Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Three Big Questions

Here's John West at Biola University in October 2010. He's asking three big questions.
  1. Did God specifically direct the history of life?
  2. Did God create humans originally good?
  3. Can we see evidence of God's design in nature?
The answers, by the way, are no, no, and no. But you already knew that, didn't you?

John G. West is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. He is also Associate Director of Discovery's Center for Science & Culture and Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs. In other words, he's one of the prime IDiots.

While watching the video, try and remember that Intelligent Design Creationism is not about God and criticism of "Darwinism" should be taught in the schools because it's part of science, not religion.




13 comments :

  1. Mr. West, at least at one time, was a Holocaust revisionist.

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  2. No time to listen to him this morning. Is it important?

    "The answers, by the way, are no, no, and no. But you already knew that, didn't you?"

    You "know" that? Don't you actually believe that?

    If God did actually do 1 and 3, then the most determinedly atheistic and most rigorous of science (in my experience the one isn't anything like a guarantee of the other) couldn't do more than tell you how it was done and not more than that - even if full evidence and full analysis were available and possible, which they never will be. Science can't go beyond what the physical evidence can show and if God is the actual creator of the universe, that physical evidence can show no more than how God did it. What you think on either side of the question of if God did it can't be anything but belief or, as I suspect it usually is, preference.

    2. is more problematic because it is a question about actual events in prehistory. We have no access to "original" humans, never mind access to their actions, understanding or intentions. We don't even have that in many non-original people living now. As even the biblical creation myth says that the first two people went bad fairly soon after they were first made, you'd have a mighty narrow range of entirely missing evidence to consider before you could know anything about it.

    As someone who accepts evolution, you'd have to convince me you'd come up with a definitive definition of what African population constituted the "original" humans. And that would be before trying to divine what their actions, understandings and intentions were in order to assert their moral stature. Convincing me you'd identified the Adams and Eves would be a lot easier than the rest of it.

    Of course, that is if you want to make a meaningful distinction between belief and knowledge. Muddying that line would seem to me to serve efforts like climate change denial, anti-vaccination fanaticism, the Intelligent Design industry, etc. Pretending to know what is merely believed can make someone arrogant, it can't make them any more accurate or persuasive to those not already predisposed.

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    1. The Thought Criminal said:

      "Science can't go beyond what the physical evidence can show..."

      Science can "see" everything humans can "see" (because science is made by humans) and much more (because it uses advanced technology).

      If science cannot go beyond what the physical evidence can show, then how can you?

      "If God did actually do 1 and 3, then the most determinedly atheistic and most rigorous of science (...) couldn't do more than tell you how it was done and not more than that..."

      And how do you know if 1 and 3 were done by God and not by Unicorn?

      Are you using "other way of knowing" (aka making stuff up) ?

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    2. Arek. I don't need science to tell me that the invasion of Iraq was a moral atrocity and a political disaster, which is good because science couldn't do that. I don't need science to know it's wrong to torture and murder children, which is just as good because science can't do that. I don't need science to know that the axioms and laws of mathematics are valid or that deductive logic is, which is good because science can't do that and, since science depends on those as prerequisites, I couldn't take science seriously without those. I can't even use science to know that it's a bad idea to lie about science or anything else because there is nothing in science that could possibly demonstrate that it is a bad idea.

      And how do you know if 1 and 3.....

      I wish atheists could comprehend the conditional mood, they don't seem to be able to twig onto it. Not to mention your need to cherry pick a partially elided -jeesh!- sentence out of a paragraph that ends, "What you think on either side of the question of if God did it can't be anything but belief or, as I suspect it usually is, preference."

      It's an "other way of knowing" to believe that you can know 1, 2, or 3, instead of believing them. Which was the point of my comment.

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    3. @The Thought Criminal

      About morality and ethics: I'm not so sure. Science is a way of thinking - critical thinking and healthy skepticism, based on evidence. You know that - for example - "the invasion of Iraq was a moral atrocity and a political disaster" because you applied these principles to it (maybe unconsiously, but still), am I right? Therefore I could argue that you actually did science when you decided/recognised that it was bad.

      So I don't see reason why Science could't do it.

      About mathematics: good point. But we are still using some rules in mathematics and not making stuff up.

      "I wish atheists could comprehend the conditional mood, ..."

      Now it seems that you missed my point, but maybe it's my fault. Let me explain.

      You say, that even if God did 1 and 3, then we couldn't detect his intervention, because science is restricted to physical evidence.

      But even if it was true, it would be nonsensical to say that 'God did it', because there would be no way to know this. ("And how do you know if 1 and 3 were done by God and not by Unicorn?").

      "What you think on either side of the question of if God did it can't be anything but belief or, as I suspect it usually is, preference."

      What about "preference based on rational thinking rather than wishfull thinking"? But yes, If I correctly understand you, you can call this a preference.

