Thursday, July 05, 2007

"The Evidence for Evolution"

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

"Mark Ridley’s Evolution has become the premier undergraduate text in the study of evolution," according to the back cover of the third edition.1 The book is published by Blackwell, a prestigious academic publishing house, and Riley himself currently works in the Department of Zoology at Oxford, having also held positions at Cambridge and Emory.

In this textbook he has a section on "The Evidence for Evolution." Presumably there is no better place to go to find the best available evidence for evolution—up to the time of publication (2004).

Under the first heading, We distinguish three possible theories of the history of life, he says:
For purposes of argument it is useful to have some articulate alternatives to argue between. We can discuss three theories (Figure 3.1): (a) evolution; (b) "transformism"…and (c) separate creation, in which species originated separately and remain fixed (44).

In separate creation, species have separate origins and do not change; each [c-e] are different versions of the theory of separate creation that might be proposed to explain extinct fossil forms, and they do not differ in their two essential features (species have separate origins and do not change) (44, figure 3.1).

Whether species have separate origins, and whether they change after their origin, are two distinct questions; some kinds of evidence, therefore, may bear upon one of question [sic.] but not the other (44).

The existence of fossil species unlike anything alive today, however, does not distinguish between the three theories of life in Figure 3.1. An extinct species could just as well have been separately created as any modern species. The theory of separate creation can easily be modified to account for extinct forms. Either there was one period in which all species separately originated and some have subsequently gone extinct (Figure 3.1d) or there were rounds of extinction followed by round of creation (3.1.e). All three versions of separate creation (Figure 3.1 c-e) share the key features that species have separate origins and do not change in form after their origin (44-45).

We concentrate here on evidence that can be used to test between the three theories in Figure 3.1 [evolution, transformism, and creationism] (45).
The problem with this introductory statement is that it misrepresents creationism in two key respects:

i) If by "separate creation," we mean the Biblical doctrine of special creation, then the fundamental unit of separate creation is not the species, but the natural kind. A natural kind is a broader category than a species.

The Bible doesn’t operate with a modern taxonomy. So it would be anachronistic to equate separate creation with scientific taxa.

ii) It is unclear what Ridley means when he says that according to "separate creation," a species does not "change," or change in "form," but remains "fixed."

OT Jews were certainly aware of natural variations. They were acquainted with racial diversity. They knew the difference between wild animals and domestic livestock. They practiced such forms of selective breeding as animal husbandry and viticulture.

The next section falls under the heading of: On a small scale, evolution can be observed in action

He cites drug-resistant strains of HIV to illustrate this principle. But that would be a case of microevolution. Creationism doesn’t deny microevolution. This is not inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of special (or "separate") creation.

He also mentions the famous example of evolution in the peppered moth (46).

i) To begin with, he doesn’t explain how that’s an example of evolution. Rather, that would seem to be an example of natural selection. Some moths with some markings survive, while other moths with other markings do not. That would not be a case of one moth evolving into another moth. It would merely affect the relative frequency of certain preexisting species.2

ii) Moreover, the development of specific camouflage, even if that were in view, would be an instance if microevolution rather than macroevolution, would it not?

iii) Furthermore, special creation doesn’t rule out speciation, for—as already noted—special creation has reference to natural kinds rather than species.
We look at changes in the average beak size of a population of a finch species in the Galapagos islands…we look at geographic variation in the house sparrow (46).
But, once again,

i) These are examples of microevolution rather than macroevolution.

ii) They operate at the level of species rather than natural kinds.

The next section falls under the heading of Evolution can also be produced experimentally

This has reference to artificial selection, viz. rats could be successfully selected to grow better or worse teeth. Evolutionary change can therefore be generated artificially.

Three problems:

i) Artificial selection is fundamentally different from natural selection, for artificial selection requires a rational, goal-oriented agent—the human breeder.

ii) This would be yet another instance of microevolution rather than macroevolution.

iii) As already noted, Ancient Near Easterners were quite familiar with such forms of artificial selection as animal husbandry and horticulture. Gen 1-2 is not opposed to such phenomena.

The next section falls under the heading of Interbreeding and phenotypic similarity provide to concepts of species
Most of the evidence so far has been for small-scale change within a species. The amounts of artificially selected change in pigeons and other domestic animals borders on the species level, but to decide whether the species barrier has been crossed we need a concept of what a biological species is…What does it mean to say a new species has evolved? The question unfortunately lacks a simple answer that would satisfy all biologists…there are several concepts of species (48).
But as I already said, Biblical creationism doesn’t rise or fall on the question of whether "new species have evolved," or whether the "species barrier has been crossed," according to a narrowly technical and equivocal definition of what constitutes a "species."

The question, rather, is whether life occurred the way the Bible describes it or the way Ridley describes it.
Museum experts often have to classify birds from dead specimens, of unknown reproductive habits, and they make use of phenotypic characters of the bones, beak, and feathers (50).
This exposes the precarious nature of some classification schemes.

The next section falls under the heading of Ring "species" show that variation within a species can be extensive enough to produce new species
Ring species can provide important evidence for evolution, because they show that intraspecific differences can be large enough to produce an interspecies difference…At least some species, therefore, have arisen without separate creation…to deny it would require an arbitrary decision about where evolution stopped and separate creation started…The idea that nature comes in discrete groups, with no variation between, is a naïve perception (52-53).
Unfortunately for him, Ridley is the one who is guilty of drawing arbitrary distinctions and erecting false dichotomies. He keeps flailing away at a straw man argument. None of this makes a dent in Biblical creationism.

Scripture never says there can be no "variation" between "separately" created organisms. Indeed, Scripture allows for natural variation.

The next sections falls under the heading of New, reproductively distinct species can be produced experimentally
The species barrier can be broken by experiment too. The varieties of artificially produced domestic animals and plants can differ in appearance at least as much as natural species; but they may also be able to interbreed…In conclusion, it is possible to make new, reproductively isolated species, using a method that ha been highly important in the origin of new natural species (53-54).
Once more, Ridley is simply repeating himself by restating the same fallacious argument in slightly different ways, with different illustrations. He is both persistent and consistent. Unfortunately for him, he is aiming at the wrong target, so even if he never misses the target, his back is to the true target.

The next section falls under the heading of Small-scale observations can be extrapolated over the long term
The reasoning principle here is called uniformitarianism…it also refers to the more controversial claim that processes operating in the present can account, by extrapolation over long periods, for the evolution of Earth and life…This principle is not peculiar to evolution. It is used in all historic geology (54).

Someone who permits uniformitarian extrapolation only up to a certain point in this continuum will inevitably be making an arbitrary decision (54).
The problem, here, is that Ridley is attacking a theological position (creationism) while remaining ignorant of the underlying theology. Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence.

His appeal to uniformitarian processes roughly corresponds to ordinary providence. And a Christian has no problem with a doctrine of providence.

However, providence allows for miraculous or creative events which fall outside the scope of providence, and there is nothing arbitrary about that discontinuity. For one thing, there could be no providence apart from creation.

For another thing, providence is not some impersonal process that merely operates according to inanimate forces and mechanical causes. Rather, there is a rational agent who lies behind the course of providence. Means are adjusted to ends. There is room for rational discretion.
Further study erodes the impression away. The fossil record contains a continuous set of intermediates between the mammals and reptiles, and these fossils destroy the impression that "mammals" are a discrete type. Archaeopteryx des the same for the bird type, and there are many further example (55).
i) Archaeopteryx is another controversial example.3

ii) Whether there is a continuous set of intermediates is a contentious claim. Ridley is substituting a question-begging assertion for an argument:

a) Are these evolutionary intermediates or ecological intermediates?

b) How does one establish lines of descent? Consider some of Ridley’s damning admissions:
The phenetic and phylogenetic principles are the two fundamental types of biological classification, but three schools of though exist about how classification should be carried out (474)

The modern forms of phenetic classification are numerical and multivariate, and they were developed in reaction to the uncertainties and imprecision of evolutionary classification…a classification of a group based on its phylogeny is liable to be unstable…For many groups of living things, hardly anything is known about phylogeny, and a "phylogenetic" classification of such a group will inevitably be poorly supported by evidence (476).

This is a universal problem, not just a peculiar problem in this example. A taxonomist working with one sample of characters will often produced a different classification from another taxonomist working with a different set of characters (476).

So there is a degree of subjectivity in the phenetic philosophy…Moreover, the choice of cluster statistic is not the only subjective choice in phenetic classification. The measurement of distance poses an analogous problem (478).

Phylogenetic classification groups species solely according to recency of common ancestry (479).4

Cladistic classification has the advantage of objectivity…In practice, the inference of ancestral relations (that is, the phylogeny in figure 16.3a) can be difficult, and cladistics classification can be uncertain (480).

The cladistics classification of the tetrapods can seem odd. The Reptilia were recognized in almost every formal classification before cladism; but cladism rules them out…the category "fish" (containing the lungfish and salmon, but excluding the cow) does not exist in a cladistic classification (482).

The beauty of a purely phylogenetic classification is that there can be no doubt what the branching relations of the classificatory groups are (Figure 16.3). But if taxonomists defined some relations phonetically and others phylogenetically, it is no longer possible to say what any particular relation means. The branching relations are obscured and lost (483).

The main advantage of phylogenetic classification is theoretical. It can run into many problems in practice. One is ignorance. We do not know the phylogenetic relations of many living creatures, and cannot classify them phylogenetically. Another problem is instability (483).

Evolutionary taxonomists disagree with phenetic classification for much the same reasons we discussed above, though they express the argument differently (485).
How can one establish the existence of an evolutionary intermediate if you can’t agree on their lineage?
If we take any two living species, they will show some similarities in appearance. Here we need to distinguish two sorts of similarities: homologous and analogous similarity (55).

The non-evolutionary usage is needed here in order to avoid circular argument: evolutionary concepts cannot be used as evidence for evolution (55n1).

An analogous similarity, in this non-evolutionary, pre-Darwinian sense, is one that can be explained by a shared way of life. Sharks, dolphins, and whales all have a hydrodynamic shape which can be explained by their habitat of swimming through water. Their similar shape is analogous; it is a functional requirement. Likewise, the wigs of insects, birds, and bats are all needed for flying: they too are analogous structures (55).

Other similarities between species are less easily explained by functional needs. The pentadactyl (five digit) limb of tetrapods is a classic example…Tetrapods occupy a wide variety of environments, and use their limbs for many differing functions. There is no clear functional or environmental reason why all of them should need a five-digit, rather than a three- or seven- or 12-digit limb (55).
And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. If five digits get the job done, then why should we expect a three- or seven- or 12-digited limb? The argument cuts both ways. Since they don’t need any particular number of digits, they don’t need a fixed number, but by the same token they don’t need a variable number.

Something doesn’t need to be a functional requirement to be functional. And as long as it is functional, there is likewise no requirement that it be diverse for diversity’s sake. It is unnecessary to either use the same design or use a different design.
Living creatures show similarities that would not be expected if they had independent origins (55).
This is ambiguous. According to creationism, the natural kinds originated independently of one another, but they share a common Creator. As such, it comes as no surprise if they also share a common design—as long as that design is functional.
And yet they all do; or, rather, all modern tetrapods do—fossil tetrapods are known from the time in the Devonian when tetrapods were evolving from fish that have six-, seven-, and eight-digited limbs (55).
i) But this argument undercuts the previous argument.

ii) Moreover, if you’re going to invoke common ancestry, then wouldn’t we expect our extant, pentadactylic tetrapods to descend from a five-digited ancestor? His argument is tugging in opposite directions.

iii) Furthermore, he’s done nothing here to establish the evolution of tetrapods (i.e. amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) from fish.
Some modern tetrapods, in the adult form, do not appear to have five-digit limbs (Figure 3.6). The wings of birds and bats are in different ways supported by less than five digits, and the limbs of horses and of some lizards also have less than five digits (55).
Once again, this undercuts the original argument. He initially argued for common descent from the fact that all tetrapods are pentadactylic—even though that is not a design requirement. Yet this is the second time he has had to mention a major exception to his argument. These qualifications undermine the force of the original argument.

Why does he say all when he only means some? Is this a tactic on his part? Lead with an overstatement that makes your case look stronger than it is. Hoping that first impressions will be more memorable than the qualifications you throw in further down the line?
However, all these limbs develop embryologically from five-digited precursor stages, showing that they are fundamentally pentadactyl (55).
But the principle of recapitulation is dubious.5
What could be more curious than that the hand of man formed for grasping, that of a mole, for digging, the leg of a horse, the paddle of a porpoise and the wing of a bat, should be all constructed on the same pattern and should include similar bones and in the same relative positions? (56).
i) How is that curious? Why isn’t such unified versatility a mark of elegant, economical design? A triumph of the one over many—where just one homologous plan can be deployed to solve so many different problems. A splendid piece of cost-effective engineering. Easily reproducible in a wide variety of organic forms.

ii) Notice that Ridley isn’t offering us a working model of a more efficient limb structure in any particular case. He has nothing better, or even as good, to offer us.

iii) Suppose this were not the case? Suppose that every natural kind had a completely different design?

It’s easy to imagine a Darwinian cite that as evidence against common design. He would exclaim that each species was the fortuitous and idiosyncratic result of its immediate circumstances, with no overarching intelligence to coordinate or consolidate the outcome.
If species have descended from common ancestors, homologies make sense; but if all species originated separately, it is difficult to understand why they should share homologous similarities (57).
Except that he tries to play both sides of this argument, For, as we already saw, he also says that tetrapods are descended from ancestors with five-, six-, seven-, and eight-digited limbs.

So we end up with a tautology: homologies prove common descent—except when they don’t.
Without evolution, there is nothing forcing tetrapods all to have pentadactyl limbs (57).
i) Once again, we see him appeal to all tetrapods, even though he admitted that this is a sweeping overstatement.

ii) Why must something "force" all tetrapods to be pentadactylic? From a theistic standpoint, which is what he is opposing, the choice is not between necessity and fortuity, but between teleology and dysteleology.
Why should the genetic code be universal? Two explanations are possible: that the universality results from a chemical constraint, or that the code is a historic accident (57).
i) Once more, he is foisting a false dichotomy on the reader. There is another explanation: simplicity. Doesn’t science favor parsimonious solutions, such as the least action principle?

ii) Another problem running throughout this discussion is his tacit appeal to teleological explanations, such as whether a particular pattern is "functionally necessary."

