Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Apologize In Advance For This Post

I remember once when I read a Jeffery Deaver novel. I don’t remember which one it was now—I’m leaning toward The Lesson of Her Death. In any case, Deaver had a character in the book who, after being told something obvious, responded with: "Stating the obvious diminishes us both."

Sadly, since T-Stone is such an apparent dolt that it is impossible for him to complete basic reading comprehension, I must now state the obvious. So I apologize to anyone with an IQ above 82 (this obviously excludes T-Stone) for the following post. I also apologize since I know now, before I post it, that after it is posted T-Stone will completely ignore it (although he will comment on it anyway), so it won't benefit him either. I also apologize to myself for making me go through the tediousness that is forming rigorous logical connections amongst the obvious. To offset this, I will helpfully use the dispassionate third person, with occasional reference to the editorial we. (Sure, that's a non-sequitur...but who's counting?)

The original post is in bold, with the helpful contextual comments following after in plaintext (T-Stone: "plaintext" means "not in bold"; oh, and by bold I mean "darker" not "more courageous", in case you had to look that word up too).

I just read Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould (1989. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.). It was the first Gould book I ever tried to read--I started several years ago, but unfortunately put aside for a while. I reread it from scratch this weekend, but this time with the added benefit of having read much of Gould’s other works, including Full House and The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (although I’ve not yet finished this massive tome). There is one specific issue relating to Wonderful Life that is relevant to some claims that our evolutionist friends have made over the years: Darwinism, despite claims to the contrary, is not predictive.

In this paragraph, we have the normative introductory phase of writing. The author of the piece begins by giving some basic information as to the content that will follow, specifically notating that he has just read Wonderful Life. Helpfully, the author provides the bibliographical reference to said book, should any readers wish to do research on their own, although most can find it by simply going to their library and asking for it via title and author’s name. The introductory paragraph in general is designed not just to catch the attention of people so that they will continue reading, but also to give us the thesis. Here, the introductory paragraph follows the general rule and ends with the thesis statement: "Darwinism, despite claims to the contrary, is not predictive."

Stripping away extra verbiage, we can summarize this thesis (T) by reducing it to a simple: T = Darwinism is not predictive (or an even simpler "Darwinism is unpredictive" except "unpredictive" is not a word according to Microsoft Word—which is basically God—despite the word being found at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unpredictive; following convention, we shall obey the spellchecker and use the slightly longer thesis).

Gould illustrates this in Wonderful Life by the analogy of "running life’s tape again." This effectively demonstrates that evolution can never be predictable. At the risk of being repetitive to an extreme, we will look at several of his quotes below:

The first sentence of the second paragraph used the word "this" to refer back to the thesis statement, T. That is, one can substitute T for "this" in the sentence to understand the meaning, viz.: "Gould illustrates Darwinism is not predictive in Wonderful Life by the analogy of ‘running life’s tape again.’" Stated in this manner, the paragraph becomes redundant, as the next sentence merely repeats this same claim. However, since the original sentence used the word "this" instead of stating T, the second sentence has been written to assure us that the "this" is indeed referring to T. Thus, we have supreme confidence that the author’s claim is that Gould will demonstrate his (the author's) thesis statement in a series of quotes.

Therefore, we have the following claim. Claim1 = "Gould illustrates T by analogy of ‘running life’s tape again.’" Let us examine the first quote, which we will label as GS1 (GS stands for "Gould Statement"):

I believe that the reconstructed Burgess fauna, interpreted by the theme of replaying life's tape, offers powerful support for this different view of life: any replay of the tape would lead evolution down a pathway radically different from the road actually taken. But the consequent differences in outcome do not imply that evolution is senseless, and without meaningful pattern; the divergent route of the replay would be just as interpretable, just as explainable after the fact, as the actual road. But the diversity of possible itineraries does demonstrate that eventual results cannot be predicted at the start, and none would ever occur a second time in the same way, because any pathway proceeds through thousands of improbable stages. Alter any early event, ever so slightly and without apparent importance at the time, and evolution cascades into a radically different channel. (p. 51).

GS1 does lend support for Claim1 in the following way. 1) It defines the analogy of "running life’s tape again", here in the statement "replaying life’s tape" (which is functionally equivalent). 2) This analogy does indeed state "eventual results cannot be predicted at the start", thus establishing a link in the analogy to unpredictability. 3) The quote concludes "evolution cascades into a radically different channel" showing that Gould is indeed speaking of evolution in this quote. Even if we appeal to ambiguity in the term "Darwinism" we know that Darwinism deals with evolution. In fact, if Darwinism is a subset of evolution (as it is since there is evolution that is not Darwinian in theory), and if all evolution is unpredictable, then Darwinism would likewise be unpredictable, according to GS1. These three facts point toward Claim1 (Gould illustrates T by analogy of "running life’s tape again") being true.

The author comments on GS1 immediately after quoting it:

Naturally, Gould remained a Darwinist despite demonstrating the problems with Darwinism (and as an interesting side note, his examination of the philosophy of Walcott—discoverer of the Burgess Shale, who tried to shoehorn everything into the prevailing evolutionary paradigm—is relevant in looking at Gould too). But notice the framework here: evolution can be explained "after the fact" but "cannot be predicted at the start." This is illustrated further by Gould:

In terms of the thesis, the first part of the paragraph is indeed extraneous. It does, however, provide extra information in an admitted "side note" that some readers may find interesting. Since it is a side note, one should not expect it to deal with the main thesis. The paragraph does, however, conclude by the author commenting on how GS1 fits T, which as we have demonstrated above, it does do (utilizing Claim1). The author tells us there will be further evidence in GS2, which immediately follows:

I challenge any paleontologist to argue that he could have gone back to the Burgess seas and, without the benefit of hindsight, picked out Naraoia, Canadaspis, Aysheaia, and Sanctacaris for success, while identifying Marrella, Odaraia, Sidneyia, and Leanchoilia as ripe for the grim reaper. Wind back the tape of life, and let it play again. Would the replay ever yield anything like the history that we know? (p. 188)

It is immediately apparent that GS2 is once again dealing with "life’s tape." Further, as GS2 is in the form of a challenge, it indicates that Gould is strenuously stating that it is impossible to determine which species would be successful and which would not be. This only makes sense if Gould is talking about unpredictability again. The final rhetorical question demands an obvious "no" response. Thus, GS2 also provides support for Claim1 for the same reasons that GS1 does.

The author continues with his commentary on GS2:

Indeed, such a task is virtually impossible. So pervasive is this unpredictability that Gould rightly asks how it is possible for us to predict an alternate evolutionary sequence when we cannot even see how the sequence that did (supposedly) occur happened:

This paragraph serves as a transitional paragraph between two quotes. This paragraph is again extraneous in reference to GS2; it simply repeats the conclusions of the quotes already provided. However, it also preps us for the next quote, GS3:

After all, we cannot even make predictions when we know the line of descent: we cannot see the mayfly in Aysheaia, or the black widow spider in Sanctacaris. How can we specify the world that different decimations would have produced? (p. 292).


This quote is not speaking of "replaying the tape" specifically, although it is inferred by the fact that the concluding sentence asks us to consider "different decimations." Since "replaying the tape" is the analogy used to describe considering "different decimation", this is equivalent. Further, GS3 states we cannot make predictions "when we know the line of descent." Once again, GS3 provides support for Claim1.

So, to sum up, we have the following so far:

T = Darwinism is not predictive.
Claim1 = Gould illustrates T by analogy of "running life’s tape again."
Claim1 is supported by GS1, GS2, and GS3.

The author then transitions from providing evidence for Claim1 to providing other claims:

Now lest we be charged with twisting Gould’s words, it is important to note that Gould is specifically addressing his argument to catastrophes, and not to "normal" evolution. (It should also be noted, however, that this firm of a distinction is not clearly stated in Wonderful Life, although it is clearly assumed and you can spot it when you know it’s there; the clearer statements that Gould is not speaking universally of evolution here are actually found in other works Gould later penned.) Thus, Gould does seek to avoid some of the charge of circular reasoning that is inherent in the tautology problem—in fact, Gould does address this specifically, although only tangentially:

From the above, let us flesh out the claims:

Claim2 = "Gould is specifically addressing catastrophes, not normal evolution."
Claim3 = "Gould did not clearly state Claim2 in this writing."
Claim4 = "Gould does clearly state Claim2 in other writings."
Claim5 = "Claim2 can be used tangentially to avoid the tautology problem."

Claim2 is not argued for directly at this point, although if one understands Gould’s use of the term "decimation" it is obviously true from GS3. Claim2 will be supported later, however; GS6 will provide all the necessary evidence (see below).

Claim3 is a negative claim and, as such, cannot be proven. (That is, in order to prove it, one would have to look through the entirety of Wonderful Life to see that Claim2 is not in it.) However, Claim3 can be falsified by any counter quotes to the contrary, and thus the absence of counter quotes leads credence to the claim (although, naturally, it cannot be proven in that manner).

Claim4 is not argued for by the author, and thus we do have a genuine unsubstantiated claim here. This claim is, however, trivial inasmuch as it has no bearing on T and, if false, impugns Gould rather than the author.

Claim5 references the next Gould Statement, GS4. To see if Claim5 is unsubstantiated, we turn our attention to GS4:

Arguments that propose adaptive superiority as the basis for survival risk the classic error of circular reasoning. Survival is the phenomenon to be explained, not the proof, ipso facto, that those who survived were "better adapted" than those who died. This issue has been kicking around the courtyards of Darwinian theory for more than a century. It even has a name--the "tautology argument." Critics claim that our motto "survival of the fittest" is a meaningless tautology because fitness is defined by survival, and the definition of natural selection reduces to an empty "survival of those who survive."

Creationists have even been known to trot out this argument as a supposed disproof of evolution (Bethell, 1976; see my response in Gould, 1977)--as if more than a century of data could come crashing down through a schoolboy error in syllogistic logic. In fact, the supposed problem has an easy resolution, one that Darwin himself recognized and presented. Fitness--in this context, superior adaptation--cannot be defined after the fact by survival, but must be predictable before the challenge by an analysis of form, physiology, or behavior. (p. 236).


In GS4, we see that Gould does define for us what the "tautology argument" is and how it is used by creationists. Gould concludes that fitness must be predictable rather than defined after the fact in order to avoid the circular charge. Hence we see that if Claim2 is true (that is, if Gould is not speaking of evolution in totality, but catastrophe specifically), then Claim5 is also true: "Claim2 can be used tangentially to avoid the tautology problem." This is so because if Darwinism "normally" is predictive, then the tautology problem is only a problem at the time of catastrophe. This is considered a "tangential" claim because Gould immediately contradicts the basis for this claim in GS5, as the author points out:

Ironically, just a paragraph later, Gould refutes this very claim of "easy resolution":

In short, while the author demonstrates that Claim2 can be used to neutralize the tautology problem, he claims here that Gould contradicts himself. Thus, Claim6 = "Gould’s neutralizing of the ‘tautology problem’ in GS4 is contradicted by GS5."

GS5 is:

But if we face the Burgess fauna honestly, we must admit that we have no evidence whatsoever--not a shred--that losers in the great decimation were systematically inferior in adaptive design to those who survived. Anyone can invent a plausible story after the fact. For example, Anomalocaris, though the largest of Cambrian predators, did not come up a winner. So I could argue that its unique nutcracker jaw, incapable of closing entirely, and probably working by constriction rather than tearing apart of prey, really wasn't as adaptive as a more conventional jaw made of two pieces clamping together. Perhaps. But I must honestly face the counterfactual situation. Suppose that Anomalocaris had lived and flourished. Would I not then have been tempted to say, without any additional evidence, that Anomalocaris had survived because its unique jaw worked so well? If so, then I have no reason to identify Anomalocaris as destined for failure. I only know that this creature died--and so, eventually, do we all. (p. 236-237)

In support of this as a contradiction, the author took pains to spell it out:

In other words, Gould here argues that Natural Selection—or more specifically "Survival of the Fittest" is not a tautology because it is predictive; yet it is impossible to predict who will survive. In short, the way I see the argument shaping up is as follows:

Opponents to Darwinism say X neutralizes Natural Selection
Gould says that X does not neutralize Natural Selection because of Y.
Gould then says that Y is not true.

