Pharyngula

False equivalence

I’ve been seeing this argument a lot lately: it’s a brand of exceedingly indiscriminate relativism that is being prominently peddled by Answers in Genesis.

Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians, all have the same evidence–the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars—the facts are all the same.

i-1daa5fbaf934a7b99304a6a02d5f246f-dichotomy.jpeg

The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.

It’s true, I do have some presuppositions. I think that explanations should deal with as much of the evidence as possible; they should avoid contradictions, both internal and with the evidence from the physical world; they should be logical; they should make predictions that can be tested; they should have some utility in addressing new evidence. It’s not too much to ask, I don’t think. “Darwin” is not one of my presuppositions, however. Charles Darwin provided a set of explanations that, after some modification, meet my criteria. I am quite prepared to throw Darwin out, however, if a better explanation came along or if evidence that contradicted his ideas were discovered.

I am not prepared to throw out logic and consistency. The creationists are.

Their cartoon version of equivalence highlights their problem. If we all have the same facts and just different interpretations based on what book we use as a starting premise, how do we discriminate between better interpretations? Are they all equally valid? Imagine “Darwin” replaced with “Koran” — do they really want to argue that the Islamic vision of the world is just as useful as the Christian view? (I would, of course, but that’s because I think both are foolish and narrow.) Swap in the Book of Mormon: that does not mean that suddenly there is truth to the notion of pale-skinned Hebrews warring across the New World in bronze chariots. The existence of Lord of the Rings does not imply that Tolkien fans should believe the world really was populated with elves and orcs, once upon a time.

There are presuppositions, and then there are presuppositions. We should at least try to test our premises, and I think we can all agree that it is possible to rank different presuppositions on the basis of how well they describe reality. Most of us can recognize that Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars are fictions, that what they describe doesn’t exist, and that they probably aren’t very good filters to use in evaluating paleontological evidence. That someone who has accepted The Force as his one true religion does not mean that his claim that Homo erectus is a Wookie requires recognition as a reasonable interpretation.

Similarly, the Bible does not hold up well as a rational presupposition. Its descriptions of how the world works (and, as every rational person knows, it was not intended as a science textbook) are inadequate and full of errors. The portions of the book of Genesis that creationists use as their sole source for the origin of life on Earth is only a few lines of vague poetry, with two self-contradicting accounts of the sequence of events…and it’s a sequence that does not correspond at all well to the observed record of events, and that blithely lumps fish and birds into one useless catch-all category. If this is their lens for viewing the world, it’s a cracked one that is almost entirely opaque.

And no, the fact that the Bible contains one line that mentions a mythical creature called Behemoth does not mean it adequately accounts for all of large animal zoology, nor can one simply claim it is equivalent to a dinosaur, and therefore the Bible is a complete account of the history of life. Dinosaurs were diverse. And shouldn’t it be a greater omission that the Bible fails to mention anything about bacteria?

The patently incomplete nature of the Bible’s descriptions of Earth’s history led honest creationists to admit that further understanding of the Creation required evaluation of the physical evidence. You can’t just claim that humans and dinosaurs coexisted 6,000 years ago: there is no fossil evidence that they were contemporaries, there is no sign of dinosaurs existing so close to the current time, and even within the period of the Mesozoic we can find evidence of faunal succession — the forms found in the Triassic are different from those of the Jurassic are different from those of the Cretaceous. It is not sufficient to simply claim the Bible is your presupposition, therefore you can freely invent facts to fit it — there ought to be some corroborating evidence that shows your interpretations are reasonable. There aren’t any.

And please, when your presuppositions lead to ridiculous assertions, it’s time to question your premises. One of the examples this silly AiG article uses to justify its peculiar relativism is the interpretation of dating methods. Can you see the glaring problem in this rationale from the disgracefully sloppy work of Russell Humphreys?

Consider the research from the creationist RATE group (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) concerning the age of zircon crystals in granite. Using one set of assumptions, these crystals could be interpreted to be around 1.5 billion years old based on the amount of lead produced from the decay of uranium (which also produces helium). However, if one questions these assumptions, one is motivated to test them. Measurements of the rate at which helium is able to “leak out” of these crystals indicate that if they were much older than about 6,000 years, they would have nowhere near the amount of helium still left in them. Hence, the originally applied assumption of a constant decay rate is flawed; one must assume, instead, that there has been acceleration of the decay rate in the past. Using this revised assumption, the same uranium-lead data can now be interpreted to also give an age of fewer than 6,000 years.

Using their Biblical presupposition, they need to explain away the evidence of the accumulation of radioactive decay products by assuming that decay rates were roughly one million fold greater in the recent past. They are making a “revised assumption” that would mean that the planet should have exploded into a great glowing cloud of hot vapor a few thousand years ago! Shouldn’t that sort of compel you to rethink your excuses? But no, these guys just sail past the glaring contradiction with empirical reality as if it didn’t exist.

There’s a good reason creationism is not regarded as a fair equivalent to the scientific point of view. It’s because the former fails to pay attention to the physical evidence, while the latter is built, not on presuppositions, but on that evidence.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Hawkins
    December 29, 2008

    Creationists are well-known for making false arguments. It’s what they have to do when science refutes their inanity.

  2. #2 co
    December 29, 2008

    Similarly, the Bible does not hold up well as a rational presupposition. It’s descriptions of how the world works (and, as every rational person knows, it was not intended as a science textbook) are inadequate and full of errors.

    Spot-on, PZ, but please remove that apostrophe!

  3. #3 Levi in NY
    December 29, 2008

    Ummm…I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a hair color that is quite distinct from my skin color, and there is a clearly visible boundary between the two. Also, I typically refrain from gluing books to the side of my head.

  4. #4 schism
    December 29, 2008

    So, was Jack Chick stumping for AiG in ’04? Darwin Brain’s nose seems to have caught a serious case of the Caricature Jew.

  5. #5 watercat
    December 29, 2008

    What are those two bible citatins up at the top for? I looked them up but don’t see how they are relevant to anything. ??

  6. #6 co
    December 29, 2008

    Isaiah 40:28? “His understanding none can fathom.”

    Well, no shit.

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    December 29, 2008

    Actually, we don’t start with the same facts that they do, however we define that term.

    One fact that we depend upon is that relationships can be determined by similarity. That fact, which they also rely upon in DNA tests on criminals, is one that they simply throw out when it is inconvenient for them.

    So no, they don’t start with the same facts, they disallow any that will falsify their “conclusions”.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  8. #8 Bjørn Østman
    December 29, 2008

    I don’t get these quotes either:

    Psalm 104:24 (New International Version)

    24 How many are your works, O LORD!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.

    Isaiah 40:28 (New International Version)

    28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    I also wonder exactly to whose benefit they are quoting the Bible all the time. Who does this make sense to?

  9. #9 the pro from dover
    December 29, 2008

    Creationism (or intelligent design for that matter) is not a scientific alternative to evolution, it is a metaphysical alternative to science. The conflation of science and metaphysics is not difficult in a society where the difference between these 2 epistemologic pathways is never taught is schools, even in science classes at the high school level. It is not rare to see college educated adults who can not and do not distinguish between testimonials and peer reviewed research. It is not difficult to go from philosophy to religion once it has been established that it is just a viewpoint difference from science in interpreting findings. Even St. Augustine so many centuries ago recognized this, and cautioned Christians about it.

  10. #10 J
    December 29, 2008

    Excellent post. What really annoys me is that to accept the vapid arguments of the creationists, you really need to repress your critical thinking skills. What I mean is, anyone capable of making these assertions could probably see how stupid they are, if they really wanted to.

  11. #11 Iason Ouabache
    December 29, 2008

    Great post! The whole Creationist tact of yelling “LOL, INTERPRETATION” anytime they are shown to be wrong was getting really really old really fast. It’s like they assume that reality will go away if they pray hard enough.

    Ironically Conservapedia is the one that accuses “liberals” of being relativistic.

  12. #12 Tim Fuller
    December 29, 2008

    We need more funding in our school system for teaching common logical fallacies and the use of sophist rhetorical tricks.

    Once fluent in those subjects, ID and religulous “axioms” won’t stand a chance.

    Enjoy.

  13. #13 Screechy Monkey
    December 29, 2008

    The Theory of Relativity is false. I can prove it!

    1. Revise the Einsteinist assumption that c = 3 * 10^8 m/s. Assume instead that c = 50 mph.

    2. Last week, my car went faster than the speed of light.

    3. Therefore, relativity is false. Please send me my Nobel Prize.

    Hey, this is easy! I am one Happy Monkey!

  14. #14 Big Mike
    December 29, 2008

    creationist want to take the evidence and create what it means. evolutionist want to take that evidence and test it to prove what it means.

  15. #15 Stephen
    December 29, 2008

    Measurements of the rate at which helium is able to “leak out” of these crystals indicate that if they were much older than about 6,000 years, they would have nowhere near the amount of helium still left in them.

    How convenient that their “observations” happen to match up with an age of the earth that was derived by counting lineages in the Bible. That’s another fundamental difference between science and creation – the scientific age of the earth was determined by observation, and modified as new observations were made; it wasn’t decided upon dogmatically and “proved” ex post facto the way the Biblical age of the earth was.

  16. #16 CalGeorge
    December 29, 2008

    “The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts.”

    And your way sucks.

  17. #17 Matthew
    December 29, 2008

    There is a reason they called it “blind” faith – you just have to believe, no questions, no evidence. Science is the opposite. You don’t *have* to just believe in something. You can look at the evidence, you can attempt to refute evidence. You can attempt to reproduce experiments. You can use logic, reasoning, and a wide array of scientific tools to satisfy yourself that yes, evolution offers the absolute best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet.

    Or, you can hold your hands together, tap your heels together and BLINDLY say “God did it” without having to use your brain.

    What bothers me even more is that this “blind” aspect is actually something the religious are proud of! They believe themselves to be open-minded and that scientists are closed minded. And that includes all those that are not classicly religious and believe in spirits and other nonsense. What they fail to understand is that scientists are the most open minded people out there. They understand that there is SO MUCH MORE that they do not know and they are constantly looking to find it. Personally, I’m willing to believe absolutely anything is true. My one tiny little requirement is that you show it to me first….

  18. #18 RamblinDude
    December 29, 2008

    Spot on. Unfortunately, your rationality is in competition with praising jesus in a group.

    Sure, science has logic and sense, intellectual integrity and evidence on its side, but creationists have social gatherings where they raise their arms over their heads and sway back and forth and weep happy tears and focus on feeling wanted.

    Education is a formidable challenge.

  19. #19 Charlie
    December 29, 2008

    I beleive in the Emerald City and the great wizard. The TIN MAN is my prophet. I couldin’t get through the rehashed Ken Ham on his web site. The Illogic hurts. How do these people actually exist. I say we boycot giving them ANY technology untill they get reality and logic. Maybe a test of some sort?

  20. #20 Johnny Vector
    December 29, 2008

    Okay, sure, yeah. We’re starting from the same evidence as you clowns. And then we filter it through a different set of presuppositions. Oh, and while we’re at it, we pile on about a million-billion-fillion more pieces of evidence, which for some reason you clowns don’t feel the need to address.

    It goes furlongs beyond cherry-picking. It’s like there’s an entire orchard of delicious red cherries, and they find a fast-food soda cup on the ground and proceed to build their entire worldview around that.

    Also, my presuppositions are different from the creationist clowns alright. By being a subset of theirs. Basically, (1) the universe exists, and (2) logic works. You can blather all you like about your po-mo “other ways of knowing”, and I’ll just smile quietly to myself at your use of logic to try to prove that logic doesn’t work. Every creationist starts with those suppositions and then slathers a fetid blanket of bible verses over them, and calls me closed-minded. Feh.

    (Apologies to all clowns, but most especially Bill Irwin, who is apparently moving from Lucky to Vladimir.)

  21. #21 Andrés Diplotti
    December 29, 2008

    They are making a “revised assumption” that would mean that the planet should have exploded into a great glowing cloud of hot vapor a few thousand years ago!

    And yet it didn’t explode! That’s proof positive of a miracle! Explain that, you heathen Darwinists!

  22. #22 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    Ironic that the same people who insist that morality without God is completely “relative” and without any foundation are the same folks spouting this nonsense about “presuppositions.”

    No wonder. It’s all faith-based, but look how they start off with a variable and confused understanding of what they mean by “faith.” Sometimes they use the term to include all beliefs, no matter how well-grounded, because we can’t technically be 100% certain of any empirical claim — hey, we could all be in the Matrix and not know it! Other times, they use “faith” to apply to those beliefs that you want to be true, so you choose them out of hope and desire, staying loyal to them as you would to a friend.

    Thus, their mixed-up version of every viewpoint being a ‘matter of faith.’ They even end up contradicting themselves in their own arguments: if one can successfully demonstrate through reason that the radiocarbon dating system is flawed, then it’s not a presupposition, is it?

    Of course, the biggest internal contradiction comes in their claim that one ought to believe that the Bible is true because it’s the best, most reasonable explanation for our observations and evidence — and, at the same time, one ought to believe that the Bible is true because everyone should have faith in things that go beyond reason. No wonder they’re schizoid.

    The major difference between these theists and the stereotypical “we all have our own truths there is no common rational standard every view is as good as every other view” pomo weenie relativist is that the Christians agree that we all ‘choose’ our truths through leaps of faith, but one side chooses wrong because it’s got the bad people on it, and the other side chooses correctly because it has the good people.

  23. #23 schism
    December 29, 2008

    Being an ex-fundie, I think I help you out, Bjorn.

    Psalm 104:24 (New International Version)

    24 How many are your works, O LORD!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.

    Pretty easy. “Works” here refers to the universe, and since the Bible claims that God “made them all,” biology, astronomy, and geology all have it wrong.

    Isaiah 40:28 (New International Version)

    28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    I bolded the part AiG was referring to. Basically, it repeats the point of the previous passage.

    They could have saved a great deal of time by simply quoting the “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” tripe, but I think they finally realized that line doesn’t work in nonbelievers.

  24. #24 Glen Davidson
    December 29, 2008

    However, if one questions these assumptions, one is motivated to test them. Measurements of the rate at which helium is able to “leak out” of these crystals indicate that if they were much older than about 6,000 years, they would have nowhere near the amount of helium still left in them. Hence, the originally applied assumption of a constant decay rate is flawed; one must assume, instead, that there has been acceleration of the decay rate in the past. Using this revised assumption, the same uranium-lead data can now be interpreted to also give an age of fewer than 6,000 years.

    This is where one can see that their “facts” matter only if they “support” the Bible.

    The fact is that if the decay rate accelerated enormously in the past, huge amounts of helium would have escaped into the atmosphere (only a few locales are said to have retained helium at higher levels than expected). Noah would have sounded like one of the Chipmunks, and breathing in all that helium would be difficult. Indeed, probably the helium levels in our atmosphere would still be highly elevated from what they are now.

    The same dolts who claim that helium levels should be higher today if the earth were actually old don’t mind having something like 4.5 billion years of helium production happening in the last 6000 years, and they don’t give a damn that their previous “argument” shoots down their “accelerated radioactivity rates.”

    This shows how fast and loose they are with “facts.” We might say that we all start with the same facts, they just use only the ones that they like.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  25. #25 Levi in NY
    December 29, 2008

    And what’s with the capiton “Same hardware – Different operating systems”? Are they conceding to the materialist notion that our *brains* are the hardware in which our thoughts, beliefs and opinions are generated?

    Or are they calling souls “hardware”? Because that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense…

    Then again, nothing about dualism ever makes sense.

  26. #26 American Godless
    December 29, 2008

    “Creationists and evolutionists.. have the same evidence–the same facts.
    …we start with different presuppositions.. (also called axioms).”

