Monday, February 26, 2007

I Agree With Denyse O'Leary!

 
Calm down. The world has not come to an end. I don't agree with everything Denyse O'Learly says but there's one issue where we can see eye-to-eye.

Denyse thinks that Theistic Evolution is a cop-out [Theistic evolutionism and the new militant atheism]. She claims that Theistic Evolutionists have to surrender too much of their religion.
However, much of what is called theistic evolution today is simply an attempt to sell Darwinism, the creation story of materialism, to people who are not materialists. I call that "accommodationist" theistic evolution - it attempts to accommodate spiritually directed institutions to rule by materialists....

Usually, Christians (or other theists or people who accept that there is meaning and purpose in the universe) are urged to "accept" - in broad terms - "evolution." Darwinism, which nakedly refutes everything the theist believes, is the form of evolution that the sponsors are actually interested in promoting, to judge from their other activities. But they do not spell out its implications with the candor that the anti-God Darwinists do.
I agree that the middle ground position of Theistic Evolution is untenable [Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground]. In my case it's not because the Theistic Evolutionists (e.g., Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Simon Conway-Morris) are giving up too much religion; it's because they are giving up too much of science.

In typical IDiot fashion, Denyse O'Leary continues to use the term "Darwinism" to define her enemy. But if we overlook that particular bit of dissembling for the moment, she has a point. Science in general, and evolutionary biology in particular, tells us that there's no meaning or purpose in the universe. Theistic Evolutionists say that there is but they have no evidence to back up their claim. That's anti-science.

Denyse and I agree that Theistic Evolutionists are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

12 comments:

  1. In other words, you are just as rigidly balck-and-white in your thinking as Denyse (accent on the "Deny") and the rest of the IDeologists.

    Congratulations ... I guess.

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  2. I find it hilarious that an educated person could write this sentence:

    "In typical IDiot fashion, Denyse O'Leary continues to use the term "Darwinism" to define her enemy."

    Which is no different than if Denyse were to write:

    "In typical Darwinist fashion, Larry Moran continues to use the term "IDiot" to define his enemy."

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  3. I Agree With Denyse O'Leary!
    Gosh, Larry -- for sec there I thought you'd drunk the kool-aid at that Bible Skeptics event. Don't do that to us ;-).

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  4. Interesting that O'Leary has to acknowledge that she is discussing evolution theories, even though she takes the religious position of "theistic evolution" as a scientific theory.

    John:
    "you are just as rigidly balck-and-white in your thinking as Denyse"

    It is clear that theistic evolution isn't a scientific theory (because it breaks parsimony and because it introduces objects with unobservable effects). It is a religious (philosophical) stance.

    And since it takes a perfectly correct theory and perverts it for cross purposes (argue unobservable effects instead of observable) it is also clear that it is anti-scientific. It is like a shadow to a light.

    I would be surprised if this isn't one reason why for example Dawkins feels that religion is a bad influence.

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  5. Heh! When I started to read the link material, I see that there is a (slightly different) light illustration there too. But more colorful. :-)

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  6. I am no longer a theistic evolutionist, but I did recently find it very useful that they exist: I was arguing with a creationist (at this event: http://www.coreottawa.ca/events.html), and he was whining about how all he wanted was to have equal time devoted to teaching evolution and YEC, since both are "religions". Eventually, I got him to agree that the fact that there are Christians (not to mention Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists etc) who accept evolutionary science. Then he had to admit that perhaps there is a difference between the acceptance of evolution on scientific grounds, independent of religion, as compared to his view (that YEC is true because the bible says so). 5 minutes later, another pastor joined the conversation, and stated that teaching evolution is bad because it is "a faith-killer" - not that that is necessarily be a bad thing, but I prefer the gradual approach myself.

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  7. And since it takes a perfectly correct theory and perverts it for cross purposes (argue unobservable effects instead of observable) it is also clear that it is anti-scientific. It is like a shadow to a light.

    I agree that TE is not a scientific theory. But it is not advertized as such and, therefore, it is no perversion. TE is a theological stance that acknowledges a fact about the world, the same way that most religions accept that the Earth is a sphere.

    On the other hand, taking the perfectly correct theory of evolution and claiming it shows that there is no purpose to the universe in the sense TEers mean (which you have already acknowledged is scientifically unobservable) is just as unscientific. But until Larry acknowledges that this is his philosophical, rather than scientific, stance, he is doing precisely what the IDers are doing.

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  8. It certainly is a scientific stance to state that there is no evidence of intent in evolutionary history! It isn't philosophy that Darwin observed that an unguided, probabilistic sorting of random variation was sufficiently powerful to explain the diversity of life on earth -- and it's an observation that has been confirmed by the math.

