Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Search of Evolution

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

I'm continuing my quest for evolutionary evidence. Thus far my expedition has taken me to Mayr, Ridley,1 and Kitcher.2 I must confess that at this point I'm getting pretty desperate. Despite my best efforts, I've come up empty. So Douglas Futuyma is my last best chance to bag the rare and elusive quarry known as evidence for evolution. I'm rapidly running out of funds to finance my safari. My scouts and trackers have threatened to abandon me if I don't make the next payroll.

Futuyma has written a standard textbook on Darwinism.3 He is also a veteran of the creation/evolution wars, and specifically argues against creationism in the course of making his case for naturalistic evolution. So, this is as good as it gets.

Let's be clear about the rules of evidence. It isn't enough to adduce evidence consistent with evolution. Rather, the Darwinian must adduce evidence that implicates evolution. Evidence that singles out evolution as the correct explanation. For Ridley, Kitcher, and Futuyma all appeal to the evidence for Darwinism in contrast to creationism. Therefore, they need to come up with evidence that distinguishes evolution from creation. That is where they themselves have set the bar.

Futuyma is a rather repetitious writer. His evidence is spread over three basic sections. So I'll reorganize his evidence under a few headings for ease of analysis.

His redundancy is, of itself, an indication that the evidence for evolution is pretty thin. If the best you can do is to reiterate a handful of arguments, then your database is fairly sparse. Otherwise you wouldn't feel the need to spread yourself so thin.

Indeed, this is characteristic of the evolutionary literature. The arguments are so stereotyped. Not only do Mary, Ridley, Kitcher, and Futuyma recycle many of the same arguments, but they frequently use the very same examples. Oftentimes they use the same illustrations that Darwin was using 150 years ago. Yet, given the immense diversity of life, and our vastly expanded knowledge of the natural world, if evolution were true, then it shouldn't be necessary to rely on such a small set of dated illustrations. It's like a used car salesman who turns back the odometer, or a butcher who keeps repackaging the same rotten batch of ground beef when the expiration date is past.

Due to the degree of overlap, I'm not going to comment on all his arguments when Futuyma says something that Riley or Kitcher also says, which I already addressed.

I. Methodological naturalism
The most important feature of scientific hypotheses is that they are testable, at least in principle (526).
If testability is the most important feature of a scientific hypothesis, then why the escape clause? What does it mean to say that a scientific hypothesis must be testable, "at least in principle"? If testability is the criterion, then what would be the value of a hypothesis that is testable in principle, but not in practice?
Scientists can test and falsify some specific creationist claims, such as the occurrence of a worldwide flood or the claim that the Earth and all organisms are less than 10,000 years old (526-27).
This is an assertion, not an argument. In what respect can these creationist claims be falsified? Of course, YEC chronology is at odds with conventional dating schemes, but YEC writers are perfectly aware of that discrepancy. Their response is to challenge the conventional dating schemes. So it's not as if creationism simply ignores or disregards the counterevidence. Indeed, you don't even need to be a creationist to question conventional dating schemes.4

He also doesn't bother to explain how science has falsified a global flood. And flood geologists are used to fielding objections to their position.
But scientists cannot test the hypothesis that God exists, or that He created anything, because we do not know what consistent patterns these hypotheses might predict (527).
One of the ironic problems with this claim is that other writers who are equally hostile to creationism strike the opposite stance. For example, Victor Stenger thinks that science positively disproves the existence of God. So either Futuyma misunderstands the scientific method, or Stenger misunderstands the scientific method.

And this, in turn, presents the creationist with an interesting choice. If Futuyma is right, then we can safely ignore Stenger, but if Stenger is right, we can safely ignore Futuyma.
(Try to think of any observation at all that would definitively rule out these supernatural possibilities) (527).
Is Futuyma claiming that a scientific explanation must "definitively rule out" all rival explanations? But that sets the bar so high that no explanation would count as a scientific explanation since one can always postulate an alternative explanation. Futuyma's argument either proves too much or too little. If it cuts out creationism, it cuts out naturalistic evolution.
Science must therefore adopt the position that natural causes are responsible for whatever we wish to explain about the natural world. This is not necessarily a commitment to metaphysical naturalism...but it is a commitment to methodological naturalism (527).
But what if a natural cause is not responsible for whatever happens in the natural world? What if a supernatural cause happens to be the correct explanation for a natural event?

Futuyma is divorcing a scientific explanation from a true explanation. He is defining the scientific method in such a way that it automatically excludes a supernatural explanation even if the supernatural explanation just so happens to be the right answer. What's the advantage of being "scientific" but wrong rather than "unscientific" but right?

Is the scientific method now an end in itself? Let's follow an arbitrary, man-made set of rules for their own sake, even if a scientific explanation doesn't correspond to reality? Look at how Futuyma, in his irreligious antipathy, reduces science to vacuity.
Unlike the Puritans of Salem, Massachusetts...we no longer seriously entertain the notion that someone can be victimized by a witch's spell or possessed by devils, and we would be outraged if a criminal successfully avoided conviction because he claimed that "the Devil made me do it" (527).
This statement is interesting in several respects:

i) On the very same page, he said that science is committed to methodological naturalism rather than metaphysical naturalism. But now he immediately slides into metaphysical naturalism. To say, with no further ado, that we no longer seriously entertain the notion that someone can be victimized by a witch's spell or possessed by devils, is a metaphysical claim, not a methodological claim.

So Futuyma is tipping his hand. If that's his real reason for repudiating supernatural causation, then why doesn't he drop the pose of methodological naturalism and openly embrace metaphysical naturalism as the primary rule of scientific evidence? Why does he dishonestly hide behind the cloak of methodological naturalism when that is not his real reason?

Since he doesn't say, one can only guess, but here are a few possibilities:

a) Metaphysical naturalism is, by definition, a metascientific position. For Futuyma to come clean on his true commitments would expose the unscientific character of his scientific methodology, for a metascientific position is underdetermined by the scientific evidence since this is the filter which will determine what can even count as scientific evidence. It screens out any evidence that doesn't slip through its fine-mesh grid.

b) Metaphysical naturalism is a tall order to prove. Methodological naturalism is a less ambitious thesis. Hence, it enjoys a tactical advantage. What this means is that Futuyma wants the cash value of metaphysical naturalism at the much lower investment rate of methodological naturalism.

ii) He's begging the question in favor of naturalism. Do we repudiate the possibility of possession or black magic?

His preemptory rejection is consistent with a secular outlook, but it's hardly consistent with a Christian outlook. Futuyma's summary denial also disregards many case studies to the contrary.

There's a name for Futuyma's position: prejudice. He has decided in advance of the fact that there are no facts that could overturn his position.

In so doing, he has rendered science unfalsifiable. Yet he told us at the outset that a scientific hypothesis must be "testable."

iii) Whether possess is exculpatory ("the Devil make me do it!") is a separate issue. And how is that relevant to the factual question?

Suppose someone commits a crime because he's clinically insane, due to brain cancer. Would we reject the medical diagnosis because we're outraged by the acquittal?

Why is Futuyma resorting to such an emotional appeal in the first place? Is the case for evolution so rickety that he has to take refuge in patent sophistries to shore up its collapsing fortunes? Does evolution now need to be propped up by toothpicks and matchsticks to keep from tumbling into a heap of dust?

II. Creationism
The beliefs of creationists vary considerably. The most extreme interpret every statement of the Bible literally. They include "young Earth" creationists who believe in special creation (the doctrine that each species, living and extinct, was created independently by God, essentially in its present form) and a young universe and Earth (less than 10,000 years old), a deluge that drowned the Earth, and an ark in which Noah preserved a pair of every living species (524).
This is a stock misdefinition. YEC regards the natural kind rather than species as the fundamental unit of special creation. Likewise, only land animals were brought aboard the ark. And it wasn't limited to just one pair per "species."

Why do writers like Ridley, Kitcher, and Futuyama constantly misrepresent the YEC position? Are they ignorant or dishonest?

Needless to say, it's self-defeating to misrepresent the opposing position, for when you marshal evidence against a straw man, you leave the opposing position untouched.
Other creationists allow that mutation and natural selection can occur, and even that very similar species can arise from a common ancestor. However, they deny that higher taxa (genera, families, etc.) have evolved form common ancestors (525).
i) Yet another misrepresentation. YEC writers allow for mutation, speciation, and natural selection.5 Indeed, 10 pages later, he admits that
most creationists accept natural selection and "microevolution," such as changes in moth coloration (535).
ii) His statement about speciation also suffers from a fatal equivocation, for he himself discusses no fewer than a half-dozen definitions of "species" in the evolutionary literature: the biological species concept, evolutionary species concept, phylogenetic species concept, genealogical species concept, recognition species concept, and cohesion species concept (354).

III. Homology

A basic problem with his appeal to homologies is that Futuyma conceals the vicious circularity implicit in this appeal. That's on display in Mayr's unwittingly revealing explanation:
The study of phylogeny is really a study of homologous characters. Since all members of a taxon must consist of the descendants of the nearest common ancestor, this common descent can be inferred only by the study of their homologous character. But how do we determine whether or not the characters of two specie or higher taxa are homologous? We say that they are if they conform to the definition of homologous: A feature in two or more taxa is homologous when it is derived from the same (or a corresponding) feature of their nearest common ancestor.6
Similarity of structure despite differences in function follows from the hypothesis that the characteristics of organisms have been modified from the characteristics of their ancestors, but this is hard to reconcile with the hypothesis of intelligent design (48).
How does that follow? Why wouldn't that be a mark of design economy?
Design does not require that the same bony elements form the frame of the hands of primates, the digging forelimbs of moles, the wings of bats, birds, and pterosaurs, and the slippers of whales and penguins (48).
i) The fact that design does not require the same bony elements is hardly an argument against design. Indeed, one characteristic precondition of creative design is the freedom of the designer. The fact that the same general design can be varied to perform so many different functions is a mark of great efficiency and ingenuity.

ii) In addition, another characteristic of creative intelligence is the ability to exhaust a set of variations on a common theme. Consider a Bach fugue. The challenge in contrapuntal music is to show how much you can do with so little.
Modification of preexisting structures, not design, explains why the stings of wasps and bees are modified ovipositors, and why only females possess them (48).
From here on out, Futuyama is just repeating himself. These are not additional supporting arguments, but multiple illustrations of the same fallacious argument.
All proteins are composed of "left-handed" (L) amino acids, even though the "right-handed" (D) optical isomer would work just as well (48).
Once again, he's repeating himself. No new argument, here. You notice that he shot his wad right away. Piling on examples to illustrate the same argument doesn't turn a bad argument into a good argument. It only illustrates a bad argument.

Observe how his reasoning is reversible. He says that right-handed isomers would work just as well. So we could turn this around and say that left-handed isomers work just as well. Assuming Leibniz law, God has no compelling reason to do otherwise when one arrangement is functionally indiscernible from another.
The nearly universal, arbitrary genetic code makes sense only as a consequence of common ancestry (48).
Why? He keeps thumping the same battered drum.

i) One of the problems with his appeal to genetic evidence is his failure to address the challenge that genetic entropy poses for macroevolution.7

ii) Another problem with his appeal to genetic evidence is his failure to interact with scientific critics who share his commitment to some form of evolution, but also draw attention to the limited explanatory power of genetics as an evolutionary mechanism:
My main criticism of Darwinism is that it fails in its initial objective, which is to explain the origin of species. Now, let me explain exactly what I mean by that. I mean it fails to explain the emergence of organisms, the specific forms during evolution like algae and ferns and flowering plants, corals, starfish, crabs, fish, birds. That sort of spectrum of organism, each of which is distinct from the other. They don't blend with each other, they are distinct from each other. Now the problem is that in order to understand that the kind of distinct structure and form we have to understand how organisms are actually generated, and that means understanding how starting with an egg or a bud, the organism goes through a developmental process and ends up as a particular type of species with a particular morphology (shape and features). So the whole problem then is to try to understand the nature of that process. One of the fundamental issues is whether or not you can get more or less any kind of organism, or whether there are constraints. Darwin turned biology into a historical science, and in Darwinism, species are simply accidents of history, they don't have any inherent nature. They are just 'the way things happened to work out' and there aren't any particular constraints that mean it couldn't have all worked out very differently.

There's another aspect of this problem which has to do with the way Darwinists explains embryonic development. They say that there is a genetic program that determines the development of an organism. An organism wants to become a newt, say, or a sea urchin. Because it has particular genes, they say, it undergoes a particular embryonic development and that is sufficient, in other words knowing the genes is sufficient to understand the details of the embryonic development, and the emergence of a species with its characteristic form and behavior. That sounds, on the face of it, plausible because we know that mutations actually cause transformation of morphology. Drosophila can have a mutation that transforms a two-winged fly to a four-winged fly. Now that is a pretty major transformation, and a single gene can do it. So you might say that's the sort of thing that is involved in evolution. Well, you see, the burden of proof then is on the neo-Darwinists to demonstrate exactly how the genes do this. They use the term genetic programming, and it is a metaphor for what happens in a computer, but if you ask them to use a genetic program to generate an organism, they can't do it, and the reasons are very simple.8

The reason I think we need a field explanation in biology, is first of all, when embryos develop...the form they take up, the shape they fall into, the shape of my body or your body or any animal body, depends not just on the genes and the chemicals, but the way they're arranged. The field plays the role of the kind of architectural plan of the organism. If you analyze your arm or your leg, they have exactly the same genes, the same chemicals, the same bone cells, the same muscle cells. There's nothing in your arm or your leg that makes it an arm or a leg because of the chemicals in it; it's the way they're arranged. And the DNA can't explain that by itself. The genetic material is the same in all the cells and it's the same in the arm or the leg. It's a bit like having two houses in a suburban street, where the two houses are built using the same kinds of materials, but they're different shapes, because they have different architectural plans.9
iii) A mark of common design is when an abstract pattern is multiply-instantiable in a variety of concrete exemplifications. That points us to the ontological priority of a guiding idea. The idea is prior to its property-instance. Mind is prior to matter.

iv) But let's turn this around. Imagine if there were no master plan underlying the diversity of life? What would the Darwinian say then? Would he appeal to the creativity of God? Not at all! In that event our Darwinian would attribute the origin of individual species to the fortuitous outcome of purely local and immanental contingencies.

IV. Convergence
There are many examples, such as the eyes of vertebrates and cephalopod mollusks, in which functionally similar features actually differ profoundly in structure. Such differences are expected if structures are modified from features that differ in different ancestors, but are inconsistent with the notion that an omnipotent Creator, who should be able to adhere to an optimal design, provided them (49).
Notice that this argument directly contravenes the previous argument. So, according to Futuyma, similar structure with dissimilar function disproves creationism, and, what is more, dissimilar structure with similar function equally disproves creationism!

Such is Futuyma's fanatical devotion to naturalistic evolution that contradictory arguments drawn from contrary lines of evidence prove evolution and disprove creation.
Likewise, evolutionary history is a logical explanation (and creation is not) for cases in which different organisms use very different structures for the same function, such as the various modified structures that enable vines to climb (49).
He says "likewise," as if this were an additional argument, but it's just a reiteration of the same argument with a different illustration. And it's an argument diametrically at odds with the previous argument he deployed. If organisms share a similar structure with dissimilar functions, then this verifies evolution and falsifies creation—but if organisms share similar functions with dissimilar structure, then that also verifies evolution and falsifies creation! Heads or tails, evolution always comes out the winner!

