Friday, October 05, 2012

An Online Course for Intelligent Design Creationists

About 99% of all books and posts by Intelligent Design Creationist consists of criticisms of evolution—which they mistakenly refer to as "Darwinism."

What this usually reveals is that the typical IDiot doesn't understand evolution. But there's at least one Intelligent Design Creationist who recognizes that this is a problem. Jonathan McLatchie (Jonathan M) recommends that his colleagues take an free online course in order to learn about evolution [Free Online Course: Introduction to Genetics and Evolution]. He writes,
Critics of modern evolutionary theory have an intellectual responsibility to strive to understand the paradigm that they are critiquing, preferably to a level where they can clearly articulate the key propositions of evolutionary theory and offer a standard defense of them.

Richard Hoppe, at the Panda’s Thumb blog, drew my attention to a free online course on the subject of genetics and evolution. You can, as I have done, sign up for (and read about) the course at this link.

...

I particularly recommend that those among us who don’t have a strong biology background take this course. It is very important that we ID proponents make sure we have a robust grasp of what evolutionary theory is saying and why it says it, so that no one can say we haven’t given it a fair hearing.
Wouldn't it be nice if most IDiots followed Jonathan McLatchie's advice? In just a few months they could learn that modern evolution and genetics includes all sorts of things that Darwin never knew! Imagine what a relief it would be if they stopped referring to us all as "Darwinists" and started to understand that evolution is a fact.

Not holding my breath.


202 comments :

  1. In just a few months they could learn that modern evolution and genetics includes all sorts of things that Darwin never knew!

    Aha! You've admitted that Darwin Was Wrong!

    (In fact, in Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini's book What Darwin Got Wrong they spend about the first half of the book saying that).

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    1. Evolutionary biologist Joe Felsenstein said: Darwin Was Wrong

      Someone said Darwin? Paging Mr Thought Criminal! Hello? Helloooooo?

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    2. Re Allan Miller

      Mr. McCarthy indicated several weeks ago that he was leaving before he was given the heave ho for accusing various scientists of being war criminals. No great loss.

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  2. Larry, many defenders of modern evolutionary theory are abysmally ill-informed as well. Actually, I generally find that lay-proponents of ID are far more informed than lay-defenders of Darwinian theory. The desire to understand evolutionary biology was part of my reason for pursuing a Masters degree in the subject (now completed). I also find the subject genuinely fascinating. No one can say that I haven't given it a fair hearing, and I continue to try to stay informed and keep relatively up to date.

    I recommend this course to my colleagues because I want people to be able to make informed decisions based on a robust understanding of the claims that they are evaluating. My desire is that the evidence be followed, irrespective of whether that brings people to an ID persuasion or otherwise. I'd equally recommend this course to critics of ID, not necessarily because I think that critics of ID are generally not well informed about biology.

    I myself will be taking the course because it will serve as good re-inforcement/revision and I'm fascinated by biology generally.

    Jonathan

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    1. Larry, many defenders of modern evolutionary theory are abysmally ill-informed as well. Actually, I generally find that lay-proponents of ID are far more informed than lay-defenders of Darwinian theory.

      I'm not sure my own experience coincides with your own. Still, when people make scientifically ill-informed statements on blogs such as this, they are soon corrected, wherever they come from. The difference, ISTM, is that the pro-evolutioanry side is more likely to assimilate the information and rethink their position; the antis cast around desperately for some reason, from somewhere, to continue in their conviction that they are right, even in conversation with professionals in the field. Professionals can be wrong, but who would you put your money on in the general case?

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    2. Jonathan McLatchie says,

      Larry, many defenders of modern evolutionary theory are abysmally ill-informed as well.

      That's correct and I'd like to educate them as well.

      However, the difference is that you and your colleagues pretend to understand evolutionary biology so well that you feel entitled to reject it in favor of a creationist viewpoint. As a general rule, if you're going to attack a major scientific achievement then the least you can do is understand it.

      Let me know if you persuade the following people to take the course: Jonathan Wells, Casey Luskin, Bill Dembski, Denyse O'Leary, Barry Arrington, Sal Cordova, and David Klinghoffer.

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    3. As a general rule, if you're going to attack a major scientific achievement then the least you can do is understand it

      Then design some experiments to prove it wrong and go through the peer review process.

      I'm afraid that from experience, Jonathan's default position is to claim that anyone who sees ID creationism for the religious bullshit it is, doesn't undrstand ID.

      Perhaps we should let the number of papers in real journals speak for themselves

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  3. I am sure nobody here needs reminding that Jonathan Wells earned a PhD in in molecular and cell biology although, by his own admission, his primary reason for so doing was to "destroy Darwinism". Funny, but I don't remember Albert Einstein admitting that his only reason for taking up theoretical physics was to destroy Newtonism.

    Of course, religious belief is no bar to entering science and conducting valuable research. There are many well-known examples of scientists who hold firm religious convictions yet are able to accommodate them to their work or set them aside when doing it. There seems to be no reason to doubt that they are prepared to follow the evidence wherever it might lead and are not constantly measuring the acceptability of their results against some theological or ideological yardstick.

    On the other hand, as we well know, there are those at the Discovery Institute or the blog Uncommon Descent, for example, who are in full accord with Wells. Jonathan McLatchie can easily write:

    My desire is that the evidence be followed, irrespective of whether that brings people to an ID persuasion or otherwise.

    knowing that the sentiment is irreproachable. Whether or not he believes it is another matter. Perhaps he genuinely believes he is willing and able to submit evolutionary biology to impartial scrutiny. I don't. I think that, like Wells, his study of biology as akin to a general carefully studying an opponent because the better he understands his enemy the better are his chances of using that knowledge to defeat him. Again, this is no bar to Wells or McLatchie or anyone else of that ilk taking up science if they choose. If nothing else, they can serve the useful function of helping to keep honest researchers who might otherwise be tempted to overstate their case. For me what it means, however, is that I cannot accept their unsupported word on anything in biology because they are driven by something other than the pure pursuit of knowledge.

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    1. Does the ID supporter simply want to "win" against the scientists, or achieve a real understanding of the natural world? If they are ideologically driven to invoke the supernatural, then no amount of knowledge will ever overcome that. As the saying goes, you can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves into.

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    2. Matt, it is disingenuous to imply that closed minds are operating on only one side of the divide. The origin of the universe and the emergence of life from non-living matter are not solved disputes, despite recent books from the 'scientific' side that attempt to present the matter as closed. The universe is what the universe is, and life is what life is, no matter what any one person believes about it. It is as much an act of belief, at this point, to conclude that everything in the known universe, including ourselves, came about through natural, simple and unguided processes as it is to believe otherwise.

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    3. Those matter of dispute you cite have ALREADY been settled (by one side), and the answers are God, God, God, God, and God. The scientific side is NEVER closed, and that is the fundamental difference between those who seek real understanding and those who simply want their cherished beliefs protected. We see no evidence for a guiding hand in the evolution of life or any other property of the universe, so we don't propose one. You "see" this because you either want or need this to be so. Your reasons are your own, whether you feel your life is empty without it, or because you fear death, or you were conditioned to believe it, or you are genetically predisposed, or some combination of these, or, or, or....

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    4. see again, that is either disingenuous, or reductive and narrow minded. When people like Krauss write books like "A Universe From Nothing", to say nothing of the pseudo-arguments of 'The God Delusion', they are not just following the science where it leads. They are co-opting science, and in a sense cheapening their own credentials, in order to assert their anti-theistic worldview.

      That is not all that different from what most ID proponents do. But you are wrong to insist that all thought is the same on the other side of the divide. You always seem to assume that EVERY person who looks at the complexity of life must WANT there to be a god. Do you really think there isn't a single person out there who thinks that, from the complexity and organization of biology, and the vast variety of living forms, it is reasonable to conclude that there may be some as yet undiscovered explanation, but that it isn't necessarily 'god' and doesn't come from a fear of death or whatever?

      What you are doing is merely lumping people together so that it is easier for you to categorize them. There is stubborn ideology on both sides, and there is open minded questioning on both sides, despite what you think.

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    5. "You always seem to assume that EVERY person who looks at the complexity of life must WANT there to be a god."

      Every religious person (which includes IDiots) does. In fact, they insist that there is a god and that it's their chosen god. You're not really so naive as to think that the IDiots aren't pushing a dishonest, religious/political agenda, are you?

      Why don't you ask Jonathan if he believes in a god and whether he believes that his chosen god (yhwh) is the one and only designer-creator-god?

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    6. TWT, yes, I agree that every religious person wants there to be a god, and moreover want that god to be the one they already believe in.

      As for IDiots, I don't use the term, and I do believe, perhaps naively, that there are different variations of belief systems, agendas, etc. within the group that you reductively lump together.

      That some of these people have a dominionist agenda I don't question. But there are others within this large group who are as opposed to the Christian right as you are.

      As for Jonathan, my suspicion is that he is a a Christian. I don't have a suspicion one way or the other as to whether or not he's a domionist. He was here earlier, so if he reads this he can answer for himself. But if he IS, I am as opposed to him as you are.

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    7. "But there are others within this large group who are as opposed to the Christian right as you are."

      Name them.

      "As for Jonathan, my suspicion is that he is a a Christian. I don't have a suspicion one way or the other as to whether or not he's a domionist."

      All christians are dominionists whether they will admit it or not. Dominion over all the people on Earth, and everything else on Earth, and everything in the universe is one of the fundamental tenets and teachings of christianity.

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    8. Name them? Okay, me.


      Your second point is total hooey. Dominionists refers to a specific group of people who want to infiltrate the so called 'pillars' of government, education, media, etc. in order to install an American theocracy.

      There are Christian women opposed to abortion. There are plenty of Christians who feel uncomfortable about the blurring of the lines between church and state. There are Christians who are terrified of Talibanization of America. You reveal your prejudice by putting beliefs into peoples heads based on your understanding of their 'tenets'.

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    9. whoops, that should read, 'plenty of Christian women opposed to state imposed restrictions on abortion'

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    10. "Name them"

      Lee Bowman comes to mind also, see some of his arguments here > http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog/2011/01/intelligent-design-is-not-crea.shtml (scroll comments)

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    11. So you're saying that you're religious but don't believe in and don't want there to be a god?

      I still haven't seen you name "others within this large group who are as opposed to the Christian right as" I am. Hey, I know, you could name a muslim or three. They're likely as opposed to the "christian right" (is that your label for the more vocal and ambitious christians who follow the christian dominionist tenets more to the letter?) as I am but for different reasons. And whether christians or muslims or hindus or any other religion, the followers believe in and want there to be a supernatural god or gods of some sort. It goes with the territory.

      Speaking of hooey, just because people conveniently modify or sugar coat their religious beliefs (whether christian or otherwise) or practices thereof or won't admit to wanting to force their beliefs onto others doesn't mean that the fundamental dominionist tenets and teachings of christianity are not as I said. Dominionism is at the heart of christianity (and many other religions).

      "Genesis 1:26
      English Standard Version (ESV)
      26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

      "Matthew 28:18-20
      New International Version (NIV)
      18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

      And of course there's a LOT more in the bible (the official "Holy Book" of christianity) about power/authority/rule/law/dominion and the threat of death and eternal punishment if people don't submit to, obey, and worship god/christ or their agents. And of course the bible also says that christians are commanded to cram their dogma down everyone else's throat. Even the so-called good stuff in the bible is extortion due to the fundamental 'or else' threat of death and eternal punishment.

      In my entire life I've never seen or heard an 'evolutionist' or so-called 'Darwinist' say 'Believe in and worship natural evolution and almighty Darwin or you will surely die and suffer eternal damnation and punishment.', but christians say and christianity is fundamentally based on 'Believe in and worship almighty God (or Jesus) or you will surely die and suffer eternal damnation and punishment.'



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    12. Twt, don't put words in my mouth, please.

      You asked me to 'name' people who are opposed to the Christian right, and I named myself. You would no doubt consider me to be an 'ID proponent', so that's my answer. I'm an 'ID proponent' who is opposed to the Christian right, so I named myself.

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    13. furthermore, people can modify or 'sugarcoat' their beliefs if they want to. It's THEIR religious belief so they have a right to believe what they want to believe from whatever holy book they look to for guidance. Were Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King or Desmond Tutu or Harriet Tubman or the revolutionary priests of Central America trying to take over the world? They OPPOSED groups of people imposing their will on others. They used their beliefs to strengthen them in their fight, which they knew could end very badly for them (as it did for some of them)

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    14. I thoroughly enjoyed that exchange with Associate Dean Alison Campbell at Univ. of Waikato last year. But first, Larry's take on IDst abusive parlance.

      "About 99% of all books and posts by Intelligent Design Creationist consists of criticisms of evolution—which they mistakenly refer to as "Darwinism." "

      Firstly, I hate -isms, as they unfairly encapsulate one's position in a pejorative manner. One of the worst we hear today is Creationism/ist, often unjustly conflated with ID.

      While both -isms can be used highlight premises arising from either subjective position (one holding to Biblical Creation, the other to the seminal premise of solely natural causation), the 'ist labels are plainly used to degrade one with an opposing view.

      And the IDC conflation, while initiated for political reasons, is no more valid than adding in the Pres' middle name (Barack Hussein Obama) for political degradation.

      "Imagine what a relief it would be if they stopped referring to us all as "Darwinists" and started to understand that evolution is a fact."

      As well, a welcome relief if the non-Ken Hams of IDsts would stop being called "Creationists", IDiots, and IDC adherents. No different IMHO.

      Anyway, regarding the use of those terms, I commented at [10:22], comment 20 of 22 at the above link.

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    15. The link:
      http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog/2011/01/intelligent-design-is-not-crea.shtml

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    16. Anonymous said:

      "Lee Bowman..."

      And your point is?

      Bowman is obviously just another IDiot.

      He said:

      "Where Creationism departs from ID proper, is basing scientific conclusions on scripture, rather than evidence. Irreducible complexity and specified information are what support ID, rather than a personal view based on religious teachings, and are perfectly valid tenets for continued research."

      LMAO! And what's with "continued research"? Where the hell is the current ID research? Or even a smidgen of positive evidence?

      And:

      "So let's treat science as it is intended; open to objective inquiry. ID is clearly on the table, with evo processes likely intertwined as designed-in support systems."

      Wow, that sounds real sciency. Not.

      And:

      "Unfortunately, most of us are agenda bound, and that impinges negatively on rational thought."

      Dang, he has himself pegged. Wonders never cease.

      Hey, can you get Bowman over here and have him calculate the amount of CSI, FSCO/I, or dFSCO/I in a banana and show his work? No other IDiot has been able to do it and I've been asking for a long time.

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    17. TWT, here is another person who is as far away from your one-size-fits-all view of Christianity as one can possibly get. I'm not a Christian, but I read his book, The Irresistible Revolution, and I can assure you that he has done more to aid the poor and homeless, protest against militarism, and argue against pompous dominionists than 99% of all atheists, fellow Christians, me (for certain) and quite possibly you as well.
      You can't just lump all these guys together.

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

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    18. "Twt, don't put words in my mouth, please.

      You asked me to 'name' people who are opposed to the Christian right, and I named myself."

      Where did I put words in your mouth?

      You said:

      "But there are others within this large group who are as opposed to the Christian right as you are."

      And I said:

      "Name them."

      And you were the one who brought up the terms "dominionist" and "the Christian right" in the first place in your response to these words of mine:

      "Every religious person (which includes IDiots) does. In fact, they insist that there is a god and that it's their chosen god. You're not really so naive as to think that the IDiots aren't pushing a dishonest, religious/political agenda, are you?

      Why don't you ask Jonathan if he believes in a god and whether he believes that his chosen god (yhwh) is the one and only designer-creator-god?"

      I don't see the terms "dominionist" or "the Christian right" in them. So, who's putting words in whose mouth?

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    19. You put words in my mouth when you wrote, "So you're saying that you're religious but don't believe in and don't want there to be a god?"

      No, I am not saying that (of course), and that had nothing to do with the question you asked.

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    20. andyboerger says,

      It is as much an act of belief, at this point, to conclude that everything in the known universe, including ourselves, came about through natural, simple and unguided processes as it is to believe otherwise.

      That's nonsense. In order for there to be another option one has to believe in the existence of supernatural beings who could have created the universe and life. Such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence.

      Not believing in something that has no evidence to support it is not a "belief." It's the normal state of mind of anyone who claims to be rational.

      We may not know the answers to questions such as "how did life begin" but assuming that it arose by natural processes is the only logical possibility for a non-theist. That's not an arbitrary "belief" no matter what you say.

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    21. Larry: Merriam-Webster defines belief as 'a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing'

      In your case, that 'thing' would be the scientific method, or more specifically science as it stands in the present.
      It is a belief, no matter what you say.

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    22. The scientific method usually relies on models or working hypotheses. I think the focus should be on evaluating the existing data and observations in context of all existing models or working hypotheses.

      This seems to be a relatively straightforward approach that should lead to solutions and progress, unless the objective is to maintain confusion and endless unproductive discussions, just like in some fields of philosophy (that’s intended to be humorous; I’m referring to the philosophy allusion)!

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    23. Claudiu, noted.
      So, what, in your opinion, would science make of the following proposition?

      For more than 16 billion, the vast, entire universe, was completely dumb, deaf, blind to, and ignorant of itself. Their were nebula and galaxies that we now see as beautiful, but for 16 billion years they were unseen. In fact, they still ARE unseen everywhere else in the vast, entire universe except on this one planet. Perhaps two billion years ago, on this one planet, the first 'eye' evolved. That was the first time that anything sensitive to light ever existed. Sight, as we now know it, came much later.


      A scientist would have to say yes, that's essentially right. But that is quite obviously a belief.

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    24. @andyboerger

      Very convenient definition.

      A mere opinion, religious faith and evidence-based theory are simply beliefs, no matter what anyone says.