      "It's an "other way of knowing" to believe that you can know 1, 2, or 3, instead of believing them. Which was the point of my comment."

      You know that in science there are no Absolute Truths. But you can be pretty sure that Theory of relativity or Theory of evolution is true, because they are supported by evidence.

      Neither I nor anybody has evidence for non-existence of God, because it's impossible. But we can apply to the idea of God skepticism and critical thinking and come to the conclusion, that God does not exists (remember - this is not Absolute Truth, only reasonalbe conclusion).

      So although you cannot scrictly call this assumption (that God doesn't exist) a knowledge, I think you can be pretty sure that it is true, because you gained that "knowledge" using critical thinking.

      But to be clear - I am not 100% sure that God doesn't exist. It simply makes more sense to me.

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  3. "So I don't see reason why Science could't do it."

    I certainly don't agree with your definition of "science", but I'll leave that aside. What kind of mathematical analysis would you use to determine the moral and political disaster that the Iraq invasion is? I'd like to see you try to publish your paper in a reputable, reviewed scientific journal. I suspect that it would be rejected on suspicion as a covert attempt to insert religion into science. I can just about guarantee that the Scienceblog set would finger it as such.

    "But even if it was true, it would be nonsensical to say that 'God did it', because there would be no way to know this. "

    It wouldn't matter whether or not people could make sense of it if it was the case that God created the universe, it wouldn't make any more difference than anything else that isn't known being there, unknown by people. It might be satisfying that people have limited abilities to understand things but that seems to be the case.

    "preference based on rational thinking rather than wishfull thinking"

    I think you prefer to believe that religious people are less rational than atheists. It isn't my experience that you can safely make that assumption on the basis of reason, though it is often made on the basis of preference. It would be possible to type a list of contradictory evidence but I'd prefer not to, especially as I believe it wouldn't convince anyone. I think you mistake my intentions, I have in intention of trying to convince you that God created the universe, I'm merely pointing out things about the limits of science and the fact that no matter what science discovers it can't refute the idea that the universe, as it is, was the creation of God. If God created the universe then all science can do is find out things about that universe.

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    1. "I certainly don't agree with your definition of "science""

      OK, I agree. Maybe you are right, if we use your definition of science.

      But there are scientists, who are doing Science of Morality.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_of_morality

      (I don't know how valid is that science. I only wanted to point it out.)

      "I think you prefer to believe that religious people are less rational than atheists."

      I think atheists could be as irrational as believers. Therefore I prefer calling myself rationalist (but I am atheist and also agnostic, and naturalist etc. - you get the idea).

      "I think you mistake my intentions, ..."

      I understand that (I think so). And I agree, that science couldn't possibly detect undetectable intervention of God. But the same applies to unicorns, tooth fairies and infinite number of hypothetical beings. So why bother? Couldn't we simply abandon those ideas?

      This is really problem for me, because I don't want to explain that "yes, of course, I cannot know beyond doubt that there is no invisible, nonmaterial monster under my bed, therefore it's my preference not to belive into it" everytime I say "I know there is no monster under my bed".
      This is why I think my conclusion about God is reasonable.

      You seem to be upset, because prof. Moran used word "knew". Baybe indeed we shoud not use that word. But I could argue that:

      1 - we are inteligent people and we (nomen omen) know that this is not some kind of absolute knowledge, but reasonable conclusion.

      2 - we still can say, that we know that, because - well - we "looked under our bed" and haven't "seen" anything.

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  4. scientists, who are doing Science of Morality.

    Uh, huh, and there were scientists doing the "science" of behaviorism and Freudianism and those who studied ptosis of the organs and luerous ether and all manner of things. One of the more interesting things about science, for me at least, is how earnestly it studies and publishes things that are later junked and pushed into the invisible bone yard of discontinued science. No other section of that cemetery is larger than that of behavioral science which seems to have just about a 100% extinction rate. Call me very skeptical of any proposed "science of morality".

    "everytime I say "I know there is no monster under my bed".

    What is interesting about this is that it shows yet another atheist who doesn't seem to quite get what is being talked about when the God I propose could have created the universe is being discussed. You figure I'm talking about a God that has retreated to the gaps or, in your attempted analogy, the dark corners and hidden places. No, what I'm talking about is entirely different. I think scientists who focus on a narrow range of the physical universe can get a bad case of tunnel vision and they figure that what they're in the habit of thinking about with the tools, invented to study physical phenomena, is all that there is. Looking at the disastrous history of human psychology and ethology as science, I'm led to conclude those can't even tell us much if anything about behavior and consciousness. I don't believe science really can study those. That they can't deal with the topic at hand isn't any surprise as God is proposed to be entirely unlike the physical universe and far different from human beings. Science has to cut its focus down to a very narrow range of what it can fit into its methods, it does that to gain a limited range of more reliable information about a limited number of things. When people forget that intention and program, they can become as superstitious about science and its abilities as they can about anything else. Superstition about science is quite common, these days.