This is one of the casualties of intellectual inbreeding. The only way I can explain such logical blindness to glaringly inconsistent arguments is an insular guild of like-minded believers in which there is no incentive to question evolutionary pieties.

V. Biogeography
The distributions of many taxa make no sense unless they have arisen from common ancestors. For example, many taxa, such as marsupials, are distributed across the southern continents, which is easily understood if they arose from common ancestors that were distributed across the single southern landmass that began to fragment in the Mesozoic (49).

If someone asks us why there are no elephants in the Hawaiian Islands, we will naturally answer that elephants couldn't get there. This answer assumes that elephants originated somewhere else: namely, on a continent. But in a preevolutionary worldview, the view of special divine creation that Darwin and Wallace were combating, such an answer would not hold: the Creator could have placed each species anywhere, or in many places at the same time (118).

We saw, as did Darwin, that an isolated region such as an island is not populated by all the kinds of organisms that could thrive there, as we might suppose a thoughtful designer could arrange. Instead, whole groups are commonly missing, and human-introduced species often come to dominate (529).
There are several basic problems with this:

i) Once again, there's a bait-and-switch quality to his attack. Futuyma claims to be attacking the Scriptural doctrine of special creation, but he's really attacking some generic form of theism, then transfers that attack to creationism. The "view of special divine creation that Darwin and Wallace were combating" was the Biblical account of creation. And there's nothing to suggest that God put every kind of animal on every landmass around the world. What we have, rather, at least in part, are some localized fiats. God created a human pair. They lived in garden until they were expelled. God also created certain animals for life in the Garden.

In addition, the Bible is acquainted with certain migratory species. So Bible writers would not assume that every species was present everywhere at the same time.

As such, the creation account is quite consistent with the idea that different life forms were originally created to occupy different regions. Some of them may have subsequently radiated out from a common point of origin.

Thus, the creation account doesn't foster the expectation that God populated each region with each species. Some regions may originally have been uninhabited. Or some regions may have been populated by some animals, but not by others.

ii) It would be quite impractical to populate each region with each species. For the competition between species would upset the ecological balance. Some carnivores are more formidable than others. Some herbivores are more vulnerable than others. Just imagine if, in a zoo, you allowed all the animals to roam freely. After a few weeks there wouldn't be much biodiversity left.

iii) Futuyma also admits that different factors can account for the distribution patterns:
Whereas systematists often look to evolutionary history in order to understand the reasons for a taxon's distribution, ecologists tend to look to factors operating now or in the very recent past (132).

Within the last 200 years, many species of plants accidentally brought from Europe by humans have expanded across most of North American...and some birds, such as the starling and the house sparrow, have done the same within a century (121).

Other species have crossed major barriers on their own. The cattle egret was found only in tropical and subtropical parts of the Old world until about 75 years ago, when it arrived in South America, apparently unassisted by humans. It has since spread throughout the warmer parts of the New World (121).

We saw, as did Darwin, that an isolated region such as an island is not populated by all the kinds of organisms that could thrive there, as we might suppose a thoughtful designer could arrange. Instead, whole groups are commonly missing, and human-introduced species often come to dominate (529).
Therefore, an evolutionary explanation is not the only explanation, or the best explanation, for the present distribution of land animals around the globe.

VI. Intermediate forms
Among living species of birds, we see gradations in beaks (49).
Wouldn't this be an instance of microevolution rather than macroevolution?
The term evolutionary trend can refer to a succession of changes of a character in the same direction, either within a single lineage or, often, in many lineages independently. For example, a phylogenetic analysis indicated that within the fly genus Zygothrica, there has been directional evolution toward wider heads in male flies (61).
Wouldn't this be an instance of microevolution rather than macroevolution? Futuyma has admitted that creationism is open to microevolution.

VII. The fossil record
The fossil record is extremely incomplete, for reasons that geologists understand well (see Chapter 4). Consequently, the transitional stages that we postulate in the origin of many higher taxa have not (yet) been found (528).
This is a face-saving way of conceding that the theory of evolution is underdetermined by the fossil record.
But there is absolutely no truth to the claim, made by many creationists, that the fossil record does not provide any intermediate forms. There are many examples of such forms, both at low and high taxonomic levels; Chapter 4 provides several examples in evolution of the classes of tetrapod vertebrates (528).
One of his examples is a fossil ant that supposedly
bridges the gap between modern ants and the wasps from which ants are thought to have arisen (73).

The earliest fossil ants, for instance, have wasplike features that had been predicted by entomologists (528).
Yet he also tells us, on the very same page, that:
The fossil record often matches the predicted sequences...wingless insects (the phylogenetically basal bristletails) precede winged insects (528).
So if winged insects precede winged insects, then that proves evolution, but if winged insects precede wingless insects, then that also proves evolution!
Critically important intermediates are still being found: just in the last few years, several Chinese fossils, including feathered dinosaurs, have greatly expanded the record of the origin of birds (528).
This is a controversial claim:
But the new team says that their analysis shows that the creature was actually bald. The patterns are the remains of "structural fibers, probably collagen—the most abundant fiber in vertebrates—of the skin and the dorsal frill," said lead study author Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The findings were published last week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Lingham-Soliar and colleagues' results support the arguments of a small but highly vocal group of scientists who say there's no evidence of dinosaurs ever having feathers.

"The existence of protofeathers in these dinosaurs was considered critical evidence that birds were derived from dinosaurs," said study co-author Alan Feduccia, a bird evolution expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"What we have shown is that there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that protofeathers existed in dinosaurs, period."10

For the new study, researchers looked at a recently discovered Sinosauropteryx specimen also found in Liaoning.

"The peripheral dorsal structures are the remains of fiber reinforcement of the frill" that extended from the head to the tip of the tail of the dinosaur, said lead author Lingham-Soliar.

"Their regular nature and straightness defies the notion of them being soft pliable structures [like feathers] but rather high-tensile fibers such as collagen."

The fibers show a striking similarity to the collagen found on the skin of sharks and reptiles today, the authors say. And without protofeathers in Sinosauropteryx, the authors argue, the theory that feathers first evolved in dinosaurs—not for flight but for insulation—falls flat.

Storrs Olson, the curator of birds at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, has been a vocal critic of the theory that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs.

"The whole notion of feathered dinosaurs is a myth that has been created by ideologues bent on perpetuating the birds-are-dinosaurs theory in the face of all contrary evidence," he said.

National Geographic magazine and other media have heavily publicized stories about feathered dinosaurs. But contrarian views struggle to get heard, Feduccia said.

"One of the primary arguments used to deflect our view is that we are a fringe group," he said. "But if science operates by a majority view, we're in serious trouble.
"We are dealing here basically with a faith-based science where the contrarian view is silenced to a large extent by the popular press," he added.11

Futuyma also glosses over the difficulties in reading evolution right off the fossil record. But even scientists who subscribe to some form of evolution have pointed out the problems with this facile appeal:
Many of the assumptions we make about evolution, especially concerning the history of life as understood from the fossil record, are, however, baseless. The reason for this lies with the fact of the scale of geological time that scientists are dealing with, which is so vast that it defies narrative. Fossils, such as the fossils of creatures we hail as our ancestors, constitute primary evidence for the history of life, but each fossil is an infinitesimal dot, lost in a fathomless sea of time, whose relationship with other fossils and organisms living in the present day is obscure. Any story we tell against the compass of geological time that links these fossils in sequences of cause and effect—or ancestry and descent—is, therefore, only ours to make. We invent these stories, after the fact, to justify the history of life according to our own prejudices.12

Fossils are never found with labels or certificates of authenticity. You can never know that the fossil bone you might dig up in Africa belonged to your direct ancestor, or anyone else's. The attribution of ancestry does not come from the fossil; it can only come from us. Fossils are mute: their silence gives us unlimited licence to tell their stories for them, which usually takes the form of chains of ancestry and descent...Such tales are sustained more in our minds than in reality and are informed and conditioned by our own prejudices, which will tell us not what really happened, but what we think ought to have happened. If there are "missing links," they exist only in our imaginations.13

Once we realize that Deep Time can never support narratives of evolution, we are forced to accept that virtually everything we thought we knew about evolution is wrong...If we can never know for certain that any fossil we unearth is our direct ancestor, it is similarly invalid to pluck a string of fossils from Deep Time, arrange these fossils in chronological order, and assert that this arrangement represents a sequence of evolutionary ancestry and descent. As Stephen Jay Gould has demonstrated, such misleading tales are part of popular iconography: everyone has seen pictures in which a sequence of fossil hominids—members of the human family of species—are arranged in an orderly procession from primitive forms up to modern Man.14

To complicate matters further, such sequences are justified after the fact by tales of inevitable, progressive improvement. For example, the evolution of Man is said to have been driven by improvements in posture, brain size, and the coordination between hand and eye, which led to technological achievements such a fire, the manufacture of tools, and the use of language. But such scenarios are subjective. They can never be tested by experiment, and so they are unscientific. They rely for their currency not on scientific test, but on assertion and the authority of the presentation.15

Whether you believe the conventional wisdom that our own species Homo sapiens descended in seamless continuity from the preexisting species Homo erectus depends not on the evidence (because the fossil evidence is moot) but on the deferment of your lack of knowledge to the authority of the presenter or whether the presentation of the evidence resonates with your prejudices.16

The story of human interaction with fossils represents an example of how experience and belief have a powerful effect on interpretation and demonstrates why scientific truths can only be temporary. Today, we see fossils as the remains of creatures that once lived. However, this nature is not inherent in the fossils. It is our immersion in a century and half of Darwinian thought, not the fossils themselves, that gives us the capacity to see fossils as kin to things that were once as alive as you or I.17

The intervals of time that separate the fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection through ancestry and descent.18

The conventional portrait of human evolution—and, indeed, of the history of life—tends to be one of lines of ancestors and descendants. We concentrate on the events leading to modern humanity, ignoring or playing down the evolution of other animals: we prune away all branches in the tree of life except the one leading to ourselves. The result, inevitably, is a tale of progressive improvement, culminating in modern humanity. From our privileged vantage point in the present day, we look back at human ancestry and pick out the features in fossil hominids that we see in our selves—a big brain, an upright stance, the use of tools, and so on. Naturally, we arrange fossil hominids in a series according to their resemblance to the human state.19

The conventional, linear view easily becomes a story in which the features of humanity are acquired in a sequence that can be discerned retrospectively—first an upright stance, then a bigger brain, then the invention of toolmaking, and so on, with ourselves as the inevitable consequence.20

New fossil discoveries are fitted into this preexisting story. We call these new discoveries "missing links," as if the chain of ancestry and descent were a real object for our contemplation, and not what it really is: a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to according with human prejudices. In reality...each fossil represents an isolated point, with no knowable connection to any other given fossil, and all float around in an overwhelming sea of gaps.21

Just because the unicorn looks something like a bull or a horse to us, this does not imply that a unicorn is a missing link between these two animals. Horses and bulls are contingent; they just happened to offer themselves as models because they are familiar and available. Perhaps in another part of the world, a unicorn would be seen as a mixture of a camel and a kudu, but a unicorn would not be a missing link between those animals either.22

This task had very little to do with what the fishes were like as living animals. All I had were fragments that I could link to larger and more certainly known fragments that were sufficiently informative to have a name. I might as well have been doing the same thing with stamps, or cigarette cards. The relationships that these fishes had with living animals is so distant that any attempt to clothe them in flesh, to make them swim, requires a leap of faith.23

However, this leap must in some degree be fuelled by comparison with the animals that live around us today. If this were not possible, we would not be able to make any sense of fossils at all. When we look at pteraspids now, we interpret them in terms of lampreys: that is how they "make sense" to us. But the model of a pteraspid in terms of a lamprey is as provisional as that which once linked pteraspids with squid.24

The quest to interpret fossils in terms of modern models rests on the assumption that all life on Earth has a common ancestry, because we can interpret past life only in terms of other living organisms. If this were not possible, we would not recognize the fossils of animals as animals at all. We'd just see them as rocks.25

Crucially, you should have a clear idea about the position of the organism in nature before speculating about the function of its various parts. Let me explain. Let's say that you have discovered that unicorns use their horns to kill dragons. Using this information, you could spin a tale about the importance of the horn in unicorn evolution: unicorns evolved in dragon country, where possession of horns was an asset. Unicorns without horns would all be charred to ashes by the fire-breathing dragons. Only those unicorns with horns survived to perpetuate the species.26

This story sounds plausible, but like the story about the evolution of tetrapod limbs, it cannot be tested. What is more, if you use your prior (and untestable) assumption that the unicorn evolved its horn to kill dragons as a guide to the unicorn's relationships, you cannot then use this information in any subsequent test of the function of the unicorn's horn. Why? Because you have already assumed that you know the horn's function, even before you run the test. You have loaded the dice to tell you what you want.27

Misinterpretations about "adaptive purpose" ignore the fact that natural selection is a blind and undirected consequence of the interaction between variation and the environment. Natural selection exists only in the continuous present of the natural world: it has no memory of its previous actions, no plans for the future, or underlying purpose. It is not a winnowing force with an independent existence that can b e personified, like Death, with his black cowl and scythe.28

Artificial selection is an imperfect metaphor for natural selection because breeders quite obviously do have intelligible reasons for why they select some traits and not others. Unlike natural selection, breeders have memories, plans, and purposes. They select for the same traits, generation after generation, to produce a discernible trend. Natural selection could hardly be more different.29

To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a linage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.30

Ornithologists, who study modern birds, regard Archaeopteryx as an ancestor and an icon. Given that they have already judged where Archaeopteryx fits into the history of life, they look at the fossil and see exactly what they expect to find—birdlike features...Archaeopteryx has feathers, so it is a bird by definition. Its archaisms are only to be expected, given the fossil's great antiquity when compared with other bird fossils. Because they study modern birds, ornithologists will, naturally, tend to see bird evolution in terms of perceived adaptations to birds' current, airborne niche.31

Palaeontologists, in contrast, come to Archaeopteryx with a different search image...To palaeontologists, Archaeopteryx looks very similar to members of a group of dinosaurs called theropods...In this light, palaeontologists tends to see the feathers of Archaeopteryx as intriguing decorations for the body of a theropod dinosaur, not as central, key features essential for explaining the course of evolution in birds.32

The finds are 4.4 million years old and come from a place called Aramis. "This is the earliest-known hominid," says White, proudly, but with a touch of self-deprecating humour that demonstrates a sensitivity to the inevitably piecemeal nature of human fossil remains, in which all the evidence for the hominid lineage between about 10 and 5 million years ago—several thousand generations of living creatures—can be fitted into a small box.33

There is therefore nothing special, advanced, or progressive about bipedality—only the fact that it is we who are bipedal, and it is we who are writing the book, makes it so.34

To complicate matters, brain volume can vary enormously among individuals in a species, with no discernible connection to intelligence.35

There was nothing wrong in Wallace's use of the recent fossil record but attempts to use the more distant fossil record in order to investigate wider evolutionary connections has not been similarly successful. From 1860 onward the more distant fossil record became a big issue, and over the next two decades discoveries were made that at fist seemed to give support to the theory, particularly the claimed discovery of a well-ordered sequence of fossil horses dating back about 45 million years. Successes like this continue to be emphasized both to students and the public, but usually without the greater failures being mentioned. Horses according to the theory should be connected to other orders of mammals, which common mammalian stock should be connected to reptiles, and so on backward through the record. Horses should thus be connected to monkeys and apes, to whales and dolphins, rabbits, bears...But such connections have not been found. Each mammalian order can be traced backward for about 60 million years and then, with only one exception, the orders vanish without connections to anything at all. The exception is an order of small insect-eating mammal that has been traced backward more than 65 millions years.36

The story is the same for other classes of animal, the case of insects being particularly well documented. Orders of insects can be traced back over 200 million years for mayflies and dragonflies and about 300 million yeas for cockroaches, grasshoppers, and locusts. The striking feature of these long records is that they contain little evidence of change; and they too fade away to nothing instead of connecting to other orders of insects. The theoretical presumption of evolution for a common ancestor is not there in the insect record, just as it is not there for mammals, or for any other class of animal or division of plant. Still less is there evidence of evolution connecting different classes and divisions, subkingdoms or kingdoms. It 1860 it could be claimed with some plausibility that the record was seriously incomplete, and it could therefore be hoped that with increasing knowledge the more distant connections postulated by the theory would eventually be found. They have not been, and since geology has expanded enormously in scope over the past century, it now seems unlikely that the postulated connections will ever be found.37

One still hears talk about the incompleteness of the record, but fossils of many insects continue smoothly throughout the period some 60 millions years ago when the mammalian record fades away. To the excuse sometimes offered that insects fossilize better than mammals, they reply is that, if insects fossilize so well, why is it that the insect record fades away before connections between the insect orders are found? Why is that crustacea, shrimps for example, continue smoothly through the period some 350 million years ago when the insect record fades away?38
VIII. Dysteleology

A systematic problem with all of the examples that Futuyama is about to recite is that even if, for the sake of argument, his examples were, indeed, instances of design flaws, genetic defects, or natural evils, these are teleological categories. Yet naturalistic evolution banishes teleology from nature.

