because any one of these is by definition an example of intelligent (in this
    > case human) design. Thus, only those cases where it can be shown that an
    > organism known now changes over time to become a new organism, under conditions
    > that are entirely removed from any human influence, can it be said to have
    > changed via Darwinian evolution.
    >
    > Second, force F causing species A to evolve to species B is an incredibly
    > simplistic overview, of course. Instead, it is argued that: 1), the best model
    > to use regarding Darwinian evolution is that of Systems Dynamics; and 2),
    > Entropic principles do apply to biological systems, although it is conceded that
    > said ‘forces’ can be modified by the systems themselves. It is from these two
    > assertions that reasons for eschewing Darwinism are derived.
    >
    > In a nutshell, the evolution of species A to species B is probably never, except
    > in “intelligent design” cases, the result of one force Fa, or even several
    > forces, Fa1, Fa2, etc. acting constantly, consistently, in concert, or at the
    > same rate(s), or in the absence of other physical environmental force(s) that
    > tend to “push” it in other directions. Furthermore, pressure(s) will generally
    > come into play from other species, be it predators or niche-competitors, which
    > are similarly being affected by physical and biological forces that also are
    > constantly varying. For very primitive organisms, partial answers to these
    > difficulties can be suppositions such as saltation, neotony, pre-adaptation,
    > etc. ( although some, especially instances of pre-adaptation, tend to be
    > question-begging). However, when behavioral, and most especially,
    > decision-making traits are thrown into the mix, the sheer complexity, in
    > combination with the now relative randomness of forces, and the exceedingly low
    > probability of multifactorial necessary and sufficient events occurring
    > sequentially, constantly, etc., etc. mandate time frames far in excess of the
    > age of life on the earth. The bottom line is that all Darwinian models for the
    > evolution of life on earth are disingenuous in the sense that they assume or
    > imply a linearity and a paucity of dynamic inter-relatedness so far removed from
    > the complexity of species and ecosystems as to be fatally misleading.
    >
    > If biological evolution is taken as a given, which it here is, it is not
    > scientifically acceptable to assert that Darwinism is of necessity correct
    > simply because it is the only theory extant. It is fair, however, to say that
    > “Simple Creationism”— the poof it’s there type of creationism— is, by it’s
    > failure to address the very real and abundant evidence we do have of evolution,
    > a theory of last resort.
    >
    > Until such time as a “Darwinistic” model can be presented that not only
    > satisfactorily explains, without the current glosses, life on earth as we now
    > know it, but demonstrates a “now-to-future” Darwinian event, a model of
    > evolution based on slow, progressive biological change toward a Final Cause
    > cannot be excluded from serious consideration.

  269. #270 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 30, 2008

    Wow! We have the most clever troll here. It has borrowed the name of a Roman orator. And it is treating a scientific theory as if it were a metaphysical argument instead of a verifiable physical event.

    Sorry you sad troll with delusions of intelligence. Dropping this little nugget on a thread that was silent for seven months does nothing to counter the truth of evolution. It is not a brave stand against a fascist mindset. You are engaging in mental masturbation.

  270. #271 Lucifer
    December 30, 2008

    While that facticity could be doubted, and an argument could be made that what evidence we do see was planted, so to speak, all at once ( pick your time: 6006, 10,000, 100,000 years ago ), such is not the path we are following here.

  271. #272 M T Cicero
    December 30, 2008

    Janine (#270): The point was not that evolution is wrong, but that a case can be made for every step of it being “guided”. The evidence for biological evolution is overwhelming, which is why the “classic’ Christian Fundamentalist view is not tenable no matter how it is molded or stretched. It is indeed, as you correctly point out, “a verifiable physical event”.

    Can an intelligent design theory— one that agrees that the entire sequence of biological evolution as we currently see it evidentially is correct; but one that postulates a different motive force— be absolutely refuted? No, to my understanding. Can it be proven? No, to my understanding. Is it a possibility? Yes, to my understanding. Is it a “better” theory? I don’t know. Is Darwinism an elegant theory? Yes, up to the point where the mechanism for change is postulated. And this is precisely where the metaphysics comes in.

    I understand your particular definition of “metaphysics”, and thus can see why, following the pre-ordained value judgement in that definition, you were forced to arrive at your conclusion concerning the intelligence of my cogitations; but if you search a bit you will find another definition that is more fruitful. The definition I use here is the Aristotelian one, and I apologize for not stating that explicitly. Metaphysics so understood exfoliates into many intensely interesting and useful disciplines, such as ontology, cosmology, axiology, epistemology, etc. And any philosopher worth his salt will inform you that both your and my Euclidean points are inescapably value based.

    I think you are correct in your tacit point that much of what we see around us is real; and without that belief we are at sea in an amorphous jelly of relativism and other such obscurantism. This is why Burke kicked the rock. That being said, it does become dangerous if we allow our certainties to segue in perpetuity or, to put it in a more accessible jargon, one is more able to find his way using a GPS than he is by assuming his head is a compass, and his nose is true North.

    What I speculated on in my brief essay remains to be debated in an intellectually rigorous fashion. And ad hominem arguments are beneath your dignity; you are obviously better than that. If you re-read your posting you will see its circularity, viz. “it is because it is”. Do not cheat yourself out of the possible pearls to be acquired using the tools of dispassionate observation, analysis, and contemplation. In this instance it has resulted in not only your failure to address the points of my argument, but also your failure to see that that argument was presented as an hypothesis to explore, and not a certainty to settle upon.

    We are saddled with the names we are given at birth, whether we like them or not. I for one am proud of mine.

    Lucifer (#271): If I am correct in understanding what your graphic point is, then my note to Janine would apply to you, too.

  272. #273 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    M T Cicero, your whole argument needs physical evidence that your god exists, not just the possibility of god existing. If you have physical evidence for this god or creator, that can be shown by scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin, present it. Otherwise, using Occam’s razor, where one explanation requires a creator and second doesn’t, the second is more likely correct since it is simpler.

  273. #274 Nick Gotts
    December 30, 2008

    M T Cicero,

    “Yes, up to the point where the mechanism for change is postulated. And this is precisely where the metaphysics comes in.”

    No, it isn’t. The main (not the only) mechanism of change in both Darwin’s original theory, and modern evolutionary theory, is natural selection, which is entirely observable and indeed, observed.

    “any philosopher worth his salt will inform you that both your and my Euclidean points are inescapably value based.”

    Er, no they won’t. A “Euclidean point” is a mathematical concept, a location in space.

    “This is why Burke kicked the rock.”

    Er, no, that was Samuel Johnson.

  274. #275 Owlmirror
    December 30, 2008

    Otherwise, using Occam’s razor, where one explanation requires a creator and second doesn’t, the second is more likely correct since it is simpler.

    Or to be more pedantically accurate (M T Cicero above appears to be terribly, terribly pedantic), the more parsimonious explanation posits fewer entities whose actions cannot be distinguished from their not existing at all.

  275. #276 Sastra
    December 30, 2008

    MT Cicero #272 wrote:

    Can an intelligent design theory— one that agrees that the entire sequence of biological evolution as we currently see it evidentially is correct; but one that postulates a different motive force— be absolutely refuted? No, to my understanding. Can it be proven? No, to my understanding. Is it a possibility? Yes, to my understanding. Is it a “better” theory? I don’t know.

    It seems to me that an “intelligent design theory … that agrees that the entire sequence of biological evolution as we currently see it is correct” isn’t really going to qualify as either a standard, anti-evolution “intelligent design theory,” or even a theory at all. “Everything happened because something wanted it to happen” is rather vacuous — especially if that “something” is behind the scenes, inaccessible, works through no known mechanism, leaves no evidence, and is indistinguishable from nothing. If you want something to be called a “theory,” I think you have to work to make it testable and falsifiable. It can’t just be possible the way “maybe we’re all in the Matrix and can never find out” is possible.

    I’m going to cheat a bit here, and post something I recently posted on another thread. It’s a short list I got from one of the other commenters which condenses evolution into 14 specific ‘steps’ or points. I’m interested in seeing which number or numbers you disagree with, because this might help us (and you) understand exactly where you think the science is weak.

    ——

    VARIATION:
    1) Variation exists in all populations.

    2) Some of that variation is heritable.

    3) Base pair sequences are encoded in a set of self-replicating molecules that form templates for making proteins.

    4) Combinations of genes that did not previously exist may arise via “Crossing over” during meiosis, which alters the sequence of base pairs on a chromosome.

    5) Copying errors (mutations) can also arise, because the self-replication process is of imperfect (although high) fidelity; these mutations also increase the range of combinations of alleles in a gene pool.

    6) These recombinations and errors produce a tendency for successively increasing genetic divergence radiating outward from the initial state of the population.

    SELECTION:
    7) Some of that heritable variation has an influence on the number of offspring able to reproduce in turn, including traits that affect mating opportunities, or survival prospects for either individuals or close relatives.

    8) Characteristics which tend to increase the number of an organism’s offspring that are able to reproduce in turn, tend to become more common over generations and diffuse through a population; those that tend to decrease such prospects tend to become rarer.

    9) Unrepresentative sampling can occur in populations which alters the relative frequency of the various alleles for reasons other than survival/reproduction advantages, a process known as “genetic drift”.

    10) Migration of individuals from one population to another can lead to changes in the relative frequencies of alleles in the “recipient” population.

    SPECIATION:
    11) Populations of a single species that live in different environments are exposed to different conditions that can “favor” different traits. These environmental differences can cause two populations to accumulate divergent suites of characteristics.

    12) A new species develops (often initiated by temporary environmental factors such as a period of geographic isolation) when a sub-population acquires characteristics which promote or guarantee reproductive isolation from the alternate population, limiting the diffusion of variations thereafter.

    SUFFICIENCY:
    13) The combination of these effects tends to increase diversity of initially similar life forms over time.

    14) Over the time frame from the late Hadean to the present, this becomes sufficient to explain both the diversity within and similarities between the forms of life observed on Earth, including both living forms directly observed in the present, and extinct forms indirectly observed from the fossil record.
    —-

    Thanks much.
    (By the way, this is a very old thread indeed — are you sure you don’t want to look at some of PZ’s more recent posts, and move the discussion there?)

  276. #277 Owlmirror
    December 30, 2008

    “This is why Burke kicked the rock.”

    Er, no, that was Samuel Johnson.

    And it was Bishop Berkeley that Johnson was refuting when so kicking.

  277. #278 M T Cicero
    December 30, 2008

    Nerd (#273): No, the hypothesis (in its generic sense) does not require physical evidence. One doesn’t need the actual solution to a problem to point out that someone else’s reasoning may be flawed. Also, ponder again the dynamics of, for example, the evolution of altruism; show us the specific factors that were involved; not the principles, as Sastra so ably outlined, but the actual, real-time individual qualitative and quantitative inputs and responses.

    Nick (#274), and Owl mirror (#277): You are correct; I misremembered who said it. It was indeed Boswell’s biographical anecdote about Doctor Johnson’s practical refutation of the good bishop’s solipsistic argument.

    Nick: give me an example of observable natural selection that is free of any human influence. “Euclidean point” is commonly used in non-mathematical discussions to denote a stance, perspective, premise, etc., just as “cool”, “hot”, etc. can be used in non-physical connotations. Being picky about metaphors and writing styles does not advance the argument.

    Sastra (#276): As an academically trained biologist whose primary interest was evolution I agree with all 14. Facetiously, I could say one that one cause,a Final Cause, is simpler than 14! But that’s not the point I was trying to make. The main point is that Darwinian evolution, as currently explicated, does not exclude the the possibility of factors other than those outlined. Again, see the question above to Nerd. Fill in all the glosses. (Steps # 7 through 14, in particular, are exceedingly vague, and are descriptive of past events rather than prescriptive and mechanistic.) And then, as a crowning touch, conduct a test that involves no human intervention.

    And jeez, guys, lighten up. I am not saying intelligent design must be the case; only that it cannot be excluded, by the lights of Darwinism as currently proposed, without invoking ideological thinking, ie answers in search of questions. So, let’s stop the nit picking, the ad hominem arguments, the glossing over, the angry rebuttals, the attitudes disguised as answers, the “oughts” smuggled in as “is’s”. Let’s address the question.

  278. #279 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    Sorry MT Cicero, no physical evidence, no argument on your part. If god does not leave traces of his effects when he changes things, then how can we demonstrate he exists other than between your ears. So put up the physical evidence or shut up. Welcome to science.

  279. #280 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    I am not saying intelligent design must be the case; only that it cannot be excluded

    It’s excluded because it fails the scientific test, it’s not science. We could be products of intelligent design, but there’s not a bit of evidence that points towards that fact and the whole ID movement is an ideological war in order to teach biblical creationism. It exists purely for religious reasons.

  280. #281 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    *sigh*

    would the creotrolls please stop reviving dead threads? It makes it somewhat difficult to follow the debates without completely cluttering my bookmarks. plus sooner or later i’ll start confusing at which point in the conversation i am with any given creotroll :-/

    (no, I can’t just stay away. bad case of SIWOTI syndrome)

  281. #282 Sastra
    December 30, 2008

    MC Cicero #278 wrote:

    The main point is that Darwinian evolution, as currently explicated, does not exclude the the possibility of factors other than those outlined.

    I’m unclear on what other “factors” you’re talking about here. If you don’t disagree with the mechanistic explanations of step-by-step evolution, then I fail to see the need to include in some other factor (whatever it is.) You wrote:

    Also, ponder again the dynamics of, for example, the evolution of altruism; show us the specific factors that were involved; not the principles, as Sastra so ably outlined, but the actual, real-time individual qualitative and quantitative inputs and responses.

    I don’t think the list just gives general “principles” — it deals with specifics. One can go into more detail, of course, but if you have no quarrel with any particular point, I don’t see the need.

    So I’m not sure what you’re driving at. Are you honestly asking for an eyewitness report? To what end? Are you claiming that, 2 billion years ago, one of the mutations was “tweaked” by an invisible force in one particular direction, so that, 2 billion years later, your mother would meet your father, and you would result? Or that a gradually evolving tendency towards acts of altruism among group-dwelling species suddenly got an injection of magical “altruism essence” and instead of sharing one termite, the ape shared two?

