Over at Alan’s fine blog, I’ve been debating on and off with a Darwinian. Here, for what it’s worth, is my side of the exchange:
“Maybe the supernatural effector wouldn't even need to be a deity, since we don't actually know anything about the possibilities that exist in the supernatural world.”
You’ve obviously not done any reading in theistic modal metaphysics.
“It's interesting what you are willing to attribute to supernaturalism given that we don't know if a supernatural realm even exists. the natural realm can be observed by simply looking out the window.”
Really? Can one observe abstract objects by simply looking out the window? Can one observe consciousness by simply looking out the window?
“Would it not be an idea to show that the supernatural exists before claiming what it can and can't do?”
Would it not be an idea for Rintintin to acquaint himself with some of the standard apologetic literature which does that very thing.
“If the supernatural can come and act in our world, how does it bridge the gap between natural and supernatural - can I observe this taking place? Whereabouts does it happen?”
One can observe supernatural effects, just as one can observe mental effects, although neither the mind nor the supernatural is directly observable.
“Your variant of supernaturalism includes talking snakes and plants, neither of which possess the cognitive ability or anatomy to talk - is there any reason I should take this viewpoint any more seriously than I do Scientology's ludicrous tales?”
You might try to properly exegete the Biblical verses your alluding to. Otherwise, is there any reason I should take your jejune interpretations any more seriously than I do Scientology’s ludicrous tales?
“Uhoh. How can one utilise things like logic as a tool if the world potentially will not behave in a logical fashion 10 minutes from now dependent on the whim of a God, especially as you have no means of knowing when it will change or how often it has changed in the past (there is no guarantee he will give warning when observed laws will be subject to change).”
If you want to play that card, then you have no means of knowing that you’re not a brain in a vat.
“Under your worldview, you can't realistically make the assumption that things will not be radically different 5 minutes from now, since they apparently have been countless times since the Earth's conception.”
What specific, global examples do you have in mind?
“The same process you use when you try and fix your sink. You don't resort to supernatural guesswork to try and fix the sink, since any and all logically coherent supernatural 'explanations' could describe why the sink is blocked without actually helping solve the problem.”
Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence. You suffer from the typical, self-reinforcing ignorance of the unbeliever. Try to learn something about Christian theology before you go tilting at windmills.
“So where do we stop with naturalism and start with supernaturalism? Demonic possession used to be attributed as the cause of mental illness, and is in line with biblical thought (Jesus cures many people of such afflictions).”
More of your self-reinforcing ignorance. The synoptic Gospels distinguish between natural illness and demonic illness.
“Can I shout 'viewpoint discrimination' if psychiatric journals won't allow me to publish my demonic theory of mental illness?”
Yes, that’s an excellent example of viewpoint discrimination. All your doing is to offer intellectual snobbery in lieu of serious argument.
To take one counterexample:
“I’ve had similar experiences with mental health professionals, including MAs, PhDs, and MDs. I’ve come to know quite a few members of that community since writing my book on multiple personality. Once it became know that I’d done extensive and open-minded research in parapsychology, many started confiding to me apparent psychic episodes involving their patients. They also made it very clear that these conversations needed to remind confidential…They were simply unwilling to risk possible ridicule and ostracism by revealing their experiences to their colleagues,” S. Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady (U of Chicago Press, 2007), xviii.
“As for the secondary properties of natural objects, you don't object to things like protons being used in MRI scans, so again where do you draw a distinction between what counts as acceptable use and what doesn't?”
Alan didn’t say he objected to the human use of these secondary properties. He simply pointed out the potential limitations of that application. And when Alan draws a distinction between a rooster and a Rolex, that’s a good place to start.
“Do you know of any observation that would prove God wrong? ie falsify him? i know of things that would falsify common descent, but i can't think of any for God.”
Do you know of any observation that would falsify an abstract object like a possible world?
“Supernaturalism is used largely as 'God of the gaps' or some kind of default setting eg 'there is no known natural explanation, therefore it must be a supernatural force', yet no evidence has been provided to support that claim.”
You continue to illustrate your self-reinforcing ignorance of Christian theology. The Bible doesn’t deny second causes.
“God is not part of science, but what he is purported to have done is - a global flood is a testable proposition.”
It would behoove you to exegete a text before you try to debunk it.
Thu May 01, 08:15:00 PM CDT
“You are aware that speciation has been observed repeatedly both in a lab and in nature, without any observed instance of a designer at hand if that's what you're meaning by 'origin of species'?”
Two points of clarification:
i) Mark Ridley, in his standard textbook on Evolution, lists five different definitions of species (biological, ecological, phenetic, phylogenetic, typological).
So it’s easy to equivocate over examples of speciation.
ii) The Bible doesn’t operate with the fundamental unit of a species, but with the fundamental unit of a natural kind. So speciation, per se, wouldn’t contradict Scripture.
Fri May 02, 07:59:00 AM CDT
“1. That's just an assertion. I simply state 'supernaturalism is false' - where does that get us?”
I assume Alan is alluding to the vicissitudes of evolutionary psychology. Plantinga has argued at length that evolutionary psychology undermines rationality. And Dawkins, in The God Delusion, made equally sceptical claims. Hence, naturalism commits intellectual suicide.
“2. If potentially we can't trust our faculties then how are we to assume the theist is capable of accurately of apprehending theistic truths (whether from the bible, or in the ability to formulate a first principle that he or she regards as self-evident on the basis of possibly faulty senses)?”
Once again, I assume that Alan’s scepticism was directed at evolutionary psychology.
But what do you think the senses are for? As a naturalist, you can’t invoke a teleological explanation. So, for you, the senses have no function, do they?
“3. Even if we accept that we have to revert to supernaturalism, we're still no closer to affirming it as the Christian God.”
It’s a stepwise argument. Arrive at the Christian God by process of elimination.
“Is there any way either of us could distinguish it from a natural cause?”
Depends on what sort of examples your looking for. What about a miraculous answer to prayer?