But that is quite anthropomorphic from a Darwinian perspective. Naturalistic evolution has no room for teleological explanations. The evolutionary mechanisms were never goal-oriented in the first place. Ridley is sneaking criteria into his evaluation of the evolutionary process that are forbidden by the evolutionary process. Ironically, Ridley is having to assume a God’s-eye view in the premise to deny a God’s-eye view in the conclusion.

iii) Of course, we’re assuming, for the sake of argument, that the genetic code is, indeed, universal. But is that the case?
Biologists have known for years that some bacteria, algae and single-celled animals do not have the same genetic code as most other organisms. Darwinists claim that the exceptions are unimportant, since they "know" that the aberrant organisms are descended from organisms that had the standard code. But the code itself was supposed to be the primary evidence for such descent, and no comparable evidence is offered to replace it. Clearly, the Darwinists' "knowledge" in this case is philosophical rather than empirical.6
An organ that is described as vestigial may not be functionless…fossil whales called Basilosaurus, living 40 million years ago, had functional pelvic bones (Gingerich et al. 1990) and may have used them when copulating; and the vestigial pelvis of modern whales arguably is still needed to support the reproductive organs. However, that possibility does not count against the argument from homology; why, if whales originated independently of other tetrapods, should whales use bones that are adapted for limb articulation in order to support their reproductive organs? If they were truly independent, some other support would likely be used (60).
This inference suffers from the same fallacies we’ve already drawn attention to.

i)"Independent" in relation to what? To each other? Yes. In relation to God? No.

All creatures are dependent on God for their common origin. And that is consistent with a common plan.

Remember that at the very outset of his discussion, Ridley said he was going to provide evidence distinguishing Darwinism from creationism. But all he’s supplied us with is evidence which is, at best, consistent with either position.

ii) He even admits that these "vestigial" organs are functional.

Incidentally, creationism doesn’t even deny that some organs may degenerate.7

iii) He also assumes what he needs to prove when he says that whales use bones that are adapted for limb articulation in order to support their reproductive organs.

Observe that this is not, in fact, evidence for evolution. To the contrary, it takes for granted an evolutionary explanation of what these bones were originally for ("limb articulation"), and then assumes that they were later co-opted to perform a different task.

The next section goes under the heading of Different homologies are correlated, and can be hierarchically classified

His discussion of amino acid sequencing seems to be a variant on his prior discussion of DNA. Been there, done that.

His next section goes under the heading of Fossil evidence exists for the transformation of species
The diatoms [singled-celled, photosynthetic organisms that float in the plankton] in Figure 3.11 show that the fossil record can be complete enough to reveal the origin of new species; but examples as good as this are rare. In other cases, the fossil record is less complete and there are large gaps between successive samples (Section 21.4, p602). There is then only less direct evidence of smooth transitions between species. The gaps are usually long, however (maybe 25,000 years in a good case, and millions of years in less complete records) (64).
i) How does he define a new species? We’ve already seen that the definition of what constitutes a species is a controverted point in contemporary biology.

ii) It is oxymoronic to speak of "less direct evidence of smooth transitions between species" when "the gaps are usually long." You can’t have evidence for smooth transitions if there are long gaps in the evidence. And absent such evidence, why assume that there are transitional forms in the first place?

His next section goes under the heading of The order of the main groups in the fossil record suggests they have evolutionary relationships
The deduction follows from the observation that an amphibian, such as a frog, or a reptile, such as an alligator, is intermediate in form between a fish and a mammal. Amphibians, for instance have fills as fish do, but have four legs, like reptiles and mammals, and not fins…The forms of modern vertebrates alone, therefore, enable us to deduce the order in which they evolved (65).
Is that a fact? Isn’t this a rather obvious case of ecological intermediates rather than evolutionary intermediates? They share some features in common with aquatic species as well as terrestrial species because they are semiaquatic species. They were designed to survive and flourish in that particular habitat.

Ridley drew this very distinction only ten pages earlier:
An analogous similarity, in this non-evolutionary, pre-Darwinian sense, is one that can be explained by a shared way of life. Sharks, dolphins, and whales all have a hydrodynamic shape which can be explained by their habitat of swimming through water. Their similar shape is analogous; it is a functional requirement. Likewise, the wigs of insects, birds, and bats are all needed for flying: they too are analogous structures (55).
So why is he deducing evolution from features which are arguably analogous rather than homologous? Can’t he remember his own argument?
The inference, from the modern forms, can be tested against the fossil record. The fossil record supports it: fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals appear in the fossil record in the same order as they should have evolved (Figure 3.12b). The fit is good evidence for evolution, because if fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals had been separately created, we should not expect them to appear in the fossil record in the exact order of their apparent evolution. Fish, frogs, lizards, and rats would probably appear as fossils in some order, if they did not appear at the same time; but there is no reason to suppose they would appear in one order rather than another (66).
i) But is this an evolutionary order, or an ecological order? If you were to suddenly fossilize a cross section of the ecosystem, land animals would be on top, fish would be on the bottom, and semiaquatic species would be sandwiched in the middle.

I’m not saying that that’s what happened. I’m merely saying that there’s nothing apparently evolutionary in the fossil sequence, as he describes it. He will need a subsidiary argument to turn the fossil sequence into an evolutionary sequence.

ii) Let us also remember what he said about the cladist taxonomy on the classification of fish and reptiles (see above).

His next section goes under the heading of Creationism offers no explanation of adaptation
Living things are well designed, in innumerable respects, for life in their natural environments. They have sensory systems to find their way around, feeding systems to catch and digest food, and nervous systems to coordinate their actions (67).
i) This is very commonsensical. Unfortunately for him, Ridley is once again resorting to teleological explanations. And he is using this appeal to disprove creationism.

Ironically, creationism allows for teleology while naturalistic evolution disallows teleology. If teleology is true, then naturalistic evolution is false.8

Ridley is pilfering a category from creationism to disprove creationism. The fact that he cannot explain adaptation without invoking teleological criteria is self-refuting.

ii) He also fails to explain how biological organisms could survive and reproduce at the very time that they are in process of adapting to their natural surroundings.
The theory of evolution has a mechanical, scientific theory for adaptation: natural selection (67).
To my knowledge, creationism doesn’t deny natural selection. What it denies, rather, is that natural selection is a mechanism for macroevolution.
Creationism, by contrast, has no explanation for adaptation. When each species originated, it must have already been equipped with adaptations for life, because the theory holds that species were fixed in form after their origin (67).
i) He keeps acting as if special creation implies the static character of natural kinds.

ii) Creationism allows natural kinds to adjust to new habitat. They have a certain built-in adaptability. For example, the Bible believes in the common ancestry of all men from Adam. At the same time, it is always aware of racial diversity, which is a climatic adaptation.

His final section goes under the heading of Modern "scientific creationism" is scientifically untenable
Scientific arguments only employ observations that anybody can make, as distinct from private revelations, and consider only natural, as distinct from supernatural causes (68).
i) The Bible is a public revelation, not a private revelation. Anyone can read the Bible.

ii) Science is by no means limited to "observational" data—especially regarding the origin of world or life on earth. Science theorizes about things that are too small to observe, too distant in space to observe, and too distant in time to observe.
Indeed, two good criteria to distinguish scientific from religious arguments are whether the theory invokes only natural causes, or needs supernatural causes too, and whether the evidence is publicly observable or requires some sort of faith (68).
i) But suppose that God really is responsible for the origin of the world, as well as life on earth. If one stipulates in advance that only natural causes are permissible, then the "scientific" explanation will be dead wrong. What’s the value of a scientific explanation if you summarily exclude what may be the only right answer?

The method is getting ahead of the subject matter and prejudging the answer. Is that supposed to be scientific? If so, then so much the worse for science.

Is the scientific method an end in itself, or a quest for the truth? Are we naturalistic for the sake of naturalism? But what if naturalism is false?

How can science correct itself if science immunizes itself to contrary evidence? If science is unfalsifiable, because a naturalistic explanation cannot be falsified by a supernatural fact, then science is an inward-looking rather than outward-looking discipline. A self-contained discipline, like a fictional story.

ii) It also depends on what he means by "faith." Science relies on a number of metascientific assumptions about the world. What conceptual scheme is underwriting these assumptions?
Without these two conditions, there are no constraints on the argument. It is, in the end, impossible to show that species were not created by God and have remained fixed in form, because to God (as a supernatural agent) everything is permitted (68).
i) Ridley seems to be operating with some form of theological voluntarism. Why does he identify creationism with voluntarism?

ii) Suppose, once more, that God is, indeed, the Creator of the world? That he did, in fact, make the natural kinds by his immediate, creative fiat.

Why is Ridley ruling out an explanation for the origin of life that may be the true explanation for the origin of life? He doesn’t seem to think that this explanation is impossible, or even improbable.

If anything, his objection appears to be that it cannot be quantified at all. But he doesn’t say why he thinks that. Why could there be no evidence for divine creation?

iii) Suppose we have a revelation from the Creator of the world in which he tells us what he did. In that event, we are not left guessing.
It cannot be shown that the building (or garden) you are in, and the chair you are sitting on, were not created supernaturally by God 10 seconds ago from nothing—at the time, He would also have to have adjusted your memory and those of all other observes, but a supernatural agent can do that. That is why supernatural agents have no place in science (68).
If he wants to play that game, then it’s child’s play to construct naturalist versions of global illusions and delusions. Instead of Cartesian demons, we have alien telepaths.

A final problem with this chapter is that Ridley only gives one half of the story. He gives his arguments for evolution, and his arguments opposing creationism. But he doesn’t give the arguments for creationism, or the arguments opposing evolution.

So the reader is left with a very skewed presentation, as if the best a creationist could hope for is to come up with ad hoc explanations that deflect his criticisms and thereby show that creationism is merely consistent with the same data.

It puts the creationist on the defensive from start to finish, as if the onus is on him to answer all these charges, with no positive evidence for his own position, or positive evidence against the opposing position.

But let’s recall how it was that Ridley chose to frame the issue:
We concentrate here on evidence that can be used to test between the three theories in Figure 3.1 [evolution, transformism, and creationism] (45).
Has Ridley succeeding in discharging his own burden of proof? Not in the slightest. Creationism emerges without a scratch—in large part because he mischaracterized creationism.



1 M. Ridley, Evolution: Third Edition (Blackwell 2004).

2 I’d add that this textbook example has come under fire. Cf. J. Wells, Icons of Evolution (Regnery 2000).

3 http://www.arn.org/docs/wells/cl_iconsstillstanding.htm

4 Notice how this takes macroevolution for granted. Common ancestry is a presupposition of phylogenetic classification.

5 Cf. S. Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Belknap 1977), 501; http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson/pn_darwinianparadigm061593.htm

6 http://www.arn.org/docs/wells/jw_criticizingcommonancestry1103.htm
Cf. http://www.arn.org/docs/pbsevolution/pbsfalseclaim091001.htm

7 http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson/pn_jettison.htm

8 "Teleological Explanation," W. H. Newton-Smith, ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Science (Blackwell 2001), 492-494.

46 comments:

  1. Wow, it's kind of fascinating to see an evolutionist write, "living things are well designed...for life in their natural environments". Whose side is he on anyways?

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  2. Steve I didn't have time to read any of this because I have a plane to catch, but I'll make a few preliminary observations.

    1) The proof for evolution is so complex, and so utterly overwhelming that only a trained scientist can understand it. You attempting to refute evolution from what you've read in a *high-school textbook* is like a frog attempting to sell smokes to a clown.

    2) Putting evidence for evolution in scare-quotes is *exactly* what a con artist like Ken Ham would do. You're an embarassment to the faith, and even less of a Christian than John Loftus.

    3) You *have* to promise to stop redefining words. Words have fixed meanings (look in a dictionary!) You don't want me to bring out the Humpty Dumpty quote again do you? You don't want that? Or maybe you do, so you can be the 'stench of death' or whatever crap you quote at me from the Bible. You're a far worse representative of Christianity than me, Steve. Look at me, I'm representing Christianity.

    4) Your variety of Calvinistic Fundamentalism (Lets call it Fundocalvinisticism) is exactly what turns Christians away from the church. I've a good mind to start a church of my own. I'll call it the Church of Darwin, because that is how God made the world. By Darwining.

    - Touchstone

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  3. Oh gee, what a shock. T-Stone doesn't read something, yet still comments on it.

    Who woulda ever seen THAT coming???

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  4. I have a sneaking suspicion that wasn't really Touchstone.

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  5. I think someone is trying to spoof the "real" Touchstone. Even Touchstone is not this caustic and doesn't have an open disdain for the Bible in the way the spoofer does. And few evolutionists would claim that "The proof for evolution is so complex, and so utterly overwhelming that only a trained scientist can understand it."

    Now does the spoofer link to Touchstone's Evangelutionist profile.

    Simon

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  6. That's so ironic... the peppered moths, the recapitulation, the finches, and Archaeopteryx are all shot down in the Wells book "Icons of Evolution". Shot down well, I might add.
    And in personal discussions w/ a believer in Darwinian evolution, I went to the local state univ bookstore and took a look at an Intro to Zoo text. Sure enough, about 70% of the Icons of Evolution were still cited therein as "support" for evolutionary theory. And here Ridley cites at least 4. That's so amazing. I have to ask - if the evidence is so overwhelming and schoolkids/college kids shouldn't get any dissenting views, why continue to present such antiquated and refuted information? Is that all they've got? That's my suspicion. Just getting by on long-windedness, momentum, and bluster?

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  7. Actually, I think it is a psuedo-Touchstone too. However, it *DOES* match the tone T-Stone was using in, for instance, this post. Perhaps that was written by a psuedo-Touchstone too though.

    In fact, can anyone be sure who T-Stone is at all? I'm not even sure he's a real person (that is, I think it quite possible there are multiple people who post under the same handle already). I lean toward there only being one T-stone (and now a psuedo-T-Stone too) because the style stays fair similar throughout most of his writings. However, it cannot be proven, and you know how T-Stone is about unproven assertions.....

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  8. You have to admit that turning "Darwin" into a verb was pretty funny.

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  9. Steve,

    You rely heavily on the term "kind" -- by which I assume you are referring to the Hebrew bara -- in your post here.

    Can you give us a working definition of what "kind" means as you're using it here? Given two organisms, how would you procedurally determine that specimen A is, or is not, of the same 'type' as specimen B.

    If we don't have a way to distinguish this, it seems you have little reason to insist on the use of your term.

    Mayr and others have settled on reproduction as the default criterion for distinguishing species. Even that is problematic as reproduction doesn't work the same across the whole of the spectrum. But the problematic nature of criterion is just functional problem for science, rather than an epistemic problem; there is no scientific rule that the concept of 'type' or 'species' must exist. Science could just as well say that every allelic variation is a 'type' and be done with it. That's fine, but it reveals the utility of imposed categories, even if they are somewhat arbitrary (and the concept of 'species' in biology is just that); classes, categories and taxanomic distinctions are tremendously useful for communication and discussion, even if those distinctions aren't tightly tied to biological barriers.

    For my part, I think that explains the use of bara - it's useful to have names and labels for animals and other creatures that have the same attributes. But again, that's semantic freight, not the introduction of a scientific classification system in the Bible. If I hadn't seen this often before, I'd be surprised that you take bara as meaningful in the scientific sense, rather than just as matter of descriptive utility.

    But there you have it. Since you're using it so heavily here, can you tell us what a 'kind' is for the purposes of this discussion. If I give you two specimens what will you do to determine if they of same or different kind?

    Lots more to comment on here, but it seems pointless for much of it, if "kind" is just some intractable notion that we can't apply. May be it is tractable, though. Do you have some traction on this term?