    The problem here, as I think PZ shows, is that the “facts” are not colored so much by different “axioms” as they are by different theories. Many philosophers (and scientists) contend that there are no naked facts to be had, that all supposed factual observations (like the leakage rate of helium) are what they call “theory laden.” The real virtue of science is NOT that it is built from indisputable “facts”, but that it is built from interconnecting “theories”. On what theory does helium leak at the higher rate? On what theory does uranium decay at a million-fold faster rate and still not vaporize the Earth?

    I think the creationists really do want to pay some attention to the physical evidence (at least for appearances sake), but they think that there is some point at which they have dug down to the unquestionably true “facts”, so they can just stop thinking.. as they do when trying to make sense of their Bible. That absolute truth becomes an axiom. PZ is right: science is built, not on axiomatic presuppositions, but on evidence.. and theory, which must be reconsidered and refitted together again and again. That’s hard work. The creationists don’t want to be bothered.

  27. #27 Johnny Vector
    December 29, 2008

    And thus spake RamblinDude:

    Sure, science has logic and sense, intellectual integrity and evidence on its side, but creationists have social gatherings where they raise their arms over their heads and sway back and forth and weep happy tears and focus on feeling wanted.

    Hey, I get all that every Sunday! Down at the Pour House, with a bunch of other DC-area Steelers fans. We got joy, togetherness, sorrow (Roethlisberger works in mysterious ways), and sacramental beer.

    Course next week’s a bye week. Woddmeyegonnado??? Hey, wait, I saw some frozen waterfalls on the PA turnpike last Thursday (Christmas day!) Therefore, Jesus! I’m saved!

    Seriously, I think we could get sports-fandom to replace a lot of the attractive bits of religion. Yes, I am serious. Stop looking at me like that.

  28. #28 Erasmus, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    glen it is more complicated than that.

    because they are a priori committed to an ontological explanation, and since that explanation has grown exceedingly divorced from the evidence [as interpreted under our best empirical knowledge of nature] they find themselves ever more and more drinking from the cup of anti-realism.

    there are coherent and respectable anti-realisms. this one is not one.

    the cognitive dissonance that arises from this cacophony of consilience is further harmonic fodder for more shrieking and tilting at tritones. once you start down the anti-realist path it may become difficult to stop (particularly when one has no firm grasp of the philosophical issues involved, per the clowns and n00bs we are discussing).

    but this is all consistent with mutually exclusive notions held by individuals (a good god created the world with evil in it, or omni-max individuals immovable object irresistible force, take your pick of the myriad of nonsensical contradictory beliefs held by believers).

    once you start with a tautology (even a false one) you can prove anything.

    i think the issue is fascinating from the philo side, but jesus these fuckers are a royal pain in the ass from a pragmatic or educational perspective. i have had plenty of time to study them during this time of Festivus, there are at least 35 of them at every family get to gether i go to.

  29. #29 Tim H
    December 29, 2008

    The cartoon explanation misuses the term axiom, of course. Axioms cannot be proven by deductive reasoning because they form the beginning premises for deductive reasoning. A proposed axiom, however, can be disproved, in which case it fails as an axiom.
    Creationists treat “the bible is true” as an axiom, but as it can be shown to be wrong it fails. Since the bible is actually a collection of a very large number of claims, their “system” is vulnerable to disproof quite easily. Of course that doesn’t bother them, because creationists aren’t really using a reason-based system- they already have their answer. There is no need for the line connecting the fossil to the creationist- he doesn’t need evidence.
    The axioms underlying reasoning are not susceptable to disproof- they are at such a basic level that it is not possible to reason in an organized manner without them (Law of Identity, etc.) Didn’t Russel and Whitehead only need 9 to develope all mathmatics?

  30. #30 Erasmus, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    #26

    exactly. there are no naked facts, but that doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equal. yet this is the conclusion reached by AIG and ICR etc.

    such a position has forced them amusingly into this quandary where they accept some form of epistemological relativism that is married to an anti-realist view of science. hard to understand why then they ride on airplanes or trust medicine to rid them of the demons.

    all the bitching about postmoderns and humanists etc, and they find themselves aping their positions because only such an infirm and limp grasp of reality can be contorted to accomodate their fictional fanciful wish fulfillment narrative of creation and salvation.

    that narrative can be constructed sans the objectionable parts, but most don’t bother to do it.

  31. #31 American Godless
    December 29, 2008

    Addendum: My wife points out another way of looking at the problem: The Christian creationists are trying to “win the argument” with an absolute answer, while the evolutionary scientists are just trying to build a self-consistent description of reality, using approximate truth. As in PZ’s example, the creationists believe they have won the argument, and have completely missed the point that their claim has consequences for the self-consistent story that science is trying to build.

  32. #32 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    the pro from Dover #9 wrote:

    It is not rare to see college educated adults who can not and do not distinguish between testimonials and peer reviewed research.

    This is an excellent point, and bares repeating. Most people really, really don’t understand what happens when you require that claims meet a strict consensus through argument and demonstration. Science uses methods which try to weed out the subjective. Human beings, on the other hand, love the subjective. We’re story-tellers, comfortable with stories which we can either “believe” or “not believe” on people’s say-so.

    From Wendy Kaminer:
    “I can’t stress strongly enough how much this reliance on personal testimony and this mandate that we take personal testimony at face value contributes to the irrationalism that abounds today. It comes right out of popular therapies, and popular therapies took it straight from the religious tradition of testifying and the conflation of feelings about god’s immanence with facts about his existence.”

  33. #33 George
    December 29, 2008

    Presuppositions may lead to selective use of facts and they lead to different hypotheses about what one may hope to be true.

    But what is true is just “what is true.” The increasingly intense pressure that the facts about nature are placing on the notion of creation – be it “creationism” or the more mild science accepting belief in god – is showing in the turmoil among the believers. They must “create” room for continued belief – this is a matter of survival of thier beliefs and more importantly thier political framework – religion.

    The only predictable outcome is that cultural battle will become more intense. If the USA is to be successful as a nation into the future, there must be an increasing emphasis and excellence in science. It is clear that religious people that cannot accept the truth will become a marginalized second class or possibly bring the USA down to a marginalized nation of the future.

  34. #34 dogmeatib
    December 29, 2008

    There are simply too many problems with a young universe.

    1-The little matter of the surface of the earth becoming a microwave oven from all of the isotopes breaking down in 6000 years instead of 4.5 billion.

    2-The little matter of all of the stars in the universe being within 6,000 light years of the earth (which makes problem #1 rather insignificant by comparison).

    3-The terrible stench of 98% of all of the animal species dying in such a short period of time, though eating dead critter soup would solve the “feeding the animals” problem from the ark.

  35. #35 DuckPhup
    December 29, 2008

    Their ‘axioms’ come from the AiG ‘Statement of Faith’… i.e., a formal, twisted, perverse doctrine that recasts gullibility, irrationality, self-deception, self-delusion, willful ignorance, scientific ignorance, lies, betrayal, hypocrisy, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and toxic, drooling stupidity as divine, holy virtues, sanctioned and endorsed by ‘god’.

    It is ALL mind-numbingly stupid… but the last item is particularly noteworthy…

    “(D) 6. NO apparent, perceived, or claimed interpretation of EVIDENCE in any field, including history and chronology, CAN BE VALID if it contradicts the Scriptural record.”

  36. #36 noncarborundum
    December 29, 2008

    28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    I bolded the part AiG was referring to. Basically, it repeats the point of the previous passage.

    I had a slightly different take. I think the key part of the verse is

    his understanding no one can fathom.

    I.e., human thought alone (i.e., science) is not sufficient to comprehend the universe; true understanding comes only from the One who alone knows everything and has conveniently packaged the bits and pieces He means us to know about in his Holy Bible?.

  37. #37 Geoffrey
    December 29, 2008

    @Levy in NY (#25):

    That’s their version of ‘Framing’ for us materialist heathen.

  38. #38 Stimpy Darwin Cat
    December 29, 2008

    this ‘relativism’ is just a rehashing of the argument I first heard a quarter-century ago, as a teen: We all believe in something. Some people believe in faith, some believe in science. Science is just another belief system. Therefore, science isn’t necessarily any more valid than faith.

    The sophist’s #1 trick is to start off with a statement with which everyone will agree. After that, it’s hoped listeners will stay on board for the statements that follow.

  39. #39 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    The Christian creationists are trying to “win the argument” with an absolute answer, while the evolutionary scientists are just trying to build a self-consistent description of reality, using approximate truth.

    Yup! It’s like we’re playing chess and they are trying to punch us unconscious and steal our king.

  40. #40 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 29, 2008

    Wait a minute.

    Does this mean my Bible science book is wrong?

  41. #41 Screechy Monkey
    December 29, 2008

    “Most people really, really don’t understand what happens when you require that claims meet a strict consensus through argument and demonstration.”

    This would be why the creos are so obsessed with Darwin generally, and with their bullshit “Darwin recanted on his deathbed” story. To them it’s just all opinion, as if all the “evolutionists” didn’t look at the evidence but just figured Darwin had a cool beard and would be a good guy to follow. The creos really think that if Darwin “recanted,” modern scientists should just say “oh, well, never mind then.”

  42. #42 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    Can you see the glaring problem in this rationale from the disgracefully sloppy work of Russell Humphreys?

    I learned something today. The TalkOrigins website is still broken, but I can see anything I want if I replace http://www.talkorigins.org/ with http://toarchive.org/ including Ken Miller at the Dover trial.

  43. #43 bunnycatch3r
    December 29, 2008

    [quote]Measurements of the rate at which helium is able to “leak out” of these crystals indicate that if they were much older than about 6,000 years, they would have nowhere near the amount of helium still left in them. [/quote]
    Could anyone address this issue?

  44. #44 Feynmaniac
    December 29, 2008

    Answers in Genesis. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

    Religion seems to poison a person’s mind so much that they have no imagination left. The only way they can understand other people is through projection.

    ‘I has Jesus. They must has Jesus. Darwin discovered evilution. So Darwin there Jesus!’

    Comb through all the emails PZ gets and see often you things like: ‘You believe in a fairy tale’, ‘Evolution is a religion’, ‘Darwin is your god’, ‘You are motivated purely by ideology’,etc.

  45. #45 Jeff Darcy
    December 29, 2008

    The best answer IMO would be another diagram. On the “evolution” side it would show the input being filtered through some sort of logical machinery to produce the output. On the “creation” side it would show the input being thrown away while the output comes from a big bucket of BS. A graphical depiction of the disconnect between input and output would be more compelling than any number of reasoned explanations. My graphical skills suck, but maybe I’ll take a whack at it this evening.

  46. #46 porco dio
    December 29, 2008

    the ease with which credulous arguments like that shown in the cartoon can be debunked is proof that the faculties of creatards are not as well evolved as that of your average plumber

  47. #47 BobC
    December 29, 2008
  48. #48 JM
    December 29, 2008

    [quote]Measurements of the rate at which helium is able to “leak out” of these crystals indicate that if they were much older than about 6,000 years, they would have nowhere near the amount of helium still left in them. [/quote]
    Could anyone address this issue?

    There are three references to creationist claims about Helium and the age of the Earth at talk.origins (currently at an archive, apparently). The first I list below deals with Helium leakage from zircons. Disclaimer: I’ve not read these articles recently, and am not a specialist in the subject area.

    http://toarchive.org/faqs/helium/zircons.html
    http://toarchive.org/faqs/debate-age-of-earth.html#helium
    http://toarchive.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html#helium

  49. #49 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    This would be why the creos are so obsessed with Darwin generally, and with their bullshit “Darwin recanted on his deathbed” story.

    A year ago at a store, after letting a lady get ahead of me in line for the cashier because she appeared to be in a hurry, she started babbling about Jeebus so I told her I was an atheist, hoping she would shut up. Big mistake. Then she started babbling about Darwin, including the “Darwin threw out evolution” nonsense. I told her that was a myth, so hopefully she at least won’t keep repeating that lie in the future.

  50. #50 SOCR-4735
    December 29, 2008

    Hm, I’ve seen this cartoon somewhere before, among many like it. Funny thing is, first time I saw those I thought they were actually meant to show how ridiculous creationism is. Damn that Poe’s law.

    And, bunnycath3r #43: The “issue” you’re talking about seems to have been adressed in #34, and in some other posts as well (#34 is just the first one I saw when I scrolled up to find one that dealt with it).

  51. #51 Bronze Dog
    December 29, 2008

    I’m glad to see a big name blogger like PZ calling it for what it is: Relativism.

    I’m really into calling that spade a spade when I see it in a woo.

  52. #52 Bronze Dog
    December 29, 2008

    I told her [Darwin’s recanting] was a myth, so hopefully she at least won’t keep repeating that lie in the future.

    Unfortunately, Creationists, like the urban legend about goldfish, only have a memory of about three minutes, if any.

  53. #53 Sir Craig
    December 29, 2008

    noncarborundum:

    I think this can be interpreted in a number of ways. One, if you take the full quote of Isaiah 40:28 (NIV):

    Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    is your standard Xtianist propaganda and is a throwaway line like John 3:16. However, if the focus of the quote is the last line (“his understanding no one can fathom”) could be a not-so-subtle dig at secular (read as: fact-based) thinkers as it appears over the “evil” “Darwinist’s” head. (I base this theory on the fact “his” is not capitalized, and like any good theory is subject to review and testing.)

  54. #54 Skepoet
    December 29, 2008

    On an vaguely unrelated note: after looking on the two verses of the bible they posted above each side, they aren’t even REMOTELY relevant to the point–not only are they acting like epistemological relativists (which they condemn), they are deliberately decontextualizing their text.

  55. #55 watercat
    December 29, 2008

    But why do they have the ‘darwininst’ quoting Isaiah? Does this somehow fit into their argument–do they think isaiah is evidence in favor of evolution? God did it and no one can understand–this is what a darwinist says? WTF? Or do they just like to post bible citations on everything at random?

    Or maybe I’m looking for logic in all the wrong places.

  56. #56 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    You know, if you look at the cartoon again, it would make more sense if the two different people were both looking at a sunset, and being moved by its beauty. The Christian then thinks “look at how beautiful God made nature” and the scientist thinks “isn’t nature beautiful?”

    The creationists seem to be suggesting that everyone should approach factual conclusions from evidence the same way we approach our aesthetic reactions. Which, of course, is what they apparently do.

  57. #57 BTJ
    December 29, 2008

    Neutrality is not a bias.

  58. #58 bunnycatch3r
    December 29, 2008

    @50 Thanks! I guess it’s obvious that I’m out to prove to the world that you don’t have to be intelligent in order to be fascinated by the debate.

  59. #59 BlueIndependent
    December 29, 2008

    “Who does this make sense to?”

    Bjorn, they likely put those Bible versus in the image in order to make a correlation to the admonishments in the Bible – of which there are plenty – in store for believers who question their god. In other words, this is an obvious case of the hierarchical nature of their group-think being applied in a subtle don’t-think-just-follow message. Notice also that it is used in such a way as to label “Darwinists” as those who challenge, question, and ultimately denounce their god for whatever reason.

    I picked up my old Bible on my bookshelf and looked these two up, and the intent is beyond obvious. But failing that, the AiG morons just take scientific evidence, claim it’s based on false assumptions, and then try to make a coherent explanation out of it. Is what they just did not some Numerology-like ploy to break down numbers and try and find meaning(s) in them to support their “presupposition”? Damn well looks like it to me.

  60. #60 Azkyroth
    December 29, 2008

    There is a reason they called it “blind” faith – you just have to believe, no questions, no evidence. Science is the opposite. You don’t *have* to just believe in something. You can look at the evidence, you can attempt to refute evidence. You can attempt to reproduce experiments. You can use logic, reasoning, and a wide array of scientific tools to satisfy yourself that yes, evolution offers the absolute best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet.