“1. but I can just choose a logically consistent version of theism at random, make things up and claim they are accounted for by the miracles my God can perform.”
And where’s your supporting evidence?
“I'm also not analysing it from naturalistic presupps - I'm anazlyzing from the point of observation. We observe that snakes do not talk. We observe that they don't have the anatomy to talk.”
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Gen 3 refers to a talking snake, men and women living back in the Bronze Age didn’t observe talking snakes either. So it’s not as if you’re experience is any different from theirs on that score.
“Serpents generally refer to snakes in symbolic literature.”
Not true. They can also refer to numinous beings like snake-gods.
More to the point, you’re trading on the meaning of the English word. But the Hebrew word has its own set of connotations.
I’d add that M. Scot Peck reports a case of possession in which the subject assumed a serpentine appearance. Cf. Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrists Personal accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption.
“So you advocate that the miraculous/supernatural can and does occur in our world, thus breaking some physical laws potentially without forewarning.”
Christian theology has a doctrine of providence. It would really behoove you to master these elementary distinctions.
“I have no reason to accept that this will not be the case 10 minutes from now, you do.”
Actually, you have no good reason to presume that since—as Hume pointed out long ago, it’s fallacious to infer the future from the past. Absent a doctrine of providence, you have no principled basis for your confidence in inductive logic.
“Furthermore, in previous examples I've given you such as the Tiktaalik find, which relied on the accuracy of the premises (including radioactive dating) to come up with a fossil in the expected location, with the expected morphoogy, how can you explain this?”
I believe that Jonathan Wells has discussed that, if you Google the search terms.
You’re also missing the point of Alan’s allusion to Gee’s Deep Time. Have you ever read Gee?
“1. You still haven't provided evidence for your claim even if there is no known natural explanation - god of the Gaps.”
And your alternative is naturalism of the gaps.
“A simple outline of the scientific method is: 1. Observe some aspect of the universe.”
How do you know that what an evolutionary brain observes is correspondent with the real world?
“1. our observation - chimps and humans both have a non-functional Vit C gene and evidence of a chromosomal fusion that is identical to 2 chimp chromosomes.”
In the Design of Life, Dembski and Wells discuss this sort of genetic evidence for common descent.
Tue May 06, 07:17:00 PM CDT
“It seems an odd argument this one (from my perspective anyway) since evolution is related to the environment we are in.”
Since my argument is predicated, ex hypothesi, on evolutionary psychology, it’s hardly odd from your perspective. Rather, it takes your perspective as the starting point.
Likewise, when I cited Dawkins, I was hardly speaking from my own perspective. You have a bad habit of glossing over inconvenient evidence.
“So if we are a product of evolution, and we are still alive (I take the fact that we all exist as being axiomatic), then presumably its because our senses are capable of telling us with a decent degree of surety about what is going on with our environment.”
i) Given the widespread phenomenon of mass extinction posited by evolution, the kill curve is hardly conducive to your confidence in the reliability of our senses.
ii) You’re also missing the point. I said that evolutionary psychology undermines rationality. That doesn’t necessarily mean it undermines survival. Organisms like cockroaches survive very nicely without a high IQ or true beliefs.
iii) Finally, since methodological naturalism banishes teleological explanation, it disallows your appeal to properly functioning senses (“geared to perceive our environment properly”). Under naturalistic evolution, the senses aren’t geared to do anything. You’re smuggling directionality into an aimless process.
Like unbelievers generally, you take a lot of common sense things for granted that are excluded by your secular outlook if you applied it more consistently.
“Let’s say for the sake of argument God exists. Are everyone's respective senses now infallible? I think we'd have to say no. I am short sighted for example. People mishear, misread and misinterpret things all the time. Some people have particular senses completely absent such as deaf and blind people, so are more limited in what they can perceive.”
Once again, my objection wasn’t limited to the fact that naturalism undermines the reliability of the senses. It also undermines the reliability of reason. For example:
“Let’s take it further - some people are mentally incapable of accurately perceiving the world accurately. Before we make any decisions we have to work out that we are not like this. So we assume the reliability of our senses has allowed us to make the correct observation about the state of the world (ie that we are not insane/mentally impaired and therefore we can be confident our belief in god is not the result of some sensory fault).”
i) How would you “work out” that you’re not insane? If you were insane, would you be in any position to evaluate your sanity?
ii) What makes you think that belief in God is contingent on the reliability of the senses?
“So we're both having to assume our senses work and have made accurate observations prior to making any choices regarding the supernatural.”
Which theistic proofs depend on the reliability of the senses? Or accurate observation? Not the a priori proofs. And even the a posteriori proofs operate at a higher order of abstraction. You could retool the theistic proofs to apply to the Matrix.
“On this point, Rho is quite fond of telling us how fallible our senses are (generally when a fact or observation is presented that contradicts his belief, the fact is automatically presumed to be wrong by default)”
Well, Alan can speak for himself, but I think he’s speaking about theories rather than observations.
“And he is (obviously) a theist - so even people who believe in God don't seem to think they are up to much. Any particular reason God has given us senses that aren't up to scratch?”
Setting aside your caricature of the opposing position, there’s a fundamental difference between a sensory organ that can malfunction because it was designed to perform a function in the first place, and an organ that has no intended purpose. Reliability is a teleological concept. Eliminate the principle of design, and you don’t have an organ that’s more or less reliable; rather, you can’t even invoke that category. There is no standard.
Once again, you haven’t begun to think through the radically sceptical implications of your naturalistic worldview.
“This would require knowledge of every possible deity, even ones not yet 'discovered'.”
You’re resorting to a double standard which you would never apply to medical science or forensics, &c.
Must a diagnostician eliminate every conceivable illness to treat the patient? Must a homicide detective eliminate every conceivable suspect? Maybe Extraterrestrials murdered Nicole Simpson. Maybe one-armed Gypsies murdered Nicole Simpson.
All you’ve done is to rig the burden of proof.