You can only identify a certain phenomenon as a design flaw, genetic defect, or natural evil if you incorporate teleological criteria into your valuation. For dysteleology is only meaningful within a teleological framework. In principle, you can have teleology without dysteleology, but you can't have dysteleology without teleology.

Indeed, Darwinians commonly argue that naturalistic evolution supplanted the teleological argument. But they can't play both sides of the fence.
The "accidents" of evolutionary history...the paths followed by food and air cross in the pharynx of terrestrial vertebrates...so that we risk choking on food (49).
i) How is dual use technology an "accident of evolutionary history"? Why isn't that a mark of compact design?

There are trade-offs between one design and another. That's why there's no such thing as optimal design.

Having separate paths for food and air might minimize the risk of choking, but that would also be a more complicated system, take up more space, and consume more energy—with more things to go wrong.

ii) What makes Futuyma think that only a risk-free design is compatible with intelligent design? Human beings invent many dangerous devices. Do we deny that these devices are intelligent artifacts because they are potentially or even (in some cases) deliberately dangerous?

Guns are hazardous. Does it follow that guns are an accident of natural history?

Once again, it says a lot about the intellectually atrophied state of the evolutionary community that this sort of thing passes for a serious argument.
The human eye has a "blind spot." It is caused by the functionally nonsensical arrangement of the axons of the retinal cells, which run forward into the eye and then converge into the optic nerve, which interrupts the retina by extending back through it toward the brain (49).
Not only do Darwinians tend to recycle the same little set of flea-bitten illustrations to prove evolution, but they're also apt to reuse the same little set of moth-eaten illustrations to disprove creation. This illustration (among others in his litany) is handed down from one Darwinian apologist to another as if it were a splinter of the True Cross.

Now, if the critics of evolution had no answer to this illustration, then it would be fair to bring in up in every conversation. But it's not as if anti-Darwinians have never addressed this issue.39
Cave-dwelling fish and other animals display eyes in every stage of degeneration. Flightless beetles retain rudimentary wings (49).
Once more, he's ignorant of the position he's critiquing. YEC doesn't deny the possible or actual existence of some vestigial organs.40 For whatever reason, Darwinians like Ridley, Kitcher, and Futuyma think it's okay for them to be an utter ignoramus about the position they purport to critique.
The appendix, coccyx, rudimentary muscles that enable some people to move their ears or scalp, wisdom teeth, that fail to erupt, or do so aberrantly (49).
What about impacted wisdom teeth? How is that at odds with special creation? Like Darwinian critics in general, Futuyma doesn't work his reaction into an actual argument. So where's the argument? My guess is that Futuyma is working from one or two unspoken assumptions:

i) God, if there is a God, is perfect. Whatever God makes must be equally perfect. Therefore, any imperfections in nature disprove the existence of God.

But if that's his assumption, then it's a dubious assumption at best. The creature cannot be perfect in the same way that God is perfect. A creature embodies a finite mode of existence. There is no direct, across-the-board transference of divine attributes to the creature. That would deify the creature, which is impossible.

Finitude is not an imperfection. A creature is inherently limited. So it hasn't fallen short of some ideal mark.

ii) In the industrial age it is tempting to equate perfection with replication. With a machine-like regularity in the product. Hence, if the wisdom teeth don't fall in line with mechanical precision, that's a flaw.

But the only flaw is the flawed analogy. The organic world is, in some measure, inherently asymmetrical. It was never meant to reproduce itself with robotic invariance, like a cosmic copy-machine or automated assembly line.

That is not a design flaw since it was never designed to work that way in the first place. Futuyma's concept of God may be a celestial orthodontist or plastic surgeon who gives everyone the million-dollar smile of a Hollywood star, or the cup size of a Playboy centerfold, but this has no bearing on the Biblical doctrine of creation.
At the molecular level, every eukaryote's genome contains numerous nonfunctional DNA sequences, including pseudogenes (49).
i) The appeal to junk DNA is an argument from ignorance. Darwin-of-the-gaps.

ii) Darwinians also write as if Christians have a doctrine of creation, but no doctrine of the fall. But we would expect some imperfections in a fallen world.
Only evolutionary history can explain vestigial organs—the rudiments of once-functional features, such as the tiny, useless pelvis and femur of whales, the reduced wings...of some flightless beetles, the nonfunctional stamens or pistils of plants that have evolved separate-sex flowered from an ancestral hermaphroditic condition (530).
As I run through his litany, I only comment on things I haven't already discussed. But what about the useless pelvis and femur of whales? As I pointed out in my review of Ridley, he regards these features as functional.

That's a problem when you rely on Darwinians for all your information. Because Futuyma is trying to make the best case for evolution and the worst case for creation, he is often untrustworthy.
Likewise, only history can explain why the genome is full of "fossil" genes, pseudogenes that have lost their function. Only the contingencies of history can explain the arbitrary nature of some adaptations (530).
Once more, he's just repeating himself. Same stock argument. Same stock examples. He shuffles the deck to vary the order. But it's the same deck of dog-eared cards.
Because characteristics evolve from preexisting features, often undergoing changes in function, many features are poorly engineered, as anyone who has suffered lower back pain or wisdom teeth can testify (530).
How is the back poorly engineered?

i) To begin with, if he thinks our back is poorly engineered, then why doesn't he design a better back? Show us a superior design. Provide a working model.

ii) Why do we suffer lower back pain? For a couple of reasons:

a) The aging process. Arthritis. That sort of thing.

But that's not a design flaw. Rather, the aging process is a part of human mortality, which is—in turn—a direct result of the fall.

Creationism subscribes to the fall. Age-related maladies are no impediment to creationism. Is Futuyma too clueless to know that?

b) Back strain. We use our back to do something it wasn't intended to do. We use our back to lift heavy objects, as if the back was a crane. Or we engage in contact sports. That sort of thing.

But that's not a design flaw. If you put your back to a different purpose than it was made for, you may suffer back strain.

Perhaps Futuyama is alluding to the common evolutionary claim that we suffer back pain because we were not designed to be bipedal. Our upright posture is an evolutionary adaptation.

But if that's his argument, it suffers from a couple of problems:

i) From a Darwinian perspective, we were never designed to walk on all fours, either. Naturalistic evolution eschews teleological explanation, remember?

ii) A horizontal posture is just as susceptible to back pain and back strain as a vertical posture. Many horses suffer from swayback, such as aging brood mares.
The extra "finger" of the giant panda's hand is not a true digit at all, and lacks the flexibility of true fingers because it is not jointed (530).
Yet another cliché. Does the panda have a problem feeding itself? Are pandas starving in their natural habitat? No. The panda's thumb works perfectly well in stripping leaves from bamboo shoots.
Similarly, animals would certainly be better off if they could synthesize their own food, and corals do so by harboring endosymbiotic algae—but no animal is capable of photosynthesis (530).
Several basic issues:

i) Corals have a pretty limited lifestyle, don't you think? When was the last time you saw a coral reef fly through the air? Would photosynthesis power a hummingbird?

ii) Why doesn't Futuyma roll out a working model of a leopard with an organic, inbuilt photosynthetic battery pack? Can photosynthesis generate enough energy to fuel a leopard's metabolism?

Or perhaps Futuyma would say that misses the point: a mammal with a photosynthetic battery-pack wouldn't need the mobility of a bird or a predator.

But that's just a way of saying that a leopard would be better off if it were not a leopard. And what's that supposed to mean?

Would a leopard be better off if it were a rock? Then it wouldn't depend on sunshine.

iii) And there's a larger issue. The question is not whether an individual animal or even a species would be better off with some enhancement or another, but whether the biosphere or ecosystem would be better off.

For example, there's a delicate balance between predator and prey. If you improve the prey, the predator will starve, and the prey will eventually starve as well through overpopulation—due to the lack of predation. If you improve the predator, the prey will become extinct, at which point the predator will also become extinct.

Why does a biologist like Futuyma raise such dumb, shortsighted objections to creationism?
Many species become extinct because of competition, predation, and parasitism. Some of these interactions are so appalling that Darwin was led to write, "What a book a Devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of Nature!" (531).
Several problems here:

i) This is a blatantly anthropomorphic value judgment. The subhuman order isn't "cruel." Rather, the subhuman order is amoral.

Both Darwin and Futuyma are mentally projecting themselves into the "plight" of the prey species. But that hardly represents the viewpoint of the prey. The prey has no viewpoint. Rather, this is a wholly extrinsic exercise in moralizing on the part of an outside observer—and a very human observer at that. One cannot extract "cruelty" from within the perspective of subhuman order itself. It has no ethical outlook.

ii) In what sense is nature "wasteful"? Keep in mind that this is yet another teleological description—as if there were a more efficient way to get the job done. But even if there were a more efficient way to get the job done, the Darwinian deserts his post the instant he falls back on teleological criteria.

iii) Again, what does the Darwinian mean by "wasteful"? Does he mean it's wasteful for organisms to have high reproductive rates in order to ensure that enough of their progeny will survive and reproduce?

But redundancy in that sense is a mark of good design. It leaves a margin for error. Every arrow doesn't have to hit the target.

iv) Is it bad to be wasteful? There's a sense in which it's wasteful to father 12 children when the replacement rate is 2 or 3. But it's also a question of priorities. Perhaps a couple isn't having kids to take their place and keep the future of the human race afloat. Perhaps they're having kids because they enjoy kids, and they wish to spread the joy around.

It's wasteful to own dogs and cats and other house-pets. Most of us don't need a dog or cat. We could live without it. But, of course, that misses the point. We have them because we like them, not because we need them.

It's wasteful to eat gourmet food. After all, we could survive on tofu and soybeans.

Artwork is wasteful. Music is wasteful. Watching a sunset is wasteful. Buying cut flowers is wasteful. Making love more often than you need to in order to maintain the replacement rate is wasteful.

Speaking of wasteful, writing a textbook on evolutionary biology is a supreme waste of time. After all, the human race managed to survive and increase long before the rise of Darwinism.

One wonders if Futuyma's lifestyle matches his thrifty views of optimal design in nature. Think of all the children who died of malnutrition while he was writing his book. Why didn't he become a doctor serving in the Third World?
The life histories of parasites, whether parasitic wasp or human immunodeficiency virus, ill fit our concept of an intelligent, kindly designer, but are easily explained by natural selection (531).
This is a typical straw man argument. Futuyma has indicated that he is targeting the Biblical concept of creation. Yet he's really aiming at some very generic preconception of the Creator. But the evidence he cites is not at variance with Biblical theism:
Psalm 104:20-22 (NIV)
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.

Job 39:13-17 (NIV)
13 "The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense.

Job 39:26-30 (NIV)
26 "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?
28 He dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is his stronghold.
29 From there he seeks out his food; his eyes detect it from afar.
30 His young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there is he."
Ironically, pious Israelites didn't share the sentimentality of a hardnosed atheist like Futuyma. The wilderness is meant to be harsh. It's a place of exile. It's the antithesis of Eden.

v) I'd add that a designer can be intelligent without being kindly. A terrorist with scientific training could design a weaponized strain of Ebola. Would it be reasonable to conclude that bioterrorism is unintelligent because it's unkind?
According to creationist thought, an intelligent Creator must have had purpose, or design, in each element of His creation. Thus all features of organisms must be functional (535).
Futuyma is equivocating, which is why his conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. The fact that every organism has an instrumental function in the plan of God doesn't mean that every constituent of an organism is functional.

It's easy to think of occasions when a nonfunctioning part has a functional role in a larger plan. Suppose I'm an automechanic. Suppose I find out that my wife is having an affair with one of my customers. Suppose I "repair" his car in such a way that his brakes will give out when he drives down a steep hill.
But the various vertebrate embryos really do share profoundly important similarities (such as the notochord and pharyngeal pouches, often misnamed "gill slits") and really are more similar, overall, than the animals are later in development (535).
Two points:

i) Futuyma provides a much-needed corrective by pointing out that it's a misnomer to speak of "gill slits" in human embryos.

ii) However, there's nothing vestigial about the notochord. As he himself admits much earlier in the book:
In most vertebrates, the notochord degenerates after its expression in early embryonic development, but it is retained in the embryo because it induces the development of the central nervous system (83).
Since the notochord is functional, there's no reason to treat the notochord as an evolutionary throwback to a distant, inhuman ancestor.
Moreover, extraordinary similarities in both the superficial morphology of embryos and the underlying developmental mechanisms are found not just among vertebrate embryos, but in many other groups of animals and in plants (535).
Three issues:

i) Darwinians never explain why embryology would recapitulate ontology. What developmental purpose would it serve for the embryo to restage the evolutionary history of life on earth?

ii) Why should the developmental mechanisms vary from one embryonic organism to another?

iii) What's surprising about the fact that embryos in the early stages of development resemble each other? The process of development is a process of increasing specificity and differentiation. So naturally, in the early phase of their gestation, when embryos are underdeveloped, they would have more in common with one another.