    Again, saying this isn’t “excluded” as a possibility gives you little or nothing, since it’s only a logical possibility, on line with “maybe we’re all in the Matrix but can never find that out.”

  282. #283 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    MTC:

    Sastra (#276): As an academically trained biologist whose primary interest was evolution I agree with all 14.

    So, you find no flaw with evolutionary theory.

    But that’s not the point I was trying to make. The main point is that Darwinian evolution, as currently explicated, does not exclude the the possibility of factors other than those outlined.

    So what?
    The point of any theory is that it explains phenomena and processes in the most parsimonious way. Adding additional (unnecessary) elements is perverse, inasmuch as it provides no additional explanatory power.

  283. #284 Patricia, OM
    December 30, 2008

    Excellent Nerd! They always cop out on the physical evidence. That’s why it’s my favorite stick to poke em’ in the eye with.

    No evidence, no god.

  284. #285 Nick Gotts
    December 30, 2008

    Nick: give me an example of observable natural selection that is free of any human influence. M T Cicero

    Bill size in Darwin’s finches. Grant and Grant (2006) Science 313: 224-26.

    “Euclidean point” is commonly used in non-mathematical discussions to denote a stance, perspective, premise, etc.
    [citation needed]

    as a crowning touch, conduct a test that involves no human intervention.

    How can a test involve no human intervention?

    And jeez, guys, lighten up. I am not saying intelligent design must be the case; only that it cannot be excluded

    Of course it can’t. Whatever evidence is found, a sufficiently powerful intelligent agent obviously could have produced it. The hypothesis of no intelligent non-human intervention in evolution has been immensely productive of research questions, while that of “intelligent design” has produced practically no research whatever, so the former stands unless and until evidence against it is produced.

    So, let’s stop the nit picking, the ad hominem arguments, the glossing over, the angry rebuttals, the attitudes disguised as answers, the “oughts” smuggled in as “is’s”.

    And stop posturing and whining.

  285. #286 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    No, the hypothesis (in its generic sense) does not require physical evidence. One doesn’t need the actual solution to a problem to point out that someone else’s reasoning may be flawed.

    1)a scientific hypothesis is a falsifiable statement. it very much needs physical evidence in order to be falsifiable. if it can’t be falsified, it’s not a scientific hypothesis, it’s an idea someone pulled out of his ass.

    2) even if you could, here and now, completely refute the Theory of Evolution, no alternative would be by default correct. We’d simply be left with no theory at all. Hypotheses must stand or fall on their own, therefore for us to even consider any form of divine intervention, we’d have to see some evidence that it occurred

  286. #287 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    There’s a difference between not excluding the possibility, and having an untested and unfalsifiable hypothesis stand alongside an established theory. ID needs some strong evidence in order to back it up before it’s even to be considered in the same light as evolution. Until such time, ID should be kept well away from school children as it’s completely dishonest to teach it alongside evolution as a competing theory.

    As with all science, the evidence will show the way.

  287. #288 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 30, 2008

    So was I right to dismiss this as mental masturbation?

  288. #289 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    Janine, when isn’t it mental masturbation? I get the feeling that all those creotrolls thing that they’re the great messiah who will, with his wit and knowledge and god-inspired rethoric, convert all of us heathens.

    When i was 17, I had the same delusions about people who thought differently. A couple years living in Canada and the U.S.A have disabused me of this rather thoroughly.

    but I still can’t resist a troll.

  289. #290 SC, OM
    December 30, 2008

    And then, as a crowning touch, conduct a test that involves no human intervention.

    That’s one of my favorites.

    This guy’s funny.

  290. #291 M T Cicero
    December 30, 2008

    Nerd and Kel: You are not reading what I wrote. There is physical evidence of biological evolution. That is the evidence you are using for Darwinism. That is the evidence I am using for the possibility of intelligent design. We are using the same evidence, agreeing on the same time frames. Your evidence is a posteriori. So is mine. Both “forces” give the same result, leave the same evidence. One is a single force, call it an organizing principle if you wish, that acts in concert with the universal laws of physics; the other is a complex of forces that none of you (or I as a biologist) could demonstrate as an ongoing process resulting in speciation in any manner except as the manipulator (the intelligent designer). So far, you have only demonstrated results, endpoints, and postulates as to how they were arrived at. Give me an ongoing demonstration. You cannot “show” me your force(s), just as I cannot “show” you mine. As Nerd said: “So put up the physical evidence [ie, the ongoing, non-human-intervention- biased demonstration] or shut up. Welcome to science.”.

  291. #292 Owlmirror
    December 30, 2008

    Y’know, M T, it very much looks to me that what you want is, I dunno, some sort of endorsement of your right to be able to stand before a classroom full of deeply religious students, and say: “The theory of evolution is correct as far as science can determine, and arises from many different lines of evidence, but there is so much that we don’t know about many of the mechanisms of evolution, and therefore we cannot rule out that God guided or guides one or more of those mechanisms, in some completely undetectable way“.

    Or words to that affect.

    Is that what you want? Our approval of your right to be a biologist who voices a theistic-toned evolution?

    Because you aren’t offering anything that’s actually falsifiable or otherwise scientific. You are of course free to hold any religious or philosophical notion that you want without our approval… So it looks like our approval is all you want.

    Or do you have something else in mind?

    And just out of curiosity, since you did bring it up, have you in fact investigated any of the current scientific hypotheses about the evolution of altruism?

    Just putting those words (evolution of altruism) into scholar.google.com returns 48,700 hits.

  292. #293 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    MTC, without a god (or far superior alien) there is no intelligent design. The designer must be one or the other. Make your pick and prove your case with physical evidence. Possibility is meaningless. That is what you don’t understand. If you can’t prove either, then having a god or not having a god, Occam’s razor is used. The simplest theory wins. The no god/creator theory is perforce simpler, hence more likely. Welcome to science

  293. #294 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    and you’re not reading the part where, as long as no god is NECESSARY for an explanation, no god will be USED in an explanation. that’s how science works, so until you can show that divine intervention is necessary to explain something, God is irrelevant to science and therefore will not be part of any scientific explanation of anything

    only NECESSARY mechanisms make it into scientific theories, otherwise we’d have gnomes, and elves and magic fairies, and Pilty’s gravity-angels and lightning-throwing Zeus, etc ad nauesam

  294. #295 Sastra
    December 30, 2008

    MT Cicero #291 wrote:

    Both “forces” give the same result, leave the same evidence. One is a single force, call it an organizing principle if you wish, that acts in concert with the universal laws of physics; the other is a complex of forces that none of you (or I as a biologist) could demonstrate as an ongoing process resulting in speciation in any manner except as the manipulator (the intelligent designer).

    I don’t understand what single “force” you think we’re invoking. We don’t have a “force.” If you go back and read those 14 steps in evolution, you do not see any new forces, or guiding organizational principle “acting in concert with the universal laws of physics.” It’s all chance and necessity.

    I wonder if you’ve been reading Teillard de Chardin, or something, and think that must be the “Darwinian” view. No. That’s mysticism.

  295. #296 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    and i kicked myself in the teeth by making a typo in my sophisticated latin. >.<

  296. #297 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    Nerd and Kel: You are not reading what I wrote. There is physical evidence of biological evolution. That is the evidence you are using for Darwinism.

    What is this “Darwinism” you speak of? If you mean inheritable variation within an environment acting over time, then yes the evidence supports that. Mutations have been observed, favourable mutations have been observed, natural selection has been observed, genetic drift has been observed, speciation has been observed. The mechanisms for evolution have been observed.

    Just what are you positing with intelligent design? That the mutations were done by an invisible hand? If so, how can you prove this? Or are you saying that the mutations are still random like is observed and that an invisible hand acts as the selector? If so, how can you prove this?

    So far, you have only demonstrated results, endpoints, and postulates as to how they were arrived at. Give me an ongoing demonstration.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment

    Bacteria mutating over time being able to break down a food source that previously it was unable to do so.Mutation, selection, adaptation, there you go!

  297. #298 Rev. BigDUmbChimp
    December 30, 2008

    There is physical evidence of biological evolution. That is the evidence you are using for Darwinism. That is the evidence I am using for the possibility of intelligent design. We are using the same evidence, agreeing on the same time frames. Your evidence is a posteriori. So is mine. Both “forces” give the same result, leave the same evidence.

    MT you need to read this post.

  298. #299 Owlmirror
    December 30, 2008

    Both “forces” give the same result, leave the same evidence. One is a single force, call it an organizing principle if you wish, that acts in concert with the universal laws of physics; the other is a complex of forces that none of you (or I as a biologist) could demonstrate as an ongoing process resulting in speciation in any manner except as the manipulator (the intelligent designer).

    OK, question here:

    Are you willing to accept the implicit consequences of your hypothesized intelligent designer?

    The nontheistic explanation for the results of evolution has at its root the idea of chance, contingency and selection: organisms develop from the genes that change randomly during the meiotic division of their parent’s germ cells. The fact that those organisms that don’t have the appropriate genes to survive do not in fact survive is just the result of all natural law operating the way it does. The fact that organisms compete with each other, exploit each other, enslave each other, consume each other, or kill each other out of motivations other than hunger… is just the way that nature works. There is no mind willing or not willing any of this to happen.

    But… if there is an actual intelligence behind it all, that means that all of the inevitable death, pain and suffering involved in evolution are that intelligence’s fault.

    Are you OK with that?

  299. #300 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    You cannot “show” me your force(s), just as I cannot “show” you mine.

    I cannot show you gravity either, all I can do is show you something falling towards a heavier object. Whether that is what is known as gravity or God blowing on the earth I cannot prove either way. I can make predictions based on mathematical calculations, but I can never say for sure that when I let go of a hammer it falls to the ground because of the gravitational attraction of the larger mass.

    Likewise I can show you mutation, selection, adaptation, drift, speciation, but how can I demonstrate that any of these happen without divine intervention?

    I take the principle of parsimony on these issues. God is an unnecessary assumption in the falling to earth hypothesis and the intelligent design hypothesis. Once you have naturalistic mechanisms, God simply becomes a greater complexity to explain than it solves.

  300. #301 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    MTC:

    Your evidence is a posteriori. So is mine. Both “forces” give the same result, leave the same evidence. One is a single force, call it an organizing principle if you wish, that acts in concert with the universal laws of physics;

    You do realise these “universal laws of physics” are also based on a-posteriori empiricism, do you not? You cannot belittle what you sarcastically refer to as “forces” (they’re processes, actually) by claiming they are a-posteriori when your own referent is also so.

  301. #302 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    But… if there is an actual intelligence behind it all, that means that all of the inevitable death, pain and suffering involved in evolution are that intelligence’s fault.

    God likes snuff porn. Black widows, praying mantises, and flesh-eating squid sperm are proof.

  302. #303 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 30, 2008

    flesh-eating squid sperm

    HOLY SHIT. I’ve not heard of such a thing.

  303. #304 Jadehawk
    December 30, 2008

    well, technically not flesh eating, more like drilling-through, but the effect is unpleasant either way: Machines of aggressively loving grace

  304. #305 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: The idea that that when people say why don’t you give God the credit for all these wonderful things. When people say that ah they nearly always want to ah as take the example of butterflies or hummingbirds or orchids or something, lovely. Um and I’m or I write back because they write to me on ah on this and say yes well it’s all very well ah but of course um I think of a little boy sitting on a bank of the river in West Africa with a worm that’s boring through his eyeball and which will certainly turn him blind ah within a few years. Now this God that you so-, that created every single species, he must presumably have created that worm. Now are you telling me that this is a Christian God who um has compassion and mercy for every individual one of us and that he did it he did it did it deliberately put a, in, ah make a worm and put it in the eye of this child. I, ah, this worm can’t exist anywhere else. Well I don’t find that compatible with the notion of a of there being a a merciful creator, God. If you’re a creationist do you actually believe that this worm together with tape worms and everything else actually were created at the same time as Adam and that God said OK I’ll make Adam and I’ll give him, I’ll kick him out with every, every one of these little animal parasites. Did he do that? And if he didn’t do that, then what had happened presumably is that these worms related to other worms in the Garden of Eden and eventually moved into the … in which case they then changed and so they couldn’t live anywhere else as the condition is now. They’ve evolved. Dear me, there’s a rude word.

    I wonder what role the designer played in making this worm. Mutation or selection ;)

  305. #306 Wowbagger
    December 30, 2008

    Bacteria mutating over time being able to break down a food source that previously it was unable to do so.Mutation, selection, adaptation, there you go!

    No doubt Empty (sorry, MT) is a fan of the application of Heisenberg’s Uncertainly Principle on a philosophical level as well – observation of the mutation is, effectively, intelligence acting upon the mutation and is therefore the experiment is invalidated.

    Of course, what he might need to be reminded of is that life has taken billions of years to reach the point it’s at now; that we haven’t seen anything resembling the mindblowing modifications anti-evolutionists demand we present to them is because we’ve only been looking at for evidence since Darwin’s day, 150 years ago.

    Let’s put it into perspective. MT, what’s 150 divided by 4.5 billion? Is it a significant proportion?

  306. #307 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 30, 2008

    Oh but Kel you cannot pretend to know the mind of god.

    Anything she does is good. No matter how terrible it may appear to us mere sinners.

  307. #308 Wowbagger
    December 30, 2008

    Anything she does is good. No matter how terrible it may appear to us mere sinners.

    This sort of nonsense, amongst all the other inanity (and insanity) of the Judeo-Christian belief system, is the part I can cope with the least.

    If their god exists he’s a grade-A bastard, an ber-prick of the first order – so if the shit-head christers would admit that much and stop being so insistent on the whole ‘kind and loving’ shtick I might begin to have some small amount of respect for their intelligence.

    Until then they’re morons pushing an oxymoron up a very steep hill.

  308. #309 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    Oh but Kel you cannot pretend to know the mind of god.

    Who says anything about pretending? THIS. IS. SCIENCE!

    M T Cicero is positing ID as a scientific concept, that means it’s open for questioning. Unless he wants to withdraw ID as science and keep it in the religion category – in which case I don’t know why we are even arguing about it. ID is not science, it’s rebranded creationism. Though a rebranded creationism that sounds almost identical to what the Raeleans believe.