“I would argue that would depend on what was prayed for. Some people say that, for example, a relative recovering from cancer is a miracle. I would argue that its not. it's certainly unlikely (depending on the cancer) - i would be more convinced of a miracle if everyone who had cancer recovered. I would not be able to offer an explanation other than the supernatural for why millions of people suddenly recovered from cancer all at once.”
You’re demanding a level of proof for the supernatural that you’d never demand for anything else. This is special pleading.
That’s irrational. The question is the best explanation, given the evidence. And the fact that someone else isn’t miraculously healed hardly counts as evidence that the individual who was healed wasn’t miraculously healed. How do you arrive at such a non sequitur?
Prayer doesn’t have uniform effects. God is not a machine. God is a person. As such, he exercises personal discretion.
Suppose, in a botched robbery, the robbers take everyone hostage. Suppose I’m a rich man. My daughter is one of the hostages. I pull strings. Go outside official channels.
I manage to get my daughter released. Would the special intervention be more convincing if all the hostages were released? No, that’s irrelevant. If anything, the fact that only one hostage was released is suspicious. The fix was in—in that particular case.
“That’s fairly easy - just write down that my deity spoke to me and what he told me. There's no obvious way to disprove this.”
I didn’t ask you if you could make an unfalsifiable claim. I asked you for your supporting evidence.
“Casinos and bookkeepers make vast amounts of money from people who believed that things were going to be radically different for them the next time.”
You don’t seem to know either side of the argument. You don’t know Christian theology or secular philosophy. For example:
“I couldnt really find anything relating directly to Well's opinion on Tiktaalik.”
“Either way, I'd still like to know why Rho claims expertise allowing him to dismiss any methodology he disagrees with, or why he treats essentially identical scenarios differently.”
Alan can speak for himself. However, Darwinians write a lot of books for mass consumption. If you think the layman isn‘t competent to form an educated opinion, then he should disregard the arguments for evolution presented by popularizers like Gould, Dawkins, Mayr, &c. And, by your logic, we should stop teaching evolution in the public school since most students are incompetent to evaluate the evidence. Are you a closet creationist?
“Last time this came up, Rho attempted to pass it off as some kind of conspiracy where the establishment had pressured Gee to say evolution is true. Even though he apparently says it in his book in the first place, and he is actually a member of 'the establishment' since he's an editor for Nature journal.”
Since you seem to have a problem grasping the basic principles of argumentation, allow me to walk you through the basics. In a standard debate, it is considered a coup if you can quote someone on the other side making a concession. For example, if you told me that Noam Chomsky opposes the Iraq war, that wouldn’t come as a surprise. But if you found out that Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz is now of the opinion that the Iraq war was a mistake, that would be more impressive precisely because it comes from an unexpected source.
No one is claiming that Gee denies evolution. To the contrary, the fact that he’s an avowed Darwinian is what makes his sceptical admissions so telling. That’s the point. Get it?
“Actually, its not. if there's a gap, there's a gap.”
If you don’t have a problem with gaps, why do you dismiss ID as God-of-the-gaps?
Anyway, that still reflects an ignorant grasp of Christian theology. It’s not as though OT Jews thought that God sent rain directly, and if they discovered that rain came from clouds, they ceased to believe in God. It’s not as though OT Jews thought that God sent disease directly, and if they discovered that disease came from rats or fleas, they lost their faith God.
In fact, OT Jews drew no such dichotomy. On the one hand, they believed that God was ultimately responsible for various plagues and illnesses. On the other hand, they had also had quarantine laws to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. So they understood that human beings could be infectious agents (carriers). They didn’t think that God was directly and solely responsible for illness.
Germ theory wouldn’t fill a gap previously occupied by God. God isn’t ousted by the introduction of second causes.
The God-of-the-gaps is a historical fiction popularized by 19C unbelievers like Draper and Alexander White. This literary tradition is then handed down like unquestioned dogma.
“I don't have the book, but I couldnt seem to find any detailed discussion of this by them on Google either. Do you have a link you could point me towards?”
There’s no substitute for reading their book. You don’t have to, of course. My point is that you’re raising objections to ID theory which they’ve already addressed.
“This is a good example to highlight some more of ID's problems though.”
I’m not here to rubberstamp every turn and twist of ID theory. It’s a loose coalition.
“They have no consistent opinion on common ancestry.”
Why should they?
“So he seems to be saying that it is an acceptable conclusion, until you invoke the supernatural.”
There is nothing in what he said to justify you twisted interpretation. Rather, he’s saying that evolution is driven at least as much by metascientific considerations (“materialism”) as it is by scientific evidence.
“To do this would mean we can now let a whole host of supernatural ideas into play for any scientific discipline, from God to astrology to invisible pixies - you name it, it's fair game.”
That’s only fair game if there’s equal evidence for all supernatural claims.
“Therefore, If I want to be an ID proponent, which scenario am I supposed to accept here, since they can't all be right? there's a lot of data relating to the issue of common ancestry - why can't they come to a consensus either way?”
If you’re asking a sincere question, then the answer is to read their books. If you want to know why they can’t come to a consensus, read Behe in favor of common ancestry, then read Dembski and Wells in opposition to common ancestry.
“ID is very vague - it can mean a descent from biblical 'kinds'.”
ID doesn’t address biblical “kinds.” It doesn’t address biblical anything.
“(it is never clear exactly where the distinct boundary between kinds is)”
You could say the same thing about the biological concept of species.
“Again, which one am supposed to choose here? What tests could they propose that would give me an idea of which is correct?”
The fact that you have to ask these questions suggest to me that you haven’t read their books. Isn’t it disingenuous to ask questions when you ignore the answers by ignoring the relevant literature?
“It seems so far that they are content to wait for real scientists to do the work.”
It seems so far that are you content to wait for hostile popularizers to do your reading for you.
“Those people were probably no less intelligent or reliable than you or me.”
Since the article doesn’t say who the volunteers were, I couldn’t say one way or the other.
“Their senses failed them pretty spectacularly I'm sure you'd agree?”