      Now if someone says something you don't agree with - hey, it's just your belief, I have mine!

      Don't you think that this tactic is dishonest?

      As Negative Entropy pointed out, not every "belief" is equally worth considerig.

      And BTW - I found other definitions of belief.

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    25. For more than 16 billion, the vast, entire universe, was completely dumb, deaf, blind to, and ignorant of itself. Their were nebula and galaxies that we now see as beautiful, but for 16 billion years they were unseen.

      Get your chronology right. The Universe as we know it is not that old. Then, only a few galaxies and nebulas are visible to the naked eye and until very recently no-one was aware of their beauty or even their existence. Are you suggesting that their existence before the seventeenth century is purely a matter of belief? How many of them have you seen personally, with your own eyes, not as photos but as things in the sky?

      In fact, they still ARE unseen everywhere else in the vast, entire universe except on this one planet. Perhaps two billion years ago, on this one planet, the first 'eye' evolved.

      Are you assuming that there is no extraterrestrial life anywhere?

      That was the first time that anything sensitive to light ever existed.

      No, the world is full of things sensitive to light (and to other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation)

      Sight, as we now know it, came much later.

      So what? I "believe" that the world existed before I was born, and people older than me (in whose existence as independent entities I also "believe") confirm that, and I "believe" them. Please don't ignore the fundamental difference between "belief" in this epistemological sense (having good and legitimate reasons for acceptig a proposition to be true) and religious belief.

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    26. Piotr, sorry, but your response shows not even the slightest understanding of the point I am trying to make. Perhaps this is my own fault, but even so I really wouldn't know where to begin to respond to this other than to say, whatever.

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    27. I can't see much of a point to be understood there, except that you equivocate on the term "belief", using a simplistic dictionary definition, which allows you to conflate different kinds of "beliefs". Whatever.

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    28. Arek, ha ha, please, by all means, use whatever definition of belief you like best! Use the one that is most 'convenient' for you because it lets you maintain your conviction that science has no relation to other human enterprises related to understanding ourselves, our place in the universe. Or even make up one of your own!

      I mean, jeez, that's what everybody else around here seems to do. What is 'knowledge', what is 'science', what is 'Darwinism', what is 'creationism', what is 'belief', what is 'Christianity' etc. etc.

      And always, the definitions that stick here in the Sandbox are the ones that people can use to promote their own worldviews and assert their own superiority. God forbid (oops, Is said that word!) that anyone stop to reexamine ones ideas, concede a point, etc. etc.

      When one is right, Arek, one is right. Reminds me of the old joke about Harvard men; you can always tell one, but you can't tell 'em much.

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    29. and Pyotr, since you seem more comfortable correcting minor points than considering underlying notions, please direct your arguments about the 'chronology of the universe to this site, from where I took this quote:

      When derived from current cosmological models, it depends on a number of theoretical assumptions that are not very well constrained by the incomplete available observational data. At present, a value in the range of 10-16 billion years [1] is considered most likely.

      http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0106/

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    30. God forbid (oops, Is said that word!) that anyone stop to reexamine ones ideas, concede a point, etc. etc.

      Science is all about the re-examination of your own and other people's ideas, the revision and abandonment of hypotheses if they don't work, and the rejection of arguing from authority (the Book says so, the Master says so, a Vision in my dreams said so). Religion is all about erecting and maintaining a fixed doctrine. Science is highly successful and reliable while religion pathetically fails as a cognitive strategy if you want to learn anything about the world and our place in it. I'm not asking you to adopt my cognitive orientation or convert you to a "scientific worldview". I don't know if it's "superior" to others, but it demonstrably works, as opposed to magic, religion and woolly thinking.

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    31. At present, a value in the range of 10-16 billion years is considered most likely.

      "At present" means "as of 7 February 2001". We have much better estimates now, 11 years later.

      "WMAP definitively determined the age of the universe to be 13.75 billion years old to within 1% (0.11 billion years)"
      http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/

      Even so, the range of 10-16 billion years is not "more than 16 billion years" (the exact phrase you used) during which, according to you, the Universe was deaf, blind, non-beautiful and generally useless.

      You may call it nitpicking, but for science a difference of a few billion years really matters, while for a creationist the Universe may just as well be 6000 years old, for all they care.

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    32. Piotr, I came home drunk, and with a cold. To find Arek suggesting that I used a 'convenient' definition of belief (because he doesn't much like it), when in fact I had gone to Merriam-Webster, read the first one they provided, and stopped there because it supported my point.

      I have never made the argument that some beliefs aren't 'better' than others; so Arek's response was somewhat irritating to a drunk, sick man. As was your, what I perceived as picayune, correction about the age of the universe.

      So I will just apologize for expressing irritation and little else, and will write again when in a better mood to consider your points.
      cough cough.....

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    33. andyboerger says,

      Piotr, I came home drunk, and with a cold. To find Arek suggesting that I used a 'convenient' definition of belief (because he doesn't much like it), when in fact I had gone to Merriam-Webster, read the first one they provided, and stopped there because it supported my point.

      You are begging the question. Is the absence of belief in god(s) actually a "belief"? Is it a "belief" to not accept the existence of UFO abductions or Bigfoot? Is it true that both the belief in Bigfoot and the absence of belief in Bigfoot are epistemologically equal since they are both "beliefs"? I don't think so, therefore your definition of "belief" as the "absence of belief" makes no sense.

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    34. @andyboerger

      I don't like that definition because it can be easily used to dishonestly misrepresent opponent's views as merely "beliefs".

      "I have never made the argument that some beliefs aren't 'better' than others;"

      Maybe not, but you said:

      "The origin of the universe and the emergence of life from non-living matter are not solved disputes, despite recent books from the 'scientific' side that attempt to present the matter as closed. (...) It is as much an act of belief, at this point, to conclude that everything in the known universe, including ourselves, came about through natural, simple and unguided processes as it is to believe otherwise. "
      (emphasis mine)

      It's true, that those disputes are not solved. But so far nothing points toward any kind of non-natural causes. So why think otherwise?

      And a piece of advice - don't read, and definitely don't write comments, when you are drunk. It's like I'm reading someone else.

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    35. Larry, I am not just playing a semantic word game, and I know you aren't either. Let's leave the word 'god' out of it, because you would be right to assert that the belief in any one god, such as the Christian or Hindu one would not be all that different from a belief in Bigfoot or in UFO abductions. There would be a very large, not merely semantic, difference between believing in Bigfoot's existence or non existence. That is not what I am talking about.

      Instead, consider this: The universe is, in a sense, a kind of a 'machine'. It exists according to certain 'laws', functions in certain predictable ways, and it gradually gives up its secrets to those who study its laws. Certain shapes, such as the spiral shape of galaxies, occur through consistent obeisance to these 'laws'. Certain properties do the same thing. So, the reason that science is able to learn so much about the universe is because it consistently 'follows' the laws that have existed from its conception. Again, 'machine-like'.

      So one person can say that he believes that for such a consistent, predictable, knowable, machine-like thing to exist, it is reasonable to believe that SOME sort of 'lawmaker' exists as well. People, sensing this, throughout time have referred to this as 'god' and attached all sorts of ancillary attributes to it that came about via various cultural, psychological, superstitious, etc. inferences. But of course, there is no reason to believe this 'lawmaker' is ANYTHING like what any of these various definers of it say it is.

      It is also equally reasonable for someone to say that they see no need for their to be a lawmaker for these laws of the universe to exist. There is no 'evidence', other than the laws themselves to support such a hypothesis.

      But this is still an open question, as neither side has been able to clearly lay out exactly how the universe came to be. So one side believes it came about as some sort of 'conscious expression' (the likes of which are far beyond our ability to comprehend), and one side believes that it came about blindly, that the laws 'just happened' without any awareness that they ARE laws, and luckily they stuck, because otherwise it would be impossible for any discoveries to be made.

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    36. Andyboerger says: A scientist would have to say yes, that's essentially right. But that is quite obviously a belief.

      I think scientists would say: based on the present evidence that’s the best model we have. And, then, they will discuss the evidence in context of this ‘best’ model and that of alternative models.

      Take for example, the intense discussion at this and other sites about the function, if any, of most DNA in the human genome and that of other organisms. For decades, this DNA was regarded as non-functional (i.e. ‘junk DNA’; jDNA) from the perspective of the host, in this case the humans. That has been the prevalent model.

      However, from the very beginning, the people discussing jDNA mentioned that some of this jDNA might be functional. The obvious question was how much of this jDNA might be functional?

      When researchers found some functional sequence among jDNA, let’s say, a fraction of 1%, they trumpeted: jDNA is functional, rather than saying: ‘a fraction of 1% of jDNA is functional’.

      Paradoxically, the gate-keepers of jDNA theory, instead of making this distinction clear, often trumpeted back to those who made the discovery: ‘what are you saying (!), we already knew for decades that jDNA is functional and here are the quotes going back to the 1970’s ...’.

      You see, that has been very confusing!

      Knowing that only a few people would care if ‘a fraction of 1%, or even a few percentages of jDNA is functional’ the ENCODE messengers (or managers; not be confused with the genuine scientists in the project) dropped the publicity bomb: 80% of the human genome is functional.

      Unfortunately, there were quite a few people ‘injured’ by this explosion, including our host Larry, who’s still in recovery, despite taking a retreat in Las Vegas!

      Fortunately, this was a good opportunity to bring forward an old model on the evolution of genome size, which I think solves two of the major enigmatic issues in genome biology, the C-value paradox and the evolution of ‘junk DNA’ (see my series of comments at a previous post: http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/10/reddit-we-are-encyclopedia-of-dna.html.

      According to this model, jDNA which has originated from the activity of transposable elements and endogenous viruses has been used by their hosts as a defense mechanism against insertional mutagenesis, which in humans is “…just a fancy way of saying CANCER.”

      Leaving aside the issues of how this jDNA originated, or whether it has been ‘adaptive’ or ‘functional,’ I’m asking a relatively simple and straightforward question: does the jDNA in humans protects against insertional mutagenesis by transposable elements and retroviruses?

      My answer to this question is yes, and if nobody has reasonable objections, then, this is the truth: 100% of jDNA is functional

      Understandably, the activity of many components of our defense system, including dozens and dozens of innate immunity mechanisms, are also not readily perceived as ‘functions.’ Indeed, some of these components can be deleted with little or no immediate phenotypic effects, but they are there for a reason: evolutionary survival.

      In my comment above, I made a humorous allusion about philosophers. My understanding is that their discipline is under increasing scrutiny of being rather relaxed in producing knowledge. Indeed, sometimes, there is only so much productive knowledge a subject matter can offer, so it’s time to move forward to others that need a lot of help. For instance, when does a model, hypothesis or theory become a fact?

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    37. Y'know, Claudiu, I'm inclined to agree with you that this whole junk DNA debate has become VERY muddled, and for most laymen the matter has become 'settled'; i.e. no junk DNA. And this is because laypersons can't be expected to keep up with every paper, article, etc, have short attention spans, and have a host of other things on their mind.

      Just recently I watched a snippet of one of the many debates that pit science vs. religion that Richard Dawkins engages in. His opponent, a rabbi, trumpeted the discovery as a 'win' for God, and then Dawkins, rather than doing what Larry Moran would have done and blasted his understanding, instead co-opted his point, declaring it as rather a 'win' for Natural Selection. He didn't challenge ENCODE findings at all. He bought into them and used them to support NS.

      THIS is the type of point where the whole thing just becomes ridiculous, imo. Who to believe? Non-scientists WILL listen to Dawkins generally, because he presents himself as a spokesman for science, as Sagan did earlier. If they are theistic, they will take the position that no junk DNA is evidence for God. If they are atheistic, they will accept Dawkins' position that the ENCODE findings bolster NS.

      And the people who insist they are right will fume and bellow as Larry, Diogenes, etc. are doing.

      I really think this whole business of trying to prove or disprove God's existence based on scientific discoveries, inferences, etc. is the endeavor that is looking the most silly at this point. I would have more sympathy for Larry Moran (who in truth, I am willing to most believe regarding junk DNA at this point) if he wasn't one of the people doing just that, propping up science as a sort of god-slayer. He's right along Dawkins in that regard.

      So I say the heck with it. People who feel they have a deep, spiritual connection with SOME kind of deity, don't hurt anybody, and generally get through life better because of it should just go right on believing. Scientists don't really have all that much to say about this, should probably just stop insisting that they do, and stick with doing science.

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    38. Arek writes
      "And a piece of advice - don't read, and definitely don't write comments, when you are drunk. It's like I'm reading someone else."

      Thank you. I shall try to take it in the future. May I also offer YOU the advice that you may want to avoid accusing someone of using a 'convenient' definition as a dishonest tactic, because it may provoke them to write like 'someone else', whether they are drunk or not?

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    39. So one person can say that he believes that for such a consistent, predictable, knowable, machine-like thing to exist, it is reasonable to believe that SOME sort of 'lawmaker' exists as well.

      In order for 2+2 to = 4, must a "mathematical lawmaker" exist? Is the existence of such a lawmaker supported by any evidence other than the bare fact that 2+2 does indeed = 4? If the answer to the last question is no, is belief in such a mathematical lawgiver on a logical/rational par with saying "I have no need of that hypothesis"?

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    40. Jud, it's the exact same argument. Mathematics is the 'language' of the laws.
      It's not like the universe was a random, disorderly place, and then all of a sudden the laws were introduced to bring order. The universe, in essence, IS the laws. And mathematics, in essence, IS the language of the laws.

      So we're back to the same point. Your null hypothesis is no better or worse, at the present moment, than the notion that some sort of mind, vastly superior to ours and thus not subject to our way of doing things, is responsible for the universe.

      Like I am arguing with Piotr, if you can't duplicate something, make it, make something better than it, fully understand it, need to learn more and more about it to better understand it, etc. , you are not being foolish or 'superstitious' to assume, until more evidence is gathered, that it didn't come about blindly and stupidly. That's where human understanding is now.

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    41. "People who feel they have a deep, spiritual connection with SOME kind of deity, don't hurt anybody, and generally get through life better because of it should just go right on believing."

      That depends on what "hurt" means.

      Does a parent who indoctrinates their child with monstrous, impossible, threatening, coercive religious-spiritual fairy tales (like christianity and islam for example) hurt the child?

      Does someone who claims that their religious-spiritual beliefs are superior to science and reality hurt people?

      Does it hurt people when lawmakers ignore science and reality, or ignore religions or "spiritual connections" they don't adhere to, and make laws that cater to their own religious-spiritual beliefs?

      You're likely going to come back with some word salad about people who never hurt anyone with their religious dogma because they never say anything about it and never try to impose it on anyone else. If there are such people you wouldn't know it because they would have never revealed their religious dogma, and even if there are people who never reveal or hurt anyone with their religious dogma they are not the ones who are being questioned, challenged, or bashed on sites like this one.

      Look around andy, control, pressure, and imposition from religious people is ABUNDANT. Unless you live in a cave by yourself in the middle of nowhere you can't get away from the sanctimonious, arrogant, dominion-seeking impositions and agendas of religious people, and many of them are in government.

      Do you actually believe that there are people who never hurt anybody? And do you actually believe that religion or a "deep, spiritual connection with SOME kind of deity" prevents people from hurting anybody?

      For a start you might want to look up the number/percentage of prison inmates who are religious.

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    42. "Does a parent who indoctrinates...... hurt the child?"
      Yes. Stories about hell, the devil, etc. can be very frightening and damaging to a child. They were to me.

      "Does someone who claims that their religious-spiritual beliefs....reality hurt people?" Which people? What does this question imply? Of course if they BELIEVE that, they will CLAIM that. Describe the situation in which this is 'hurtful', and to whom.

      "Does it hurt people when lawmakers....own spiritual beliefs?" Yes.

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    43. Re andyboerger

      As for Jonathan, my suspicion is that he is a a Christian.

      Actually, Mr. Wells is a member of the Unification Church, a cult started by the late and unlamented fascist goat f*cker, Sun Myung Moon. Most of the established Christian churches consider the Unification Church to be heretical.

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    44. Thanks for the info, SLC. I don't know much about 'the Moonies'; but I remember seeing pictures of their mass weddings, where all the brides and all the grooms were selected by the Moonster himself. Very bizarre organization.

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  4. I really doubt that there are any loyal readers of EN&V or UD who aren't at least aware of the modern synthesis and some of the current research. "Darwinist" or "neo-Darwinist" is used as a sort of shortcut, and you can probably thank Dawkins for that as much as anyone.

    It is beyond ironic that a simple term, one that his most famous colleague would hardly shy away from, should provoke so much ire in a person who throws about the terms 'creationsit' and the childish 'IDiot' as if he's afraid of dying before using up his quota.

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    1. I really doubt that there are any loyal readers of EN&V or UD who aren't at least aware of the modern synthesis and some of the current research

      Then you haven't read the stupidity that they write. Stupidity that clearly contradicts your expectation.

      ----
      I think Andy, that you have a very unbalanced concept of balance. It is not about considering everybody's points equal. Example, the anti-vaccination groups are illiterate to semi-literate fools holding to pseudo-science to deny the effectiveness of vaccination, and/or stubbornly link vaccines to such things as autism regardless of whatever scientific studies and evidence that contradict their "views." I wouldn't side for such ass-holes nor would I stop calling them names because the naming and their displays of stupidity makes them deserving of such treatments.

      Well, exactly the same goes for the IDiots. They have gained the naming with their astounding stupidity and dishonesty. It is just as clear as the anti-vacciners, and the other pushers for pseudo-science.

      Please save the attempt at sermoning me about this. I make a clear distinction between a right to voice an opinion, and the validity of an opinion. Balance might be a nice word, it evokes fairness, and justice, and such. However, it does not mean that everybody's positions are equally valid. It does not mean either that every position deserves respect. I hope that's a distinction that you will be able to grasp.