  309. #310 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Kel, Ralians are atheistic, and (source: Wikipedia) “Ralism believes that sex is a normal, natural and healthy part of life and encourages people to be true to their natural sexuality”.

    Should I ever be forced to choose a religion at gunpoint, that’s the first candidate! ;)

  310. #311 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    That may be so, but they believe in intelligent design. It’s just instead of god they believe that a super-advanced race of aliens did it. It begs the question of how the aliens come to be…

  311. #312 Nerd of Redhead
    December 30, 2008

    It begs the question of how the aliens come to be…

    I have the same curiosity to how the god of creation came to be. How can something be present before creation occurred?

  312. #313 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    Kel, yeah.

    I just don’t think Ralians’ beliefs are comparable to those of theistic Creationists’ – not that they’re not mystical lunatics, but at least they postulate super-science, not the supernatural – but the latter clearly say God is the “designer” of life on Earth, whilst the former think natural beings are.

    As to the origin of their aliens, well that seems to be glossed over in their literature*. You’re not supposed to think that deeply on their precepts, I guess – they’re just an UFO cult :)

    * No, I’m not gonna download and peruse their book just to research this.

  313. #314 M T Cicero
    December 31, 2008

    Wow. So, one common theme I see here is anger: at me, at the human condition, including the problem of pain, at God (or god, whatever), at anyone who disagrees with atheism (or Atheism, whatever). So much anger. And the point of your anger is…? Perhaps to hide the posturing and whining? Another common theme is assumptions on my behalf: the assumption that I am a fundamentalist creationist, for example. (Easier to be angry at someone who is a moron or a fool, isn’t it.) Let’s assume, too, that the use of quotations around the word force is meant to be sarcastic and not a simplified way of alluding to concatenations of cause-effect relationships; let’s assume that, no matter how many times I say I believe evolution occurred just as you believe it has, but with the additional factor of guidance, I am still an anti-evolutionist of the most ignorant stripe; let’s assume, despite no reference to it, that I think a principle applicable to particle physics is also applicable to the observation of mutations; let’s assume I said a guiding force is a necessity when I have repeatedly said it remains a possibility; let’s assume that I am so ignorant that I believe all inductively arrived at theories cannot be tested, and in particular that said theories cannot be used to predict new, testable findings; let’s assume that I think the issue of whether school children should be taught creationism or evolution is breathlessly important; let’s assume that I don’t know there is an immense body of Christian Apologetics out there, a good portion of which was written by men of great intellectual stature, and that I don’t know that many of you are more comfortable with bundling that all up into one straw man, Creationism, to attack; et cetera, ad nauseum.

    Such righteous indignation from so many of the respondents! Sort of what I would expect were I to suggest the possibility of biological evolution to a group of bible-thumping creationists. One would think that those of you who were civil would express some discomfiture with those who aren’t. Regarding this latter species, so much for the linkage of atheism to moral superiority.

  314. #315 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 31, 2008

    Sorry, I feel no anger for something that I do not think exists.

  315. #316 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    MTC:

    So much anger.

    No. Disdain and amusement. Not anger.

    at anyone who disagrees with atheism (or Atheism, whatever).

    Strange, you purported to be against the theory of evolution. Where did atheism come into it?

    Another common theme is assumptions on my behalf: the assumption that I am a fundamentalist creationist, for example. [...] no matter how many times I say I believe evolution occurred just as you believe it has, but with the additional factor of guidance, I am still an anti-evolutionist of the most ignorant stripe

    No, not the most ignorant. The most disingenuous, perhaps. You know better, but deny reason nonetheless.

    Such righteous indignation from so many of the respondents!

    You’re at it again. Ridicule is not indignation, its amusement at your pseudo-intellectual contortions. And reasonableness does not equate to indignancy.

    One would think that those of you who were civil would express some discomfiture with those who aren’t. Regarding this latter species, so much for the linkage of atheism to moral superiority.

    What incivility?
    And where do you find any claims to moral superiority due to atheism? At best, you’ll find that we have no impediments to our morality because of ancient dogma.

  316. #317 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    Empty Cicero wrote:

    Wow. So, one common theme I see here is anger

    Then you’re seeing what you want to see, rather than what is; you’re a Christian, so colour me unsurprised.

    Perhaps to hide the posturing and whining?

    Projection much?

    let’s assume that, no matter how many times I say I believe evolution occurred just as you believe it has, but with the additional factor of guidance, I am still an anti-evolutionist of the most ignorant stripe

    If it was guided then it’s not, IIRC (IANAB), evolution as evolution is defined. You want to believe in that, fine, but call it something else.

    let’s assume that I don’t know there is an immense body of Christian Apologetics out there, a good portion of which was written by men of great intellectual stature,

    Appeal to authority. Close, but no cigar.

    Sort of what I would expect were I to suggest the possibility of biological evolution to a group of bible-thumping creationists.

    Hmm, didn’t use the f-word here, but I’m going to go with Blake’s Law nonetheless.

    Regarding this latter species, so much for the linkage of atheism to moral superiority.

    Really? Can you point to which poster in this thread made that link?

  317. #318 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2008

    One would think that those of you who were civil would express some discomfiture with those who aren’t.

    There’s been a small amount of incivility, but the rudeness arises from exasperation, not genuine anger. You have been rather unclear on some matters, and the more short-tempered suspect that behind the lack of clarity, you have no actual argument worth making.

    Please understand that when we argue with you, it’s really all about love.

  318. #319 Rey Fox
    December 31, 2008

    “So much anger.”

    So much shallowness.

  319. #320 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    It’s not anger, it’s frustration at the futility of your arguments.

    but with the additional factor of guidance

    How does this guidance work? Does the guider control the mutations? Does it control selection? What does it do and how can we test to see whether the guider is really there?

  320. #321 Michael X
    December 31, 2008

    “So much anger”

    Then you’re not paying attention.

    Also, a good rule to follow is don’t make assumptions about people (anger or no) right before you go on to complain about people making assumptions about you.

    Could serve you well in later discussions.

  321. #322 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    I stayed quite calm in my posts, I thought I asked good questions that really need to be answered in order to take ID seriously. Oh well.

  322. #323 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2008

    Now, now, brothers and sisters. Stay your harsh words. It is clear that it makes M T very angry to be asked to make a substantive argument.

    Let us all keep in mind the wise words of our good sister Sastra, when she expounded upon certain interlocutors — those who prefer lives of Simple Bliss — and their preferences regarding style and substance.

    If it helps, perhaps sing that good old hymn “Let’s Go Down To the River to Contemplate a Tangled Bank”

    Remember: It’s All About Love.

  323. #324 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    The religulous have had it their own way for hundreds of years; they’re not used to dealing with refutation. If someone objects to their beliefs without being ridiculously polite and deferential and self-deprecating about it then they accuse them of being ‘angry’.

    Hence the whole ‘new atheist’ rubbish that’s prompted a couple of the other recent posts. It’s motivated by fear – with ‘new atheists’ being vocal and opinionated, the religulous are worried (justifiably) that the fence-sitters and the doubters are going to be prompted to actually start thinking about religion rather than just accepting it ‘on faith’ – and we all know what thinking tends to do to the strength of religious belief.

    Too bad, christers. Accuse us of whatever you like. It won’t change anything – we’re not going anywhere.

  324. #325 Ranson
    December 31, 2008

    Late to the game, I see the troll has already devolved. Anyway, I think the best counter-argument to the original proposition was used by Pierre-Simon Laplace:

    “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothse-l.”*

    It’s concerning celestial mechanics, but applies to an “Intelligent Designer”, as well.

    *”I had no need of that hypothesis.”

  325. #326 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    Such righteous indignation from so many of the respondents! Sort of what I would expect were I to suggest the possibility of biological evolution to a group of bible-thumping creationists. One would think that those of you who were civil would express some discomfiture with those who aren’t. Regarding this latter species, so much for the linkage of atheism to moral superiority.

    Oh YAWN.

    You make supernatural claims. You have no way of supporting said claims and you wonder why we pounce on that? On a science blog? A blog with this in the title?

    Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal

    Your concern is noted.

  326. #327 Feynmaniac
    December 31, 2008

    Marcus Tullius Cicero,

    No, the hypothesis (in its generic sense) does not require physical evidence

    The main point is that Darwinian evolution, as currently explicated, does not exclude the the possibility of factors other than those outlined

    I am not saying intelligent design must be the case; only that it cannot be excluded

    I hypothesize that the pantheon of Greek gods created the universe and are a guiding force for evolution. They are a complex force that none one really understands.

    Do you agree that my hypothesis makes just as much sense as the Intelligent Designer hypothesis?

  327. #328 M T Cicero
    December 31, 2008

    The following is less than civil:

    “Posted by: Janine, Vile Bitch | December 30, 2008 3:05 AM

    Wow! We have the most clever troll here. It has borrowed the name of a Roman orator. And it is treating a scientific theory as if it were a metaphysical argument instead of a verifiable physical event.

    Sorry you sad troll with delusions of intelligence. Dropping this little nugget on a thread that was silent for seven months does nothing to counter the truth of evolution. It is not a brave stand against a fascist mindset. You are engaging in mental masturbation.”

    There are several other examples. The point was also explicitly made that some were civil, unless one uses a different definition of “some” than I.

    FYI: 1), I was an outspoken atheist for about 35 years of my adult life, during which time a tour in Vietnam did NOT convert me into a theist; and during which time I enjoyed refuting, and poking fun at, creationists 2), I am not a “born again”; 3) I do not always believe in a god or any other sort of higher power, but am able to consider it often enough that I can add it to the equation without reflexively going into a “it can’t be because it can’t be” mode, or, as SOME of you have, sputtering emotionally laden epithets; 4) I am trained in biology and medicine, have practiced the latter for probably more years than some of you have been alive (which, yes is gratuitous and irrelevant, but still sort of fun to tell the grandchildren who, like all little kids, can’t imagine a past earlier than their own lives), keep up with all of the latest medical literature, eschew all “pop” science and specially that which pertains to the practice of rigorously scientific allopathic medicine; 5), I have an IQ of 170, and yes, I know there is a poor correlation between IQ and intelligence (or self-delusion or ideological thinking), which is why I quit Mensa; 6) I personally have never met an evolutionist of the “chance and probability type” who was also a theist ( not a pantheist or “panentheist” or wikkan or hoodooist)– they have always been atheists (and, yes, I know this is anecdotal evidence); 7) through the past decades, as I have with great interest studied the advances in medical molecular biology which, as I alluded to earlier, now requires the tool of systems dynamics to understand, I have more and more found chance and probability to be problematic in explaining how such systems could evolve; 8), I have read Paul, Origen, Boethius, Augustine, Aquinas, etc. enough, and have studied the history of science and the philosophy of science enough, to know there is a little more to theism than SOME of you allude to (and, yes, still seem so angry about); 9) the comments some of you have made are good, cogent, and instructive and, while they have caused me to reconsider some aspects of my hypothesis (SOME of you need to refresh your understanding of this term), they also make me realize I have not as yet articulated myself well enough; they have not made me change my mind; 10), I also submitted that original brief essay to two creationist websites on December 30′th out of curiosity to see what the responses would be. Thus far only silence.

    I welcome your responses.

  328. #329 Sastra
    December 31, 2008

    MT Cicero #314 wrote:

    Wow. So, one common theme I see here is anger

    I think you can also find a common theme of substantial critique of your argument. I suggest you focus then on that: it will surely cause you less distress, and help keep the attention on the issue you came in to discuss.

    Bottom line, if you’re going to include your “guiding force” under the rubric of Intelligent Design and stick it into science as an alternative hypothesis, you need to do more than just get people to admit it’s a logical possibility. So what? There’s no need for it, and no indication of it. This seems to place belief in such a thing into being a matter of taste. Fine.

    De gustibus, non est disputandum.

  329. #330 Rev. BigDUmbChimp
    December 31, 2008

    MT Cicero, beyond philosophical arguments do you have something empirical to add to the discussion to support the possibility of a supernatural force that is in someway responsible for the diversity of life on this planet?

    And if you do what puts this above the massive scientific consensus supporting the ToE as it is, lacking any agent not of the natural world? With the list of credentials you chose to make sure we knew about, why haven’t you formulated this into a format for submission to the journals and submitted it?

    Adding to that, your list of how great you are bears exactly zero weight on the validity of your claims or against the gigantic mass of evidence that continues to support the current and evolving Theory of Evolution.

    Show your work. Provide us something tangible.

    While they have caused me to reconsider some aspects of my hypothesis (SOME of you need to refresh your understanding of this term)

    I think you’ll find most people here know exactly what that means and what a scientific theory means. your hypothesis has a long way to go to crack the support of the Theory of Evolution.

  330. #331 Feynmaniac
    December 31, 2008

    MT Cicero,

    Alright, you have told us your concerns and some personal information. Now please stick to making substantive comments.

    Whenever I see people starting to complain about the “tone” or “civility” on a thread it’s usually because they have lost the argument and have nothing else to offer. Please show us you are not one of those people. If the tone of some of the comments bother you simply ignore them.

    they have caused me to reconsider some aspects of my hypothesis (SOME of you need to refresh your understanding of this term)

    I have looked over the comments and could not find an example of anyone misusing the term ‘hypothesis’. Can you please provide an example and/or your definition of the term?

  331. #332 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    MTC, you seem to think if you show something philosophically, it must be accepted by science. This is not the case, and hasn’t been for a couple of centuries. Science doesn’t care if you personally posit a “guiding force” for evolution. You can posit god for all science cares. Science doesn’t care if you and/or others find it philosophically correct. Science is not a democracy, and its conclusions are not up for popular vote or polling.

    Science is evidence based. This guiding force, or god, unless proven with hard physical evidence, is not and will not be considered scientific by the scientific community. The more physical evidence you have to back up your conclusions, the better. So what you have to do is to show some evidence that is not explained by evolution, but can only be explained by your “guiding force”, and get it published in the scientific literature. Keep in mind, that if a natural explanation is later found for the evidence, it knocks a chink in “guiding force” theory. All theories in science are constantly tested, including the Theory of Evolution, which has withstood 150 years of testing.

    ID with “guiding force”, god, or advanced aliens is not scientific since it has no physical evidence to date to back it up any of the causes.

  332. #333 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 31, 2008

    MTC, I will not apologize for my sarcastic tone to you. You have crashed in acting like any other troll I have seen here.