    Actually, to be doing science, you *have* to *not* just believe in something.

  61. #61 Mike from Ottawa
    December 29, 2008

    I had one of that type of creationist on the hook in another forum I frequent. He claimed he simply interpreted the evidence differently. I borrowed from Don Prothero’s treatment in ‘Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters’ of the rocks along the Grand Canyon. Eventually he had to fall back on Last Thursdayism and say that thinks like the dry sandy dune layers underlying marine shales were created that way. When I pointed out that wasn’t interpreting the evidence at all but just waving it away, he banned me from posting in his blog. Success.

  62. #62 jimmiraybob
    December 29, 2008

    Hey, I get all that every Sunday! Down at the Pour House, with a bunch of other DC-area Steelers fans. We got joy, togetherness, sorrow (Roethlisberger works in mysterious ways), and sacramental beer.

    Course next week’s a bye week. Woddmeyegonnado???

    And the multitude of the faithful lifted their gaze to the heavens and cried out, “Oh Lord, what are we to maketh of ourselves duringest the bye weeks and the off season?”

    And the Lord, having already provideth His people the beer, smiled down upon them, and recognizing their discomfort and the darkness of which they spoke, delivered upon them statistics and ESPN.

    And all was good.

  63. #63 IBY
    December 29, 2008

    Well, different operating system is right, with the Creationist operating system being the one that makes all logical consistency fall flat and crash.

  64. #64 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    When I pointed out that wasn’t interpreting the evidence at all but just waving it away, he banned me from posting in his blog.

    You should have said “Praise Jeebus” or something.

    It’s interesting that the fans of the movie Expelled love to expel people from their blogs, or they use comment moderation to never let them in, or they allow no comments at all.

  65. #65 Tom
    December 29, 2008

    BobC #47: I always laugh when I hear claims that the bible makes scientific observations and predictions (e.g. the bible states that the world is “round”). They only ever trumpet observations that have been subsequently PROVED by science, thereby validating science rather than their own religion.

    Why don’t they make themselves useful and make predictions that science does not already know about?

  66. #66 IBY
    December 29, 2008

    Yeah, isn’t “expelled” too ironic? Apparently, they are too insecure about their own theory.

  67. #67 Marc Abian
    December 29, 2008

    I’d love to know how someone can see gene inversions between bacteria or the same pseudogenes appear in humans and other primates, and think “Great evidence for creation!”.

    I typically refrain from gluing books to the side of my head.

    Me too, I prefer strong durable tape.

  68. #68 Interrobang
    December 29, 2008

    As someone who uses relativist techniques to do analyses in the social sciences, the most depressing part of that to me is how wrong they’re doing it. You’re really supposed to look at the same collection of data — in history, for example, that can be a collection of narratives on what happened, physical evidence, and so on — in three or four different ways sequentially, and what changes least depending on which analysis you use is probably closest to factual.

    It is, actually, supposed to be a tool for eliminating bias (in history, the “victors write the history books” problem).

    The key is you’re not supposed to do what they’re doing, which is privileging one particular frame of reference over any of the others, and you’re supposed to use several different (and opposing, if you can manage it) ones at a time. Also, you’re supposed to pick and choose different ones depending on which are applicable to which kinds of problems (e.g. Marxist analysis is a really good tool for picking apart economic and certain other types of problems). The way they’re doing it, all they’re doing is reinforcing their own biases.

    Of course, one of their presuppositions is that nobody actually works to eliminate bias, we’re all just intent on confirming our own personal biases, which we pick and choose…somehow, which is never really made explicitly clear in their ostensible “explanation.” After all, that’s what they do, and there’s nothing right-wing authoritarians do better than project.

  69. #69 Jason A.
    December 29, 2008

    The relativism is just a sneaky way to try and get their junk taught in schools as an ‘equal theory’. They don’t even believe it themselves.
    “Evolution and creationism are equally valid interpretations based on worldviews, therefore evolution is wrong and creationism is true” — say what?

  70. #70 SOCR-4735
    December 29, 2008

    #58:

    I don’t think not knowing a lot about nuclear physics means that you’re unintelligent, if that’s what you mean.

    I personally don’t find this debate all that interesting though – that is, the fact that it’s there is interesting, in the same way horribly disfigured children are interesting, and the outcome will be interesting too, as the fate of the world depends on it – but as for the content, it’s rather dull.

    I’ll give a short summary of this debate, as how I experienced it:

    1. Creationist/ID’er claims Evolution/Darwin is wrong.
    2. Scientist asks why he thinks that.
    3. Creationist comes with (often very stupid) argument.
    4. Scientist shows that creationist’s argument is wrong.
    5. Repeat.

  71. #71 SOCR-4735
    December 29, 2008

    As I had intended to put in a footnote in my post #70:
    The whole “fate of the world” was meant as being somewhat melodramatic. I don’t really think the fate of the world will be decided by the outcome of this debate.

    (That’s because I think the outcome is obvious (science wins), and it won’t change anything at all. If religion wins, it might actually be a key factor in determining the fate of the world. If the world’s going to end in a religiously inspired nuclear holocaust…eh, I’m just gonna stop this rant here before I stop making sense.)

  72. #72 Brian Coughlan
    December 29, 2008

    Most of us can recognize that Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars are fictions, that what they describe doesn’t exist, and that they probably aren’t very good filters to use in evaluating paleontological evidence.

    … and now we have “Apparitions” to really make the case. Catholic dogma as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Fantastic:-)

  73. #73 Peter Henderson
    December 29, 2008

    PZ: you need to put on your biblical glassses I’m afraid:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xFfFPrSNzE8&feature=related

    Still, I liked this comment from an OEC I’m currently trying (but failing) to covince that Creationism shoudn’t be taught alongside evolution in science class:

    Just wondering about under what authority a court has to decide the origin of the universe and life; is there a judge or jury on this planet qualified to make that judgement? The decision of the court was based upon the performance of counsels, for and against, rather like the current craze for talent contents, it’s not about the song but the presentation. No I don’t think that the ID issue is obsolete, they just need a better brief.

    Dr. Derek P. Blake

    At least it’s an original explanation as to why ID failed at Dover ! Destined to become a classic.

  74. #74 Peter Henderson
    December 29, 2008

    PZ: you need to put on your biblical glassses I’m afraid:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xFfFPrSNzE8&feature=related

    Still, I liked this comment from an OEC I’m currently trying (but failing) to covince that Creationism shoudn’t be taught alongside evolution in science class:

    Just wondering about under what authority a court has to decide the origin of the universe and life; is there a judge or jury on this planet qualified to make that judgement? The decision of the court was based upon the performance of counsels, for and against, rather like the current craze for talent contents, it’s not about the song but the presentation. No I don’t think that the ID issue is obsolete, they just need a better brief.

    Dr. Derek P. Blake

    At least it’s an original explanation as to why ID failed at Dover ! Destined to become a classic.

  75. #75 bunnycatch3r
    December 29, 2008

    @70 I find the debate fascinating in that I’ve believed a lie most of my life. It’s interesting to observe this same lie from the perspective of science. Entertaining is a better word maybe.

  76. #76 CEO of Misery
    December 29, 2008

    Wait a minute, you don’t believe in Ilúvatar either? You can’t make that stuff up! It has to be true.

  77. #77 DPNash
    December 29, 2008

    The existence of Lord of the Rings does not imply that Tolkien fans should believe the world really was populated with elves and orcs, once upon a time.

    It…it doesn’t? Are you saying there were no elves, orcs or hobbits? That men are not the descendants of the glorious race of Numenor?

    A Elbereth Gilthoniel! You have crushed me, sir!

  78. #78 SOCR-4735
    December 29, 2008

    #75:

    Well, it makes more sense to me when you put it like that ;)

    I was typing up some long story about how I can’t understand how people who are convinced of a religious truth feel and even less so how it feels to realize it wasn’t true after all, but this sentence is a lot clearer than the garble I’d written.

    But I guess I can understand how this debate can be interesting on a personal, rather than a scientific, level.

  79. #79 CEO of Misery
    December 29, 2008

    The existence of Lord of the Rings does not imply that Tolkien fans should believe the world really was populated with elves and orcs, once upon a time.

    Of coarse not.

    It was limited to Middle Earth.

  80. #80 bubuka
    December 29, 2008

    after having many arguments with local creationists and ezoteric nuts I come to the conclusion that only making them ridiculous is the working way. Fight fire with fire. Let’s endorse the ‘teach the controversy’ slogan, let’s make noise and raise some attention, then make them totally ridiculous with FSM, Intelligent Falling, Tarvuism and other parodies. Forget explaining them the 2nd law of Thermodynamics or the meaning of genetic similarity.

  81. #81 Rick R
    December 29, 2008

    The way I read it, the dishonesty starts at the very beginning-

    “Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians, all have the same evidence–the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars–the facts are all the same. The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts.”

    This would be (more or less) accurate if they were talking about theistic evolutionists. But we all know how much creationists HATE theistic evolutionists.

    But of course the false dichotomy is also right there at the beginning- evolution=atheism and creationism=christian.

    What aren’t these people wrong about?

  82. #82 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Answers in Genesis? What a surprise… Ken Ham showing what a wackaloon he really is once again.

  83. #83 MP2K
    December 29, 2008

    #57

    Neutrality is not a bias.”

    Of course it is. The notion that “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” pervades Fundie thinking. Ergo, scientists are clearly biased against them, what with their empiricism and love for falsifiability.

  84. #84 Rick020200
    December 29, 2008

    Consider the research from the atheist IRATE group (Internet Rationalists Attempting to Teach Evolution) concerning the age of the earth. Using one set of assumptions, the Ussher chronology could be interpreted so that the earth is 6000 years old. However, if one questions these assumptions, one is motivated to test them. One must assume that there has been acceleration of the human decay rate in the past. Using this revised asssumption, the same Ussher chronology can now be interpreted to give an age of 1.5 billion years.

    See how easy that is? We can assume that people lived for much longer, and we can assume that the length of a year has changed significantly. Therefore the Ussher chronology is correct, but the length of a year has changed (just a wee bit).

  85. #85 Thomas Moss
    December 29, 2008

    In the last paragraph, where they said that they did used the leak rate of helium to determine the ages of the sample, they said that they *tested* the leak rate of helium. They didn’t say that revised their assumptions to make it agree with the bible; they said they tested it and then used it, and found that it agreed with the bible.

    Of course, whether or not they actually tested it is a open question. However, they did at least claim to actually test it, so I think you are attacking them on the wrong grounds here – I would call them out and ask to see the details of their procedure; one cannot accuse them outright of having no procedure at all in this case.

  86. #86 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    “Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians, all have the same evidence–the same facts. Think about it: we all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars–the facts are all the same. The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts.” This would be (more or less) accurate if they were talking about theistic evolutionists. But we all know how much creationists HATE theistic evolutionists.

    The words “theistic” and “evolution” should never be used in the same sentence. I noticed nobody talks about theistic gravity.

    There are Christians who call themselves theistic evolutionists. That usually means they incorrectly invoke their magic fairy to invent, use, or guide evolution. But if they accept the facts of evolutionary biology without invoking magic to explain it, they shouldn’t be calling themselves theistic evolutionists, even if they are theists. For example, I noticed Ken Miller has never called himself a theistic evolutionist.

    I strongly dislike the adjective “theistic” attached to my favorite branch of science. I would rather Christians remain brain-dead creationists than pollute evolution with their childish magic.

  87. #87 Number8Dave
    December 29, 2008

    Behemoth as evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted always amuses me. Creationists say Behemoth must be something like a brontosaurus because the Book of Job talks of it “moving its tail like a cedar”. But a more accurate translation (as in Revised Standard Version) is “makes his tail stiff like a cedar”. This seems puzzling, until you recall that while not many animals make their tails stiff, there is another part of the anatomy that hangs down between the hind legs that is sometimes made stiff. The fact that we’re in euphemism territory is made clearer by the next line: “the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.” The old Latin Vulgate Bible is quite explicit; the word it uses for “stones” is “testiculorum”. Funnily enough, the translations preferred by Creationists speak only of “loins”.

    So what we’ve got here is clearly some large herbivorous mammal with a huge willy. Whatever it is, it’s not a dinosaur, because among terrestrial vertebrates only mammals have external testes and penises of any size.

  88. #88 C R S
    December 29, 2008

    I strongly dislike the adjective “theistic” attached to my favorite branch of science. I would rather Christians remain brain-dead creationists than pollute evolution with their childish magic.

    I second that! Praise Jebus’ rotten corpse.

  89. #89 Josh
    December 29, 2008

    But a more accurate translation (as in Revised Standard Version) is “makes his tail stiff like a cedar”.

    Even all discussion of loins aside, this is additionally amusing when one considers that Apatosaurus had a pretty non cedar-like tail when compared to some other sauropods.

  90. #90 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    There are Christians who call themselves theistic evolutionists. That usually means they incorrectly invoke their magic fairy to invent, use, or guide evolution. But if they accept the facts of evolutionary biology without invoking magic to explain it, they shouldn’t be calling themselves theistic evolutionists, even if they are theists. For example, I noticed Ken Miller has never called himself a theistic evolutionist.

    Agreed, theistic evolution should only apply to those who believe that God played a hand in shaping the evolutionary process.

  91. #91 C R S
    December 29, 2008

    Agreed, theistic evolution should only apply to those who believe that God played a hand in shaping the evolutionary process.

    Then it’s not evolution. It’s a prolonged act of creationism. Let’s not mangle science.

  92. #92 Kagehi
    December 29, 2008

    If course Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Star Wars are all silly. The real true history is shown in Battlestar Galactica!! lol

  93. #93 CJO
    December 29, 2008

    Then it’s not evolution. It’s a prolonged act of creationism. Let’s not mangle science.

    It doesn’t, though, not really. An old theist acquaintance of mine put it very well once: Saying ‘god did it’ doesn’t add to our naturalistic explanation, but having a naturalistic explanation doesn’t mean god didn’t do it.

    I’m certainly not going to exert myself to play ‘angel’s advocate,’ but c’mon. Taking this line is essentially saying that rejecting belief in a deity is a prerequisite for understanding and accepting evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. How we integrate and conceptualize this explanation into our wider worldviews is the point at issue, not the explanation itself. To adamantly insist otherwise is just to alienate a whole mess of people –potential allies against the really dangerous ones– over a category error, no less, not even over a matter of substance. How does that help?

  94. #94 Tulse
    December 29, 2008

    The real true history is shown in Battlestar Galactica!

    So say we all.

  95. #95 Tulse
    December 29, 2008

    Saying ‘god did it’ doesn’t add to our naturalistic explanation, but having a naturalistic explanation doesn’t mean god didn’t do it.

    Yes it does, by any reasonable definition of “naturalistic”.

    A deist god, who gets things going then stays hands off, is the only kind of god that is compatible with scientific explanations. Any other kind involves intervening in nature, and thus rules out “naturalistic” explanations. Otherwise the term “naturalistic” has no meaning, and one could never have an account that rules out supernatural intervention. You’d end up with “Well, sure, gravity may be caused by distorted space-time, but that is just the method that fairies use to get things to fall”.

  96. #96 SLC
    December 29, 2008

    Re dogmeatib

    Actually, the same Russell Humphreys mentioned by Prof. Myers has also come up with an explanation for the apparent discrepancy between galaxies 10 billion light years away and the finite speed of light. He claims that there is a strong gravitational field in the vicinity of the earth, due to the creation of the universe of which the earth was at the center, which is causing a gravitational time dilation; e.g. the clocks on earth are running 500,000 times slower then the clocks on those distance galaxies. Aside from the total inanity of this proposition, he fails to explain why no strong blue shift in light coming from those galaxies is observed, as would be the case if such a gravitational field existed.

