Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Breaking News ... New Atheists Aren't Very Sophisticated

Richard Swinburne is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford (UK). He's a noted Christian apologist who has written many books defending the existence of God. According to Wikipedia, his two most important "sophisticated" priniciples are:
  • Principle of Credulity - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve it, one should accept what appears to be true (e.g., if one sees someone walking on water, one should believe that it is occurring)
  • Principle of Testimony - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve them, one should accept that eye-witnesses or believers are telling the truth when they testify about religious experiences.
What this means is that when it comes to religious experiences that confirm your beliefs you should abandon skepticism. I don't think these principles apply to people who have seen leprechauns or been abducted by UFOs. It probably doesn't apply to Muslims or Hindus, either. It seems like a "sophisticated" way of shifting the burden of proof.

As you might imagine, Swinburne is really unhappy with the New Atheists because they ignore all his sophisticated apologetics and simply ask for evidence of God. That's not playing fair. They probably haven't read any of his books.


There ought to be a rule for people who claim to have sophisticated arguments for the existence of god(s). They should have to describe at least one of them.


[Hat Tip: Uncommon Descent]

75 comments :

  1. I'm totally fine with those principles.

    Thing is, I've got metric butt-TONS of reasons not to believe someone who tells me that the universe was created in seven days by a sky daddy.

    Maybe my reasons aren't "sophisticated" enough.

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    1. Oh but reasons are not enough. Tons of reasons are not enough. They have to be very sophisticated to be valid. Who can't argue with such a solid foundation? I am already preparing to go to church tonight. I am somewhat undecided which one. I need many sophisticated reason to reject any of them.

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  2. Credulity: I have excellent a priori reasons (eg: basic physics) to disbelieve that someone is walking on water, even if I witness it. Pending careful close-up investigation, it is more rational to believe it is a trick or hallucination.

    Testimony: I don't necessarily have a problem believing that people are telling the truth* about their religious experiences AS PERCEIVED BY THEM. But I don't have to accept that the interpretation they put on them is a true description of the universe (eg: see today's thread at Pharyngula about some doctor's NDE). Confabulation or hallucination are much more likely explanations.

    * In general. Obviously, some people are lying, and ancient accounts are often not authentic.

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  3. Both principles would apply here if the eyewitnesses had believed they were watching a holy man rather than an illusionist with a Yorkshire accent:

    Dynamo walking on water

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  4. What this means is that when it comes to religious experiences that confirm your beliefs you should abandon skepticism. I don't think these principles apply to people who have seen leprechauns or been abducted by UFOs.

    That's not a very sophisticated (or sensible) reading of what he said, which kind of proves his point.

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    1. That's not a very sophisticated (or sensible) reading of what he said, which kind of proves his point

      Right. Thus UFOs and leprechauns are also out there until we find some sophisticated reasons to reject such superstit ... I mean ... ahem ... whatever they are.

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    2. "That's not a very sophisticated (or sensible) reading of what he said, which kind of proves his point."

      Maybe not, but there really isn't a charitable way to interpret Swinburne's principles so that it isn't either 1) so utterly obvious a 5 year old would be dumbstruck anyone finds the principles profound, or else 2) a really really weak justification for believing religious claims.

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  5. I can't imagine much sense in saying something like "I have these very sophisticated reasons not to believe in things for which there is no evidence. I further have all these very sophisticated reasons not to believe in beings clearly associated with a human tendency towards superstition."

    Because, you know, there is a need for extreme sophistication for rejecting bullshit. "Here, have some crap, it will make you a millionaire if you eat it." (Think, think, think, you need a few very sophisticated reasons to reject this idea, thiiiiiiiiink!)

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  6. Earlier today I watched a YouTube video of 90 plus year old Prof. Irwin Corey, The World's Greatest Authority, doing one of his comedy classic goobledy-gook jargon-filled nonsense speeches. Corey is not only much funnier than Swinburne, he makes more sense.

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  7. That imbeciles of this caliber, and of the caliber of that other guy in Oxford, can be part of departments of philosophy makes me think that philosophy has become the study of how to make up bullshit and make a living out of it (and be respected for it).

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    1. Yes much like most of biological evolution, just ask Richard Dawkins how well he's done with bad science and even worse philosophy.

      I quote his kick junk DNA in the teeth quote recently….

      “I have noticed that there are some creationists who are jumping on [the ENCODE results] because they think that's awkward for Darwinism. Quite the contrary it's exactly what a Darwinist would hope for, to find usefulness in the living world....
      Whereas we thought that only a minority of the genome was doing something, namely that minority which actually codes for protein, and now we find that actually the majority of it is doing something. What it's doing is calling into action the protein-coding genes. So you can think of the protein-coding genes as being sort of the toolbox of subroutines which is pretty much common to all mammals -- mice and men have the same number, roughly speaking, of protein-coding genes and that's always been a bit of a blow to self-esteem of humanity. But the point is that that was just the subroutines that are called into being; the program that's calling them into action is the rest [of the genome] which had previously been written off as junk.”