    You use as a moniker a major historical name.

    In the middle of the night, you tack on to a thread that has been silent for months.

    Using and maintaining incredible diffuse language that despite the solid physical evidence, we all are being extremely unfair in not even being accommodating to ID.

    For those of us who have been here a while, these are actions we have seen dozens of times. And most of the time the troll who engage in this quickly devolve to creationist duckspeach.

    And since then you gave us more stuff about how, even though it cannot be measured, perhaps there is an intelligence guiding everything.

    You have complained that the people here are less than civil to you. Please start going through some of the threads here. The people who have been replying to you have been very measured. I have have seem all of the completely eviscerate the stupid and dishonest. You have gotten kid gloves here.

    Before you start preaching to us that we should not just dismiss ID, please go check out Answers In Genesis, Uncommon Descent, The Creationist Museum and point out something, anything that is worthy of mulling over.

    I have not changed my mind about the mental masturbation. There is nothing here to hold my interest. There all forms of theological arguments bores me to tears. And you are not amusing in the way really playful trolls are. You are a bore.

  333. #334 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    MTC:

    [1] I have an IQ of 170, and [2] yes, I know there is a poor correlation between IQ and intelligence

    1. So you’re exceptionally intelligent, 4 or 5 standard deviations above the mean, eh? Right.
    2. You do know IQ stands for “Intelligence Quotient”?

    Sheesh. You clearly bring that up to bolster your perceived intellectual authority, but then you simultaneously belittle its relevance as a correlative metric in an obvious example of false modesty.

  334. #335 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    M T Ciero,
    Can you answer my questions regarding just what role the designer plays? Surely you can appreciate that “evolution with guidance” is a nebulous statement. What role in the process did the guider play? Was the guider the seeder of life? Was the guider responsible for certain mutations? Was the guider a selector? How can we test for this guider?

    Surely you can appreciate that these questions need to be answered in order for ID to be a scientific proposition. Without answering them, it’s just saying Goddidit and leaving it at that. And that’s not science, it’s religion. How did God do it?

  335. #336 M T Cicero
    December 31, 2008

    John: sorry you missed the joke.

    To All: Thank you for the interesting exchange. Though at times akin to standing in front of a snow blower, there was enough wheat among the chaff to derive some good food for thought.

  336. #337 Nick Gotts
    December 31, 2008

    M T Cicero, you asked me for an example of observed natural selection without human intervention. I provided one. Others have provided examples of mutation and selection adapting organisms to make use of new resources. If you want examples of speciation, there are plenty at http://toarchive.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html. Yet alongside demanding examples of this that and the other you also say that your hypothesis makes exactly the same predictions as the modern theory of evolution. So, why did you ask for those examples? What is your response to the examples given? Did you know about them before asking, and if so, why did you ask? What is your aim or purpose in visiting Pharyngula?

  337. #338 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    Though at times akin to standing in front of a snow blower, there was enough wheat among the chaff to derive some good food for thought.

    Good to know I’m not the only one who loves an obliquely mixed metaphor.

  338. #339 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    6) I personally have never met an evolutionist of the “chance and probability type” who was also a theist ( not a pantheist or “panentheist” or wikkan or hoodooist)– they have always been atheists (and, yes, I know this is anecdotal evidence);

    I’ve never met an “evolutionist” theist or otherwise who thought that evolution was down to chance and probability. The only ones who ever assert that evolution is chance are creationists who are making a false dichotomy between chance and design.

  339. #340 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    MTC,

    John: sorry you missed the joke.

    There was a joke?

    If you really are sorry, you may wish to explain it.

    What I do know is that, when commenters resort to listing a claimed set of ideological, educational, emotional, intellectual and experiential qualifications in lieu of reasoned argument, it usually means they’ve run out of substantive arguments.

    Far better to show us than to tell us.

  340. #341 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    I really don’t care of MT Ciero has an IQ of 170 or 70, that he’s an atheist or theist. That he’s a biologist or baker. The questions I asked were directly on topic to the point he made, yet they were shunned in favour of a long spiel about how qualified and smart he is. I honestly don’t care how he has rationalised his current beliefs, I just want answers as to just how his ‘hypothesis’ works.

  341. #342 M T Cicero
    December 31, 2008

    Kel: A brief post script: I dunno; scientifically untraceable. Perhaps an occasional push or a pull? Tweak a bit here, nudge a bit there, erase a little from time to time? Mostly let it run on its own momentum, via those 14 points? Most likely did it all over the universe, billions of times? Playful? It’s a thought experiment, Kel, except I sort of like it, and like lots of concepts people like and cling to it doesn’t have to have great import or save the world or convince others or answer all questions, or interfere with the pursuit of science: it just has to satisfy a perceived need. And finally, it’s quite stimulating, speaking only for myself, to ponder a unified theory of things scientific and theological.

  342. #343 Jadehawk
    December 31, 2008

    wtf?

    for someone who claims to have an IQ of 170, your reading comprehension is rather poor. clearly, language is not your Fort.

    1)Your personal beliefs are irrelevant to us and to science, and are therefore not discussed here

    2)God, as a superfluous embellishment, is also irrelevant to science unless you or someone can prove that intervention or guidance are necessary

    3)Science should never adopt “we don’t know, therefore goddidit” as a valid answer, because it would stop all scientific progress. science is there to poke and prod the unknown until it stops being the unknown (and opens up new unknowns in the process), so it must never be satisfied with an answer that doesn’t lead to anything new. as someone who claims to have training in science, you really should know that

    4)please be aware that the “possibility” of god that you’re postulating is called “God of the Gaps”. it’s a very silly image of God, so we will continue to ridicule it. also, for a biologist, you seem to have a very flawed understanding of evolution. no one believes in “mere chance”. that’s emphatically not how evolution works. it’s a creationist strawman.

  343. #344 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    MT,

    If your ‘subtly guided’ evolution exists, what reason do we have for thinking the the ‘subtle guider’ has any interest in whether or not we acknowledge its sleight of hand at work?

    Despite how the idiot creationists try to rationalise it, the traditional Judeo-Christian god is not a a subtle sleight-of-hander; it’s a driving force for existence and every aspect of it. It cannot be the being you describe, and nor can any other deity as-yet identified in human theology.

    I think the problem with your theory is parsimony – or lack thereof. If we can’t find any evidence to support your theory – with or without your convenient Heisenberg interpretation – then we are obliged to assume that it doesn’t exist.

    Otherwise we’re left assuming that anything is possible – that electricity is caused by invisible, magic butterflies; that flight only works because of magical lifting beetles; and the sun is a giant orange, cunningly disguised as a flaming ball of gas at the centre of our universe by jocular leprechauns.

  344. #345 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    Er, re: my post #344 – I’m aware the sun isn’t at the centre of our universe. Curse my poor proof-reading skills.

  345. #346 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    A brief post script: I dunno; scientifically untraceable. Perhaps an occasional push or a pull? Tweak a bit here, nudge a bit there, erase a little from time to time? Mostly let it run on its own momentum, via those 14 points? Most likely did it all over the universe, billions of times?

    So I’m having trouble understanding your point of view on this. You are saying that we are intelligently designed, but you won’t say just what that design is. That’s a very nebulous and anti-scientific statement. Surely when we have a naturalistic process that can account for life on earth, it’s superfluous to stick another power in there – especially when you can’t even define what role that power played.

    So I’m sure you can appreciate the trouble I’m having with your position, it feels like nothing more than wishful thinking on your part. That you want God to have guided evolution rather than having any evidence that God guided evolution. Which goes back to my original point – intelligent design is not science and exists purely for religious reasons. There’s a difference between wanting to believe God had a hand in it and calling that belief a valid hypothesis.

    We can demonstrate mutations occur, we can demonstrate selection in the world from environmental to sexual, and we can demonstrate adaptation based on the above. We can even demonstrate speciation. All these things we can attribute to natural processes, don’t you see by putting in a supernatural hand you are positing an unfalsifiable hypothesis that has no place in science?

  346. #347 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2008

    Er, re: my post #344 – I’m aware the sun isn’t at the centre of our universe

    It is if the jocular leprechauns want it to be…

  347. #348 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    From Mt Ciero’s definition, the idea of intelligent design rests with showing the designer. And I’m all for that, without showing the designer it’s a useless and unnecessary explanation for life as it is.

  348. #349 Wowbagger
    December 31, 2008

    He just seems to be doing what every otherwise well-informed-but-still-a-believer tries to do, which is find a way to reconcile his knowledge that there’s no evidence to support the god hypothesis with his fervent desire for God to exist. There are several directions you can go from this point; the idea of the ‘subtle guider who leaves no evidence’ is just one of them.

    Sorry, but it just doesn’t fly here. You can’t have it both ways – make a choice and live with it. Standing atop the fence only works for so long; eventually you’re going to lose your balance and fall to one side or the other – or go straight down and impale yourself on a white picket…

  349. #350 Feynmaniac
    December 31, 2008

    Troll Program #3

    1. Post a long rant on an old thread. Must be at least 6 months old. All statements must contain at least one of the following:
    (a) No evidence whatsoever
    (b) Fallacious reasoning
    (c) Intellectual dishonesty
    (d) Cut-n-pasted material. Do not cite.

    2. When people respond to rant complain about “tone” or “civility” or “insults”. DO NOT address the substance of any responses.

    3. If:
    (a) People are anything than absolutely polite THEN GO TO 2.

    (b) People bend over backwards to be nice to you and yet continue to destroy your points THEN POST:

    “This is my last post. I have enjoyed this discussion and learned a lot. Please consider the points I made even though you showed them to be completely wrong.”

    Show as much grace as one can running away with their tail between their legs.

    WAIT 1 HOUR
    GO TO 1

  350. #351 Feynmaniac
    December 31, 2008

    John: sorry you missed the joke.

    I missed the “joke” as well.

  351. #352 Nerd of Redhead
    December 31, 2008

    Fine Post #350 Feynmaniac. There is one variation, which to change posters at IgmornseRUSTM Xian school after one hour at the end, then repeat. From our perspective, it amounts to the same thing.

  352. #353 M T Cicero
    January 1, 2009

    Kel (#346): I see what you mean. I “I dunno” referred to the how of being done, and also the “why”. As far as the design goes, it is what we see now, ie, man, other species, current ecosystems… Circular reasoning? Yes. Nebulous? Yes. And you are correct, a theory such as mine is not science. It cannot be science because it is outside of science, by definition. And were I to insist on staying only within the realm of science, then of course I would never entertain any other proposition, which indeed I did not do for many years. But later, per the explanation below, I began to question the science in the sense of looking for a science to replace it, long before I thought it could not, no matter how far I expanded it, ever answer the questions I was asking. You should know that for me the process of moving from science-only-and-all-else-is-stupid was one that took over a decade, and never involved things theological, and certainly never a “shazam!”; it was more akin to the “educational variety” as discussed by, if I recall, William James. But, at any rate, I think the theory is not anti-science, in the following sense: as a scientist I see, understand, and agree with all the points about evolution. All of the processes we have accepted— differential survival and reproductive rates, etc; all of those 14 points— work: and the results are all around us. That’s the “how”. Many times we take the how and the why to be the same, with the how being used to answer the why. To use an example, when we initially speculated on the workings of the sun, why it was hot in the way it was, looking for something beyond the then-current theory, we eventually came to the fusion concept, and that was the how it worked, and the why it put out it’s energy. But in asking why the fusion process in its instance—the particular class star our sun is— works the way it does, we arrived at another how. And the process can go on and on, like the little kid asking the endless why’s. The reason I began to move away from things like the 14 points was that I began to study system-complexes that were what I think are qualitatively different from the instances of speciation, population dynamics, etc. I had been looking at as a biologist whose main focus was limnology. At that macroscopic level, the hows were whys as well. And the whole ball or wax made, and still makes, wonderful and rigorous scientific sense. Nothing else is needed; anything else is, well, stupid. But the sub-microscopic, and specially the area of most interest to me—that of medically-related enzymes, transport mechanisms, messengers, feedback, regulation, induction, DNA and RNA roles, etc— this is where I began to see many hows begin to generate whys. My endpoint was always to arrive at scientific explanations, which I often could. But “often”, definitionally, leaves some instances out. Examples, for me, include: the question of which came first, the polypeptide substrate or the polypeptide enzymatic steps (and I stress the plural here) that built it; and, far beyond that “simple” chain of events, the vast gulfs between the many steps from lightning-created simple amino acids to, say, DNA/RNA relationships. Yes, I can look at this endpoint, the mechanisms and interactions as they now exist; and I can at times manipulate them, to create or better understand certain pharmaceuticals . But what of those (at this level) tremendous gaps. Of course those intermediates, if they existed, would no longer exist, having been rendered “extinct”, and of course(?) leaving no evidence. “God of the gaps” again. But I think we can also, in this instance, call it “science of the gaps”, in the sense that if we insist the mechanisms we now know, those 14 points, etc., do the trick, we are doomed to failure; that probabilities reduce to zero. I think in this realm it is qualitatively a whole different ballgame, for which, either I am not athletic enough, or else the rules are impossible to follow, the moves impossible to achieve. Am I egotistical enough to think it is the latter? Well, yeah. Am I being that way now? This is an area I would love to discuss. What are your thoughts on this?

  353. #354 M T Cicero
    January 1, 2009

    Oops, my oversight. I should have mentioned, made explicit, that I am not interested in theodicy, as it would appear that many of you have assumed. I have no credentials, so to speak, in that area. Personally, I find it hubristic to believe one can presume to speak for a higher power. And all that I have seen put forth by the classic creationists is, for want of a better term, goofy.

  354. #355 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    MTC, you believe in the god of the gaps and in giving the Universa a purpose. it doesn’t have one, doesn’t need one, and the question “why?” is a human construct.

    please understand that none of us here cares about your personal desire to fill your desire for patterns-in-the-chaos. you’re welcome to believe whatever you want. you will not convince anyone here to your point of thinking without some actual evidence though, and you will not convince us that science should make some sort of concession to spirituality by saying “well, we can’t explain everything, therefore magic exists”.

    1)science should only be concerned with science.