Frankly, I can’t see why Y is relevant then.


The logic, which we will label as LA1 (for Logical Argument 1) above does demonstrate Claim6.

Thus far, we have the following:

T = Darwinism is not predictive.
Claim1 = Gould illustrates T by analogy of "running life’s tape again."
Claim1 is supported by GS1, GS2, and GS3.

Claim2 = Gould is specifically addressing catastrophes, not normal evolution.
Claim2 is supported by GS3 (if you know Gould’s term) and by GS6 (which we will show next).

Claim3 = Gould did not clearly state Claim2 in this writing.
This is a universal negative and impossible to prove.

Claim4 = Gould does clearly state Claim2 in other writings.
This claim was not demonstrated, but is trivial.

Claim5 = Claim2 can be used tangentially to avoid the tautology problem
This claim was demonstrated by GS4

Claim6 = Gould’s neutralizing of the ‘tautology problem’ in GS4 is contradicted by GS5.
This claim was demonstrated by GS5 and the logical argument LA1.

The author then extrapolates on the error demonstrated in Claim6:

To be as charitable as possible, perhaps we can argue that Gould is saying Natural Selection is true for most of the time, just not when it really matters—at the time of mass extinction (which Gould labels as "decimation"). This also does fit with some of Gould’s other statements, wherein he specifically says that Natural Selection does not apply during these mass extinctions:

In other words, the author makes an attempt here to be as charitable as possible to Gould, knowing that most people try to avoid contradictions and do not have them in their thought intentionally. Thus, he proposes an Alternate Explanation (AE) for GS5, namely: AE1 = "Gould agrees Natural Selection occurs most of the time, just not during decimation." AE1 already has sympathetic evidence given Claim2—in fact, we can treat them identically. Both are further solidified by GS6:

Groups may prevail or die for reasons that bear no relationship to the Darwinian basis of success in normal times. Even if fishes hone their adaptations to peaks of aquatic perfection, they will all die if the ponds dry up. But grubby old Buster the Lungfish, former laughingstock of the piscine priesthood, may pull through--and not because a bunion on his great-grandfather's fin warned his ancestors about an impending comet. Buster and his kin may prevail because a feature evolved long ago for a different use has fortuitously permitted survival during a sudden and unpredictable change in rules. And if we are Buster's legacy, and the result of a thousand other similarly happy accidents, how can we possibly view our mentality as inevitable, or even probable? (p. 48)


Here, we clearly see that GS6 supports Claim2/AE1 for Gould specifically states that he is speaking of times that are in juxtaposition to "normal times."

The author points out:

In fact, this evolution of traits that can be fortuitously used during a catastrophe is key to Gould’s theory. Later, he calls this the "different-rules model" of catastrophic evolution, saying:

Here, we have Claim7 = "Evolution of traits that can be fortuitously used during a catastrophe is key to Gould’s theory." Claim7 is supported by GS6 and GS7, which is immediately quoted:

The different-rules model therefore fractures the causal continuity that Darwin envisaged between reasons for success within local populations and the causes of survival and proliferation through long stretches of geological time. Hence, this model strongly promotes the role of contingency, viewed primarily as unpredictability, in evolution. If long-term success depends upon incidental aspects of features evolved for different reasons, then how could we possibly know, if we rewound life's tape to a distant past, which groups were destined for success? Their performance and evolution during our observation would not be relevant. We might base some guesses on incidental features that usually imply survival through a mass extinction, but how could we do so with any confidence? In an important sense, these crucial features don't even exist until the different rules of mass extinctions make their incidental effects important--for extreme stress may be needed to "key up" these features, and animals may never experience such conditions during normal times. And how can we know, in our rich and multifarious world, what the next episode of mass extinction, somewhere down the road, will require? Unpredictability must rule if geological longevity depends upon lucky side consequences of features evolved for other reasons. (p. 310-311)


Here, the fact that Darwinism doesn’t work during catastrophe shows that Gould is specifically isolating his argument to times of catastrophe and not to times that are normative. Proof of Claim7 could not be clearer. As a result, the author concludes:

It is important to note that, again to be as charitable as possible, Gould is arguing that Darwinism works on "normal" times, but during catastrophe, "the causal continuity that Darwin envisioned" is fractured. Indeed, Gould’s argument is that it is because Darwinism doesn’t work when it comes to catastrophe that the unpredictability of evolution comes into play. If Darwinism was the only force at work in evolution, then it would be possible to simply look at the Burgess organisms and determine which one is better suited to survival.

From this, we can include some more claims:

Claim8 = Evolution is unpredictable because Darwinism doesn’t work during catastrophe.

Claim9 = Darwinism is not the only force at work in evolution.

Claim9 is found by using an implied logical argument, LA2:

. If Darwinism is the only force at work in evolution then we can predict the survival of organisms.

. We cannot predict the survival or organisms.

.: Therefore, Darwinism is not the only force at work in evolution.

(Naturally, we can also say that the first premise is wrong in that Darwinism is not predictive...but that merely serves to prove the thesis right off the bat.)

So we see the following:

T = Darwinism is not predictive.
Claim1 = Gould illustrates T by analogy of "running life’s tape again."
Claim1 is supported by GS1, GS2, and GS3.

Claim2 = Gould is specifically addressing catastrophes, not normal evolution.
AE1 = Gould agrees Natural Selection occurs most of the time, just not during decimation.

Claim2/AE1 is supported by GS3 (if you know Gould’s term) and by GS6 & GS7

Claim3 = Gould did not clearly state Claim2 in this writing.
This is a universal negative and impossible to prove.

Claim4 = Gould does clearly state Claim2 in other writings.
This claim was not demonstrated.

Claim5 = Claim2 can be used tangentially to avoid the tautology problem
This claim was demonstrated by GS4

Claim6 = Gould’s neutralizing of the ‘tautology problem’ in GS4 is contradicted by GS5.
This claim was demonstrated by GS5 and the logical argument LA1.

Claim7 = Evolution of traits that can be fortuitously used during a catastrophe is key to Gould’s theory.
This claim was demonstrated by GS6 and GS7.

Claim8 = Evolution is unpredictable because Darwinism doesn’t work during catastrophe.
This claim is demonstrated by GS7

Claim9 = Darwinism is not the only force at work in evolution.
This claim is demonstrated by GS7 and LA2.

At this point in the post, the author shifts his focus from exposition of Gould’s philosophy to a critique of it:

There are several glaring problems if we accept Gould’s theory, though. First, the unpredictability of Darwinism means that we do not have any scientific way to examine evolution. Evolution is simply narrative, which does not fit into the strict roles of scientific method. (Gould argues that we should not heed such rules at this point, but I find this to be nothing more than a case of special pleading that he would never allow a theist.) The problem is even summed up by Gould:

Here we have the following claims:

Claim10: The unpredictability of Darwinism means we have no scientific way to examine evolution.

Claim11: Gould argues we do not need to be concerned with the scientific method at this point.

Now it is possible given the context that the author should have used the term "evolution" in Claim10 instead of "Darwinism." If so, the author did engage in equivocation at this point. However, it should be noted that if there is any equivocation, the origin stems from the various Gould quotes first, which treat "Darwinism" and "evolution" as interchangeable. Likewise, if we keep the original claim that unpredictability is inherent in Darwinism specifically and not in evolution generally, Claim10 is supported by GS2 and GS3, as well as by the contradiction demonstrated in Claim6 above (wherein it was demonstrated that trying to separate Darwinism as the "normal" evolutionary mode from what occurs during catastrophe is contradicted by GS5).

As for the evidence of Claim10, we see it is supported by GS8:

Historical explanations are distinct from conventional experimental results in many ways. The issue of verification by repetition does not arise because we are trying to account for uniqueness of detail that cannot, both by laws of probability and time's arrow of irreversibility, occur together again. We do not attempt to interpret the complex events of narrative by reducing them to simple consequences of natural law; historical events do not, of course, violate any general principles of matter and motion, but their occurrence lies in a realm of contingent detail. (The law of gravity tells us how an apple falls, but not why that apple fell at that moment, and why Newton happened to be sitting there, ripe for inspiration.) And the issue of prediction, a central ingredient in the stereotype, does not enter into a historical narrative. We can explain an event after it occurs, but contingency precludes its repetition, even from an identical starting point. (p. 278)


GS8 also supports Claim11 by demonstrating how historical explanations are different from regular science, and that they are not rejected (by Gould) despite this.

Beyond the Gould statements, the author also gives us detailed reasons backing up Claim10 specifically. Claim11 is mostly ignored as being fairly trivial at this point, although this is a subjective call that could be wrong. On Claim10, the author writes:

In short, if we accept Gould’s reasoning, we have literally broken the back of Darwinism. Darwinism cannot explain which organisms will ultimately survive when it matters the most, and as a result is limited in scope to only times between the great extinctions. While this accounts for a great deal of time, if we accept the geological time scale, it still does not account for why any specific species survived the Permian extinction, or even the end of the Cretaceous period when the dinosaurs were killed off. Gould’s argument is that mammals survived not due to their being better adapted, but due purely to pure luck, and as such we could not look at a mammal in situ with a dinosaur and determine which one would survive and which one would die. Darwinism had nothing to do with survival at this point; pure chance was all that was involved. Furthermore, our reconstruction of the events can only be done via unscientific just-so stories.

In support of Claim10, we see:

Claim12 = "Darwinism cannot explain which animals actually survive an extinction event."

This is supported by the fact that we cannot predict which animals will survive (GS2 and GS3); something other than Darwinism is at work here (Claim9, supported by GS7 and LA2); and the fact that this is survival of the lucky rather than survival of the fittest (GS7).

We can now propose LA3.

. Science must be either predictive or explanatory
. Darwinism is not predictive (Claim1)
. Darwinism is not explanatory (Claim12)
.: Darwinism is not scientific

LA3 fully demonstrates Claim10.

The author then continues on to what he considers the more important event (given the fact that the above can allow Darwinism in instances other than during catastrophe and only runs into the logical problems fully during catastrophic events):

The second, more important problem, is that Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection doesn’t work during the space between mass extinctions either. Remember that the different-rules model Gould proposes is predicated on organisms gaining traits that serve absolutely no survival advantage while they get them, and which only later serve a purpose when a catastrophe hits. The heart of this problem is summed up in the previously quoted passage: "In an important sense, these crucial features don't even exist until the different rules of mass extinctions make their incidental effects important--for extreme stress may be needed to 'key up' these features, and animals may never experience such conditions during normal times."

The new claim, Claim13, is "Natural Selection doesn’t work between mass extinctions." This is immediately supported by the author’s quote of GS7. The traits that allow survivability through an extinction event give no survivability advantage during regular evolutionary times. Thus, there is no survivability advantage given to the organism under Natural Selection, which is immediately argued by the author:

In other words, animals must gain features that serve no purpose (in survivability terms), which (because science divorces itself from the realm of teleology) cannot have been introduced intentionally, and which then are not weeded out through normal evolution.

The author then concludes with the idea that we ought not expect these random variations to occur in organisms:

But the fact of the matter is that after a short time, a species reaches stasis when it comes to variety.

Claim14 = "Species reach stasis after a short time."

Claim14 is demonstrated by an appeal to Mayr (MS1):

With drastic selection taking place in every generation, it is legitimate to ask why evolution is normally so slow. The major reason is that owing to the hundreds or thousands of generations that have undergone preceding selection, a natural population will be close to the optimal genotype. The selection to which such a population has been exposed is normalizing or stabilizing selection. This selection eliminates all of those individuals of a population who deviate from the optimal phenotype. Such culling drastically reduces the variance in every generation. And unless there has been a major change in the environment, the optimal phenotype is most likely that of the immediately preceding generations. All the mutations of which this genotype is capable and that could lead to an improvement of this standard phenotype have already been incorporated in previous generations. Other mutations are apt to lead to a deterioration and these will be eliminated by normalizing selection. (What Evolution Is, 2001. New York: Basic Books. p. 135, italics his).