  97. #97 Dave Hodgkinson
    December 29, 2008

    It’s funny how it’s only you people with this problem. The rest of the world seems to be bumbling on fine thanks.

    Much like the litmus test of the bogosity of the MMR scare in the UK was that it was a localised thing. No-one else gave a toss.

  98. #98 Craig
    December 29, 2008

    “When I pointed out that wasn’t interpreting the evidence at all but just waving it away, he banned me from posting in his blog.”

    Imagine a series of stories about “The Creationist Detective.”
    He’s called to a crime scene where a body lies in a pool of blood with a knife in his back, he takes one look and declares “well it’s obvious – God made him that way. Release the suspect!”
    Every time.

  99. #99 Matt Heath
    December 29, 2008

    A deist god, who gets things going then stays hands off, is the only kind of god that is compatible with scientific explanations. Any other kind involves intervening in nature, and thus rules out “naturalistic” explanations.

    Hmm hypothetically, if the of early Judaism existed, I think he would be both “a god” and “natural”. He was a big powerful man-like thing, who lived in the sky, made the Earth, sent messengers to kill etc…

    There’s nothing intrinsically supernatural about that; you could make up SF scenarios where such a creature existed in the future. And if someone did show the existence of such a creature, and that the OT actually referred to it on purpose, I’d be happy to call it god.

    Equally the Greek or Norse gods could hypothetically exist as part of the natural world.

  100. #100 CJO
    December 29, 2008

    Any other kind involves intervening in nature, and thus rules out “naturalistic” explanations.

    Obviously, theists do have a different definition of “naturalistic” than we atheists. My point is that it is there, in a philosophical distinction, where the disagreement lies, not in the content of the (otherwise identical) explanation itself. And with that, as I said, I’ll quit defending theism, because it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I simply dislike the idea that a Ken Miller somehow is incapable of understanding evolution, or is “mangling” it, because of his theist commitments.

  101. #101 arachnophilia
    December 29, 2008

    @PZ:

    the same facts

    i’d like to contend this point. i don’t think they have the same facts. it’s not that they have different ones, it’s that they don’t seem to have all the ones the “evolutionists” do. something seems to be blocking quite a lot of them from getting through…

    @schism: (#4)

    Darwin Brain’s nose seems to have caught a serious case of the Caricature Jew.

    oh wow. nice catch.

    @Bjørn Østman: (#8)

    I also wonder exactly to whose benefit they are quoting the Bible all the time. Who does this make sense to?

    those at least make a little more sense than i’m used to. i’m fairly confident that these people don’t actually understand a word the bible says. i mean, if they did, they wouldn’t really be making preposterous creationist arguments.

    but no, the random bible thumping doesn’t help anything. for one, they’re not going to convince someone who has automatically written the bible off, out of hand. it’s like resorting to quoting the brothers grimm to someone who understands that it’s a fairytale. for two, the fact the quotes don’t especially apply very well doesn’t help convince anyone that they have the first clue as to what it means. and for three, it actually does a lot of disservice to the bible itself, which is a truly complex and interesting collection of ancient literature. by sound-byting it, they short-sell it, and perpetuate a lot of the same stupid assumptions they make regarding the texts in the more atheistically inclined crowd.

    @DuckPhup: (#35), re AIG’s statement of faith:

    “(D) 6. NO apparent, perceived, or claimed interpretation of EVIDENCE in any field, including history and chronology, CAN BE VALID if it contradicts the Scriptural record.”

    the scriptural record contradicts itself. therefore, it is invalid. QED.

    the problem is, of course, that as nice as that argument is, it’s not entirely true. first, they miss the point that the “scriptural record” is comprised of many separate books. one might be valid, one might be invalid, and a third might not even be relevant to the discussion. and even if they all disagree on some factual matter, it’s still possible to use the text to some degree archaeologically. it’s not the most accurate guide book, but not always a complete fiction either.

    @Number8Dave: (#87)

    Behemoth as evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted always amuses me. Creationists say Behemoth must be something like a brontosaurus because the Book of Job talks of it “moving its tail like a cedar”. But a more accurate translation (as in Revised Standard Version) is “makes his tail stiff like a cedar”. This seems puzzling, until you recall that while not many animals make their tails stiff, there is another part of the anatomy that hangs down between the hind legs that is sometimes made stiff. The fact that we’re in euphemism territory is made clearer by the next line: “the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.” The old Latin Vulgate Bible is quite explicit; the word it uses for “stones” is “testiculorum”. Funnily enough, the translations preferred by Creationists speak only of “loins”.

    So what we’ve got here is clearly some large herbivorous mammal with a huge willy. Whatever it is, it’s not a dinosaur, because among terrestrial vertebrates only mammals have external testes and penises of any size.

    the whole passage is really about virility, yes. it’s really not a dinosaur, and the traditional understanding has generally been something like a giant ox. behemot is the primordial beast of the land, and leviyatan is the primordial beast of the sea. he is also not a dinosaur. nor is ziz, the primordial beast of the air, but the book of job doesn’t mention him.

  102. #102 Efogoto
    December 29, 2008

    I would have preferred the quote citation on the right be John 20:25

    So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
    But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

  103. #103 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Then it’s not evolution. It’s a prolonged act of creationism. Let’s not mangle science.

    Putting theistic on the front of evolution is already mangling science. If you go back far enough with creation, then even Ken Miller would count as a creationist. Theistic evolution is a good description for the ~40% percent of people in the US who believe that life has changed over time but God had a hand in, something of which I don’t see applying to people like Ken Miller. I’d put him in the ~15% of Americans who believe that God didn’t have a hand in the process, that natural forces shaped life as it is today. And that to me is very different from believing that God played selector in parts.

  104. #104 Peter Henderson
    December 29, 2008

    The real true history is shown in Battlestar Galactica!! lol

    If the aliens are watching they might very well think it’s real, rather than sci-fi !

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKG_XpzXJF8&feature=related

  105. #105 Steve
    December 29, 2008

    Anyone know the rate at which helium “leaks” from these rocks? How is it that natural gas stores are a major source of helium in this counntry? Why hasn’t it all “leaked” away??

  106. #106 JimF
    December 29, 2008

    Has AIG even thought through how this approach could be applied in practice? Do they think we should have YEC scientific journals, OEC journals, Muslim journals, Hindu journals, etc, all operating in separate parallel universes. Or (here’s a thought!) why not just have one scientific community, in which people of any (or no) religion can all participate, using only facts and logic which are independent of any particular religion. That’s what we have now, and it seems to work pretty well. AIG’s argument is a tacit admission that without biblical backing, their “science” can’t compete (hell, it couldn’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag).

  107. #107 Shadow
    December 29, 2008

    28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
    The LORD is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

    Then why does god need to rest on the seventh day?

  108. #108 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    There are Christians who call themselves theistic evolutionists. That usually means they incorrectly invoke their magic fairy to invent, use, or guide evolution. But if they accept the facts of evolutionary biology without invoking magic to explain it, they shouldn’t be calling themselves theistic evolutionists.

    I see some others have already commented on this, but I’ll add my $0.02. TEs may invoke God as a guiding hand in evolution, but they do it in a way that doesn’t violate the science. It’s a primary /secondary cause thing.

    Those who argue for interventions / gaps / violations of natural processes are IDers, not TEs (in my experience, anyway).

  109. #109 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Dave Hodgkinson: actually, even in the UK we have had to fight an attempt to get ID taught in secondary schools science. In 2006 an organisation that is basically the UK representative of the Disinformation Institute mailed out DVDs and resource packs to every seconder school in England and Wales. Fortunately, a campaign contacting the relevant ministers and MPs got the government to strengthen the science curriculum so that ID could not be introduced in science classes. In NI, the education minister is a creationist who believes it should be taught as science and the Varley schools teach creationism as fact.

    BTW, the MMR scare is not confined to the UK. The quack (and I use that term deliberately) responsible for the illegitimate research that sparked it all off, now has an organisation in, IIRC, Houston Texas, where he still promulgates his quackery and is a regular and a minor celebrity on the anti-vax lecture circuit. Because of it, various parts of the US, like San Diego, have recently had their own outbreaks of measles amongst non vaccinated kids.

    So before you dismiss such issues as only local in nature, in future I suggest you do some research.

  110. #110 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Steve, these natural gas/helium ‘stores’ usually have a gas impermeable cap of some kind.

  111. #111 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    TEs may invoke God as a guiding hand in evolution, but they do it in a way that doesn’t violate the science. It’s a primary /secondary cause thing.

    Those who argue for interventions / gaps / violations of natural processes are IDers, not TEs (in my experience, anyway).

    I’d disagree with this. Evolution in it’s basic form is that life has changed over time, the mechanisms are what is debatable. Lamarkian evolution is still a form of evolution – a failed hypothesis but still called evolution. Theistic evolution on the other hand would seem to be that God is a mechanism for change – something that ~85% of Americans believe to a certain degree.

    God may work through nature, but that’s different to God intervening in the process. The former is like saying Theistic Gravity or Theistic Electrodynamics, it’s a useless phrase. The latter while encompassing some aspects of ID is suitably distinct enough that to call anyone who believes God played a part in selection an IDer is misrepresenting both what they believe and what ID encompasses.

  112. #112 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    One more thing, calling those who believe in God and accept evolution as theistic evolutionists only reinforces the notion that evolution equals atheism.

  113. #113 Insightful Ape
    December 29, 2008

    Kel-as I understand it, people like Michael Behe invoke “God as a mutagen”-they envision a god that determines how the organism should change, and tinkers with the genetic material. Which is interesting, because no study has shown beneficial mutations to be more common-in fact they are rather rare.
    While I am not good in theology, I don’t know how you can compare God to UV rays or retroviruses, and not think you are taking his name in vain. Moses would stone you to death for that.

  114. #114 QrazyQat
    December 29, 2008

    This is a tactic to cloud the fact (out, out, damned fact!) that they aren’t being honest about the facts. I get this (and have for more then 10 years) from Elaine Morgan about the AAT/H. Example: “Most of our disagreements are on matters of terminology, and interpretation, not substance.” “

  115. #115 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    God may work through nature, but that’s different to God intervening in the process. The former is like saying Theistic Gravity or Theistic Electrodynamics…

    I agree that TE is no different than TG – no argument there.

    it’s a useless phrase

    Here I disagree. The term TE (in my experience) signifies someone who accepts evolutionary biology but sees it as a secondary cause theologically – i.e. that God is behind it. So, your point about TG, Theistic Electrodynamics, etc, is correct – theists see God as the primary cause of everything.

    Why then not just dispense with the “Theistic” part? Because Christians are not generally anti-gravitationists or anti-electrodynamicists – but a good many of them are anti-evolutionists. So, the term has some value in that it makes the point that one can be a theist and accept evolutionary biology (just as one can be a Theistic gravitationist).

    So, the term has no scientific value, but it has some value in the wider discussion nonetheless.

  116. #116 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Kel-as I understand it, people like Michael Behe invoke “God as a mutagen”-they envision a god that determines how the organism should change, and tinkers with the genetic material.

    He seems to say more than that, he alleges that it’s impossible for certain systems to come about without invoking a designer to explain it. Though among ID advocates he’s a rare-breed – one who believes in common descent, where the rest are simply young earth creationists trying to find a degree of legitimacy for their absurd notion.

    “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc.” – Of Pandas and People

    I’m not sure if I would class Behe under theistic evolution or ID, there’s a very blurry line there. I definitely wouldn’t class Miller under either.

  117. #117 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    calling those who believe in God and accept evolution as theistic evolutionists only reinforces the notion that evolution equals atheism.

    I’m afraid I don’t see your point. Would that not reduce the term TE to the equivalent of “theistic atheism” if one carried your logic through? Maybe I’m missing something – haven’t had my coffee yet today.

  118. #118 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    I agree with gabriel @115.

  119. #119 Jeeves
    December 29, 2008

    @ Schism (#4),

    Interesting observation but a bit of a reach. I think its just a case of poor drawing. For instance, look at the Christian’s forehead: long, wide and flat. To me, it looks like a side view of a Gary Larson caveman. Not terribly flattering, I would think. Also, the Christian seems to be bald and the atheist has a Jay Leno chin. Sloppy drawing, methinks.

  120. #120 disinterested observer
    December 29, 2008

    Meanwhile over at the Atlantic, Ross Douthat considers the meaning of Christmas http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/

    “But fundamentally, the Christian story is evidence for a particular idea about the universe: It recounts a series of events that, if real, tells us something profound about the nature of God, and His relationship to His creatures, that we couldn’t have been expected to understand or accept in precisely the same way without the Gospel narratives.”

    I like the ” if real”, but clearly this person has his own meaning for the word “evidence”.

  121. #121 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Why then not just dispense with the “Theistic” part? Because Christians are not generally anti-gravitationists or anti-electrodynamicists – but a good many of them are anti-evolutionists. So, the term has some value in that it makes the point that one can be a theist and accept evolutionary biology (just as one can be a Theistic gravitationist).

    I disagee that it has value, I think it does far more harm than good because it reinforces the notion that evolution equates to atheism. There’s no need at all for the word to be there, and having it in the wider lexicon damages science. And for what? Because the ignorant push a false dichotomy between design and chance?

    So, the term has no scientific value, but it has some value in the wider discussion nonetheless.

    I’d disagree with this, because it has no scientific value, it has a detrimental effect in the wider discussion. Of course someone being Christian who accepts evolution would see God at the beginning of it all, it’s almost impossible to be a Christian and not believe in a creator god. For a Christian who accepts evolution, the term is redundant.

    As for areas of science under attack by the religious right:

    • Theistic geology
    • Theistic palaeontology
    • Theistic nuclear physics
    • Theistic astronomy
    • Theistic relativity
    • Theistic cosmology

    It’s not only evolution that’s under attack, it’s just the one that people identify with.

  122. #122 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 29, 2008

    I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
    Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
    But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
    And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
    No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
    And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
    When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
    And the reason I believe it? Just because.

    Much more at
    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/12/critical-examination-of-belief.html

  123. #123 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    I’m not sure if I would class Behe under theistic evolution or ID, there’s a very blurry line there. I definitely wouldn’t class Miller under either.

    I agree the lines can get blurred: but Behe is most certainly and IDer and not a TE. The main issue is that Behe is an anti-evolutionist (though he accepts common descent). Miller (of course), is anything but an anti-evolutionist.

    The anti/pro evolution distinction is probably the best way to sort teleologists taxonomically – it’s much more informative than other methods, in my experience.

  124. #124 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Kel, a theistic evolutionist is usually just one step up from a deist. I.e. where a deist just believes that there is something beyond the universe a theistic evolutionist believes that something is their god.

    Unlike DI/creationists, they generally believe simply that god pressed the button with the big bang and evolution is his method for bringing us about. Though some argue that god ‘fingered’ the first replicating organism and then evolution took over as god’s plan.

    ID/creationists however believe that god sticks his finger in at every stage and is, to borrow Insightful Ape’s phrase, the mutagen that creates every individual species. This is true even of those who accept micro evolution, which only tweaks a species, not change it.

    As for Behe, does even Behe know what he believes, beyond making a name/money for himself in any way he can. I.e. better to be a big fish in a very small pond than a small fish in a very big pond.

  125. #125 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    I’m afraid I don’t see your point. Would that not reduce the term TE to the equivalent of “theistic atheism” if one carried your logic through? Maybe I’m missing something – haven’t had my coffee yet today.

    The point is this, one of the main arguments in the creationist camp is that evolution equals atheism. To have to give a special word for those who are believers who also happen to accept the theory of evolution only reinforces that point.

  126. #126 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Unlike DI/creationists, they generally believe simply that god pressed the button with the big bang and evolution is his method for bringing us about. Though some argue that god ‘fingered’ the first replicating organism and then evolution took over as god’s plan.

    That to me is what a theistic evolutionist is.