    2)personal subjective beliefs should not be elevated to the same level of validity as science

    3)as long as the above applies, you’re welcome to believe in god, or leprechauns, or anything else. just don’t even try to say it’s just as valid as a scientific outlook on the world. it’s not and never will. it’s on the same level as abduction stories.

  355. #356 RamblinDude
    January 1, 2009

    At that macroscopic level, the hows were whys as well. And the whole ball or wax made, and still makes, wonderful and rigorous scientific sense. Nothing else is needed; anything else is, well, stupid.

    You are being willfully obtuse and petulant.

  356. #357 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    the question of which came first, the polypeptide substrate or the polypeptide enzymatic steps (and I stress the plural here) that built it; and, far beyond that “simple” chain of events, the vast gulfs between the many steps from lightning-created simple amino acids to, say, DNA/RNA relationships.

    your personal incredulity is not a proof of anything. like I said, you’re welcome to fill your needs of patterns and a daddy-figure, but it’s objectively irrelevant and unneccesary to science, and therefore science should ignore it.

  357. #358 Nerd of Redhead
    January 1, 2009

    Science will not consider any idea without physical evidence. Any god or vague wish is dismissed immediately, because there is no physical proof to back it up. If you personally believe in a vague guiding force, science will not nothing to stop you from doing anything other than pretending your belief is science. If you want science to consider your idea, you need to write up your idea and send it to a peer reviewed scientific journal. But, without physical evidence proving the existence of the force, the paper will likely be rejected without peer review by the editor.

  358. #359 M T Cicero
    January 1, 2009

    Kel: I guess it’s up to you at this point. #355-#358 are addressing things I did not say, and not addressing the question I asked, which, again, is how the mechanisms we know work for the evolution we do understand can apply to the molecular levels, as instanced by the two general examples I gave. There are some behavioral levels, too— such as why are humans able to make the human construct of “why?”— where similar questions can arise, but the molecular ones are easier for me to work with.

  359. #360 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    What I do not get is why you think God needs to intervene, as the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an interview with Dawkins “that would imply the creator didn’t do a very good job in setting up the laws of nature.”

    As for the gaps you speak of, here’s my trouble with your statement from a scientific perspective. I agree that those gaps exist in nature, it would be impossible for them not to be. However we have a theory that has been able to stand the test of time and intense scrutiny that works entirely within the natural laws of physics, one that has been observed to work on countless occasions and has the explanatory power to explain highly improbable and complex features.

    I agree that we are looking at the endpoint, well from our view it’s the endpoint because all we are seeing is a snapshot in time. Our information of the past is limited to the genetic and morphological diversity we see today and a glimpse into the fossil record. Is there really much difference between the complex paths you speak of and the capacity for scales to evolve into feathers like what happened with the dinosaurs? Or that the eye is too complex to evolve on it’s own, or the immune system?

    As I was saying earlier, to posit an intelligent designer rests with testing to see the intelligent designer in action. This to me is very important because it’s the mechanism under question, and without addressing that mechanism the idea is nothing more than wishful thinking. We cling to neo-Darwinian means for evolution, because the mechanisms are known – it can explain immense complexity, it can explain irreducible complexity and the more we look at the genetic code of life the better we understand just how those mechanisms work.

    It’s a matter of parsimony, for ID to be true there’s the assumption of a higher power that is an interactive force in the universe. Evolution by natural selection has no such assumption – it’s mechanisms are already known and tested. If we can explain the irreducibly complex nature of the human body and the incredibly complex organs within, then surely the explanatory power of evolution must win out. evolution works with or without a creator, ID needs that creator and thus all burden on ID is to show that creator.

  360. #361 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    MTC, you want microbiological explanations, go look at microbiological articles at Pub-Med, or some other place. the same for neurological/behavioral science. I am not doing your research work for you.

    in either case, even if you can’t find the answer, or the answer does not exist (yet), science must under no circumstances insert “goddidit” into the knowledge gaps. that way lies intellectual stagnation. god can only be an explanation when there’s evidence of the necessity of a god-explanation. nothing less, nothing more.

    once again, it’s not the point of science to disprove that the gaps aren’t filled with god; it’s for god-supporters to prove that the gaps in scientific knowledge are there because of god’s influence. in the past, such claims have always been disproven, so there’s no reason whatsoever to simply assume THIS time it’s really a goddidit.

  361. #362 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    anyway, the short answer is:

    gaps in scientific explanations exist. in the past, the gaps have been filled with non-divine, non-magical explanations. therefore, for god to enter the scientific arena, FIRST some sort of evidence of that need would have to be shown. the ball is in YOUR court

    any need for non-scientific explanations is borne out of human desires for a human-like universe. but the universe has not ever shown evidence for any kind of motives, desires, plans etc.

  362. #363 John Morales
    January 1, 2009

    MTC:

    You should know that for me the process of moving from science-only-and-all-else-is-stupid was one that took over a decade.

    What? Science is a method, not an ideology. There really is a dichotomy; either knowledge is scientific (empirical, testable, replicable) or it’s not.

    Many times we take the how and the why to be the same, with the how being used to answer the why.

    You’re confused by semantics.
    The “why” science explains is the same as the “how” in that it elucidates the causal chain that leads to state changes in a system, and it’s sufficient to explain the natural world*; the “why” you’re seeking is a teleological one that’s outside the scope of science – it presumes agency.

    the vast gulfs between the many steps from lightning-created simple amino acids to, say, DNA/RNA relationships. [...] But what of those (at this level) tremendous gaps.

    You’re no longer talking about biological evolution, you’re talking about biogenesis –
    the transition from chemistry to biology.

    And you are correct, a theory such as mine is not science.

    Nor is it a theory in the scientific sense, nor even a hypothesis; at best it’s a conjecture.


    * Subject to the limitations of our observational capacities, our ability to integrate those observations into testable inferences, and our technological ability to perform those tests.

  363. #364 Nerd of Redhead
    January 1, 2009

    MTC, science does not allow god to be an explanation for or result of any conclusion. This is due to the divorce of science from religion and theology a couple of centuries ago. Science will never go back to being under the thumb of religion. That is why physical evidence is required, since people keep trying to find philosophical ways to be bring god back into science.

    There is a natural explanation for all your gaps. The explanation may not have been found yet, but it will be. The god of the gaps keeps getting thinner and thinner. At some point, you have to let the ghost go.

  364. #365 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    Kel: I guess it’s up to you at this point. #355-#358 are addressing things I did not say, and not addressing the question I asked, which, again, is how the mechanisms we know work for the evolution we do understand can apply to the molecular levels, as instanced by the two general examples I gave. There are some behavioral levels, too— such as why are humans able to make the human construct of “why?”— where similar questions can arise, but the molecular ones are easier for me to work with.

    The problems you’ve addressed are with the limitations of our observation point, not with evolutionary theory. When we look on an irreducibly complex system, it’s hard to imagine how one could evolve without some organisms with a similar but incomplete system to compare with. In the case of the much-trumpeted flagellum, we can see many of the components that make up the on-board motor in other bacteria and all performing a function. From that the best we can infer is that the flagellum did have a biochemical pathway in order to get to how it is.

    For the examples you provided, I have no idea how they could or did evolve. But my ignorance should not be evidence for an intelligent designer, especially when we have a process that can build such systems as evidenced on a macroscopic level. Say for the case of birds being warm blooded, we know at one stage in their evolutionary history they came from cold-blooded animals that didn’t have feathers. So what came first, their dino ancestors being warm blooded or their dino ancestors developing feathers. We can see in the fossil record just when feathers developed, but it’s a lot harder to see when they became warm blooded – it can only be inferred from their perceived dietary needs.

    It’s easier to determine that in mammals thanks to an intermediate form actually being a successful evolutionary strategy in it’s own right. If we look at the platypus, we can see many intermediate forms in function between mammals and reptiles – it still lays eggs, it has a lower body temperature than other mammals, it’s mammary glands aren’t fully developed, so it offers us some clues as to just how these features evolved from reptiles into mammals even if they also have 100 million years of evolution in a different direction.

    It’s that same inference we can make about the human mind. We need to break what it means to say “why” into the core components that make up this ability – language, problem solving, memory, self-awareness, etc. From there it’s a matter of looking into the animal kingdom again and see if we can find intermediate stages in nature for these different components.

    Language is something that we see in nature, we can train chimpanzees, gorillas, even dogs using language. We can even teach our primate cousins to use language in order to communicate. The capacity to learn language exists in several minds, even if there is a limitation in order to use it.

    Problem solving is something again we see in nature. There was a study of macaques monkeys in 1952 where one monkey was able to use inductive reasoning in order to wash sand off sweet potato, and the same monkey was also able to do the same to separate sand from rice. And other monkeys started to do the same, they mimicked the behaviour. We’ve also seen chimpanzees and crows fashion tools, seen orang-utans and crows solve complex problems.

    It’s well established that the vast majority of animals can learn. If you watch mythbusters, maybe you’ll recall the episode where Jamie got the goldfish to swim through a complex maze in order to get the food and each time they did so they got faster. That’s just a goldfish, the ability for memory is a no-brainer for scientists to explain.

    Being self-aware is a big one. For a long time we thought we were alone in the animal kingdom in this respect. Many animals can pass the mirror test, indicating there is at least some sense of self and what is expected to be. One amusing story I heard was a test where we got chimpanzees to gamble on whether they knew an answer, not only if they knew it but whether they believed they knew it. Like asking who is the president of the united states and saying whether we know it or not as opposed to answering the question. Anyway, one of the chimps got it wrong, and in despair it flung it’s head back and slapped itself on the forehead. That to me is a pretty telling sign of awareness of awareness, that one has the ability to reason with their own knowledge.

    So why have I laid all this out? I’ve done so because while there are still many questions to answer about the nature of the mind, we have gotten a good idea of how it could have evolved. Even if there weren’t any other animals with cognitive faculties near our own, it wouldn’t cast doubt on the likelihood that we evolved.

    The stories of what other animals are capable of help us better understand about how our mind works because we are all part of the same process that brought about life. When we read about octopuses that would shoot a jet at a light in order to sleep in the dark at an aquarium, or would get out of it’s tank and crawl across the floor in order to prey on animals in another tank, we see the power of the brain in other creatures.

    So why is it I can ask why? I don’t know. But what I do know is that mental powers aren’t a hindrance for evolutionary theory because we can see intermediate stages throughout nature. The power of explanation that evolution by natural selection provides is why it’s so widely used, that even without these intermediate stages in nature we can induce they existed at one time because without it nothing in biology would make sense.

  365. #366 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    Apologies for the long reply, I felt it necessary to construct a case for my argument and not just state it. I hope you understand the difference between abiogenesis and evolution, that the process from organic molecules to the first primitive cell is something that is out of the scope of evolutionary theory. There’s a difference between the strengths and weaknesses of a theory, and perceived weaknesses by applying a theory where it doesn’t belong. Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life, and to look at the origin of life as a weakness of evolution is misusing the theory.

    “Darwinism explains so little. It doesn’t explain how life began. It doesn’t explain how gravity works to keep the planets in their orbits. It doesn’t explain how thermodynamics works. It doesn’t explain how physics or the laws of motion work.” – Ben Stein
    Stein is unintentionally on the mark here, evolution doesn’t explain any of those. But he’s dead wrong in thinking it’s a problem for evolutionary theory.

  366. #367 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    well to be honest, “why” (i.e. question for motive) is a weaker question than “how” (question for mechanism), at least from a scientific POW. think about it:

    Q:”why would a mother be willing to die in defense of her children?”
    A:”because she loves them, d’uh!”

    Q:”what causes a mother to be willing to die in defense of her children?”
    A1:”well, evolution demands that the young survive, and in species where the mother needs to care for the young the stronger the protector instinct, the better”
    A2:”the oxytocin released at birth and during nursing bonds child to mother, thus extending the self-defense instincts of the mother to her children”

    the second (incomplete, because that’s all i can come up with on the fly) set is more informative, but the first is more cuddly, warm, romantic. so the more romantically inclined will want motive behind everything. us cold-hearted but curious skeptics and scientists don’t. method is so much more interesting, after all. :-p

  367. #368 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    The why and how seem to be a similar question in the case of “why can we ask why?” Because any answer as to why needs a how to explain that. To take it back to the elements of mental function I attributed to needing to ask that question, we need to be able to firstly ask the question, understand the answer. And for that it needs language, memory, problem solving, and the awareness to ask such a question. So those to me are the answers for “why we can ask why”, and the answer to the how is that each function evolved.

    Maybe I spent a little too long answering the how instead of the why, but the how is the scientific proposition. Once you get to the question “Why do we have those functions?”, the answer “because they evolved” makes this question read “how did we get the cognitive facilities to ask why?”

  368. #369 M T Cicero
    January 1, 2009

    Kel: This will be short because I have to get going soon; more later. I get the macro stuff, no problem. Ditto the chimps, etc. You put your finger on one point of controversy: abiogenesis vs evolution as we understand it. The other is still, I think, the behavioral things, which I would like to discuss later. We seem to agree that abiogenesis is as yet unexplained (which of course doesn’t mean it never will be) and that the macro stuff doesn’t work in that area. But it had to have been accomplished before evolution could kick in, so to speak. You can’t have “the whole monty”, soup to nuts, pun intended, without it. Thus to me it’s the area of most intense interest, and perhaps the best one to use in a search for design (though again, I think behavioral evolution is not a done deal). Let me be clear that I do not think a higher power needs to be tied up with current god concepts, theology, or especially religion. For the record, I also do not think there NEEDS to be a god or whatever involved. I agree on your point that because there is a weakness in a theory there must be a god is not a worthy argument. But please, let’s not be so rigid as to say that “science does not allow god to be an explanation for or result of any conclusion.”, or that “…either knowledge is scientific… or it’s not.”. That is an entirely self-fulfilling approach; and ideology cuts both ways. Let’s make inquiry our guiding theme, under which are included science and… something more. A very difficult approach, I know: Dianetics, Christian Science, Science of the Mind, etc—all that trash needs to be waded through, and 99.99999…% dumped; what criteria will be used to determine which “non-science-stuff” is useful, and which isn’t; etc. Perhaps if concerted unbiased efforts are made some traces will be found. A clumsy analogy perhaps, but what if one were trying, via the development of better and better megaphones, to communicate with an invisible genius who, it turns out, is only receptive to radio? In another vein, in medicine the placebo and the nocebo effects are inexplicable; but this does not prevent many of us from using them. In my experience, those orthodox evolutionists (including me in my atheist days) who were most adamant about the rules of the game were at some level afraid that if anything even remotely theist entered their world view it would expand and morph into something hideous, as indeed some full fledged religions can be. This applies the other way theists, of course.