The author then demonstrates the tension for us:

Now Mayr was, of course, a gradualist while Gould was a catastrophist. Even so, this illustrates the problem for us. Either organisms evolve slowly and not too far away from the basic phenotype, or else organisms evolve rapidly so that when a random catastrophe occurs there will be a chance for some of the organisms to survive. This tension is part of the reason Dawkins (another gradualist) so despised Gould. When we look at organisms today, they appear to be very similar to their phenotypes—suggesting the slow evolution as put forth by Mayr; but this kind of evolution is destroyed by catastrophes, where it breaks down into oblivion as demonstrated by Gould. Clearly, the two positions cannot both be correct; and equally as clearly, they both fail at crucial points.

This paragraph clearly flows from the preceding texts. Gould’s position requires enough variety away from the main phenotype as to ensure a sufficient difference to allow survival through an extinction event, but Mayr states that such variety will not occur due to phenotype stasis. Gould and Mayr are at odds here, bringing us to the author’s ultimate conclusion:

Most evolutionists today argue amongst themselves as to which view is right: gradualism or catastrophism. Neither side seems to grasp that there is a third alternative available: neither side is right.

This is a simple illustration of the false dichotomy problem.

So, to wrap up our examination, we see the following:

T = Darwinism is not predictive.
Claim1 = Gould illustrates T by analogy of "running life’s tape again."
Claim1 is supported by GS1, GS2, and GS3.

Claim2 = Gould is specifically addressing catastrophes, not normal evolution.
AE1 = Gould agrees Natural Selection occurs most of the time, just not during decimation.

Claim2/AE1 is supported by GS3 (if you know Gould’s term) and by GS6 & GS7

Claim3 = Gould did not clearly state Claim2 in this writing.
This is a universal negative and impossible to prove.

Claim4 = Gould does clearly state Claim2 in other writings.
This claim was not demonstrated.

Claim5 = Claim2 can be used tangentially to avoid the tautology problem
This claim was demonstrated by GS4

Claim6 = Gould’s neutralizing of the ‘tautology problem’ in GS4 is contradicted by GS5.
This claim was demonstrated by GS5 and the logical argument LA1.

Claim7 = Evolution of traits that can be fortuitously used during a catastrophe is key to Gould’s theory.
This claim was demonstrated by GS6 and GS7.

Claim8 = Evolution is unpredictable because Darwinism doesn’t work during catastrophe.
This claim is demonstrated by GS7

Claim9 = Darwinism is not the only force at work in evolution.
This claim is demonstrated by GS7 and LA2.

Claim10: The unpredictability of Darwinism means we have no scientific way to examine evolution.
This claim is demonstrated by GS8 as well as LA3 and Claim12 below.

Claim11: Gould argues we do not need to be concerned with the scientific method at this point.
This claim is demonstrated by GS8.

Claim12 = Darwinism cannot explain which animals actually survive an extinction event.
This claim is demonstrated by GS2, GS3, GS7, and Claim9

Claim13 = Natural Selection doesn’t work between mass extinctions.
This claim is demonstrated by GS7.

Claim14 = Species reach stasis after a short time.
This claim is demonstrated by MS1.

Of these, we can see that T is supported by Claim1, Claim7, Claim8, Claim9, Claim10, Claim12, and Claim13. All of these claims are supported by other evidence. In fact, the only unsupported claims are trivial: Claim3 and Claim4. As such, whether we agree or disagree with the author, he has firmly established his case both in logic and in the writings of Gould.

32 comments:

  1. :::YAWN!!!:::

    Pike, get a life, please!

    so so so sad....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Peter, you are continuing to confuse the predictability of specific outcomes of a system with the predictions that arise from theories about how the system itself works.

    If I write a program to generate colorful JPEGs based on renderings of the Mandelbrot Set, I can equip it so that the image updates, say, every minute or so, based on the input from a random number generator. Now, because I am using a random number generator (setting aside issues with pseudo-RNGs on computing platforms for the moment), If I start my program, then leave it overnight and come back the next morning, I cannot predict the specific image I will see on the screen when I return.

    Because the evolution of the fractal image is dependent on random changes to the input variables, every time I "play the tape", I will get a different tape. It's *completely* unpredictable in that sense.

    However, if I ask a clever friend to analyze the images output by my program, and formulate a theory as to what the software is doing, and how it achieves what it achieves, he's not at all stumped by the "unpredictability" of the evolving images. Even if I give him no clues about my basing the images on the Mandelbrot Set or any mathematical productions, he should be able to formulate some high quality theories, complete with predictions, about my software.

    Because, while the exact "tape" is different every time, pixel-for-pixel, all the images generated by my program are governed by the constraints of my code. In that sense, *every* image produced is predictable, and my friend can make predictions that test his theories about the behavior and structure of my software.

    For example, once my friend seizes upon the idea that my program is rendering according to a mathematical formula and specifically is rendering the Mandelbrot Set, he will be able to make very strong predictions about *any* image that is produced by my program, despite its dependency on the random number generator for mutating Z inputs.

    My friend will predict that all the images will be graphically consistent with plotting the output of the locus of some points, C, for which the series Zn+1 = Zn * Zn + C, Z0=(0,0) is bounded by a circle with a radius of two, centered on the origin. We can vary the plotting constraints for X and Y randomly, producing an endless series of different images ("different tapes"), but it will be solidly, boringly predictable that whatever image you look at, it will reflect the fractal features of the Mandelbrot Set.

    Just to make the isomorphism clear, the theory of evolution is analogous to my friend's investigation into the working of my software which produces beautiful fractal images. When my program is set on "mutate", it's *impossible* for him to predict which images will be generated, even if the parameters for the next image are based on the current image, because of the randomized input. So, to, with evolution, the actual development paths are largely dependent on chance, and so if you did it all over again, you'd get a different result, just like you'd get a different sequence of fractal images from the same starting point in my image generator every time you ran it.

    The theory of evolution, then, looks at the underlying dynamics of the system that do have predictable features and attributes. For instance, evolution predicts that development of species happens in a smooth, gradual fashion, according to the constraints of heritable changes in offspring. We can't say what new species specifically will evolve from here forward a million years, but evolution does predict that those new species will get there via incremental genetic variations over many iterations and long periods of time (or at least a large number of generations).

    This is what I was trying to get at in your previous post regarding a card shuffling machine. We press "shuffle", and we get a (somewhat) random order for the cards as a result. But the unpredictability of the order of the deck does *not* -- REPEAT -- mean that the mechanism itself, the shuffling mechanism is an inscrutable knot of randomness itself.

    At the very lowest levels, our physical world is not deterministic. "Replaying the tape" at the quantum level can and will produce different results from the same initial conditions. Does that mean that the whole of nature is then impervious to scientific scrutiny? Not. The "tape" is separate from the system that produce the tape, even and especially when that system relies on stochastic processes to proceed.

    We can't predict the *exact* sequence of heads and tails for the flipping of a fair coin, but we *can* predict, with increasing accuracy as the number of flips increases, the relative tallies of heads vs. tails.

    Your arguments above appear to completely miss this crucial distinction, that the system can and does have predictable features and atttributes that we can measure and model empirical even though the "future tree of life" cannot be accurately predicted. That's a manifestation of stochastic processes at work in complex systems.

    You are apparently thinking that if evolution can't "predict the tape", or somehow show that the tape would or should be the same if we reran history again from the same starting conditions, that evolution can't be evaluated scientifically. That's an egregious misunderstand, and a conflation of the system's dynamics and the output of the system itself.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous said:
    :::YAWN!!!:::

    Anonymous, get a life, please!

    so so so sad....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous said:
    ---
    Pike, get a life, please!
    ---

    This from someone who yawns all the time....

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Peter, you are continuing to confuse the predictability of specific outcomes of a system with the predictions that arise from theories about how the system itself works.
    ---

    On the contrary, you have still yet to grasp the argument being presented here. Case in point being that you think Darwinism (which you require to adhere to strict gradualism) determines which species are alive today, when Gould specifically says otherwise. You think that the process of Darwinism determines the winners and losers of an extinction event. This is why you say:
    ---
    The theory of evolution, then, looks at the underlying dynamics of the system that do have predictable features and attributes. For instance, evolution predicts that development of species happens in a smooth, gradual fashion, according to the constraints of heritable changes in offspring. We can't say what new species specifically will evolve from here forward a million years, but evolution does predict that those new species will get there via incremental genetic variations over many iterations and long periods of time (or at least a large number of generations).
    ---

    It doesn't matter that we cannot determine what kind of variable species arise. It doesn't matter that we don't know what kind of mutations will occur. This is not the unpredictability that is being referred to in the argument.

    No, the unpredictability that is being referred to is the fact that you cannot predict, on Darwinian methods, which group will survive an extinction event. Why? Because Darwinism isn't the determining factor there. It doesn't matter what kind of evolution has occured beforehand. Surviving a catastrophe has nothing to do with Darwinism; and that is the point that has been repeatedly demonstrated above.

    This is why your card shuffling fails too. You are arguing that the order of the cards depends on the way they were shuffled; but I am pointing out that the order of the cards shows evidence that is independent of the shuffling machine. To put it back into the Darwinist argument, you are saying that all evolution is gradualistic Darwinism. I am showing that Darwinism cannot account for the fossil record, especially at times of extinction, and therefore there must be another process involved no matter what. This isn't that difficult to see, seeing as how I spelled it out clearly in Claim9 above.

    Be that as it may, if Darwinism really was Survival of the Fittest then it would be impossible for a replay of life's tape to be different. The very fact that there would be randomness here is proof that Survival of the Fittest is not the sole (and I would argue, even accepting all the naturalistic presuppositions, it's not even the main) force involved in evolution.

    And we can use your fractal argument to demonstrate this too. The fractals that are produced are done in a random state...but what makes it random? There is a random seed generator the computer uses (it's not really a random process at all). The different seed number that starts the process is what accounts for the differences in the graphics. If you had the same seed, you would have the same graphic. Thus, the determiner of what graphics you get is ultimately the seed following the equations. The equations don't change, only the seed does. If you control the seed, you control the graphic.

    If the equation used to create the graphic is analogous to "Darwinism" then you can see that Darwinism is not where the variation comes in. Darwinism takes the information that comes in and must produce the identical result given the same starting criteria. Only if the criteria is different will the result be different. The important distinction, therefore, is in the "random" seed generator, not in the Darwinian process.

    The randomness, therefore, is not within Darwinism. The overwhelming evidence, especially during times of catastrophe, is that the ruling principle is Survival of the Lucky. Darwinism has nothing to do with why the dinosaurs died out and mammals lived; according to naturalism, it's "pure chance" and nothing more.

    That is the point the Gould is making, and the point you keep missing. You cannot describe why we are here today by saying, "We are a result of Darwinism." The fossil record says otherwise. We are here as a result of fluke fluctuations that killed off the fittest of species in many times.

    And this isn't even getting into the point that the entire concept of "rerunning life's tape" is nothing but narrative anyway. You can't actually do this experiment. It's not science, it's a say-so story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Peter,

    Why is a huge asteroid crashing into the earth and turning the sky dark for months any different than tropical sunshine, evolution-wise? It's just a different environment. Evolutionary theory doesn't care what the particular environment is at any given time. It may be an environment in violent upheaval and rapid change, or it may be a stable, tranquil setting for millenia.

    Doesn't matter. The environmental context is what it is. Darwin's ideas aren't invalidated (relative) environmental stasis or catastrophic upheaval. As Gould points out, a catastrophe that evaporates most of the water suddenly makes the humble lungfish much more well-situated for survival than the sleekest shark. That's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. Bummer for the shark in that circumstance.

    But natural selection just keeps on keepin' on, asteroid impact or no. The survival factors change, but the challenge of survival and genetic propagation remains. "Survival of the Lucky" is pure Darwinism -- Gould is a committed Darwinist, remember. How do you suppose Darwin suggests that the "fittest" are actually found to be "fittest", Peter? Chance, according to Darwin.

    It's ironic the objection you are raising here, for it is Darwin's embracing of chance, to the exclusion of direct teleological influence in explaining the development of biological life that has historically had creationists fulminating at him. Environments change over time. Sometimes slowly and gradually. Other times quickly and violently. Doesn't matter to Charles, it's just a different environment for the extant populations to compete for survival and propagation in.

    Darwin didn't have the benefit of our modern microscopic technology, and what he simply supposed at a high level we now understand better: randomness *is* a core factor in the mutation process. Proven in the lab -- mutations, unpredictable mutations -- happen whether you want them to or not. It's one of the (but not the only) pistons in the engine of creation for biological life.