    I think that's a perfect example of the conflict. Why do you feel it is necessary to try and wiggle away from the only (so far) reasonable interpretation of the evidence? Why run away from the fact that chance and necessity do an awfully good job of accounting for our existence...and this god hypothesis is superficial, unsupported fluff?

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  9. It certainly is a scientific stance to state that there is no evidence of intent in evolutionary history!

    Why does a "scientific stance" sound like a "theological stance"? Oh, I know, because you don't actually have any scientific evidence on the point at issue, which is the TEers' conception a purpose to the universe.

    For example, give me an instance where, say, Ken Miller says there is scientific evidence of intent in evolutionary science. I doubt you can because Miller knows the difference between science and theology/philosophy.

    Why run away from the fact that chance and necessity do an awfully good job of accounting for our existence...and this god hypothesis is superficial, unsupported fluff.

    You are free to have your philosophy. But those who try to turn science into just another philosophy threaten everything that makes science so good at what it does.

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  10. The proposition that a lack of evidence for a god or purpose to our existence supports the nonexistence of those things rests on two premises. One is that existence of god or purpose are actually testable (would leave observable evidence for us to find). And the second, which follows the first, is that if god or purpose did exist, that we necessarily should have seen evidence for it by now. Only with both of these premises satisfied could we begin to assess the nonexistence of a god as a scientific stance.

    PZ, you actually gave a good example of this in a post last year. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/look_ma_im_a_secular_whackjob.php

    "Absence of evidence is a legitimate argument for the absence of a phenomenon. If I claim there is a unicorn living in my backyard, but repeated attempts to observe and record it, or to find indirect evidence such as footprints or unicorn scat all fail, it is perfectly reasonable to provisionally suggest that the claim is false, and to insist that any further consideration of the idea will require positive evidence from the claimant."

    The claim of a unicorn living in your backyard is testable because there are predictions about what observations could be made based on that hypothesis. In a later comment on that post you point out something interesting.

    "You will notice, though, that one of the skills of the religious is to make their claims so amorphous, so hedged about with qualifiers and pre-assembled excuses, that nothing is actually testable. That's another way to detect the absence of a phenomenon."

    In the case of the unicorn, I would tend to agree. Like if the claim was made that unicorn doesn't leave scat because it poops elsewhere and doesn't leave tracks because of the special shape of its hooves, or some such nonsense. But I disagree that poor thinking on the part of the religious is any way of detecting the absence of god.

    It is certainly simpler, based on what we can see and observe, to believe that god does not exist and that there is no overall purpose to our existence. And for purposes of trying to expand our knowledge through science, we certainly work under the assumption that only natural forces are acting in the system under study. But until the existence of god or purpose are testable, the belief that they don't exist is a philosophical one, and not a scientific proposition.

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  11. "But it is not advertized as such and, therefore, it is no perversion."

    Of course it is, why else call it 'evolution'. It is like taking a transistor model and claiming that there are fairies moving the electrons and call it 'theistic transistors'. It is messing with science and it is totally unnecessary.

    "TE is a theological stance that acknowledges a fact about the world"

    No, it contradicts that fact - it says that evolution isn't a natural process because the model isn't correct. You must add a supernatural intervention.

    "On the other hand, taking the perfectly correct theory of evolution and claiming it shows that there is no purpose to the universe in the sense TEers mean (which you have already acknowledged is scientifically unobservable) is just as unscientific."

    I didn't note that he said that. But he didn't say that is shows or proves that, he said that it tells us that there's no meaning or purpose in the universe. Which is true, the theory has no agent, and it removes the need for an agent to explain life. Physics do the same for cosmology.

    "you don't actually have any scientific evidence on the point at issue"

    Not testable evidence, but we can support it with bayesian inference. The amount of natural theories explaining observations make a natural universe very probable. It is certainly nothing science says, but it could easily do it.

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  12. The saddest for me, was the bit:

    ...another pastor joined the conversation, and stated that teaching evolution is bad because it is "a faith-killer" which is (I suggest) only true of a feeble version of faith which relies on fairy-tales to support it.

    Faith - as defined by those Believers I respect - is a personal awareness of an outside power, person, or force. It isn't credulous acceptance of the literal meaning of aged (if ageless) poetry and metaphor.

    There's some kind of Biblical reference which such "pastors" should be pointed at. I refer to "...a Pharisee named Gamaliel," who can be found in Acts 5:38.

    "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.

    38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

    That's faith. You can't have faith if something as feeble as false preaching about "what evolution means" can destroy it.

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