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    2. NE, I see no reason whatsoever to sermonize to you. Your point is clear, and I respect it, though I continue to hold to my own views expressed above.

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    3. andyboerger says,

      I really doubt that there are any loyal readers of EN&V or UD who aren't at least aware of the modern synthesis and some of the current research.

      I enjoy humor and sarcasm as much as anyone but there are times when it doesn't come across well on the internet.

      This is one of those times. You should have added smiley because someone might think you actually meant what you said!

      The reason I refer to most Intelligent Design Creationists as IDiots is precisely because they don't understand evolution. The reason I call them creationists is because they fit one of the common definitions of the word "creationist" as I've demonstrated many times on this blog.

      I've been called a "Darwinist" many times but there isn't a single common definition of the word that applies to me or to thousand of others who accept evolution. It does apply to people like Richard Dawkins.

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    4. Nevertheless, Larry, you are not the arbiter of what qualifies as understanding evolution. You have said that the ENCODE researches you challenged don't understand it. You are quite certain that Jim Shapiro doesn't understand it. You pretty much say that anyone that doesn't hold to your specific view of evolution doesn't understand it, which is rather convenient. By your own, solipsistic, standards, you would probably also say that Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne don't understand it.

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    5. cont. the thing that is interesting about all these people who spend years attempting to understand evolution, some holding post-graduate degrees, some of them being very famous, some of them writing best selling books, and still not understanding it, raises a very interesting question that I think a diehard materialist such as yourself,who is convinced that biology arose arbitrarily and utterly unbeknownst to itself, would want to consider; why is it so hard? How can processes that came about so simply, with no guidance or glimpse toward the future, with no awareness, just simple mechanical, 'stupid' processes, be yet so perplexing and mysterious that only a few people from even the inner circle of people who devote their lives to studying it can truly understand it?
      Geology isn't like that, nor is meteorology. Except for biology, earth sciences don't have these huge ongoing debates that result in people resorting to insults, name calling, and questioning of their opponents' credentials. Why is something that arose so simply so damned hard to understand?

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    6. andyboerger

      Well said!

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    7. How can processes that came about so simply, with no guidance or glimpse toward the future, with no awareness, just simple mechanical, 'stupid' processes, be yet so perplexing and mysterious that only a few people from even the inner circle of people who devote their lives to studying it can truly understand it?

      And who said that stupid mechanical processes cannot be complicated? Life (or rather pre-life) likely began as relatively simple cycles of chemical reactions. But a system capable of self-replication with heritable modifications can reach any level of complexity if the cycle is repeated trillions of times, meanwhile fine-tuning itself to its environment and to its coexistence (and competition) with other such systems. In comparison, geology is "not a real science" (Sheldon Cooper), but it's also had its heated debates (plutonism versus neptunism, continental drift, to name but a couple).

      The "simplest" things in the Universe are

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    8. Sorry, I pressed "Publish" too early.

      The "simplest" things in the Universe are the elementary particles and the physical vacuum they inhabit. Yet the theories that try to capture their behaviour are extremely difficult and it isn't uncommon for theoretical physicists to call each other names and question each other's credentials over such elementary matters.

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    9. Piotr, yes that's right. Subatomic particles and other elements of physics is another area that, like biology, is hotly contested among scientists. It's quite interesting that these two areas, existence itself, and life itself, should be the most difficult to understand, and should therefore provoke the most controversy in terms of the so called 'big questions' and the belief that some sort of aware agency 'must be' involved.

      Nobody is saying that 'stupid', mechanical processes 'can't' be complicated. But the greater likelihood would be that they were.

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    10. andyboerger says,

      Nevertheless, Larry, you are not the arbiter of what qualifies as understanding evolution. You have said that the ENCODE researches you challenged don't understand it. You are quite certain that Jim Shapiro doesn't understand it. You pretty much say that anyone that doesn't hold to your specific view of evolution doesn't understand it, which is rather convenient.

      That's correct in the sense that I think I understand evolution. It follows that anyone who expresses a conflicting view of evolution either doesn't understand it or is lying. However, the difference between me and the creationists is that I'm more than happy to debate the issue and explain where their knowledge is deficient.

      By your own, solipsistic, standards, you would probably also say that Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne don't understand it.

      There are legitimate scientific controversies within evolutionary biology. In such cases, the most reasonable position is that we just don't know right now where the truth lies. I disagree with Richard Dawkins, and to a lesser extent with Jerry Coyne, on some of those issues but that doesn't mean they don't understand evolution.

      Evolution is a scientific concept and it has a well-defined meaning that anyone can look up in the evolutionary biology textbooks. They can also read about population genetics, the main mechanisms of evolution, speciation, and all of the other things that are required in order to "understand" evolution. When creationists (and others) reveal that they are ignorant of the basic principles and concepts found in introductory evolutionary biology textbooks then it's quite legitimate to point out that they don't understand evolution.

      It's not ME who is the arbitrator of what qualifies as understanding evolution, it's the consensus represented in the textbooks.

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    12. It's not ME who is the arbitrator of what qualifies as understanding evolution, it's the consensus represented in the textbooks.

      Not the consensus. But the actual scientific understanding, which the IDiots ignore because either they rely on other creationists to "learn" about evolution, or they are plainly dishonest and don;t care about learning any of it.

      Andy,

      It is not about best-seelling books. It's about what the evidence indicate, about not ignoring advances in such fields as population genetics. Most biologists never even hear about this field of study. I myself had not heard about it but until I was a graduate student and was surprised at how much I ignored. For example, I opposed the idea of both selfish and junk DNA because I thought natural selection would get rid of it. Never to think about the role played by population sizes, the evolution of other entities (such as selfish DNA itself), and the actual costs of getting rid of stuff that may not be that much of a problem. Long long et cetera. But the point I am trying to draw is: this is not about anybody deciding to be an arbiter; this is about scientific understanding. If you pay attention, such persons as Larry can show you the parts that IDiots don't understand, or Shapiro, or whomever. It is not a mere declaration. It's a conclusions drawn from knowledge about evolution that is clearly being ignored.

      To make this point much clearer, suppose I mistook squares, circles and triangles. Then mistook areas and perimeters. You then point to how much I ignore about geometry. I then tell you that I sold so many books. thus you are wrong. Why do you think that you are the arbiter of geometry? Would you think that my rebuttal is valid? Most importantly if you took the time to explain the basics about why I am wrong about geometry?

      Think about it. Because it seems that you perceive everything told here by Larry as mere opinions based on some mystic idea of evolution. While it is much clearly as in my geometry example. You might have missed lots of explanations, but the explanations are around here in the blog. Yes, some concepts in evolutionary theory are hard to understand. But it is far from mysticism and far from mere and empty gut-feeling opinions.

      (Of course, when it is about real controversies, then we often are at the limits of the well established and against those places where there's land to be opened and conquered. The data might be insufficient and such. But that's another story.)

      Too long. Please read and try to understand carefully. It's just one idea, but I found no simple way to describe it.

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    13. NE, as always I appreciate your patient and thoughtful explanations.
      Believe me, I know it is not about selling a lot of books. I think sometimes here I attempt to make rhetorical points that end up being taken literally. This may be because I am not as clear a communicator as I imagine myself to be, and it may because it is simply a scientist's disposition to assume the literal first.
      My point would never be that because Dawkins has sold more books than Larry he is therefore 'right'. My point was that the complexity of biology, and the many mine-fields of misunderstanding it seems to lay (as you point out, missed by even long term students of the field) does seem to indicate that it's rather 'other' than what someone might expect it to be if it were simply a blind process such as cloud formations and erosion. In other words, the more complex and arcane it becomes, the more one might well ask, 'why'?

      Given the fact that the formula of abiogenesis has never been duplicated, that no Dr. Frankenstein has ever emerged in the field of biology no matter how advanced the science has become, and that even PhDs themselves argue vocally and vehemently about what the data MEANS, I think theists in general can be forgiven for maintaining the view that there is something 'special' about life.

      I don't think scientists are making a very good case for the alternative (just another natural process, nothing to see here folks), and I question the motives of the most antitheistic among them for insisting that they ARE. JUST as I question the motives of determined theists who misrepresent science to make it fit their worldview, either blatantly or keeping their motives hidden.

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    14. I think theists in general can be forgiven for maintaining the view that there is something 'special' about life.

      They are not alone in it. Life is special -- it self-replicates in a unique way, enabling it to evolve. But while scientists are trying to find out how it all began, creationists think they have already resolved the problem (You-Know-Who did it), which prevents them from asking any more questions. If creationists could tell us more about how it was done and perhaps replicate the process, they might win the debate. But they will not even start to study abiogenesis for obvious reasons, so their speculation is barren to begin with.

      I don't think scientists are making a very good case for the alternative (just another natural process, nothing to see here folks),

      A straw man. Nobody says that. There is a lot to see there, but who's doing the research, scientists or creationists?

      The beginnings of life remain mysterious for reasons that are easy to understand: we are looking at endgame and trying to reconstruct the sequence of moves that have led to it without having any snapshots of the early stages. Life began some 3.8 billion years ago. There are very few tangible traces of anything from that period, even rocks of that age are extremenly rare. There are no fossils, no direct indication of what the earliest life looked like or of the environment it lived in -- in brief, no evidential clues to help us. The world of carbon-based compounds is vast: there are lots and lots of possible pathways to be considered, and of course the biochemical cycles and hypercycles that underlie life are incredibly complex. We shall perhaps never know for sure how life originated, but we may reasonably hope to identify some plausible scenarios. Even that is infinitely more insightful and intellectually satisfying that any creationist pseudo-explanation replacing one big mystery with another, still bigger one.

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    15. Piotr quotes me and then adds:

      (Andy Boerger)I don't think scientists are making a very good case for the alternative (just another natural process, nothing to see here folks),

      "A straw man. Nobody says that. There is a lot to see there, but who's doing the research, scientists or creationists?"

      Not a straw man at all. Piotr, I wonder if you know the meaning of the idiomatic phrase 'nothing to see here, folks'? From your name I recognize the possibility that you may not.

      From another of Larry's blogs, I can provide you with this direct quote
      "I would argue that the origin of life was a spontaneous process that did not require anything out of the ordinary and certainly didn't require a supernatural being. "

      Do you see what he is doing here? He is biting off more than he can chew. Unlike you, he is not admitting that it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace abiogenesis back to its very roots; rather he arrogates to himself, as a scientist, the authority to assure people, believers and unbelievers alike, that there 'certainly' need be no concern that the answer is anything other than a naturalistic and mechanistic one.

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    16. For Piotr

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nothing+to+see+here%2C+folks

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    17. Piotr, I hope you can see where I am going with this. I am NOT anti-science. I am opposed to people attempting to impose their views on others from a position of authority. I absolutely agree that this has been a specialty of religion for many centuries. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that when people mix up their science with their antitheistic views, such as Richard Dawkins (and Larry, to a lesser extent) do, as well as many others, they should get a pass.
      Okay, nobody's burning someone at the stake on the science side. I have heard that argument before. But the point is, it is wrong to use one's position, whether as a priest or a scientist, to claim for oneself a power to answer away all nettlesome questions with a wave of one's hand. You have heard the term 'god of the gaps', I am sure.
      I am quite sure that you wouldn't, with Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins and LM etc as your spokespersons, have repeated 'fiascos' like the ENCODE summary place you in a position of having to defend a 'science of the gaps'.
      That's why I say, stick with the science. You seem to me to be someone who does exactly that. There are others here as well. Those who go beyond that would do well to take a page from you.

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    18. Not a straw man at all. Piotr, I wonder if you know the meaning of the idiomatic phrase 'nothing to see here, folks'? From your name I recognize the possibility that you may not.

      Thanks, Andy. Of course English is not my mother tongue, but I'm not completely at a loss when I see an idiom. There is a straw man here all the same. No scientist I know pretends the origins of life was something trivial -- "just another chemical reaction". But a mystery is one thing, mysticism is another.

      From another of Larry's blogs, I can provide you with this direct quote
      "I would argue that the origin of life was a spontaneous process that did not require anything out of the ordinary and certainly didn't require a supernatural being. "


      Yep, he would argue that, so what?

      Do you see what he is doing here? He is biting off more than he can chew. Unlike you, he is not admitting that it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace abiogenesis back to its very roots; rather he arrogates to himself, as a scientist, the authority to assure people, believers and unbelievers alike, that there 'certainly' need be no concern that the answer is anything other than a naturalistic and mechanistic one.

      It's a question of methodology. Science isn't concerned with what isn't knowable even in principle. The ID crowd can't (and won't) identify or characterise the "Designer" and his methods. What's the use of arguing that the origins of life were supernatural if that's all you can say? Science seeks naturalistic and rational explanations because we know from some 300 years of experience that no other kind of explanation adds to our understanding of the world. When I say that we may never learn how life on Earth began, I mean that the evidence is scanty and may not be sufficient. I don't mean that "Goddiddit" may be the right answer. From the point of view of sound methodology this kind of answer can't be right because it leads nowhere. Gods used to be responsible for rainfalls, lightning, meteorites, diseases etc. We have freed them from all those responsibilities, so they are trying to hide in the remaining gaps. To scientists, a recalcitrant mystery is a challenge -- a puzzle to solve. To theists, it's a safe hiding-place for their god. That's why there is no "science of gaps". Science always tries to fill them, not to worship their gaphood, if I may coin a word.

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    19. Piotr, understood. But nevertheless, the possibility that 'goddiddit' STILL exists, even if it is of no interest to a scientist.

      Imagine that some beings from another solar system happened to land on the moon, with no knowledge of Earth life, and discovered some left over debris from the Apollo missions. Alien A could say, 'well, this certainly looks like something that was made by somebody'. and Alien B could admonish him, 'let's not get ahead of ourselves. Remember that the scientific method assumes a null hypothesis. Let's explore this rock a bit more and try to learn all the possible explanations for how this thing that looks like it was designed came about'.
      From our own, bird's eye view, we can find this scenario somewhat amusing, can we not. We KNOW that A is right, but we also know that B is staying strictly within the confines of science, and is therefore 'right' as well. They are BOTH 'right', but the one who is more ACCURATE is Alien A. That possibility exists, Piotr.

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    20. Imagine that some beings from another solar system happened to land on the moon, with no knowledge of Earth life, and discovered some left over debris from the Apollo missions.

      I thought it was a watch upon a heath. Please, Andy, can't be bury Paley with his 18th-century analogies? Life looks like anything but things made by intelligent beings -- not by us, at any rate. We make watches, we make spacecraft, but we don't make life. Have you ever seen anyone design and manufacture a living thing? Life has all the seeming of a self-made thing; that's why it's so incredibly complex and messy at the same time. Evoliution is not constrained by anyone's engineering limitations.

      If the aliens found something looking like the debris of intelligently designed machines and instruments, they would no doubt start wondering who left them on the Moon, where the hypothetical designers came from, what the instruments were used for -- lots of special questions beginning with WH-pronouns. Intelligent aliens would not just drop to their knees (or something homoplastic) in awe. I assume that they would be intelligent and curious -- otherwise they would not have left their home planet.

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    21. 'not by us' is exactly the point, Piotr. It is not just that life doesn't appear to be designed as a human would, it is also that life is something that the finest brains of biology are incapable of accomplishing as well. In your field, collectively, you have most certainly reached a genius level of understanding, but you can't, nor can any engineer, produce anything that is life's equal.

      Piotr, which do you consider to be more information-intensive, suited to its environment, etc., the Hubble Telescope or a monarch butterfly? With all the stages of life that go into a monarch butterfly being what it is? If you are honest, you will say that the monarch butterfly is the superior object, in comparison with one of the finest pieces of human technology extant. So you can't exactly say, 'bad design' unless you are capable of producing the same thing with a better means, or producing something better. Otherwise you are just substituting 'timedidit' for 'goddidit'.

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    23. Piotr writes, "Life has all the seeming of a self-made thing"

      Yes. Please explain how that is MORE suited to a mechanistic and blind source as an explanation than that of an intelligent one that 'seeded' life into the universe it gave rise to. So much so that someone like LM can say that life 'certainly' arose through mechanistic and un-conscious processes, not an as yet mysterious progenitor.

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    24. Piotr, which do you consider to be more information-intensive, suited to its environment, etc., the Hubble Telescope or a monarch butterfly?

      Of course a monarch butterfly. Even if we manage to replicate (some stages of) abiogenesis in the lab, we shall never be able to replicate macroevolution simply because it takes billions of generations to produce a monarch butterfly, or a jellyfish, or a human, or a trypanosome -- each of them is more complicated than our most sophisticated machines. Fortunately, we have the fossil record to demonstrate that macroevolution is possible.

      A photon is faster than any vehicle humans have built or will ever build, therefore "God designed photons". A mountain is larger than any man-made building, therefore "God built the mountains". A monarch butterfly is more complicated than a space telescope, therefore "God made the monarch butterfly". Right? Andy, the whole point of evolution is that it makes the heritable component of living things absorb information from the environment, increase their fitness and "experiment" with new solutions. If it goes on and on and on for a couple of billion years, do you wonder that the result is complex? The "timedidit" point is interesting but I am too busy at the moment to develop it. I will return to it later. For now, suffice it to say that at least I know that the flow of time is real and that a cycle of simple operations can generate amazing complexity if iterated lots of times.

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    25. @Andyboerger, Piotr Gasiorowski, and the Sandwalk members.

      I said it before, and I’ll continue saying: the intellectual contributions at this and other blogs are outstanding. This exchange between Andyboerger and Piotr Gasiorowski, on a Monday morning, is a good example. And we see the results, which might be surprising: it is hard to imagine how this particular discussion can go much, much longer, as it has already achieved considerable common ground (I predict there would be little to say by lunch time, unless Andyboerger has a beer or two!).