  369. #370 Wowbagger
    January 1, 2009

    MT,

    I think the problem I – and perhaps the others here – have with your position, is that they can’t see there being any use for including the option of subtly guided evolution. If such a being as the one you describe – advanced, powerful – exists, surely if it wanted any recognition for its contribution it wouldn’t have gone to the effort of either removing the evidence or making it outside our capacity to perceive it?

    Non-theistic explanations for evolution work just fine. Why add a god to something that doesn’t need it?

  370. #371 Jadehawk
    January 1, 2009

    dude, we get it. you’re postulating a very diluted God-of-the-Gaps.

    we’re trying to say that science doesn’t assume anything a-priori like you demand. it goes by past observation, and the past observation was that everything formerly explained by “god” is now explained otherwise. therefore WE say that unless the existence of god is proven necessary somewhere down the line, science doesn’t deal with god, and needs not make any allowances for possible deities, just like it doesn’t make allowances for underwear gnomes.

  371. #372 Wowbagger
    January 1, 2009

    MT,

    We understand that you want it to be true. But that’s really all you’ve got.

  372. #373 John Morales
    January 1, 2009

    MTC:

    But please, let’s not be so rigid as to say that “science does not allow god to be an explanation for or result of any conclusion.”, or that “…either knowledge is scientific… or it’s not.”.

    Care to articulate, rationally, what other notions would be of utility? Care to show how, the contention (in my words: “There really is a dichotomy; either knowledge is scientific (empirical, testable, replicable) or it’s not.”) is flawed?

    No vague assertions about how “science/rationality is not the only way of knowing”, please. A rational basis is required.

    Note, since the development of the scientific method, the existence of jumbo jets, the internet, germ theory of disease, the discovery of the basis for organic brain disfunction (ooh, it was not possession!), genomics (heck, of DNA!), cosmology, the discovery of dark energy/matter etc, etc, etc, after thousands of years of other ways of knowing.

    You are, in essence, arguing that science is insufficient. I think that you wish it were so, I think you have an inchoate, intuitive belief that it isn’t so.
    What isn’t the case is that science has had thousands of years to develop, unlike mythology.

    Yes, science and rationality are limited, but you have to make a case that other ways of knowing can be sustained rationally or empirically.

  373. #374 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    We seem to agree that abiogenesis is as yet unexplained (which of course doesn’t mean it never will be) and that the macro stuff doesn’t work in that area. But it had to have been accomplished before evolution could kick in, so to speak.

    Lets move the analogy to earth science. The theory of plate tectonics is based on observable evidence. We’ve seen the plates moving and we’ve been able to deduce many geological features like mountains, canyons, etc. from the concept. But in order for plate tectonics to exist, there needs to be planet formation that allows for a crust to develop on top of the mantle. In the absence of an explanation for planet formation, does it make plate tectonics any less valid as an explanation for the current geological state of the globe?

    Likewise without a solid theory of abiogenesis, how can we be so sure that evolution works? It’s because just because abiogenesis precedes evolution, it doesn’t mean that evolution hinges on the ability to explain abiogenesis. Just as plate tectonics doesn’t hinge on the ability to explain planet formation. Both explaining the origin of the earth and the origin of life are necessary scientific propositions, they are not necessary in order have valid theories of the processes that came after.

    If we are going to look at priori for every single theory, then eventually there has to be a self-contained theory of everything in order to explain anything. It’s important to understand that evolution doesn’t rest on a valid theory of abiogenesis, just as it’s important to understand that an explanation for abiogenesis is a necessity in our understanding of the natural world.

    But please, let’s not be so rigid as to say that “science does not allow god to be an explanation for or result of any conclusion.”

    A supernatural explanation for God is not allowed because it’s positing the unknown and unknowable as an answer; something of which is science is never the case. But to bring God in as a falsifiable hypothesis, I’m all for that just as many other scientists – most notably Richard Dawkins. As I’ve been maintaining throughout this dialogue, intelligent design rests with showing the hand of the designer. If they want to bring God into the physical realm (as God must be in order to interact with it) that’s their business. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too, either God is beyond measure or God is falsifiable.

    In my experience, those orthodox evolutionists (including me in my atheist days) who were most adamant about the rules of the game were at some level afraid that if anything even remotely theist entered their world view it would expand and morph into something hideous, as indeed some full fledged religions can be.

    The reason God is kept out of the science lab is that God is a non-answer. What does saying “Goddidit” do in science? It does bastardise science, it puts people into the position where a non-answer becomes preferable to a proper answer. God is an unverified entity, there’s no way of knowing whether God exists or not. We can’t test for God, we can’t show what role God has in the universe. This is by design of the concept. Now if you want to morph God into something testable, then bring it. But this means that God has to be falsifiable, otherwise it’s just fusing religion into science for personal reasons.

    I would argue that God has been falsified long ago, once we found out that the weather has nothing to do with our sexual habits, once we found out that the earth orbits the sun, once we found out that all life on earth is related, once we found out that the sun is just one of quadrillions of stars, and so on… God was an explanation for phenomena we now know have nothing to do with divine intervention. What God was said to explain was simply false, the image of God we have is a modified version of that magic sky daddy that has as much credibility as the dead gods of Greece or Egypt. We’ve broken the spell, religion was a meagre way of explaining reality that was manifestly false from the beginning. Dressing up God now to be something more really is putting lipstick on a pig.

  374. #375 Owlmirror
    January 1, 2009

    But please, let’s not be so rigid as to say that “science does not allow god to be an explanation for or result of any conclusion.”, or that “…either knowledge is scientific… or it’s not.”.

    It depends on how you define “god”, here, though. If the alleged actions of the god are detectable… that’s a scientific hypothesis. The only reason not to allow god as an explanation is that many religions define god as being undetectable. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” — where “not seen” is taken to mean “not detected, and not detectable by any method whatsoever”.

    If it is not detectable by any method whatsoever, then, no, it is not scientific.

    A clumsy analogy perhaps, but what if one were trying, via the development of better and better megaphones, to communicate with an invisible genius who, it turns out, is only receptive to radio?

    See, this is a scientific hypothesis; the idea that there is something out there, and that something can be communicated with. Although do note that you’re positing a terribly limited god if it can only communicated with by some medium or method that we haven’t even found yet (not ordinary speech; not gesture; not radio (or not any frequency or modulation method we currently know of), etc)

    But at what point do you shrug and admit the null hypothesis? Abiogenesis is being investigated by organic chemists such as Jack Szostak and others (including Stanley Miller before he died). It will be a long time before all possible combinations of chemicals and conditions are ruled out as possibilities.

    What research program would you even suggest for finding and communicating with a limited-communication god?

    In another vein, in medicine the placebo and the nocebo effects are inexplicable; but this does not prevent many of us from using them.

    What does “inexplicable” mean, though? “Currently not explained”, or “Never can be explained”?

    I would assert the former: The placebo affect has its foundations in something that can be detected (interaction of brain state with immune system, or something similar), although it might well be difficult to do so.

    On what basis would you assert that the placebo affect can never be explained?

  375. #376 John Morales
    January 1, 2009

    The placebo effect.

    Nice one. Currently unexplained, but accepted empirically.

  376. #377 Nerd of Redhead
    January 1, 2009

    The placebo effect. Good for curing aches, pains, and many minor ailments 30% of the time. Actually proven to work better than no pill. And cheaply available at any grocery store.

    MTC, I will paraphrase my prior post. Science will not consider any vague god or force without conclusive physical evidence. Period. End of story. Philosophy is simply sophistry without any physical evidence. Science is not a democracy. Nothing is science is put to any votes outside of the workers in the field, like the astronomers who recently voted on downsizing Pluto from a planet. So your feelings, ideas, and opinions mean nothing to science until you get a peer reviewed paper published. Quit trying to convince us. Write that paper.

  377. #378 Kel
    January 1, 2009

    It’s important to remember that gravity currently doesn’t have an observed mechanism. Now there’s a difference between a theory not having an observed mechanism and proposing a mechanism for a theory that isn’t observed. The explanation for gravity is the hypothetical elementary particle called the graviton which has been deduced to have a few properties: massless, spin of 2, stable lifetime. But as much as we can derive about the particle, it’s still waiting to be discovered so it can be verified.

    Until such time, it doesn’t make gravity any less valid – my drink bottle doesn’t float in the air until scientists discover just how gravity works on a quantum level. Likewise not having an explanation as to why the placebo effect works does not stop the phenomenon from existing. But to posit that gravity is God blowing on the earth or that the placebo effect is God healing more people who take sugar pills than those who don’t opt for treatment is a useless statement.

    Placebo effect and gravity are observed phenomenon and any explanation is going to be tentative until it’s adequately observed. God is never a tentative explanation at least in the eyes of those making an explanation. It’s a non-answer that masquerades as an answer, a hypothesis without merit, trumpeted because of religious convictions.

  378. #379 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    I am helping to search for gravitons by running Einstein@home on my computer. Since Seti@home is not sending out new work units (server down) at the moment, I am running two work units on my dual processors.

  379. #380 Kel
    January 2, 2009

    I am helping to search for gravitons by running Einstein@home on my computer.

    That sounds like a noble use for my spare clock cycles, I might install this.

  380. #381 John Morales
    January 2, 2009

    Kel, FTW @374.

    God is never a tentative explanation at least in the eyes of those making an explanation. It’s a non-answer that masquerades as an answer, a hypothesis without merit, trumpeted because of religious convictions.

    (my bold)

    Indeed, Goddiddit ? “Because!”.

    e.g.
    “Why is the sky blue, mama?”
    “Because God did it!” ? “Because!”

    Here, “why?” and “how?” are both missing.
    Theology purports to satisfy the first, but cannot the second.

  381. #382 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    Kel, for more info:
    http://einstein.phys.uwm.edu/

  382. #383 M T Cicero
    January 2, 2009

    It’s difficult to write responses to all the correspondence from each of you at once. Let me focus on one thing at a time. #375 made a reference to the placebo effect (“The placebo affect [sic] has its foundations in something that can be detected (interaction of brain state with immune system, or something similar), although it might well be difficult to do so.”) which raises some very interesting questions on things scientific and things we choose not to see. By way of introduction, #375′s statement, containing 4 sub-assumptions, is wrong on each count: 1), nothing can be detected; 2), there is no known interaction; 3) there is no known brain state, and use of the term “brain state” is, in this context, empty and mystical; 4), the immune system is in no way, and scientifically cannot be, involved with the placebo effect. In his defense, he did say “or something similar”, and he is ignorant of medicine, so I can be generous and assume he meant by that, not something similar to the immune system, but something similar to some other medical phenomena.

    The placebo effect has its counterpart, the nocebo effect. Neither is seen when the patient is unaware of the pseudo-medicament being given. The effects are scientifically “real”, with the allowed minor variations seen within any group of test subjects in response to any medicament. The fact of both a placebo and a nocebo effect is medically fantastic in itself, but let’s focus on just one. Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None. There are no peer-reviewed articles, in the medical world, that discuss anything except the effect itself; no scientific hypotheses of mechanism, because none exist. “…it might well be difficult to do so.”? No, impossible to do so using only your toolkit. Thanks for bringing that topic up again. I had overlooked the opportunity earlier in our discussions.

  383. #384 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None.

    I just jumped in here, but what are you on? For an easily demonstrable example of the connection between belief and physiological response, stand in the middle of the passing lane on a busy freeway with a heart monitor on.

  384. #385 CJO
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None.

    Materialists aren’t shaken by it (that is what you meant by ‘reductionist’, right?) because we reject the premise that what we choose to call ‘beliefs’ in the subjective sense are anything other than physical and chemical in the objective sense.

    The connection that you’re asserting is impossible is actually inevitable. Beliefs result in physical effects all the time. If I acquire the belief that someone I trusted in some way has betrayed me, and I am confronted with that person, all kinds of autonomic physical effects will happen: elevated activity in the amygdala and other brain structures, secretion of stress hormones, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, increased blood flow to certain tissues, and on and on. What makes the placebo effect, in principle, any different?

  385. #386 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Or, when next hungry, think of your favourite meal and notice the effect on your salivary glands.

  386. #387 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    What makes the placebo effect, in principle, any different?

    Because the placebo effect is currently a gap in our knowledge CJO, and we all know who dwells in ever-diminishing gaps.

  387. #388 Jadehawk
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None. There are no peer-reviewed articles, in the medical world, that discuss anything except the effect itself; no scientific hypotheses of mechanism, because none exist. “…it might well be difficult to do so.”? No, impossible to do so using only your toolkit

    again with the Argument from Ignorance *sigh* just because we don’t know something, and maybe indeed currently lack the tools to understand it, does not automatically open the door for a Goddidit. The hypothesis “we don’t know, therefore Goddidit” has been falsified repeatedly in the past, therefore it is insanity* to constantly fall back on it

    also: the brain is not connected physically and chemically to the rest of the body? what are you, the headless rider? The brain is a very very complex instrument and it’s interactions with the body are very hard to untangle, but denying that there’s a connection is just plain stupid. (example of how conscious perception affects the subconsciously controlled parts of the body already provided by Brownian)

    *insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  388. #389 Owlmirror
    January 2, 2009

    Gosh! I seem to have made you angry. Remember, it’s all about love.

    1), nothing can be detected;

    You mean that nothing has yet been detected.

    2), there is no known interaction;

    So? Not known does not mean nonexistent.

    3) there is no known brain state, and use of the term “brain state” is, in this context, empty and mystical;

    Harsh words from someone who hypothesizes an empty and mystical role for an empty and mystical god…

    “Brain state” is shorthand. We know that the brain is vastly complicated, and different parts of it regulate metabolism both via direct neural connections and the release of hormones, with vastly complicated feedback interactions between the brain and different parts of the body, again via direct neural connections and the release of hormones.

    On what basis do you say that that which is not known does not exist — given that something in the brain correlates between a piece of knowledge and healing, else we would not see the effect in the first place?