  127. #127 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    As for areas of science under attack by the religious right:
    Theistic geology
    Theistic palaeontology
    Theistic nuclear physics
    Theistic astronomy
    Theistic relativity
    Theistic cosmology
    It’s not only evolution that’s under attack, it’s just the one that people identify with.

    I agree, and it’s a good point. The main reason these terms don’t exist is that YECs tend to just lump all of the above into what they call “evolution.” If you’ve ever debated a YEC (and, as a poster here, you probably have) you’ve probably seen this effect – they think the Big Bang is part of evolutionary theory, etc.

    You’ve probably noticed that most TEs aren’t over-enthusiastic about the term TE either (and I include myself in that). Problem is, if I am to get a hearing within the theist community, I can’t just walk in and say I’m an evolutionist, though that is scientifically correct- I might as well say I’m an atheist for all they know. It’s an issue of combatting the mountains of propaganda that AiG, ICR and other “ministries” pump out by the truckload.

  128. #128 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    Kel @125, there’s a special word for those who don’t believe in gods, too. That also reinforces a point…

  129. #129 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    The point is this, one of the main arguments in the creationist camp is that evolution equals atheism. To have to give a special word for those who are believers who also happen to accept the theory of evolution only reinforces that point.

    Thanks Kel, I understand your point now. I basically agree – but TEs are “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t” on this one.

    If the term TE gives the average Joe or Jane in the pew a means to understand that one can be a believer and not be an anti-evolutionist, then it has value. I have seen it have that effect, so in that sense I do see it as having value – though the value is in the set of ideas, not in the title.

  130. #130 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    If you’ve ever debated a YEC (and, as a poster here, you probably have) you’ve probably seen this effect – they think the Big Bang is part of evolutionary theory, etc.

    I have seen that time and time again, it’s one reason I go to great lengths to show the limitations of evolutionary theory. There were some quotes by Ben Stein I posed in another thread:
    “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
    “Darwinism doesn’t explain where gravity comes from. It doesn’t explain where thermodynamics comes from. It doesn’t explain where the laws of physics come from. It doesn’t explain where matter came from.” – Ben Stein

    It’s a huge problem, and the problem is only going to be made bigger if we react to their definitions of science.

    Problem is, if I am to get a hearing within the theist community, I can’t just walk in and say I’m an evolutionist, though that is scientifically correct- I might as well say I’m an atheist for all they know.

    Which is exactly what I was talking about, all it does is reinforce the stereotype that evolution equals atheism by having to distinguish yourself from a regular “evolutionist” (what a terrible word evolutionist is.) We are letting them dictate the consequences of words by reacting to them.

    It’s an issue of combatting the mountains of propaganda that AiG, ICR and other “ministries” pump out by the truckload.

    And you won’t win a propaganda war by reinforcing the propaganda they put out.

  131. #131 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    a theistic evolutionist is usually just one step up from a deist.

    Perhaps in your experience, but how many self-described TEs do you know? I guess I’m asking for the sample size that you base this assertion on.

    In my experience (and this may be just the circles I travel in, so, yes, selection bias may well be in effect here) most TEs are anything but deists, and resent being called such (though that is a favourite attack made by the YEC crowd on TEs).

  132. #132 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    The main issue is that Behe is an anti-evolutionist (though he accepts common descent).

    Or perhaps Behe completely accepts evolution and maybe he doesn’t really believe his magic fairy had anything to do with it, but he has found an easy way to make a living from being a lying asshole who sells books to brain-dead Christians willing to believe any scientific sounding defense of their Jeebus.

    theistic evolutionist

    That word theistic really bugs me. Adding the adjective theistic to evolution is an insult to the hard work of thousands of biologists who have shown beyond any doubt evolution is a completely natural process, and no woo-woo is necessary.

  133. #133 arachnophilia
    December 29, 2008

    question: does understanding of evolution naturally require atheism? what should we call people who believe in god, and recognize that the theory of evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet?

  134. #134 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    Which is exactly what I was talking about, all it does is reinforce the stereotype that evolution equals atheism by having to distinguish yourself from a regular “evolutionist” (what a terrible word evolutionist is.) We are letting them dictate the consequences of words by reacting to them.

    I agree, but I’m not sure there is much to be done about it.

    One point, though: I don’t “distinguish” myself scientifically from a “regular evolutionary biologist” in theistic settings. Indeed, one of my key points is always that no such distinction is necessary.

    I think we’re generally on the same page here – but these are the realities of the world I inhabit. It may make good empirical sense to snipe at the term TE, but in reality the main issue in this debate is getting theists (ok, Christians for the most part) to see that evolutionary biology is no more in conflict with their faith than is gravitation. Whatever terms we use, if we can achieve that it will make all such terms irrelevant.

  135. #135 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    The Wikipedia Theistic evolution article seems informative:

    Theistic evolution is the general opinion that classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not a theory in the scientific sense, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to some religious interpretations. In this way, theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who deny the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science; that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not be contradictory. […]
    This view is accepted (or at least not rejected) by major Christian churches, including Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and some mainline Protestant denominations; some Jewish denominations; and other religious groups that lack a literalist stance concerning holy scriptures.

    (my bold)

  136. #136 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Kel @125, there’s a special word for those who don’t believe in gods, too. That also reinforces a point…

    Agreed, though it reinforces a very different type of point. Atheism is simply the negation of theism, you can’t say the same about theistic evolution.

    If the term TE gives the average Joe or Jane in the pew a means to understand that one can be a believer and not be an anti-evolutionist, then it has value.

    Maybe so, but on the same token it could reinforce the propaganda among others and in the end drive more people away from evolution. If it’s net value (gross value – detriment) is in the negative, then I would contend that it’s not a good term to have in the wider lexicon.

    I basically agree – but TEs are “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t” on this one.

    I appreciate the difficulty of the situation, though I still think there are better ways of trying to go about it – mainly through trying to educate people about what the limits of evolution really are. If it’s said that evolution is a theory of everything that doesn’t explain everything, then there’s no point in trying to get evolution to explain everything. That’s all I’m saying.

  137. #137 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    what should we call people who believe in god, and recognize that the theory of evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet?

    Mildly insane.

  138. #138 gabriel
    December 29, 2008

    Off to dinner – I may check in again later. Thanks all,

    gabe

  139. #139 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    BobC #132 wrote:

    Adding the adjective theistic to evolution is an insult to the hard work of thousands of biologists who have shown beyond any doubt evolution is a completely natural process, and no woo-woo is necessary.

    I don’t see the adjective as describing a special kind of evolution: I see it as modifying the noun ‘evolutionist.’ It’s like saying “an American evolutionist” or “a left-handed evolutionist.” As gabriel points out, the only reason it’s used is because creationists tend to promote the idea that one can’t be both a theist, and accept the theory of evolution.

    Frankly, I consider the common tendency to rope evolution in with atheism as our atheist payback for the equally common tendency to yoke morality in with religion. “He’s an atheist, but he’s also moral.” “Oh yeah? Well, this other guy here is a theist, but he also accepts the major tenets of modern science. My, my, fancy that. Strange world, huh?”

  140. #140 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    question: does understanding of evolution naturally require atheism?

    I suggest accepting evolution and understanding how evolution works requires either no belief in a magic fairy, or a belief in a magic fairy who never did anything.

  141. #141 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    does understanding of evolution naturally require atheism?

    Atheism in the process maybe, but not atheism as a whole. Science is inherently atheistic in that sense, you can’t invoke God at any stage to explain a phenomenon. But as for the wider implications of God, evolution should no more hurt God than when we discovered why we have seasons, or any other weather patterns. Evolution is just one of so many explanations of natural events in our universe that were previously attributed to God, to have God knocked down by evolution and not heliocentric orbit boxes God into a very specific role – and I’m not sure how many theists would agree that their God can be confined in such a way.

  142. #142 Jivlain
    December 29, 2008

    I was looking up those verses in my favourite reference Bible, the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. And what do you know, there was a Monty Python routine I hadn’t yet encountered mentioned!

    All things dull and ugly

    All creatures short and squat
    All things rude and nasty
    The Lord God made the lot

    Each little snake that poisons
    Each little wasp that stings
    He made their brutish venom
    He made their horrid wings

    All things sick and cancerous
    All evils great and small
    All things foul and dangerous
    The Lord God made them all

    Each nasty little hornet
    Each beastly little squid
    Who made the spiky urchin
    Who made the sharks? He did

    All things scabbed and ulcerous
    All pox both great and small
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous
    The Lord God made them all.

  143. #143 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Gabriel, sorry if you took that as an insult, well not really. But what I meant was that a deist believes in something beyond which may or may not be a god but is not a personal god fiddling with things. A theistic evolutionist believes in a personal god, usually the one their family or circle believes in, who set things off. At the lower limit, they think that their god simply set things off with the big bang and let things develop from there. The upper limit think that god ‘fingered’ the first replicating organism and let evolution take over from there.

  144. #144 clinteas
    December 29, 2008

    I say,take evolution or gravity or carpenting as it is,there is no need to add a “theistic” to them.I see why they would be doing it,and that it has some meaning for the theists,but its not needed and we shouldnt be using those terms.

    “Same Hardware-different Operating Systems”

    Atheists are running Linux.

  145. #145 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    clinteas, it has an use for us as well. It is short hand for xians who accept evolution.

  146. #146 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    About half of Americans accept evolution, and if the polls are correct I would bet the vast majority of those Americans believe the god fairy guided evolution, and it especially guided the development of people. They need this belief that god intervened to make its special human ape species, because then they can also believe people, and only people, get to go to heaven after dropping dead. I’m just speculating. Who knows what Idiot America really thinks.

  147. #147 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    We have creationist for believers who don’t accept the theory of evolution – that alone should be enough.

  148. #148 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    BobC @140, you’ve obfuscated your answer to evade the point – a classic theistic technique.

    Q: does understanding of X naturally require Y?
    A:I suggest [understanding] X [does not] require not-Y.

    The question was if understanding evolution requires atheism, not if it requires theism.

  149. #149 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    Theistic evolutionists are a bit like people who accept standard chemistry, mainstream medicine — but insist that homeopathy “works” because the water ‘remembers’ substances on a spiritual level. What does that mean? It means they can invent a magical realm where meaning and intention have Powers, and normal rules don’t apply here.

    So how can they still claim to accept standard chemistry and mainstream medicine? Oh, it’s only for homeopathy, and only sometimes, and even if it’s all placebo, that’s consistent, because then placebos work on the spiritual level. Everything else is exactly the same. There’s no pseudoscience if you throw it into the bin marked “spirituality,” where it jostles with morals and meaning and aesthetics and the way you feel when you’re in love, instead of the periodic table of the elements and theories in physics.

    I agree that you can believe in God, be a Christian, and accept evolution. Of course. You can reconcile them – but not very well, I think. And not all the way down.

  150. #150 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    Kel @147, I entirely agree.

    However, apparently the need was perceived by some, and the term has entered the lexicon.

  151. #151 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Kel, but ultimately, every believer is a creationist. The only thing that differs is when, where and how their god initiated this creation and how much fiddling he did or does.

  152. #152 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    question: does understanding of evolution naturally require atheism?

    Yes, Darwin killed God.

    Is that better, Mr. Morales?

    That’s my opinion. Darwin’s brilliant and simple idea, natural selection, made the supernatural magic idea obsolete. The mildly insane people who accept both evolution and god would disagree with me, but I think they’re lying to themselves.

  153. #153 Miguel
    December 29, 2008

    Most of us can recognize that Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars are fictions …

    Heretic!!! Misotrekist!!!

  154. #154 clinteas
    December 29, 2008

    I agree that you can believe in God, be a Christian, and accept evolution. Of course. You can reconcile them – but not very well, I think. And not all the way down.

    And thats why I dont like the term “theistic”.I realize it is used for christians to help them reconcile their belief with science,but science doesnt need that.Its not science’s problem that religionists have a problem in judging evidence and coming to a conclusion that is not presupposed and influenced by their “faith”.

    Off to work….

  155. #155 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    It just feels like a case of the tail wagging the dog.

  156. #156 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Kel, but ultimately, every believer is a creationist. The only thing that differs is when, where and how their god initiated this creation and how much fiddling he did or does.

    Well if we go back far enough, eventually you’ll hit that moment of creation. But taking it back far enough takes the focus away from the origin of life and the modern sense of the word creationist is out of the game. When we say creationist, ultimately people know that it’s referring to the spontaneous formation of life and in almost all cases: man.

  157. #157 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    BobC,

    question: does understanding of evolution naturally require atheism?
    Yes, Darwin killed God.

    Is that better, Mr. Morales?

    Yes, very much so.

    I disagree with you, because were I theistic I’m confident I could rationalise an abstract enough Creation that would be (in my own opinion) entirely consistent with my understanding of the evolutionary process, but it’s clear, emphatic, unambiguous and also provides a reason.

  158. #158 Efogoto
    December 29, 2008

    When we say creationist, ultimately people know that it’s referring to the spontaneous formation of life and in almost all cases: man.

    Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species: “the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained–namely, that each species has been independently created–is erroneous.”

    I’d say that right there is the division between evolutionists and creationists.

  159. #159 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    Which is exactly what I was talking about, all it does is reinforce the stereotype that evolution equals atheism by having to distinguish yourself from a regular “evolutionist” (what a terrible word evolutionist is.) We are letting them dictate the consequences of words by reacting to them.

    Of course it’s a terrible word! The people who have been pushing the word “evolutionist” are the creationists! If you don’t like, for goodness sake don’t use it! Exclamation points!

    Seriously, though, it’s using the creationists talking points, don’t use their terminology. Add an -ist to the end of a word, and it sounds like some sort of religion/cult/plot. Isms in most people’s opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus, but I’d still have to bum rides off of people. Do you see what I’m saying.

  160. #160 Efogoto
    December 29, 2008

    Citizen Z,

    What would you have us use instead? “Scientist” fails yours “ist” test. So does “realist”. We could try “intelligentsia” and “morons” for the divide. Knowing how many of them reject elitist labels, they might even use those terms as well.

  161. #161 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    Seriously, though, it’s using the creationists talking points, don’t use their terminology.

    I never use creationist terminology and I often ask creationists to not use it.

    I tell them “It’s called evolution, not darwinism.”

    “They’re called biologists, not evolutionists.”

    “It’s magic, not design.”

    “The Louisiana law is not about academic freedom, it’s about letting bad science teachers lie about science.”

    “Points for future understanding are not weaknesses, they are research opportunities.”

    “It’s not a designer, it’s a magic fairy.”

  162. #162 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    Citizen Z, good points, but I don’t think it’s used by non-creationists except satirically (cf #41). Read PZ’s post above, the only place you encounter the term is in the quotes.

    I don’t use the term, but it would be disingenuous to pretend I don’t know what it means when others do use it.

    Add an -ist to the end of a word, and it sounds like some sort of religion/cult/plot.

    Well, yes, but it’s correct usage nonetheless. cf. “Scientist”.

  163. #163 conelrad
    December 29, 2008

    Anyone who wears a ‘magical ignostic’ tee shirt
    is a ‘magical ignostic’, just like me.
    I hope that settles it.

  164. #164 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    The “ist” test was tongue in cheek. “Scientist”, I think works fine. Or just avoid a label entirely. Nobody goes around saying their a “gravitist” or a “special relativist”, nor should they have the need. People who understand evolution should keep the same attitude.

  165. #165 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    Evolutionist is a bad word because it implies normal people can be something else.

    Instead of evolutionist, the word biologist or scientist can be used. For the non-scientist who loves evolution, he or she can be called “a person who isn’t insane”.

  166. #166 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Citizen Z, I call myself an evolutionist when it matters. For what else would you call someone who accepts (note accept not believe) evolutionary theory on the wealth of supporting evidence presented so far.