    -Touchstone

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  10. The current discussion over the identity of T-stone assumes the fixity of T-stone. But the "deist formerly known as T-stone" may have mutated, via macroevolution, into T-stone 2, due to the adaptive pressures of a hostile habitat, as he has to survive in the face of such predatory organisms as the T-bloggers and other commenters.

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  11. At last, the REAL T-Stone!

    I'm wondering if T-Stone would be able to tell us what classifies a "bird" or a "fish." If not, there seems little reason for him to insist on using those terms for anything....

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  12. “(a) There is no evidence that in these texts [Gen 1] for taking min as a technical term corresponding with precision to family, genus, or species. (b) min is used to indicate that the world is not a disorganized mass but a well-ordered subdivided whole, each individual plant and animal fitting into its own ‘kind,’ which in turn fits into a larger group (Westermann, 125). Min is a key term used for articulating the theme of order through separation. (c) This biblical taxonomy, of which min is a part, does not reflect a modern taxonomic perspective (Morris, 71), but uses ‘the language of visual appearance’ (Jordan, 12). While modern taxonomy separates birds from bees, the biblical perspective groups them together as ‘winged creatures’ (Gen 1:20-21). Both are legitimate perspectives,” NIDOTTE 2:943.

    “Baramin—‘created kind,’ an organism created by God distinct from all other organisms (a.k.a. ‘Basic type’),” K. Wise, Faith, Form, and Time (B&H 2002), 277. Cf. 109-110.

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  13. Steve,

    If 'kind' then, is just the 'language of visual appearance', isn't this irrelevant to the discussion of evolution. "language of visual appearance" matches what called 'utility' above - useful groupings and categorizations for communicating and discussion different types of animals and creatures.

    That doesn't speak to technical clssification, then, does it? If not, then why bring this up in response to evolutionary theory. If a 'kind' is just a visual notion -- wasps are quite on a different part of the taxon from sparrows even though grouped as 'winged creatures' -- then how does 'kind' matter in terms of setting up barriers that adaption, mutation and natural selection - all processes even creationists admit are in place -- cannot cross.

    Maybe it's better to ask it this way? What *barriers* do you suppose your notion of 'kind' imposes on evolution, and how can we tell if those barriers have been crossed?

    -Touchstone

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  14. touchstone said...

    “Steve,__If 'kind' then, is just the 'language of visual appearance', isn't this irrelevant to the discussion of evolution. ‘language of visual appearance’ matches what called 'utility' above - useful groupings and categorizations for communicating and discussion different types of animals and creatures. __That doesn't speak to technical clssification, then, does it? If not, then why bring this up in response to evolutionary theory. If a 'kind' is just a visual notion -- wasps are quite on a different part of the taxon from sparrows even though grouped as 'winged creatures' -- then how does 'kind' matter in terms of setting up barriers that adaption, mutation and natural selection - all processes even creationists admit are in place -- cannot cross.__Maybe it's better to ask it this way? What *barriers* do you suppose your notion of 'kind' imposes on evolution, and how can we tell if those barriers have been crossed?”

    You have a persistent problem with book reviews. Somehow you manage to project or interject yourself into every book review as if it was all about you.

    But your narcissism notwithstanding, I am responding to Ridley—as he chose to frame the issue. He chose to compare and contrast the evidence for evolution in contradistinction to creationism.

    I’m not defending creation science, per se, although I’m bound to be more sympathetic to creation science than I am to naturalistic evolution.

    I don’t have to come up with any technical definitions to observe that the Biblical account of biological origins is quite different from the Darwinian account of biological origins. It is clear that Scripture does not trace the origin and variety of life to descent from a single common ancestor. And it is also clear that Scripture does not exclude supernatural causes in the origin of life.

    And I don’t have to come up with any alternative hypothesis to point out that Ridley failed to discharge his burden of proof. He himself set the bar at a certain level.

    If you want a more technical definition from a YEC perspective, read the pages I referenced in Wise, and take it from there.

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  15. Dyed-in-the-wool7/06/2007 8:49 AM

    There is no evidence for evolution that we cannot dismiss.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Of course, T-Stone is also missing the obvious rejoinder that "species" is just as meaningless for the evolutionist as he claims "kind" is for the YEC (I disagree with his conclusions about "kind", BTW).

    There is no scientific definition of "species" out there. As such, to say that "species" evolve into other "species" is meaningless in a scientific sense.

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  17. Peter,

    Above in my earlier comments you will see that I pointed out the problematic nature of "species" -- it's to an extent just an arbitrary means of classification that we find useful for grouping and labeling animals and organisms.

    Even so, "species" can be applied in a meaningful sense; the common working criterion is the ability to reproduce fertile offspring. If fertile offspring can be produced, the parents are by definition the same species. Now in practice, that can be tricky. Some animals may actually be able to produce fertile offspring, biologically (the example given sometimes is a Great Dane and a Chihuahua), but practical factors make it a non-event - it doesn't happen naturally.

    Also, "producing fertile offspring" isn't useful when classifying fossils, for obvious reasons.

    For all the utility of Mayr and Dobzhansky's criterion for species distinction, though, one of the important implications that arises from the challenges of classification is the *evolutionary* nature of biological life. Haldane said something like "the idea of species is just a concession to our linguistic habits" back in the 50s, and that idea has been an enduring one. As I said above, "species" is not a natural phenomenon unto itself, but just a useful means of distinction.

    With the notion of "kind" that Steve is pointing here, I don't think the same thing can be said. I've not been able to find a working criterion for what makes an animal one "kind" and another animal the same "kind" or a different "kind". Indeed, all I can derive from the Biblical usage is a descriptive use: "winged creatures" , for example, (one of the examples Steve invoked) seems only useful as a description. A wasp and a sparrow are both of the same "kind", Biblically. This has descriptive and possibly legal utility, but seems useless as a matter of biological classification. Wasps and sparrows both have wings, but a wasp is much more closely related to, say, an ant -- something of a different "kind" -- than a sparrow; they both have wings and can fly, for example, but the wasp has no bones or skeleton in its wings (or anywhere else) as does the sparrow. Morphologically, the ant and the sparrow are much more the same "kind" than the wasp and the sparrow.

    If that's the case, I don't see the utility of the concept of "kind" Steve keeps pointing to, scientifically. Which is why I asked about it. The biological concept of species, while problematic in some respects is put to good use as a means for classification. The ability to produce fertile offspring is scientifically meaningful because the application of that criteria has produced distinctions and categories that science finds useful for describing the *underlying* biology rather than just the outward appearances.

    -Touchstone

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  18. There is no evidence for evolution that we cannot dismiss.

    Profoundly true, and especially so on this blog.

    -TS

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  19. There is no evidence for evolution that we cannot dismiss.

    Profoundly true, and especially so on this blog.


    How ironic coming from a latitudinarian like Touchstone.

    On the one hand he's committed to some sort of deistic evolution and argues vehemently for it, yet he's willing to sacrifice justification by faith alone on the altar of latitudinariainism.

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  20. 1. As Peter has pointed out, there is no uniform definition of "species" in evolutionary biology. Indeed, Ridley discusses five different concepts of species: (i)"biological"; (ii) "ecological"' (iii) "phenetic"; (iv) "phylogenetic," and (v) "typological," ibid. 351-55.

    2. I myself have given T-stone two different definitions of "kind": (i) definition from a standard reference work on OT lexical semantics, which supplies the meaning of "kind" in OT usage, and (ii) a glossary definition from a standard YEC work, along with the pagination for a more detailed explication of the concept.

    Obviously, T-stone doesn't own the book by Wise. If he did, he could answer the question for himself by looking it up—which goes to show that he hasn't bothered to familiarize himself with the standard YEC literature.

    3. I wrote a review. I am answering Ridley on his own grounds. I am holding Ridley to his own stated aims. T-stone's demands are irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is how Ridley chose to marshal the evidence for evolution over against creationism.

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  21. T-Stone said:
    ---
    Wasps and sparrows both have wings, but a wasp is much more closely related to, say, an ant -- something of a different "kind" -- than a sparrow;
    ---

    Except that you're begging the question with the term "related." The concept of relation, when used as a description between two organisms, smuggles in the concept of evolution through the back door.

    If you had simply said that a wasp looks more like an ant than a sparrow, or has more in common with the ant, that would be one thing. But since you've already agreed that speciation is an equivocal term, how can you justify saying that a wasp is more closely related to anything?

    Even if you were not using the term in the evolutionary sense, it is not a large step to slip into that sense, as many evolutionists do (in fact the entire concept of homology does this very thing).

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  22. Steve,

    I don't think you *are* addressing Ridley on his own terms -- science. Not hardly. Which is why I was asking about the Biblical "kind", which your kept relying on. As far as I can see -- and you've not provided anything to argue against this -- it's meaningful as a scientific concept.

    Should I point out here that the book, in question, which I do not have currently, but have owned and reffered to in the past, is a SCIENCE TEXTBOOK?

    That seems unnecessary, but then, we have comments in your post like this:

    The problem, here, is that Ridley is attacking a theological position (creationism) while remaining ignorant of the underlying theology. Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence.

    Creationism makes scientific claims, Steve. It doesn't matter how much theology gets attached to it, if one asserts that the earth was created in six solar days 6,000 years ago, one is making claims about physical phenomena. And insofar as one makes claims about physical phenomena, those claims are in the purview of science.

    I say Ridley cares not a whit about the theology related to this, and is evaluating the scientific implications of creationism as science and *only* as science.

    If that's the case, then comments like the above, and saying that "Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence" is just dabbling in irrelvance, far afield from Ridley's own terms.

    Again, it's a science textbook, remember. What relevance does Christian theological distinctions like that have? All Ridley needs to know is what the phenomenological claims are. As long as he has the claims about physical phenomena, the "theological distinctions" just don't matter for the purposes of a science textbook.

    That's why I say it's not true to say that you have "answer[ed] Ridley on his own terms". You haven't even given passing attention to Ridley's own terms, so far as I can see.

    -Touchstone

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  23. Peter,

    So, where is the "evolutionary smuggle" here:

    SKELETAL STRUCTURE
    ------------------------
    Ant: exoskeleton
    Wasp: exoskeleton
    Sparrow: endoskeleton

    Of these three, the ant and the wasp share a common skeletal structure. The sparrow is *different* in skeletal structure than the sparrow.

    LEGS
    ----------------------------
    Ant: 6 legs
    Wasp: 6 legs
    Sparrow: 2 legs

    Of these three, the ant and the wasp share the same number of legs. The sparrow is *different* in number of legs from the sparrow.

    BODY
    ----------------------------
    Ant: segmented head, thorax, abdomen
    Wasp: segmented head, thorax, abdomen
    Sparrow: body

    Of these three, the ant and the wasp share the same body structure. The sparrow is *different* in body structure from the sparrow.

    EYES
    ----------------------------
    Ant: compound eye
    Wasp: compound eye
    Sparrow: avian eye (non-compound, similar to human eye)

    Of these three, the ant and the wasp share the eye structure. The sparrow is *different* in eye structure from the sparrow.

    I could go on, but no need. It's ridiculous to have to even type out this much. But, there you go. Tell me where I've "smuggled" in illegitimate concepts in these comparisons.

    And maybe, while you're at it, think about some ways that a sparrow is like a wasp in ways that an ant is not like a wasp. We have identified wings/flight, but beyond that, what makes a wasp the same "kind" as a spare in a way that an ant is not?

    -Touchstone

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  24. The "sparrow... is different... sparrow" should be "wasp... is different... sparrow" in the comparisons above.

    -TS

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  25. T-Stone said:
    ---
    So, where is the "evolutionary smuggle" here
    ---

    It's exactly where I said it was in my original quote, which you apparently didn't read very well.

    I said:
    ---
    Except that you're begging the question with the term "related."
    ---

    I even said:
    ---
    If you had simply said that a wasp looks more like an ant than a sparrow, or has more in common with the ant, that would be one thing.
    ---

    You respond with showing that they look the same and think that somehow addresses what I said? Surely you're not THAT obstruse.

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  26. Touchstone said:

    "I don't think you *are* addressing Ridley on his own terms -- science. Not hardly. Which is why I was asking about the Biblical "kind", which your kept relying on. As far as I can see -- and you've not provided anything to argue against this -- it's meaningful as a scientific concept. Should I point out here that the book, in question, which I do not have currently, but have owned and reffered to in the past, is a SCIENCE TEXTBOOK? That seems unnecessary, but then, we have comments in your post like this."

    Because T-stone has an overriding agenda, he constantly substitutes his own agenda for the author in question.

    Ridley is the one who expressly chose to discuss whether the evidence supported evolution or creationism.

    He then proceeded to attribute positions to creationism which creationism does not espouse, and rely on this presumably ignorant (unless it's deliberate) misrepresentation of creationism to show that creationism is at odds with the evidence.

    One of the problems, to judge by his bibliography, is that he doesn't read creationist writers. Instead, he gets his information secondhand. And he relies on very dated sources at that.

    He could have avoided some of his elementary blunders by boning up on the primary sources.

    "Creationism makes scientific claims, Steve. It doesn't matter how much theology gets attached to it, if one asserts that the earth was created in six solar days 6,000 years ago, one is making claims about physical phenomena. And insofar as one makes claims about physical phenomena, those claims are in the purview of science."

    Once again, must you be such a dunce? You have a delusional habit of imputing to me an implicit denial which I never denied, either explicitly or implicitly. Your overriding agenda functions as a mental block. You are constitutionally unable to accurately represent either side of the debate.

    All you ever do is to try and retranslate what was actually said into what you want to hear.

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  27. Steve,

    Let's try to make this simple, then, if you're having such trouble with this.

    You said:

    The problem, here, is that Ridley is attacking a theological position (creationism) while remaining ignorant of the underlying theology. Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence.

    Maybe you can provide additional, surrounding quotes or something that show something -- anything -- that attaches to theology here. As it is, the quote you provided:

    The reasoning principle here is called uniformitarianism…it also refers to the more controversial claim that processes operating in the present can account, by extrapolation over long periods, for the evolution of Earth and life…This principle is not peculiar to evolution. It is used in all historic geology (54).

    Someone who permits uniformitarian extrapolation only up to a certain point in this continuum will inevitably be making an arbitrary decision


    Is scientific language. No theological language at all, none needed to describe or model uniformitarianism -- a physical principle.

    So where do you suppose your injection of theology attaches here? Why should he care a *whit* in a science textbook about the Christian theological idea of *providence*. You blame the guy for not being current on creationist theology, but creationist theology is irrelevant here. Totally. What *is* relevant are whatever claims proceed about physical phenomena... that which science is equipped to address.

    You say I'm imputing an implicit denial you never made... I'm saying you are way off in left field, complaining about completely irrelevant ideas, ideas unattached to the subject of scientific evidence for evolution vs. the scientific evidence for creation science claims. When you say "The problem, here..." I take that to mean that you have a complaint, an objection, a problem to discuss. Is that stretching things too far for you?