No, I wouldn’t agree. How is the implantation of false memories through hypnosis related to the reliability of the senses? They didn’t misperceive something they heard or saw. It’s purely psychological.
“I'd also use an example from your own posts - almost all the world's scientists accept evolution as being a fact of nature.”
Consensus is not a scientific argument:
“So, if I assume your worldview for the sake of making the point, thats a lot of people who's senses have apparently failed them completely, leading to many (but not all) to reject the literal 'truth' of the Genesis story/bible.”
I didn’t see the creation of the universe. And I don’t know of any scientist who did. You attribute remarkable longevity to the average physicist or Darwinian. Do you think that Ed Witten is 15 billions years old? He’s wonderfully well preserved for his age. Does he drink a lot of prune juice?
“Why we only find certain species in certain regions, even though there are multiple environs that would support them (eg you dont find polar bears in both the arctic and antarctic)?”
Why do you think that’s inconsistent with creationism? Does Gen 1 encourage us to find polar bears in both the arctic and Antarctic?
“Why, despite some weird and wonderful creatures existing, winged vertebrates always have 4 limbs, with the front limbs forming the wings? why no six-limbed winged vertebrates? In fact why no six-limbed vertebrates period? Why such strict adherence to that plan to the point biologists etc can predict what fossils and so on will look like before they find them?”
Why do you think that’s inconsistent with creationism? Would six-limbs be an improvement?
“Why are some animals more similar to others (eg chimps are more similar to us than cats are, but cats are more similar to both than lizards)?”
Why are some vehicles more similar to others (e.g. SUVs are more similar to pickup trucks than sports cars are, but sports cars are more similar to both than bicycles)?
“And why do these similarities and differences arrange into hierarchies just like any geneaology does (eg a family tree)?”
And why does a deck of cards arrange itself into hierarchical suits?
“Evolutionary theory can explain all this very comfortably. how does creationism explain it ('God just wants it that way' doesn't really tell me anything about why he wants that way, or how he went about it)?”
“Detroit just wants it that way” doesn't really tell me anything about why Detroit wants that way, or how Detroit went about it.
Dropping the metaphors, there are several problems with your appeal to the hierarchical organization of life:
i) As Futuyma defines it, “there has been an increase in the maximal level of hierarchical organization during the history of life, whereby entities have emerged that consist of functionally integrated associations of lower-level individuals.”
The problem with this definition is that concepts like hierarchy, organization, system, functionality, maximality, and integration, are teleological categories. Part/whole, means/ends principles.
Yet methodological naturalism disallows teleological explanations in the natural sciences. Hence, if the natural order is hierarchical, that would be evidence, not for naturalistic evolution, but intelligent design or divine creation.
ii) The hierarchy is an artifact of what evolutionary classification scheme you employ. As one Darwinian explains, in a standard textbook, “It is less obvious whether a phenetic classification has to be hierarchical. Nature presents us with an infinity of phenetic patterns. Some indeed are nested hierarchies, but others are overlapping hierarchies or non-hierarchical networks. If we aim at a phenetic classification, we have no strong reason to classify hierarchically,” M. Ridley, Evolution (3rd ed.), 487.
iii) In fact, as Ridley goes on to admit, the hierarchical arrangement is actually an evolutionary assumption rather than an independent line of evidence for evolution: “Biological classifications are hierarchical because evolution has produced a tree-like, diverging, hierarchical pattern of similarities among living things,” ibid. 487.
iv) Henry Gee, In Search of Deep Time, documents the degree to which these classification systems are highly subjective.
v) Kurt Wise has offered an alternative interpretation of the hierarchical organization of life from a creationist viewpoint. Cf. Faith, Form, & Time; “The Origin of Life’s Major Groups,” The Creation Hypothesis.
“Besides, many evolutionary events are repeatable, since convergent evolution exists (and has been observed in the short term eg in bacteria, or chiclid fish)”
Are you distinguishing between microevolution and macroevolution?
“As for falsification - the makeup of our heritable material and its being universal to all living organisms was discovered via a prediction based on assumption of common ancestry.”
Is that a prediction or retrodiction? Where did Darwin predict universal DNA? Give us the citation from his works.
“Hence why we can find things like Tiktaalik exactly where we predict.”
Give us the earliest citation in which the discovery of Tiktaalik was predicted. How specific was this prediction? I’m curious to see you furnish the details.
BTW, how do you distinguish between an evolutionary intermediate and an ecological intermediate?
“Another problem for ID is that things like the 'cdesign proponentsists' fiasco and Philip Johnson's quotes make it so easy to expose their motives as well. For some reason they just cannot stop making it obvious what they're up to.”
What makes you think that all ID theorists have the same motives? Johnson likes to quote some juicy admissions by Lewontin. Should we extrapolate from Lewontin to all Darwinians?
“It may well turn out that science can't explain everything we want to - especially if it turns out there is a supernatural realm. But it's hard to argue that it has a habit of delivering the goods in terms of verified predictions, whether that be fossils, medicines, genetic code or whatever.”
The secular establishment doesn’t have a monopoly on science.
“Most people will accept most science without a second thought, but once it starts telling them what they don't want to hear, suddenly science can't cut it anymore - they never assume its because what theyve decided to believe might be deficient.”
Science is not an ideologically neutral field. It’s been politicized. Just look at how Richard Dawkins uses science as to defoliate religion from the public square.
Likewise, methodological naturalism assumes that the only correct, “scientific” explanation is a naturalistic explanation. So it begs the question.
“Under the terms you've restricted evolutionary study with, you have to also drop a whole load of other science with no bearing on religion to keep consistent”
If it had “no bearing on religion,” there would be no need to “drop it” for consistency’s sake. You’re not making any sense.
If, for example, creation ex nihilo is true, then that may have some radical implications for science. If methodological naturalism refuses to take that into account, then science will be seriously off the mark.