    Though to be honest, if we avoided the term, they would simply find something else to try to label us pejoratively, After all, they try to insult with the labels Darwinist/Darwinism with equal fervour. The problem for them isn’t the label, but what they think the theory says about them and their beliefs.

  167. #167 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    “The Louisiana law is not about academic freedom, it’s about letting bad science teachers lie about science.”

    I like that. I’ve tended towards “it’s not about academic freedom, it’s about having some standards in education”, but I like yours.

  168. #168 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    Though to be honest, if we avoided the term, they would simply find something else to try to label us pejoratively..

    Then let them try, don’t help them. Don’t ever call yourself an evolutionist. It may take some time, but explain the origin of the term, explain that it’s merely the creationists’ attempt at name-calling. Because it is.

  169. #169 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Citizen Z, actually, no it isn’t, it is only that they try to use it pejoratively. That’s their problem not mine. I am quite happy calling myself an evolutionist when relevant. Where I live, there are areas that use my nationality as an insult. Should I stop calling myself what I am to accommodate the idiots?

  170. #170 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    Well, if you think that, there’s nothing I can say to dissuade you. I can only try to convince the others in this thread not to use a term they hate and disagree with.

  171. #171 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    We may dislike the fact that it is used pejoratively by the IDiots, but most of us don’t hate or disagree with the term. The main thing we have been discussing in this bottom half of the thread, which some posters appear to dislike, isn’t the term evolutionist but the phrase theistic evolutionist.

    BTW,we have had much the same argument about the term atheist, as that is often used pejoratively by many believers. But again, I am not going to let them dictate my use of a perfectly accurate and acceptable term when relevant.

  172. #172 arachnophilia
    December 29, 2008

    @BobC: (#140)

    I suggest accepting evolution and understanding how evolution works requires either no belief in a magic fairy, or a belief in a magic fairy who never did anything.

    why? surely you recognize that evolution can be tinkered with by intelligent agents through the process of selection. we humans have been doing that for quite some time.

    @Kel: (#141)

    Atheism in the process maybe, but not atheism as a whole. Science is inherently atheistic in that sense, you can’t invoke God at any stage to explain a phenomenon.

    of course. science has to be inherently natural. so far, we certainly haven’t come across anything that requires something other than a natural explanation.

    But as for the wider implications of God, evolution should no more hurt God than when we discovered why we have seasons, or any other weather patterns. Evolution is just one of so many explanations of natural events in our universe that were previously attributed to God, to have God knocked down by evolution and not heliocentric orbit boxes God into a very specific role – and I’m not sure how many theists would agree that their God can be confined in such a way.

    okay, but then the question becomes, if we keep reducing god’s role by discovering natural explanations for things that do not require god(s), does it hold then that the default assumption should be that everything has a natural explanation that does not require god(s), as the score so far is heavily in favor of naturalism? and if a god is not required anywhere, does that mean that god does not exist at all?

    if no, is god essentially synonymous and reducible to nature?

    @John Morales: (#148)

    The question was if understanding evolution requires atheism, not if it requires theism.

    no, i’ll accept that answer. i’m not sure if i agree with it, but i don’t think it’s obfuscating anything. atheism comes from the idea of being without gods. we could argue about whether or not that is anti-gods, but i think that’s beside the point. his answer said “no belief.” here, “not-Y” is actually what we’re discussing, i think, as atheism is “not theism.”

    @Sastra: (#149)

    I agree that you can believe in God, be a Christian, and accept evolution. Of course. You can reconcile them – but not very well, I think. And not all the way down.

    this makes sense, of course. accepting evolution requires a certain detachment from the bible. for instance, you cannot accept the first two chapters of genesis as literally inerrant. people go through all sorts of somersaults in their heads to try to get the two reconciled, but none of these i would classify as working “very well.”

    but are we drawing a distinction between “i believe in god and i accept evolution” and “theistic evolution?” if so, just what does theistic evolution mean? god-directed evolution? supernatural selection? hogwash like front-loaded genetics, ala JAD?

    @BobC: (#152)

    Yes, Darwin killed God.

    i thought nietzsche killed god?

    That’s my opinion. Darwin’s brilliant and simple idea, natural selection, made the supernatural magic idea obsolete. The mildly insane people who accept both evolution and god would disagree with me, but I think they’re lying to themselves.

    perhaps. but, another question. doesn’t evolution only rather strictly cover the divergence and diversity of life on this planet, not, say, the creation thereof? we have other stuff to cover that sort of thing, but it’s precisely the same kind of mistake that fundamentalists often make, to conflate evolution with all of science.

    @Efogoto: (#158)

    Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species: “the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained–namely, that each species has been independently created–is erroneous.”

    I’d say that right there is the division between evolutionists and creationists.

    clearly not, as some of the same people we’d accuse of being crackpot creationists accept common decent, to some degree. behe being the notable example. it’s a common difference, yes, but not the dividing line.

    @Citizen Z: (#159)

    Of course it’s a terrible word! The people who have been pushing the word “evolutionist” are the creationists! If you don’t like, for goodness sake don’t use it! Exclamation points!

    i use the word in exactly two contexts: (1) mild parody of creationist junk (ALWAYS in quotes), and (2) to describe people who don’t know the first thing about biology, geology, paleontology, etc, and treat evolution as if it were some kind of faith. evolution is not an “-ism.” it’s a scientific fact, and a broader theory of life on this planet.

    sadly, the kind of person in (2) does exist. people who are right for the wrong reasons potentially annoy me more than people who are wrong for the wrong reasons, or even wrong for the right reasons.

  173. #173 Carl
    December 29, 2008

    From AIG ….

    “Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them.”

    Vs

    “However, if one questions these assumptions, one is motivated to test them.”

    Contradict much?

  174. #174 Allytude
    December 29, 2008

    …and why would anyone want to read that stuff. It makes me head ache that creationism nonsense. Assumptions indeed. And what Genesis is that… I prefer the other stories

  175. #175 Citizen Z
    December 29, 2008

    I think you may be speaking for yourself on not hating or disagreeing with the term. I’m seeing a lot of scare quotes around “evolutionist” (used on its own). Mostly, the commenters here have treated as a bad joke. My impression is that this comment is typical (though I obviously disagree with Cassidy in its appropriateness). I’ve met a lot of biologists and defenders of evolution, and I’ve never met one who thought the word evolutionist was anything other than a creationist invention.

  176. #176 BobC
    December 29, 2008

    doesn’t evolution only rather strictly cover the divergence and diversity of life on this planet, not, say, the creation thereof? we have other stuff to cover that sort of thing, but it’s precisely the same kind of mistake that fundamentalists often make, to conflate evolution with all of science.

    My point was, when I said Darwin killed god, is that after he showed that god is not necessary to explain the diversity of life, it became rather pointless to stick the god-fairy-of-the-gaps anywhere else. God’s creation of people was considered its greatest accomplishment but now we know god didn’t have anything to do with it.

    Even though evolutionary biology only describes the history of life, it obviously has major religious implications, and those implications are strong enough, in my opinion, to throw the god invention in the garbage. The creationist retards agree with me, and that’s why they are desperately trying to dumb down or completely suppress the teaching of modern biology.

    I personally think the creationists should be congratulated for getting at least one thing right, which is the facts of evolutionary biology are a terrible threat to all their beliefs, including the magic fairy itself. I say this because I think both scientific literacy and the eradication of religious insanity from the world are equally important.

  177. #177 Sastra
    December 29, 2008

    arachnophilia #172 wrote:

    but are we drawing a distinction between “i believe in god and i accept evolution” and “theistic evolution?” if so, just what does theistic evolution mean?

    Well, I’m not drawing any distinction there, but others may be. There are all sorts of subtle variations in theistic evolution. Some otherwise hard-nosed religious scientists will go all gooey and insist that the “moral sense” or “higher consciousness” could not have evolved. Those are usually not the scientists which study those fields in particular, though.

    When I said that theists cannot accept evolution “all the way down,” I was trying to refer to how the basic implications involved in accepting a bottom-up, reductionist, cranes-all-the-way approach undermines theism. Religion and spirituality use a top-down, Original Complexity, skyhook approach. Once you understand that life and mind and morals and meaning evolved from objects and processes which had no mind or meaning themselves, suddenly doing an abrupt 180 and starting out with an unevolved Mind and Meaning which was just there to start everything off with should give one whiplash. They have to draw an artificial line somewhere, so they can insist they’re in a totally different area, and the mechanisms don’t work anymore.

  178. #178 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Actually, when I use it as a ‘joke’ term, I invariably use evIlution or put quotes around it.

    Again I ask, what term would I use for myself without having to write a paragraph explaining exactly what I accept and why each time it arises. I can’t use biologist as I am not one, though I understand more than enough to understand the biology that supports evolutionary theory, as I understand more than enough of the other sciences that similarly support it. In fact, the only terms I can use to show such acceptance tend to be used pejoratively by certain people.

  179. #179 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    okay, but then the question becomes, if we keep reducing god’s role by discovering natural explanations for things that do not require god(s), does it hold then that the default assumption should be that everything has a natural explanation that does not require god(s), as the score so far is heavily in favor of naturalism? and if a god is not required anywhere, does that mean that god does not exist at all?

    Good questions, short answer is I don’t know. I do take that inductive view, but not everyone does. When we have a “theory of everything” in science, then I might be a bit more confident to say that the induction of naturalism has a place. But right now so much is up in the air in terms of what we don’t know due to our limitations of measurement and understanding.

    if no, is god essentially synonymous and reducible to nature?

    Personally that’s the way I look at it, I take the Sagan approach and say that God is the laws of physics, they are what created us and they are what control us.

    i thought nietzsche killed god?

    Hume killed God, Darwin showed how he did it, and Nietzsche wrote about it. ;)

  180. #180 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Kel

    Hume killed God, Darwin showed how he did it, and Nietzsche wrote about it. ;)

    I like that, I might just pinch it :)

  181. #181 Kel
    December 29, 2008

    Actually it works better as: “Hume killed God, Darwin confessed the murder, and Nietzsche wrote about it”

  182. #182 TonV
    December 29, 2008

    Quick observation: i am always surprised by the problems atheist have when science is misinterpreted by creationists and twisted facts are offered in support of creationism. This is not something to be wary of but should be embraced. I see it as evidence that facts and scientific reasoning are so important in this culture that even creationists are using them, and feel bound to use them to support their false claims. It is as if they recognize that without logical reasoning and without using science – their version of science- they will loose the battle.

    Well, if the battle is one science vs faith i see this as a sign of victory: haven’t we won when they are using scientific reasoning instead of simply saying; you have to have faith?

  183. #183 John Morales
    December 29, 2008

    Kel @179,

    … But right now so much is up in the air in terms of what we don’t know due to our limitations of measurement and understanding.

    IOW, to repeat an old dictum: science employs methodological naturalism, and takes no stance regarding metaphysical naturalism. So far, so good for the utility of that notion.

  184. #184 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    Kel, yep, I think I like that one better :)

    Though if it wasn’t for the nice use of confession I might swap it with revealed. Though come to think of it, reveal has a religious significance as well :).

    At this rate we’ll have the creos accusing once again of just hating god and wanting him gone so we can get on with our godless orgies and such :)

  185. #185 MP2K
    December 29, 2008

    Pfft. God was not murdered. Everyone knows God killed himself. I submit evidence for your perusal:

    http://www.porkolt.com/other/Wonder-Showzen-God-2630.html

  186. #186 John Phillips, FCD
    December 29, 2008

    MP2K, I thought we chased you off with pitchforks and torches the other day :)

  187. #187 MP2K
    December 30, 2008

    Turns out I haven’t even been banned yet even though I strayed from board orthodoxy. PZ’s hurt foot must be to blame.

  188. #188 thalarctos
    December 30, 2008

    Interesting observation but a bit of a reach. I think its just a case of poor drawing.

    Well, maybe, but it’s also the very first thing Mr thalarctos, who was raised as a fundie, pointed out to me when I showed him the drawing, before he had read either the post or the comments.

    I had not picked up on the stylistic distinction myself, but based on a lot of past exposure to the genre, he is fairly certain that both the teeth and the nose are a deliberate dog whistle for the intended audience to contrast the Gentile believer with the Jewish intellectual.

  189. #189 Aquaria
    December 30, 2008

    I agree that you can believe in God, be a Christian, and accept evolution. Of course. You can reconcile them – but not very well, I think. And not all the way down.

    Turtles!

    Oh. Sorry.

    Anyway, there’s no reason they need to be called theistic evolutionists. Swap it around to something else. Evo-devo theists. Not entirely woo-addled theists. Evolutionistic (if it’s not a word, it now is!) theists. Or what have you.

    Heer I iz, a blue-collar idiut, and I kan duz framin lyk dat hi falootin Mat Nisbelt.

  190. #190 gabriel
    December 30, 2008

    John back @ 143:

    Gabriel, sorry if you took that as an insult, well not really. But what I meant was that a deist believes in something beyond which may or may not be a god but is not a personal god fiddling with things. A theistic evolutionist believes in a personal god, usually the one their family or circle believes in, who set things off. At the lower limit, they think that their god simply set things off with the big bang and let things develop from there. The upper limit think that god ‘fingered’ the first replicating organism and let evolution take over from there.

    No offense taken, of course.

    A TE may also believe in a personal God who intervenes, answers prayer, and the like – but who does so in a way that would not be amenable to scientific investigation. For example, I take Ken Miller at his word that he is fully an evolutionary biologist and fully a Catholic. I assume that means he doesn’t think Mass is a pointless exercise, and that he thinks something supernatural happens during it.

    Interestingly, your last category

    the upper limit think that god ‘fingered’ the first replicating organism and let evolution take over from there.

    would cover Darwin at the time he wrote Origin – although at the time he lacked the evidence to decide if God created one original form or perhaps a few.

    arachnophilia @ 172:

    okay, but then the question becomes, if we keep reducing god’s role by discovering natural explanations for things that do not require god(s), does it hold then that the default assumption should be that everything has a natural explanation that does not require god(s), as the score so far is heavily in favor of naturalism? and if a god is not required anywhere, does that mean that god does not exist at all?

    This only is a problem if one holds a view that things we perceive as “natural” are outside of the domain of God. Many Christians today make this (erroneous) assumption. If one held consistently to this logic, however, then everything natural would be a threat to theism – and the concept of general providence would be nullified.

  191. #191 John Phillips, FCD
    December 30, 2008

    gabriel, how would the ‘fingerer’ god fit Darwin at the time he wrote Origin? Especially when you consider he only actually wrote it years after working it out on receiving a letter from Wallace that showed that he had much the same idea and was likely to publish soon. Up until then he had put off writing it for the offence and hurt he knew it would cause, especially for his wife. He himself, long before then, had turned away from a belief in god and was at best agnostic, as can be seen from his letters to friends and as can be seen at the end of origin.

    By the way, as we were only discussing evolution I didn’t consider it necessary to expand what their belief might entail beyond their direct import for evolution. I shall remember in future.

  192. #192 gabriel
    December 30, 2008

    gabriel, how would the ‘fingerer’ god fit Darwin at the time he wrote Origin?

    Having just finished the tome itself (ok, so I’m 150 years behind on my reading) Darwin’s main concern seems not to be whether God was the creator, but rather the notion that species were created independently.

    * reaches over for the copy of Origin on the nightstand *

    If you read the last few pages of Darwin’s “conclusion” you’ll see things like

    “To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.”

    and, of course, the famous quote I was alluding to before (right at the end of the book):

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms, or into one…”

    Basically Darwin is arguing from within a theist position here. Yes, one could argue that he is merely doing this for the sake of his audience, his own views having already shifted to agnosticism. I seem to recall that Darwin maintained his faith at least until after the first edition of Origin was published, but I don’t know for sure. I’ll see if I can find that info.