    All of which has you still completely missing the way that evolution harnesses stochastic processes on several levels. The dinosaurs who were wiped out by the Permian-Triassic extinction event were no more "unlucky" than the trilobites many millions of years earlier who did *not* develop eyesight, and were driven to oblivion by their sighted cousins. That's the way the evolutionary ball bounces, whether its an asteroid the size of Georgia hitting the earth, or a chance mutation happening that starts a population on the way to light sensitive parts of the body, and eventually toward vision.

    There's considerable debate within evolutionary circles just how *much* effect catastrophic events had in terms of frequency and scope in shaping the development of the species, but this is a debate over just that: rates of change and magnitude of disruptive environmental events; the underlying processes of genetic variation, heritability, and the filtering process of natural selection remain throughout, according to Gould, Mayr, and the rest.

    -Touchstone

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  6. Touchstone, can you please show how the theory of evolution determines whether descendants are the result of natural selection or random gene drift?

    You seem to touch on a bit of it here: "There's considerable debate within evolutionary circles just how *much* effect catastrophic events had in terms of frequency and scope in shaping the development of the species, but this is a debate over just that: rates of change and magnitude of disruptive environmental events; the underlying processes of genetic variation, heritability, and the filtering process of natural selection remain throughout, according to Gould, Mayr, and the rest"

    but there seems to be some much more concrete objections to it:
    "One of the most important and controversial issues in population genetics is concerned with the relative importance of genetic drift and natural selection in determining evolutionary change. The key question at stake is whether the immense genetic variety which is observable in populations of all species is inconsequential to survival and reproduction (ie. is neutral), in which case drift will be the main determinant, or whether most gene substitutions do affect fitness, in which case natural selection is the main driving force. The arguments over this issue have been intense during the past half- century and are little nearer resolution though some would say that the drift case has become progressively stronger. Drift by its very nature cannot be positively demonstrated. To do this it would be necessary to show that selection has definitely NOT operated, which is impossible. Much indirect evidence has been obtained, however, which purports to favour the drift position. Firstly, and in many ways most persuasively is the molecular and biochemical evidence..." (Harrison, G.A., Tanner, J.M., Pilbeam, D.R. and Baker, P.T. in Human Biology 3rd ed. Oxford University Press "

    If the boundary between selection, mutation and drift cannot be clearly defined, as stated above, then it cannot be conclusively proven, it can only exist as rhetorical explanation.

    Furthermore, as a Christian, how do align with the purported randomness of all of this? If there is no predictive power, then chance, as you say Darwin stated, is responsible for the diversity of life, and one cannot even argue that it is due to some teleological natural laws.

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  7. August,

    Thanks for the comments. I'm rushing to post this before they close the door at the gate here for my plane, so I'll read the quote you provided again on the plane and respond later, but as for randomness and divine direction of the overall process, I see "randomness" as a perfect veil behind which all kind of levers can be pulled and we'd never be able to tell, even if we were looking for.

    "Random" mutation that kicks hominins off into a specific desired direction? To science, that's what it looks like, at any level of observation. But if God is intervening, subtly, when and where he wants (and if, mind you, there's no obviously necessary obligation to intervene at that point), it simply looks like so much more random phenomena, fortuitous and fitting to God's ends though it may be.

    If you're interested, search for a post on my blog called "Squaring the Circle" -- it deals with this subject.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the answer, Touchstone. But is the problem then not that you relegate God to some philosophical secondary cause?

    How do you then deal with ""randomness" as a perfect veil behind which all kind of levers can be pulled and we'd never be able to tell, even if we were looking for"

    and

    "But if God is intervening, subtly, when and where he wants (and if, mind you, there's no obviously necessary obligation to intervene at that point), it simply looks like so much more random phenomena, fortuitous and fitting to God's ends though it may be."

    in the context of the necessity of God. If it appears random and unguided, then on what basis do you explain the need for a God?

    I just wanted to clarify further, in my quote above, where it seems as if there is no structure to the progress of evolution (it can be equally well explained by random drift or natural selection), then you cannot postulate any stable natural law that would have been put in place by God to govern the process. On what basis can you then, given pure randomness, see any role for God in creation?

    Shouldn't there at the very least, for your worldview to be consistent, be a law that governs biological life? It cannot be natural selection as a force, because that is indistinguishable from random mutation and drift in a population.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi August,

    Propping open my Mac here while the mechanics work on the A320 here (!)...

    Thanks for the answer, Touchstone. But is the problem then not that you relegate God to some philosophical secondary cause?

    I don't think so, as I see God as the first cause of all creation. It doesn't get more "unrelegated" than that, does it?

    Assuming this bird gets on its way after all this weekend, I wonder if you would say I've "relegate[d] God to some philosophical secondary cause" if I understand the aerodynamics that keep a 150,000lb plane in the air to be fully automatic in terms of natural laws?

    I don't think you'd have a problem with that. Why then, would you have a problem with natural processes that work "automatically" as a result of God's first order creation in producing species and biological development?

    I understand God to be the sole, sovereign creator of the system that enables an airfoil to keep an Airbus aloft... "automatically". I also understand God to be the sole sovereign creator of the system that produces biological development -- species in all manner of diversity... "automatically".

    I suppose that you are thinking that there must be some "intervention" posited here that interrupts or otherwise supercedes these "automatic" processes, as it is this you would point to as the "event" that shows we *need* God.

    I can understand that impulse; but I'm thinking it's wholly superfluous if one understands that God is the only and sole cause and creator of everything that is, anyway.

    Or, is any "secondary cause" a problem if we understand the "first cause" to the God of the Bible?

    And, for extra credit, why should we style our epistemology here on what's *appealing* psychologically, or addresses a "need"? Things are as they are, right? And our psychological reactions to how things are -- automatic or special creationist -- have zero bearing on how the reality exists. Correct?


    How do you then deal with ""randomness" as a perfect veil behind which all kind of levers can be pulled and we'd never be able to tell, even if we were looking for"

    and

    "But if God is intervening, subtly, when and where he wants (and if, mind you, there's no obviously necessary obligation to intervene at that point), it simply looks like so much more random phenomena, fortuitous and fitting to God's ends though it may be."

    in the context of the necessity of God. If it appears random and unguided, then on what basis do you explain the need for a God?


    Well, in my case, the "need" isn't from some inborn desire to see that God was a "special creationist". I was raised a YEC, and the model of cosmology and development that is borne out by the evidence at hand strikes me as *way* more staggering in terms of elegance and awe than any kind of understanding I entertained as a YEC.

    But the "need" is a moral one, ultimately. We understand we are creatures, born of our mothers, but ultimately part of God's creation. And along with that creation (physical law) comes a moral law, and it is this inborn sense that drives the "need" for the understanding and relationship with God. I can (and have) believe in God as tinkering-YEC-God or God as elegant-creator-of-auto-developing-universe... but unless I understand the moral *need*, I think the "creation mode" distinction is secondary, at best.


    I just wanted to clarify further, in my quote above, where it seems as if there is no structure to the progress of evolution (it can be equally well explained by random drift or natural selection), then you cannot postulate any stable natural law that would have been put in place by God to govern the process. On what basis can you then, given pure randomness, see any role for God in creation?


    I'm saying that we don't have any means of distinguishing, scientifically, between "randomness", and "guided randomness". For example, my son regular accuses a card game on his phone of "cheating" -- not really issuing random cards. Without a look at the source code, or a thorough statistical analysis (something which is fundamentally problematic at the quantum level), I don't really have a way to say "it's random" or, "it's rigged a bit". For all I know, there *could* be some teleology at work that is difficult to demonstrate in the "randomness" of the card stream.

    What this means to me is that God can "mess with the dice" to a very large extent if that's His choice, and we'd be none the wiser, empirically. "Magically", highly improbable "random" events line up in such a way as to eventuate the first living organism, perhaps. Even if you were watching it, then and there, so many millions of years ago, you wouldn't see this as "miraculous" in an *overt* way, as it is being steered behind the veil of (what seem to be purely) stochastic processes.


    So what role does that leave for God in the process? Well, just the most fundamental role - the role of Creator, Designer, Ruler of all of creation. If you tell me that God created the universe and has means of exerting influence in "invisible" ways in nature, I'd just shrug, and say "cool", as I udnerstand God to be active in exerting influence invisibly in the spiritual domain as a matter of course.

    In any case, God retains all credit, ownership and sovereignty over *all* of it, in any flavor of these scenarios. I think that's a pretty significant role, don't you?


    Shouldn't there at the very least, for your worldview to be consistent, be a law that governs biological life? It cannot be natural selection as a force, because that is indistinguishable from random mutation and drift in a population.


    Not sure what you mean by natural selection as a "force" -- it's not a *physical* force. Also not sure what you would see as being sufficient for a law that "governs biological life". I suspect that's just what physics represents here, from the weak nuclear force right on up the scale. God can intervene as He sees fit, but I think one of the profound wonders of God's creation is that it is so well designed, so elegantly structured, that the diversity and richness we see biologically (and in other respects) are simply inevitable, emergent properties of His "first cause" design.

    Thanks for the comments/questions.

    -Touchstone

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  10. Pike is so completely out of his league here, it's painful to watch (but also amusing as ever). What are his science qualifications? Zilch. And the qualifications of his cheerleading team? Certainly not in science. They spend their time trying to attack evolution because it threatens their religious beliefs. That's all. It's pretty funny, but it doesn't deserve to be taken seriously.

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  11. Barry M. (as in Manilow?),

    Pft, that's a subtle ad hominem. It doesn't matter if Pike is a scientist or not. The facthood of any statement doesn't depend on the educational background of the person who stated it. So, instead of fretting needlessly about Pike being a non-scientist by profession, why don't you, for the love of Darwin, attack the "arguments" instead of err, Pike?

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  12. Touchstone, I hope you arrived safely in the end.

    I don't want to hijack this thread completely, so I will try to be brief, and maybe we can continue the discussion at your or my blog. I read your blog post that you suggested, and the post on Collins, thanks.

    Natural selection is described as a driving force in almost all contemporary evolutionary literature, so I don't understand why you would not know what it means. If it is not a "physical" force, then how does it act in the physical world? Is it a metaphysical force then? How does it act on the physical then?

    Regardless, while one may conceptually distinguish between selection and drift as mechanisms, one cannot in reality.

    That leads back to my question, if you state that "God can intervene as He sees fit, but I think one of the profound wonders of God's creation is that it is so well designed, so elegantly structured, that the diversity and richness we see biologically (and in other respects) are simply inevitable, emergent properties of His "first cause" design.", then do you disagree with Newton, for example, who stated that the regularity of nature was a result of God's design? Is that regularity absent from biology? Steinhart (1998) states: "Of course, Hegel is entirely wrong: there's the law of natural selection." The only problem, of course, is that that law is falsified by random drift.

    The other issue I have is still that you assume all of this "automatic" sovereignty of God over creation, but also state that we cannot empirically detect God's influence or effects in creation. However, we see many instances where we should be able to empirically verify God's interaction with creation. The most obvious example is the incarnation, but there are many other examples from Scripture where God directly acts in creation, with physical effects. You maintain that such interaction is either transparent, or does not matter, since God did it all anyway.

    But we read that the power and nature of God can be seen from that which He has made (Rom 1:20). So if you accept that biological diversity is down to accidental mutation, it means one of two things. Either you are an open theist, that says that God wound up the clock and let things progress, and therefore God will adapt as creation changes, or you are a scientific atheist and philosophical Christian.

    This gets back to your description of need: "But the "need" is a moral one, ultimately. We understand we are creatures, born of our mothers, but ultimately part of God's creation. And along with that creation (physical law) comes a moral law, and it is this inborn sense that drives the "need" for the understanding and relationship with God."

    So if the need for God is purely moral, why are we instructed to pray for our "daily bread"? Why did Jesus heal people from physical ailments, and instructed His disciples to do the same? Also, you cannot separate morality from the physical, or else it means that you can murder, rape and pillage as long as you think it is morally bad.

    As for this "I'm saying that we don't have any means of distinguishing, scientifically, between "randomness", and "guided randomness".", let me comment how I see it. I read on your blog how you define randomness, but I don't quite agree, and neither do some scientists. Randomness is not synonymous with "unknowable" or "unpredictable". It simply means that not all variables that caused a specific effect are known. We can still make predictions, and if all variables are known then the prediction will be 100% correct, all the time. Agreed?