1 http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/evidence-for-evolution.html
2 http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/06/pining-for-darwin.html
3 D. Futuyma, Evolution (Sinaur 2005).
4 Cf. R. Milton, Shattering the Myths of Darwinism (Park Street Press 1997).
5 Cf. J. Sarfati, Refuting Evolution 2 (Master Books 2003); K. Wise, Faith, Form, and Time (B&H 2002).
6 E. Mayr, What Evolution Is (Basic Books 2001), 16.
7 Cf. J. Sanford, Genetic Entropy & The Mystery of the Genome (Elim Publishing 2005).
8 http://ngin.tripod.com/article8.htm
9 http://www.alanmooresenhordocaos.hpg.ig.com.br/entrevistas04.htm
10 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/070601-dino-feathers.html
11 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/070601-dino-feathers_2.html
12 In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life (Cornell 2001), 1-2.
13 Ibid. 2.
14 Ibid. 4-5.
15 Ibid. 5.
16 Ibid. 8.
17 Ibid. 9.
18 Ibid. 23.
19 Ibid. 32.
20 Ibid. 32.
21 Ibid. 32.
22 Ibid. 54.
23 Ibid. 61.
24 Ibid. 61.
25 Ibid. 82.
26 Ibid. 87-88.
27 Ibid. 88.
28 Ibid. 96.
29 Ibid. 96-97.
30 Ibid. 117-18.
31 Ibid. 180.
32 Ibid. 180-181.
33 Ibid. 201-02.
34 Ibid. 214.
35 Ibid. 214.
36 F. Hoyle, Mathematics of Evolution (Acorn Enterprises 1999), 106-07.
37 Ibid. 107.
38 Ibid. 107.
39 Cf. Sarfati, ibid. 117-21.
40 Cf. Sarfati, 205-07; Wise, ibid. 219-20.

43 comments:

  1. I don't know how many times this has to be posted before you actually open your eyes. For proof of macroevolution go to this site:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    Or get the whole site in this PDF form:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/pdf/comdesc.pdf

    When will you wake up to the evidence right smack dab in your face.

    Sorry, I wouldn't normally be this rude and forthcoming but I have posted this 2 or 3 times already.

    ReplyDelete
  2. dyed-in-the-wool7/26/2007 8:04 AM

    There is no evidence for evolution that we cannot dismiss.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous said:
    I don't know how many times this has to be posted before you actually open your eyes. For proof of macroevolution go to this site:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    Or get the whole site in this PDF form:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/pdf/comdesc.pdf

    When will you wake up to the evidence right smack dab in your face.

    Sorry, I wouldn't normally be this rude and forthcoming but I have posted this 2 or 3 times already.

    *************

    You're the one who needs to wake up. To begin with, I've commented on the 29+ evidences for macroevolution in the past.

    It doesn't show the reader any raw evidence for evolution. Rather, it gives the reader a summary of the evidence according to an evolutionary reconstruction of the evidence. So it assumes what it needs to prove.

    And it's not as if no one in the creationist camp has ever responded to this sort of thing before. These are stock evolutionary arguments. You think they've never been addressed?

    If so, then that illustrates how one-sided your reading is.

    But even if I hadn't to the talk origins stuff, when I systematically go through books by Mayr, Kitcher, Ridley, and Futuyma, what do you think I'm doing if not to evaluate the evidence for evolution according to the standard expositions of evolutionary theory? What is it that you can't figure out about that exercise?

    I'm examining the evidence for evolution piece by piece according to leading spokesmen for evolutionary theory.

    You're the one who's overslept. The alarm clock has been blaring in your ear for a long time now.

    Here's a novel idea: why don't you attempt to actually reply to what I've actually said in response to the material by Ridley, Futuyma, et al.?

    Do you think that your rote appeal to the talk origins talking points is the least bit responsive to my detailed examination of Ridley, Futuyma, et al.?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Laughing all the way...7/26/2007 8:44 AM

    I'd add that a designer can be intelligent without being kindly. A terrorist with scientific training could design a weaponized strain of Ebola. Would it be reasonable to conclude that bioterrorism is unintelligent because it's unkind?

    I wonder if Chan realizes how ironically appropriate this analogy is. Here's to grand concessions, mate!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Laughing all the way... said:

    "I wonder if Chan realizes how ironically appropriate this analogy is. Here's to grand concessions, mate!"

    No concessions, mate! Just highlighting Futuyma's inability to think logically.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Witness the annihilation of science at the hands of the special creationist! Science, being an empirical, evidential, inferential enterprise, is simply no match for Steve's "Goddidit". There isn't *any* evidence, even in principle, that can overcome "the design economy". Looks like an evolutionary pattern? No problem, an omnipotent God would have zero problem making things look like that!

    This is a very nice example of why science must not suffer the annihilating demands of the likes of Steve, especially for Christians who want to pursue science as an enterprise. For the above is very much the kind of epistemic nihilism that will be advanced as science, if the "design economy" is admitted as legitimate scientific explanation. "Special creation" trivially accounts for any and all phenomena, and no matter how tortured or convoluted it is, Steve has shown that creationists can and will use "design economies" to subvert parsimony and evidential inference at every turn.

    Parsimony -- a fundamental principle in science -- is simply overturned with the infusion of "special creation". The work of sorting out the evidence and making the cleanest inferences to the simplest, best performing conclusion is completely obviated by the introduction of an arbitrary Designed who creates with what Steve calls the "freedom of the designer". No such deliberation is needed, or even relevant now that we must incorporate the "freedom of the designer" into our scientific analysis. The "freedom of the designer" accounts for all, for everything, anything, all the time, everywhere. Full stop.

    Science, for Christians, *ought* to be a study of what Aquinas called "second causes" - the orderly, consistent and structured behavior and operation of the universe created as first cause. Creationists like Steve here insist on treating second cause like first causes -- the earth doesn't "bring forth the living creature" in Genesis because it was designed to do just this by the Creator, but rather the Creator *directly* "brings forth" each and every thing, despite the text.

    If one supposes that God created a world that was *itself* creative, as a manifestation of the elegance, beauty and power of God's first order creation, a very good amount of Steve's profound cognitive dissonance here goes away, and the furious, desperate hand-waving we see above just isn't needed.

    -Touch

    ReplyDelete
  7. "The work of sorting out the evidence and making the cleanest inferences to the simplest, best performing conclusion is completely obviated by the introduction of an arbitrary Designed who creates with what Steve calls the "freedom of the designer".

    (1) And scientists are totally objective when making "the cleanest inferences to the simplest performing conclusion"?

    (2) Is "performing conclusion" the same as a "true conclusion"? Or when the paradigm shifts will we need new "performing conclusions"? Sounds like a song and dance show.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Semper Reformanda7/26/2007 12:36 PM

    Touchstone seems awfully dramatic today. I have to wonder if the Missus put something in his Wheaties.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Whew! I was getting worried, having not heard from T-Stone in a while. I thought maybe the aliens had forced him back to the mothership after all. But now we know that this crisis has been averted.

    By the way, T-Stone said:
    ---
    Parsimony -- a fundamental principle in science -- is simply overturned with the infusion of "special creation"
    ---

    A) Parsimony begs the question in regards to what actually IS simplest.

    B) Common experience tells us that often the parsimonious answer is WRONG. The more complicated answer IS possible because it's probability is not 0. Thus, if you always choose parsimony, you are guarenteed to choose wrong at some point. Of course, you'll never know WHEN that was, because the only reason you need to use parsimony is when the evidence isn't sufficient to warrant one claim over another--thus proving that the same evidence stands for both theories (which means that the theory you reject is rejecting for reasons OTHER THAN the evidence). In marching lock-step with parsimony, you will only know that at some point you wrongly chose a parsimonious idea instead of the truth.

    But of course you can pretend that always obeying parsimony is NOT a "kind of epistemic nihilism" despite the fact that you know your position will be wrong somewhere and yet you're cursed to never know at which point it would be. Nah, it's the actual theists instead of the functional atheists who have that problem...

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is a very nice example of why science must not suffer the annihilating demands of the likes of Steve, especially for Christians who want to pursue science as an enterprise.

    Okay, this made me giggle. I wish Touchstone would define all that he means by 'science'. The way it reads, it's as if Steve's request for and subsequent analysis of the evidence for evolution is an affront to all scientific endeavor. Following on from that assumption, to Touchstone it doesn't make sense for any creationist/ID proponent to pursue science as an enterprise. I wish someone told me before I wasted those years getting degrees in Chemistry.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Touchsure?

    (1) And scientists are totally objective when making "the cleanest inferences to the simplest performing conclusion"?

    No, scientists are human like the rest of us. Most of 'em, anyway. Perfection is a great goal, but not a practical expectation. Good enough is good enough, depending on what your needs are.


    (2) Is "performing conclusion" the same as a "true conclusion"? Or when the paradigm shifts will we need new "performing conclusions"? Sounds like a song and dance show.


    Depends on the theory. Newtonian physics gave way to the GR model -- it performs better in a number of important ways. Newtonian physics served mankind very well, and still does in many cases. GR is better, but no one supposes it won't be upgraded some day by an improved model (one that incorporates high energy physics above and below the Planck line).

    As for 'song an dance', that just sounds like your not familiar with the genre. Or maybe the implications of the 'song and dance' just introduces an uncomfortable bit of dissonance?

    -TS

    ReplyDelete
  12. Touchsure?,


    Okay, this made me giggle. I wish Touchstone would define all that he means by 'science'. The way it reads, it's as if Steve's request for and subsequent analysis of the evidence for evolution is an affront to all scientific endeavor. Following on from that assumption, to Touchstone it doesn't make sense for any creationist/ID proponent to pursue science as an enterprise. I wish someone told me before I wasted those years getting degrees in Chemistry.


    The affront has nothing to do with any 'subsequent analysis of the evidence'. The affront is a retort like:

    "Why wouldn't that be a mark of design economy?"

    *Anything* is a mark of a design economy, and throwing this out is nothing more than scorching the earth of any discussion of the evidence. Just an announcement that one has secluded oneself in a perfectly protected little bubble, immune from any epistemic liability.

    An omnipotent God explains ANY and ALL phenomena, and hence explains perfectly NOTHING scientifically. Which is just fine with Steve -- it's the best salve for his cognitive dissonance he can apparently find.

    Maybe the best way to illustrate what a complete sham Steve's reponse is to have me put on Steve's Snake Oil Salesman's hat for a bit, and you ask me about competing hypotheses and theories in the area of your choice, or your expertise.

    I guarantee my omnipotent Designer will annihilate any and all evidential inferences you care to bring out, from your own work or a textbook, or your favorite journal. Go ahead, a three year old can defeat your best science with Steve's Super Special Creation Answer™. With one hand tied behind her back and her eyes closed.

    I encourage you to try, but like Steve knows and I know, it's rigged, it's geared to annihilate real science. That's what ID does, as cast by the likes of Steve and the folks at Uncommon Descent. It's useful to them in just that capacity -- the dissonance, remember.

    As for a definition of science, I don't have anything innovative to introduce here over what happens in your average research institution -- this is basic stuff. Natural explanations compete to account for, predict and model natural phenomena. The best performer sits at the top for as long as it can remain the best performer. If you've got degrees in chemistry, there's nothing in there that is remotely new to you, procedurally or epistemically.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete

  13. By the way, T-Stone said:
    ---
    Parsimony -- a fundamental principle in science -- is simply overturned with the infusion of "special creation"
    ---

    A) Parsimony begs the question in regards to what actually IS simplest.


    No it doesn't. "Goddidit" wins EVERY SINGLE TIME. With eight letters in three syllables making up a single word, you annihilate all possible competitors on the epistemic playing field. It's the theoretical maximum in parsimony where it is considered a valid answer.

    It's not accountable or verifiable to the epistemic demands of science, though. That's why it's properly ruled out as a scientific explanation. But there's not even a *hint* of controversy about this. As soon as "Goddidit" is accepted as a legitimate answer, the game is up, science is done, and Steve Hays is tied with everyone else on the planet as the World's Greatest Scientist.


    B) Common experience tells us that often the parsimonious answer is WRONG. The more complicated answer IS possible because it's probability is not 0. Thus, if you always choose parsimony, you are guarenteed to choose wrong at some point. Of course, you'll never know WHEN that was, because the only reason you need to use parsimony is when the evidence isn't sufficient to warrant one claim over another--thus proving that the same evidence stands for both theories (which means that the theory you reject is rejecting for reasons OTHER THAN the evidence). In marching lock-step with parsimony, you will only know that at some point you wrongly chose a parsimonious idea instead of the truth.


    Yeah, it happens. It's a risky enterprise. Science ain't for sissies. ;-)

    But if the evidence rejects a theory, that trumps any analysis of parsimony. Parsimony only comes into play in evaluating peers that are equally congruent with the evidence. You don't appeal to parsimony when the evidence supports A over B. You appeal to it when A and B both work to account for the evidence. "Goddidit", by definition accounts for any and all evidence, so it's raises its hand for EVERY SINGLE ANSWER TO EVERY SINGLE QUESTION. And if it is granted a seat at the table, it wins every time. Nothing is more parsimonious than "Goddidit", in principle, so long as you grant that "Goddidit" should be a valid, contemplated scientific explanation.


    But of course you can pretend that always obeying parsimony is NOT a "kind of epistemic nihilism" despite the fact that you know your position will be wrong somewhere and yet you're cursed to never know at which point it would be. Nah, it's the actual theists instead of the functional atheists who have that problem...


    The evidence tells the tale, Peter. I think you've misunderstood where and how parsimony is applied... and why. It's got a good record behind it, and consider what your objection implies: that we should endorse or prefer the more *convoluted* explanation, all other parameters being equal.

    -TS

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  14. No it doesn't. "Goddidit" wins EVERY SINGLE TIME. With eight letters in three syllables making up a single word, you annihilate all possible competitors on the epistemic playing field. It's the theoretical maximum in parsimony where it is considered a valid answer.

    It's not accountable or verifiable to the epistemic demands of science, though. That's why it's properly ruled out as a scientific explanation. But there's not even a *hint* of controversy about this. As soon as "Goddidit" is accepted as a legitimate answer, the game is up, science is done, and Steve Hays is tied with everyone else on the planet as the World's Greatest Scientist.


    1. As a Christian, Touchstone, are not committed to what Scripture says over "science?" Which comes first, your commitment to science or Scripture.

    2. Obviously, its the former, not the latter, for, let us not forget that you are equally against YEC and OEC, and your views are more deistic than theistic.

    3. Further, you have yet to do anything except point to Animal Farm to justify your view that Genesis' creation narrative is an allegory. So, grammatical-historical exegesis goes out the window for you in the name of "science."

    4. Does parsimony guarantee a true answer or a scientific answer? These are not the same thing. What you do is, via your commitment to naturalism, wind up ruling out anything except a naturalistic answer. The issue isn't "Is x scientific?" But "Is x answer true?"

    Yeah, it happens. It's a risky enterprise. Science ain't for sissies. ;-)

    You go, Girl!

    Oh, and the "Goddidit" defense from evolutionist is yet another stock and overly simplistic rhetorical device. This really gets tiresome after awhile Touchstone.

    Why don't you go after some real enemies of the faith? Oh, that's right, because for you, the real enemies are conservative Christians.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hays says "No concessions, mate! Just highlighting Futuyma's inability to think logically."

    Futuyma's allaged "inability to think logically" is probably the best evidence for him being created in the image of the god of the bible.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gene,
    1. As a Christian, Touchstone, are not committed to what Scripture says over "science?" Which comes first, your commitment to science or Scripture.

    Theories and ideas live at different points on the "settled" curve. Even some very long-established hypotheses hover in the "maybe, sorta" zone, and some fairly new ideas reach "settled" status very quickly. That said, settled science isn't something to simply wave your hands at while muttering about some obscure Kurt Wise or Henry Gee or Barry Setterfield mused about.

    Truth is truth, and the fact that the earth goes 'round the sun is no less true than than that Jesus was born in Palestine somewhere around 0AD. Scientific truth cannot clash with theological truth, by definition -- one or the other or both must be incorrect if there is a disagreement.

    And science can definitely be mistaken. But so can our interpretations of scripture. Some level of harmonization must be reached, else you end up with massive cognitive dissonance like you fellows flaunt around here.