    4), the immune system is in no way, and scientifically cannot be, involved with the placebo effect.

    Please support this statement. I grant that I may be wrong, but your use of the term “scientifically” suggests that you know of something specific that demonstrates this. What is it?

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None.

    You are, I am afraid, begging the question. How has it been demonstrated that there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between belief and these physical effects?

    I am not shaken because there is nothing in what is described that suggests that the brain (or mind) and body have some sort of dualistic, non-physical interaction — only that the interaction of brain (or mind) and body is exceedingly complex. To assert otherwise in nothing more than self-indulgent mysticism and superstition.

  389. #390 Owlmirror
    January 2, 2009

    A few minutes in scholar.google.com… :

      Placebo-Induced Changes in fMRI in the Anticipation and Experience of Pain
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;303/5661/1162

    Hm.

      Deconstructing the Placebo Effect and Finding the Meaning Response
    http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/abstract/136/6/471

  390. #391 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    MTC, can you ever get to a point without lots of metaphysical blather that means nothing? It weakens your arguments, which are very weak to begin with. God doesn’t exist except between your ears. The gaps theory for god is a total failure, as god is getting thinner and thinner. So let god die and go to a good afterlife. Face the real world without imaginary crutches.

  391. #392 SC, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Little sneaky strawman jab.

    must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two. None.

    From a quick Pubmed search:

    “Functional brain interactions that serve cognitive-affective processing during pain and placebo analgesia”

    Abstract:

    Pain requires the integration of sensory, cognitive, and affective information. The use of placebo is a common methodological ploy in many fields, including pain. Neuroimaging studies of pain and placebo analgesia (PA) have yet to identify a mechanism of action. Because PA must result from higher-order processes, it is likely influenced by cognitive and affective dimension of the pain experience. A network of brain regions involved in these processes includes: the anterior and posterior insula (A-Ins, P-Ins), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and the supplementary motor area (SMA). We used connectivity analyses to investigate the underlying mechanisms associated with placebo analgesia in a group of chronic pain patients. Structural equation models (SEM) of fMRI data evaluated the interregional connectivity of these regions across three conditions: 1) initial baseline (B1), 2) placebo (PA), and 3) placebo match (PM). SEM results of B1 data in the left hemisphere confirmed hypothesized regional relationships. However, interregional relationships were dynamic and the network models varied across hemisphere and conditions. Deviations from the B1 model in the PA and PM conditions correspond to our manipulation of expectation for pain. The dynamic changes in interregional influence across conditions are interpreted in the context of a self-reinforcing feedback loop involved in the induction and maintenance of PA. Although it is likely that placebo analgesia results partly from afferent inhibition of a nociceptive signal, the mechanisms likely involve the interaction of a cognitive-affective network with input from both hemispheres.

    “Placebo effects on human ?-opioid activity during pain”

    Abstract:

    Placebo-induced expectancies have been shown to decrease pain in a manner reversible by opioid antagonists, but little is known about the central brain mechanisms of opioid release during placebo treatment. This study examined placebo effects in pain by using positron-emission tomography with [11C]carfentanil, which measures regional ?-opioid receptor availability in vivo. Noxious thermal stimulation was applied at the same temperature for placebo and control conditions. Placebo treatment affected endogenous opioid activity in a number of predicted ?-opioid receptor-rich regions that play central roles in pain and affect, including periaqueductal gray and nearby dorsal raphe and nucleus cuneiformis, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, insula, rostral anterior cingulate, and lateral prefrontal cortex. These regions appeared to be subdivided into two sets, one showing placebo-induced opioid activation specific to noxious heat and the other showing placebo-induced opioid reduction during warm stimulation in anticipation of pain. These findings suggest that a mechanism of placebo analgesia is the potentiation of endogenous opioid responses to noxious stimuli. Opioid activity in many of these regions was correlated with placebo effects in reported pain. Connectivity analyses on individual differences in endogenous opioid system activity revealed that placebo treatment increased functional connectivity between the periaqueductal gray and rostral anterior cingulate, as hypothesized a priori, and also increased connectivity among a number of limbic and prefrontal regions, suggesting increased functional integration of opioid responses. Overall, the results suggest that endogenous opioid release in core affective brain regions is an integral part of the mechanism whereby expectancies regulate affective and nociceptive circuits.

  392. #393 Owlmirror
    January 2, 2009

    An interesting paper…

    http://www.jclinepi.com/article/S0895-4356(05)00404-X/abstract

    Volume 50, Issue 12, Pages 1311-1318 (December 1997)

    The Powerful Placebo Effect: Fact or Fiction?

    Gunver S Kienlea, Helmut Kienea

    Accepted 20 August 1997.
    Abstract

    In 1955, Henry K. Beecher published the classic work entitled “The Powerful Placebo.” Since that time, 40 years ago, the placebo effect has been considered a scientific fact. Beecher was the first scientist to quantify the placebo effect. He claimed that in 15 trials with different diseases, 35% of 1082 patients were satisfactorily relieved by a placebo alone. This publication is still the most frequently cited placebo reference.

    Recently Beecher’s article was reanalyzed with surprising results: In contrast to his claim, no evidence was found of any placebo effect in any of the studies cited by him. There were many other factors that could account for the reported improvements in patients in these trials, but most likely there was no placebo effect whatsoever.

    False impressions of placebo effects can be produced in various ways. Spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, additional treatment, conditional switching of placebo treatment, scaling bias, irrelevant response variables, answers of politeness, experimental subordination, conditioned answers, neurotic or psychotic misjudgment, psychosomatic phenomena, misquotation, etc.

    These factors are still prevalent in modern placebo literature. The placebo topic seems to invite sloppy methodological thinking. Therefore awareness of Beecher’s mistakes and misinterpretations is essential for an appropriate interpretation of current placebo literature.

  393. #394 SC, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Sigh. Another one who should start reading NeuroLogica:

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/

  394. #395 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    So, would a Christian metaphysicist/theologist like MTC similarly argue that because there’s “no possible connection, physical or chemical” between the body and mind, God himself is stroking my penis to erection when I anticipate a romantic evening with a significant other?

    It would seem easy then for God to put an end to homosexuality; all he’d have to do is stop physically arousing homosexuals when their minds conceive of perversion.

  395. #396 SC, OM
    January 2, 2009

    Especially this one, which I just linked to the other day (no response, of course):

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=312

  396. #397 SC, OM
    January 2, 2009

    I’m almost afraid to hear the next in Brownian’s series of examples.
    :)

  397. #398 John Morales
    January 2, 2009

    I think the coverage of the placebo effect at the Skeptic’s Dictionary is quite informative.

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical[*], between the two.

    What? Beliefs are thoughts, and thoughts occur in the brain, physically connected to the body (being part of it, and all :).

    I wonder if MTC will next raise the mind/body “problem”.

    The scientific approach to that seems to be promising: “Nature Neuroscience 11, 1245 – 1246 (2008) doi:10.1038/nn1108-1245
    Combined population activity is usually used to control neural prosthetics. A recent study in Nature finds that a single primary motor cortex neuron can control the artificial stimulation of paralyzed wrist muscles to move a computer cursor.”

    There was a related post recently here, too.

    * That’s redundant; a chemical connection is a physical connection.

  398. #399 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    I’m almost afraid to hear the next in Brownian’s series of examples.

    Well, I aim to please (if not to avoid the wrath of any females who might share my bathroom).

    Seriously though, metaphysicists and theologists are renowned for partial arguments and incomplete thoughts. I’m just here to remind them that if my thoughts about a pill cause God to manipulate my T-cells because How Can the Mind Influence The Body If Not For Angels? then the same holds true for any physiological responses to my thoughts about Mary.

    If we’re gonna credit the nebulous-but-clearly-Christian god with healing the sick, then we’d better give him his due for stiffening my dick.

  399. #400 Jadehawk
    January 2, 2009

    this is what i love about this blog. people know how to find real science to make their point, instead of just making shit up. :-p

  400. #401 Kel
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two.

    The state of mind alters the state of body?!? NEVER!!!

  401. #402 Wowbagger
    January 2, 2009

    Even the most reductionist among you must be shaken by the fact that a belief can result in a physical effect when there is no possible connection, physical or chemical, between the two.

    MT, try a visit to India to see the mystics and fakirs. You’ll be a Hindu in no time…

  402. #403 Owlmirror
    January 2, 2009

    Looks like I messed up the link @#393:

    http://www.jclinepi.com/article/S0895-4356(97)00203-5/abstract

    And the “a” at the ends of the authors’ names appear to be extraneous. They should read “Gunver S Kienle, Helmut Kiene”.

    I see they are also mentioned in the Skepdic entry linked to @#398, which has plenty of additional interesting citations.

  403. #404 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    January 2, 2009

    So, would a Christian metaphysicist/theologist like MTC similarly argue that because there’s “no possible connection, physical or chemical” between the body and mind, God himself is stroking my penis to erection when I anticipate a romantic evening with a significant other?

    You’ve heard of the hand of god working in many ways haven’t you?

  404. #405 Brownian, OM
    January 2, 2009

    You’ve heard of the hand of god working in many ways haven’t you?

    Yeah, but I’ve never heard it used as a plug for Jergens.

  405. #406 Sastra
    January 2, 2009

    I’ve been away from this thread a few days, but I suspected that MT’s argument was eventually going to get into either mind/brain dualism, or idealistic monism. His regular references to ‘guiding forces’ for both evolution and Intelligent Design was a clue. I was also a little surprised by an offhand reference he made a good way back to “allopathic medicine.” That’s alt-med language, though in context I couldn’t tell if he was using the term sarcastically or not.

    The only way anyone can confidently state that there is “no possible connection, physical or chemical,” between a belief in the mind and a physical effect in the body is if mind/brain physicalism has been ruled out. Which, according to mainstream neurology, it hasn’t been. On the contrary, it’s the current working theory. So using “the placebo effect” as an example of, or analogy to, some new mysterious causative process at work in the universe (assuming that’s what he’s doing) is I think a bad idea: the example is at least as controversial as what he’s trying to claim.

  406. #407 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 2, 2009

    Yeah, but I’ve never heard it used as a plug for Jergens.

    Judging from his other actions around the world, I figure him for going at it dry.

  407. #408 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    I agree with Sastra, MT is leading up to something. And when he throws it at the wall, instead of looking at his conclusion in the awe, and giving the high fives he expects, we will all say it looks like the shit it is, and he will be sorely disappointed. I’ve been detecting eau de fecal matter ever since his first post.

  408. #409 SC, OM
    January 2, 2009

    I was also a little surprised by an offhand reference he made a good way back to “allopathic medicine.” That’s alt-med language, though in context I couldn’t tell if he was using the term sarcastically or not.

    I was struck by that as well, and wondered the same thing (sarcasm seemed unlikely).

  409. #410 Sastra
    January 2, 2009

    Just for fun, I went back to #328:

    4) I am trained in biology and medicine, have practiced the latter for probably more years than some of you have been alive (which, yes is gratuitous and irrelevant, but still sort of fun to tell the grandchildren who, like all little kids, can’t imagine a past earlier than their own lives), keep up with all of the latest medical literature, eschew all “pop” science and specially that which pertains to the practice of rigorously scientific allopathic medicine;

    He eschews (shuns, avoids) “pop” science — which includes “rigorously scientific allopathic medicine?” Huh?

    Unless he’s gotten a bit muddled with this sentence, it sounds like MT might be a homeopath — or perhaps a chiropractor (Palmer school.) If so, the woo is deep in this one…

  410. #411 Nerd of Redhead
    January 2, 2009

    Looking up allopathic medicine at Wikipedia indicates that it can almost mean anything, including standard scientific based medical practices, but also almost any alternative medicine except homeopathy (gotta love non-caloric Placebo in good old memory lacking dihydogenmonoxide). I just love it when the words are almost meaningless because they lack precision. As Sastra says, the woo is strong in this one….

    What I admire about this site is that there is always somebody more expert than our trolls (and me) hanging around waiting to pounce.

  411. #412 Kel
    January 2, 2009

    It’s amazing how fundamentally this troll has shifted. Firstly it was on intelligent design, then it was abiogenesis and now it’s on placebos. Betting it moves to dualism quite soon.

    Though I’ve got to say talking with him has been far less painful than most ID advocates. Randy should take notes :P

  412. #413 Panther Hunter
    January 23, 2010

    Perhaps I’ve missed a great deal here and please forgive any question that sounds ridiculously elementary … I am here to learn!

    How do you gentlemen / scientists (evolutionists) propose that proteins were able to “self assemble” from amino without DNA (impossible unless you believe in “magic” considering self replication REQUIRES DNA – perhaps amino acids have the ability, unbeknown to ANY scientist other than those postulating evolution, to self construct 100s of molecular compounds or sequences – proteins / transcription)? And PLEASE do not reply with some fairy tale poppy-cock regarding “random variation”. Also, PLEASE do not hypothesize on natural selection as it requires self replication and as we all know that would require DNA. I’ll borrow from the “simple folk” and offer that ANY suggestion that DNA “happened by chance” is akin to a tornado passing through a junk yard and somehow miraculously piecing together a 747 – NEVER POSSIBLE, NO MATTER WHAT.

    Please educate me …

    P.S. I have no relation to the “religious” fellow you all are arguing with but will study on him as I await your reply(s) … thanks.

  413. #414 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 23, 2010

    Please educate me …

    You are too ignorant to do so in this blog setting. Try taking biology and biochemistry classes at the college level, and your questions will be answered. Until then, try TalkOrigins. Real science, for those interested in answers to non-rhetorical questions.

  414. #415 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 23, 2010

    Panther Hunter

    1)First, your question is irrelevant to evolution, becuase evolution has to do with the propagation of genetic traits into the next generation and beyond–which presumes an existent genome–that is, DNA. What you are talking about is abiogenesis–an area of active and promising scientific inquiry. It is a mistake to prejudge such an area of inquiry.

    2)The building blocks of proteins, amino acids, are found even in interstellar media, so they aren’t exactly rare. Do you propose that these building blocks never interact chemically without DNA?

    3)Who is to say that DNA (or more likely RNA) did not evolve in advance complex proteins. After all, viruses are little more than strands of DNA/RNA.