    Is Ridley aim to trade on theology in this book, or not, in your view? I think that's a simple question that should highlight who's operating on who's terms here.

    -Touchstone

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  28. Peter,

    If you had simply said that a wasp looks more like an ant than a sparrow, or has more in common with the ant, that would be one thing.

    Looks like... visually *related*. Same concept, Peter. "Related" doesn't have to imply joint origins. From the dictionary:

    an aspect or quality (as resemblance) that connects two or more things or parts as being or belonging or working together or as being of the same kind (the relation of time and space); specifically : a property (as one expressed by is equal to, is less than, or is the brother of) that holds between an ordered pair of objects

    (my emphasis)


    Have a look at this Wikipedia article on IU issues and guidelines:

    1. The more important it is, the more visible it should be.
    2. Logically related items should also be visually related.
    3. Sub-items should be "nested".


    Visually related... similar in appearance, having shared visual features.

    I could just as well have said "looks like" and it would have changed nothing. If you inventoried a wasp by all of the attributes you could document visually, either when it was alive, or after analysis through taking it apart once it's dead, you would find that inventory *much* more similar -- visually, chemically, structurally, dimensionall, reproductively -- to an ant than a sparrow. The sparrow and the wasp do both have wings, but any kind of comprehensive analysis you want to perform will place the wasp much closer to the ant isomorphically than the sparrow.

    [Steve, here's a good place to jump in and discuss the problems I have here because I don't understand creationist theology well enough to properly discuss morphology, homology and phylogeny...]

    -Touchstone

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  29. Touchstone said:

    "Is scientific language. No theological language at all, none needed to describe or model uniformitarianism -- a physical principle."

    No, uniformitarianism is a prescriptive and proscriptive metaphysical postulate about how the world does (or doesn't) operate—indeed, of how it can (or cannot) operate.

    It's atheological language rather than theological language. Divine agency is banished from natural effects. "Naturalistic" evolution is not a metaphysically neutral position.

    "So where do you suppose your injection of theology attaches here?"

    I'm not the one injecting theology into the discussion. When Ridley chooses to discussion the evidence for naturalistic evolution in relation to creationism, he is injecting an element of theology into the comparison. "Creationism" as in a divine Creator of the world.

    "Why should he care a *whit* in a science textbook about the Christian theological idea of *providence*."

    Because he chose to frame the discussion in terms of which position has more explanatory power vis-a-vis the evidence, creationism or naturalistic evolution.

    "You blame the guy for not being current on creationist theology, but creationist theology is irrelevant here. Totally."

    Are you playing dumb, or are you really that dense? He began by *defining* creationism in relation to naturalistic evolution.

    So, yes, it isn't asking too much that he acquaint himself with creationist literature so that he will accurately define the positions he is ascribing to creationism.

    "What *is* relevant are whatever claims proceed about physical phenomena... that which science is equipped to address."

    i) Uniformitarianism is not about "physical phenomena." It is, to the contrary, a metaphysical stipulate and stricture.

    ii) And you are also begging the question of what science is equipped to address.

    If Jesus miraculously turned water into wine, then that is the best scientific explanation of the metamorphosis. A natural effect of a supernatural cause. That is where the evidence would lead.

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  30. Steve,

    No, uniformitarianism is a prescriptive and proscriptive metaphysical postulate about how the world does (or doesn't) operate—indeed, of how it can (or cannot) operate.

    So what, Steve? That's a metaphysical assumption about physical behavior. There's no theology there.


    It's atheological language rather than theological language. Divine agency is banished from natural effects. "Naturalistic" evolution is not a metaphysically neutral position.

    That's just nuts, Steve. Where would we find theological or atheological opinions in the assumption that physical processes proceed uniformly? This is neither theological nor atheological language. Would you say "the color blue" is atheological language? All you are doing is flailing for some kind of way to justify your injection of theology into your response Ridley. Uniformitarianism doesn't establish *or* reject any underlying divine agency. Science is blind to the supernatural, so if it exists, science won't know about it, as it is supernatural.

    "So where do you suppose your injection of theology attaches here?"

    I'm not the one injecting theology into the discussion. When Ridley chooses to discussion the evidence for naturalistic evolution in relation to creationism, he is injecting an element of theology into the comparison. "Creationism" as in a divine Creator of the world.


    Not. If you take only the claims of creationism that are related to physical phenomenon, you don't need any theology, and from what you've posted, Ridley hasn't invoked ANY. If creationism says "the earth is 6,000 years old", that's a claim about physical phenomenon, and it matters not whether it's related to Yahweh, Buddha, or Elvis Costello. Do you suppose if we emailed Ridley he would agree that he's addressing theological points here rather than physical phenomena? Heh. I'll send him a note to ask. I'll just go ahead and predict that this results in a "No way!" from Ridley, and Steve Hays saying "Yes he is, he just doesn't know it". This would fit how you "take people on their own terms", Steve.


    "Why should he care a *whit* in a science textbook about the Christian theological idea of *providence*."

    Because he chose to frame the discussion in terms of which position has more explanatory power vis-a-vis the evidence, creationism or naturalistic evolution.


    For Pike's sake, Steve, this *science* Ridley is talking about here. Providence is perfectly *nothing* in terms of explanatory power, as science only investigates *natural* phenomena. Do you know what "natural" means in this context, Steve. It means that gravity, a physical force, *does* count as a possible, legitimate explanation for the planets going around the sun. It also means the *providence* -- a theological concept -- does *NOT* count as a possible, legitimate explanation. You are offering theology as a scientific explanation! This strongly suggests that you understand the nature of neither theology or science.


    "You blame the guy for not being current on creationist theology, but creationist theology is irrelevant here. Totally."

    Are you playing dumb, or are you really that dense? He began by *defining* creationism in relation to naturalistic evolution.


    All explanations in science are expressed in terms of physical phenomena, Steve. If creationism is to be assessed scientifically, it must be expressed in terms of physical phenomena. Supernatural explanations and concepts don't get to play. That's what makes science *successful* as the investigation of physical phenomena. Faulting Ridley for rendering creationism as scientific claims for the claims that can be addressed as science makes no sense at all. Creationists can think whatever they want about the theology behind the claims of physical phenomena. Doesn't matter one way or another. All that matters to science, and hence to Ridley here, is the scientific content offered by creationism. He may well misunderstand the scientific claims, and if he's got those claims wrong, it should be corrected. But the theology must be stripped out for a scientific evaluation to take place. Basic science, paralyzing you again, here.


    So, yes, it isn't asking too much that he acquaint himself with creationist literature so that he will accurately define the positions he is ascribing to creationism.

    What scientific claims of creationism are being misrepresented here, Steve? You haven't shown us any. Instead, your "problem" is with... theology. Ridley's got no burden whatsoever and no reason to address creationism beyond its scientific claims here.


    "What *is* relevant are whatever claims proceed about physical phenomena... that which science is equipped to address."

    i) Uniformitarianism is not about "physical phenomena." It is, to the contrary, a metaphysical stipulate and stricture.


    There's no "contrary" there, Steve. It's a metaphysical assumption about physical phenomena.


    ii) And you are also begging the question of what science is equipped to address.


    Yeah, well me and everyone else who *does* science. Really, are you familiar with how science is actually practiced? Do you suppose Ridley here thinks science is equipped to address *providence*. That's just nuts, Steve. You can fantasize about your own normativity all you want, but at some point, you're going to have address the reality of how science proceeds as an actual *enterprise*.

    But no matter. All this is good stuff to elicit from you. My thesis from the beginning has been that you and science aren't remotely acquainted, and all of this running conversation with you has provide a lot of support for this thesis. Your personal brand of Christianity crashes into massive cognitive dissonance as soon as it touches science as practiced.


    If Jesus miraculously turned water into wine, then that is the best scientific explanation of the metamorphosis. A natural effect of a supernatural cause. That is where the evidence would lead.


    Sure. So what? Maybe God is fiddling with the "randomness" of random mutations behind the scenes. Scientifically we'd never now. At best science could study the phenomena (miracle at Cana or "random" mutations) and shrug, saying it doesn't have a compelling answer, as all it is equipped to offer is natural explanations, and none obtain in either case.

    -Touchstone

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  31. Touchstone, have you read Ridley's Evolution? Or at least the relevant bits Steve has interacted with?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Patrick,

    Why would I do that? I'm just taking potshots at Steve.

    --T-Bone

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  33. TOUCHSTONE SAID:

    “So what, Steve? That's a metaphysical assumption about physical behavior. There's no theology there.”

    It’s an atheistic metaphysical assumption. You allow the “scientist” to beg the question in favor of presumptive atheism. You don’t demand that he justify his bias.

    “That's just nuts, Steve. Where would we find theological or atheological opinions in the assumption that physical processes proceed uniformly? This is neither theological nor atheological language.”

    Are you playing dumb or does this just come naturally to you?

    Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either God is the Creator of the world or he isn’t. Either God is an agent who effects certain physical states or he isn’t.

    If the aim of science is to discover a causal explanation for why some things happen, and if God is a factor, then it is prejudicial to exclude the possibility of divine agency from the explanation and—what is more—science will give the wrong answer.

    “Would you say ‘the color blue’ is atheological language?”

    That is not a causal explanation.

    “All you are doing is flailing for some kind of way to justify your injection of theology into your response Ridley.”

    i) I realize you make a virtue of being obtuse. I also realize that you like to rewrite history when it goes against you. *Ridley* “interjected theology” into the discussion when he chose to ask which theory has the evidence on its side—creationism or naturalistic evolution.

    ii) And even if he hadn’t framed the case for naturalistic evolution in those terms, the attempt to secularize science should not go unchallenged.

    “Uniformitarianism doesn't establish *or* reject any underlying divine agency.”

    It rejects divine agency at a methodological level.

    “Science is blind to the supernatural, “

    Science is not entitled to be blind to the supernatural.

    “So if it exists, science won't know about it, as it is supernatural.”

    Indeed, if you shut your eyes or look the other way, you won’t know the right answer. Self-fulfilling ignorance.

    “Not. If you take only the claims of creationism that are related to physical phenomenon, you don't need any theology, and from what you've posted, Ridley hasn't invoked ANY.”

    Either life originated the way the Bible says or else it originated the way Dawkins says.

    If the former, then God is directly responsible for the physical phenomena regarding the origin and primitive diversity of life. A spiritual cause of a physical effect.

    Remove “theology” and you remove the true cause, and substitute a mistaken explanation in its place.

    “Do you suppose if we emailed Ridley he would agree that he's addressing theological points here rather than physical phenomena?”

    You’re the one who’s driving an artificial wedge between cause and effect.

    “For Pike's sake, Steve, this *science* Ridley is talking about here. Providence is perfectly *nothing* in terms of explanatory power, as science only investigates *natural* phenomena. Do you know what ‘natural’ means in this context, Steve. It means that gravity, a physical force, *does* count as a possible, legitimate explanation for the planets going around the sun.”

    Once again, I realize that you suffer from convenient bouts of amnesia, but this has been explained to you before. Providential second-causes are not the issue. Not all effects are explainable by some material medium or mechanism. Some are, but not all.

    The issue is uniformitarianism, which is quite different. That’s a metascientific assumption. It cannot be justified by science. “Clearly, there can be no a posteriori justification for this principle [the uniformity of nature], for it was proposed precisely in order to validate a posteriori reasoning,” Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 181-82.

    And such a principle is prejudicial. It prejudges what is allowed to count as a cause of a physical effect.

    “It also means the *providence* -- a theological concept -- does *NOT* count as a possible, legitimate explanation.”

    i) Keep in mind that I distinguished between creation, miracle, and providence. Some explanations are providential explanations, others are miraculous, &c.

    ii) Notice that T-stone can’t bring himself to define a “legitimate” explanation as a *true* explanation. If the true explanation happens to be “theological,” then the true explanation is not a “possible” explanation. The only “legitimate” explanation is a false explanation.

    “All explanations in science are expressed in terms of physical phenomena, Steve.”

    i) Notice that T-stone never attempts to argue for his assumptions. He merely repeats himself ad nauseum. The same tendentious assertions and question-begging definitions reiterated like a tape-recorder on playback, without the supporting argumentation to justify his claims.

    ii) He blurs the distinction between a physical effect and a physical cause.

    “If creationism is to be assessed scientifically, it must be expressed in terms of physical phenomena.”

    i) Is T-stone a real person, or is he a tape-recorder on playback?

    ii) Notice what is always missing in his stipulative definitions: truth.

    The explanation must be expressed in physicalist terms even if that explanation is systematically false to the actual cause of the phenomenon in question.

    T-stone is simply the flipside of a witch-doctor. If a witch-doctor attributes all ailments to evil spirits, T-stone attributes all ailments to natural pathogens.

    Both the traditional witch-doctor and the secular witch-doctor begin and end with a preconceived theory of what will count as evidence. No contrary evidence is allowed to falsify their theory. It’s either demons everywhere or demons nowhere.

    They don’t actually let nature dictate to them the correct explanation. Rather, they superimpose their interpretive grid on natural events. The true causes are filtered out in case the true cause are too large to slip through the fine-mesh screen.

    “Supernatural explanations and concepts don't get to play.”

    For T-stone, the rules, and not reality, are all that matter. Let’s invent a set of man-made rules that don’t have to correspond to the real world.

    Even if a supernatural explanation is the true explanation, it doesn’t get to play. False explanations are better than true explanations cuz that’s how the “game” is played.

    “That's what makes science *successful* as the investigation of physical phenomena.”

    What is the relationship between truth and success?

    “Faulting Ridley for rendering creationism as scientific claims for the claims that can be addressed as science makes no sense at all.”

    One of T-stone’s tactics is to repeat the same lie over and over again in the hope that his attempt to rewrite history and distort the original position will take hold.

    I’m faulting Ridley for, among other things, saying that he was going to compare and contrast his own position with creationism and then proceed to misrepresent what creationism stands for. His description was fundamentally inaccurate, and that introduced a systematic error into his subsequent comparison.

    “Creationists can think whatever they want about the theology behind the claims of physical phenomena.”

    Yes, what lies “behind” the “physical phenomena”? As in the actual cause of the physical phenomena. Is the cause physical? If so, then a physicalist explanation will suffice. If the cause is due to spiritual agency (e.g. God, angels, demons, ESP), then a physicalist explanation will be mistaken.

    If you don’t care whether or not science is in the business of assigning true causes to physical effects, then why bother with science at all? You demote science to the same level as a Monopoly or astrology or The Martian Chronicles.

    “But the theology must be stripped out for a scientific evaluation to take place.”

    The umpteenth iteration of his dogmatic assertion.

    “Basic science, paralyzing you again, here.”

    T-stone would have made a wonderful Kamikaze. Brainwashed to salute, with unquestioning obedience, the official dogma of the imperial cult.

    “What scientific claims of creationism are being misrepresented here, Steve?”

    Once again, T-stone is attempting to improve on what Ridley actually said.

    Ridley misrepresented creationism, then proceeded to cite a lot of counterevidence which is only at odds with creationism given his preliminary and persistent misrepresentation.