    God's general revelation is no less true or real than God's special revelation. Our understanding is liable to error and correction on both sides. You guys are simply incorrible with respect to reading your Bibles, and are stuck worshipping your own glorified exegetical skills. Massive interlocking bodies of evidence won't dislodge you from your worship. You'd rather tell the earth is flat than question your esteemed interpretations.


    2. Obviously, its the former, not the latter, for, let us not forget that you are equally against YEC and OEC, and your views are more deistic than theistic.


    No, I don't agree with OEC, but I find it faithful and basically reasonable. It's not shameful like YEC, and I don't disparage it as dishonoring to God like YEC interpretations are. I was an OEC for a long time, and while I think the honest, best interpretation of scripture and the witness of creation is a TE model, OECs are not a problem for me.

    And as above, if you think that one must choose between science and scripture, you're just declaring your cognitive dissonance, and announcing that you have a fundamentally broken epistemology.

    So noted.


    3. Further, you have yet to do anything except point to Animal Farm to justify your view that Genesis' creation narrative is an allegory. So, grammatical-historical exegesis goes out the window for you in the name of "science."


    Um, talking snake? Trees with cosmic powers? Hello? You're jsut being ignorant here, Gene. Try reading the text without your groupthink knob turned all the way up.


    4. Does parsimony guarantee a true answer or a scientific answer? These are not the same thing. What you do is, via your commitment to naturalism, wind up ruling out anything except a naturalistic answer. The issue isn't "Is x scientific?" But "Is x answer true?"


    Science isn't designed to address "true" in the the metaphysical, transcendent sense! I'm at a loss as to how explain this any more clearly than I have here over and over: you are completely confused about what science is setup to achieve epistemically. It *disavows* transcendent answers, on purpose, by design. That's what makes it effective. It's epistemic constraints (naturalism) are what enables it succeed in pursuing the goals it aims for: natural explanations for natural phenomena!

    Once again, there you have it. I realize you are incorrigible in this area as well, but it's right there in front of you. If you ask, "but it is 'true' in a transcendent sense"? it's *proof* that you remain completely confused about what science is, and how it builds knowledge.

    Here you are, a ranting Calvinist "expert", probing the rarified heights of metaphysical philosophy, and yet the basic fundamentals of scientific epistemology are just too much for you to grasp. What do you think that suggests about your epistemic foundation in other areas?


    Oh, and the "Goddidit" defense from evolutionist is yet another stock and overly simplistic rhetorical device. This really gets tiresome after awhile Touchstone.


    Yeah, well, it's *eight* letters. Compare that to the sad sack insult to reason and intelligence Steve offers here.

    The point stands. "Design economy", "special creation", "Goddidit", [insert favorite Triabloguer YEC sophistry here], whatever you want to call it, it's *death* to the epistemic integrity of science as soon as guys like Steve with his arguments here have *any* credibility, scientifically.

    People often tell me in my ID conversations: "You're assuming the worst. ID advocates wouldn't appeal to special creation or "Goddidit" like you suppose." All I have to do is point them at Steve Hays, and the matter is settled. This post is a very good example of what will destroy science as we know it, if the "design economy" gets a foothold. Here is proof that YECs cannot be even remotely coherent or responsible in handling scientific epistemology.

    Tiresome it may be. But I think no more tiresome than seeing posts like Steve's here passed off as Christian intellectual capital.


    Why don't you go after some real enemies of the faith? Oh, that's right, because for you, the real enemies are conservative Christians.


    You're doing Dawkins' work for him better than he ever could, Gene. I wish you wouldn't make his case for him.

    -Touchstone

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  17. Don't worry, Touchstone, readers like me know full well that Steve Hays is no scientist whatsoever.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Truth is truth, and the fact that the earth goes 'round the sun is no less true than than that Jesus was born in Palestine somewhere around 0AD. Scientific truth cannot clash with theological truth, by definition -- one or the other or both must be incorrect if there is a disagreement.

    Really? So, when there's a disagreement, that's why you choose to harmonize them?

    Those two propositions pull in opposite directions.

    And science can definitely be mistaken. But so can our interpretations of scripture. Some level of harmonization must be reached, else you end up with massive cognitive dissonance like you fellows flaunt around here.

    So you keep saying, but at least our views are consistent here, and we interact with what the representative texts are saying. You, by way of contrast, are the one trying to graft naturalism and Christian theism here. You're the one trying to harmonize Scripture and science, and that is "cognitive dissonance," for that term involves doing the very thing you're trying to do.

    To quote your favorite resource, Wikipedia, CD is psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time.

    According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions).

    Tell us, O Great Sage, which of us here on the "staff" is feeling an "uncomfortable tension" between our ideas? We're not the ones trying to "harmonize" Scripture and science by allegorizing Scripture without a warrant from the text to do so.

    Touchstone is mirror-reading.

    You guys are simply incorrible with respect to reading your Bibles, and are stuck worshipping your own glorified exegetical skills. Massive interlocking bodies of evidence won't dislodge you from your worship. You'd rather tell the earth is flat than question your esteemed interpretations.

    Actually, as Steve just pointed out in another thread, liberal and conservative exegesis frequently agree, so it's hardly as if we're "worshipping" our exegetical skills. The difference between us and the liberal is that, when the exegesis is done, we accept it and the liberal rejects it, along with the authority of the text or he tries to find another mode of exegesis to "harmonize" with extrabiblical considerations.

    When we've discussed exegesis of the pertinent texts with you, you're the one that's incorrigible, since you continue to trot out the same example (Animal Farm) as if it is at all relevant to the pertinent Genesis texts being an allegory.

    Does the Bible affirm that the earth is flat? Is that an exegetical conclusion or a stock nullifidian argument?

    Which of us has affirmed that the Bible teaches the world is flat?

    Um, talking snake? Trees with cosmic powers? Hello? You're jsut being ignorant here, Gene. Try reading the text without your groupthink knob turned all the way up.

    Talking snakes don't select for an allegory; and the trees don't have "cosmic powers" rather they are sacramental. You've confused typology with allegory. That's a basic confusion that you continue to make. We've been over that territory with you before, and you keep repeating yourself as if you haven't been answered, and you keep failing to interact with what we tell you.

    You're the one who is ignorant. You're the one that refuses to tell us how Genesis qualifies as a Hebrew allegory, within the constraints of that literary genre and instead substitutes a 20th century allegory from English literature as if that can be used to make that determination.

    An allegory is a story in which one central point of comparison is intended to be brought out, but in which around this one point there is intentionally and ingeniously woven a web of detail-comparisons in the two processes placed side by side. Ezekiel 23, not Animal Farm would be an appropriate comparison from which to make your case if it can be made at all. In all of your time here, I don't recall you ever trying that, so consider that tidbit a freebie.

    And as above, if you think that one must choose between science and scripture, you're just declaring your cognitive dissonance, and announcing that you have a fundamentally broken epistemology.

    Touchstone learned a new term this week: cognitive dissonance. He mutters it because he has no other defense. Pity he continues to misuse it.

    "The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions."

    Harmonization of science and Scripture would be a case it point.

    Science isn't designed to address "true" in the the metaphysical, transcendent sense! I'm at a loss as to how explain this any more clearly than I have here over and over: you are completely confused about what science is setup to achieve epistemically. It *disavows* transcendent answers, on purpose, by design. That's what makes it effective. It's epistemic constraints (naturalism) are what enables it succeed in pursuing the goals it aims for: natural explanations for natural phenomena!

    Once again, there you have it. I realize you are incorrigible in this area as well, but it's right there in front of you. If you ask, "but it is 'true' in a transcendent sense"? it's *proof* that you remain completely confused about what science is, and how it builds knowledge.


    Notice what Touchstone did here. I did NOT ask "but it is 'true' in a transcendent sense." I asked if parsimony guaranteed a true answer or scientific answer, for these are not the same. I made no qualfications about "transcendence."

    And what Touchstone did here was step right into the net, agreeable guy that he is; for he told us frankly that science "*disavows* transcendent answers, on purpose, by design.

    The problem for Touchstone is that in a theistic universe, a broadly "transcendent" answer (like "God created ex nihilio") could be (and according to Scripture IS) the true answer. Touchstone is not concerned with truth, he's concerned with "science," and not only that but "naturalism."

    Here you are, a ranting Calvinist "expert", probing the rarified heights of metaphysical philosophy, and yet the basic fundamentals of scientific epistemology are just too much for you to grasp. What do you think that suggests about your epistemic foundation in other areas?

    No, I'm simply saying that as a professing Christian, my first allegiance is to Scripture and grammatical-historical exegesis. My worldview is not dictated by the latest scientific fads, et.al., but by the unchanging Word of the One True God. I'm not the one building my house on sinking sand.

    Yeah, well, it's *eight* letters. Compare that to the sad sack insult to reason and intelligence Steve offers here.

    All Steve has done is review a book. Rather than resort to invective, why not interact with the book? That is, get the book, read it and review it yourself and then present a counter review.

    The point stands. "Design economy", "special creation", "Goddidit", [insert favorite Triabloguer YEC sophistry here], whatever you want to call it, it's *death* to the epistemic integrity of science as soon as guys like Steve with his arguments here have *any* credibility, scientifically.

    Why, because they believe that God created the heavens and the earth?

    And let's not mince words here, you're equally hostile to OEC, so it's not as if the problem here is with YEC. That's just your favorite sawhorse.

    This post is a very good example of what will destroy science as we know it, if the "design economy" gets a foothold. Here is proof that YECs cannot be even remotely coherent or responsible in handling scientific epistemology.

    If your cause is just and right and true, then why are you so insecure? And is science not reformable?

    Tiresome it may be. But I think no more tiresome than seeing posts like Steve's here passed off as Christian intellectual capital.

    On the contrary, what's tiresome here is your attempt to interact with a book review without yet having interacted with the content of the review. Pardon me if I view your attempts to represent "Christian intellectual capital" as little more than the worried, insecure rants of an apostate trying to pass off what he says as bourgeois intellectual discourse.

    You're doing Dawkins' work for him better than he ever could, Gene. I wish you wouldn't make his case for him.

    Thanks for the false platitudes, Touchstone, but we all know, because we've observed you on other blogs, that you don't go after real enemies of the faith. You go after conservative Christians - period. It wasn't your views on evolution that got you banned from Pyromaniacs, was it?

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  19. Gene,

    With respect to cognitive dissonance, I think your comments here show who's new to the concept. Harmonization is *relief* from the dissonance, a resolution to logical contradictions. When I read about the latest cool discovery from astronomy about, say, the discovery of a galaxy that is 13 BILLION light-years away from the telescope that capturing light from that very galaxy (see example here), I don't have resort to contortions like the idea that God just somehow, for some reason placed the right photons in the right place 6,000 years when He created the universe so that they would arrive here now and tell us all about a galaxy that existed billions of years before it was actually created.

    When I read that, I just think it's another manifestation to the wonderful, ancient universe God created. It's *not* a dissonance for me, as it must be for a YEC. It just fits within my understanding of scripture and science.

    Which makes me suppose you missed the implications of the quote you rummaged up in learning about CG:

    "The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions."

    Harmonization of science and Scripture would be a case it point.


    Harmonization of scripture and science *would* be a case in point. That's what the quote offered here is affirming -- it's a *good* thing to reduce and relieve cognitive conflict. It's reason and rationality at work! As it is, it appears you are thinking that *harmonization* is the problem, rather than the logical internal conflicts. I can't say I'm surprised to see this mistake here, but know that harmonization is a *good* thing, a necessary and rational urge for properly functioning minds.

    Just to make sure you give us all the clear signals that you've got the basics of CG reversed, you leave off on this topic with this:


    Tell us, O Great Sage, which of us here on the "staff" is feeling an "uncomfortable tension" between our ideas? We're not the ones trying to "harmonize" Scripture and science by allegorizing Scripture without a warrant from the text to do so.


    You definitely are *not* the ones trying to harmonize scripture and science. Can't emphasize the truth of that enough, here. And the indications of "uncomfortable tension" -- massive, profound dissonance -- are all *over* this blog. Really, I think you could pull up just about *any* post here that relates to science and find the signals of your dissonance on this.

    Here's an example of Steve's "tell" indicating his dissonance, and the contortions he feels obliged to perform to deal with the discomfort:

    Of course, YEC chronology is at odds with conventional dating schemes, but YEC writers are perfectly aware of that discrepancy. Their response is to challenge the conventional dating schemes. So it's not as if creationism simply ignores or disregards the counterevidence. Indeed, you don't even need to be a creationist to question conventional dating schemes.

    Classic!

    Anyway, take another read on the CG thing and you'll see what I'm saying -- rational harmonization good, logical conflict bad. It's not easy, but reason, like science, ain't for sissies.

    -TS

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  20. Touchstone said:

    Truth is truth, and the fact that the earth goes 'round the sun is no less true than than that Jesus was born in Palestine somewhere around 0AD.

    Um, 0 AD? There's no such thing as 0 AD on our calendar (Gregorian). There's 1 BC and 1 AD. But no 0 AD. Touchstone could've just as easily said that Jesus was born somewhere around 1 BC or 1 AD. Instead, he picks a non-existent year, 0 AD. Why would he do this? Probably because he doesn't know any better. In fact, I wonder if he doesn't actually think there really is a year 0 AD. (Of course, there could've been a year 0 AD, but the point is our calendar doesn't include it.)

    Anyway, I point this out not because I want to nitpick or whatever. Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't make a fuss if someone made this sort of elementary blunder. But in Touchstone's case, because he's the self-appointed "science cop" in the T-blog combox, it's worth tweaking his nose about it. Because Touchstone likes to tell us "ignorant, Bible thumpin' hill billy fundies" how stupid we are for doubting certain scientific claims like macroevolution, it's fun to actually point out that Touchstone is really the ignorant one here. After all, if he doesn't know enough to get simple things correct...

    Also, the more I read him, the more I think Peter's totally right about quick Google searches being Touchstone's main source of knowledge on a topic. Rather than, for example, reading and studying a book to try and understand a subject, as Steve has done here and in many other places, to see if an expert makes a good case for the truth or falsehood of the matter and so on, it's like Touchstone just does Google searches or picks this or that point in an article or book to shore up what limited knowledge he has for whatever it is he already believes (e.g. church councils are the final arbiters of truth for the church! Evolution is true! ScienceDidIt! There is no such thing as objectivity or truth!).

    But eventually it catches up to him. Others start realizing he's really just talking out of his derriere. For example, witness Touchstone's theological and philosophical naivety in his attempted but painfully sad interaction with Gene, who does know theology. Also, at times, Touchstone will use a technical word or term, or talk "at" us with some random technical jargon, but in an odd sort of way that makes one wonder whether he's actually understood what he's read; and then a few days later, he'll reuse the term, but use it a bit more precisely, a bit more correctly. The reason is likely because he didn't originally know what the word meant and has only gradually started figuring it out.

    BTW, I seriously doubt Touchstone has even studied (let alone grokked) college level biology or chemistry or organic chemistry. I think he just knows enough assorted science and science-related trivia to backup certain points regarding evolution. He lacks a basic foundational knowledge, to say nothing of a depth of knowledge, about these main branches of science which are relevant to the theory of evolution.

    Again, I normally wouldn't fuss about it except that Touchstone is the self-appointed "science cop," making himself out to be some sort of scientific authority, at least in comparison to us "Bible thumpin' ignoramus T-bloggers."