      Indeed, balanced and constructive discussions, as they narrow the gaps of unknown and misunderstandings, die quickly. And, although having little to discuss, might not be perceived as good business for blogs, there are plenty of issues and problems to solve.

      This brings us, as you might guess, to the C-value paradox and ‘junk DNA’, which are among the biggest enigmas not only in genome biology, but in the science of Biology.

      Have we reached a reasonable answer and solution and agree that, after half of century of uncertainty, the C-value paradox and junk DNA enigmas are finally solved?

      In an earlier comment, Andy said: … for most laymen the matter has become 'settled'; i.e. no junk DNA. And this is because laypersons can't be expected to keep up with every paper, article, etc, have short attention spans, and have a host of other things on their mind.

      I agree, a few people can keep up with every paper or article, but everyone can keep up with good, common sense questions, which often in science might be more relevant that some endless data and observations that bring little to the table and lead nowhere. Every reasonable person can see when good questions and reasonable answers are treated with indifference or silence in order to keep the confusion alive. And every single reasonable person can ask those who are guilty of this misstep to get their priorities straight.

      Delete
    26. Piotr, I will write more later, but first of all, you really, really, need to retract the argument about mountains and buildings. Even as an analogy, it is a complete failure. It is nothing other than an argument about scale, and the amount of logistics that would need to go into building a mountain. Are you saying that human beings 'couldn't' build something larger than Everest? Actually, let's say Mt. Denali because to my knowledge that is the highest elevation from its BASE, not from sea level. If there was some REASON why human engineers were asked to build a pile of rocks in a desert just as high as Denali, given as much time and budget as required, etc.; are you suggesting this task would be IMPOSSIBLE for them, now or even at earlier points in our history? A building and a mountain are not the same thing.


      The photon one, well, yeah, I might give a little thought to that.

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    27. Andy,

      I see a deep problem in your argumentation. It is that you assume that if there's no intelligence in the mix, then there's stupidity. I don;t know how else to explain or go deeper into this other than saying that stupidity and intelligence can be assumed about those who can be either. But nature is nature. Calling it stupid or intelligent is mere anthropomorphism.

      I don't think scientists are making a very good case for the alternative (just another natural process, nothing to see here folks),

      I don;t think that we are trying to make a case for such alternative. It is more that if we are to consider that some gods are involved there should be some evidence for such gods. I add this from myself, and who knows if others agree or not. Humanity has been involving gods in whatever seems to be beyond our understandings. However, it failed with volcanoes, with thunders, and with many more things. Nothing in the currently believed gods (expect the most deprived of an identity) makes them any different than Thor, Zeus, or Huitzilopochtli, except their "domestication," their evolution from gods just as blood thirsty as the old gods to all-benevolent ones (which requires ignoring tons of details). Anyway, since we can trace their evolution and their superstitious origins, I see no reason to keep on going superstitiously assuming gods because there's so much we don't understand, or might never understand. I see no way in which such a position could be reasonable. I can see how somebody can "reason" themselves into believing that some form of god must be there, but if we look at the history of the gods, the conclusion that such a position is mere holding to the very same kind of superstition is unavoidable. (God-of-the-gaps fallacy?)

      and I question the motives of the most antitheistic among them for insisting that they ARE.

      You can't blame them for thinking that if the Christian god is claimed to have created the whole thing in 6,000 years then this god is false given that the planet is much older than that. Or for thinking that evolution shows that we were not made separately via magic. You can't deny that such is an excellent case against the Christian god (plus any gods declaring instant creation). Sure, they might move the beliefs to accommodate for whatever science discovers and have consolation and relief to keep believing that this god is real, and keep calling themselves "Christian." But how reasonable is this process? Isn't it exactly the same as misrepresenting science to fit their worldview? I would say that the most anti-theistic have very good reason to think that science makes an excellent case for the nonexistence of gods, and that, when not, the gods have moved beyond recognition.

      JUST as I question the motives of determined theists who misrepresent science to make it fit their worldview, either blatantly or keeping their motives hidden.

      Well, I hope I have shown you that these two groups have some deep differences.

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    28. ...you really, really, need to retract the argument about mountains and buildings. Even as an analogy, it is a complete failure.

      Yes. Like the analogy between a natural living organism and a man-built machine.

      It is nothing other than an argument about scale, and the amount of logistics that would need to go into building a mountain.

      OK, let's take a star instead. Basically, we know how stars are formed. We have a pretty good understanding of the process -- no big mystery there. We could even make an artificial star if it weren't for the sheer scale, which is many, many orders of magnitude beyond our logistic power.

      Why do you think that given enough money, determination and concentrated effort we couldn't build an artificial living cell? It is already possible to synthesise a virus from scratch.

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    29. Piotr, neither the fossil record, nor complexity theory, serve particularly well to argue more strongly for a Mindless universe than a Mind-generated one. Granted, they are VERY useful if one wants to knock down specific ideas ABOUT 'God'. They are therefore the go-to tools for scientific triumphalists like Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss who want to push the idea of a creator out of peoples' minds and keep it out, forever!

      They can also be used, depending on how one views 'God' to say, 'See? Isn't interesting to watch organization, life, consciousness, etc., gradually emerge in this universe, like salmon returning to their spawning ground? This universe is a product of Mind, and an act of volition, and thus, having consciousness as Its source, it is only natural to see it begin to look more and more like the thing that it arose from.'

      This can't be proven wrong by the fossil record or complexity theory. You wanna knock down Noah's Ark, go ahead, knock down Noah's Ark with the fossil record. You want to eliminate Mind from the universe? You'll have to do better than that which has been done so far.

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    30. But sexual reproduction explicitly contradicts the idea that life is by design. The whole point of it is to randomize the characteristics of the next generation. As a software designer, I would be quite horrified to see my designed creation go off on some unintended path. (Happens a lot to me, in fact). If life were by design, reproduction would necessarily be by cloning or some similar linear means.

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    31. Jethro, I am not specifically saying 'life by design', SPECIFICALLY not as we humans would design it. I think that is a nonstarter as an argument. I will repeat again:

      If you can't duplicate it, make it, make something better than it, etc. than you can't say for certain that it DIDN'T arise from something 'smarter' than you.

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    32. Piotr says, 'Yes. Like the analogy between a natural living organism and a man-built machine.'

      Wrong. Not even close. In many ways, a building is actually SUPERIOR to a mountain. A giant skyscraper is kind of like a mountain with indoor plumbing. It is designed, functional, and operative. A mountain is a mountain.

      So in the case of architecture, human ingenuity HAS, arguably, 'one upped' nature. In the case of a monarch butterfly, not even close.
      So, still no closer to demonstrating, with Larry's word - 'certainty' - that life does not exist through the agency of an intelligence beyond our own.

      Delete
    33. Piotr writes,
      'It is already possible to synthesise a virus from scratch.'
      Really? From 'scratch'? You mean you can produce the electrons, protons and neutrons; everything you need to get those atoms into their right places to create the proteins that enable you to produce a virus, having set up the laws of nature just right so that those electrons protons and neutrons will emerge?

      I must say I'm impressed. I didn't realize science had advanced that far.

      Delete
    34. Andy, what would you accept as falsification of the "Goddidit" hypothesis? Let's imagine, for the sake of the argument, that we have demonstrated the possibility of abiogenesis in vitro. Would that count? Wouldn't you say, "Hey, it took the best efforts of the human mind to synthesise life, so life's evidently the product of Intelligent Design"? I'm sure you are an honest discussant, but ID supporters often try such "either way I win" tactics. They say, "I might believe that whales evolved from land animals if I saw a transitional form." We say, "Here, behold Ambulocetus, it's surely transitional." "Whoa!" says the ID-..t, "I won't believe it's transitional until you show me one transitional form between a true land animal and this ambu-whatever and another one between it and true whales."

      So if you want me to falsify ID, tell me what counts as genuine falsification. If nothing does, even in principle, I can dismiss ID as non-science.

      Delete
    35. Andy: Really? From 'scratch'?

      Is it my turn to explain idioms? The original scratch was 'the line from which competitors start in a race', so from scratchex nihilo.

      Delete
    36. Piotr, the exact meaning of an idiom is not the point, obviously. The point is that if scientists are synthesizing viruses using raw materials that may or may not have been provided by a superior intelligence, then they have not really advanced their case much.

      'So if you want me to falsify ID, tell me what counts as genuine falsification. If nothing does, even in principle, I can dismiss ID as non-science.'

      Personally, I think you CAN dismiss ID as non-science. I do. My point is that there is no necessity for the belief in an intelligent source for this universe to be 'scientific'. The assumption that the universe is blind to its own movements, causes, effects, etc. is only scientific in the strictest sense, i.e., that science assumes a null hypothesis.
      One argument is not stronger than another at this point, not to the degree that one should be triumphant about it. If you want to teach people science, have them proceed from the latter. If ID wants to call itself 'science', have it produce more evidence.

      What I think is that notion of proving/disproving the existence of 'god', although it yields interesting discussions like this one, is eternally stuck, as it were, on the 50 yard line. And so shall it remain for our lifetimes at the very least.

      Delete
    37. NE, I will comment more in response to your comments later. In the meantime, just let me say that I have no particular attachment to the word 'stupid', as it pertains to the origins of the universe, or the emergence of life. 'Unguided', 'lacking any awareness', 'absent volition', etc. will do just as well.

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    38. Andy: The point is that if scientists are synthesizing viruses using raw materials that may or may not have been provided by a superior intelligence, then they have not really advanced their case much.

      What raw materials are provided by a superior intelligence? Nucleobases? Sugars? They are quite simple compounds that can be made in the laboratory, in non-biological reactions; some of them have even been found in meteorites, which means that they can form spontaneously in outer space. Of course you may shift the goalposts and insist that every quark in every nucleon in every atom in the Universe has been provided by a superior intelligence, but that would make out discussion pointless (we were discussing life as opposed to non-life, not EVERYTHING).

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    39. NE says, 'But nature is nature. Calling it stupid or intelligent is mere anthropomorphism.'

      There is no deep flaw in my argumentation. Nature IS nature; that much is true. It is best not to attach 'human' characteristics to it. But that raises the question: is intelligence a 'human trait', or is it 'nature'? Given that it arose in this universe (and is expressed through us) you can argue that it is both. So, if, when looking AT nature through its natural appendage (i.e. our intelligence) we see things that resonate with our notions OF intelligence -such as the laws of nature, the complexity of the genetic code, etc. - it is not unreasonable to make a connection between them, and consider that, POSSIBLY, there is some sort of intelligence as a condition OF the universe, not merely an arbitrary occurence WITHIN it.

      If someone says this is indeed the case, then the burden of proof lies with him. If another person contrarily argues that, no, science effectively rules that out, then the burden of proof lies with the person making THAT argument.

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    40. andyboerger said:

      "The point is that if scientists are synthesizing viruses using raw materials that may or may not have been provided by a superior intelligence, then they have not really advanced their case much."

      In other words, unless and until scientists can demonstrate with irrefutable evidence the absolute source of every subatomic component in this or any other universe there's a gap that your chosen imaginary god-spirit can be fit into.

      And does the following make as much sense as your version? If not, why not?

      "What I think is that the notion of proving/disproving the existence of 'Fifi the pink unicorn god' or 'the flying spaghetti monster', although it yields interesting discussions like this one, is eternally stuck, as it were, on the 50 yard line. And so shall it remain for our lifetimes at the very least."

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    41. TWT, of course not. And if you can't see the difference than you need to follow this discussion better.

      Delete
    42. andyboerger said:

      "But that raises the question: is intelligence a 'human trait', or is it 'nature'? Given that it arose in this universe (and is expressed through us) you can argue that it is both. So, if, when looking AT nature through its natural appendage (i.e. our intelligence) we see things that resonate with our notions OF intelligence -such as the laws of nature, the complexity of the genetic code, etc. - it is not unreasonable to make a connection between them, and consider that, POSSIBLY, there is some sort of intelligence as a condition OF the universe, not merely an arbitrary occurence WITHIN it."

      How would you define "intelligence"?

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    43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    44. Piotr, it is not about shifting the goal posts. It is about using, or failing to use, all the arguments that one has at ones disposal.

      Let us consider that one side, me, is arguing that it is reasonable, not 'woo woo' or delusion to consider that life arose through some form of consciousness. The other side, you, is arguing that it is not.

      One of your arguments then becomes, we will soon be able to create living cells in laboratories, and there goes your god argument right there.
      Now, I could just run away with my tail between my legs, OR I could say, 'uh huh, when you get there, let me know, okay?'
      OR, I could ask you, 'well, how are you going to be able to do this? Materials, methodology?'
      And you might then answer, 'why, the very substances that the laws of the universe use to make life possible, and the very methodologies that this universe hints at through our own study of it."
      And I could then answer, "Yes. My point exactly".

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    45. TWT, you accuse me, before I write anything, of answering with 'word salads' (which indicates you feel that I have done so in the past, which I feel says rather more about how you choose to interpret my points than it does about how I make them) and you bring up sophomoric arguments like FSM and 'Fifi the pink unicorn god'.
      Thus, I am disinclined to engage with you directly. If NE and Piotr are gracious enough to continue this discussion with me, and you choose to continue to follow it, then I am quite certain that in time, your questions will be answered.

      Feel free to respond with a gratuitous insult, or surprise me. Your choice.

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    46. One of your arguments then becomes, we will soon be able to create living cells in laboratories, and there goes your god argument right there.

      No, I didn't predict that. I asked you to imagine, for the sake of the dicussion that we would be able to carry out abiogenesis in controlled conditions.

      Now, I could just run away with my tail between my legs, OR I could say, 'uh huh, when you get there, let me know, okay?'
      OR, I could ask you, 'well, how are you going to be able to do this? Materials, methodology?'


      I don't know. I'm not even a biologist or chemist. But since you ask, I'm not totally pessimistic about trying. I remember the time, not much more than twenty years ago, when we didn't know if any extrasolar planetary system existed at all. Some people speculated they might be were common, others thought they were extremely rare in the Universe, still others thought that maybe our system was absolutely exceptional -- and if not, we would never know anyway, since exoplanet detection seemed to be beyond the reach of our observational methodology. Of course creationists loved this gap in our knowledge. It was possible to argue that the Earth might be the only habitable planet anywhere, and so the real centre of the Universe. And look, as of now, we know 800+ extrasolar planets round 600+ stars, and the number is increasing fast. It's clear that the Milky Way alone is home to hundreds of billions of planets and that at least a billion or so of them are Earth-sized with Earth-like properties. So never say never.

      And you might then answer, 'why, the very substances that the laws of the universe use to make life possible, and the very methodologies that this universe hints at through our own study of it."
      And I could then answer, "Yes. My point exactly".


      Perhaps, but this means that life is not all that special and has a naturalistic explanation in terms of "the laws of the Universe" which make it possible (even if you think those laws have their lawmaker), and your original point was that it was very different from "ordinary" natural phenomena. This is where you have shifted the goalposts. From ID to some variant of the anthropic principle.

      Delete
    47. Piotr writes, "No, I didn't predict that." Understood. When wrote 'your argument then becomes....' should be considered in the same hypothetical sense as when I wrote, 'Let us consider that...'

      As for your last point, I disagree that I shifted the goal posts, although I can see how it could be interpreted that way. Life can be 'special' and 'natural' at the same time. Remember that I am arguing for a universe that begins with some sort of consciousness, and gradually plays itself out such that consciousness eventually manifests in physical form.
      There are eastern religions that present this idea. I'm not all that up on them, but I think the Tao talks about the one becoming 'the ten thousand things' (funny how our concept of big numbers has changed, isn't it?), Hinduism teaches that 'The One' manifests as 'The All', etc. etc.
      So I never meant to argue that biology is unnatural. Just that it is possible to view nature as a mechanism that eventually calls forth a physical echo of the consciousness that gave birth to it, and so it would not be surprising that the vessel for that, i.e. biology, would happen to be a more complex and 'extraordinary' type of material, and display more complex and 'extraordinary' activity than others that we may consider in comparison, such as rocks, atmospherics, magnetism, volcanoes, erosion, etc. etc.

      Delete
    48. andy, you're quite the goal post mover and word gamer. You go from intelligence being expressed through humans to nature calling forth a physical echo of the consciousness that gave birth to it to biological vessels of or for nature or consciousness or a mechanism or complexity or extraordinary activity and material or something or other, to, well, whatever other word salad you conjure up at the time.

      Ya know, some of the things you say aren't all that unreasonable but then you go off on inconsistent, loaded, convoluted side roads that are full of potholes and other hazards.

      Now, regarding this:

      "TWT, you accuse me, before I write anything, of answering with 'word salads' (which indicates you feel that I have done so in the past, which I feel says rather more about how you choose to interpret my points than it does about how I make them) and you bring up sophomoric arguments like FSM and 'Fifi the pink unicorn god'."

      Show me evidence that supports the existence of ANY alleged god or 'spirit' that any human has ever thought up, and evidence that any of those alleged gods or 'spirits' are more real or more possible and less "sophomoric" than Fifi or the FSM.

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    49. TWT, you can't keep calling something a 'word salad' just because you can't follow a line of reasoning that is different from your own. Go through the comments again. I am arguing on behalf of the same thing throughout - the reasonableness of believing in a conscious/aware/intelligent progenitor of this universe. I do not stray from that, nor do I shift goal posts.
      Also, I do not argue that this is the superior viewpoint, I merely argue for its validity. If anyone wants to force this view on anyone else, I am right there fighting with you.

      Claudiu has praised this thread. Piotr and NE have presented good, solid arguments that show both an understanding of my points, and a firm determination to challenge them. All of this would seem to indicate a cogent, fruitful discussion. So how is it my problem that you see so much of it as gobbledy gook?

      I will consider that it isn't my problem.

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    50. andyboerger said:

      "There is no deep flaw in my argumentation."