    So in the case of biology, we know most of the variables. The genomes have been mapped, the environments and selection pressures are known, along with estimates of population sizes, ancestors from the fossil record etc. We can even induce certain mutations in the lab through radiation or other environmental changes. So why is mutation then still described as random? Are there variables that are not known?

    Lastly "Why then, would you have a problem with natural processes that work "automatically" as a result of God's first order creation in producing species and biological development?"

    That gets back to open theism. Can God have guaranteed the incarnation if the natural processes work automatically? Doesn't that mean that God secondarily created a heck of a lot that was "not good" in the form of genetic dead-ends and deleterious mutations? And why, if the original creation was so structured, do you think it is not empirically detectable. As you have an interest in physics, are the laws of physics not proof of that structure?

    That's a whole lot again. Sorry Peter, for hijacking the discussion.

    TStone, post your answer at your blog and we can continue there, unless the Triabloggers think that it is valuable to continue here.

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  13. T-Stone said:
    ---
    Why is a huge asteroid crashing into the earth and turning the sky dark for months any different than tropical sunshine, evolution-wise? It's just a different environment.
    ---

    I actually don't think there is much of a difference there; but that's actually my point. Gould argues that evolution during catastrophes is non-Darwinian. You can't look at any species and determine whether it will live or die during catastrophe, because its survival has nothing to do with fitness in the Darwinian sense.

    Now you can disagree if you want. It doesn't matter to me. This post was about what Gould said, not what you think. I have demonstrated my claims in the above. You can show me where my claims are wrong or else you can admit that I actually interpreted Gould correctly.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    The survival factors change, but the challenge of survival and genetic propagation remains. "Survival of the Lucky" is pure Darwinism -- Gould is a committed Darwinist, remember.
    ---

    Of course he was a Darwinist; but you and I both know that he wasn't a "normal" Darwinist at all. Why do you think Dawkins, et al, despised him so much? And if he wasn't deviating from the Darwinian playbook, why did he say:

    ---
    Groups may prevail or die for reasons that bear no relationship to the Darwinian basis of success in normal times.
    ---

    You haven't bothered to interact with anything Gould said above. You are simply trying to redefine everything now, as is typical of your behavior. As I said at the top: "I also apologize since I know now, before I post it, that after it is posted T-Stone will completely ignore it (although he will comment on it anyway), so it won't benefit him either."

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    The dinosaurs who were wiped out by the Permian-Triassic extinction event were no more "unlucky" than the trilobites many millions of years earlier who did *not* develop eyesight, and were driven to oblivion by their sighted cousins.
    ---

    This is really ironic given that I just read David Raup two days ago talking about the double lense of a trilobite eye, and how it corrected for spherical distortion under water. I'll get you the quote tomorrow since the book is at home.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    There's considerable debate within evolutionary circles just how *much* effect catastrophic events had in terms of frequency and scope in shaping the development of the species, but this is a debate over just that: rates of change and magnitude of disruptive environmental events; the underlying processes of genetic variation, heritability, and the filtering process of natural selection remain throughout, according to Gould, Mayr, and the rest.
    ---

    Except you're still left with explaining why Gould is blasted by so many other Darwinists who, amazingly, come to the same conclusions about Gould's writings as I do. Frankly, my interpretation of Gould isn't all that different from theirs; it's just that I accept the logical consequences of it and quote Gould in support of my position, whereas they reject the logical consequences of Gould's ideas and thereby throw Gould under the wagon instead.

    But that's okay. Let the whole world be wrong and T-Stone right.

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  14. August said:
    ---
    Sorry Peter, for hijacking the discussion.
    ---

    I don't consider it a hijacking, so don't worry about it :-)

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  15. One other thing I should note, our "expert" T-Stone said:
    ---
    The dinosaurs who were wiped out by the Permian-Triassic extinction
    ---

    The dinosaurs were killed in the K-T extinction (i.e. Cretaceous-Tertiary), not the Permian-Triassic extinction.

    Now if I were Barry, I would say something about how stupid you are and how you'd never be a good scientist, blah blah blah. But insofar as I don't need your inadvertent slip of the keyboard to prove that, I'm not going to do so now.

    I know what you meant. Your conclusions are still wrong. That is all that's relevant now. :-)

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  16. August,

    The plane landed way after midnight, several hours late, but it landed right side up, which is really all I require, so no complaints.

    Good suggestion about the sub-discussion, I will post your comments here on my blog and respond there - you can respond or not there as you like.


    Peter,

    Here's a last analogy I will offer here in hopes that its pedagogical qualities get the basic idea across: having kids.

    It's perfectly unpredictable, barring outside intervention, whether my wife and I will have a boy or a girl (or maybe one of each, or...) in raising a family. I have six kids, including twins, and five of the six are boys. If we were to "rerun the tape", from just the same starting point again, I do not suppose I should expect the same order of children: three boys, a girl, then two boys. I wouldn't even expect to have five boys and a girl, or even six kids, necessarily.

    Applying your foolishness above, here, I should say that because "replaying the tape" produces different and unpredictable results, the biology of human conception and childbirth is impervious to scientific scrutiny and evaluation. The process of having a child *incorporates* chances process -- the choice of boy or girl, for example -- but this is just an integrated *part* of the system, not the system itself. The system itself incorporates chance, but also has structure and causal constraints that can certainly be analyzed, measured and tested.

    If you accept that a couple who sets out to have kids will have a "different tape" if the tape is replayed from the same starting point, and you also understand that there is much to learn, test, observe and model in the surrounding science of human reproductive biology, then you will understand the errors you are committed to in this thread and in your previous ones.

    Evolutionary theory incorporates -- heavily - chance processes, and thus is committed to the necessary implications of that: running the scenario again will produce different results, based on the effects of stochastic processes in place. But just as the outcome of a new child's arrival is not predictable beforehand as to being boy or girl, so many of the "branching points" of evolution are not predictable. Yet, just as there is much to understand around reproductive biology that is causally-linked and testable, evolution has fundamental effects and dynamics that *are* predictable, observable, testable.

    If this example, in addition to the Mandelbrot image generator, cannot demonstrate the fundamental distinctions you have missed here, then I can't think of what else might.

    -Touchstone

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  17. August said:

    "TStone, post your answer at your blog and we can continue there, unless the Triabloggers think that it is valuable to continue here."

    Yes, August, your contributions are valued here at Tblog.

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  18. T-Stone,

    I've already dealt with the issue of unpredictability the first time you brought up the Mendelbrot set. We are not dealing with the probability of random mutations, etc. We are dealing with the fact that species die in ways that violate the principle of Natural Selection as a rule during catastrophe.

    But let's ignore all that for the time being. Let us assume you are correct. If so, then Gould doesn't make any sense at all. Dawkings & co. objections to Gould make even less sense than they did before. In short, assuming your position above causes more problems than it solves.

    Again, you have yet to demonstrate how any single one of my claims in the above post are not supported by the Gould quotes I provided. You have not even bothered to interact with anything Gould has said. You are simply waving your fingers and running after a mirage.

    If my claims are wrong, surely you can demonstrate it. Show how they do not follow from what Gould says. Alternatively, you can offer other quotes from Wonderful Life that provide context I didn't already post which would show that I am misrepresenting Gould. Either way would show I am wrong; you have done neither. You haven't even tried.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Touchstone, it seems as if we can continue here. Please post your answers here.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Concerned Christian8/09/2007 12:44 PM

    Peter Pike wrote:

    “Sadly, since T-Stone is such an apparent dolt that it is impossible for him to complete basic reading comprehension, I must now state the obvious. So I apologize to anyone with an IQ above 82 (this obviously excludes T-Stone) for the following post.”

    I sometimes check out the Triablogue site looking for interesting and helpful information. And there is usually something good to find on the web site. However, I get tired of these useless personal attacks. Why can’t you guys just discuss something intelligently without the personal attacks? You guys know enough logic to know that attacking a person personally as is done here, adds nothing to an argument. Why not stick to arguing your points and let others decide with their intelligence who got it right and who missed it?

    You may disagree with T-Stone, but looking at his website he appears to be an intelligent person. So why attack him personally, why not just attack his ideas and arguments if you believe them to be wrong?

    I would like to be able to come and enjoy the positive benefits of your website without the useless ad hominems and personal attacks.

    Is that asking too much?

    Concerned Christian

    ReplyDelete
  21. CC asked:
    ---
    Why can’t you guys just discuss something intelligently without the personal attacks?
    ---

    I already did.

    First sentence of the first comment:
    ---
    Utter, profound cluessness.
    ---

    Written by T-Stone, of course. The fact is that T-Stone is the one who chose to frame this issue personally, so I have no problem letting him reap the results.

    And I should note that this post above is specifically about T-Stone because he's the only one who didn't grasp the first post.

    CC said:
    ---
    You guys know enough logic to know that attacking a person personally as is done here, adds nothing to an argument.
    ---

    Which is why it wasn't put in there to add to the argument. It was put in there as an explanation for why I was repeating, in its entirety, a post I had just posted, adding in the logic interconnections to the first post. Explanation is not argument, so this isn't a fallacy.

    CC said:
    ---
    You may disagree with T-Stone, but looking at his website he appears to be an intelligent person. So why attack him personally, why not just attack his ideas and arguments if you believe them to be wrong?
    ---

    First, I'm not attacking T-Stone at all. In reality, I'm insulting idiots when I compare T-Stone to them. For that, I apologize.

    By the way, don't forget that T-Stone made himself the issue here. I was perfectly happy with my first post and would have left everything at that had T-Stone not behaved the way he did. The fact is, T-Stone is a fraud. He masquerades as a theist, yet he hasn't run into an atheist argument he doesn't endorse. He says he's a theistic evolutionist, yet he criticizes every single argument from every single other theistic evolutionist.

    In my book, a fraud like him is beneath contempt. After putting up with him for over a year, I have no problem giving back what he so generously bestows upon us all. To appropriately mix metaphors, if he wants to throw mud, he should expect to get hosed.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Peter,

    Again, you have yet to demonstrate how any single one of my claims in the above post are not supported by the Gould quotes I provided. You have not even bothered to interact with anything Gould has said. You are simply waving your fingers and running after a mirage.

    I asked you about this quote from your post:

    First, the unpredictability of Darwinism means that we do not have any scientific way to examine evolution. Evolution is simply narrative, which does not fit into the strict roles of scientific method.

    This doesn't reconcile with Gould's words, either in the quotes you provided, or in the large amount of his other books and articles I've read. You're just talking stupid, here, so far as I can tell -- it doesn't attach to what Gould is saying, even a little bit. Which is what I've been trying to demonstrate with the examples I've given.

    Your posts are rich with profound misunderstanding. You can misunderstand faster than I can possibly counter or even respond to those misunderstandings. So I just interacted with this single sentence, which I don't recognize as being remotely attached to what Gould, or any Mayr or Dawkins or another scientific luminary for that matter, contends about the role of stochastic processes in evolution.

    You simply do not understand what is being advanced by Gould here, Peter. I'm not suggesting that Gould agrees with Dawkins across the board, but I am saying that he understands the incorporation of unpredictable processes into evolutionary theory like Dawkins and others. They disagree on questions that you are not addressing here. What you *think* is the substantive dispute here is not.

    Dawkins advocates, for lack of a better word, "gene-centrism" - the primacy of mutation as the protagonist in evolution. Gould sees genes as less central, with more weight assigned at the organism level, with special emphasis on environmental dynamics -- PunkEek being Gould's favorite example -- playing much more important roles than Dawkins assigns in his "selectionist" view. Exaptations and spandrels are given more emphasis by Gould and Lewontin than they are by Dawkins and Dennett, for example.

    But all that is far afield from what you are adding as you "color commentary" on Gould. Do you suppose, Peter, that had Gould not succumbed to cancer and was still around that he would agree with your comment:

    First, the unpredictability of Darwinism means that we do not have any scientific way to examine evolution. Evolution is simply narrative, which does not fit into the strict roles of scientific method.

    Not even. Not even wrong, as I said before. Just not attached. (And don't get me started on the irony of *you* talking about the strict roles of the scientific method, given your previous posts!)