  193. #193 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    I seem to recall that Darwin maintained his faith at least until after the first edition of Origin was published, but I don’t know for sure. I’ll see if I can find that info.

    It was before then, when his daughter died.

  194. #194 gabriel
    December 30, 2008

    John, here’s a link that deals with Darwin’s personal correspondence on Christian faith:

    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/content/view/106/100/

    I might dig through it again later (I’ve done some poking around the site, but not for a while).

  195. #195 Arno
    December 30, 2008

    Also, keep in mind that “There is grandeur” did not have the Creator bit mentioned until the third print or so. The original print is creatorless.

  196. #196 DLC
    December 30, 2008

    PZ : “The existence of Lord of the Rings does not imply that Tolkien fans should believe the world really was populated with elves and orcs, once upon a time.”

    Me: But.. there were too Hobbits and Elves and Orcs!
    There were! there were!
    Me, for real: Okay, so my denial of reality in claiming there must indeed have been Elves, Hobbits and Orcs is a bit less sophisticated than the usual creationist denial of the mountain of scientific evidence for evolution. But does the cdesign proponentists have any better evidence than simple childish denial ? Anything that isn’t a logical fallacy, misinformation or outright lie ?

    And if there is no evidence for special creation — if indeed it is a matter of faith and not a matter of proof —
    is their faith so weak that they must deny the teaching of proper science to the general public in order to feel secure ?

  197. #197 gabriel
    December 30, 2008

    It was before then, when his daughter died.

    I knew that this was a major blow for Darwin, but I was unsure of the date. I stand corrected – rather I guess I should say that he remained a theist of some sort until after the Origin was published.

    Also, keep in mind that “There is grandeur” did not have the Creator bit mentioned until the third print or so. The original print is creatorless.

    True, but the first quote I cited is in the 1st edition word-for-word, and the use of “breathed into” in the grandeur quote in the 1st edition certainly implies a creator of some sort. But your point stands – Darwin added the explicit Creator language to the second quote.

    I see that the darwin project site has an interview with Simon Conway Morris under the “Darwin and religion” section – I think I’ll be checking that out tomorrow if time permits.

    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/content/view/93/78/

    Goodnight, all.

    gabe

  198. #198 Iain Walker
    December 30, 2008

    John Phillips (#109):

    In NI, the education minister is a creationist who believes it should be taught as science

    I think you’re thinking of the chair of the education committee, Mervyn Storey, who’s a DUP whackaloon and the most prominent proponent of getting creationism/ID taught in schools. The current minister for education is Sinn Fein’s Caitríona Ruane, who has been resisting Storey’s attempts.

    As an ex-Ulster person who despised both sides of the sectarian divide pretty much equally, I find it odd to be cheering on Sinn Fein, but I’m damned glad they got the education portfolio.

  199. #199 Iain Walker
    December 30, 2008

    gabriel (#197):

    I see that the darwin project site has an interview with Simon Conway Morris under the “Darwin and religion” section

    Hmm. I caught the end of an interview with Simon Conway Morris on BBC Radio 4 last night, and it was … odd.

    On the one hand, he had some harsh words for ID (it’s not science, it’s bad theology etc), but things got really bizarre when he started going on about how his acceptance of Christianity was just as reasonable as his acceptance of the findings of science.

    Firstly, he seems to think that the gospels provide an adequate evidential basis for accepting the ressurection of Jesus. He claimed that the accounts were consistent (which they aren’t – the different gospels contradict each other on several points), and rolled out the old chestnut “If the resurrection story was invented, why did the authors depict women as discovering the empty tomb, in a culture where women’s testimony was devalued?” (as if the resurrection story somehow stood or fell on the testimony of the initial female “witnesses”, as opposed to the subsequent “witness” by the male disciples).

    Secondly, some of you may be amused to hear that Conway Morris is also rather impressed by Near Death and Out-of-Body Experiences. In fairness, he wasn’t so much impressed with the tunnel of light variety with deceased family members at the other end, as with the reports of people waking up from surgery and being able to describe events that occured while they were unconscious.

    Unfortunately, he prefixed this with a reference to studies showing that people in comas are sometimes aware of their surroundings (as suggested by brain scans showing bits of the brain lighting up in response to stimuli). Not only does the latter completely fail to cast doubt on a physicalist theory of mind (as he seemed to be suggesting), but it also goes some way towards undermining his subsequent claims about OOBEs. After all, if individuals can be deeply unconscious yet still process some information about their environment, that suggests an explanation for the apparent knowledge of events recalled by the patients.

    The impression I got was of an intelligent man, by no means devoid of critical thinking skills, who had nevertheless managed to delude himself that he was applying those skills consistently, when it was painfully obvious that he was applying them very selectively indeed. It was kind of sad.

  200. #200 Richard Clayton
    December 30, 2008

    The “different interpretation / worldview” canard is an excellent example of what Orwell called crimestop. It provides a thought-terminating cliché to keep the creationist flock from thinking too much about any evidence that falsifies their beliefs.

    “Look at Tiktaalik roseae. What more could you ask in a transitional fossil?”

    “Well, that’s just your worldview.”

    “No, seriously, it’s a fish with obvious tetrapod features–”

    WORLDVIEW!! LA LA LA I’M NOT LISTENING TO YOUR DARWINIST WORLDVIEW!!””

  201. #201 Steven Dunlap
    December 30, 2008

    Sorry if someone has pointed this out already. I’m writing in the morning before going to work and have only skimmed the 198 posts.

    I know I sound like a broken record repeating myself but the “axioms” argument has lived with us for centuries. It’s not news. This constitutes another failure of the creationists to grasp the concept of deductive reasoning. The idea that all hypothesis have to pass the test of verification and we go with what’s left after subjecting everything to the tests we can reasonably and practically apply. Everybody’s “presuppositions” have to stand up to verification (at least as much as possible). An emotional attachment to a given theory is what this system is supposed to correct for.

  202. #202 Aseem
    December 30, 2008

    On a related note, I received this email from a creationist who owns a site called http://www.pointsoforigins.com. Apparently, he goes from university to university defending creationism in his speeches. (I head CFI at the University of Oklahoma)

    Dear OU campus group leader,

    My name is Charles Jackson and I was wondering … what would your group do if you had a real creationist come to give a talk? — not the kind of lampoon-stereotyped science-soft kind you’ve been told about — but I mean a real one. Why not.

    Have you ever wondered what motivates creationists? Can they think/reason? Do they have any substance at all? More importantly — do you really want to know? — or are rumors just good enough ?

    I am willing to come give, say a 20-min presentation, then open it up for an unlimited Q/A-discussion lasting the remainder of whatever time we have. I can promise you that I will be both personally cordial and academically robust. I can also promise you that our interchange will be both motivationally riveting and intellectually stimulating — for sure, not a waste of anyone’s good time. And there will be no financial cost on your part whatsoever.

    So whaddya say? Take this advantage and email me: DrJackson@PointsofOrigins.com
    We can make plans for a date/time to fit both our schedules in the upcoming semester.
    Such topics should be of poignant timeliness, in view of the planned OU celebration events for the 150th annniversary of Darwin’s book and of his 200th birthday.

    Sincerely yours, in the interest of intellectual growth and freedom, Dr. Charles Jackson

    Intellectual growth indeed! The website doesn’t seem to be loading currently, but when I checked it a few days back, one of the clauses of their ‘Statement of Faith’ was similar to the one posted by DuckPhup at #35 – That the Bible is to be considered inerrant and in the face of any evidence that seems to contradict anything in the Bible, it the Bible that wins! Say, has anybody had the misfortune of having attended a lecture by this G Charles Jackson? I am sure he would use the same fallacies that mentioned in this blog post as his arguments for creationism.(Can somebody please give me the html tag for block quoting?)

  203. #203 Deen
    December 30, 2008

    This is exactly the main theme of a brochure that a Dutch creationist organization is planning to deliver to about 6 million homes in the Netherlands. You can already tell by it’s title, “Evolution or Creation: what do you believe?” that they are trying to push the same false equivalence as PZ identified. Even if you don’t read Dutch, just the pictures will give you an idea of how bad their arguments are.

    And if you do read Dutch, I’m in the process of doing a chapter by chapter take-down at my blog.

  204. #204 Deen
    December 30, 2008

    Aseem, #202: Just use <blockquote>Quoted text</blockquote>, which will result in:

    Quoted text

  205. #205 tom j lawson
    December 30, 2008

    Yes, we should abandon our current, better, faster operating systems and revert to MS-DOS because Bill Gates will send us to the pit of fire if we don’t…..

  206. #206 CJO
    December 30, 2008

    He claimed that the accounts were consistent (which they aren’t – the different gospels contradict each other on several points), and rolled out the old chestnut “If the resurrection story was invented, why did the authors depict women as discovering the empty tomb, in a culture where women’s testimony was devalued?” (as if the resurrection story somehow stood or fell on the testimony of the initial female “witnesses”, as opposed to the subsequent “witness” by the male disciples).

    I’m not defending the argument, but I think you’re missing the point of it. It’s based on the so-called principle of embarrassment: the claim is not so much that the account stands and falls on the testimony of the women at the tomb, it’s that the story of the women at the tomb must be true, because no one would make it up, it being supposedly embarrassing, due to the low status of women in the society, or simply bacause it’s an exceedingly weak claim to simply say that the tomb was empty and someone saw it.

    I’ve heard the same argument made for the passion account as a whole, based on the idea that claiming your god was an executed criminal isn’t the kind of story you’d make up, either. In any case, it’s a lame argument, as is the claim that the canonical Gospels agree in broad outline. To the extent that they do, it’s because there are interdepencies; Mark is a source for Luke and Matthew, and John shows awareness of that tradition. To the extent that they do not agree, the point is all in how they differ. If they were based on an oral tradition going back to actual followers of an actual historical figure, the authors would not have felt so free to alter the story fundamentally to fit their own theologies and doctrinal anxieties, but the accounts would differ in other ways more consistent with what we know about oral transmission.

  207. #207 arachnophilia
    December 30, 2008

    @BobC: (#176)

    My point was, when I said Darwin killed god, is that after he showed that god is not necessary to explain the diversity of life, it became rather pointless to stick the god-fairy-of-the-gaps anywhere else.

    isn’t that giving darwin a lot of credit he doesn’t necessarily deserve? surely, lots of other scientists filled in other gaps.

    God’s creation of people was considered its greatest accomplishment but now we know god didn’t have anything to do with it.

    i dunno, if you ask a christian, he might tell you that salvation was god’s greatest accomplishment. if you ask a jew, he might tell you that torah, or perhaps the exodus was. if you ask a muslim, he might tell you that allah’s teachings to muhammad were.

    I personally think the creationists should be congratulated for getting at least one thing right, which is the facts of evolutionary biology are a terrible threat to all their beliefs, including the magic fairy itself.

    perhaps.

    @Sastra: (#177)

    Well, I’m not drawing any distinction there, but others may be. There are all sorts of subtle variations in theistic evolution. Some otherwise hard-nosed religious scientists will go all gooey and insist that the “moral sense” or “higher consciousness” could not have evolved. Those are usually not the scientists which study those fields in particular, though.

    no, generally. i’ve heard things about the evolution of those particular things, and it’s generally pretty fascinating.

    When I said that theists cannot accept evolution “all the way down,” I was trying to refer to how the basic implications involved in accepting a bottom-up, reductionist, cranes-all-the-way approach undermines theism. Religion and spirituality use a top-down, Original Complexity, skyhook approach.

    yes, i understand that. they don’t mix very well, in total.

    @Kel: (#179)

    Personally that’s the way I look at it, I take the Sagan approach and say that God is the laws of physics, they are what created us and they are what control us.

    okay. would we include this under the umbrella of “theistic evolution” as well? what would a more appropriate title be? deism? spinozism?

    Hume killed God, Darwin showed how he did it, and Nietzsche wrote about it. ;)

    ah, i see. guess i should get around to reading hume, then.

    @TonV: (#182)

    Quick observation: i am always surprised by the problems atheist have when science is misinterpreted by creationists and twisted facts are offered in support of creationism. This is not something to be wary of but should be embraced. I see it as evidence that facts and scientific reasoning are so important in this culture that even creationists are using them, and feel bound to use them to support their false claims. It is as if they recognize that without logical reasoning and without using science – their version of science- they will loose the battle.

    they may lose a little by being forced to use science, but we lose a lot because they spread misinformation that’s easier to process than the complex scientific truth.

    @John Morales: (#183)

    IOW, to repeat an old dictum: science employs methodological naturalism, and takes no stance regarding metaphysical naturalism. So far, so good for the utility of that notion.

    so you would say that one does not imply (or require) the other?

    @MP2K: (#187)

    Turns out I haven’t even been banned yet even though I strayed from board orthodoxy. PZ’s hurt foot must be to blame.

    i’m surprised i haven’t been banned yet. i used to read the blog for the biology (honest!) but the religious aspect has been more common and more interesting lately. and my comments have all generally been about the bible.

    but i try very hard to be the opposite of a god-bot, generally using the bible to fight god-bots and creos and IDiots. which, while still ineffective, is surprisingly entertaining for me.

    @gabriel: (#190)

    This only is a problem if one holds a view that things we perceive as “natural” are outside of the domain of God. Many Christians today make this (erroneous) assumption. If one held consistently to this logic, however, then everything natural would be a threat to theism – and the concept of general providence would be nullified.

    if god becomes synonymous with nature, does god become an extraneous variable, that essentially does nothing (as BobC posed), and can be eliminated with ockham’s razor?

    (#192)

    Basically Darwin is arguing from within a theist position here.

    one wonders about writing in that time period, and from people like darwin and our founding fathers, whether “creator” wasn’t simply idiomatic.

    @Richard Clayton: (#200)

    “Look at Tiktaalik roseae. What more could you ask in a transitional fossil?”

    “Well, that’s just your worldview.”

    “No, seriously, it’s a fish with obvious tetrapod features–“

    “WORLDVIEW!! LA LA LA I’M NOT LISTENING TO YOUR DARWINIST WORLDVIEW!!””

    it’s hard to argue with people who see everything as completely separate, even if they’re clearly related. i had a discussion once where we tried to determine if creationists could play connect-the-dots.

    as in, literally. i took a connect-the-dots picture from a child’s coloring book, and asked “what does it look like to you?” removed a few dots, asked again.

    it was amusing, and the creationist was incredibly insulted. but i pointed out, guess what. this is what the fossil record shows. we have a large number of points of data, which have numbers attached to them (ages!) that help indicate order. using a few other qualities of the data (homologies!) we can draw a picture that no rational person could disagree with. it’s basically connect the dots.

    of course, the other joke is that whenever a new species is discovered that’s clearly in transition between two major forms, we toast to “TWO NEW GAPS!”

    @CJO: (#206)

    the claim is not so much that the account stands and falls on the testimony of the women at the tomb, it’s that the story of the women at the tomb must be true, because no one would make it up, it being supposedly embarrassing, due to the low status of women in the society, or simply bacause it’s an exceedingly weak claim to simply say that the tomb was empty and someone saw it.

    maybe that was part of their cunning plan!

    actually, there’s a lot of ridiculous stuff in the gospels, if you’re reading closely. i don’t mean the big stuff that’s easy for an atheist criticize. i mean the little details that are hard for a religious person to get over.

    for instance, the fact that matthew tries to sell jesus as the messiah, to a jewish audience, and screws so much of the jewish stuff up. for instance, he messes up the genealogy by putting jesus in the cursed lineage of jehoiakim, not the lineage of the last rightful king of judah, zedekiah. and this is history that any jewish person at the time should have known.

  208. #208 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 30, 2008

    Comments 20, 61, and 101 make a very important point: we are not starting from the same facts — the cdesign proponentsists start from a very, very small sample of the facts, believe it is exhaustive, and run into deep trouble when they discover that it isn’t even close.