    “It's a metaphysical assumption about physical phenomena.”

    Uniformitarianism is unscientific since it can never be established on the basis of the physical evidence.

    “Sure. So what? Maybe God is fiddling with the ‘randomness’ of random mutations behind the scenes. Scientifically we'd never now. At best science could study the phenomena (miracle at Cana or ‘random’ mutations) and shrug, saying it doesn't have a compelling answer, as all it is equipped to offer is natural explanations, and none obtain in either case.”

    T-stone is the proverbial Sunday morning “Christian” who checks his Christianity at the door as soon as he enters the laboratory.

    If T-stone were an oncologist, and he had a dozen stage-four terminal cancer patients in a row who were instantly healed in answer to prayer, he would chalk that up to spontaneous remission. Even though answered prayer would be the best explanation, that would be an “unscientific” explanation (according to his profane, atrophied definition), and, as a medical scientist, he must never attribute a cure to a supernatural agent—even if that is the best explanation of the evidence.

    If T-stone were a psychiatrist, and one of his patients gave every indication of being possessed, whereas no “scientific” diagnosis fit the symptoms, and no “scientific” treatment cured the patient—and if, by contrast, the patient was restored to mental health due to exorcism, T-stone would summarily exclude the supernatural explanation. Any naturalistic explanation, however incongruent with the evidence, is to be preferred over a supernatural explanation, however congruent with the evidence. Welcome to “science.”

    T-stone is a practicing atheist except when he dons his Sunday best to attend church. The nice thing about being an actor is that you get to play so many different parts. He gets to play his Christian role on Sunday, and his “scientist” role on Monday. Different costumes. Different scripts.

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  34. “Clearly, there can be no a posteriori justification for this principle [the uniformity of nature], for it was proposed precisely in order to validate a posteriori reasoning,” Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 181-82.

    Apparently, Tstone disagrees. So, how about it Touchstone, where is the physical evidence for uniformitarianism that justifies this principle?

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  35. Gene,

    Simple induction. We extrapolate from the uniformity of things in the knowable present and past out in both directions -- past an future. The fact that the sun came up over the horizon today suggests, in addition to our knowledge of this happening consistently every 24 hours or for some time back into the past, that it will do so again tomorrow.

    It could be wrong. That's how induction works, from the specific to the general. So the "physical evidence" would all those phenomena that support the idea of the constancy and uniforming of fundamental physical law. If you think about it, that's a whole lof of evidence, eh?

    -Touchstone

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  36. Patrick,

    Have not read the book in question. Am familiar with Ridley well, though. I have his *other* book called "Evolution" -- the one with a frog on the cover -- which often leads to confusion on Ridley. That's not a textbook but a compendium of scholarly article abstracts and commentary on, you guessed it -- evolution.

    I'm just going by what Steve provides here. If he wants to produce more, I'd be quite interested in seeing what parts he's left out of his post that give him purchase on the complaints he's offering. As I've said, with respect to "kind" and demands for mastery of the finer points of creationist theology, I can't see how that even loosely relates to what Ridley is quoted as saying in the book.

    -Touchstone

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  37. Simple induction. We extrapolate from the uniformity of things in the knowable present and past out in both directions -- past an future. The fact that the sun came up over the horizon today suggests, in addition to our knowledge of this happening consistently every 24 hours or for some time back into the past, that it will do so again tomorrow.

    No, Touchstone, this is called begging the question. You've interpreted the rising and setting of the sun as a uniformitarian process. What is the cause of this effect? You've shown us a physical effect, not a physical cause.

    How is this not evidence of providence and not a naturalistic process? You've selected an example that proves Steve's case against you when he says, "
    Yes, what lies “behind” the “physical phenomena”? As in the actual cause of the physical phenomena. Is the cause physical? If so, then a physicalist explanation will suffice. If the cause is due to spiritual agency (e.g. God, angels, demons, ESP), then a physicalist explanation will be mistaken."

    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Noahic Covenant, Touchstone. It's in Genesis 8:22. Here's what it says:

    The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

    22"While the earth remains,
    Seedtime and harvest,
    And cold and heat,
    And summer and winter,
    And day and night
    Shall not cease."

    You gave an example, committing the gambler's fallacy no less, that demonstrates that you'll choose a physicalist explanation over a providential explanation. Scripture teaches that the sun's rising and setting is due to a covenant with mankind through Noah, not a uniformitarian physical process. You, agreeable guy you are, didn't bother to think of divine agency. No, you chose to banish divine agency from equation, and you, and I truly do congratulate you for this, provided the very example that Scripture itself addresses.

    You have just proven that uniformitarianism is not based on scientific evidence at all. Rather it's a metascientific principle for which there is no a posteriori justification. Congratulations.

    You claim to be a Christian but then you don't look at the universe through the lens of what being a Christian should lead you to do: truth.

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  38. TOUCHSTONE SAID:
    Gene,__Simple induction. We extrapolate from the uniformity of things in the knowable present and past out in both directions -- past an future. The fact that the sun came up over the horizon today suggests, in addition to our knowledge of this happening consistently every 24 hours or for some time back into the past, that it will do so again tomorrow. __It could be wrong. That's how induction works, from the specific to the general. So the "physical evidence" would all those phenomena that support the idea of the constancy and uniforming of fundamental physical law. If you think about it, that's a whole lof of evidence, eh?__-Touchstone
    *************************************************
    An intellectually shallow response that merely restates the original problem rather than resolving it.

    “The problem of induction is one of the oldest, and one of the most intractable, of philosophical problems…what today we call ampliative, or inductive, inference is for Hume no species of reasoning at all, merely a psychological propensity. If this is true, then science stands on no surer evidential foundation that the crudest superstition,” The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 181.

    “The uncongenial nature of this conclusion prompted generations of philosophers to try to find some flaw in his reasoning. This has proved far from easy, and many have reluctantly concluded that it cannot be successfully rebutted. First, Hume points out, extrapolations from experience, in whatever way they might be made, are not deductive; it is not contradictory to affirm both that bread has always nourished and that it will cease to do so tomorrow,” ibid. 181.

    “What other reason might there be to infer, from the evidence that it has always nourished, that it will continue to nourish, or even that it probably will? One might adduced the additional fact that inferences from a numerous sample to future instances have proved successful in the past. But, as Hume pointed out, since it is precisely the validity of an inference from past to future which is at issue, to cite in its support a further fact about the past does not advance the argument,” ibid. 181.

    “Unless restricted in some more or less ad hoc way, any rule licensing the extrapolation of observed regularities is also unsound, however large the sample is stipulated to be. For one property which characterizes without exception the members of any sample is, of course, that of belonging to that sample. But it is clearly false that this property will belong to any individuals not yet sampled,” ibid. 182.

    “The conclusion appears to be an unresolvable dilemma. On the one hand, inductive inferences seem to require an inductive principle to warrant their validity…On the other hand, any such principle inevitably begs the question of its own authenticity,” ibid. 182.

    As Gene points out, the only solution to this conundrum is to bring theological (gasp!) into the picture by grounding induction in a doctrine of God’s providential conservation of natural kinds.

    ReplyDelete
  39. touchstone said...

    “Patrick,__Have not read the book in question.”

    So T-stone doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Which doesn’t inhibit him from jumping into the debate and imputing various motives to Ridley.

    “As I've said, with respect to ‘kind’ and demands for mastery of the finer points of creationist theology, I can't see how that even loosely relates to what Ridley is quoted as saying in the book.”

    It makes my job very easy to have an opponent who keeps uttering the same lame-brained denials.

    Ridley defined creationism by claiming that, according to creationism, every “species” was separately created and immutable. He then cited a lot of counterevidence to disprove this contention.

    Since, however, he misdefined creationism at the outset, his counterevidence repeatedly misses the mark.

    But somehow the furry mind of T-stone is unable to grasp how this “even loosely relates to what Ridley said.”

    BTW, that was not the only problem with Ridley’s analysis. I pointed out other problems with Ridley’s case for naturalistic evolution.

    This is simply what T-stone has chosen to fixate on.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Steve,

    TOUCHSTONE SAID:

    “So what, Steve? That's a metaphysical assumption about physical behavior. There's no theology there.”

    It’s an atheistic metaphysical assumption. You allow the “scientist” to beg the question in favor of presumptive atheism. You don’t demand that he justify his bias.


    What bias Steve? Uniformatarianism is as compatible with "no-God" as it is "God" or "some other deity". It's agnostic with respect to ultimate causes, as all science is.


    Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either God is the Creator of the world or he isn’t. Either God is an agent who effects certain physical states or he isn’t.

    If the aim of science is to discover a causal explanation for why some things happen, and if God is a factor, then it is prejudicial to exclude the possibility of divine agency from the explanation and—what is more—science will give the wrong answer.


    But that's *not* the aim of science, if by "some things" you mean to include *ultimate*, metaphysical causes. I know you're unwilling to hear this idea, but for the record, once again, science purposely constrains itself to physical explanations for physical phenomena. It makes not assertions beyond that with respect to their being a God, or any other metaphysical/supernatural entities or forces involved. It's simply agnostic on that issue, denying any finding on the matter. So here, you've misunderstood the aim of science.


    “Would you say ‘the color blue’ is atheological language?”

    That is not a causal explanation.


    Didn't say it was, Steve, just looking for a starting point for a concept that is agnostic. Is "the color blue" atheological language? Let's start simple, and we can go from there.


    “All you are doing is flailing for some kind of way to justify your injection of theology into your response Ridley.”

    i) I realize you make a virtue of being obtuse. I also realize that you like to rewrite history when it goes against you. *Ridley* “interjected theology” into the discussion when he chose to ask which theory has the evidence on its side—creationism or naturalistic evolution.

    ii) And even if he hadn’t framed the case for naturalistic evolution in those terms, the attempt to secularize science should not go unchallenged.


    Science in the hands of theists, if you are the example, Steve, would bring us back to the stone age. The reason science is successful is *because* it rigorously resists supernatural explanations. Science doesn't preclude supernatural entities or forces from existing. It just has nothing to say about them, by choice, so that it can maintain the *physical* integrity of its explanations, the coherence of the answers it *does* provide. As soon as "Goddidit" becomes a valid explanation as a supernatural phenomena, science is epistemically annihilated. Nothing more than theology in terms of physical phenomena. Who wants to fly on *that* airplane, eh?


    “Uniformitarianism doesn't establish *or* reject any underlying divine agency.”

    It rejects divine agency at a methodological level.


    Not. If God is maintaining the uniformity of nature by His will, every nanosecond of every day, then science would never know, but also would never be able to deny it, so long as it was a *supernatural* phenomena. If God is deploying some *natural* mechanism or design to realize uniformity in nature, then science can address that mechanism or design. Nothing is rejected here in any ultimate sense.


    “Science is blind to the supernatural, “

    Science is not entitled to be blind to the supernatural.


    Who says, Steve? You? That's like telling a knife it is not entitled to be sharp, or to be a knife at all. It's a tool, a framework that is useful to achieve goal and assistent in human enterprise. I knife doesn't have to be a hammer. Hammers are useful too, but for different goals. Science pursues different epistemic goals than theology. I note that this is another good quote from you, Steve, adding to the "divorce case" between you and science.

    “So if it exists, science won't know about it, as it is supernatural.”

    Indeed, if you shut your eyes or look the other way, you won’t know the right answer. Self-fulfilling ignorance.


    This can only be said if you do not understand the annihilating affects of supernatural entities and forces as explanations. That is, if you *didn't* maintain methodological integrity of science with respect to physical phenomena, the epistemic reliability of science would quickly go to zero, powerless to resist the theist with the perfect explanation for all phenomena: Goddidit. As soon as "Goddidit" becomes legitimate -- has a foot in the door, as Lewontin says -- that answer annihilates anything else. An omniscient, omnipotent, arbitrary, invisible deity is the theoretical maximum in terms of explanations. No explanation can hope to compete, ever, in any way.

    That which explains everything explains nothing.


    “Not. If you take only the claims of creationism that are related to physical phenomenon, you don't need any theology, and from what you've posted, Ridley hasn't invoked ANY.”

    Either life originated the way the Bible says or else it originated the way Dawkins says.


    Those are surely not the only options, Steve.


    If the former, then God is directly responsible for the physical phenomena regarding the origin and primitive diversity of life. A spiritual cause of a physical effect.

    Remove “theology” and you remove the true cause, and substitute a mistaken explanation in its place.


    "True" is only meaningful in terms of physical phenomena in science, Steve. You're thoroughly confusing ultimate, transcendent truth with the practical, tentative "truth" of science. You'll not that scientists don't commonly say "this theory is the truth", and never say that in a final sense. That's an alien concept for scientists. I know you're unhappy with the idea that science finds practical and epistemic utility in its limited, constrained epistemology, but those constraints are essential to its utility. Remove the constraints, and you remove all the utility that is being derived.


    “Do you suppose if we emailed Ridley he would agree that he's addressing theological points here rather than physical phenomena?”

    You’re the one who’s driving an artificial wedge between cause and effect.


    non-sequitur, Steve. I was asking if think Ridley believes he is trading on theology. This goes to you assertion that you are addressing him on his terms. You do claim that, correct?

    “For Pike's sake, Steve, this *science* Ridley is talking about here. Providence is perfectly *nothing* in terms of explanatory power, as science only investigates *natural* phenomena. Do you know what ‘natural’ means in this context, Steve. It means that gravity, a physical force, *does* count as a possible, legitimate explanation for the planets going around the sun.”

    Once again, I realize that you suffer from convenient bouts of amnesia, but this has been explained to you before. Providential second-causes are not the issue. Not all effects are explainable by some material medium or mechanism. Some are, but not all.


    If that's true in a way that science can address, Steve, then how would you demonstrate these effects? If they are not demonstrable in a scientific context, then what does Ridley, or anyone, care in terms of science?

    The issue is uniformitarianism, which is quite different. That’s a metascientific assumption. It cannot be justified by science. “Clearly, there can be no a posteriori justification for this principle [the uniformity of nature], for it was proposed precisely in order to validate a posteriori reasoning,” Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 181-82.

    And such a principle is prejudicial. It prejudges what is allowed to count as a cause of a physical effect.


    It's a practical constraint. As above, supernatural causes, as soon as they are admitted, even a little bit, immediately annihilate all physical explanations. Goddidit wins every time, every where, for all phenomena, remember? If we didn't "prejudge" this way, and assume that a) physical phenomena are explainable in terms of other physical phenomena and physical forces, and b) the fundamental physical dynamics are both uniform and enduring, then we couldn't do science at all. We'd have to admit that "God holds them up" is a much more parsimonious answer to how birds can fly than *any* physical explanation. Science would achieve precisely nothing without those constraints. I suspect that sounds appealing to you, but I gotta say, I appreciate the benefits of science that we enjoy. My son's alive thanks to high-tech science. If God's plan was to take him, so be it. But as it is, it's quite a blessing to have the science available to save him when just a few years prior, we'd have had to just put him in the ground.