    Dawkins and Gould are more than just two disputants here; each represents a significant school of thought in the science of evolution. But for all the vitriol between them, personally, and all the continuing arguments that continue after Gould's death, there's agreement between both camps that evolutionary theory *does* incorporate chance processes, *and* has a wealth of features and attributes that are useful for examination under the scientific method.

    Or, put simply, the differences between Gould and Dawkins, even at their most vitriolic points, are miniscule compared to the differences between Gould and Peter Pike's take on things.

    By a long shot.

    So, I remain interested in interacting on that one sentence I raised, but you refuse. I don't see any construal of "Darwinism" or "evolution" that matches up with your statement here. I've asked you to state what you meant specifically by those terms in that sentence. But you refuse to provide any definitions or explanations.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  23. T-Stone said:
    ---
    This doesn't reconcile with Gould's words, either in the quotes you provided, or in the large amount of his other books and articles I've read.
    ---

    Except I demonstrated how I was getting my argument from the quotes. All you've done here is stipulate that I am wrong; you haven't demonstrated it at all. You are asserting without showing, demanding we respect your authority instead of thinking for ourselves. If I am so obviously wrong, then prove it. If I am so obviously wrong, this shouldn't be difficult for you to do.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    You can misunderstand faster than I can possibly counter or even respond to those misunderstandings. So I just interacted with this single sentence, which I don't recognize as being remotely attached to what Gould, or any Mayr or Dawkins or another scientific luminary for that matter, contends about the role of stochastic processes in evolution.
    ---

    And I already demonstrated in the other post how your interaction with just one sentence was misrepresenting my position, because you are interpreting one sentence in isolation of all the others.

    Here's the facts, T-Stone. One of us has provided quotes backing up his claims. These quotes have been entire paragraphs, sometimes more than one paragraph. These provided quotes have plenty of surrounding context to demonstrate what they mean. The other one of us is isolating single sentences and reading them as uncharitably as possible in order to accuse the other person of misrepresentation. It is blatently obvious which one of us is which.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Dawkins advocates, for lack of a better word, "gene-centrism" - the primacy of mutation as the protagonist in evolution. Gould sees genes as less central, with more weight assigned at the organism level, with special emphasis on environmental dynamics -- PunkEek being Gould's favorite example -- playing much more important roles than Dawkins assigns in his "selectionist" view. Exaptations and spandrels are given more emphasis by Gould and Lewontin than they are by Dawkins and Dennett, for example.
    ---

    And THIS has very little to do with the dispute between Gould and Dawkins, et al. Answer this, T-Pebble: How could Gould's concepts of "exaptations and spandrels" having "more emphasis" possibly be used by creationists such that Robert Wright can whine that Gould is an 'accidental creationist'? You are arguing that Gould is a normative evolutionist; yet Dawkins & co. are criticizing him because of how much his views fit with creationist claims. As I said before, if your interpretation of events is actually right then Dawkin's & co. objections to Gould make no sense at all.

    The vitriol between the two camps has little to do with the alternate explanation of evolution and much to do with the fact that creationists can find support for their views in one side of the disagreement, and the anti-theists don't like that.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    But all that is far afield from what you are adding as you "color commentary" on Gould. Do you suppose, Peter, that had Gould not succumbed to cancer and was still around that he would agree with your comment:

    First, the unpredictability of Darwinism means that we do not have any scientific way to examine evolution. Evolution is simply narrative, which does not fit into the strict roles of scientific method.
    ---

    This is a PERFECT example of you distorting and misquoting me to try to make your point, for THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE WHICH YOU DIDN'T BOTHER TO QUOTE HERE says:

    ---
    (Gould argues that we should not heed such rules at this point, but I find this to be nothing more than a case of special pleading that he would never allow a theist.)
    ---

    This answers your objection, T-Stone, and demonstrates you for the quack you are.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Concerned Christian8/09/2007 6:36 PM

    Peter wrote:

    ”Written by T-Stone, of course. The fact is that T-Stone is the one who chose to frame this issue personally, so I have no problem letting him reap the results.”

    So whenever someone says something negative about us we are supposed to respond in like manner? Is that what the Bible teaches us to do (cf., Rom. 12:17-21)?

    ”Which is why it wasn't put in there to add to the argument. It was put in there as an explanation for why I was repeating, in its entirety, a post I had just posted, adding in the logic interconnections to the first post. Explanation is not argument, so this isn't a fallacy.”

    So if a put-down or personal attack is part of an argument it is not OK. And if the put-down is not part of an argument, but is part of an explanation or something other than an argument, then it is OK? Seems you are making this distinction to justify your use of personal attacks.

    ”First, I'm not attacking T-Stone at all. In reality, I'm insulting idiots when I compare T-Stone to them. For that, I apologize.”

    Those are pretty nasty comments. From these comments one could conclude that you hate T-Stone. Do you really think these kinds of statements are helpful for him or you or others reading the exchange? Do you think that the Bible justifies your way of speaking to T-Stone?

    ”By the way, don't forget that T-Stone made himself the issue here. I was perfectly happy with my first post and would have left everything at that had T-Stone not behaved the way he did. The fact is, T-Stone is a fraud. He masquerades as a theist, yet he hasn't run into an atheist argument he doesn't endorse. He says he's a theistic evolutionist, yet he criticizes every single argument from every single other theistic evolutionist.”

    A fraud? He may be mistaken about his theistic evolution and you are entitled to make that claim. But how do you know he is masquerading as a theist? Do you know his heart?

    ”In my book, a fraud like him is beneath contempt. After putting up with him for over a year, I have no problem giving back what he so generously bestows upon us all. To appropriately mix metaphors, if he wants to throw mud, he should expect to get hosed.”

    This is precisely the problem, instead of going by “your book” which allows you to hate and retaliate tit-for-tat with people you don’t like or you feel have abused you (just like the worldly people do to each other).

    Why don’t you try following “the good book” more than “In my book”?

    Concerned Christian

    ReplyDelete
  25. August,

    Just between meetings here for a bit, so will just answer as much as I can here from your last response, and complete it later...


    Natural selection is described as a driving force in almost all contemporary evolutionary literature, so I don't understand why you would not know what it means. If it is not a "physical" force, then how does it act in the physical world? Is it a metaphysical force then? How does it act on the physical then?


    My understanding is that natural selection is a label we assign to the cumulative effects of the environment on the reproductive success (or lack thereof) for living organisms. It's not a discrete force in the "physics sense" like gravity, but simply an aggregation of all the natural influences the environment subjects living things to. It's a *concept* that represents the composite effects of the environment. Those effects, reduced, of course, do eventually entail brute physical forces like gravity and strong or weak nuclear forces. But when I read "driving force" in the literature, I understand it to be a reference to the powerful influence these cumulative effects of the environment have on the genetic evolution of populations.


    Regardless, while one may conceptually distinguish between selection and drift as mechanisms, one cannot in reality.

    That leads back to my question, if you state that "God can intervene as He sees fit, but I think one of the profound wonders of God's creation is that it is so well designed, so elegantly structured, that the diversity and richness we see biologically (and in other respects) are simply inevitable, emergent properties of His "first cause" design.", then do you disagree with Newton, for example, who stated that the regularity of nature was a result of God's design? Is that regularity absent from biology? Steinhart (1998) states: "Of course, Hegel is entirely wrong: there's the law of natural selection." The only problem, of course, is that that law is falsified by random drift.


    Genetic drift itself doesn't account for what we see though, and falls far short in explaining our observations in contrast to a model that allows for the effects of natural selection. Darwin didn't know about genetic drift (he didn't even know about genes), and over the past several decades it has become clear that genetic drift is an important factor in the evolutionary process, along with natural selection. This is one of the reasons "Darwinist" is an anachronism at best, and just misleading as a term, as genetic drift (as well as other factors that have come to light since the days of Darwin) is an integral part of the modern evolutionary model.

    But all of that -- the stochastic qualities of genetic drift, etc. -- do not, in my view, either a) falsify the idea of the universe as God's designed creation, or b) war against the idea of God's creation being an orderly, regular, structured system. What seems utterly unpredictable at the quantum level for a single photon (and *is* utterly unpredictable so far as we can tell), is perfectly reliable at larger scales, in statistical aggregates. If I have a coin I flip a million times, each flip is entirely unpredictable. But in the aggregate, there are very predictable and reliable features -- an orderliness that emerges -- from the ensemble; After a million tries, it's highly probable that the number of "heads" will be very close the number of "tails", compared with the number of tries. Order emerges from the "chaos" at lower levels.

    That's all the time I have just now. More later.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  26. dyed-in-the-wool8/09/2007 9:42 PM

    There is no evidence for evolution that we cannot dismiss.

    ReplyDelete
  27. August,

    Continuing from above....


    The other issue I have is still that you assume all of this "automatic" sovereignty of God over creation, but also state that we cannot empirically detect God's influence or effects in creation. However, we see many instances where we should be able to empirically verify God's interaction with creation. The most obvious example is the incarnation, but there are many other examples from Scripture where God directly acts in creation, with physical effects. You maintain that such interaction is either transparent, or does not matter, since God did it all anyway.


    If you had a bunch of guys in lab coats standing around, trying to be discreet, but watching and monitoring things carefully at the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, I think all the sophisticated instrumentation they could bring to bear in observing the process would simply point to the stupendous violations of "automatic" processes that normally are at work. That is, empirical input would simply defy all "automatic explanations". Moreover, it wouldn't be a matter of "God of the gaps"-style thinking where we may simply lack the imagination to conceive of sufficient second causes. Rather, the empirical review would lead to something much more direct: "this should not happen, according to the natural laws we are familiar with" as opposed to "I just don't see how that could have happened...".

    So I do assume an ordered, designed creation, but that doesn't preclude or prevent supernatural intervention. The incarnation is an XXL-size example, to be sure, but even the humble scope of the water->wine transformation at Cana is an overt intervention, and the more closely you looked at any and all evidence related to it (or the Incarnation, or any number of other miraculous interventions in the "automatic" course of the natural world) the more evidence you would be accumulating *for* a miracle, a phenomenon that simply defies explanation in terms of "automatic" processes in nature. I don't hold that God couldn't design a universe in water turned to wine on its own, and quickly, but that would just be an academic gedankenexperiment; in our world, the world God actually made for us here, that is not how things work, according to our observations and experiences.

    And that's the point, I think. The miraculous transformation of water into wine was significant precisely because of its overt superceding of "automatic" processes. It signals God's sovereignty and continuing plenary control over everything, including all the "automatic" processes. If that's true, then why do I not point to the creation of the HIV virus, or the platypus, or proto-man (I do hold that man as "man" - endowed with a soul/imago dei - is a perfectly miraculous intervention in the "automatic" development of creation) as being analogous to water-into-wine? For a long time, I actually *did* believe that, and was taught that from my earliest days in Sunday School. But processes at work in God's creation, as rendered by insights from physics, biology, paleontology, etc., account for these developments as a matter of "automaticness" -- secondary causes, in other words. All of this, however, with the proviso, as above, that God can exert influence behind the screen of "randomness" in ways that are empirically undetectable. In any case, the assumption, for me, was initially just what you appear to assume -- that the development of species *must* have been a matter of special, supernatural intervention. But over a long time of familiarizing myself with the evidence and observations available about the forensic evidence and the physics and biology that apply, the most convincing conclusion -- by a quite a margin -- is that biological development can be largely, if not completely, accounted for by "automatic" processes. God remains the "first cause" in any case, as you note, but my "assumption" is not the assumption you suggest; initially, it was an assumption, but an assumption in the opposite, YEC direction. Review of the evidence, and interaction with people who study this stuff as experts in that area for a living have convinced me that the YEC assumption wasn't a well-grounded one -- the evidence strongly points the other way.


    But we read that the power and nature of God can be seen from that which He has made (Rom 1:20). So if you accept that biological diversity is down to accidental mutation, it means one of two things. Either you are an open theist, that says that God wound up the clock and let things progress, and therefore God will adapt as creation changes, or you are a scientific atheist and philosophical Christian.