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  21. Patrick Chan: "Um, 0 AD? There's no such thing as 0 AD on our calendar (Gregorian). There's 1 BC and 1 AD. But no 0 AD. Touchstone could've just as easily said that Jesus was born somewhere around 1 BC or 1 AD."

    Oh man! Nothing gets past the steel trap of Triablogue! These guys are just too sharp to tangle with! You might have had Touchstone with some of the other points raised against him, but this is the ultimate defeater right here! Good job, PC!

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  22. I think the clearest evidence that Steve's post has obliterated the Darwinist position is the fact that the only response the atheists can come up with are snarky comments. None of them have yet to actually deal with the substance of the post. (This may be due to the fact that, given their apparent intellectual abilities, the only substances these folks know about are the illegal kinds.)

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  23. The Talking Ape said:
    ---
    "Goddidit" wins EVERY SINGLE TIME. With eight letters in three syllables making up a single word, you annihilate all possible competitors on the epistemic playing field. It's the theoretical maximum in parsimony where it is considered a valid answer.
    ---

    This paragraph makes absolutely no sense. The only conclusions I can draw (on the basis of parsimony) is that you are either too stupid to know what parsimony is, or you haven't found the time to Google it yet.

    Parsimony has nothing to do with the number of letters or syllables. It has to do with the number of premises. Further, parsimony does NOT indicate what is true; it can only say what is more likely to be true if the universe is parsimonious.

    Thus, parsimony begs the question of simplicity, as I originally stated.

    The Cosmic Accident said:
    ---
    As soon as "Goddidit" is accepted as a legitimate answer, the game is up, science is done, and Steve Hays is tied with everyone else on the planet as the World's Greatest Scientist.
    ---

    Except Steve's argument wasn't "Goddidit" it was "Evolution DIDN'T do it." You know, for all the times you atheists say that "Disproving evolution won't make Creationism true" you certainly act like it every time your precious theory is challenged.

    The Improbable Quantum Flux said:
    ---
    But if the evidence rejects a theory, that trumps any analysis of parsimony. Parsimony only comes into play in evaluating peers that are equally congruent with the evidence. You don't appeal to parsimony when the evidence supports A over B. You appeal to it when A and B both work to account for the evidence.
    ---

    Maybe that's why I said: "the only reason you need to use parsimony is when the evidence isn't sufficient to warrant one claim over another."

    Hey, I said everything T-Stone said in a far more parsimonious manner!

    Now that we've settled once again that you aren't reading what you're responding to, perhaps we can move on?

    The Deistic Pseudointellectual said:
    ---
    The evidence tells the tale, Peter. I think you've misunderstood where and how parsimony is applied... and why. It's got a good record behind it, and consider what your objection implies: that we should endorse or prefer the more *convoluted* explanation, all other parameters being equal.
    ---

    A) You're the one who doesn't understand this. It's a simple statistical fact that if you always pick the most parsimonious explanation, you will choose wrong at some poitn and yet be unable to know when that was.

    B) Science DOES sometimes pick the least likely explanation. Surely you know of the entropy paradox as it relates to the symmetry of physics equations through time, since you claim to be our quantum expert and all.

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  24. I don't know much but I know this: Goddidn'tdoit! Booyah - 12 letters and one epistollary... um, apocalypse, um, dang! Apology! That's it.

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  25. TOUCHSTONE SAID:

    “Witness the annihilation of science at the hands of the special creationist! Science, being an empirical, evidential, inferential enterprise, is simply no match for Steve's ‘Goddidit’. There isn't *any* evidence, even in principle, that can overcome ‘the design economy’. Looks like an evolutionary pattern? No problem, an omnipotent God would have zero problem making things look like that!”

    This begs the question of whether something “looks like an evolutionary pattern.” The raw evidence doesn’t come stamped with “evolutionary pattern” on the label. Rather, that’s a value-laden, evolutionary reconstruction of the evidence.

    “This is a very nice example of why science must not suffer the annihilating demands of the likes of Steve, especially for Christians who want to pursue science as an enterprise. For the above is very much the kind of epistemic nihilism that will be advanced as science, if the ‘design economy’ is admitted as legitimate scientific explanation. ‘Special creation’ trivially accounts for any and all phenomena, and no matter how tortured or convoluted it is, Steve has shown that creationists can and will use ‘design economies’ to subvert parsimony and evidential inference at every turn.”

    T-stone has been corrected on this simpleminded caricature many times. And, indeed, his statement is self-refuting. “Special creation” doesn’t account for any and all phenomena since, by definition, special creation is limited to creation rather than providence or miracle.

    He also resorts to adjectives like “tortured” and “convoluted” as a substitute for actual counterarguments.

    “Parsimony -- a fundamental principle in science -- is simply overturned with the infusion of ‘special creation’.”

    As Peter and I have both pointed out, Occam’s razor is actually a substitute for evidence. A shortcut in the absence of evidence.

    “The work of sorting out the evidence and making the cleanest inferences to the simplest, best performing conclusion is completely obviated by the introduction of an arbitrary Designed who creates with what Steve calls the ‘freedom of the design’.”

    i) The simplest theory is the best theory assuming the world is simple. Solipsism is a very simple theory. It postulates a single entity to account for all phenomena whatsoever. Can’t get any simpler than that!

    ii) T-stone talks just like Dawkins. That would make sense if T-stone were a militant atheist like Dawkins. Indeed, maybe he is.

    But if you’re a Christian, then you do believe in a Creator. And that commits you to the freedom of the designer.

    So either T-stone doesn’t believe in the existence of a divine Creator, or he does, but he refuses to incorporate the truth of divine agency into his explanation of the natural world—even though God is, in fact, the creative and providential agent responsible for the existence of the natural world.

    Does T-stone believe this or not? If he denies it, then he’s an atheist or agnostic, and we can approach him the same way we’d approach Richard Dawkins.

    But if he does believe it, then why does he arbitrarily suppress and exclude this truth from his explanation of the natural world?

    “No such deliberation is needed, or even relevant now that we must incorporate the ‘freedom of the designer’ into our scientific analysis. The ‘freedom of the designer’ accounts for all, for everything, anything, all the time, everywhere. Full stop.”

    A hysterical overstatement on T-stone’s part.

    “Science, for Christians, *ought* to be a study of what Aquinas called ‘second causes’ - the orderly, consistent and structured behavior and operation of the universe created as first cause.”

    A couple of problems:

    i) Second causes have their ultimate point of origin in special creation. So special creation is not opposed to second causes. To the contrary, special creation is the precondition of second causes.

    ii) Not all natural effects are the result of second causes. Being cured of terminal cancer in answer to prayer is not a result of second causes.

    “Creationists like Steve here insist on treating second cause like first causes -- the earth doesn't ‘bring forth the living creature’ in Genesis because it was designed to do just this by the Creator, but rather the Creator *directly* "brings forth" each and every thing, despite the text.”

    Another silly statement on T-stone’s part. Creationism doesn’t deny the existence of seed-bearing plants or sexual reproduction.

    “*Anything* is a mark of a design economy, and throwing this out is nothing more than scorching the earth of any discussion of the evidence.”

    Once more, I’m merely responding to Futuyma on his own grounds. He’s the one who goes out of his way to cite certain natural phenomena as evidence for evolution rather than creation. The question at issue is whether the evidence does, in fact, point in that direction—indeed, whether the evidence is pointing in any particular direction.

    T-stone has a naively positivist view of “evidence,” as if the “evidence” were a highway sign with place names and arrows and mileage.

    “Just an announcement that one has secluded oneself in a perfectly protected little bubble, immune from any epistemic liability.”

    This is very funny coming from T-stone, with his two-story faith. There are really two T-stones. There’s the tenant who occupies the first floor. His position is interchangeable with Richard Dawkins.

    Then there’s the tenant who occupies the second floor, where faith-claims inhabit a suprahistorical realm. There’s no staircase or elevator going from the first floor to the second floor. Two T-stone’s leading parallel lives.

    “It’s the best salve for his cognitive dissonance he can apparently find.”

    “Cognitive dissonance” is part of T-stone’s rhetorical shtick. He bandies that mantra as a preemptive maneuver to inoculate himself from the same charge by trying to transfer it to his opponent—the way a dope dealer will plant his stash of heroine on the passenger ahead of him as they pass through the security checkpoint.

    T-stone attempts to relieve his cognitive dissonance with his two-story faith.

    “Maybe the best way to illustrate what a complete sham Steve's reponse is to have me put on Steve's Snake Oil Salesman's hat for a bit.”

    Notice how emotional he is. He wouldn’t get that worked up unless his pitiful little compromise was threatened by my book review.

    “I encourage you to try, but like Steve knows and I know, it's rigged, it's geared to annihilate real science.”

    Of course it’s T-stone who annihilates “real science” by divorcing science from reality. He will not allow a scientist to admit that "Goddidit" even when, in fact, that is the correct explanation for what really happened.

    For T-stone, methodology trumps truth. Methodological purity has become an end in itself.

    “It's not accountable or verifiable to the epistemic demands of science, though. That's why it's properly ruled out as a scientific explanation.”

    Suppose a Christian prayed for five terminal cancer patients, and the very next day they were cancer free. What should the oncologist conclude?

    According to T-stone, the oncologist is not allowed to attribute the outcome to prayer. That would be “unscientific” because that would sin against methodological naturalism.

    According to T-stone, an oncologist who said it was a miracle should lose his medical license. He has violated the canons of medical science. A doctor must insist that any cure has a natural cause, however contrary to the actual state of the evidence.

    Or perhaps T-stone would permit the oncologist to say "Goddidit" if he first took the necessary precaution of removing his stethoscope and white lab jacket.

    “You appeal to it when A and B both work to account for the evidence. ‘Goddidit’, by definition accounts for any and all evidence, so it's raises its hand for EVERY SINGLE ANSWER TO EVERY SINGLE QUESTION. And if it is granted a seat at the table, it wins every time.”

    He keeps making this brainless statement ad nauseum. It’s a mark of intellectual fear when you must take refuge in such a formulaic philosophy. A true intellectual would judge each case on its own merits.

    To continue with my example, there are many occasions in which we would attribute a cure to medication. That’s the best explanation. But there are other occasions in which that is not the best explanation. When that goes against the evidence.

    Yet T-stone is adamant on having a single, all-purpose, one-size-fits all explanation for natural effects. The reason he does this is to insulate his nominal Christian faith from falsification.

    On the one hand there’s the Biblical account of origins. On the other hand, there’s the theory of origins favored by the scientific establishment. T-stone believes that these are irreconcilable. And he parrots scientific consensus.

    So the only way to preserve his nominal faith is to install the electrified fence of methodological naturalism. If you can never ascribe a natural effect to divine agency, then no natural effect can ever disprove the existence of God. There’s no traffic either way.

    But his apologetic strategy bears no resemblance to the worldview of Scripture. Rather, it’s the old suprahistorical piety of a Barth or Bultmann. A suprahistorical piety grafted on to a naturalistic historiography.

    “That said, settled science isn't something to simply wave your hands at while muttering about some obscure Kurt Wise or Henry Gee or Barry Setterfield mused about.”

    T-stone is the one who’s waving his hands by waving aside the arguments of Henry Gee (among others) without bothering to address his arguments. Remember that I didn’t limit my sources to YEC writers. How about Hoyle’s argument?

    Notice that T-stone’s entire reaction to my review is tactical, rhetorical, and methodological rather than substantive.

    “I was an OEC for a long time.”

    That comes as no surprise. He’s been drifting steadily to the left. He used to be a YEC. Then an OEC. Now he calls himself a TE, but he despises the work of a fellow TE like Behe. No, at present, he’s an evolutionary deist. Next stop: naturalistic evolution.

    “Um, talking snake? Trees with cosmic powers? Hello? You're jsut being ignorant here, Gene. Try reading the text without your groupthink knob turned all the way up.”

    Gene doesn’t interpret Genesis any differently than James Barr. The difference is not over the exegesis of Scripture, but over the authority of Scripture.

    And if T-stone is going to allegorize Gen 1-3, why stop there? There’s nothing uniquely miraculous or supernatural that happens in Gen 1-3. What about the burning bush? The metamorphosis of a staff into a snake and vice versa? The miracles of Elijah and Elisha? The survival of Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace?

    What about the miracles of Jesus? And Peter? And Paul?

    In consistency, if T-stone is going to allegorize Gen 1-3, he will need to allegorize the Pentateuch, 1-2 Kings, Daniel, the Gospels, and Acts.

    “Science isn't designed to address "true" in the the metaphysical, transcendent sense! I'm at a loss as to how explain this any more clearly than I have here over and over.”

    Maybe he’s at a loss because he’s contradicting himself. Scroll up and read his previous claim:

    “Truth is truth, and the fact that the earth goes 'round the sun is no less true than than that Jesus was born in Palestine somewhere around 0AD. Scientific truth cannot clash with theological truth, by definition.”

    Now, however, he’s creating a hiatus between “scientific” truth and truth in the “metaphysical, transcendent sense.”

    “The point stands. ‘Design economy’, ‘special creation’, ‘Goddidit’, [insert favorite Triabloguer YEC sophistry here], whatever you want to call it, it's *death* to the epistemic integrity of science as soon as guys like Steve with his arguments here have *any* credibility, scientifically.”

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus turn water into wine, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus walk on water, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus multiply the bread and fish, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus heal the blind man, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    According to T-stone, if a scientist saw Jesus rise from the dead, he shouldn’t say “Goddidit”!

    T-stone is a classic Quisling. Futuyma spends a lot of time citing evidence that he thinks disproves the existence of a divine Creator. He supposes that various design flaws (on his interpretation) disprove God.

    Does T-stone agree or disagree? Does T-stone believe that the natural world is chockfull of design flaws? If so, how does he reconcile that admission with his Christian profession?

    If not, where is his counterargument? How does he interpret the evidence consistent with his Christian profession?

    Futuyma says the human eye is poorly designed. Hence, no Designer. Does T-stone agree or disagree? If so, why believe in God. If not, why not?

    Futuyma says that junk DNA disproves the existence of a divine Creator. Does T-stone agree? If not, how does he interpret the evidence?

    Futuyma says that backaches and impacted wisdom teeth disprove the existence of God. What does T-stone have to say about that objection?

    Futuyma says the panda’s thumb is poorly designed. Hence, no Designer. Does T-stone agree or disagree?

    Futuyma says “the life histories of parasites, whether parasitic wasp or human immunodeficiency virus, ill fit our concept of an intelligent, kindly designer.”

    Does T-stone agree or disagree? And why?

    Darwin says that nature is “clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel.” Hence, no benign Creator. Does T-stone agree or disagree?

    Is T-stone a Christian or a Quisling? Here’s his chance to come clean. How does he field Futuyma’s atheistic objections? How does he interpret the same evidence consistent with his Christian profession?

    And while he’s at it, he can go back and do the same thing with Kitcher’s new book. Or Dawkins.

    ReplyDelete
  26. :::YAWN!!!:::

    GodDitIt.

    CaseClosed.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "Suppose a Christian prayed for five terminal cancer patients, and the very next day they were cancer free. What should the oncologist conclude?"

    It might be a bit easier to be charitable with such a claim if this sort of thing actually happened. I realize it's just an example, but imo, this kind of argument would be more credible if there were something to show for it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sinewave,

    It does actually happen.