In what sense do I accept science?
i) I accept science when science deals with natural cycles. It’s good at that sort of thing. I don’t assume that science has any particular competence at reconstructing the origin of the natural cycles. But given the natural cycles, once they’re in place, the study and manipulation of these periodic processes is very useful.
ii) I don’t accept that science tells me anything about what the world is really like. Science is dependent on observation. And scientific theories are often several steps removed from direct observation.
But there’s a gap between appearance and reality. Science does nothing to close that gap, or even to narrow that gap. All science can do is to chart correlations between appearances.
“Furthermore, since your worldview involves the assumption of its truth as a starting point, with any contradictory observation of any sort being wrong by default, it's impossible to reach any other conclusion than the one you started with whether it is correct or not. How does that lead to the truth?”
No, not whether it’s correct or not.
I’d add that secularism doesn’t even have room for truth. It went from naturalized epistemology to evolutionary epistemology to eliminative materialism. If there are no beliefs, then there are no true beliefs.
“The problem with the defeaters you've offered up is that you'd have to admit that you've answered a fair few of my questions on biology before with 'God just did it that way' - well thats great, but that doesn't really explain to me why or how he did it.”
That’s often the case with personal agency. We don’t know why or how Stonehenge was built. Should we therefore assume it’s a natural object unless and until we can say why and how human beings built it?
For a secularist, you have this oddly anthropomorphic notion that the universe should be transparent to your understanding.
“It’s hard to argue that atheists who are a tiny minority (about 1.5-2%) have any real political power. Why would anyone pander to such a tiny voting bloc?”
They exert political power out of proportion to their numbers because they resort to the state and federal courts to subvert popular sovereignty. Are you so ignorant of the political landscape that you’ve never observed that tactic at work?
Fri May 16, 10:07:00 AM CDT
“Haven't read much Dawkins I'm afraid, so you'll have to expand a little on this.”
In the God Delusion, Dawkins talks about how our brains construct reality.
“I hate to be the one to break it to you, but even if God exists, things die…This is a really odd argument to use to try and refute evolution/naturalism since the exact same thing applies if God exists.”
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you can’t follow your own argument. Since you can’t keep track of your own argument, let me remind you. You originally argued that our survival was evidence that our senses are reliable, for if our senses were unreliable, we would not have survived.
That was the point at which I introduced the obvious counterexample of mass extinction—a common phenomenon according to evolutionary biology.
I didn’t use that example to refute evolution. To the contrary, my example was predicated, ex hypothesi, on the evolutionary narrative. I used that example to refute *your* argument. It wouldn’t hurt you to remember your own argument. Is that too much to ask?
“NS is non-random though, and is linked to the environment - you seem to be arguing against something that is not evolution ie a situation where the environment has no bearing on biological structures.”
It doesn’t matter whether you say it’s random or non-random or evolutionary or non-evolutionary, methodological naturalism still prevents you from invoking teleological categories like the reliability of the senses. If you’re going to appeal to the reliability of the senses, then you’ll have to ditch naturalistic evolution.
And I’d add that Darwinians do argue for the reliability of the senses on evolutionary grounds, as an adaptive survival advantage. But in so doing, they transgress their methodological strictures.
“Ironic that you ask for consistency given argument (i) above, as well as several of your arguments below where you jump back and forth between opposing views for no obvious reason.”
I guess no one every acquainted you with the distinction between an internal critique and an external critique. An internal critique is where I argue with an opponent on his own grounds. Argument (i) above is a case in point. That doesn’t commit me to your assumptions. I simply trace out the implications of your position for the sake of argument.
That’s different from an external critique, where I argue on my own grounds. This is a pretty elementary distinction.
“So theism is as likely to be true as being in the Matrix? Are you arguing for or against theism here?”
Once again, you miss the point. The fact that appearances are deceptive in the Matrix doesn’t mean that there is no reality in the Matrix. The Matrix presupposes an underlying reality. A distinction between the computer-generated illusion and the objective reality of the computers generating the virtual illusion.
Likewise, even if, ex hypothesi, our sensory input was systematically delusive, that wouldn’t invalidate the theistic proofs. There would still be a reality behind the delusive appearances.
And, again, I didn’t say that the actual relation between appearance and reality is analogous to the Matrix. I merely used that as a limiting case. I was answering you on your own grounds.
You really need to acquire some elementary sophistication in the art of argumentation.
“But theories are arrived at by observation in the first place.”
They take their point of departure from observation. But they depart from observation. They are often several steps removed from direct observation. Take theoretical physics.
“Again it is ironic you complain about a caricature of the opposing viewpoint, yet later go on to outline some paranoid fantasy about how atheists are running the country and operating some shady cabal behind the scenes of science.”
I didn’t say anything about a “shady cabal behind the scenes.” Can you quote me to that effect? No you can’t. You’re not even attempting to be honest.
What I said is that we have judges who subvert the democratic process. Did I say this happens behind the scenes? No.
Likewise, did I say atheists were “running the country”? No, I said they were exert disproportionate influence. You’re the one who’s acting paranoid when you feel the need to misrepresent what I actually said, turning it into a cartoon version to suit your agenda.
“Anyway, we saw examples where organs of people who could see, hear, and who weren't insane etc being unable to tell them about reality. Why would a designer design organs for perfectly healthy people that can't perform their function properly, to the point where psychologists are arguing for the unreliability of witness testimony?”
i) To begin with, you forfeit the right to use that argument. You’re committed to methodological naturalism. As such, you cannot evoke teleological explanations in natural science.
What you are doing here is to cite examples of faulty design: design defects. That would be an example of dysteleology. But dysteleology presupposes teleology. So methological naturalism disallows you from identifying examples of faulty design in nature. You’re not entitled to say that a particular organ is malfunctioning since you’re not entitled to say that it has a particular function to perform in the first place. If naturalistic evolution is true, then eyes and ears and fingers and brains and hearts and lungs have nothing they’re supposed to do. There’s no task they’re supposed to perform. No assigned role to play.
That’s a goal-oriented perspective which has no place in naturalistic evolution or methodological naturalism.