    All human thinking falls short of the mark, sometimes due to an insufficient range of view. Atheism would seem to be the product of just that kind of unconsidered limit.

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    1. "Call me very skeptical of any proposed "science of morality". "

      OK. I can agree with you on this topic. But your point was, if I corretly understand you, that science can't do it, and yet it is doing this.

      I said, that I don't know if this is a valid science. Maybe it is not. Maybe it is something like evolutionary psychology. But they are scientists, and they are doing some research and (I don't really know that) publishing some papers. If you exclude this from Science, then your definition seems to be very narrow (I, on the other hand, prefer using very broad definition of science, but my definition also exclude disciplines like evolutionary psychology).


      @last two paragraphs:

      You think that I don't understand you, and I think that you don't understand me.

      I said, that "Science can "see" everything humans can "see" (because science is made by humans) and much more (because it uses advanced technology)."

      If science cannot know anything about God, how can humans? Humans don't possess any ability to know God, which science doesn't. But nevermind about science. If we can't see him, can't feel him, can't measure him, can't check if he itervenes into this wordls, or can't at least come to a reasonable conclusion that he might exists(*), then how do people know, that he exists? How do you know?(**) Is it only matter of belief (or preference)? I don't belive that.

      (*) - Well, you can say, that there is possibility that he exists. But then you have to admit, that there is also possibility that any kind of supernatural being exists and you end up with infinite number of self contradictory entities. For me this is not reasonable.

      (**) - I remind you, that I don't know if he doesn't exist - I think it is simply reasonable do abandon this idea completely. And let's not quibble about using the word 'know'.


      You compared scientists inability to see something other than material world to tunnel vision. But what if it is not a tunnel vision, but we really are watching into a tunnel?

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  5. "Science can "see" everything humans can "see" (because science is made by humans) and much more (because it uses advanced technology)."

    Can film "see" everything humans can "see" because of that? Science resides in human minds, that is the only place that science is known to exist. Which is unsurprising since science is a human invention and not something that exists apart from deliberate intention and by a hardly uniform and always present consensus.

    I'm more convinced that "science" as actually used, has a definition a lot like the definition of "jazz", which is more of a convention of convenience than an actual definition. "Jazz" takes in the most brilliant and innovative, eg. Cecil Taylor, Ornette Colelman, the most technically accomplished and ingenious, eg.Charles Mingus, Carla Bley, and the most utterly banal eg. Kenny G. "Science" seems to be equally all over the place these days. In reality, it always has been. It covers ideas from those of enormous reliability to some of the most unreliable (the behavioral and social sciences, including cog-sci, among the latter).

    I'd like to know how science can see "much more" than humans can know. What does it mean for "advanced technology" to know something? You mean like the automated drones that are in development that will be able to "know" who to kill all on their own? I'm betting that turns out to be yet another disaster that an unbridled faith in science brings to the world, though probably not as bad as petro-geology or, possibly, nuclear physics, in its ultimate result.

    Well, science, ideally, cuts out all extraneous information or influences in order to achieve its goal, enhanced reliability of information. In doing that it can't help but narrow its focus. All academic fields do that to some extent, ideally, but none does it so much as science. Other than mathematics and symbolic logic, that is. Science can't achieve the certainty of results that mathematics can but it can reliable say things about the real world that pure mathematics can't. And other fields, such as history, can say things about the real world that science can't. Just as science consults mathematics (it has to in order to be science) history can consult science. That consultation doesn't change the fact that the results of history aren't science. Sometimes, as in the historical application of "race/eugenics science" the results can be disasterous. Too much faith in science has, at times, produced real disasters. Maybe if science looked at its temporarily held ideas that get junked instead of ignoring those or denying they can teach something about science as it really is as opposed to its romanticized lore, it might get better results.

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    1. Sorry - I'm forgotting, that we are using different definitions of science (for example - for me History is science).

      Maybe this discussion doesn't have sense. But I'd like to make few more comments in response to your last comment.

      I agree that science is human activity - that's why I'm saying that science can know everything humans can know (assuming they are using scientific way of thinking).

      Science knowing something means scientists (humans) knowing that, not some drones or film.

      Technology (which is not science) can enchance our perception.

      "Too much faith in science has, at times, produced real disasters."

      I agree. But let's not confuse reslults of scientific discoveries and our use of them with science itself.

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  6. or example - for me History is science

    The word "science" becomes incoherent when used that loosely and, as in economics these days, the non-scientific field produces mountains of garbage by misapplication of ill suited methodology, mistaking the results as having enhanced reliability when they don't. Eugenics and race "science" are excellent examples of what can happen when that is done. Which is something that real history can show far better than "scientific" history.

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