    I'd like to ask Touchstone to recommend a book. I was wondering, since Dawkins' books are irrational rants against religion anymore, since Futuyma has demonstrated his inability to produce any of the good stuff, since Gee is (at least so far) unintentionally demolishing the basis for having any confidence in one of the major ways to adduce "scientific" (though they're not repeatable or strictly observable) (I'm getting the impression that evolutionists take what they can get) basis for evolutionary history and especially classification/taxonomy; could you recommend a book that will provide some actual evidence for evolution? Something fairly up to date, something that does not scramble for support from discredited sources like the finches, moths, forearms, vestigial organs, Piltdown Man, or archaeopteryx, something that you think is the slam-bang drop-it-creationist-your-pants-are-down book. I would like to put it on my short list for reading. Can you help? I want your best shot so I can know this is the end-all.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Rhology,

    There are no new evolutionary evidences. This is part of why I don't believe it.

    Just do a quick comparison with physics. Physics is radically different today than it was even twenty years ago (superstring theory, anyone?), and that is astonishingly different from what it was 50 years ago (when QED was being formulated), which is of course radically altered from what it was like 70-100 years ago, when Einstein was first introducing relativity. In fact, it's probably safe to say that physics changed more in 100 years than it changed in the entirety of time before that.

    During this same time period, Darwinism has stayed fairly consistent. Despite the radical changes in physics (which impact DNA, and hence mutations, which one would THINK would be relevant to Darwinism), the examples of Darwinian evolution remain the same. There is no new insight gained by the radical changes in physics.

    This is because Darwinism is plastic, a theory that fits everything. T-Stone complains about "Goddidit" but he's only got "Darwinismdidit" in his back pocket. It explains contradictory evidence, so when the evidence changes you don't have to change the core theory one bit.

    Darwinism can explain why fish crawled out on land and became bears, and it can explain why bears craweld back into water and became whales; it can explain why lizards took off and began to fly, and it can explain why birds like penguins decided no longer to fly. Darwinism can explain why animals mate with one partner for life, and it can explain why animals mate with everything they can possibly mate with. Darwinism can explain why some animals eat their young, and it can explain why some animals will die in place of their young.

    Darwinism can explain A and non-A at the same time. Why does it need to concern itself with new evidence?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Peter,


    A) You're the one who doesn't understand this. It's a simple statistical fact that if you always pick the most parsimonious explanation, you will choose wrong at some poitn and yet be unable to know when that was.


    I think you are getting confused due to your ideas remain detached from examples and real situations. Think about parsimony between geocentric and heliocentric astronomical models. Ptolemaic astronomy with epicycles grafted on had parity with Copernican models empirically in the early days of Copernican astronomy.

    If we look at the epicyclic model, which required some 70+ rotational motions, and see that Copernicus could match the epicyclic model with just half that number of motions (~35 IIRC), then the Copernican model would the parsimonious choice, all predictions and empirical performance between it and the epicyclic model being equal.

    But that's no guarantee that Copernican astronomy was the better performer as science rolled on. As it happened, it was, but it's not a given. The point is that parsimony is appealed to when competing theories are at basic parity empirically. But that's typically just a temporary disposition. As more evidence and observation arrives, the empirical parity is often broken, and parsimony doesn't obtain anymore, as one theory establishes an empirical advantage over the other.

    If subsequent testing and observation had favored epicycles, epicycles would have become the dominant theory between the two, despite its relative complexity over Copernican astronomy. More complex is just fine so long as it is *paid for* in empirical performance.


    B) Science DOES sometimes pick the least likely explanation. Surely you know of the entropy paradox as it relates to the symmetry of physics equations through time, since you claim to be our quantum expert and all.


    What do you mean "least likely", Peter? That doesn't make sense at all. Is General Relativity "likely"? Parsimony says nothing more than we have a preference for logical and epistemic economy. All other things being equal, entities should not be multiplied without necessity.

    There's no notion of "least likely" in there. What sought when A and B are at empirical parity, is *efficiency* and *economy*. Quantum mechanics is filled with strongly supported theories that are nothing short of surreal, consider afresh. Nevertheless, that's where the observation and the evidence has led, so that's where the science goes.

    Just to point a point on this: tell me: what is the explanation here that is more complex (less economical) than other alternatives with the same empirical performance? What has been chosen unparsimoniously?

    If you are thinking of the "arrow of time" asymmetry that is introduced by entropy, I'm confused as to what explanation you are talking about, and what would be considered "less like" than what. A paradox is a description of an apparent conflict or contradiction, as a opposed to an explanation, right?

    -TS

    ReplyDelete

  31. “Creationists like Steve here insist on treating second cause like first causes -- the earth doesn't ‘bring forth the living creature’ in Genesis because it was designed to do just this by the Creator, but rather the Creator *directly* "brings forth" each and every thing, despite the text.”


    This is a straw man. Notice that the one claiming that we should be talking about second causes is the one who is saying that the Genesis text is an allegory...but a grammatical-historical exegesis - that thing that TS refuses to do here - takes note there are two sorts of commands from God in the creation narrative: "Let there be..." to which the text answers, "and there was...," and "Let the earth bring forth..." to which the text answers, "and the earth brought forth." So, the only person here ignoring "second causes" in relation to the text of Scripture is the one who is overlooking this simple exegetical fact, which he wouldn't do if he'd treat the text properly. Because of this fact, we don't believe that God *directly* brings forh each and every thing ....since the text does not state that.

    ReplyDelete
  32. T-Stone said:
    ---
    I think you are getting confused due to your ideas remain detached from examples and real situations.
    ---

    Yes, this is why I gave you the specific example of the entropy pardox. Because I'm detached from examples and real situations.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    What do you mean "least likely", Peter? That doesn't make sense at all.
    ---

    Tell that to Brian Greene then. I'm using his words from "The Fabric of the Cosmos" (I'll provide quotes after this weekend since the book is at home).

    Since you obviously don't know what the entropy paradox is, I shall explain it briefly now and (again, after the weekend) in more detail later.

    Simply put, since the laws of physics are symmetrical with respect to time, this includes the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that all systems will tend toward disorder since, statistically speaking, there are many ways to have a disordered universe and very few ways to have an ordered one. An example is taking the pages of a book (Greene uses War & Peace). It has only one correct order, so any change in page order leads to entropy. If you throw the book up in the air and let the pages fall randomly and pick them up, statistically you are vastly more likely to pick them up out of order than in order.

    The entire universe goes from low entropy to high entropy (or from high order to low order, if you choose to view it in that way).

    So suppose you have a glass with ice in it. A half hour ago, you put the ice in the glass and the cubes were in a highly ordered (low entropy) state. Now, half an hour has passed and the cubes have melted half-way. Entropy has increased, order has decreased.

    Since the laws of physics are symmetrical, however, then the same thing should happen if we go backwards in time too. Thus, going backwards in time, the ice cube should be melting. Seeing it in from our regular viewpoint, however, we see that this is quite obviously what did NOT happen. Entropy only goes from low to high as we progress forward in future; yet the laws of physics says it should go the same both ways.

    Here's the upshot. While it is low probability that the universe magically rearranged itself into a highly ordered position, it is not impossible for this to occur. Thus, there is a chance (albeit, very, very small) that matter spontaneously ordered itself to form the ice half melted in the glass. The universe comes complete with false memories of our having observed full ice cubes in the past and thus we only perceive entropy in one direction. We'll call this option A.

    There is also a chance that thirty minutes ago, the universe spontaneously ordered itself to have complete ice cubes in the glass and our memories are accurate. We'll call this option B.

    Here's the problem with option B. Since half an hour ago, the universe was much more ordered than it is now, it is much more unlikely for the universe to have spontaneously formed the order needed for the ice to actually be cubes and the memories correct than it is for option A to occur.

    Thus, from a statistical standpoint, it is not only more likely, but astronomically more like that the universe behaved like option A rather than option B. Thus, it is more parsimonious to state that entropy is symmetrical (since it fits the math perfectly) than it is to say that our memories about our observations are correct.

    Yet every physicist will pick option B, the less parsimonious option, instead of option A.

    Indeed, it is even more bleak than this, for while we are only looking at a glass of melting ice, you have to take into account the fact that under option B, the entire universe started at such a high state of order (or rather such a low state of entropy) that the arrow of time shows up; but the spontaneous creation of such high order is VASTLY less likely than a cosmic hallucination of order when you look at the simple physics equations involved. Such an option is ruled out on philosophical grounds, because scientist prefer not to believe their observations are all hallucinations. But this ruling out of the behavior flies directly in the face of the rule of parsimony.

    This is, in a nutshell, the entropy paradox, and it is a specific example of scientists willfully ignoring parsimony due to philosophical constraints.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Steve,

    This begs the question of whether something “looks like an evolutionary pattern.” The raw evidence doesn’t come stamped with “evolutionary pattern” on the label. Rather, that’s a value-laden, evolutionary reconstruction of the evidence.

    Science isn't limited to this kind of process. Inspiration for a hypothesis can come from anywhere, for any reason -- you don't need "labels" on the evidence to arrive at a hypothesis. The provenance of the idea doesn't matter, as it must be vetted by the evidence and the empirical demands of a theory to make any headway.

    So we might as well suppose Darwin was smoking crack when he had the zany idea that all species shared a common ancestor. Wouldn't make any difference, all that matters is the performative characteristics of the idea in terms of explanation, prediction, and liability to falsfication. Francis Crick is supposed to have attributed some of his scientific inspirations to his use of LSD, for example (see here, for example).

    That's not the way I'd recommend finding scientific inspiration, but the point is, it's a misunderstanding to suppose that hypotheses are somehow only legitimate if they stem from obvious and perspicuous implications of the evidence. A good many of our most amazing scientific inspirations in the history of science are "off the wall" with respect to your idea of "labels" stamped on the evidence.

    Science doesn't work that way. Instead it *is* and should be what you accuse it of, a "reconstruction" around the evidence based on a hypothesis, a hypothesis which may or may not have any ostensible implications from the evidence in hand. If the "reconstruction" performs, Kismet! If not, back to the drawing board...

    -TS



    -TS

    ReplyDelete
  34. Steve said:
    ---
    This begs the question of whether something “looks like an evolutionary pattern.” The raw evidence doesn’t come stamped with “evolutionary pattern” on the label. Rather, that’s a value-laden, evolutionary reconstruction of the evidence.
    ---

    T-Stone responded:
    ---
    Science isn't limited to this kind of process. Inspiration for a hypothesis can come from anywhere, for any reason -- you don't need "labels" on the evidence to arrive at a hypothesis. The provenance of the idea doesn't matter, as it must be vetted by the evidence and the empirical demands of a theory to make any headway.
    ---

    Yup, this confirms it. T-Stone cannot read or comprehend anything at all. What's sad is that it's obvious T-Stone thinks he's actually responding to what Steve wrote.

    I, for one, am left wondering how T-Stone could read Steve say that there aren't any labels on evidence, which thus requires theory-laden observations to take place, as if Steve was saying "Evidence should have a label." Because apparently this is what T-Stone read, as his response is "you don't need 'labels' on the evidence to arrive at a hypothesis." This only misses the entire forest. The point isn't that hypotheses need labels on evidence; the point is that evidence is interpreted based on theory-laden principles.

    This is what's so frustrating in trying to talk with T-Stone. You can tell he either hasn't read your comment at all, or else he has a brain impedement that keeps him from understanding what your comment said. He can only focus on certain key words, misinterpret them, and run wild with it.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Touchstone,

    A book please. What would you recommend for the inquiring mind?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Rhology,

    I don't know of one single book that does a good job across the board, on all fronts evidence wise. It would have to be several thousand pages thick, I suppose. But here's a small handful (sort of, see below) that I own, am familiar with, and recommend.

    1. Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution by Robert L. Carroll

    2. Cells, Embryos, and Evolution:
    Towards a Cellular and Developmental Understanding of Phenotypic Variation and Evolutionary Adaptability
    by John Gerhart and Marc Kirschner

    3. Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll

    I'm including Endless Forms not because it's a good review of evo-devo, which it is, but because it has a really rich reading list in its "Sources for Further Reading" Section, which starts on page 309, and continues on for many pages. I've been working my way through the papers, books and materials in this section for well over a year now, and if there's a list of materials that will just destroy creationist protests about the evidence for evolution, this is a great candidate for it. For example, Carroll points at Pat Shipman's Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight, which is a solid piece of work you might consider reading if you suppose that archaeopteryx has somehow been discredited as an important piece of the puzzle for evolutionary theory.

    I think if you work through Sean's reading list as enumerated in this section, you'd have no choice but to see Peter's complaints (for example) about the evidence for evolution for what they are. My experience has been that it's a fairly expensive and time consuming endeavor, and even *this* list only touches on a small portion of what's out there in the literature, but it accumulates a massive tally in the ledger for evidence that supports the theory.


    So, expanded out, there's dozens of books and articles there, but that's my recommendation if you are prepared to really look at the evidence and reasoning for evolutionary theory.

    It sounds like you have a lot of creationist de-programming to work through first, though. I have Futuyma's Evolutionary Biology circa 1998, which is not the same book as Steve is reading here, but it's bigger, older, denser brother. If you suppose that Steve here has somehow discredited Futuyma here (or Ridley, or Mayr previously), then don't bother reading any of these at all. There wouldn't be any point in doing so.

    -TS

    ReplyDelete

  37. Futuyma says “the life histories of parasites, whether parasitic wasp or human immunodeficiency virus, ill fit our concept of an intelligent, kindly designer.”

    Does T-stone agree or disagree? And why?


    Agree. This is yet another bit of cognitive dissonance for the "first cause" proponent -- natural evil in vivid and diverse forms. Doesn't line up well with the tinkering "special Creator" who crafts all the "kinds" in some direct way, if you suppose there's a premium on the "kindly" label that Futuyma offers.

    But in a secondary cause model, one that has degrees of freedom such that all manner of types and kinds emerge organically, from the daintiest flower to the most brutal bits of savagery in the animal kingdom (or the germosphere), it's not a problem. The Designer didn't cook up HIV at his "special creation workbench" on day when He was in a dark mood, realizing that Hays & Co. would just account for it as more just punishment for a fallen creation. Instead, things like HIV and all the other examples of natural evil you want to name arise as emergent products of the first order creation; a creation that includes significant degrees of freedom and elements of indeterminacy. God designed the system, and the system is such that all manner of behavior and configurations arise from it, due to the built in degrees of freedom at lower levels.

    But, if we suppose that God designed HIV, or smallpox or the black in some direct, "special way", I think it paints a much different picture of the Designer, a much darker picture, one that seems hard to fit with "kindly".

    It's not a given that a Designer *must* be "kindly", but in any case, the "special creation" ideas of many creationists produces some dark shades in the picture of the Designer. Apologists simply say we got whatever suffering these "creatures" levy on us coming -- the Fall was a real bummer. But the picture is still a darker one, nonetheless.


    Darwin says that nature is “clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel.” Hence, no benign Creator. Does T-stone agree or disagree?


    I think it's difficult to call much it benign or benevolent if it's a direct product of divine creation. It's a non-issue, though as the outworking of a first order creation that has significant degrees of freedom, lots of time, and ample resources for variation
    and iteration. By the same token, one would expect to also find much that is beautiful, elegant, sophisticated, gentle, etc. Such an engine of second order creation will produce a diverse set of products: good, bad, cruel, kind, ugly, beautiful, and various points in between, simply because that diversity is an emergent property of the underlying system.

    So, I look at Futuyma's complaint and see the same problem he does with the "special creation" model, when it is applied to things we typically identify as natural evil. Natural evil is a problem if that bit of nature is a direct, conscious, premeditated design choice. It's much less a problem (if it's a problem at all) when it's just the manifestation of underlying degrees of freedom.