You keep fudging. That’s because you’re an unbeliever living in God’s universe. So you can’t help using God-talk.
ii) Also, like a lot of unbelievers, you don’t know much about Christian theology. Christian theology is about more than divine creation. It also has a doctrine of the Fall. The world as we see it today isn’t morally or physically pristine.
“You got upset before when I joked at the idea for the demon theory of psychology, now you are saying it's a double standard that I don't let the supernatural, allowances for people's personal beliefs or absurd ideas into forensics or medicine. Make up your mind one way or the other.”
Once again, you managed to miss the boat. Possession is valid category in psychology. I gave a quote by Stephen Braude, which plainly went right over your head, and I also cited an online article, published in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, which were you were obviously too lazy to read.
“But you're making claims for the supernatural as relates to biology/cosmology of a level that you'd never claim for anything else.”
Such as what? Give me some examples.
“And demanding those particular branches of science make special allowances for your personal beliefs”
All you’ve done here is to beg the question. Who gets to define science in the first place? You think the atheists get to define science, and then the Christians have to ask for special allowances? The way you frame the issue betrays your own tendentious bias.
“I can pick examples of one-offs for anything and say 'look, miracle' when there's nothing particularly unusual going on in the bigger picture.”
Now you’re being illogical. Something unusual doesn’t have to be going on in the bigger picture for something inexplicable to be going on in the little picture.
“But anyway, I refer to my previous point, where I was simply answering what would convince me of a miracle.”
I’ll grant you that given your illogical burden of proof, no amount of evidence will convince an irrational unbeliever like yourself.
“Then people assume it to be factual (scientology being a great modern day example of this, which I'm sure we can both agree is false)?”
If, as you correctly state, we both agree that scientology is false, then people don’t assume it to be factual. Some do and some don’t. So you’re example proves nothing one way or the other.
“Yet on the other pointing to a man who explicitly states he supports the core ideas of evolution but takes issue with some of the finer details.”
No, Gee’s thesis is more radical than that. Given that fossil finds are separated by vast intervals of time, it’s impossible to sequence them.
“But as he's been told hundreds of times, all science works this way. Why single out biology/cosmology?”
Because science is a big field and he’s taken a special interest in evolutionary biology. Cosmology is of interest as well to the degree that it has apologetic potential (e.g. the fine-tuning argument).
“He's also been asked for his alternative supernatural methodology and has remained silent on the matter for a number of years now. Why is this?”
To begin with, Johnson is a popularizer, not a high-level theorist. And he probably doesn’t want to get bogged down in the religious angle. You don’t have to come up with an alternative to point out the flaws in the reigning paradigm. That’s a separate issue.
“And what constitutes 'evidence' for the supernatural?”
Why don’t you read a few standard titles in the field of philosophical theology and Christian apologetics? It’s not as if no one has ever attempted to answer that question before.
“Except it kind of does, since the designer has to be supernatural (ID 'theory' states that not only aspects of biology, but also cosmology are best explained by design (ie fine tuning of the universe) - since something that is a part of nature couldn't design nature (as it would have to exist prior to nature existing), then we have to go to the supernatural). The biblical God is a supernatural intelligent designer you'd agree?”
Now you’re committing a level-confusion. To say the biblical God is supernatural is not to say that a supernatural creator or designer is the Biblical God. And it also doesn’t mean that ID-theory operates with the Biblical category of natural kinds. ID-theory operates at a more abstract level than that.
You’re like someone who walks into an automated factory, doesn’t see any engineers on the floor, and therefore denies that anyone designed the factory in the first place. After all, robots seem to be doing all the work. Who needs humans to get the ball rolling?
“Except, as I said to Rho, I'm arguing for a view of the world where I expect boundaries between living organisms to be fuzzy as opposed to distinct.”
Even that YEC makes allowance for microevolution as well as speciation (depending on how you define it), while ID-theory is compatible with theistic evolution.
“To set up a methodologically reliable study they would not have chosen people who were certifiably insane for example.”
Now you’re moving the goalpost from “as intelligent and reliable” to “not certifiably insane.”
“Right, but the brain plays a pretty critical role in perception, controls the sensory organs and integrates the inputs from said organs.”
False, implanted memories aren’t based on misperception. No perception was involved. You cited an example to prove something it doesn’t prove. Now you resort to special pleading to shore up your faulty example.
“I was showing how large numbers of people (in Rho's view) can become convinced of something that is (he claims) not true.”
Like the global warming scam?
“I don't - i'm asking how a YEC model, such as the one Rho subscribes to (you may also, I have no idea what precisely it is you believe), would explain it. I don't mean tell me it actually happened, I mean explain why or how it happened. What is the reason the creator doesn't put these animals in places they'd be well suited to?”
Gen 1 doesn’t give us a map of primeval world. You’re making assumptions on which the text of Scripture is silent. Assumptions about primeval climate, biodiversity, biodistribution, topography, &c.
For example, Gen 1 doesn’t imply that God even made polar bears. Rather, he made natural kinds, including bears. Creationism is not opposed to adaptive variation. God didn’t create every subspecies of bear by direct fiat. You’re not going to get that from Gen 1.
Moreover, animals don’t have to be created in situ to be there at a later date. Some animals can cross natural barriers. Other animals are introduced into a foreign habitat by sailors.
“And yes in some cases to the 2nd part - quadripedalism is far more beneficial in a lot of environments and having a solid base for walking/running would be exceptionally beneficial (eg it provides more stability than bipedalism), so being able to both fly and having the advantage of four unlimbed wings (birds and bats occasionally walk/run after all) would be tremendous.”
No, there’s a tradeoff between specialization and general utility. A limb that’s more efficient for ground locomotion is less efficient for airborne locomotion. That’s why there’s no such thing as optimal design.
If you have six limbs rather than four, then you have to divert more energy and muscle mass to six limbs. Isn’t there a reason why organisms with more than four limbs tend to be aquatic or insectile? Beyond a certain weight, it’s not cost-effective to have more than four limbs.