      You are "arguing for a universe that begins with some sort of consciousness". You also think, that it is feasible option, because "It is as much an act of belief, at this point, to conclude that everything in the known universe, including ourselves, came about through natural, simple and unguided processes as it is to believe otherwise." (I hope this is fair representation of your position).

      I see two major flaws in your argument:

      1 - your argument assumes, that we know nothing about universe which would suggest, whether there is something "more" or not.
      But this is not true - so far everything we can explain doesn't need any supernatural inteligence to work.

      2 - your argument assumes, that supernatural has any explanatory power. This is not true. "Explaining" something with supernatural doesn't explain anything - it only shifts unknown one step further.

      I'm not arguing that "science effectively rules supernatural out". I only claim, that for now it is not reasonable to even consider any supernatural intelligence (which positon is contrary to yours).

      Delete
    51. continuing:

      I forgot to add before last paragraph, that we don't have any positive evidence for anything supernatural.

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    52. Arek, wrong. The universe IS the 'evidence'. The fact that it has laws that it obeys and behaves more like a functioning machine than an inert object argues for it having arisen through volition. You can argue that it doesn't; present your arguments, please.
      'We don't have evidence' is not a sufficient argument. Someone could then easily argue, please give me ANOTHER example of a thing that conforms to mechanical behavior arising from nothing. Please show a building that arose without an architect, a symphony that arose without a composer, or something along those lines. Show something that looks like an anthill or a beaver's dam, but wasn't created by ants or beavers. Show SOMETHING.

      And the argument just goes on and on.....

      As for 2), so what? Anyone who believes in a conscious creator of this universe, or any god derivative thereof, is not the least bit concerned about 'where god came from'. That argument only appeals to would-be god slayers.

      'We don't have any positive evidence for anything supernatural.' No. But we have personal accounts, throughout the ages, and across many cultures, of mystics, sages, etc. who profess to have had revelatory experiences in which they communed with this 'greater intelligence' and were temporarily subsumed by it. This would be consistent with the notion that the universe has a pervasive consciousness beyond ours, that both brought it into being and still exists within it, perhaps as a trace, perhaps otherwise. You can throw them all out as 'delusions' if you want to; you don't HAVE to, and I choose not to.

      Remember that I am not arguing that they are RIGHT. I am arguing for the possibility that what they are saying may have some validity. You flat out reject this, so you must convince me that your reasons for doing so are sound. "Because I'm not crazy!" doesn't count. It is is used by scientific triumphalists who wish to convince themselves that they are superior.

      Delete
    53. "The universe IS the 'evidence'."
      It's evidence for what, exactly? A creator? This is only your assertion, and "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence". I repeat - nothing within the universe points toward anything supernatural, and universe itself cannot point toward anything 'outside' because everything we know is inside it.

      "The fact that it has laws that it obeys and behaves more like a functioning machine than an inert object argues for it having arisen through volition."
      Sorry, but I see this sentence as only rhetoric. You know that inert object behave according to laws of nature, and also that functioning machines rely on inert object functioning according to those laws? And that some things (e.g. stars) can start functioning without any volition? This is not very good analogy.

      "...present your arguments, please."
      I presented argument (1) which I repeated above.

      "'We don't have evidence' is not a sufficient argument"
      It seems sufficient to you. I'll remind you: you are arguing for a universe that begins with some sort of consciousness exactly because we don't have any appropriate evidence. You haven't corrected me so I assume that it's correct representation of your views.

      "Please show (...) Show SOMETHING."
      False analogy. We know that architects, composers, etc. exists. We think they are pretty natural.

      "Anyone who believes in a conscious creator of this universe, or any god derivative thereof, is not the least bit concerned about 'where god came from'."
      That's not my problem. If they want to be taken seriously, they should start to concern. But let me repeat after Carl Sagan:
      "... where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God always existed, why not save a step, and conclude that the Universe always existed?"

      "But we have personal accounts, ..."
      And what happened to those people? Have they lost their powers? You are aware that all those claims cannot stand up to scientific scrutiny? Personal accounts aren't very reliable source of evidence.

      "This would be consistent with the notion that the universe has a pervasive consciousness beyond ours..."
      It would be also consistent with other explanations (e.g hallucination, fakery).

      "I am arguing for the possibility that what they are saying may have some validity."
      I know that it's possible. But I also know that it's possible that the sun will not rise tomorrow. Is it valid possibility? Yes, it is. Is it worth considering? I say no, and I think the same apply to claims about supernatural (because they are highly improbable and in fact unfounded).

      "You flat out reject this ... "
      No I'm not. I presented you with three arguments.

      "...you must convince me that your reasons for doing so are sound."
      We don't see anything which could suggests supernatural intelligence. You are making positive claim that that possibility is viable. It's you who should present argument. A better one, at least. Yet you constantly require that other should provide more arguments.

      I repeat - I presented you with three counter-arguments. I think they are quite good, and I don't have others.
      We agree, that there is possibility for "something more" than natural processes. You think, that that option is worth considering whereas I claim otherwise. If you don't find my arguments convincing, then I think we should simply agree to disagree.

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    54. andy,

      Show me evidence that supports the existence of ANY alleged god or 'spirit' that any human has ever thought up, and evidence that any of those alleged gods or 'spirits' are more real or more possible and less "sophomoric" than Fifi or the FSM.

      Delete
    55. TWT, if you can't see the difference between religious systems that evolved over time and two silly ideas that were put out by anti-theists as a parody, then I really can't help you. And if you want to go on believing in Fifi, then I wouldn't want to stop you anyway. May Fifi be with you.

      I am going to continue this discussion with those who don't call my answers word salads, accuse me of shifting goal posts after I have taken pains to explain why that is not the case, accuse me of taking unproductive side roads, etc. etc.
      Follow the conversation or ignore it. I'm not interested in arguing with you about spaghetti monsters or unicorns.

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    56. Arek, please note that you are using the principles of science to argue against me. 'We don't have evidence, we have demonstrated that....etc.'
      I don't accept that science has the final word on every topic concerning human attempts to understand their place in the universe. Not on human experience, human inquiry, knowledge and most certainly not wisdom. I consider it a tool toward understanding.

      I will write more later, but first, please tell me to what degree you agree with this sentence. Feel free to modify it in any way so that it does reflect your POV

      Science has reached the point in our day and age where it has sufficiently proven itself such that it can arrogate to itself the authority to have the final word on all areas of human inquiry about our place in the universe.

      and this

      Any question, answer, insight, etc. that does not conform to science's strict pronouncements about what is and is not acceptable can be handily dismissed - in a derisive manner if whichever person dismissing it while holding science as his authority is so inclined.

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    57. andyboerger said:

      "But we have personal accounts, throughout the ages, and across many cultures, of mystics, sages, etc. who profess to have had revelatory experiences in which they communed with this 'greater intelligence' and were temporarily subsumed by it. This would be consistent with the notion that the universe has a pervasive consciousness beyond ours, that both brought it into being and still exists within it, perhaps as a trace, perhaps otherwise. You can throw them all out as 'delusions' if you want to; you don't HAVE to, and I choose not to."

      Well, you choose not to because when it comes right down to it you're just another bullshit believing god pushing creationist who is trying to hide behind a lot of pretentious WORD SALAD. You're doing what IDiots do. You try to make it sound as though you're not religious or at least aren't basing your arguments on your religious beliefs but it's easy to see that you're just pushing the same old 'special-creation' crap that other preachers do. And the longer you go on the more bullshit believing god pushing creationist you sound.

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    58. andyboerger said:

      "TWT, if you can't see the difference between religious systems that evolved over time and two silly ideas that were put out by anti-theists as a parody..."

      LMAO!

      WORD SALAD.

      Is that what you call evidence?

      So, so-called religious "systems" that evolved over time get some sort of special exemption from being examined and exposed for the silly ideas they are, eh? And just because the silly ideas are OLD silly ideas they should be taken seriously? Does that mean that ALL old ideas including the ones that have evolved over time should be taken seriously, or even outright believed in?

      Here, try again:

      Show me evidence that supports the existence of ANY alleged god or 'spirit' that any human has ever thought up, and evidence that any of those alleged gods or 'spirits' are more real or more possible and less "sophomoric" and less "silly" than Fifi or the FSM.

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    59. TWT, you may think that I am avoiding your question, but think:

      Suppose you walked into an art exhibit, of abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, etc. You think that abstract art is just a waste of paint, and to prove your point you bring in a canvas that was painted on by a chimpanzee. You keep pushing it up in the face of the art historians, and demanding, "Prove to me that this is not just as good as the stuff on the wall! SHOW me what's supposedly 'better' about them! Ha ha! You CAN'T? I thought so!"

      They are not going to argue with you, TWT. THey wouldn't even consider doing so. You may walk away feeling you have just done something very clever. They are going to consider you to be merely a boor.

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    60. TWT writes,
      "Well, you choose not to because when it comes right down to it you're just another bullshit believing god pushing creationist who is trying to hide behind a lot of pretentious WORD SALAD. You're doing what IDiots do. You try to make it sound as though you're not religious or at least aren't basing your arguments on your religious beliefs but it's easy to see that you're just pushing the same old 'special-creation' crap that other preachers do. And the longer you go on the more bullshit believing god pushing creationist you sound."

      Now THAT'S what I call a WORD SALAD! :)

      Delete
    61. Arek writes,
      "I present argument (1) which I repeated above"
      Please explain the rationale for this argument. I'm not going to argue with a vague assertion from authority of 'science' or your statement "so far everything we can explain doesn't need any supernatural inteligence to work." What theories or ideas are you using to argue on behalf of the spontaneous emergence of a systematic universe? Complexity theory? Krauss's book, "A Universe From Nothing"? Tell me the basis for your conviction and I may or may not be able to argue with it.

      "And what happened to those people? Have they lost their powers?"
      What 'powers'? I never mentioned any powers. I said that in a certain moment they were able to somehow, momentarily, for example through meditation, connect with the intelligence that birthed the universe. What powers do you imagine they should have after doing that?

      "It would be also consistent with other explanations (e.g hallucination, fakery)."
      In some cases it undoubtedly is. I would hope you would be able to employ a certain amount of discernment as to who to take more seriously. For example, I, and many others, are inspired and impressed by the poems of Rumi. I consider him to be one of the greatest poets, as well as a very wise person who achieved great understanding in life, and communicated it beautifully to others. He writes about things such as I am referring to. I don't equate him with a man babbling on a street corner. Do you?

      Delete
    62. andyboerger said:

      "Suppose you walked into an art exhibit, of abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, etc. You think that abstract art is just a waste of paint, and to prove your point you bring in a canvas that was painted on by a chimpanzee. You keep pushing it up in the face of the art historians, and demanding, "Prove to me that this is not just as good as the stuff on the wall! SHOW me what's supposedly 'better' about them! Ha ha! You CAN'T? I thought so!""

      Yep, the longer you go on the more bullshit believing god pushing creationist you sound.

      Delete
    63. TWT, May Fifi the Pink Unicorn Be With You.

      Delete
    64. Rationale? "a vague assertion from authority"? Sorry, but this is simply reality check. What we know? We know that many things are natural and have natural causes. And we know nothing supernatural. So why should we continue to talk about supernatural? If in the future we find something non-natural, that will be probably the greatest discovery of all the times. But we don't know if that ever happen and for now we live here and know nothing about supernatural - even its existence.

      "For example, I, and many others, are inspired and impressed by the poems of Rumi. I consider him to be one of the greatest poets, as well as a very wise person who achieved great understanding in life, and communicated it beautifully to others. He writes about things such as I am referring to. I don't equate him with a man babbling on a street corner. Do you?"
      Andy, you are constantly giving other people analogies instead of arguments. Instead of answering to TWT you also provided him with a story. You can use analogy to explain argument - that's very good idea, but analogy itself is not an argument nor is it any kind of evidence. But if you don't like evidence then anything you say is simply your opinion, not a statement about reality.

      And I agree with TWT - the only difference between big, established religions and Fifi the Pink Unicorn is their history. We know that religions were man-made, we have quite good evidence for that (the younger religion, the better evidence) (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and that distinction between them and Fifi is not very sharp (Mormonism, Scientology).

      As for your two sentences:
      They are suggesting (as you seems to be suggesting), that science makes claims ex cathedra, but that's simply not true. Science dismiss something as false when it knows that it is false, and it knows that because it checked that.

      1 - I don't agree. Science says something when it knows that. This is not argument from authority. But I could agree that some scientists make unproven assertions using science as authority.

      2 - Again. Science does not dismiss anything from authority. So I don't agree with this sentence either.

      And honestly, I didn't realise that I was using principles of science. I used that "evidence & demonstration" as a simple reality check - because you know, you can say whatever you want, but if you want to know if that's true, you should simply go and check it.

      Delete
    65. Arek, you seem to think I don't give clear answers, and yet you won't even give me a clear answer as to how you come to think that a systematic universe should have come about by chance, or without volition. Your 'answer' is that we have never found anything supernatural before? Only that?
      Well, I don't think that's a very good answer. At least indulge me by explaining what a scenario might be where you DID find something supernatural. How, using the scientific method, would you be able to conclude, 'well, this must be supernatural'? At least give me an illustration of what that might look like. Even if it sounds like a silly question, indulge me. I'm always hearing people say, 'we have no evidence of anything supernatural' as if that stops everything. What would a hypothetical situation be like? This would be very helpful to me, honestly.

      Talking about Rumi was not an analogy. I am surprised that I have to explain something like that, frankly. I DO like analogies, but how do you make this out to be one? You suggested that people who claim to have communed with a greater intelligence might well be fakers or hallucinators. I agreed with you, and then I gave you a specific example of someone who I consider to be neither. I strongly believe it possible that he DID commune with that greater intelligence, based on his writing. I am quite certain that if he were here to write about himself he would say that he had, or something along those lines. No analogy; an example. I will assume you know the difference.
      Yes, I used an analogy, and a good one, to argue with TWT. Can you not see why? When someone talks about a spaghetti monster or a unicorn, they are OBVIOUSLY trying to make the other person's argument look ridiculous. They are not seeking dialogue; they have already made up their own mind and are using their 'question' merely to bait. This is disrespectful and generally leads to fruitless arguments. No one is required to engage such a person, and there is no reason why one should. So the analogy is a good one. If TWT wants to rephrase, and stop his accusations that I am a bullshit believing creationist or whatever, I might change my mind. If he continues in his current manner, I won't.
      As for 'science dismisses something as false when it knows that it is false', that is inconsistent with our argument. Science doesn't 'know' how this universe arose, and therefore doesn't know that there wasn't intelligence involved, of some kind. But it does dismiss this notion, if not in absolute form (we are ABSOLUTELY 100% sure that this is wrong) then in implication and in tone.

      Delete
    66. Arek, please answer this question:

      - If we are to consider a universe whose origins we can only speculate about (agreeing with you that 'universe itself cannot point toward anything 'outside' because everything we know is inside it' and taking your word 'cannot' at face value - meaning that for example, the fact that there is, according to you, nothing supernatural IN this universe should have no bearing on what might exist OUTSIDE of it)

      - and, this universe runs systematically, in accordance with certain 'laws' that are capable of being understood or partially understood through mathematics and physics

      - and this universe is capable of giving birth to intelligence, consciousness, awareness, etc. (as expressed through us and to other degrees by other living things)

      why is it better to postulate that it happened unconsciously and absent volition, than to postulate that it may have, or it may have emerged through some form of intelligence?
      In other words, why the more or less definitive answer over the open question?

      Delete
    67. @andyboerger
      I don't know how universe came into being. Maybe it was always here? I'm not claiming, that I know anything about that. I'm only claiming that no one should take non-natural explanations seriously. You are focusing on the origin of universe and other unknown because it gives some credibility to your argument. Because we don't know why universe exists, it's worth considering supernatural intelligence. But that's not true. You asked:
      "In other words, why the more or less definitive answer over the open question?"
      Because it's not true that we know nothing. Agnosticism is impossible in this case because we know something. We know something about the universe itself and we also know something about supernatural explanations. I thougth it was clear from my arguments.

      "How, using the scientific method, would you be able to conclude, 'well, this must be supernatural'? At least give me an illustration of what that might look like"
      You want me to show you unknown? Could you give me at least illustration of what future theories might look like? Do you know what the supernatural is? As Brian Lynchehaun put it simply - saying "it was caused by the supernatural" is functionally the same as "it was caused by I don’t know what". And I think he nailed the problem. But when I talk to other people about supernatural, they are talking about God(s), ghosts, psychic powers, something "outside the world" (depending on definition of the world that could even mean "something outside everything") etc. In your case you are talking about superior intelligence from the outside this world. But you are pointing toward very important problem. People like you are making claims about something other than natural without even defining it. And I am guilty of not pointing that out. Maybe instead of assuming your implicit definition and providing some arguments I should first ask you for proper definition?

      "Talking about Rumi was not an analogy"
      My bad. Honestly I was tired reading all this stories, so I haven't though about that much.

      "When someone talks about a spaghetti monster or a unicorn, they are OBVIOUSLY trying to make the other person's argument look ridiculous."
      FSM and IPU were made to show that arguments about supernatural ARE ridiculous. That wasn't very difficult. They simply substituted God with something else. Russell did it with teapot.

      "As for 'science dismisses something as false when it knows that it is false', that is inconsistent with our argument."
      I'll assume that you were in hurry and haven't read it thoroughly.
      Here's what I said:
      "Science dismiss something as false when it knows that it is false, and it knows that because IT CHECKED THAT."
      (emphasis added)

      I'll repeat my arguments adding two more:
      I'm not arguing that science disproved God or anything like that. I'm fully aware that there is possibility that supernatural creator exists (that's where we agree).
      I'm only saying that this hypothesis is not worth considering because:
      1) So far everything we can explain has natural causes.
      2) Supernatural 'explanations' only shifts unknown one step further.
      3) There is no evidence for anything supernatural.
      4) Very often supernatural hypotheses are logically flawed (including lack of proper definition).
      5) Supernatural claims were investigated by science and they were proven to be wrong (fake or natural).
      I tried to present these arguments as clearly as possible. If you don't find them convincing - that's OK, but then our discussion should end.
      But if you want to present some counter-arguments, please state them explicitly and try not to use rhetoric, stories or analogies.