    -TS

    ReplyDelete
  38. Steve,


    As Peter and I have both pointed out, Occam’s razor is actually a substitute for evidence. A shortcut in the absence of evidence.


    A "substitute" for evidence? Don't know what that means. Parsimony is just a preference for economy, all else being equal.


    “The work of sorting out the evidence and making the cleanest inferences to the simplest, best performing conclusion is completely obviated by the introduction of an arbitrary Designed who creates with what Steve calls the ‘freedom of the design’.”

    i) The simplest theory is the best theory assuming the world is simple. Solipsism is a very simple theory. It postulates a single entity to account for all phenomena whatsoever. Can’t get any simpler than that!


    Ugh. Steve, "simple" is a *relative* term here. Both theories A and B may be extremely complex, with A being a bit more complex than B. If A and B are at empirical parity, parsimony indicates a preference for B. That means that B is "simpler" than A, but not that B (or A) is simple. It's a relative distinction.

    If you understand that, then you understand why your statement above here is nonsense.


    ii) T-stone talks just like Dawkins. That would make sense if T-stone were a militant atheist like Dawkins. Indeed, maybe he is.


    You're thinking parsimony is a Dawkins distinctive? Heh. Not.


    But if you’re a Christian, then you do believe in a Creator. And that commits you to the freedom of the designer.


    Sure. No problem affirming those freedoms.


    So either T-stone doesn’t believe in the existence of a divine Creator, or he does, but he refuses to incorporate the truth of divine agency into his explanation of the natural world—even though God is, in fact, the creative and providential agent responsible for the existence of the natural world.


    You're hung up on first and second causes again. If the "freedom of the designer" results in a first order creation with the attributes of the universe we see -- uniformity, symmetry, degrees of freedom and indeterminacy on selected levels -- then we wouldn't expect to see a "tinkering Creator" hashing the types or species or baramin or whatever you want to call the distinctions directly. Instead, we'd expect to see a uniform, ordered, naturalistic character to the universe, punctuated by miracles as interventions/interruptions.

    I say that *is* what we do see, which suggests that the agency and freedom of the designer are made manifest in the first causes, and second causes (what we see and work with and test in science) is a kind of set of automata that *reflect* the agency exercised at first-cause creation, but are themselves consistent, uniform, symmetrical.


    Does T-stone believe this or not? If he denies it, then he’s an atheist or agnostic, and we can approach him the same way we’d approach Richard Dawkins.


    God *could* have been a "tinkerer creator". No doubt. Omnipotent, omniscient God? Easy answer -- it's a definitely possibility.

    But the evidence around us in nature just doesn't support that idea as an *actuality*. The evidence is much more consistent with the "second order hypothesis" - the idea that God created the universe in such a way that it developed and evolved to produce the kinds of things it has as a matter of course -- as a reflection of the design of the underlying system. God *could* make things completely arbitrary, random, asymmetrical, but there's so much consistency, uniformity and symmetry to be observed that the parsimonious conclusion would be that God has created an ordered, structured uniform physical framework with sufficient freedoms so as to produce a diverse hierarchy of organic life all on its own, a reflection of first order teleology through second order automata.


    But if he does believe it, then why does he arbitrarily suppress and exclude this truth from his explanation of the natural world?


    Nothing arbitrary about it. For all of God's ability to mess with things in a capricious arbitrary way, it looks very much like He chose *not* to exercise that option, and instead ordain a creation that is highly uniform, highly ordered, and has emergent characteristics that produce organic life in 'endless forms most beautiful' all on its own.


    A couple of problems:

    i) Second causes have their ultimate point of origin in special creation. So special creation is not opposed to second causes. To the contrary, special creation is the precondition of second causes.


    I've not said your opposed to second causes, in principle. I'm saying you have pre-existing commitments to particular interpretations of scripture that prevent you from letting first causes and second causes be identified organically. You are committed to a theology that cannot accept the emergence of life in its various forms as a second cause.


    ii) Not all natural effects are the result of second causes. Being cured of terminal cancer in answer to prayer is not a result of second causes.


    Fine. But science is not the study of miracles. It is the study of non-miracles -- by definition. That's the LARGE POINT you apparently either cannot or will not acknowledge. Miracles like cured cancer are terrific blessings, but they are not natural phenomena that can be explained by natural causes. Perfectly fine to discuss/entertain such developments, but science just isn't prepared to deal with them.

    No more time tonight...

    -TS

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  39. touchstone said...

    “Science isn't limited to this kind of process. Inspiration for a hypothesis can come from anywhere, for any reason -- you don't need ‘labels’ on the evidence to arrive at a hypothesis. The provenance of the idea doesn't matter, as it must be vetted by the evidence and the empirical demands of a theory to make any headway.”

    As usual, T-stone can’t follow his own argument. Now, granted how bad they are, I can appreciate why he would abandon his arguments the moment they’re challenged, yet this is what he originally said:

    “Looks like an evolutionary pattern? No problem, an omnipotent God would have zero problem making things look like that!”

    But this assumes when it needs to prove: that there’s an evolutionary pattern which the creationist must dismiss by appealing to divine omnipotence.

    However, the evolutionary pattern is not in the raw evidence, but in the theoretical construct which the Darwinian is placing on the evidence.

    “But in a secondary cause model, one that has degrees of freedom such that all manner of types and kinds emerge organically, from the daintiest flower to the most brutal bits of savagery in the animal kingdom (or the germosphere), it's not a problem. The Designer didn't cook up HIV at his ‘special creation workbench’ on day when He was in a dark mood, realizing that Hays & Co. would just account for it as more just punishment for a fallen creation. Instead, things like HIV and all the other examples of natural evil you want to name arise as emergent products of the first order creation; a creation that includes significant degrees of freedom and elements of indeterminacy. God designed the system, and the system is such that all manner of behavior and configurations arise from it, due to the built in degrees of freedom at lower levels. But, if we suppose that God designed HIV, or smallpox or the black in some direct, ‘special way’, I think it paints a much different picture of the Designer, a much darker picture, one that seems hard to fit with ‘kindly’.”

    i) To begin with, I simply accept what God tells us he did. Unlike T-stone, I don’t begin with an a priori theodicy, then invent a theology of creation to underwrite my a priori theodicy.

    ii) Even on its own grounds, T-stone’s theodicy is an abject failure. Making God the indirect cause of natural evil is hardly exculpatory if you think that making God the direct cause of natural evil is inculpatory.

    If I hire a hit man to hire another hit man to hire another hit man to kill a business rival, and I leave the method of assassination to the freedom of the hit man, is that exculpatory?

    Suppose the hit man uses a remote control car bomb. That’s even more indirect. Suppose the car bomb has a randomized triggering device, so that you can’t predict if or when it will explode. The hit man might have to plant several different bombs at different times in different locations to achieve the desired effect.

    By T-stone’s reckoning, I’m innocent of the crime since I merely set a stochastic process in motion to eventuate a delayed-action. Indeed, there was no crime since the outcome was indeterminate. The victim just had the bad luck to be in the wrong car at the wrong time.

    “It's a non-issue, though as the outworking of a first order creation that has significant degrees of freedom, lots of time, and ample resources for variation and iteration.”

    Yes, the explosion and resultant fatalities are a non-issue as long as the bomber I hired had significant degrees of freedom, lots of time, and ample resources for variation and iteration.

    “Natural evil is a problem if that bit of nature is a direct, conscious, premeditated design choice. It's much less a problem (if it's a problem at all) when it's just the manifestation of underlying degrees of freedom.”

    Yes, if I stockpile explosives in a kindergarten closet, and they happen to go off, that’s much less of a problem since there was no direct, conscious, premeditation on my part to blow those little tykes to smithereens. Collateral damage is merely an emergent property of the underlying system. Nothing to get all worked up about.

    If anyone is to blame, it’s really the parents’ fault for failing to take the elementary precaution of checking the closet to see if I was storing any bombs on the premises.

    “Then we wouldn't expect to see a ‘tinkering Creator’ hashing the types or species or baramin or whatever you want to call the distinctions directly.”

    Textbook deism.

    “Instead, we'd expect to see a uniform, ordered, naturalistic character to the universe, punctuated by miracles as interventions/interruptions.”

    Then, to save face, he grafts a few punctiliar miracles onto his deistic framework. But if special creation is “tinkering,” why aren’t miracles tinkering?

    “For all of God's ability to mess with things in a capricious arbitrary way.”

    A classically deistic caricature of special creation. T-stone is borrowing a page from Spinoza. But Spinoza was more consistent since he excluded miracles as well.

    “I'm saying you have pre-existing commitments to particular interpretations of scripture that prevent you from letting first causes and second causes be identified organically. You are committed to a theology that cannot accept the emergence of life in its various forms as a second cause.”

    No, I don’t have a preexisting commitment to a particular interpretation. My interpretation is no different from someone like James Barr. Rather, my preexisting commitment is to the authority of Scripture.

    “The study of non-miracles -- by definition. That's the LARGE POINT you apparently either cannot or will not acknowledge. Miracles like cured cancer are terrific blessings, but they are not natural phenomena that can be explained by natural causes. Perfectly fine to discuss/entertain such developments, but science just isn't prepared to deal with them.”

    Science tries to discover or uncover the cause of a natural effect. Sometimes the cause is a nature cause, other times a supernatural cause.

    You think a scientist should pretend to disbelieve the true cause even when the true cause is supernatural, and that’s the best explanation of the evidence.

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  40. touchstone said...

    "So, I look at Futuyma's complaint and see the same problem he does with the 'special creation' model, when it is applied to things we typically identify as natural evil. Natural evil is a problem if that bit of nature is a direct, conscious, premeditated design choice."

    So T-stone denies the premeditation of the outcome. What does that mean?

    Does he deny divine foreknowledge? God didn't know, by doing x, that y would result? Hence, God didn't choose x with a view to y? Y was an unforeseen contingency?

    Is that T-stone's position? What kind of theist is he? Open theist? Process theist?

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  41. “But in a secondary cause model, one that has degrees of freedom such that all manner of types and kinds emerge organically, from the daintiest flower to the most brutal bits of savagery in the animal kingdom (or the germosphere), it's not a problem. The Designer didn't cook up HIV at his ‘special creation workbench’ on day when He was in a dark mood, realizing that Hays & Co. would just account for it as more just punishment for a fallen creation. Instead, things like HIV and all the other examples of natural evil you want to name arise as emergent products of the first order creation; a creation that includes significant degrees of freedom and elements of indeterminacy. God designed the system, and the system is such that all manner of behavior and configurations arise from it, due to the built in degrees of freedom at lower levels. But, if we suppose that God designed HIV, or smallpox or the black in some direct, ‘special way’, I think it paints a much different picture of the Designer, a much darker picture, one that seems hard to fit with ‘kindly’.”

    Where is the exegetical argument, eg. the argument from Scripture (that thing in which TS says he believes but which he doesn't bother to mention), that (a) "natural evil" is a result of "degrees of freedom" in the creation, (b) indeterminancy, etc.

    This looks remarkably like a stock Arminian theodicy in relation to the fall, et.al. reconfigured to fit TS's TE. An Arminian invokes the free will defense and thus libertarian freedom in order to give himself an escape close on the foreordination of God. Why? Because to the Arminian a typical Reformed theodicy, particularly a supralapsarian theodicy, makes God "unkind."

    So, what TS seems to be doing is beginning with a particular view of God and freedom, or put another way, an ethical objection to a Reformed theodicy (or any theodicy that might make God "unkind" or "darker") ,and then he constructs his theodicy accordingly. TS's problem with "special creation" and a biblical theodicy isn't really exegetical, its ethical. As Steve and I have both pointed out to him no less than three times in this thread, we are not interpreting Scripture in a manner that is alien to the text or different from a liberal like James Barr. Rather, the difference is our commitment to the authority of Scripture. Unlike Barr, however, who would simply exegete the text and say "This is what it says," TS proceeds to try to "reconcile" the text to his ethical objections, et.al.

    What TS needs to do is construct an exegetically grounded theodicy and doctrine of creation and commit himself to its authority. He constantly talks about "going where the evidence leads," but will he do this for Scripture too? A Christian should go where Scripture leads, because that's where his authority lies. That's his first commitment - not his a priori ethics or views of "the evidence" (which as we've seen is really a theoretical construct supplied by Darwinism, not by the evidence itself). At every turn, however, he substitutes "science" for Scripture and "ethics" for Scripture. He's the model of philosophical rationalism as it emerged in the 18th century - and that very movement is that which triggered the great apostasy of that century that has been with us to the present day. Please, TS, don't claim to defend the gospel or insult our views on creation as being an insult to the gospel when you're behaving in this manner. Your problem is simple: you need to repent, just as Simon Magus needed to do so.

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  42. Forgot to post a quick comment on this. Steve said:


    If testability is the most important feature of a scientific hypothesis, then why the escape clause? What does it mean to say that a scientific hypothesis must be testable, "at least in principle"? If testability is the criterion, then what would be the value of a hypothesis that is testable in principle, but not in practice?


    Simply because our current capabilities may not be advanced enough to actually perform the test. String theory has problems with testability right now, for example. Several proposals for testability are floating around in the literature, but all of them require fantastic amounts of energy, more than is practical to provide in even the new European accelerator, for example.

    So, there are (or may be) testable features of the theory, but they are testable *in principle* right now, and not in practice. That doesn't mean the theory is epistemically invalid, just stuck in "practical limitations". Much of what we have come to know about atoms and sub-microscopic phenomena was completely untestable in practice until the last century or two -- the hypothesis would have been right on no matter when it was advanced, even 5,00 years ago, but it would have only been testable in *principle* until such time as the appropriate machinery and technology was available to actually perform the tell-tale tests.

    -Touchstone

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  43. Peter,

    Here's the upshot. While it is low probability that the universe magically rearranged itself into a highly ordered position, it is not impossible for this to occur. Thus, there is a chance (albeit, very, very small) that matter spontaneously ordered itself to form the ice half melted in the glass. The universe comes complete with false memories of our having observed full ice cubes in the past and thus we only perceive entropy in one direction. We'll call this option A.

    You are thoroughly confused. Answer this:

    a) was the entropy of the universe high or low in the first moments of the the expansion of the universe?

    b) what was the probability that the universe would begin with (extremely low) entropy, and how do you know?

    You have no basis for the probabilities you assign to A and B. If you think you do, show your math. As it is, it's pure hooey.

    Moreover, this totally misses the objective of parsimony. Parsimony isn't a statistical evaluation, it's an evaluation of *economy*. Maybe "less moving parts" is a phrase that might get that across to you.

    Given that, I still don't see what explanation you are talking about that is excepted when it is less parsimonious than others. What explanation is favored, having empirical parity with competitors and also less economy in its explanation?

    Last, trick question, as you apparently think entropy and the Second Law is about "order" as in fold-my-socks-neatly-in-my-drawer or collate-my-fifty-page-essay-by-page-number :

    You have two identical decks of cards, A and B. Both come out of the box brand new and in usual "brand new" order: Ordered by suit, then number within suit.

    Now you take one and shuffle it thoroughly -- pack A is now effectively randomized in the order of its cards.

    Question: Which deck, A or B, has higher thermodynamic entropy? Which is more "ordered", thermodynamically. Remember it's a trick question. If you know the right answer, do you know what this means about your, um, "explanation", above?

    -TS

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