    “It also means the *providence* -- a theological concept -- does *NOT* count as a possible, legitimate explanation.”

    i) Keep in mind that I distinguished between creation, miracle, and providence. Some explanations are providential explanations, others are miraculous, &c.


    What does that change, Steve. Nothing at all, so far as I can see.

    ii) Notice that T-stone can’t bring himself to define a “legitimate” explanation as a *true* explanation. If the true explanation happens to be “theological,” then the true explanation is not a “possible” explanation. The only “legitimate” explanation is a false explanation.

    This is again anger at the knife for not being a hammer. If I need to cut something, a knife beats a hammer. A hammer is unlikely to help me accomplish my goal, no matter how hard I try with it. Science doesn't recognize what you mean by *true* here. It's a non-sense term, no more useful than a hammer for slicing my bagel in half. If science can't demonstrate an explanation, then it remains agnostic about that explanation. So, if there's a supernatural conversion of water into wine, with no physical analog known anywhere else in all of nature, science would just shrug, and say "no idea". Because it hasn't one. That's the way it is supposed to work.


    “All explanations in science are expressed in terms of physical phenomena, Steve.”

    i) Notice that T-stone never attempts to argue for his assumptions. He merely repeats himself ad nauseum. The same tendentious assertions and question-begging definitions reiterated like a tape-recorder on playback, without the supporting argumentation to justify his claims.


    I argue for those assumptions. It's trancendental, Steve. Natural must be uniform and physical to some level of reduction if it is to be even remotely intelligible. That assumption may be wrong, but it's necessary in order to build a knowledge base that makes physical phenomena more intelligible. It cannot be otherwise, if science is work at all. You either proceed with those assumptions, or you divorce yourself from science.


    ii) He blurs the distinction between a physical effect and a physical cause.


    ???

    “If creationism is to be assessed scientifically, it must be expressed in terms of physical phenomena.”

    i) Is T-stone a real person, or is he a tape-recorder on playback?

    ii) Notice what is always missing in his stipulative definitions: truth.


    What does science mean by 'truth', Steve. I think that must be asked and answered here. I'd be interested to know how you respond. I don't think science means anything like what you mean here by 'truth'. Divorced, I say.


    The explanation must be expressed in physicalist terms even if that explanation is systematically false to the actual cause of the phenomenon in question.


    "Systematically false"? What "system" are you referring to here, Steve? The "Steve Hand Waving Pontification System"? Seriously, I see that label as perfectly bogus. Name the system please?


    “Supernatural explanations and concepts don't get to play.”

    For T-stone, the rules, and not reality, are all that matter. Let’s invent a set of man-made rules that don’t have to correspond to the real world.


    How do you define 'correspond' here, Steve. What is the process for determining what corresponds to the real world and what does not?


    Even if a supernatural explanation is the true explanation, it doesn’t get to play. False explanations are better than true explanations cuz that’s how the “game” is played.


    If there *isn't* a natural explanation for a thing, then it should be difficult to show such a mechanism -- the thing you would call 'false'. How did this water instantly become wine? "No idea, doesn't make sense" says the scientist. Is that a *false* answer, Steve?


    “That's what makes science *successful* as the investigation of physical phenomena.”

    What is the relationship between truth and success?


    Possibly nothing, as you are using the term. But call it what you want, science produces useful results, and is a tool that provides an heiristic for solving many new and currently unsolved problems. To the extent you believe reality and the physical world overlap (which I think they do), then the success of science in assembling explanations that make good predictions suggest that it has approximated the truth, so far as physical phenomena are concerned.


    “Faulting Ridley for rendering creationism as scientific claims for the claims that can be addressed as science makes no sense at all.”

    One of T-stone’s tactics is to repeat the same lie over and over again in the hope that his attempt to rewrite history and distort the original position will take hold.

    I’m faulting Ridley for, among other things, saying that he was going to compare and contrast his own position with creationism and then proceed to misrepresent what creationism stands for. His description was fundamentally inaccurate, and that introduced a systematic error into his subsequent comparison.


    I missed the part where you showed what scientific claims got misrepresented by Ridley. Can you point me to that, or quote it?


    “Creationists can think whatever they want about the theology behind the claims of physical phenomena.”

    Yes, what lies “behind” the “physical phenomena”? As in the actual cause of the physical phenomena. Is the cause physical? If so, then a physicalist explanation will suffice. If the cause is due to spiritual agency (e.g. God, angels, demons, ESP), then a physicalist explanation will be mistaken.


    Sure, and science doesn't care. It's quite content being incomplete with respect to ultimate and metaphysical questions. It's a knife, not a hammer, which you would know if you were familiar with it. If the cause is supernatural, science ain't gonna be able to help. Science doesn't claim it will.


    If you don’t care whether or not science is in the business of assigning true causes to physical effects, then why bother with science at all? You demote science to the same level as a Monopoly or astrology or The Martian Chronicles.


    It's only in the business of finding whatever physical explanations it can find. If you want answers to questions that can't be framed on its terms, you'll have to look elsewhere. Try a hammer when you need a hammer instead of cursing the knife for its 'non-hammerness'.


    “What scientific claims of creationism are being misrepresented here, Steve?”

    Once again, T-stone is attempting to improve on what Ridley actually said.

    Ridley misrepresented creationism, then proceeded to cite a lot of counterevidence which is only at odds with creationism given his preliminary and persistent misrepresentation.


    Again I ask, what scientific claims of creationism did Ridley misrepresent? He may well have, it's been known to happen. You just won't say what these misrepresentations are, for some reason.


    “It's a metaphysical assumption about physical phenomena.”

    Uniformitarianism is unscientific since it can never be established on the basis of the physical evidence.


    Steve, duh. That's why we put a "meta-" in front of the "physical" part. It's a metaphysical assumption, and one required if there is to be any basis for hypothesis/predict/test/verify/falsify in science. If nature does *not* operate on some level of uniformity, then science is a waste of time, an unpursuable enterprise.


    “Sure. So what? Maybe God is fiddling with the ‘randomness’ of random mutations behind the scenes. Scientifically we'd never now. At best science could study the phenomena (miracle at Cana or ‘random’ mutations) and shrug, saying it doesn't have a compelling answer, as all it is equipped to offer is natural explanations, and none obtain in either case.”

    T-stone is the proverbial Sunday morning “Christian” who checks his Christianity at the door as soon as he enters the laboratory.

    If T-stone were an oncologist, and he had a dozen stage-four terminal cancer patients in a row who were instantly healed in answer to prayer, he would chalk that up to spontaneous remission. Even though answered prayer would be the best explanation, that would be an “unscientific” explanation (according to his profane, atrophied definition), and, as a medical scientist, he must never attribute a cure to a supernatural agent—even if that is the best explanation of the evidence.

    If T-stone were a psychiatrist, and one of his patients gave every indication of being possessed, whereas no “scientific” diagnosis fit the symptoms, and no “scientific” treatment cured the patient—and if, by contrast, the patient was restored to mental health due to exorcism, T-stone would summarily exclude the supernatural explanation. Any naturalistic explanation, however incongruent with the evidence, is to be preferred over a supernatural explanation, however congruent with the evidence. Welcome to “science.”

    T-stone is a practicing atheist except when he dons his Sunday best to attend church. The nice thing about being an actor is that you get to play so many different parts. He gets to play his Christian role on Sunday, and his “scientist” role on Monday. Different costumes. Different scripts.


    Blah, blah, blah. So much cognitive dissonance from you, Steve. Anything to avoid looking the evidence in the eye...

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  41. Steve,


    Ridley defined creationism by claiming that, according to creationism, every “species” was separately created and immutable. He then cited a lot of counterevidence to disprove this contention.


    My understanding seems to match Ridley's. Creationists routinely deny "macroevolution", a term which describes the evolutionary formation of new *species*. If that's correct, and creationists *do* deny "macroevolution", then Ridley would be correct to address speciation as a refutation of creationist denials of "macroevolution".

    Or, do you suppose the science world is somehow operating on your notion of the Biblical "kind", Steve.

    I'm happy to go scrounge up links and references to creationist denials of evolutionary speciation if you'd like. We both know that's part of the creationist argument, but you can demand the links and quotes if you want.


    -Touchstone

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  42. Gene,

    If I were to just arbitrarily suppose, for absolutely no reason, that nature was rigidly uniform at all times in its behavior, would you consider the accumulation of a massive number of observations and theories that routinely make precise and non-trivial prediction to be support for that assumption?

    I could just as well say: that's providence. But it doesn't matter for the purposes of making predictions about where the moon is going to be three weeks from now, right? Providence explains everything, doesn't it, and hence nothing, scientifically? How would we falsify the idea of providence as the sustainer of uniformity?

    My understanding is that God's design for the universe included uniformity of physical laws as a design feature. He's free to intervene when and as He sees fit. If that uniformity is "built in" than it's simply immanent as manifested by the ongoing uniformity in the universe with respect to physical law. As a matter of science, providence isn't tractable until and unless it becomes a physical phenomenon. We can talk about the supernatural dynamics all you want, but in terms of science, it's a non-starter so long as it is not physical.


    As for scientific assumptions and uniformitarianism, it's funny that you think this is news, or somehow scandalous. Science, as I said to Steve, makes uniformitarian assumptions of necessity. It cannot do otherwise. If there is no level of physical behavior that provides symmetry across time and space, then science won't be in the least useful. Without scientists would just take up woodworking.

    Or watercolors.

    It's worth noting that your just now, at whatever age you are, thinking that some kind of discovery or refutation of science has been unconvered. It has long been thus, Gene.

    -Touchstone

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  43. Steve, duh. That's why we put a "meta-" in front of the "physical" part. It's a metaphysical assumption, and one required if there is to be any basis for hypothesis/predict/test/verify/falsify in science. If nature does *not* operate on some level of uniformity, then science is a waste of time, an unpursuable enterprise.

    But what your dense mind can't seem to process is that if this is true then such things as the sun and moon rising don't count as evidence for uniformitarianism, rather you assume uniformitarianism and then jones for evidence to prove your assumption.

    I asked you above for evidence that supports uniformitarianism, and all you offered was an inductive argument that merely repeats the problem and does not solve it.

    In fact, what you offered was the very example that Scripture affirms is not a naturalistic process, but a result of covenantal providence. So, you didn't give a "true" answer, you gave a "metascientific" answer.

    Don't come here talking about how YEC dishonors Christ when you're the one that doesn't bother to consult Scripture for the simple answer to a simple question. Not only that, it should be the first answer to the question for the Christian. You, by way of contrast, simply ignored it.

    If I were to just arbitrarily suppose, for absolutely no reason, that nature was rigidly uniform at all times in its behavior, would you consider the accumulation of a massive number of observations and theories that routinely make precise and non-trivial prediction to be support for that assumption?...How would we falsify the idea of providence as the sustainer of uniformity?

    It's not my rule of faith to falsify providence; besides what is true does not need to be "falsified." However, if you'd like to try, then you'd need to falsify Scripture's statements, since Scripture grounds providence in terms of our order of knowing. Liberal theologians have been making that attempt for quite some time now. You regularly cast your lot with them, so I assume you would be familiar with that.

    That's your rule of faith, not mine, so it's your burden of proof to discharge, not mine. Scripture, not science, determines what is real, and, in the case you offered for uniformitarianism, Scripture openly and particularly contradicts you.

    Uniformitarianism is prescriptive, not descriptive, Touchstone. What is unclear about this. One doesn't even have to be a Christian to recognize that.

    You cited an example, and I threw Scripture back in your face. You claim to be a Christian, yet you can't wrap your mind around what Scripture says about the nature of universe. I don't suppose the regularity of nature on the basis of uniformitarianism. Rather that would be, at most, an ancillary argument for divine providence, for what can properly ground the induction for which you argue, particularly in light of what Scripture specifically says.
    Scripture, Touchstone, dictates what is real and is not, what is true and what is not, tells us that "the sun rising and setting today and tomorrow, etc." is dependent not on "natural laws" but on the Noahic covenant.

    My understanding is that God's design for the universe included uniformity of physical laws as a design feature.

    Is this a theological argument? If so, then present your exegetical case.

    This is deism at most, some sort of dualism at best, since you keep "science" and "theology" apart so that never the twain shall meet. You're continuing to dig yourself deeper into the hole of apostasy.

    As for scientific assumptions and uniformitarianism, it's funny that you think this is news, or somehow scandalous...
    It's worth noting that your just now, at whatever age you are, thinking that some kind of discovery or refutation of science has been unconvered. It has long been thus, Gene.


    Can you quote us on that, Touchstone? Where have either of us said anything about these assumptions being "scandalous?"

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  44. Steve, duh. That's why we put a "meta-" in front of the "physical" part. It's a metaphysical assumption, and one required if there is to be any basis for hypothesis/predict/test/verify/falsify in science. If nature does *not* operate on some level of uniformity, then science is a waste of time, an unpursuable enterprise.

    But what your dense mind can't seem to process is that if this is true then such things as the sun and moon rising don't count as evidence for uniformitarianism, rather you assume uniformitarianism and then jones for evidence to prove your assumption.


    Why would it not count for *both*, Gene. If I suppose, as a matter of necessity for science, that nature has some level of uniformity to it that enables discovery and prediction, then my success in making predictions accurately based on uniformitarian assumptions would tend to support that assumption. But at the same time, if I understand that God ordained this uniformity as part of His design for the universe, then the apparent uniformity of what we experience would confirm that as well. Neither is opposed to the other, in that case, and in fact the scientific support would just be used by those (me) who see the natural world as a manifestation of divine creation as further support for the theological idea that God ordained a measure of order in physical law as a design decision.

    Given that, I don't see how you would say it "doesn't" count for either of these understandings. The empirical evidence supports them both.


    I asked you above for evidence that supports uniformitarianism, and all you offered was an inductive argument that merely repeats the problem and does not solve it.


    Experience *is* evidence, Gene! When the sun comes up tomorrow, yet again, it stands as just another bit of evidence for the uniformity of physical law. Do we have certainty this will happen? No. Does that mean the sunrise does not stand as inductive evidence for the expectation of tomorrow's sunrise? No. You apparently demand *certainty*, and exhaustive certainty here, Gene? Why?


    In fact, what you offered was the very example that Scripture affirms is not a naturalistic process, but a result of covenantal providence. So, you didn't give a "true" answer, you gave a "metascientific" answer.


    Gene, how do you distinguish between "covenantal providence" and a "naturalistic process" scientifically? I see uniformity in nature as the manifestation of providential creation. If uniformity of physical laws is a design attribute of the universe, then the *providence* is established when the governing physical laws are established. That's completely congruent with a theological view of divine creation. Or if you think not, why?


    Don't come here talking about how YEC dishonors Christ when you're the one that doesn't bother to consult Scripture for the simple answer to a simple question. Not only that, it should be the first answer to the question for the Christian. You, by way of contrast, simply ignored it.