But if you think you can come up with a better design, by all means do so. Produce a working model. Create a bird with two wings and four feet. Take it out for a test flight. Let’s see your new-and-improved model in action. Stick your neck out. Do the legwork.
“Which is why im asking them to stick their neck out and make a positive prediction, rather than letting actual scientists do all the leg work…Evolution can actually EXPLAIN it, since vertebrates don't have the body plan to support the addition of a 3rd pair of limbs.”
That’s not a prediction. That’s a retrodiction.
“This fits with evolution, as processes can only build on what is already there, and cannot make giant sudden leaps to entirely rearrange developmental processes to accomodate such things (eg like a horse with wings).”
A winged horse wouldn’t be a horse. A horse is too heavy to fly. You’re equivocating.
“Noone is telling me Detroit designed some/all life though. They are telling me God/the designer did. If i wanted opinions of the people of Detroit in I could even jump on a plane myself and go and ask them why they wanted to do what they did, or read a poll that someone had conducted. I couldn't do the same for God/the designer. I don't even see what point you are trying to make here.”
Do you need to hop on a plane and interview the engineers to know their cars were designed by automotive engineers? No. It’s a non-sequitur to say you don’t know something is designed unless you know who or why or how it was designed.
“All of these can also be emergent properties as well as teleological ones.”
i) In that event, you’re admitting that evolution and creationism and/or ID-theory are empirically equivalent. So the scientific evidence doesn’t favor one over the other.
ii) Futuyma didn’t merely say they were emergent properties. He used teleological categories to explicate the nature of their emergence. Teleology and emergence are not synonymous concepts.
“But Ridley also offers several criticisms of phenetic classification over those pages.”
Which is one of those internecine debates in evolution.
“The idea that evolution would generate hierarchies isn't an assumption, since evolution is a known biological process that creates hierarchies (since it is a branching process as well as conforming to Markovian mathematics, which produces hierarchies with branching processes).”
All you’re doing here is to beg the question in favor of macroevolution. And you might want to read Fred Hoyle’s book on the Mathematics of Evolution.
“Linnaeus also predated Darwin by about 100 years, so couldnt possibly have come up with the hierarchical system to fit around evolutionary assumptions.”
That’s a description, not a prediction—based on ascending levels of abstraction. A snake is a subset of reptilian animals, which is a subset of animate objects, which is a subset of material objects, &c. It’s easy to classify objects hierarchically from infimae species to universals.
“This would be the same Kurt Wise who said even if all the evidence pointed in the opposite direction of creationism, he'd still be a creationist in spite of it. I wonder what other conclusion he was likely to reach based on that starting assumption?”
This would be the same Dawkins who said even if there were no actual evidence in favor of Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories. I wonder what other conclusion he was likely to reach based on that starting assumption?
“In these particular examples I'm dealing with microevolution.”
Evidence of microevolution is not evidence contrary to creationism, much less ID-theory. ID-theory is open to macroevolution.
You continually conflate different positions and then act as if evidence contrary to one is also at odds with another. In this case you’ve succeeded in producing evidence consistent with each of the opposing positions. Are you even attempting to be honest?
“However, I'm always curious to know the view of creationists as to why God put a limit on how much his creatures would be capable of adapting to their environs, and where exactly this limit is?”
i) Are you sorry you can’t mutate into a salamander?
ii) Where, exactly, do you draw the line between purple and red?
iii) The basic issue between creationism and evolution is the grand evolutionary narrative. That’s what creationism rejects. Two opposing narratives.
“I actually referred to the make-up of the material we all possess (the code) as opposed to DNA itself being an evolutionary prediction, but__1) It doesn't necessarily predict DNA - it predicts a common heritable material, but there was no reason it had to be DNA._2) every time we find a new organism, it's a test of that prediction, since there's no reason they should have to share their heritable material if they are not related.”
i) You’re backdating Darwin’s prediction with a very anachronistic gloss. Classic retrodiction.
ii) You also equivocate on what it means to be “related.”
“The idea of the universal/near universal genetic code was based on the assumption of common ancestry for many years prior to this.”
That’s a disguised description masquerading as a prediction.
“So their findings confirm earlier predictions, as well as making another prediction that their findings will be universal/virtually universal based on evolutionary assumptions. This has since withstood every test it has been subjected to thus far.”
Now you’re playing a shell game. What has stood the test of time? Common descent? Or DNA?
“The fact that those two examples are far from the only ones (a quick hunt on google can dig them up easy enough), and let's be realistic, the DI are advocating the use of a textbook that says 'cdesign proponentsists' plus every previous 'creationist' in the older version switched for a 'design proponent' in the newer ones with no other changes. What other conclusion would anyone reach from that?”
If you were honest, you’d reach the conclusion that ID proponents range along a continuum:
For you to treat every ID proponent as a front man for creationism is demonstrably false.
“But they did it by playing by the rules of methodological naturalism.”
Nature doesn’t follow our rules. Our rules ought to follow nature. That’s your problem.
Folks like Rupert Sheldrake study natural phenomena which the scientific establishment ignores because some natural phenomena refuse to play by the rules.
“It doesn't - I outlined before that it doesn't provide any barrier a priori to the supernatural.”
By definition, methodological naturalism erects an a priori barrier to the supernatural.
“But as soon as we come to the testable prediction stage supernaturalism hits a sticking point, since anything can be attributed to 'magic man did it'.”
You’re imprisoned within your self-reinforcing prejudice. Because you don’t believe in God, you can never bring yourself to honestly and accurately state the opposing position. And I don’t expect that I’ll be able to pierce through all your layers of protective prejudice. This is for the benefit of other readers.
“Magic man” is not the alternative. The alternative is intelligent agency. Unlike inanimate forces, intelligent agents can exercise rational discretion. As such, they lack the absolute predictability of a machine.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that anything goes. We’re talking about a rational agent. The principle of sufficient reason.