      Delete
    68. @ Andy,

      Sorry, but someone had to do it...

      “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”
      ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

      Delete
  5. Firstly, referring to someone as IDiot comes across as quite childish. Lets grow up and engage in intellectual arguments if you want your blog posts to be taken seriously. I think we are old enough for that.

    Secondly, Jonathan McLatchie,has masters degree in Evolutionary Biology. Something tells me he has already studied enough evolutionary biology than an average defender of Darwinian theory. He is willing to take more courses for further understanding. So, when will you start reading more about design hypothesis rather than name calling?

    BTW, I have a masters degree in biology as well. So Jonathan is not alone in his critique of Darwinian dogma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's the logical fallacy that goes like this: "you can't defend your position, therefore your position is wrong"? You can have all the degrees you like, but there is still no evidence in favor of creationism of any flavor. Again, is this all about having sticks with which to attack your opponents, or arriving at a real understanding of the natural world?

      Evolutionary theory is not dogma - please stop with this mindless assertion. Dogma (like ID, for example) doesn't change to match the evidence, while evolutionary theory does. You will continue to invoke a designer no matter what new evidence emerges because ID is a belief.

      Delete
    2. If the IDiots would actually present an intellectual argument rather than a dishonest, science destroying, creationist/political agenda, Larry and other scientists and science supporters might take them seriously.

      It might also help if the IDiots would open up commenting on all of their sites/blogs and stop blocking and banning people who question or challenge them. A one sided, ignorant SERMON (which always just amounts to bashing Darwin, "Darwinists", evolution, and science) from a pulpit in a censoring echo chamber isn't an 'intellectual argument'. If the IDiots have what they think is a good, intellectual argument, why are they afraid to air it out in the open and 'follow the evidence where it leads'?

      Delete
    3. You must have his degree wrong. I see no sense in someone with a master's degree in evolutionary biology to go and take an introductory course in genetics and evolution, which should be obviously well below whatever he would have learned during his masters program. I might be wrong, in which case I would venture that Jon passed through the program deaf and blind.

      You have a master's in biology? Well, can you explain what is this "Darwinian Dogma" that you critique? I would also like to know who holds to that Dogma, and how your degree helped you figure those things out.

      Delete
    4. Actually, I do hold a Master of Research (M.Res) degree in Evolutionary Biology & Systematics. I also hold a BSc (with Honours) in Forensic Biology. I attended numerous lectures and scientific paper review sessions during my time as a postgraduate, and my degree included taught components in both evolutionary biology and microbiology (in addition to two research dissertations). I find biology generally fascianting though and will seize any opportunity to study it. I even recently set up a new blog (http://jmclatchie.blogspot.co.uk/) to catalogue my scientific literature review essays which aren't necessarily related to ID (though some of them inevitably will be).

      Delete
    5. Jonathan: I do hold a Master of Research (M.Res) degree in Evolutionary Biology & Systematics. I also hold a BSc (with Honours) in Forensic Biology. I attended numerous lectures and scientific paper review sessions...

      And all that education was just water off a duck's back to you, and a waste of time to your teachers. Jonathan, you are on the record saying that "the age of the earth is a peripheral matter" for discussing the origins of life, and that Adam and Eve were the actual first humans. Combined with your statements in this thread it makes you either a hypocrite or an embarrassment to the University of Glasgow -- possibly both. May I ask you what the topic of your final research dissertation was?

      Delete
    6. Jon,

      If you have such a degree, yet you are taking an intro course in genetics and evolution it clearly indicates that you passed by night through that university. No way around.

      I wish I could suspect some honourable leaning on your part for taking this course. But I can't. IDiots have shown me in direct conversation such levels of dishonesty that I can't give you guys the benefit of the doubt. I suspect that this is just pose. Pretending to want to be knowledgeable while sending an unintended but clear message that you, and your fellow IDiots, have no idea about evolutionary biology. Had no idea about it to begin with, so now you are in remedial classes.

      I doubt those remedial classes will work too well. Dishonesty runs deep in your flock. (Unfortunately for you, I visited your blog, jumped to the other one, found quite a dishonest misrepresentation of atheism/atheists, while you pretended to discuss about whether it is a belief system, so I can't give you that much of the benefit of the doubt.)

      Delete
  6. Jonathan M, will you please list all the peer reviewed scientific papers you have had published regarding evolutionary biology (or a closely related field), and all the scientific research projects dealing with evolutionary biology (or a closely related field) that you have been involved in, and exactly what you contributed to those projects, and what, if any, novel, verifiable discoveries you made regarding evolution?

    I'd like to think that someone who said the statement below will have no resistance to showing how informed they are.

    "I generally find that lay-proponents of ID are far more informed than lay-defenders of Darwinian theory."

    Oh, by the way, how much CSI, FSCO/I, or dFSCO/I is there in a banana? Show your calculations. It should be a cinch for someone informed in ID.

    And one more thing, for now.

    You said:

    "The desire to understand evolutionary biology was part of my reason for pursuing a Masters degree in the subject (now completed)."

    What is the other part?

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  7. I find this highly amusing. An anti-evolutionist telling people who have already decided evolution is false to give it a fair hearing, so they can better articulate why evolution is false, which they knew all along.

    Poe's law wins again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha ha! It IS funny, isn't it? Because it's so, like, unprecedented! The FBI never infiltrates the mob, coaches never watch films of opposing teams, nothing like that ever happens because arming oneself with as much information as one can about something one disagrees with is so ridiculous! What WILL those people we are so superior to that we can laugh at their every utterance come up with next?

      Delete
    2. So you realize then that Jonathan is recommending the online course to his "colleagues" (LOL) so that they can "infiltrate" the "mob" or "opposing team" in hopes of defeating them. What a nice, christian agenda.

      Wouldn't it be a lot better if the IDiots would come up with some positive evidence and a testable hypothesis for their assertions?

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    3. Andyboerger, when in say, 3 years time we will continue to hear endlessly debunked arguments against evolution in matters of evolutionary genetics, and that these endlessly debunked arguments are not corrected by this supposedly emerging new breed of well-informed ID-proponents, what will your explanation be for that phenomenon?

      I know this is hard to accept, in fact I often have that same problem myself because usually I like to think the best of people, but this belief of mine constantly comes in conflict with reality when I deal with ID-creationists. There simply ARE a section of the population that will outright lie to your face and misrepresent the statements and information from others, in order to achieve their goals.

      One need only take a look at this section from Answers In Genesis:
      By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

      Not only is that statement grotesque in itself, the question I'm compelled to ask is why religious ID-proponents aren't spending significant time arguing against that statement with Creationists, and why if ID-proponents are so well informed about evolution in general, and if they're really different from creationists, why they so persistently use the same creationist arguments and never correct other creationists in their mistakes?

      The fact is that you simply don't find ID-creationists ever correcting each other or themselves. In stark and direct contrast, you have scientists constantly arguing against each other. On this very blog you can find arguments between Larry Moran and Richard Dawkins (and many others) on matters of evolution, a phenomenon entirely, ENTIRELY absent in ID-circles. Where are the arguments between Bill Dembski and Jonathan McLatchie, where is Michael Behe correcting Douglas Axe, where is Jonathan Wells teaching proper taxonomy to Casey Luskin? Nowhere Andy, fucking NOWHERE.

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    4. Rumraket, you make an excellent point, particularly your last paragraph. I would like to see arguments among ID proponents. I hope that J. McClathie returns to comment here, because I am curious as to how he would respond to the point(s) you raise.

      Delete
    5. "The fact is that you simply don't find ID-creationists ever correcting each other or themselves"

      "Ever" is such an absolute assertion. A few examples:

      http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/2nd-law-of-thermodynamics-an-agument-creationists-and-id-proponents-should-not-use/

      And

      http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/response-to-scordova/

      And

      http://www.uncommondescent.com/junk-dna/latest-encode-research-validates-id-predictions-on-non-coding-repertoire/
      (scroll comments)

      Delete
    6. TWT,

      Every theory starts by showing why the previous theory is wrong. Darwin himself did this and his theory started with a book that was "one long argument"

      Delete
    7. @Anonymous
      ""Ever" is such an absolute assertion. A few examples:"

      You are of course right, and I gratefully accept the rebuke with those links. Maybe there's a tiny glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel after all. But I stress that it is very tiny.

      Delete
    8. Every theory starts by showing why the previous theory is wrong. Darwin himself did this and his theory started with a book that was "one long argument"

      Darwin didn't just "show why the previous theory was wrong", but also spent most of his time demonstrating in Origin why he was right, first by demonstrating variation under the most well-studied populations available to him, namely domesticated animals, and then expanding that to demonstrate variation under nature (something he'd established in many quarters, especially with his previous work on barnacles). Then he discussed the struggle for existence and worked out the consequences of that struggle on populations with heritable variation: natural selection. In the latter half of the book, he devoted four chapters to the evidence for evolution from biogeography, faunal succession, anatomical and embryological homologies, and vestigial features.

      That is why within a few years, most of his educated contemporaries and many well-read laymen were convinced of evolution, even if they had yet to be convinced of natural selection as a mechanism of change. The impact of his book wouldn't have been felt if Darwin confined himself to addressing work solely done before the turn of the 19th century, misrepresented the views of his opponents, and ignored contravening data (in fact, Darwin explicitly deals with "difficulties on theory" in chapters that are gold mines for quote-mining creationists).

      Delete
    9. Nullifidian

      It appears he used theology also; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22702030

      Delete
    10. Ha ha, andyboerger! That was a good one!

      It's like you still don't get the irony of creationists trying to learn about evolution only after they've already decided it's wrong. Instead of, you know, learning about it first, and then deciding if it makes sense.

      But I know you're just playing along to keep the Poe's Law joke going. Um..., that is what you're doing, right?

      ;-)

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    11. Actually, following my initial post at Uncommon Descent, I myself have expressed skepticism about the extent to which the ENCODE results undermine the notion of junk DNA. See http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/09/perspectives_on064741.html. I'm still very skeptical that most of our DNA (as Larry Moran maintains) is junk. But I'm not convinced that the ENCODE results necessarily falsifies that notion (for the reasons I give in the above ENV article). I do think, however, that the finding that the genome is alive with activity suggests that we should be cautious about declaring that DNA is "junk" when we don't currently know what its function is.

      Delete
    12. Also, there are many areas of divergent opinion within the I.D. community. The issue of common descent is one of the more obvious ones.

      Delete
    13. Jonathan McLatchie: ...the finding that the genome is alive with activity suggests that we should be cautious about declaring that DNA is "junk" when we don't currently know what its function is.

      I read your ENV article in which you mention that you have been closely following the ongoing discussion about ENCODE project and junk DNA.

      I don't know if you had the chance to see the model on the evolution of genome size and the protective function of ‘junk DNA’ against insertional mutagenesis, which I discussed at large here at Sandwalk?
      My last series of comments are posted here: http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/10/reddit-we-are-encyclopedia-of-dna.html

      I would like to hear your opinion.

      Delete
    14. Andy: I hope that J. McClathie returns to comment here, because I am curious as to how he would respond to the point(s) you raise.

      I hoped so too, but we evidently scared off Jonathan M, M.Res., by asking him questions.

      Delete
    15. I'd be interested in hearing Jonathan McLatchie's considered opinion on other diverse fields such as embryology, neurobiology, meteorology and cosmology.

      Has his blind adherence to his bronze age book of fairy tales contaminated his outlook in these areas as well ?

      Like so many of his type of cult, their holy books tell them (not that most of them have bother to read them, it's always the shamans who seem to have a direct line to the invisible sky daddy) that, the findings of neurobiology are invalidated; we do have an immaterial soul, global warming is a sham; either thousands of scientists are deluded or lying and we are the stewards of creation until the apocalypse rolls over us in our lifetimes so why worry, and since there appears to be something rather than nothing then ergo their invisible deity must exist.

      I'm sure a polymathic renaissance man of Jonathan McLatchie's stature could give us a précis describing where other major areas of science conflict with his dogma and what the actual story is, and perhaps recommend some online courses so that those that oppose these theories can spruce up ancient myths with sciencey sounding words and create conflict where none existed before.


      Delete
  8. Anonymous said:

    "Every theory starts by showing why the previous theory is wrong. Darwin himself did this and his theory started with a book that was "one long argument"

    So Darwin and Einstein (for example) spent decades and millions of dollars lying, quote mining, distorting previous and opposing theories, incorrectly interpreting and expressing previous and opposing theories, hiding from questions and challenges, asserting thousands of years old, impossible, religious fairy tales, and dishonestly arguing against previous and opposing theories while providing no testable evidence or support for their own theories?

    ReplyDelete
  9. "About 99% of all books and posts by Intelligent Design Creationist consists of criticisms of evolution..."

    I come up against that sort of crap on-line, and I no longer allow anyone to get away with that tactic. I instantly remind them of the False Dichotomy, and then instruct them to stick to proving their case in favour of IDiocy or creationism. Since they are always completely unprepared to do so it's an instant shut-down (with them continuing to sputter of course, they don't know any other way of operating).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right - the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. The ID supports must present a positive case for their side, not just throw mud at evolution. What ever happened to those secret labs doing ID research we were told about 5 or 6 years ago? We're still waiting....

      Delete
  10. @ TWT

    Both sides of the debate have made mistakes, so let's not pretend otherwise . The end of this article sums it up quite nicely; http://www.economist.com/node/13776974

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scientists are as human as everybody else. True. But science is about discovery, while IDiocy is about propaganda. Quite different. In one you are expected to follow some rules. In IDiocy it's about twisting and misrepresenting. Holding to as much bullshit as possible. Quoting and misquoting whatever soundbites you can make appear as if supporting your stance.

      Science is about figuring things out. IDiocy is about dishonest snake-oil salesmanship to begin with. Which one will have more abundance of crap?

      Pointing to scientists also being human in this "debate" is like pretending that we should trust horoscopes because weather predictions do not always work.

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    2. One creationist will accept the current estimate of the age of the Universe, say 13.75 billion years, and maybe even admit the possibility of evolution as long as it's "directed", i.e manually tweaked by God at some key points. Another will believe that the Universe was created one Sunday 6 thousand years ago and all living things great and small took less than a week to appear. And they somehow manage to regard such differences as relatively unimportant. How can they even try to pretend they are interested in reality?

      Delete
  11. @ NE,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Creationists who take on origin subjects dealing with evolution don't need entry level education.
    It's just a criticism by the side that can't persuade based on the merits.
    Evolutionists should take courses on organized creationist ideas from creationists.
    They do need educating and soon if they don't want to lose the great modern revolution/rebellion in origin subjects we are living in.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jonathan McLatchie said:

    "Also, there are many areas of divergent opinion within the I.D. community. The issue of common descent is one of the more obvious ones."

    So? Is that supposed to prove that any or all of you are actually interested in something other than wrecking and outlawing certain fields of science and replacing them with your religious and political agenda?

    What matters isn't whether all you IDiots agree on everything or not. What matters is whether you IDiots will ever stop self-righteously attacking and misrepresenting the enormous amount of evidence and hard work that real scientists have produced (and continue to produce) regarding evolution and related fields, and whether you will ever get around to producing (and openly and honestly discussing) positive evidence and testable hypotheses/inferences/theories for your IDC claims.

    Hey jonathan, does the word "legitimisation" ring a bell? Do you believe that the science pertaining to natural evolution and/or abiogenesis is illegitimate and should be disrespected and outlawed because it doesn't include and isn't officially sanctioned by your beliefs in your chosen alleged designer-creator-god and associated myths in the bible? Do you believe that all scientific investigations, theories, discussions, teachings, and publishing that pertains to the origin and/or diversity of the universe and life must be sanctioned by and married to your religious beliefs to be considered legitimate?

    Must science be married to christianity and your version of it or would an 'otherwise' religion be okay? How about a marriage between science and Wicca, or science and Shaktism, for example? Since you IDiots often say that the identity of the alleged 'intelligent designer' isn't relevant or important I don't see how any of you could have any legitimate complaints if science were to officially marry itself to any of the alleged designer-creator gods, goddesses, spirits, or other supernatural entities that have ever been imagined, including any that may be imagined by potential beings on other planets.

    I'm kind of partial to a marriage between science and Fifi the pink unicorn god. Would you and the other IDiots be willing to sanction that marriage and see it as legitimate?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jonathan McLatchie said:

    "Actually, I do hold a Master of Research (M.Res) degree in Evolutionary Biology & Systematics. I also hold a BSc (with Honours) in Forensic Biology. I attended numerous lectures and scientific paper review sessions during my time as a postgraduate, and my degree included taught components in both evolutionary biology and microbiology (in addition to two research dissertations). I find biology generally fascianting though and will seize any opportunity to study it. I even recently set up a new blog (http://jmclatchie.blogspot.co.uk/) to catalogue my scientific literature review essays which aren't necessarily related to ID (though some of them inevitably will be)."

    Hmm, that sounds so sciency but you seem to have left a few important things out that pertain to your interests, beliefs, agenda, and 'education':

    http://www.blogos.org/guest-contributors.html

    http://www.crossexamined.org/blog/index.php

    http://www.blogos.org/peopleandpolitics/same-sex-marriage.html

    http://apologeticsuk.blogspot.com/

    http://jmclatchie.blogspot.com/

    http://chab123.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/the-finely-tuned-genetic-code-by-jonathan-mclatchie/

    http://www.blogos.org/scienceandtechnology/real-adam-and-eve.html


    I'm curious jonathan, do you work in or are you going to work in the field of biology or are you just going to "review" scientific literature (looking for gaps whether real or imagined)?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Here is a quote from the "Real Adam and Eve" essay:
    Christians may have disagreements about peripheral matters such as the age of the earth. As I have discussed before, I don't think that Genesis commits one to accepting a young earth position. However, the historical existence of Adam and Eve is another matter -- it is a Gospel issue. Without an historical Adam and Eve, and without an historical fall, the doctrine of the atonement and redemption makes very little sense.