    Gene, your thinking a hammer is the tool for slicing a bagel. Try the knife, it's more effective. In terms of science, I can't find a scriptural assertion about uniformity in nature. Indeed, I can find ample support for *non-uniformity* (e.g. miracles). So whatever assertions one may see as an assertion about uniformity would have to reconcile with whatever cases we can identify that demand intervention/non-uniformity. I hold that scripture doesn't make scientific claims about uniformity, complete or otherwise. Maybe you can provide the passages we should use for our scientific assertions?


    If I were to just arbitrarily suppose, for absolutely no reason, that nature was rigidly uniform at all times in its behavior, would you consider the accumulation of a massive number of observations and theories that routinely make precise and non-trivial prediction to be support for that assumption?...How would we falsify the idea of providence as the sustainer of uniformity?

    It's not my rule of faith to falsify providence; besides what is true does not need to be "falsified." However, if you'd like to try, then you'd need to falsify Scripture's statements, since Scripture grounds providence in terms of our order of knowing. Liberal theologians have been making that attempt for quite some time now. You regularly cast your lot with them, so I assume you would be familiar with that.


    It's not my rule of faith to falsify providence either. My request for falsification was a *scientific* one -- I'm driving at the idea that scientifically we have no bases for even addressing the idea of "providence". Stating that it's not your 'rule of faith' isn't responsive, you might as well tell me you like cats better than dogs. I'm asking you -- in terms of science -- how we might proceed on the concept of providence. If you can't come up with one, than I suggest you should retire the idea of subjecting science to your demands with respect to providence. It's like asking me what the color 9 smells like.


    That's your rule of faith, not mine, so it's your burden of proof to discharge, not mine. Scripture, not science, determines what is real, and, in the case you offered for uniformitarianism, Scripture openly and particularly contradicts you.


    I was asking a scientific question, Gene. See above. And science doesn't came to *form* reality, but rather describe what it can about physical phenomena. It is limited in what it can describe, what it does describe it claims approximates reality to the extent it performs (successfully predicts, explains, etc).


    Uniformitarianism is prescriptive, not descriptive, Touchstone. What is unclear about this. One doesn't even have to be a Christian to recognize that.


    I'm clear, and way beyond that. It's a necessary assumption, I'll point out again, since you are clearly stuck on this. If the uniformitarian assumption is wrong, then to the extent it is, science is incapable of describing, explaining, and predicting physical phenomena. There's no cosmic guarantee that science will yield the results we want. If the universe was completely non-uniform in its behavior, science wouldn't get very far. Given the utility of science we have in view, it seems reasonable to conclude that the assumption was a valid one, at least to the extent that we might do the things science enables us to do, based as it is on this assumption.


    You cited an example, and I threw Scripture back in your face. You claim to be a Christian, yet you can't wrap your mind around what Scripture says about the nature of universe. I don't suppose the regularity of nature on the basis of uniformitarianism. Rather that would be, at most, an ancillary argument for divine providence, for what can properly ground the induction for which you argue, particularly in light of what Scripture specifically says.
    Scripture, Touchstone, dictates what is real and is not, what is true and what is not, tells us that "the sun rising and setting today and tomorrow, etc." is dependent not on "natural laws" but on the Noahic covenant.


    Gene, do yo suppose you could even *read* scripture without having an understanding first about some things in the world around you? What do you suppose is necessary to understand English, English sufficient to recognize and (roughly) understand the words in scripture? Do you suppose you make can make sense of Isaiah's description of trees clapping their hands without some knowledge -- lingual and experiential -- of the world around you? You understood reality to some functional extent before you ever got your first whiff of scripture. You can't read a text without knowing the language. And no matter what level of primitivity you want to choose for your preceding experience, it *necessarily*, transcendentally demands a supposition of uniformity at some level. You want "milk" in a cup from your Mama? Unless the word, the sound, the concept remains the same from yesterday to today -- uniform -- asking for "milk" is utterly pointless. Long before you could read anything you thoroughly integrated uniformity into your cognition -- it precedes and conditions and enables your very ability to read scripture, or to suppose that reading has any use! This is simply the gift of God's creation being made manifest -- His general revelation at work on you from a time long before you learned to read your first word.

    So when you say scripture defines for you what is true or real, you *must* include the presumption of uniformity at some level, priority reading verse one, else reading has no possible value, no utility. If the text on the page doesn't have the same characters on it today that it did yesterday, the same distributed semantic connections it did yesterday, it's just some differentiated visual stimuli to you, nothing more. You have a transcendental dependence on uniformity in nature just like the rest of us, only maybe you are just less aware.


    My understanding is that God's design for the universe included uniformity of physical laws as a design feature.

    Is this a theological argument? If so, then present your exegetical case.

    It's not exegetical. It's based on my observation. If I understand God to be the Creator, and I also understand, through observation that the universe appears to be operating in a uniform way with respect to physical law, the natural harmonization of these two understandings would be that this uniformity reflected a divine design decision.


    This is deism at most, some sort of dualism at best, since you keep "science" and "theology" apart so that never the twain shall meet. You're continuing to dig yourself deeper into the hole of apostasy.


    Well, in addition to the above, I believe God is personally and actively involved in the affairs of His people. Constantly. Is that deism to you, Gene, or more convenient "misunderstanding" on your part?


    As for scientific assumptions and uniformitarianism, it's funny that you think this is news, or somehow scandalous...
    It's worth noting that your just now, at whatever age you are, thinking that some kind of discovery or refutation of science has been unconvered. It has long been thus, Gene.

    Can you quote us on that, Touchstone? Where have either of us said anything about these assumptions being "scandalous?"


    Well, this:

    You have just proven that uniformitarianism is not based on scientific evidence at all. Rather it's a metascientific principle for which there is no a posteriori justification. Congratulations.

    Your congratulating me for proving what you, and I, and the rest of science have long understood? Heh. That you think something new or meaningful, something subversive of science (the scandal!) has taken place, suggests you are just coming to terms with this stuff, Gene. There's nothing to congratulate, or even *note* here, if you had this figured out previously.

    -Touchstone

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  45. TOUCHSTONE SAID:

    “What bias Steve? Uniformatarianism is as compatible with ‘no-God’ as it is ‘God’ or ‘some other deity’. It's agnostic with respect to ultimate causes, as all science is.”

    “Ultimate causes” are not the only issue. For example, God is responsible for the virgin birth *rather than* natural causes of conception (in this particular case). So there is no distinction here between proximate and ultimate.

    There are other cases where divine causality is the only cause, and not merely the ultimate cause. On such occasions, to summarily exclude divine agency and insist on a naturalistic mechanism is not agnostic but prejudicial and functionally atheistic.

    “But that's *not* the aim of science, if by ‘some things’ you mean to include *ultimate*, metaphysical causes.”

    No, that is why *you* mean, because your evolutionary deism limits you to “ultimate” causes.

    The issue that Ridley is addressing is not about “ultimate causes.” Rather, he is opposing his position to creationism, which is hardly confined to “ultimate causes.”

    What he calls “separate” creation would not be the “ultimate” cause, but the “only” cause of biological origins. Fiat creation ex nihilo.

    This is an example of T-stone’s trademark bait-and-switch tactic. Unable to deal with my argument or defend Ridley’s, he tries to swap in his own version, which he thinks is more defensible.

    “I know you're unwilling to hear this idea, but for the record, once again, science purposely constrains itself to physical explanations for physical phenomena.”

    For the “broken record,” you mean.

    If you wish to trivialize science by rendering it unresponsive to the truth, be my guest. That’s a suicidal way of defending science.

    “It's simply agnostic on that issue, denying any finding on the matter. So here, you've misunderstood the aim of science.”

    Even Philip Kitcher rejects that facile dodge. So I guess that Kitcher has misunderstood the aim of science as well.

    “The reason science is successful is *because* it rigorously resists supernatural explanations.”

    Another sweeping overstatement. Science should only reject supernatural explanations in those instances where supernatural agency is not the only cause, and the only explanation that is relevant to the case at hand is the secondary cause.

    If someone contracted lung cancer through chain-smoking, then that is the relevant cause for the oncologist.

    However, a naturalistic diagnosis would be a misdiagnosis in a case like Acts 12:23 or the plague of the firstborn. Medical malpractice.

    “Science doesn't preclude supernatural entities or forces from existing. It just has nothing to say about them, by choice, so that it can maintain the *physical* integrity of its explanations, the coherence of the answers it *does* provide.”

    Notice that T-stone is more concerned with the “physical integrity” of its explanations than whether its explanations are correct; he’s more concerned with the “coherence of the answers” than whether its answers are correct.

    T-stone is a fanatic. He is so insecure that he has to enact an ironclad set of rules regardless of whether the rules exclude the true explanation for any given phenomena. Otherwise, he doesn’t feel safe. Mustn’t let God stray too far from his tether.

    “As soon as ‘Goddidit’ becomes a valid explanation as a supernatural phenomena, science is epistemically annihilated.”

    Notice, once more, how T-stone divorces scientific explanation from true explanation. Even if “Goddidit” is the correct explanation in a particular case, he places a gag rule on the scientist so that a scientist is forbidden from giving the correct answer if the correct answer savors of divine agency.

    Better to be “scientific” and dead wrong than to be “theological” and deadly accurate. As I say, T-stone is a fanatic.

    “Those are surely not the only options, Steve.”

    Those are the options that Ridley was discussing, T-stone. Creationism or naturalistic evolution.

    “Who wants to fly on *that* airplane, eh?”

    Both Peter Pike and I have rebutted that illustration.

    “Not. If God is maintaining the uniformity of nature by His will, every nanosecond of every day, then science would never know, but also would never be able to deny it, so long as it was a *supernatural* phenomena. If God is deploying some *natural* mechanism or design to realize uniformity in nature, then science can address that mechanism or design. Nothing is rejected here in any ultimate sense.”

    Another example of his bait-and-switch tactic. “Ultimate causation” is not the issue that Ridley was addressing. He was comparing and contrasting naturalistic evolution with creationism, viz. did the “species” (more properly, natural kinds) come into being by “separate” creation.

    “Who says, Steve? You? That's like telling a knife it is not entitled to be sharp, or to be a knife at all.”

    An argument from analogy minus the argument.

    “Science pursues different epistemic goals than theology.”

    Now he’s going the NOMA route.

    No one is claiming that science and theology coincide. The question at issue, rather, is whether they intersect.

    “This can only be said if you do not understand the annihilating affects of supernatural entities and forces as explanations. That is, if you *didn't* maintain methodological integrity of science with respect to physical phenomena, the epistemic reliability of science would quickly go to zero, powerless to resist the theist with the perfect explanation for all phenomena: Goddidit. As soon as ‘Goddidit’ becomes legitimate -- has a foot in the door, as Lewontin says -- that answer annihilates anything else. An omniscient, omnipotent, arbitrary, invisible deity is the theoretical maximum in terms of explanations. No explanation can hope to compete, ever, in any way.”

    i) He’s repeating himself. I already dealt that objection. The fact that he can only repeat himself instead of addressing my counterargument betrays the intellectual feebleness of his position.

    Nothing could be more anti-intellectual than to take refuge in an all-or-nothing argument even though you believe that there are, indeed, exceptions.

    Unless he’s a deist (which he sounds like most of the time), he must believe in miracles.

    So there are times when “Goddidit” is the correct explanation in a particular case, viz. the burning bush, the metamorphosis of Moses’ rod into a serpent, the plague of the firstborn, the floating axe head, the survival of Daniel’s friends in the furnace, the metamorphosis of water into wine, the multiplication of loaves and fish, the raising of Lazarus, the restoration of sight to the blind, and so on and so forth.

    But by T-stone’s lights, a scientist must either say that every birth is a virgin birth or every birth is a natural birth.

    By T-stone’s lights, a scientific observer of the fiery furnace must either seek a naturalistic explanation of how the young men were fireproof or else remain agnostic. Under no circumstances must a scientist attribute this physical event to the miraculous intervention of God, even if that is explanation is both the best explanation of the evidence and the correct explanation of the evidence.

    Same thing with the raising of Lazarus and the water into wine. Either a naturalistic explanation or no explanation at all.

    He demands that a scientist turn a blind eye to the evidence. That a scientist withhold the true explanation in the name of science. Science is no longer on a quest for truth. To the contrary, science must censor the truth if the truth takes the form of a divine foot under the door.

    No matter how many times in a row the dice come up sixes, T-stone will forbid me from suggesting that the dice are loaded. It must be a freakish streak of luck. 10 times, 20 times, 100 times, 1000 times…

    Mustn’t permit that divine foot under the door. Better to burn the house down than allow that divine foot under the door.

    ii) And his consequentialist argument is patently invalid. He disallows a divine explanation because he doesn’t like the scientific consequences of allowing a divine explanation. A divine wildcard would mess up the odds. The deck must be naturalistic.

    Even if there is a wildcard in the deck, we must affect ignorance of the wildcard. Pretend it isn’t there. That’s so much more “scientific,” you see.

    By the same token, one might as well say that the no star can be too far away to see through a telescope—otherwise that would impose an intolerable limit on range of scientific explanation. No elementary particle must be to infinitesimal to detect—otherwise that would impose an intolerable limit on the range of scientific explanation.

    For T-stone, reality doesn’t dictate the shape of science; rather, science must dictate the shape of reality. Nothing must infringe on science. Not God. Or reality.

    T-stone then spends a lot of time paraphrasing his dicta. Skipping over the repetition:

    “How did this water instantly become wine? ‘No idea, doesn't make sense’ says the scientist. Is that a *false* answer, Steve?”

    If God turned the water into wine, then “no idea” is, indeed, a false answer. T-stone, in his scientific fascism, demands that a scientist feign ignorance of the true cause even if the scientist knows perfectly well that “Goddidit” is the only reasonable explanation.

    “I missed the part where you showed what scientific claims got misrepresented by Ridley. Can you point me to that, or quote it?”

    Yet another example of T-stone’s bait-and-switch tactic. Ridley presented a two-step argument: (i) He defined creationism, and then he (ii) marshaled a lot of putative evidence to disprove creationism as he defined it.

    Because T-stone is unable to defend Ridley’s argument, he collapses a two-step argument into a one-step argument.

    “Sure, and science doesn't care. It's quite content being incomplete with respect to ultimate and metaphysical questions.”

    Still another instance of his bait-and-switch tactic. The question at issue is not whether a naturalistic explanation is “complete,” but whether it is correct. If the true cause of a physical event is a supernatural cause, and the “scientist” arbitrarily restricts himself to a naturalistic explanation, then the explanation will not be incomplete, but downright false.

    This is why a rational scientist, unlike a practicing atheist like T-stone, would approach the question of cause-and-effect on a case-by-case basis.

    “Steve, duh. That's why we put a "meta-" in front of the "physical" part. It's a metaphysical assumption, and one required if there is to be any basis for hypothesis/predict/test/verify/falsify in science. If nature does *not* operate on some level of uniformity, then science is a waste of time, an unpursuable enterprise.”