“However, there's no reason Meth. Nat couldn't have supported for example a young earth/global flood hypothesis if such evidence existed. Unfortunately for those views, it didn't.”
i) That’s palpably false. For example, you can’t reduce Gen 1-2 to nothing but second causes. The role of divine agency is explicit and ineluctable.
ii) In addition, there are situations in which the same effect might have more than one possible cause. The evidence doesn’t always single out a unique cause.
“If science as it is now bothers creationists and IDists so much, why are they desperate to have their ideas recognised as scientific? Why don't they just come up with the supernatural methodology they keep talking about.”
i) What “supernatural methodology” is David Berlinski always talking about?
ii) I thought Dembski’s primary objective was to come up with rigorous criteria to identify the presence, or absence, of design in nature. It doesn’t prejudge the methodology one way or the other.
“I am making sense - the demands can be phrased roughly like this:__1. Person X believes religious/supernatural story A to be true or has personal belief B_2. Science presents evidence to the contrary.”
Of course, the minor premise (2) simply begs the question.
“So science has to drop the usual rules it plays by to make special allowances for religious claims/individual beliefs?”
Science shouldn’t be inventing prejudicial rules about what’s possible or not in the natural world. That isn’t based on observation. That’s in advance of observation. A filter on observation—to screen out evidence of the supernatural.
“Basically, whatever lots of people believe, we should make allowances for it?”
A straw man argument.
“Isn't this why Galileo got put under house arrest, since empirical evidence went against baseless popular belief.”
Methodological naturalism is not an empirical principle.
“I don't see any reason why we can't expect to see this type of special creation again if it is indeed true.”
Because, according to Gen 1, special creation doesn’t recur at a later date.
“First of all, science doesnt really work on the basis of 'what Steve from an internet blog is willing to accept'.”
First of all, reality doesn’t really work on the basis of 'what methological naturalism is willing to accept'.”
“Second where are you positing the 'origin' of any of these 'cycles'?”
Creation ex nihilo.
“Most of the science you would be willing to accept will certainly involve a lot of indirect observation.”
It would behoove you to acquire a modicum of philosophical sophistication. I’m discussing indirect realism, which is a standard theory of perception. Empirical science is no better than your theory of perception.
Scientific success doesn’t depend on scientific realism. It only depends on a systematic correlation between appearance and reality.
“So if a judge stood up and said 'I assume you are guilty' before the start of a trial, what other conclusion would he come to whether the defendant was or not?”
That’s only as good as your metaphor. And even a judicial proceeding takes some things for granted, such as the rules of evidence. Evidence is theory-laden. Without a worldview, nothing counts as evidence.
Some worldviews have more explanatory power than others. That’s the sense in which the Christian worldview is presupposed. Not an arbitrary postulate—but a self-confirming axiom.
“Maybe we shouldn't assume anything until we can provide evidence either way.”
If you can’t assume anything, then nothing could ever count as evidence that Stonehenge was designed. You’re operating with a suicidal, bootstrapping empiricism.
“Naturalism has a track record of providing acceptable and useful explanations.”
i) “True” and “useful” are two different things. Lies can be useful.
ii) You are also confounding natural causes with a naturalistic philosophy. Those are not convertible propositions.
“Anyway, I keep asking, not even for an explanation, but a hypothesis that I could test even if it turns out to be wrong. Or provide me with an example where an appeal to the supernatural has come up with a new technology or a groundbreaking discovery. it surely shouldn't be difficult if the approach is as productive as people seem to think.”
One of your problems is a persistent inability to distinguish the distinguishable. Supernaturalism and ID-theory are not interchangeable. You’re welcome to judge ID-theory by the usual scientific criteria.
But supernaturalism is not a scientific hypothesis. Many truths involve personal agents. Many truths involve historical or anecdotal evidence.
It’s a category mistake to say that something is only true or credible if it has a technological track record. That’s only applicable to the way we harness the inanimate forces of nature. That is inapplicable to personal agency. Mental causation.
“It's because of atheists that gay people find it difficult or impossible in many states to get married or adopt?”
Why do you, as secular biologist, think that homosexuals should have a right to marry each other or adopt kids? You didn’t get that from evolutionary biology.
What’s the survival advantage of homosexuality? Shouldn’t natural selection weed out homosexuals?
Homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children. And you have no moral or scientific basis to believe otherwise.
“The general attitude of the US populace towards atheists is not particularly pleasant - just look at Ben Stein's movie comparing science and atheism to the Nazis.”
Isn’t that a gross overstatement on your part? He wasn’t talking about science in general. Rather, didn’t he draw a connection between Darwinism, social Darwinism, and National Socialism? And isn’t that a historically well-attested connection?
“You are aware that the head of your country professes to be a born-again Christian and that there are no known atheists holding a high ranking political position?”
Sounds good to me. I was a Huckabee supporter.
“I'm sure you're aware some states (eg Tennessee and Texas) have laws that make it illegal for an atheist to hold political office, despite this being against the terms of the US constitution?”
It would be unconstitutional if we were talking about Federal officeholders, not about state or local officials.
“Also, by appealing to popular sovereignty, you are again basically saying pretty much anything should be decided on the basis of enough people believing it, no matter how ridiculous. Past examples such as that of Galileo show the flaw with this approach.”
I didn’t *appeal* to popular sovereignty. I didn’t say if that was good or bad. Once again, you lack the mental discipline to follow your own argument.
I was answering you on your own grounds. To remind you of your own argument, since you can’t keep track of what you say, you originally said:
“It’s hard to argue that atheists who are a tiny minority (about 1.5-2%) have any real political power. Why would anyone pander to such a tiny voting bloc?”
I answered your rhetorical question by explaining to you that “They exert political power out of proportion to their numbers because they resort to the state and federal courts to subvert popular sovereignty.”
Whether or not popular sovereignty is a good thing is irrelevant to the issue you raised.
At the same time, when opponents of ID-theory rush to the courts to ban ID-theory from the public school curriculum, they take science out of the hands of scientists and put it in the hands of judges. Rather than the Church, the judiciary now becomes the arbiter of science.
Mon Jun 02, 06:42:00 PM CDT