    Of course to Jonathan this means that "the first parents" must have existed no matter what the scientific evidence says -- indeed, he goes on to stretch and misinterpret some of that evidence in a desperate but vain attempt to make it look compatible with Genesis (but, frankly, who cares, if Biblical reason are weightier anyway?). On the other hand -- wow! the Gospel is falsifiable! the Gospel is scientific! If the whole doctrine of the fall, atonement and redemption makes no sense without a literal reading of Genesis, then indeed we have already falsified the whole thing!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Note the bad faith in:
    "no one can say we haven’t given it a fair hearing".

    Not: "we want to give it a fair hearing"

    It would be more honest if he had said:
    "no one can say we haven’t given it a simulacrum of fair hearing".

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm so disappointed with this course....

    Adaptations fact, mutations fact micro-evolution fact, who denies any of these, is there a single person on the planet that says they are untrue? But here is the issue. We want proof and facts on OOL and Marco-evolution. This means that the course really does not offer anything to Darwin Critics because we do not dispute what the course will cover. We dispute what the course for some inexplicable reason will not be covering.

    From the course FAQ

    Will the lectures cover macroevolution, or talk about the diversity of past (e.g., dinosaurs) or present life?

    The present version does not cover macroevolution or the diversity of life. There will not be anything about dinosaurs. The evolution topics covered in the present course are largely confined to "microevolution," though we hope to add some new topics spanning macroevolution to future course iterations.

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    Replies
    1. Andre Gross,

      Adaptations fact, mutations fact micro-evolution fact, who denies any of these, is there a single person on the planet that says they are untrue?

      The vast majority of IDiots do not understand microevolution and population genetics so this course will be helpful to them. (If they are interested in learning.)

      Also, you are forgetting that many creationists dispute various aspects of "micoevolution" and their books contain many misconceptions and misunderstandings of the process. I'm thinking of Michael Behe's book "The Edge of Evolution," Jonathan Well's book "The Myth of Junk DNA," and Stephen Meyer's book "Signature in the Cell." If you take this course you will be able to recognize the conceptual flaws in those books. (Provided, of course, that you are even interested in learning about evolution.)

      Delete
    2. Dear Prof Moran.

      Can you honestly say that you have read them all since you cite them?

      Andre

      Delete
    3. @Andre Gross

      Of course I've read them. Otherwise how would I know what's in them?

      Remember, I'm not a creationist so I don't lie about such things.

      Delete
  18. Claudiu Bandea writes,

    This brings us, as you might guess, to the C-value paradox and ‘junk DNA’, which are among the biggest enigmas not only in genome biology, but in the science of Biology.

    Have we reached a reasonable answer and solution and agree that, after half of century of uncertainty, the C-value paradox and junk DNA enigmas are finally solved?


    Back in the 20th century, we learned that a large percentage of some genomes consists of DNA that has no function. It's junk DNA. This discovery explained the genetic load argument and it explained the C-value "paradox." It's no longer a paradox because we now know that there's no strong correlation between the amount of DNA in a genome and the number of genes.

    Junk DNA is not an "enigma" once you understand how evolution works, particularly population genetics and the effects of population size and random genetic drift.

    Among those who studied the field, these questions stopped being "enigmas" over thirty years ago. The enigmas have been solved but our biggest job now is to convince those who don't understand the science behind them.

    This is proving to be far more difficult than I would have imagined ten or fifteen years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leaving the rhetoric aside, as I emphasized in my comments, the fundamental problem (or the ‘enigma’ if you wish) whether ‘junk DNA’ (jDNA) is ’functional’ or ‘non-functional’ has been there since the last century, and still kicking as one of the major unresolved problem in genome biology and Biology.

      Apparently, it’s difficult to keep up with what’s posted on your blog, when vacationing in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon! Here’s is one passage:

      Part of the enigma surrounding the C-value paradox and the evolutionary origin of jDNA was solved by the discovery that it's composed primarily of transposable elements, including endogenous viruses. However, the puzzle at the center of C-value paradox and jDNA paradigm has remained: (i) is jDNA functional, and has it been maintained because the host organisms possessing it have a selective advantage (i.e. is jDNA symbiotic)?; or (ii) is jDNA nonfunctional, and has it accumulated simply because its rate of deletion has been lower than the amplification (i.e. is jDNA is parasitic)?

      Anyway, everyone agrees with the problem, including you and the ENCODE messengers! As a matter of fact, a few posts back, you said about my 2 decades old hypothesis:

      ”I note that you published this hypothesis in 1990 and now after 22 years nobody has stepped forward to claim that it solves the problem. Why do you think that is?

      That’s the problem I’m taking about Larry, that’s the problem, the one you mention in this statement, not the ones mentioned in your rhetoric, above.

      Leaving aside the issues of how this jDNA originated, or whether it has been ‘adaptive’ or ‘functional,’ I’m asking a relatively simple and straightforward question: does the jDNA in humans protects against insertional mutagenesis by transposable elements and retroviruses?

      It would be interesting to see how you answer this question!

      My answer to the question is yes, and if nobody has reasonable objections, then, this is the truth: 100% jDNA is functional

      Understandably, the activity of many components of our defense system, including dozens and dozens of innate immunity mechanisms, are also not readily perceived as ‘functional in the usual sense of this word,’as least not by those who are not familiar with all branches of Biology! Indeed, some of these components can be deleted with little or no immediate phenotypic effects, but they are there for a reason: evolutionary survival.

      I think that this model is valuable not only from a scientific and academic perspective, as it provides a sensible solution to the big problem (I almost said Big Bird!), but particularly from a medical and public health perspective as it opens the door for better understanding of one of the most devastating maladies: CANCER.

      Delete
    2. Claudiu Bandea asks,

      Leaving aside the issues of how this jDNA originated, or whether it has been ‘adaptive’ or ‘functional,’ I’m asking a relatively simple and straightforward question: does the jDNA in humans protects against insertional mutagenesis by transposable elements and retroviruses?

      The answer is "no."

      And please stop referring to "functional junk DNA." That's an oxymoron.

      Claudiu, I've been very tolerant. You've had plenty of time to promote your kooky idea on my blog. It's time to stop.

      We all understand that you have a problem with the concept of junk DNA and the fact that it solves many of the other problems like the C-value paradox and genetic load. But that's your problem. You have not explained why you have a problem in the first place.

      Is it because you don't understand evolution? Have you read "The Origins of Genome Architecture" by Michael Lynch? Have you read "The Evolution of the Genome" edited by Ryan Gregory? How about "The Logic of Chance" by Eugene Koonin?

      Get back to me when you've brushed up on the basic principles of genomes and genome evolution.

      Delete
    3. No comment! But, maybe the readers would have some!

      Delete
  19. Re Introduction to Genetics and Evolution course

    I am not an Intelligent Design Creationist, but I am taking the course McLatchie recommends. It was also recommended by Jerry Coyne, who is definitely not an IDiot.

    ReplyDelete
  20. andyboerger asks,

    why is it better to postulate that it happened unconsciously and absent volition, than to postulate that it may have, or it may have emerged through some form of intelligence?
    In other words, why the more or less definitive answer over the open question?


    There are many different ways to answer your question.

    Think if it as a form of the cosmological argument. If your goal is to understand the origin of the universe, and of life, then your explanation that "god(s) did it" adds nothing to the explanation. It merely moves it back one step so that now we have to ask about the origin of god(s).

    This may not seem to be a problem for you since you are already convinced, on other grounds, that these gods exist. However, your argument fails completely when you try to use it to convince an atheist.

    Think if it this way .. what if I told you that the universe was created by aliens from another dimension? Would that satisfy you?

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    Replies
    1. Larry, thank you. I'll accept that.
      I still find it a little perplexing that even an atheist (and I was one for nearly twenty years) cannot concede that the systematic nature of the universe, which yields its answers to us as we apply our own intelligence to it (and this of course includes the complexity, and 'riddles' of your own field) argues, on those grounds, for an intelligent creator at least as much as it does for the postulation that the universe 'just happened', but I will relent, with just some final thoughts.

      As I wrote above, it seems to me that if you can't duplicate it, can't make it, can't make something better than it, aren't sure how it works, and furthermore can rely on the consistency of its operations to find out more about how it works by studying it, there is a fair possibility that 'somebody' made it.

      Delete
    2. oh, sorry, I didn't notice the question about aliens from another dimension.

      I would say that would be different. I am talking about an intelligence that is beyond our understanding, so I wouldn't use any other descriptive language to describe it than to say it is intelligent, knows that it is intelligent (probably redundant), and knows/knew what it was doing when it created the universe.

      IF someone sincerely believed that it was 'aliens' from 'another dimension', I would ask them to describe them more, and how they went about creating the universe. If they were just using that notion as you are, rhetorically, I would say as I have above, that is very different from talking about an intelligence beyond our understanding.

      Delete
    3. When you say that god(s) did it, why isn't it legitimate for me to ask how they did it? Isn't it a bit of a cop-out to claim that your particular designers are beyond our understanding but my aliens from another dimension aren't?

      Delete
    4. why a cop out?
      My answer would be that I don't know, and I may have no way of knowing. I am using the facts and features of this universe (as outlined in the responses I have made above), as a defense for believing in a creator. I am saying you can make a fair argument that there are traces/signature -whatever you choose to call it - of the creator IN the creation.

      If you were to say that those traces/signature were left by aliens, rather than a source beyond your comprehension, I would want to know why you singled that out from other possibilities. I would assume you had a reason for doing so.

      Delete
    5. Andy,

      For an intelligence to be able to make this universe that you find so "willing" to be consistent and all the things you said. Wouldn't you expect that things would have to behave in such an "appropriate" way before intelligence could be possible? Or rephrasing and reordering: wouldn't the existence of intelligence entail that it is natural for things to "behave"? Otherwise how could anything be intelligent unless its reality behaved at least to some point? What I am saying is that you seem to say: the universe is very complex, we can't replicate many things in it, yet it behaves, therefore an intelligence made it. I think that puts the cart before the horse.

      Also, your inference comes from anthropomorphizing. Anything that looks complicated, since we do complicated stuff, is therefore done by something like us only bigger. Lo and behold! The Universe behaves and has some pretty complicated stuff. Therefore something like us, only bigger, made it. Hum. Really? I don't think that such a thing follows. We are a pretty small part of the universe. Why should we feel justified that therefore everything is exactly like us? That volcanoes are the product of an angry intelligence? That thunders are sent by another angry intelligence, and now that the whole thing was made by one? I can tell you why, because we don't know how limited our experience with intelligent beings is. We see ourselves too often (for obvious reasons), we therefore take that experience too far. But such taking too far is a non-sequitur. It entails ignoring that we are such a tiny sample, part and parcel of this reality. It's ignoring that we are the products of this reality. Therefore, being such products, it should not be surprising that this reality allows for us. Being so tiny. It should be obvious that we are not precisely a reason for the universe to be. It should be obvious that our intelligence depends on how the universe works. Yet, you conclude that an external intelligence is possible in an alternative reality that does not behave in a way for intelligence to exist? If that alternative reality naturally behaves for intelligence to exist, then why not save a step and keep our conclusions to this reality and conclude that behaving is its natural state? (Or do you really think that intelligence would be possible in a reality that does not behave?)

      I hope that was clear enough. There's more problems with your approach. Example, we can't replicate, not even predict properly, weather. We know though that it is not intelligently made. We can replicate fire. Yet, we need intelligence to do so. We still understand all right that fires in nature can come from natural events ... et cetera, et cetera.

      (Sorry Larry for interfering in this conversation.)

      Delete
    6. NE, I always enjoy reading and considering your responses to my comments. I very much doubt that Larry would consider it to be 'interfering'. :)

      First of all, although maybe I would " expect that things would have to behave in such an "appropriate" way before intelligence could be possible", nevertheless I should never hold reality to my expectations about it. I am perfectly willing to consider that it may not. For instance, if the Mona Lisa were aware, she would not be able to imagine or consider movement, because her position is static. Hence, she would not be able to imagine herself being painted, because moving a brush would be beyond the limits of her conceptualization skills. No Leonardo would be imaginable to her, at least in a way that she could easily describe. But she WAS created by Leonardo. So I would not hold the creator of the universe to my expectations.


      Your second paragraph raises interesting points. First, I can happily agree with you that there should be no particular reason to believe that this vast universe was specifically or exclusively created for we puny humans. I myself certainly don't believe that.

      I don't think that's the same as considering the possibility that intelligence should arise from an universe that was created with volition. Intelligence as an ingredient may very logically yield intelligence as an output. So long as one does not maintain that that is the ENTIRE PURPOSE of the universe, I don't consider that unreasonable.

      This goes back to a question I asked you earlier, that you may have missed. Do you consider intelligence to be a 'human trait', or do you consider it to be 'nature'? As I wrote above, given that it arose in this universe (and is expressed through us) you can argue that it is both.

      So intelligence is not like things that we would more readily consider as human traits, such as anger, sentimentality, etc. We see key signs of intelligence in the universe, namely, organization, complexity, predictability - which is maintained by 'laws' and translatable into scientific/mathematic formulas, etc. That is very different from anthropomorphizing a volcano's behavior as anger, at least imo.

      Since I think these are the main points of contention you had, and you didn't seem all that interested in discussing the 'more problems' with my approach, I will stop there for now.
      Once again, thanks for your thoughtful consideration of the points I raise.

      Delete
    7. Sorry, NE, but just one more point, because I can't resist. I really DO enjoy considering these matters.
      You brought up weather, so I would like to run it up against my 'formula'
      Can't duplicate it - yes, we can. On a smaller scale, in labs, little 'tornadoes' etc. can be made. Why? Because we understand the process.
      Can't make it - no, but we can seed clouds to produce rain. We 'make' weather by making it rain, in a very limited way.
      Can't make something better than it - kinda. We can produce greenhouses so that we can be more sure about growing certain things rather than depending on the whims of the weather
      aren't sure how it works - not completely, but much better than we understand how biology works, and far less than we understand as yet mysterious things such as abiogenesis or a 'universe from nothing'
      can rely on the consistency of how it works to learn more about it - yes

      Based on that checklist, it is LESS unreasonable to assume intelligence in the case of abiogenesis, the genetic code, and the origin of the universe than it is in the case of weather.

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    8. @andyboerger

      "For instance, if the Mona Lisa ..."
      False analogy. We know that Mona Lisa exists and we know that we exist. In case of creator - we know that we exist but we don't know if creator exists.

      "We see key signs of intelligence in the universe, namely, organization, complexity, predictability..."
      Organization, complexity and predictability in the universe are not signs of intelligence but of natural laws. Of course we don't know where those laws come from, but that doesn't mean those laws are signs of anything.

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    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    10. Arek, there is nothing 'false' about the analogy. Based on your earlier comments and the one directly above, I have reason to doubt that you even understand the purpose of an analogy, so I see no reason to dissect this one only for your sake, in light of the fact that you wrote earlier that you are 'tired of reading them and specifically requested that I not use them in comments addressed to you. If another commenter, such as NE, agrees with you that the analogy is 'false', I will revisit it.

      As for your second point; yes, I can look at what you are saying, and see that it calls for clarification on my part. When I say 'signs', I don't use the term to mean 'undeniable evidence'; rather I am saying that organization, complexity and predictably 'might well indicate', 'would seem to hint at', etc. based upon what we know about organization, complexity and predictability.
      The problem with your continual reliance on the fact that 'we don't know' something means that it can circle around to mean that NO speculation whatsoever is possible about the origins of the universe, in which case the postulate that it arose spontaneously and in an unguided manner becomes just as much a dead end as anything that I have put forward.
      No, we don't know, but that doesn't mean we cannot consider. A null hypothesis is an excellent premise from which to begin experimentation. It is not meant to be, nor should it be, an inquiry-stopping, stubborn, dogmatic extinguisher of speculation.

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    11. Andy,

      I think you did not check carefully enough my explanation. Maybe we have a different understandings of first principles and of intelligence. Intelligence would not be possible if the universe did not behave at least to some point. Try and you'll see.

      The analogy to the Mona Lisa does not work because we are not talking about things we can't consider (like movement in your analogy), but about things we do consider: namely intelligence. You are saying that this universe looks as if it is so complex, hard to understand, yet it "behaves" in allowing us to question it and get at least partial answers. This behaviour is part and parcel of being able to make sense of things. If the universe was inscrutable, then how could anything be intelligent? Intelligent about what? How? So, if I were to propose that thus an intelligence had to produce it for it to be somewhat scrutable, then I would have to imagine that the upper intelligence is in a different reality. How come that intelligence is in an upper reality that does not require creation by an upper-upper intelligence, and still allows for this intelligence to be, ahem, intelligent? Intelligent about what? If things naturally don't behave in that reality, how can there be an intelligence, and how can it make a newer reality that does behave out of stuff that does not behave? If it naturally behaves, then what did this intelligence do other than pass it along? Worse, if I have to propose that such a reality naturally behaves then why bother proposing such scenario filled with philosophical problems if we can just assume that this works the way it works by itself?

      As for anthropomorphism. Of course it is. It is exactly like giving agency and purpose and anger to volcanoes out of looking at ourselves and thus assigning our characteristics to the rest of reality. Only bigger. I can't see any difference. I insisted on how little we are, not just because it shows the magnitude of the extrapolation from such small thing into the whole universe. Which, to me, makes it preposterous.