    I don't suppose that God sees "randomness" in the same way we do, at all. I've no trouble with the idea that developments and ends that God sees as inexorable destinations according to His design are viewed as "fundamentally random" by humans, even very clever humans with much more advanced technology and machinery than as could be had several millenia back. So I think your choices are dependent on the idea that what identify as inscrutably random from our empirical vantage point are truly random in the ultimate *transcendent* sense. If you have some reason that makes "God's view" of what we call "random" inscrutable and unpredictable to Him, I'm willing to hear it. As it is, though, I know of no reason to think this is the case. If it's not, then your options the only ones available. What man sees -- correctly from a human standpoint -- as "random" may well *not* be opaque to God. And in fact, it may not only be transparent, but a component of creation's design, an agent of His teleological ends. If so, then God remains completely sovereign and omniscient. Man sees order arise from chaos and stochastic processes, but this is ultimately just a reflection of man's limitations in understanding. Teleology at work, revealed to us supernaturally. But naturally, it all looks perfectly "automatic" under the microscope, so long as one is slapping the label of "random" or "chance" on parts of the system processes.


    This gets back to your description of need: "But the "need" is a moral one, ultimately. We understand we are creatures, born of our mothers, but ultimately part of God's creation. And along with that creation (physical law) comes a moral law, and it is this inborn sense that drives the "need" for the understanding and relationship with God."

    So if the need for God is purely moral, why are we instructed to pray for our "daily bread"? Why did Jesus heal people from physical ailments, and instructed His disciples to do the same? Also, you cannot separate morality from the physical, or else it means that you can murder, rape and pillage as long as you think it is morally bad.


    As above, I affirm that God has all available options for intervention at His disposal, and does use them. That doesn't mean we don't have "automatic" processes that govern the basic operation of the physical universe. But those processes don't preclude intervention. From the witness of Scripture, we understand that God *does* intervene in the affairs of men, at both the group and the individual level, supernaturally. Since that's the case, then not only are we dependent on God's creation as 'first cause' for our very being and existence, but we are liable to His intervention either in providing blessings and sustenance on our behalf, or the witholding of same. That doesn't mean that God must intervene to create food miraculous to "poof" into existence on our table. But it does mean that the good and sustaining things we have are often received through supernatural, if largely invisible, intervention. Again, we have abundant examples of "invisible" intervention by God that has dramatic consequences for God's people. Pharaoh's heart was hardened, an intervention decidedly invisible (especially in contrast to the plagues that attend the story here), yet profound in its impact for the Hebrews. Natural processes are sufficient to explain all manner of phenomena, but ultimately the story reaches the ends God wills, wether its through obvious, stunning miracles, or "behind the scenes" intervention that are not the least bit observable empirically.

    Jesus' miracles, and those of the apostles, then are manifestations, signs of God's sovereignty and control over "automatic" reality. There's nothing I can see in affirming the evidence for evolution as an "automatic" process in realizing the development of species that militates against the idea of Jesus working miracles as signs and wonders for all who were available to observe (or hear about it later). Maybe you can point out why these should be linked, especially in light of the available evidence for evolution, if you suppose there is some constraint that says God could not create the world in such a way as to have the Earth "bring forth" the species through evolution, and still have Jesus and the apostles working miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    As for the murder, rape, and pillage comment, you have me completely lost on that one. I don't see where moral concepts as distinct from physical concepts provide any moral leeway. Quite the reverse, I say. It is because we are physical beings that moral imperatives hold force in the physical world. Spiritual concepts play out in the physical realm, and rather than letting us off the hook, it's the spiritual elements that obligate our (physical) actions.


    As for this "I'm saying that we don't have any means of distinguishing, scientifically, between "randomness", and "guided randomness".", let me comment how I see it. I read on your blog how you define randomness, but I don't quite agree, and neither do some scientists. Randomness is not synonymous with "unknowable" or "unpredictable". It simply means that not all variables that caused a specific effect are known. We can still make predictions, and if all variables are known then the prediction will be 100% correct, all the time. Agreed?


    No. "Radomness" points precisely at that idea: unpredictability. The first line in the "Randomness" page from Wikipedia falls right in line with this:

    The word random is used to express lack of order, purpose, cause, or predictability in non-scientific parlance. A random process is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern, but follow a probability distribution.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding you here, but as you've stated it, knowing all the *variables* does NOT establish deterministic outcomes. In fact, from what we observe, perfect knowledge of the *configuration* of a system at the lowest (known) levels of description will lead to non-deterministic results. "Randomness" is just a name for unpredictability -- a synonym, just the opposite of what you say here. I do understand that you specifically pointing to our epistemic limitations that obtain when we label something random, and are suggesting that... behind the "randomness" is *some* kind of causality or structure. I'm driving at the same idea above, you'll note, and that's part of why "Open Theist or scientific atheist" is a false set of choices, in my view. To be precise, though, I would agree with you if we worded things a little differently; I would affirm that if all variables and *causes* are known, and that we somehow *know* that there is nothing that is truly, fundamentally "random" ("random" is just a description of the level of our ignorance, in other words), then we could make predictions that would be perfectly precise, any time, all the time. (In principle of course. This proposition assumes a kind of "omniscience" that's impossible for us on a practical level).


    So in the case of biology, we know most of the variables. The genomes have been mapped, the environments and selection pressures are known, along with estimates of population sizes, ancestors from the fossil record etc. We can even induce certain mutations in the lab through radiation or other environmental changes. So why is mutation then still described as random? Are there variables that are not known?


    Yikes, yes! Biology is really just a manifestation of the underlying physics, as is all of our natural world. And the more you learn about physics at a fundamental (for us) level, it's just positively weird, surreal, almost impossible to narrate with a straight face. I won't digress into spooky action at a distance, positron time travel, etc. in addition to the brute intractability of "randomness" at quantum scales. But science today is at a loss to explain the basic causality for the "random" mutations that see occur, at least in such a way as to make them controllable or "non-random" analytically. We know experimentally, for example that we can bombard specimens with intense radiation, and this increases the rate/frequency of genetic mutations, and so at some level we have observational phenomena to integrate here. But ask a physicist when the next decay event will happen for a given lump of an unstable isotope: no idea. Fundamentally random. Why is it random? Blank out.

    All of which to say that heck yeah, there are variables that are not known. We don't know what we don't know. Science is an exercise in approximation, of increasing levels of descriptive and predictive precision. But the further down the stack you go, the more inscrutable the causal dynamics get. What causes the next decay event to happen *now*, versus *then*? For humans, that may be unknowable empirically. These are the most fundamental levels of causality, and they are inscrutable factors. Emprically, we just do the best we can with what we *can* observe/explain/describe/model.


    Lastly "Why then, would you have a problem with natural processes that work "automatically" as a result of God's first order creation in producing species and biological development?"

    That gets back to open theism. Can God have guaranteed the incarnation if the natural processes work automatically? Doesn't that mean that God secondarily created a heck of a lot that was "not good" in the form of genetic dead-ends and deleterious mutations? And why, if the original creation was so structured, do you think it is not empirically detectable. As you have an interest in physics, are the laws of physics not proof of that structure?


    If, as above, God has a completely different view of "randomness" than we, as creatures do (and I submit this is a very safe and plausible assumption), then all of creation may look *perfectly* deterministic (or maybe just *partly* deterministic, I suppose, if God's will was to guarantee/ordain certain outcomes, but leave factors that weren't in the dependency chain for those ends to "free will" operation) to God, while it looks perfectly random to a creature, even (and especially) to a creature with some level of reason and technological sophistication.

    Why do I think it's not empirically detectable? First, I should say I don't *know*, but my sense, my belief from reading the Bible and paying attention to things around me is that God puts a premium on epistemic risk -- a "leap of faith". It's valuable to Him that man is in a state of empirical ambivalence, and yet some *choose* Him, not in defiance of the facts, but also not as a merely deductive conclusion from the empirical facts. Emprical detectability is just another way of saying "proof", and my understanding of the God that tells us "he who has ears to hear, let him hear" is such that the discovery of such incontravertible proof of God would be quite opposite to His priorities. Man intuits God's sovereignty and relationship to the world as its Creator. This is the predicate for the faithful embrace of that truth. But that's wholly different than simply yielding to brute, hard facts, like the rock you stub your toe on walking down a path. We seek, and we find. But we are not brought to God through syllogisms launched from empirical data -- by God's design, I say.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  28. CC said:
    ---
    So whenever someone says something negative about us we are supposed to respond in like manner? Is that what the Bible teaches us to do (cf., Rom. 12:17-21)?
    ---

    I suppose when a murderer kills someone, we ought to arrest the knife instead of the man. I mean, to do otherwise would be to act negatively against the person just because he acted negatively against another person.

    CC said:
    ---
    So if a put-down or personal attack is part of an argument it is not OK. And if the put-down is not part of an argument, but is part of an explanation or something other than an argument, then it is OK? Seems you are making this distinction to justify your use of personal attacks.
    ---

    Read what I said. I said it wasn't a "fallacy." Fallacies are dependent upon whether or not there is an argument being presented. Whether it's okay or not is a different question; but you're begging that one. You're assuming it's wrong to answer a fool according to his folly.

    CC said:
    ---
    Those are pretty nasty comments.
    ---

    That's a pretty nasty thing to say about me. My feelings are hurt. I demand an apology. I want my mommy.

    CC said:
    ---
    From these comments one could conclude that you hate T-Stone.
    ---

    The ability of people to err isn't my fault.

    CC said:
    ---
    Do you really think these kinds of statements are helpful for him or you or others reading the exchange?
    ---

    Yes.

    CC said:
    ---
    Do you think that the Bible justifies your way of speaking to T-Stone?
    ---

    Yes.

    CC said:
    ---
    A fraud? He may be mistaken about his theistic evolution and you are entitled to make that claim. But how do you know he is masquerading as a theist? Do you know his heart?
    ---

    From the overflow of his heart, a man speaks. T-Stone's words demonstrate he is no theist. His "god" is so disconnected from everything he says that if he does believe in one at all, he's a functional atheist. He's not demonstrated he does, though, so I'm justified in pointing that out.

    Besides, it looks like you don't think he's a theist either. You're not harping at him trying to show how he's violating these same things when he engages in abusive ad hominem himself. You're holding him to a different standard, so you must not believe he's a theist either.

    Although I find it curious that you only pop up here to defend T-Stone. If I was one with Oliver Stone, I'd say you were T-Stone...

    CC said:
    ---
    This is precisely the problem, instead of going by “your book” which allows you to hate and retaliate tit-for-tat with people you don’t like or you feel have abused you (just like the worldly people do to each other).

    Why don’t you try following “the good book” more than “In my book”?
    ---

    A) Who says "my book" is different from "the good book"?

    B) You are assuming things from "the good book" that you've never stated. You've made one reference to a passage in Romans thus far. So, exegete already.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Concerned Christian8/10/2007 4:14 PM

    We are discussing Peter’s manner of speaking to T-Stone and I asked Peter:

    So whenever someone says something negative about us we are supposed to respond in like manner? Is that what the Bible teaches us to do (cf., Rom. 12:17-21)?
    Peter answered:

    ”I suppose when a murderer kills someone, we ought to arrest the knife instead of the man. I mean, to do otherwise would be to act negatively against the person just because he acted negatively against another person.”

    Confusing categories here Peter. Dealing with personal verbal insults and acts of crime are a bit different don’t you think? We are justified in using various amounts of force in dealing with and apprehending criminals. Are we supposed to respond in kind to all verbal insults and put downs? That is not what the bible teaches.

    ”Read what I said. I said it wasn't a "fallacy." Fallacies are dependent upon whether or not there is an argument being presented. Whether it's okay or not is a different question; but you're begging that one. You're assuming it's wrong to answer a fool according to his folly.”

    So the Proverbs passage which involves a proverb from wisdom literature eliminates 2 Tim. 2:24-26 which is instruction for New Covenant Christians? I have sometimes seen (mostly Calvinists) jettison some clear passages about how we ought to interact with others, by appealing to how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees (Matt. 23) or Paul’s statement about the Judaizers (Gal. 5:12).

    ”That's a pretty nasty thing to say about me. My feelings are hurt. I demand an apology. I want my mommy.”

    Peter you made very nasty comments to T-Stone and I brought this up. Now you respond with sarcasm (“I want my mommy”).

    I had asked:

    Do you think that the Bible justifies your way of speaking to T-Stone?