    4)Why not engage on an active thread, rather than try to have the last word on an inactive one? The elapsed 3 months since the last entry kind of give you away as a wannabe that can only win whan you are the only one in the thread, don’t they?

  415. #416 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ
    February 12, 2010

    Is it just me, but it seems that a lot of you have been indoctrinated by the farse that is EVOLUTION. It is a ridiculous THEORY (not fact) of how something came from nothing to create US. And has anyone dare considered the complexity of DNA??? I recommend you all go home and do some UN-BIAS research on your so-called FACT.
    And have a read of the book that was written at the time:
    THE BIBLE!!!

  416. #417 John Morales
    February 12, 2010

    id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ, I cannot tell whether your comment is intended as parody, but I tend towards that interpretation (because bad as it is, the alternative is worse).

  417. #418 Kel, OM
    February 12, 2010

    I always wonder about those who put credence in the idea that God wrote the bible – I mean, they are appealing to an eyewitness testimony they were not witness to. Did anyone see God write the bible? And if so, who saw the witnesses witness the event?

    Gah, I see where this is going. If only people would just look at the data and work from there.

  418. #419 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ
    February 13, 2010

    Now what you don’t realize is that God wrote the bible through people like Moses and David, (of course if you had done your homework you would already know this), so basically it is like someone dictating to their scribe. They are not physically writing it but still controlling what content goes into it.

  419. #420 Kel, OM
    February 13, 2010

    Now what you don’t realize is that God wrote the bible through people like Moses and David, (of course if you had done your homework you would already know this)

    From my understanding, Moses was more of a mythic figure and the books that were classically attributed to him have been analysed and shown to be the work of 4 separate sources over the course of hundreds of years. The documentary hypothesis I believe scholars call it, but of course if you had done your homework you would already know this. (see how condescending that sounds?)

    so basically it is like someone dictating to their scribe

    Really, how can you know that this happened? Did anyone see God physically dictating to them, or was it just claimed that God was talking to them? Because the great thing about saying something is the word of God is that no-one can say it wasn’t. Do you think the Koran the final word of God? Why/ why not? How can we trust the bible over the koran or vice versa?

    They are not physically writing it but still controlling what content goes into it.

    So where does human free will fit into all this? If the authors had free will, then there’s no reason to trust that they dictated accurately because they were free to do otherwise.

  420. #421 Rorschach
    February 13, 2010

    Now what you don’t realize is that God wrote the bible through people like Moses and David

    And you know this how ? And you know those 2 figures you mention actually lived how?

    They are not physically writing it but still controlling what content goes into it.

    I’m curious, since you seem to have such intimate knowledge of these matters. The whole thing with the foreskins, was that god or Moses ?

  421. #422 Kel, OM
    February 13, 2010

    See, the confusion that arises for me is that theists attest profusely that God is the author of Nature. And there is a discipline to study nature, it’s science. So why would anyone look to a book of mythology for finding out about God’s work, instead of just looking at Nature itself? I mean, when we see galaxies billions of light years away and a progressive fossil record – it would mean that if God is indeed the author of the bible, then she’s either lying about the bible or lied through the appearance of Nature.

    Honestly if I were a Christian, I’d be looking to scientific inquiry to understand God instead of trying to take a story derived from Babylonian myth some 2600 years ago to be the Absolute TruthTM.

    Oh well…

  422. #423 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ
    February 14, 2010

    Since there is a “progressive fossil record” then explain to me why we have no missing link??? P.S disproven examples do not count, e.g. Piltdown man.
    Moses is a real person, he parted the sea after all. Just because you cannot see the wind does not mean it is not there, you can feel it, the same applies to God, you cannot see him, yet you can feel his presence. Just ask anyone saved through Christ. I would like to see one example of someone who has had there life changed because of the of their atheistic views.

  423. #424 John Morales
    February 14, 2010

    id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ,

    Since there is a “progressive fossil record” then explain to me why we have no missing link???

    To what do you refer by “missing link”?

  424. #425 John Morales
    February 14, 2010

    [ObCan'tResist]

    PS: Pharyngula has a Piltdown man specimen in the Dungeon.

  425. #426 Rorschach
    February 14, 2010

    /fish-in-barrel mode

    Just because you cannot see the wind does not mean it is not there, you can feel it, the same applies to God, you cannot see him, yet you can feel his presence. Just ask anyone saved through Christ any schizophrenic who has ever had delusions.

    Fixed.

    /end fish-in-barrel mode

  426. #427 Kel, OM
    February 14, 2010

    Since there is a “progressive fossil record” then explain to me why we have no missing link???

    Missing link is an outdated concept, the term is transitional fossils. And if you want to see transitional forms in the fossil record, just google “Horse evolution” or “whale evolution”. Or if you want something closer to home, google “human evolution fossils“. Unsurprisingly Piltdown Man isn’t one of them, because it was shown by the scientific community to be a fraud.

    Moses is a real person, he parted the sea after all.

    Great, where’s the evidence that this event took place? You need to show it to biblical archaeologists because last I heard there’s no evidence outside of the bible for Moses’ existence.

    Just because you cannot see the wind does not mean it is not there, you can feel it, the same applies to God, you cannot see him, yet you can feel his presence.

    We can scientifically detect wind – we know it is a force in our world, can we scientifically detect God?

    Just ask anyone saved through Christ.

    And what of those who have found salvation in other religions? I’ve had people flat-out tell me they were psychic, that they could read other’s minds. And they were genuine too.

    I would like to see one example of someone who has had there life changed because of the of their atheistic views.

    I’ve talked to plenty of people who have had this – that they felt liberated when they finally realised there was no God, that they felt relief when they realised there’s no reason to fear hell. Though that hardly matters, the truth of the matter of whether there are gods is not going to be solved by anyone adhering to anything. Muslims in Australia have the lowest rate of suicide of any group – does this say anything about the truth of Islam?

    By the way, why didn’t you answer my question on divine authorship? It seems simple enough, how can you claim that the Bible is divinely authored while the Koran isn’t? Both claim to be by their followers, both were written by men – why is the Bible God’s word and the Koran not? (personally I don’t think either is God’s word, or that there even is a God. Part of that is because the same form of evidence to validate religion is the same form of evidence to validate alien abduction – personal testimony and eyewitness accounts when hard evidence is needed. Show me the alienGod)

  427. #428 Rey Fox
    February 14, 2010

    Still boggles my mind how no amount of fossil/microscopic evidence can mean anything to a creationist, but a moldy old book of fifth-hand “eyewitness” reports is all they need for the most unbelievable being of all. Must be the “sneezing trees” principle.

    “Dad, what causes wind?”
    “Trees sneezing.”
    “Really?”
    “No, but the truth is more complicated.

    “The trees are really sneezing today.”

  428. #429 Kel, OM
    February 14, 2010

    More than anything I’m betting that this creationist like most others has not been exposed to the fossil record – and even if they were now they still wouldn’t get it because they don’t actually understand how evolution works.

    Hopefully the creationist googles “feathered dinosaurs” to see what comes up.

  429. #430 Kel, OM
    February 14, 2010

    And just for completeness sake, again it needs to be pointed out that evolution doesn’t mean atheism. Evolution is a scientific theory covering the change and diversifying of life over time, atheism is the philosophical position that there are no such things as interventionist deities. One can still believe in salvation through Christ while maintaining that evolution is how God made us.

  430. #431 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ
    February 15, 2010

    I’m just going to ignore the comments criticizing the person (me) because that is debating edicate. (attack the argument not the person). Feathered dinosaur guy: take a look at this: http://creation.com/skeptics-australian-museum-feathered-dinosaur-display
    Its based around one of Australia’s museums showing a controversial exhibit.
    And why is it that the missing link argument seems to become ammunition when evolutionists need it, and when creationists go to challenge it, it becomes outdated.

  431. #432 Kel, OM
    February 15, 2010

    Feathered dinosaur guy: take a look at this

    I did, it doesn’t make a bit of difference to what evolution predicts. For someone whose asking for the absence of ad hominems, you’ve linked to an article which is about poisoning the well.

    The issue over feathered dinosaurs was whether evolutionary theory predicted such creatures would exist. It does. You’re missing the basic issue at play here, evolution actually predicts that such creatures should exist. That they want to call it a “missing link” is hardly the issue – the fossils are there!

    This is the problem with creationists, they care not for the science. What does the science say about feathered dinosaurs? What does it say about early tetrapods? pre-human hominids? Ancient horses? If you want to talk the science, then talk science. Not an exhibit in the museum, but the science itself. Do feathered dinosaurs support evolution? Yes they do. As to the transitional forms showing the gradual change in morphology from dinosaurs to birds. This is what evolution predicts. You’re missing that point, why?

  432. #433 Kel, OM
    February 15, 2010

    By the way “You’re wrong because you’re an idiot” – ad hominem. “You’re an idiot” – not an ad hominem. “You’re wrong for X, Y & Z. You idiot” – not an ad hominem.

    Making an ad hominem fallacy is using personal abuse to dismiss an argument. “John is fat therefore John is wrong about tax cuts” is an ad hominem because it’s attacking the person to conclude he’s wrong. Saying “John is fat” is not a fallacy as it’s not being used to dismiss what John is saying. However “John is wrong on tax cuts because those cuts would take away resources vital to stimulating the economy. That guy is really fat!” is not an ad hominem because it’s not being used in a fallacious context. The argument has been addressed for the arguments merits.

    If you’re going to call out using fallacies, it helps to understand the fallacy you’re trying to use.

  433. #434 Jadehawk, OM
    February 15, 2010

    And why is it that the missing link argument seems to become ammunition when evolutionists need it, and when creationists go to challenge it, it becomes outdated.

    because 1)not all people who reject the silliness that is Creationism on its own terms are that well versed in Science; (also, edutainment sux; most newspapers wouldn’t know real science if it bit them in the ass) and 2)because you’re evidently not equipped to understand arguments about transitional fossils and transitional features, so in your head they all sound like “missing link”.

    Fossils with transitional features are a-dime-a-dozen; “missing links” are a crude, misleading oversimplification rather than actual science, and as such don’t actually have a place in serious discussions about science.

  434. #435 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmmZf19beAQvGgNQQIW4pkHPyNoV8e4GKQ
    February 16, 2010

    I’m giving up on you guys. A lost cause if you will. All I ask is for you to read the bible.

  435. #436 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 16, 2010

    I’m giving up on you guys. A lost cause if you will. All I ask is for you to read the bible.

    You can’t provide conclusive physical evidence for your imaginary deity, which means the babble is a work of myth/fiction. I’ve read it twice, so I know what I am talking about. Nothing “god” inspired there. Just men being mean and amoral.

  436. #437 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 16, 2010

    I’m giving up on you guys. A lost cause if you will. All I ask is for you to read the bible.

    You assume no one here has read that book of myths and fairy tales.

    hilarious

  437. #438 Kel, OM
    February 16, 2010

    I’m giving up on you guys. A lost cause if you will. All I ask is for you to read the bible.All we asked of you was to understand evolution as scientists understand it. Was that too much to ask? After all, this is purely a scientific matter. You don’t go into a medical conference and argue that dementia is caused by demonic posession if only they’d read the bible and see.

    Likewise, if you want to argue evolution you need to understand evolution. Is that really too much to ask of you? Is it that hard to get onto Amazon.com and buy Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne or Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin? And you have the nerve to write us off as a lost cause?

    For the record, I’ve read the genesis account. It’s not science, it’s not even an attempt at being scientific. It’s mythology, pure and simple. Mythology is not a literal account of history, but a metaphor about who we are and what our relationship with the outside world entails. Not a step by step account of how things happened, it covers existential and ethical questions and considerations. Do you actually think there was a literal talking snake, and some making fruit that contained knowledge? One would hope not, because these aren’t meant to be literal accounts of history – it’s a story about the loss of innocence and the corrupt nature of humanity.

    All the evidence points to an old earth, an even older universe, and that we like every other species on the planet is a product of evolution. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of this view. Now does this validate or invalidate the bible? Does it mean that God doesn’t exist or that Jesus isn’t the saviour of mankind? Of course not, it’s describing how things happened. Whether there is a deity or deities is external to the question of evolution.

    So if you’re not going to even bother to learn the basics of what you’re arguing against, then it is you who is a lost cause and close minded. Why don’t you have the intellectual honesty to read up on the basics of what you’re professing to argue against?

  438. #439 Brownian, OM
    February 16, 2010

    I’m giving up on you guys. A lost cause if you will. All I ask is for you to read the bible.

    Fool. Don’t you know that God has hardened our hearts? Your quarrel is thus with him, not us.

    If you’ve got the guts, why not take your tongue out of his imaginary ass for a moment and ask yourself some real tough theological questions about the god of the bible?

  439. #440 aratina cage of the OM
    February 16, 2010

    All I ask is for you to read the bible.

    Only if you read the true story of Harry Potter from wonderful beginning to glorious end. It’s real, not fiction, remember that. Harry Potter is real. Real!

  440. #441 Brownian, OM
    February 16, 2010

    Man, I can’t believe Christians today. Giving up? Jesus hung out with lepers, tax collectors and prostitutes, and this prissy little pretender can’t stand to have dirty hands for a second.

    I hope when this joker’s at the gates to heaven and Jesus asks him what happened with the atheists on Pharyngula he was sent to convert, he responds with the traditional “Am I my brother’s keeper?” before lamenting that he gave up on us because following Christ’s teachings was just too hard. (Insert sound of cherubs playing the violin here.)

    Read your own fucking bible, you goddamn hypocrite.

  441. #442 Owlmirror
    February 17, 2010

    I’m just going to ignore the comments criticizing the person (me) because that is debating edicate.

    Etiquette.

    And while I applaud your thick skin, I note that debate is redundant. Science has won. Creationists have nothing but failed rhetoric.

    And why is it that the missing link argument seems to become ammunition when evolutionists need it, and when creationists go to challenge it, it becomes outdated.

    ?

    What, exactly, do you think a “missing link” is?

    Does it look like what is depicted in the fourth image down on this page?

    I’m giving up on you guys.

    Alas.

    All I ask is for you to read the bible.

    What purpose would that serve?

    Does the bible prove that some scientific fact is false? Where and how does it do so?

    Does it prove that the scientific method is false? Where and how does it do so?

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