    So what we’ve got here is clearly some large herbivorous mammal with a huge willy. Whatever it is, it’s not a dinosaur, because among terrestrial vertebrates only mammals have external testes and penises of any size.

    You’re wrong about “penises of any size”, but not even all mammals have external testes. Elephants, for example, don’t.

    The rest of the text strongly suggests that “behemoth” was the Hebrew word for hippo…

    nor is ziz, the primordial beast of the air, but the book of job doesn’t mention him.

    Which book does? 2 Chronicles 20:16 contains the word, but as a place name…

  209. #209 Kel
    December 30, 2008

    okay. would we include this under the umbrella of “theistic evolution” as well? what would a more appropriate title be? deism? spinozism?

    Hell no it’s not theistic evolution. It’s nothing to do with theism at all. It’s not deism as I’m not positing a deity at the beginning of it all, and it’s a misnomer to call it pantheism because I don’t feel there is any intelligence or will imposed in the universe. It’s just atheism, nothing more nothing less.

    All life is born out of dead stars, it’s not a religion to say we are expressions of stars. It’s simply asserting what we know. Likewise saying we are built by the laws of physics that also restrict our actions (i.e. I need to eat to gain energy in order to survive) we are expressions of the universe.

    “We are a way for the universe to know itself.” – Carl Sagan
    “The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying… it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.” – Carl Sagan

    It’s nothing more than atheism sexed up to sound mystical.

  210. #210 gabriel
    December 30, 2008

    if god becomes synonymous with nature, does god become an extraneous variable, that essentially does nothing (as BobC posed), and can be eliminated with ockham’s razor?

    Yes, I would say so. If God is just another word for nature you’re far beyond theism by any meaningful sense of the term.

  211. #211 John Morales
    December 30, 2008

    gabriel @210,

    If God is just another word for nature you’re far beyond theism by any meaningful sense of the term.

    Not really. It’s called pantheism (literally, “god is all”).

    It’s a form of theism.

  212. #212 H.H.
    December 31, 2008

    John Morales wrote:

    It’s called pantheism (literally, “god is all”). It’s a form of theism.

    That seems to depend on what form of pantheism is under discussion. From your link:

    Perhaps the most significant debate within the pantheistic community is about the nature of God. Classical pantheism believes in a personal, conscious, and omniscient God, and sees this God as uniting all true religions. Naturalistic pantheism believes in an unconscious, non-sentient Universe, which, while being holy and beautiful, is seen as being a God in a non-traditional and impersonal sense.

    On the page for Naturalistic pantheism, Wikipedia says:

    Accordingly, Nature is seen as being what religions call “God” only in a non-traditional, impersonal sense, where the terms Nature and God are synonymous. Therefore, naturalistic pantheism is also known as “impersonal pantheism” and “impersonal absolutism,” and does not posit any form of supernatural belief.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Classical pantheism appears theistic, but naturalistic pantheism certainly sounds like dressed-up atheism to me.

  213. #213 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    H.H.,

    Classical pantheism appears theistic, but naturalistic pantheism certainly sounds like dressed-up atheism to me.

    Good pickup.

    It is creditable for someone to have the courage of their convictions. Just as Deism and agnosticicm are used as obfuscations by atheists, so is pantheism.

    “naturalistic pantheism” is clearly an oxymoron, is it not? ;)

  214. #214 arachnophilia
    December 31, 2008

    @David Marjanovi?, OM: (#208)

    cdesign proponentsists

    +1!

    You’re wrong about “penises of any size”, but not even all mammals have external testes. Elephants, for example, don’t.

    really? i didn’t know that! the elephant is frequently cited as an example of a possible influence on the imagery for behemot. depending on how you want to translate the imagery of job, that might disqualify the elephant.

    The rest of the text strongly suggests that “behemoth” was the Hebrew word for hippo…

    well. it’s hard to say for behemot. leviyatan is certainly mythological (and is used mythologically elsewhere) and bears a lot of resemblance to the lotan in ugarit, and maybe tiamat in sumer.

    the legend is that god creates a pair of great water serpents (genesis 1:21, the tanimn, frequently translated “whales” which is the modern meaning for leviyatanimn), and then kills one to feed his more favored creation, mankind (psalm 74:14), and that remaining one curses god and becomes a great and powerful enemy of mankind. the great red dragon in revelation, as an image for the devil, probably draws from this idea.

    Which book does [mention ziz]?

    none that i’m aware of, it’s strictly a talmud/midrashic thing, and something i wasn’t even particularly aware of until recently. apparently, the three will serve as a giant feast during the end times, or something.

    anyways, it’s hard to say whether or not behemot deserve mythological status, or if it’s just something like a hippo or an aurochs. i’m inclined to think the latter, as it doesn’t differ substantially from god’s descriptions of other regular animals towards the end of job. and that mythological status was probably ascribed to him a little later because of close association with leviyatan and the lack of a decent name we can identify.

    @Kel: (#209)

    Hell no … It’s nothing more than atheism sexed up to sound mystical.

    well, okay. why bother doing that, exactly? and isn’t that almost as silly as sexing up creationism to sound scientific?

    @gabriel: (#210)

    Yes, I would say so. If God is just another word for nature you’re far beyond theism by any meaningful sense of the term.

    what john said.

    my question, admittedly, is sort of a trick. of course, if that is our definition of god, he can be eliminated from any scientific discussion — and should be, regardless. the question that now follows is that if god is irrelevent to the scientific discussions, how does that affect belief, or reality? can a god who is synonymous with nature be said to exist? should we bother believing in such an entity, if “entity” is even the right word?

    i’m not especially trying to wedge god in anywhere, or justify the irrational. i’m just curious to see what the logical implications are.

    i don’t happen to think that evolution necessarily implies atheism. but perhaps it helps to make a decent case for it. perhaps.

  215. #215 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    arachnophilia @207, sorry, I missed your post.

    @John Morales: (#183)
    IOW, to repeat an old dictum: science employs methodological naturalism, and takes no stance regarding metaphysical naturalism. So far, so good for the utility of that notion.

    so you would say that one does not imply (or require) the other?

    No.
    I would say metaphysical naturalism implies methodological naturalism, but not the converse.

  216. #216 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    well, okay. why bother doing that, exactly? and isn’t that almost as silly as sexing up creationism to sound scientific?

    I don’t think so personally. What’s wrong with being able to express your sense of wonder and amazement at the universe? It’s like looking at a painting. You can describe the painting as paint on canvas, or you can describe the rich and vivid imagery you see. Both really are expressing the same fact, but one sounds more engaging than the other.

    I could say, we live and we die. Over time all human endeavours are going to be forgotten and rendered meaningless in an indifferent universe. Or I could say that life is a wonderful interplay where we can take wonder in the abilities that we have simply for being born homo sapien. That there is a sense of reverence between us and nature and as part of the way I’m built I feel a great affinity towards the universe where I’m lucky enough to inhabit and appreciate. Both describing the same thing really, just focusing on a different way of expressing it.

  217. #217 H.H.
    December 31, 2008

    John Morales:

    “naturalistic pantheism” is clearly an oxymoron, is it not? ;)

    Yeah, I don’t know. Kel touches on this a bit, but I’ve talked with this one guy who is a pagan, although he strikes me as an atheist. He says he doesn’t believe in any supernatural gods or forces, but he likes to get out with friends and worship “nature.” For him it’s less about the reality of a being that can accept and appreciate his worship and more about expressing his joy at being alive and the beauty of nature (from what I gather). Still, whatever he goes out in the woods and does–with the various rituals, incantations, chants, songs, dances and whatnot–certainly strikes me as a religion. I wouldn’t say his version of paganism is theistic exactly, but he certainly uses language that anthropomorphizes nature at times. While he seems to straddle that sort of that gray area between theism and atheism, he self-identifies as a theist (I think I remember that correctly).

    Anyway, my point is, I’m not sure I care what people call themselves anymore. I’m an atheist and am comfortable with that label. I love the natural world, but I personally hold no desire to worship it. For those that do and need some name to call themselves, I guess naturalistic pantheist is as good as any.

  218. #218 John Morales
    December 31, 2008

    H.H., I agree that the varieties of human experience of the numinous are many and varied. I’ve encountered self-described pantheists that I cannot really distinguish from atheists. (cf. terren at my link)

    Maybe I am an Atheist, I don’t know. I don’t much care anymore either, I am what i am and I do what I do :)

  219. #219 Kel
    December 31, 2008

    I wouldn’t call myself a pantheist by the way. I’m just an atheist who appreciates the universe.

  220. #220 Owlmirror
    December 31, 2008

    I think the crucial question is whether whatever the conception of God happens to be is a person; a personal God.

    If it isn’t, then it’s indistinguishable from atheism.

    The only objection I have to calling “the universe, and everything in it, with no personality implied” with the label “God” is pretty much that it isn’t really helpful in aiding understanding the universe, and leads to confusion with the much more common (and falsifiable) notion of God as a person.

    But hey, whatever floats your boat (as it were).

  221. #221 H.H.
    December 31, 2008

    John Morales, I agree that the line between worshiping the natural world and simply celebrating it can be very fine indeed.

  222. #222 hf
    December 31, 2008

    See now, it took me a while to notice this came from AiG. When I saw the cartoon, for example, I immediately thought, “That guy on the left must use Vista.” Because why would you use an OS that looks at a dinosaur fossil and says, “Great evidence for Creation!” Dual-booting with such a strange operating system may well have some use — see comment #68, which appears to come from a software designer — but if you use only the Peyote Experiment OS to look at fossils, you’re DOIN IT RONG.

  223. #223 akshelby
    December 31, 2008

    I was wondering if someone could help me out with this. I’ve been attempting to discuss religion with some creobots in the comments of our local newspaper. One of them posted this which I am guessing is meaningless, but I don’t really understand it.

    “Many hoped that molecular genetics would confirm evolution. It did not. It confirms taxonomic distances between organisms, but not the postulated phylogenetic sequences. It confirmed Linnaeus, not Darwin.

    Molecular genetics presented new problems. Genomes [all the genes in an organism] have multiple copies of genes or of noncoding sequences, very homogeneous within a species but heterogeneous between species. Such ‘repeats’ could not have been formed by random mutations acting on a common genome of a postulated ancestor. Some unexplained ‘molecular drive’ is postulated to account for these copies. It is simpler to assume there was no common ancestral genome.

    What do we see in the short time interval available to our cognition? An increase in the number of useful alleles or a decrease? An increase in the number of species or a decrease? An increase in information in nature or loss of it? Is nature moving from chaos to ever-increasing organization, or from an organized state towards ever-increasing chaos? Evolution is not a conclusion drawn from observations. It is an ideology to which observations are applied when convenient and ignored when not.
    The teachers of evolution are beginning to speak in less convincing words. The offensive in support of evolution is so intensive and so well financed that it appears evolutionists are very worried.

    They should be.”

    Professor Maciej Giertych, M.A.(Oxford), Ph.D.(Toronto), D.Sc.(Poznan), is head of the Genetics Department of the Polish Academy of Sciences at the Institute of Dendrology in Kornik, Poland. He is on the editorial board of two international periodicals: Silvae Genetics, published in Germany, and Annales ses sciences forestieres published in France. He is a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences Committee on Forest Sciences, and on the Forestry Council in the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry. He is the author of about 150 scientific papers in Polish and international periodicals.

  224. #224 akshelby
    December 31, 2008

    Nevermind. I should have googled this site for information on it before posting. This was discussed back in 2006.

  225. #225 Demopoly
    January 1, 2009

    Too True. Black and White comparisons do a disservice to everyone. Use of oversimplification is best reserved for very small children and politicians. Almost anyone past the age of 5, who isn’t a poly-sci major, can understand multiple points of view, complex problems, and convoluted input resolution.

    We call them English, Math, and Drawing. We learn these starting in 1st grade if not sooner.

    Everyone who’s ever lost an argument to a five year old knows this. ;) Kids are perceptive. It is society which dumbs them down to force them into conformity.

    My cherokee sons went to public school- briefly. There the teachers spent 90% of their time lecturing my kids on Christian morality, American cultural standards, and ensuring that they remained silent in class, constantly. Do not move with out permission. Do not speak with out permission. Do not think with out permission. All expression must be approved.

    That is public school, the same “great” Seattle school district that sent the exact same copies of math homework back with my sons for four years running. That’s when I knew that WASL just wasn’t going to work. They’ve been homeschooled ever since, and are now in college.

    Polarized views make it possible to divide and conquer. Hello “Liberal” media, owned by Murdoch, CNN, and other giant conservative billionaires.

  226. #226 arachnophilia
    January 1, 2009

    @Kel: (#216)

    I don’t think so personally. What’s wrong with being able to express your sense of wonder and amazement at the universe? It’s like looking at a painting. You can describe the painting as paint on canvas, or you can describe the rich and vivid imagery you see. Both really are expressing the same fact, but one sounds more engaging than the other.

    i dunno if i’ll buy the painting metaphor. i think perhaps they are describing two different sets of facts. but i’ll buy what you’re trying to say. no, there’s nothing wrong with expressing a sense of wonder and amazement at the universe.

  227. #227 Knock Goats
    January 1, 2009

    akshelby@223,
    I can’t really help much with the specific claims about molecular genetics, not being a biologist, but I know they are regarded as the views of a crank by the vast majority of experts. The distinction between “taxonomic distance” and “phylogenetic sequences” strike me as bullshit. Linnaeus noted the nested hierarchies of similarity among organisms, and it is the hypothesis of common descent that explains this pattern. While suggesting some changes in detail, molecular genetics has amply confirmed the pattern of nested hierarchies found using anatomical and physiological traits. Multiple repeats are, I believe, quite well-understood: they arise during mitosis, as parts of chromosomes from the organism’s parents are recombined. I’m not sure what Giertych means by “molecular drive”: there are some parts of the genome that tend to produce multiple copies more than others – IIRC Huntingdon’s disease results from such multiple copies, and tends to get worse (manifesting itself earlier in life) as these accumulate from generation to generation. Whatever, this casts no doubt at all on common descent and natural selection.

    Maciej Giertych is a thoroughly unpleasant extreme Polish Catholic-nationalist, antisemite (author of a pamphlet claiming Jews are “biologically different” and choose to live in ghettos) and admirer of fascists such as Franco and Salazar. Oddly enough, he collaborated with the Communist Party up to 1989, and opposed Solidarity; and now supports Poland leaving the EU and developing closer ties with Russia. He was a member of the Polish Parliament for the far-right League of Polish Families, and is now a member of the European Parliament. He received 3% in the most recent Polish Presidential elections. His qualifications are mostly in forestry and tree physiology, not genetics.

  228. #228 JM
    January 1, 2009

    I’m curious about a philosophical aspect of this matter, not having studied philosophy academically. Does anyone still reading this thread (!) who has studied the subject know if and when philosophy (has) made an accessible list of such (alleged?) ‘presuppositions’ and what is the minimum set required to define existence and reason? The first ‘presupposition’ is presumably “Cogito ergo sum”, and a ‘presupposition’ of an objective universe must enter at some point. Ontological parsimony – Ockham’s Razor – soon joins in. (Eventually, we’re into analytic philosophy and mathematical logic, Bertrand Russell territory. Physical ‘laws’ are presumably observed or deduced rather than assumed.) To these ‘presuppositions’, religious thinkers seem to add the assertion that their particular god or gods made or makes certain revelations and that, circularly, these revelations (holy book etc) are proof of the existence of the god or gods. Rather than looking at things entirely differently, the religious thinker seems merely to add a further ‘presupposition’ which override consideration of any deduction from more basic principles.

  229. #229 hery
    January 25, 2010

    It is clear that religious people that cannot accept the truth.

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