    And Peter answered:

    ”Yes”.

    This is both surprising and sad. For all your attempts to deal with technical issues relating to evolution, you seem to ignore what the bible says about how we should interact with others. The 2 Tim.2:24-26 passage says that when dealing with nonbelievers (and you consider T-Stone to be an unbeliever, a non- theist) we ought to “not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition”.

    Are your words “not quarrelsome”? Do your words display kindness? You claim you are being wronged, so are you manifesting patience when wronged (if T-Stone says something verbally abusive towards you, **your** opinion is to respond tit-for-tat, you in fact are the opposite of patient when wronged)? Are you being gentle? The words of 2 Tim. 2:24-26 apply in our dealings with NONBELIEVERS. This means that our dealings with BELIEVERS ought to be at an even higher standard and level. If T-Stone were a nonbeliever then you would be obligated to follow those words in your interaction with him. If T-Stone is a believer than the standard is even higher.

    ”From the overflow of his heart, a man speaks. T-Stone's words demonstrate he is no theist. His "god" is so disconnected from everything he says that if he does believe in one at all, he's a functional atheist. He's not demonstrated he does, though, so I'm justified in pointing that out.”

    If he is “no theist” as you claim, then why aren’t you living out the 2 Tim. 2:24-26 verses in your interactions with him?

    ”Besides, it looks like you don't think he's a theist either. You're not harping at him trying to show how he's violating these same things when he engages in abusive ad hominem himself. You're holding him to a different standard, so you must not believe he's a theist either.”

    I am not claiming that he is not a theist. There are some very intelligent Christians who are not young earth creationists (e.g. Vern Poythress, J.P. Moreland). So T-Stone could be a Christian. My point is that the standard of 2 Tim. 2:24-26 applies if he were a nonbeliever and if he is a believer than the conduct towards him should be manifesting love, forgiveness, grace. I am writing to you, figuring that T-Stone is reading as well, so you are both accountable to what scripture says (if you profess to be a Christian which means you seek to submit to and obey scripture).

    ”Although I find it curious that you only pop up here to defend T-Stone. If I was one with Oliver Stone, I'd say you were T-Stone...”

    I have not defended T-Stone, I have addressed **your** manner of interaction. If it were up to me, all of the interactions involving Triablogers and others would manifest the bible verses that speak about how we are to interact (e.g., it would be great to see Christians who are engaging in apologetics always living out 2 Tim. 2:24-26 in their dealings with nonbelievers).

    ”A) Who says "my book" is different from "the good book"?

    B) You are assuming things from "the good book" that you've never stated. You've made one reference to a passage in Romans thus far. So, exegete already.”

    The “good book” includes passages such as 2 Tim. 2:24-26, Rom. 12:9-21, Eph. 5:1-9. We are called to obey and live out these scriptures. I already commented on 2 Tim. 2:24-26 earlier. So let’s look briefly at these other passages.

    In Romans 1-11 Paul had presented his views on the nature of the gospel, justification by faith alone, the importance of the Spirit, some tremendous theology. In Rom. 12 Paul turns to more practical matters showing how the great theology presented earlier will work itself out in the experience of the Christians in the Roman church.

    12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor”. So we are to love other Christians and honor them.

    That will include our words to one another correct?

    12:14 “Bless those who persecute you: bless and curse not.” This verse clearly says that we are not to respond in kind to personal insults by others who are persecuting us or putting us down. The phrase “bless and curse not” is directly referring to our words.

    12:17 “Never pay back for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” This one especially refers to your own “book” in which you claim that we are justified in responding in kind to personal insults. Your “book” pushes “payback” while the scripture directly contradicts your attitude.

    12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” If we take this verse seriously then we will seek to have peaceful verbal interactions with others. We can and ought to disagree with others, but in a way that preserves peace. Hostile words and put downs and pay-backs do not fit this verse at all.

    12:19-20 “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WIL REPAY, says the Lord. BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK, FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD.”

    Instead of seeking to get pay backs for verbal insults, we leave it to God to deal with people who persecute us, attack us. But not only do we not seek to retaliate or get revenge we also do acts of love towards the enemy. These verses present a mind set in which we are not like the people of the world who seek revenge, seek to get their pay backs.

    12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” So how do you respond to someone who verbally puts you down? By responding in kind, putting them in their place, since they did evil to me I now **must** do evil to them? The scripture is clear, we overcome evil with good. When we respond with acts of love, gracious words, gentleness, kindness, to others who verbally insult us, we present a strong testimony that we are changed people that the theology that Paul spoke of in the first eleven chapters of Romans has transformed us. As transformed people we live out scripture, we are very different in our character and actions than the people in the world.

    Eph. 5:1-9 Paul challenges the Ephesian believers to imitate God and “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you”. Does that “walking in love” include our words and interactions on blogs? Paul talks about some behavior that should not be coming from Christians. He says that we used to engage in those kinds of behaviors “for you were formerly darkness.” But now we are different: “but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).” If our words and interactions are no different than the nonbelievers who walk in darkness then our testimony is weak and ineffective.

    Another scripture that comes to mind here is Matt. 5:43-46 “You have heard that it was said: YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same?”

    We are supposed to be different from the world. The tax gatherers were a particularly detested group at that time and Jesus says even they loved each other. But the Christian’s calling is higher, it is not just to love those just like us (or who hold identical theological beliefs), but to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to love and honor other Christians and even to love our enemies.

    There used to be a funny Wendy’s Hamburgers commercial with these little ole ladies saying in exasperation: “where’s the beef?” Anyone who knows scripture knows the question for those of us who are professing Christians is: “where’s the love?” And this ought to be especially evident in our words that we use when interacting with others.

    Concerned Christian

    ReplyDelete
  30. CC said:
    ---
    Confusing categories here Peter. Dealing with personal verbal insults and acts of crime are a bit different don’t you think?
    ---

    I would argue that it is you who are confusing categories here, for you are generalizing commands dealing with how we are to behave with one group of people and are superimposing them on how we are to behave on another group of people.

    CC said:
    ---
    Are we supposed to respond in kind to all verbal insults and put downs? That is not what the bible teaches.
    ---

    Of course, I haven't responded in kind to "all verbal insults and put downs." I responded in kind to T-Stone's verbal insutls and put downs.

    CC said:
    ---
    So the Proverbs passage which involves a proverb from wisdom literature eliminates 2 Tim. 2:24-26 which is instruction for New Covenant Christians?
    ---

    Here you are confusing your argument. You originally stated:
    ---
    You guys know enough logic to know that attacking a person personally as is done here, adds nothing to an argument.
    ---

    In response to that, I pointed out:
    ---
    Which is why it wasn't put in there to add to the argument. It was put in there as an explanation for why I was repeating, in its entirety, a post I had just posted, adding in the logic interconnections to the first post. Explanation is not argument, so this isn't a fallacy.
    ---

    See, I was answering the claim you made, which is that my comments about T-Stone were violations of logic. But now you've switched this to a moral question rather than the logical question that it began as.

    In any case, I could just as easily rephrase your question and say, "Oh, so 2 Tim. 2:24-26 overthrows Proverbs, huh?" I don't see what that would gain you.

    CC said:
    ---
    I have sometimes seen (mostly Calvinists) jettison some clear passages about how we ought to interact with others, by appealing to how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees (Matt. 23) or Paul’s statement about the Judaizers (Gal. 5:12).
    ---

    And your point on this would be what? That we shouldn't pattern ourselves after Jesus or Paul?

    CC said:
    ---
    This is both surprising and sad. For all your attempts to deal with technical issues relating to evolution, you seem to ignore what the bible says about how we should interact with others.
    ---

    How you got that from a simple "Yes" answer to your question is beyond me.

    CC said:
    ---
    The 2 Tim.2:24-26 passage says that when dealing with nonbelievers (and you consider T-Stone to be an unbeliever, a non- theist) we ought to “not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition”.
    ---

    A) This passage is speaking generally, and not toward every single possible situation that arises.

    B) If you interpret this as a blanket statement, then Paul most certainly violated it himself.

    C) Sometimes, kindness is demonstrated by not pandering.

    D) T-Stone is not an honest questioner seeking answers; he is either an atheist or a soon-to-be apostate who is militantly opposing the truth of Christianity and actively crusading against it.

    E) The context of the passage begins by stating: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel..." etc. Thus, it's predictated on the fact that people would be arguing over petty issues rather than substantial issues. I don't consider evolution to be a "foolish and stupid" thing to argue about in today's culture.

    CC said:
    ---
    I am writing to you, figuring that T-Stone is reading as well, so you are both accountable to what scripture says (if you profess to be a Christian which means you seek to submit to and obey scripture).
    ---

    You've got my vote!

    CC said:
    ---
    So we are to love other Christians and honor them.
    ---

    I've already pointed out that T-Stone isn't a Christian.

    CC said:
    ---
    “Bless those who persecute you: bless and curse not.” This verse clearly says that we are not to respond in kind to personal insults by others who are persecuting us or putting us down. The phrase “bless and curse not” is directly referring to our words.
    ---

    A) I don't consider T-Stone's quibbles to be "persecution."

    B) Blessing and cursing have a completely different Biblical meaning then you are using here. They are covenantal terms. Cursing someone isn't the same thing as merely insulting someone in the least.

    CC said:
    ---
    “Never pay back for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” This one especially refers to your own “book” in which you claim that we are justified in responding in kind to personal insults. Your “book” pushes “payback” while the scripture directly contradicts your attitude.
    ---

    Again, you are imputing evil to that which is not evil. Insults qua insults aren't evil. Furthermore, it is to say that what T-Stone has done to me (regarding the insults) is evil too (else how could I repay evil with evil by doing the same thing?). It isn't.

    CC said:
    ---
    “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” If we take this verse seriously then we will seek to have peaceful verbal interactions with others. We can and ought to disagree with others, but in a way that preserves peace. Hostile words and put downs and pay-backs do not fit this verse at all.
    ---

    A) Your interpretation is naive.

    B) I don't see how the "peace" has been disturbed here by my interaction with T-Stone. I seriously doubt that, were we to meet in the street, either of us would start swinging due to any of this.

    CC said:
    ---
    Instead of seeking to get pay backs for verbal insults, we leave it to God to deal with people who persecute us, attack us.
    ---

    Again, I don't view what T-Stone has done as persecution. It's an "attack" only in a trivial sense.

    CC said:
    ---
    We are supposed to be different from the world. The tax gatherers were a particularly detested group at that time and Jesus says even they loved each other. But the Christian’s calling is higher, it is not just to love those just like us (or who hold identical theological beliefs), but to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to love and honor other Christians and even to love our enemies.
    ---

    If I actually hated T-Stone, do you think I'd bother correcting him? I'd gladly help him remain in his error so that I would know he'll burn in hell forever, if that was the case.

    CC, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the blogosphere specifically, and communication in general. Insults are ultimately just figurative language; they are metaphors and similies. Just as Jesus could call Pharisee's "broods of vipers" and "poisonous asps" without violating morality, it is possible for others to use insulting figures. If the insult is the entire point, then I would argue with you that it is pointless and futile--a waste of language. But if an insult is nothing more than whipped cream (i.e. insubstantial material) on top of the pumpkin pie, then it actually can add to the discussion.

    Now I'm not going to say that every time I've used an insult has been good; I know my heart. But I also know that there are appropriate times to use insults, and in this particular case I think insulting T-Stone's intelligence was perfectly valid. Feel free to disagree; it won't ruin my weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  31. One correction. I had said:
    ---
    If the insult is the entire point, then I would argue with you that it is pointless and futile--a waste of language.
    ---

    I meant:
    ---
    If the insult is the entire point, then I would agree with you that it is pointless and futile--a waste of language.
    ---

    ReplyDelete
  32. YOu know, I don't debate that an occasional rebuke is necessary, but I find I am agreeing with CC. In my readings over the postings, T-stone has been more civil and more than patient, considering your venom. Even if you do consider him an atheist, (and he confidently calls himself an evangelical Christian on his blog, btw) your arguements are not more impressive with the venom. WE are to be as shrewd as the serpent, yes, but we are to be gentle as lamb. Let your arguments speak for yourself. And if you feel that he is not listening, well repeat again.

    ReplyDelete