      Then, man. Yes, my weather example was not genius. The purpose of the example was to show that complexity that is not completely understood does not equal intelligently created. Then that even things that require intelligence (like making a fire), nature does with no intelligence involved, and we have no problem with that.

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    12. (Andy, I wil not be able to check any further answers for a while, and thus I might not return to this particular conversation. Maybe I am not being clear about the problem of an intelligence being intelligent without something to be intelligent about, without a reality that allows such intelligence. Maybe I am not very clear about the magnitude of the extrapolation implied in that anthropomorphism. I just hope I gave you something to think and thus realize why at least I don't find it so persuasive that because the universe would be complex-yet-somewhat-scrutable, therefore an intelligence made it. How that puts the horse behind the cart. Again, that leaving alone other problems.)

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    13. Before I go (checked again to make sure that I understood what you said properly):

      intelligence is not like things that we would more readily consider as human traits, such as anger, sentimentality, etc. We see key signs of intelligence in the universe, namely, organization, complexity, predictability - which is maintained by 'laws' and translatable into scientific/mathematic formulas, etc

      I think that you are mistaking intelligence with the processes described by it. Perhaps, with the processes that allow it to be. Without organization, complexity, and predictability intelligence would not be possible. You might want to name those things, those behaviour, "intelligence," but then if you talk about an upper intelligence you add nothing to the gods question other than redefining them into some kind of upper nature ... and in circles we go.

      So maybe I answered that question of yours.

      Have a great weekend et cetera.

      Delete
    14. NE, insofar as I am capable, I do understand your position and given it due consideration.

      I think we are at a logjam, and perhaps I should just say that I honor and respect your position while maintaining my own. You don't even have to read beyond this, but just to tie up a few loose ends:

      the analogy holds, as I was using it to defend my own rationale, not attempting to persuade anyone else. What I was saying is that, as it IS possible to imagine some form of being who would lack characteristics that we possess (another example would be the difficulty of convincing a fish that it is 'wet'), we can extrapolate that to consider beings that are under no obligations to conform to our definition(s( of behavior insofar as we are able to conceptualize it.

      I recognize that I am probably incapable, and that it may well be impossible, to convince anyone of the merits of my position based purely on a logical deconstruction of it. As Larry correctly points out in his initial reply, I have other reasons for holding the position that I do, and this is not the proper forum for presenting them.

      I still fail to see that a closed position -i.e., in the absence of sufficient information we must hold to the assertion that the universe spontaneously emerged from nothingness, is superior to the open position -i.e., given what we DO know, it is not unreasonable to consider that we are seeing indicators of volition/intelligence. In other words, we MIGHT be seeing that, and the universe MIGHT have arisen from nothing. I tried to use a common sense 'formula' to explain how we might evaluate that position, but as yet no one finds it to be, as they say, a 'game changer'. Alas!

      Anyway, I hope nothing but a few brain cells were lost on both sides as we considered each other's positions respectfully, and I wish you a fun filled weekend as well.

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    15. @andyboerger

      I agree with NE - there is more than one flaw in your analogy. But I'd like to focus on this one:
      You are comparing something we know it exists (us) with something we don't even know whether it exists (creator). You also wanted me to show you something unknown (how discovery of supernatural would looks like). Do you really see no flaw in your reasoning?

      "No, we don't know, but that doesn't mean we cannot consider."
      I agree. But that leads us nowhere. I'd like to repeat after prof. Moran and TWT: we would actually want to know something about how the universe "was created".

      "the analogy holds, as I was using it to defend my own rationale. What I was saying is that, as it IS possible to imagine ..."
      It doesn't matter, what you were using your analogy for. And the fact that we can conceive something gives it no credibility.

      "...assertion that the universe spontaneously emerged from nothingness..."
      Straw man. There is more than one naturalistic option. Maybe the universe was there all the time? (I'm not talking about our visible universe, which apparently had some sort of beginning.)

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    16. Arek, there is no flaw in the analogy, unless you are incapable of imagining that there may be some things beyond your comprehension. Assuming that you are not, I cannot make this any clearer. It is an analogy. It is meant to draw a comparison as an illustration. It has nothing to do with what WE know is real; the figure worth considering in the analogy is the Mona Lisa herself. SHE would not be able to conceptualize movement and thus SHE would not be able to imagine her creator, although WE, from our perspective, can. If you can't see that this is what the analogy is meant to convey, then I can't make it any clearer for you.

      As for you and Moran wanting to know how the universe was created: gee, so would I! Can't help you there. How did it arise from nothing? How has it been there all the time? Any ideas?

      Arek, are you incapable of thinking in figurative terms, because that is what I am starting to wonder? If you are, that's okay. Just don't keep telling me about the 'problems' with my analogies that other people would be able to easily understand.

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    17. And Arek, I would just like to ask you: stop bringing up rhetorical points to attack, as you have a poor track record.

      - you accused me of using a 'convenient' definition, in a dishonest way. An unsubstantiated, and downright rude, accusation

      - you sloppily mistook an example I gave for an analogy, lectured me about using too many so they were tiring you (when in fact I only used two to advance my own argument - one was to explain to TWT why I chose not to engage with him, so not connected to my argument, another only existed in your imagination

      - you accused me of using a 'false analogy' apparently not really knowing what this term means

      - and now you accuse me of using a 'strawman', again only showing that you just seem to like to throw these words around, without really knowing what they mean.

      In all of these cases you seem to fantasize that I have some dishonest purpose in communicating the way I do. And I don't. We may have had misunderstandings, but I have always simply tried to communicate my ideas to you, finally coming to the conclusion that it is impossible to do so.

      In the four cases I listed above, you, Arek, not I, have been wrong. I don't expect you to see that. Furthermore, given the nature of this particular blog, and the povs of the majority of people who visit here, it will not surprise me if one or two posters side with you. This is of not the least importance to me. I know that you were wrong in each of the four instances I listed above, and that just is what it is.

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    18. In fact, Arek, I am just going to go ahead and do this, as you are undoubtedly going to want a demonstration of how you are wrong in the four cases above; might as well do it now and get it over with.

      Case #1) The situation was one where LM was maintaining that since his stance does not rely on 'superstition', it is therefore not a 'belief'. I went to Merriam-Webster, which I assume you will accept as a valid reference source, and the first definition they listed (which I posted) showed that at least according to one definition, his assertion was inaccurate. The onus would have then been on him to explain his meaning of 'belief' further, as it was clearly contradicted by an established authority. I would have been willing to hear him out, and may or may not have conceded the point. But you came in and called the definition 'convenient' and indicated that it was dishonest of me to use it. Dishonest of me to use a top line definition from an established authority? Do I need to go on to demonstrate that you were wrong?

      Case #2 ) you have already admitted was your error, however that didn't stop you from gratuitously excusing it by telling me that you were just 'tired' of all my stories. Anyway, I will just assume that you still acknowledge your error here, not mine.

      Case #3) you accused me of using a 'false analogy'. I can only conclude that you don't know what this term means. NE also challenged it, by saying it 'does not work'. That is not the same thing. A false analogy would be like me saying, 'Arek likes science and posts on this site. Other people who post on this site also like science and are occasionally very rude. Therefore Arek is also rude'. The analogy I presented was nothing of this kind. I will assume you will concede this, and proceed to

      Case #4), where you accused me of using a 'straw man'. This one is truly ironic. A 'straw man' is only used to attack an opponent's position. And I have not once attacked the assumption that the universe arose from nothing. I have taken pains all along to state that I see it as a plausible position, just that I don't consider it to be MORE plausible than the alternative that I present. I have ben accommodating of your ideas, so would have no need of using a 'straw man'. It has been you, all along, who has taken a knee-jerk stance of opposition to every idea that I have put forward. There was no 'straw man' Arek.

      You are batting 0 for 4.

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    19. Andy,

      I think that I know where we get lost and talk past each other in this one: you said that you found it

      perplexing that even an atheist ... cannot concede that the systematic nature of the universe, which yields its answers to us as we apply our own intelligence to it ... argues, on those grounds, for an intelligent creator.

      Notice carefully that you are finding it perplexing that an atheist would not find such properties of the universe to suggest an intelligent creator. I answered that I do not find such things suggesting of an intelligent creator because I recognize those things as necessary before there could be any intelligence. Intelligence could not operate unless the universe were somewhat scrutable. Not just to be intelligent, but just to be. So, when I said

      Wouldn't you expect that things would have to behave in such an "appropriate" way before intelligence could be possible?"

      I was referring to precisely this view. Not to whether you would subject "God" to the same standards as yours. Thus, the Mona Lisa analogy adds nothing to your argument. It might be fine for believers who are trying to understand their god by using their own standards (I see a lot of problems with that, but I rather not go there). But it does not work for the original claim: your perplexity about atheists not conceding such things to suggest an upper intelligence.

      Yet again: the universe has properties that allow things to function. Among them our brains, thus our intelligences. We could not be intelligent about anything if the universe did not work the way it works. If reality did not work well enough except inside our brains. Then what would there be to be intelligent about? No knowledge would be possible because there's no behaviour to learn and follow. Suppose it worked only outside our brains. How could we be intelligent if things don't work properly inside the brain? So, the same reason there's intelligence makes reality scrutable. Thus, conceding on these properties, the ones that make intelligence possible, that some upper intelligence might have brought this into existence would be nonsensical.

      Clear enough? So, the conundrum, the miscommunication, is that you jumped from atheists into a theistic mentality whereby you won't submit your god to your standards. But that's entirely a different question.

      Please read carefully and we might stop it here. I understand how you view a creator. I understand how that relates to your Mona Lisa analogy. But it is not appropriate to the problem that started our exchange (why an atheist won't concede ...).

      Keep having a great weekend, and now 10:4, perhaps until Tuesday night, in another thread.

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    20. NE, yes! I GET it now! Your explanation is impeccable. And the reason I used the words 'even an atheist' is because LM wrote

      "However, your argument fails completely when you try to use it to convince an atheist."

      so your answer is doubly helpful.
      As to the Mona Lisa metaphor; exactly. I wasn't using it to persuade anyone that they SHOULD be more open minded and willing to consider the possibility of an intelligence so far beyond our own that we cannot proscribe its existence based upon our own limitations. I was using it to, exactly as you write above, explain my own reason for doing so.
      So, yeah, stopping here seems like a good idea. Thanks again.

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    21. @andyboerger

      1) I thought we solved that. I'm sorry.
      2) Again. I'm sorry.

      3) and 4) I won't say much, because I don't want to argue about this again. I'll only say, that I checked some definitions and descriptions to be sure, and I still think I am correct. But I am open to possibility that I am wrong. The only mistake I can think of is that I haven't explained my reasoning properly - and I am sorry for that.

      Again - I am sorry for being rude. My goal was not to prove, that you are dishonest or anything like that, or to insult you. I only wanted to point to some problems with your reasoning (I repeat - I am open to possibility that I am the one, who is wrong). I tried to use as clear and as short arguments as possible. Now I see that they were too short (with too little explanations). I may only promise you to behave better in the future (and to read something more about logical fallacies - just to be sure).

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    22. @ Arek,

      Apologies accepted, and appreciated. Like you, I am totally willing to just move on, no harm done. I am also willing to debate the meanings of the terms you used, particularly 'false analogy' and 'straw man'. If you can demonstrate that the definitions you were going by were consistent with how you used them toward me, I am very willing to listen. It will probably serve to help us both learn a bit more about what traps to avoid in communicating.

      Either way, just want to wish you the best.

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    23. Just one thing, Arek; I will be very surprised if you can provide a definition of 'straw man' that will support your position. As far as I, and I would think most people know, the whole point of a straw man is to 'set it up so that you can knock it down'. I have no intention of knocking down the notion that this universe may have arisen spontaneously, from nothing, without volition. I don't personally believe it, but I have no particular reason to question its plausibility, or the reasoning that supports it.
      I'm okay with it. Hence, no attack. Hence, no straw man.
      As for 'false analogy', I can see that since that particular phrase contains two distinct and clear words, there may well be some flexibility considering how it is used. I doubt that this flexibility could be used to the extent where you did, but I could very well be wrong.

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    24. @andyboerger

      "I have no intention of knocking down the notion ..."
      OK. Now I see my mistake and therefore I retract my accusation. What I had problem with is that you said:
      "... that this universe may have arisen spontaneously, from nothing, without volition."
      which is not exactly what people like me actually think (but I haven't cleared this up so I suppose this is my fault) and also this is not what science says (even scientists like Krauss who says 'Universe from nothing' don't mean 'from complete nothingness' - I am inferring this from watching his talk on youtube). Of course - 'universe from nothing' is one possible option, but there are more.

      "False analogy."

      Why I think those were analogies?
      You compared two situations/things. Let's take for example buildings and universe. Those things have something in common - namely they are complex and organised. Therefore both those things are similar. You concluded that because we know that buildings were designed by architects, there is possibility that universe also was designed (or created) by some intelligent being. This is what is formally called 'argument from analogy'.

      But why I think that analogy is false?
      'False analogy' is when similarities used to infer conclusion are superficial. We know that buildings had to be created by someone intelligent not only because we've seen that, but also because parts of the building don't have properties which would allow them to self-assembly in that particular way. But in case of universe we observe continually how its parts (and the whole universe itself) are self-organising.

      Now when I wrote this explicitly, I see another mistake I made. I said that those were false analogies because you compared something known with something unknown - but I was talking about the conclusions, not about reasons why I regarded them as false. I definitely wasn't thinking clearly then, and I'd like to apologise for that again. I think I should restrain from pointing out other people mistakes because apparently I am not as good thinker as I thought.

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    25. Hi Arek,
      I am glad that greater understanding of one another's position has been achieved. That is a good outcome of continuing an argument in good faith until at least some misunderstandings have been erased. For example, in the straw man case, you were very much within your rights to point out to me that I was not giving full consideration to your position re 'universe from nothing'. I acknowledge that. In a case like that, there could be several reasons why I used an insufficient and/or misrepresentative argument. It could be that I am not up enough on the current explanations, and it could be that you hadn't made your position clearer, and it could even be other things, none of which would have necessarily qualified as a 'straw man'.
      As for 'false analogy', how about we just split the difference on it? ;)

      Thanks again.

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    26. @andyboerger

      I'm not saying no.

      Anyway, thank you for your understanding.

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  21. andyboerger said:

    "I still fail to see that a closed position -i.e., in the absence of sufficient information we must hold to the assertion that the universe spontaneously emerged from nothingness, is superior to the open position -i.e., given what we DO know, it is not unreasonable to consider that we are seeing indicators of volition/intelligence. In other words, we MIGHT be seeing that, and the universe MIGHT have arisen from nothing. I tried to use a common sense 'formula' to explain how we might evaluate that position, but as yet no one finds it to be, as they say, a 'game changer'. Alas!"

    What's "open" about your position? What research avenues does it "open" up? What does it add to science? How can it be tested? Why should money and effort be spent on it, especially considering that any money and effort already spent on looking for or verifying a designer-creator-spirit-god has all been a waste?

    "You suggested that people who claim to have communed with a greater intelligence might well be fakers or hallucinators. I agreed with you, and then I gave you a specific example of someone who I consider to be neither. I strongly believe it possible that he DID commune with that greater intelligence, based on his writing. I am quite certain that if he were here to write about himself he would say that he had, or something along those lines. No analogy; an example. I will assume you know the difference."

    Wow, you've got it bad. Some guy writes some poetry and you strongly believe that it's possible that he communed with the big daddy in the sky. When they communed, do you suppose they sat together with their legs crossed and their eyes closed and chanted Ommmmmm while Francisco Lupica played eerie music on his Cosmic Beam?

    "Yes, I used an analogy, and a good one, to argue with TWT. Can you not see why? When someone talks about a spaghetti monster or a unicorn, they are OBVIOUSLY trying to make the other person's argument look ridiculous. They are not seeking dialogue; they have already made up their own mind and are using their 'question' merely to bait. This is disrespectful and generally leads to fruitless arguments. No one is required to engage such a person, and there is no reason why one should. So the analogy is a good one. If TWT wants to rephrase, and stop his accusations that I am a bullshit believing creationist or whatever, I might change my mind. If he continues in his current manner, I won't."

    I'm still waiting for you to show evidence that supports the existence of ANY alleged god or creator or designer or 'spirit' that any human has ever thought up, and evidence that any of those alleged gods or creators or designers or 'spirits' are more real or more possible or more respectable and less "sophomoric" and less "silly" than Fifi or the FSM.

    You obviously think that if science can't prove that your chosen alleged designer-creator-spirit-god doesn't exist, then it's possible that it does exist. In that case Fifi and/or the FSM are just as possible unless you can prove that they don't exist (to the same standard of proof you expect from science). I could even argue that Fifi or the FSM are more possible just because I say so and you couldn't prove that wrong either but would you accept it?

    And if you want me to stop accusing you of being a "bullshit believing creationist or whatever" maybe you should stop pushing creationist bullshit like this:

    "I am using the facts and features of this universe (as outlined in the responses I have made above), as a defense for believing in a creator. I am saying you can make a fair argument that there are traces/signature -whatever you choose to call it - of the creator IN the creation."

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    1. TWT, you are a very rude, boorish, bothersome person who apparently possesses not all that much of an intelligence, certainly not even in the same ballpark as where you imagine it to be. Please don't pester me anymore. I have no intention of communicating with you again, or even reading what you write. Save your bile for some of the other people you wish to be obnoxious to. I'm done.

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    2. LOL

      Your 'poor me' act fits right in with your other creator pushing behavior.

      You creationists virtually all end up playing the victim card, because you see yourselves as a persecuted messiah. People like me are just not open minded and intelligent enough to see the divine brilliance in what you preach. Resistance to what you say must be because we're misguided, rude, or don't have the capacity to understand your profound message. Hey, at least I'm not suggesting that you should be nailed to a cross, although you'd probably like it if I did because that would give you an even better excuse to pretend that you're the mythical character jesus.

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