    This is another one of his duplicitous tactics. When he is caught in one of his jejune overstatements, he may incorporate my criticism into his restatement as if this is what he said all along. *I* was the one who identified uniformitarianism as a metaphysical principle, not T-stone.

    This is what T-stone originally said: “Is scientific language. No theological language at all, none needed to describe or model uniformitarianism -- a physical principle.”

    Observe how he didn’t add the “meta-“ prefix to “physical.”

    Having made a naïve claim, and having been corrected, he is now attempting to cover his tracks.

    “Creationists routinely deny ‘macroevolution’, a term which describes the evolutionary formation of new *species*. If that's correct, and creationists *do* deny ‘macroevolution’, then Ridley would be correct to address speciation as a refutation of creationist denials of ‘macroevolution’.”

    T-stone is prevaricating:

    i) There is more to macroevolution than speciation.

    ii) Ridley equivocated over the definition of “species.”

    iii) He still misrepresented creationism.

    It illustrates how fanatically dishonest T-stone must be he cannot bring himself to admit that if Ridley is going to critique creationism, then he is responsible for accurately defining creationism in the first place.

    And, as I’ve said before, this is not the only inaccuracy in Ridley’s presentation. T-stone has chosen to obsess over this particular issue.

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  46. SMOKEY SAID:

    “Exactly. The qualifications of the authors of textbooks are irrelevant. The fact that you falsely claim to be searching for evidence and you limit yourself to tertiary sources is comically dishonest.”

    Scientists like Mayr, Ridley, Futuyma, and Kitcher are conversant with the primary sources and glean the best evidence for evolution from the primary sources.

    It’s comical of you to say I’m evading the evidence when I consult the leading evolutionary textbooks or leading evolutionary theorists and Darwinian apologists when they make their best case for evolution.

    “Textbooks are never written for the purpose of resolving scientific controversies, real or imagined.”

    Now you’re being disingenuous. They don’t have to resolve scientific controversies. The problem, rather, is when they fail to even apprise the reader of such controversies where that admission would weaken their case for evolution.

    “No, Steve. BLASTing sequences against databases has nothing whatsoever to do with Google. Where on Earth did you get that loony idea?”

    When you originally said “There's also gigabytes of evidence freely available to you,” you were presumably alluding to online resources—otherwise your wording is deceptive. But maybe you like to be deceptive.

    “But you weren't really, because you are aggressively ignorant of the most basic evidence. Your response was a non sequitur.”

    I offered an argument. You respond with a bare assertion.

    “Claiming that something is ‘less evolved’ or ‘more evolved’ is simplistic twaddle.”

    In other words, you deny that some species are primitive while other species are more advanced. So much for evolution.

    “No, I am pointing out that you ignore the most basic evidence, while falsely claiming to be seeking it.”

    My evidence came from a secular source (National Geographic), interviewing a number of evolutionary biologists, pro and con.

    I appreciate your frustration when your own team lets you down.

    “He didn't even mention ‘junk DNA’--you did.”

    Now you’re quibbling over synonyms in the evolutionary literature. That is truly lame, Smokey, but I guess that's all you've got.

    “Not any ‘appeals to’ anything.”

    So evolutionary biologists don’t appeal any evidence to support their theories. I deeply appreciate your candid admission.

    Any more confessions you’d like to make before we’re finished?

    “Besides, scientific controversies are decided by new evidence, not anyone's debates over it.”

    So I don’t need to consult any of the primary literature where the evidence is debated. Thanks. That’s a real timesaver. Who needs refereed journals when the evidence speaks for itself!

    “Does Darwinian theory predict the existence of lots of DNA with no function?”

    Darwinian theory has reinvented itself many times over the years, so is it predictive or retrodictive?

    Did Darwin predict the existence of lots of DNA with no function?

    “Yes, they sure are, but that doesn't help you when you claim to be on a ‘quest for the evolutionary evidence,’ because what they write, no matter how qualified they are, is not the evidence.”

    I appreciate your candid admission that even though Mayr, Ridley, Futuyma, and Kitcher assure the reader that they are presenting the evidence for evolution, what they actually supply doesn’t measure up to real evidence. So much the worse for Darwinism.

    When a militant Darwinian like you confirms my initial impression that the “evidence” which these evolutionary biologists marshal in defense of evolution doesn’t qualify as genuine evolution, then there’s nothing more I need to say on the subject. It’s nice to know you second my opinion.

    “So let's review: you lie and claim to be on a ‘quest for evolutionary evidence,’ someone calls you out on your lie, and your response is a predictable and reflexive appeal to authority.”

    It’s true that when I want to know the putative evidence for evolution, I go to scientific authorities. I take my cue from what evolutionary scientists tell me is the evidence for evolution.

    If you deem these scientific authorities to be untrustworthy, that’s fine with me. If an evolutionary scientist cannot be relied upon to make a decent case for evolution, then that’s your problem, not mine.

    Once again, I appreciate your humble admission of defeat. It’s really quite refreshing. If only you could convince your fellow Darwinians to raise the white flag as well.

    “Why, Steve, when what people say isn't the evidence that you claim to be seeking? What exactly does consulting theorists have to do with evidence? If you were on a quest for evidence, wouldn't you get a lot closer if you consulted the empiricists instead of theorists?”

    Maybe because they claim to be presenting the empirical evidence for evolution.

    “If your alleged controversies aren't based on real evidence, what's the relevance of this in the context of your ‘quest for evolutionary evidence’?

    Many of these “alleged” controversies are controversies within the evolutionary establishment itself.

    Once again, if you wish to admit that controversies between one Darwinian faction and another are not based on “real” evidence, then I salute your candor. You and I make a great team. I undermine evolution from the outside while you undermine evolution from the inside.

    I rather doubt, however, that your fellow Darwinians would approve of your subversive, extracurricular activities in support of the creationist cause. In they issue you a pink slip, please inform me in case I can pull some strings to get you a new job as a receptionist at ICR or AiG.

    “I was referring to online resources, but Google still has nothing whatsoever to do with it, so you're still looking like a blithering idiot.”

    So Google has nothing to do with online searches. Whatever.

    “OTOH, a hypothesizing that you are truly on a continuing quest for evolutionary evidence predicts that you will be curious and ask questions of someone who points you to a way to examine gigabytes of evidence that you clearly haven't considered at all.”

    And thus far you’re rendered a salutary service by informing me and my readers that the scientific evidence which Mayr, Ridley, Futuyma, and Kitcher present in defense of evolution doesn’t rise to the level of real evidence. Thanks for the tip.

    “I cite a source of gigabytes of relevant, freely available evolutionary evidence.”

    Since you’re an anonymous nobody, why should I think your evidence is any improvement over the evidence supplied by the big names in the field of evolutionary biology, viz. Mayr, Ridley, Futuyma, and Kitcher.

    Where do you teach? What books have you published?

    “No, ants are a winged species. The absence of wings in worker females is secondary.”

    It’s not secondary to Futuyma’s argument. He was arguing for an evolutionary trend from wingless insects to winged insects. So, by his logic, one ant gender evolved from the wasp while the other ant gender evolved from something else. Do you believe that male and female ants evolved separately?

    “Only in a very limited sense; only species that existed in the past are clearly primitive. Your straw men are tediously dishonest.”

    Now you’re having to backtrack from your original claim. You have a very creative definition of honesty.

    “Say, how can evolutionary theory be such a threat to fundamental Christianity (and evoke such desperate dishonesty) if it is simultaneously in its death throes? I don't see how those two are consistent.”

    The difference between perception and reality.

    Anyway, I never said that evolutionary theory was in its death throes. It doesn’t have to be true as long as it enjoys the patronage of the power elite. That’s why Darwinians run to the courts when they can’t win on the merits of the case.

    “Umm, Steve...interviews aren't evidence.”

    So quoting a scientist in his own words when he gives his side of the argument isn’t evidence. When Ridley, Futuyma, and Gould quote other evolutionary scientists in support of their position, we can dismiss their citations out of hand.

    Fine. That summarily disposes of most of the evolutionary literature.

    If you want to disqualify the standard, college level textbooks in evolutionary biology as worthless hearsay evidence, that’s fine with me. I’m truly grateful for your self-defeating strategy.

    “What does your Bible say about using hearsay?”

    When you cite the Bible, you rely on “hearsay” evidence. You rely on what Bible writers tell you was said and done. So your appeal is self-refuting.

    “No, I am emphatically pointing out that they are not synonymous, and they are terms that began in the molecular biology literature. Evolutionary biologists came to molecular biology very late, and were blown away by the power of it.”

    So you admit that an evolutionary scientist like Sean Carroll who talks about “junk/noncoding DNA” (The Making of the Fittest, 75-76,99), doesn’t know how to use correct scientific terminology.

    Thanks for pointing out that molecular biologists regard evolutionary biologists as incompetent. I’ll file that for future reference.

    “If you're truly on a ‘quest for evidence,’ you need to consult the primary literature for the evidence. The only interesting debates are oral ones at meetings, and they still get resolved by new evidence, not debating skils.”

    So we never find one Darwinian argue with another Darwinian over the correct interpretation of the evidence in the evolutionary literature. Is that your claim?

    Anyway, when you appeal to the “primary” literature, that’s “hearsay” evidence. You’re not working directly with the natural evidence. Instead, you rely on some evolutionary biologist to summarize the state of the evidence for you. So, by your yardstick, the primary literature never rises to the level of real evidence.

    “Pardon me? The primary literature contains the evidence, and it is a large subset of what is published in refereed journals.”

    Ah, but you say the evidence is never debated in the primary literature. So, presumably, the primary literature only contains glossy photographs without editorializing on the raw evidence.

    “Theories can't invent or reinvent themselves, Steve.”

    I see you have difficulty grasping the nature of a personification. It’s a literary device. Let’s see if I can explain it to your linguistically-challenged mind:

    To say a theory reinvents itself is a syntactical convention for saying that a theorist may reinvent a theory. Evolutionary theory has been retrofitted many times over the years, as in neo-Darwinism and punctuated equilibrium.

    “There is a clear distinction here between Darwinian and non-Darwinian theories, and you repeatedly claimed to be addressing Darwin and Darwinian evolution in your evidence-free essay.”

    The noun and adjective are often used in a broader sense, as in Michael Ruse’s The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw, or Can a Darwinian be a Christian: The Relationship Between Science and Religion.

    Sorry you’re so poorly read in your own field of study. Would you like me to send you a reading list to bring you up to speed?

    “Your evasion suggests that you know the answer, and you were trying to deceive your audience. You flunked the integrity test.”

    When a theory has to be retrofitted time and again, then that’s a testimony to its deficient predictive power.

    “Wrong again, Steve. My argument is that you are lying if you claim to be on a quest for evolutionary evidence and you stop at textbooks.”

    Now you’re reversing yourself. Your original claim is that textbooks don’t supply the evidence, period. So were you lying then, or are you lying now?

    “If you're on a quest for evidence, you will examine the evidence that he cites, but you don't, so you aren't.”

    At one time or another, I have reviewed the evidence supplied by all four authors (Ridley, Mayr, Kitcher, Futuyma). It’s all in the archives, bud.

    Smokey is a Johnny-one-note who can’t even sing in tune.

    His only argument, if you can call it that, is his monotonous, off-key assertion that if I really wanted to find the evidence for evolution, I wouldn’t read books by Ridley, Mayr, Kitcher, Futuyma, &c. because those books by those authors only give us “hearsay” information, which isn’t real evidence.

    The problem with this claim is that Smokey’s disagreement, all along, has not been with me, but with Ridley, Mayr, Kitcher, Futuyma—for they are doing the very thing he denies.

    Let’s take some examples. The subject-heading for section 2 of Part I of Mayr’s Book, What evolution Is, is entitled “What Is the Evidence For Evolution on Earth?” (12). And he introduces that section by claiming that “my own treatment focuses on the classes of evidence now available to document evolution” (13).

    The subject-heading for chapter 3 of Ridley’s book is entitled “The Evidence for Evolution” (43). Subheadings include “Fossil evidence” (64) and “Summary of the evidence for evolution” (66), where he says that “we have met three main classes of evidence for evolution” (66).

    The subheading for Box3A, in chapter three of Futuyma’s book is entitled “Evidence for Evolution” (48-49), where he cites eight “lines of evidence” (49).

    Chapter 6 opens with a section on “Biogeographic Evidence for Evolution” (118).

    Then, in chapter 22, he has a section entitled “The Evidence for Evolution” (528), which begins by saying, “the evidence for evolution has been presented throughout the preceding chapters of this book” (528).

    And Kitcher cites the same sort of data in his book, to prove evolution over against creation.

    All I’ve done is to take these distinguished evolutionary scientists at their word. They tell the reader that they’re giving the him the evidence for evolution. If Smokey thinks that this is a lie, then he’s calling all of them liars.

    Now, if Smokey wants to say that the leading Darwinians are all a bunch of liars, who falsely claim to be giving evidence that doesn’t amount to real evidence, then that’s hardly a problem for my position. I win either way.

    “Huh? Steve, by definition, theorists don't produce evidence. Are you really that obtuse? “

    I appreciate the fact that you’re not the brightest bulb in the constellation, but this is what is known as a false dichotomy on your part.

    Newton was both a theorist and experimental scientist. He produced evidence. Darwin did both. Mayr was an ornithologist as well as a theorist. Edward Wilson is an entomologist as well as a theorist. Lewontin is a geneticist as well as a theorist. One can go down the list. How many examples does it take to penetrate the thickened plates of your Neanderthal cranium?

    “The Bible talks about the evils of using hearsay for judging people.”

    “I realize that you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but judging a man by his own direct testimony is not hearsay evidence. I’m assessing the scientific claim by what the scientist said in his own words.

    That’s called a verbatim quote. You might try to wrap your furry little mind around the concept some time.

    “Steve, you're desperately fabricating.”

    So you think I ghostwrote the books attributed to Ruse? Can I get the royalties?

    What I’m documenting is the wide semantic domain of the word from the usage of a leading philosopher of evolutionary science.

    “Sorry, evolution isn't my field of study.”

    And it shows.

    “And it's all meaningless, as the term ‘theorist’ refers to someone who doesn't do experimental or observational work.”

    It’s clear by now that Smokey isn’t a real person. Smokey is really a primitive android prototype with a limited repertoire of rigid replies. That’s why, even when you correct Smokey 1.0 with concrete counterexamples, the unit merely reiterates its preprogrammed responses.

    Although Smokey 1.0 has too many design defects to upgrade, I hope the cyberneticist who invented it will program some adaptive learning software into Smokey 2.0 so that Smokey 2.0 can simulate a meaningful dialogue with a human being.

    “No, Steve, you're simply lying--the first book doesn't cover non-Darwinian mechanisms, and the second makes the correct distinction.”

    Yet another example of this unit’s defective linguistic programming. The same word can have both general and specific meanings. The titles of his books employ the general meaning.

    It’s clearly time to pull the plug on Smokey 1.0 since it doesn’t rise to the level of artificial intelligence, much less human intelligence. The talking toaster in Red Dwarf was far more advanced than Smokey 1.0.

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