      So tell me is Richard Dawkins a liar? Should we trust a man that in a blink of an eye changed his stance on Junk DNA? And if the great Dawkins is correct is Prof Moran Wrong? You know the law of the excluded middle makes it very clear that it cannot be both….

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    2. Andre,

      Scientists might disagree when it comes to scientific questions. In the case of junk DNA, some scientists are convinced that a huge majority of our genome is junk based on some pretty serious evidence: pseudogenes, a huge proportion of the genome being inactivated transposons, and many more features that are obviously junk. There is a portion that is hard to catalogue. I myself have trouble with defining, or even accepting that there might be a precise boundary, between junk DNA and selfish DNA. Others are inclined to think that both selfish and junk DNA would/should be deleted by natural selection (seems like Dawkins is in this category). You should also take into account that there's different disciplines in biology, and that Dawkins, being far from this discipline, might be accepting stuff as described by the ENCODE guys because he has not worked on junk DNA nor followed the literature on junk DNA at the level that Larry has. Anyway, if there is a scientific controversy, you will see controversy among scientists. If you want to decide, well, take a look at the data, take a look at the experiments, make sure that people are talking about the same thing (similar wording does not mean same thing, often I find that people talk past each other because each party is talking about a different thing), and so on. If you care, that is. If you do, you might find yourself undecided. So much for the excluded middle.

      The thing is, there's real scientific controversies, and then there's scientific disciplines (scientists do not work on the same things, thus their knowledge about certain details should be expected to be very different). That is quite different to being a "philosopher" who concocts such stupid and obvious bullshit as the guy referred in the OP and still gets "respect" for such a thing. Making up bullshit is easy. Scientific controversies require experiments, data, and the proper training to understand what's going on. Quite the difference.

      But I bet you truly don't care and that you were being rhetorical.

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    3. Negative Entropy

      These pseudo genes?

      http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/rnabiology/article/18277/?nocache=1093064241

      they must be creationists!

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    4. Do you have access to more than 1 page of this article?

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    5. These pseudo genes?

      Like several other types of junk DNA, pseudogenes are known to be co-opted occasionally (they may acquire a new function). that doesn't mean that all pseudogenes are in this category. Quite the opposite -- only a tiny proportion among them are.

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    6. Andre,

      I suspect that, like every creationist, you rather miss the point than acknowledge some understanding. The point was that there can be scientifically unsolved problems, and that people have different expertise and thus some take what other scientists said in abstracts at heart (like other non-experts like yourself with that report and its unsubstantiated conclusion), while people more versed in the actual work, who can actually understand the data and evidence, might find the flaws and continue unconvinced. Thus we expect controversy. I did not say anything about whether those who think that there's little to no junk DNA (and perhaps little to no selfish DNA either) are all creationists. I also mentioned scientists who think that such things would be removed by natural selection.

      Can you read at all? I suspect that you can, but that you were looking for something to continue in troll mode rather than anything else. Unfortunately for you, I know creationist M.O. quite well. I expected your quality of answer to show you to have little if any reading comprehension, either authentic of pretended, and then your red-herring. Your stupidity is thus noted.

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  8. So tell me is Richard Dawkins a liar? Should we trust a man that in a blink of an eye changed his stance on Junk DNA? And if the great Dawkins is correct is Prof Moran Wrong? You know the law of the excluded middle makes it very clear that it cannot be both.

    You seem to think that conflicting opinions (or changes of opinion) mean that there's something wrong with science, don't you? But it's exactly such differences that make science a healthy and successful enterprise. Science works by free debate, not by pitting one great authority against another. I think Dawkins is wrong in this case, and that's precisely because he is a rather strict "Darwinist" in the technical sense of the term. It doesn't make him a liar, just wrong, which we all are from time to time, if not most of the time. It's funny that creationists make so much of a normal part of the scientific process while at the same time contradicting each other grossly and AVOIDING any kind of dispute to sort those contradictions out. How old is the Earth, Andre?

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    1. If science is so awesome why the many retractions these days? I suppose you'll tell me that science always finds the truth right?
      Science can only tell us about the material world nothing else. The material world appears to be designed; no one disputes that but because we don’t like what that might mean we make sure that the world knows that it is in fact not designed but some illusion.
      You know those crazy creationist will have a field day should we ever acknowledge design, and since as humans we really like to think of ourselves as better, smarter and more right than others, the notion of some bigger intelligence is the last thing we need because that would suggest to us we are not the best. Who wants to be second? Certainly not any human I know!

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    2. Lastly Richard Dawkins changed his stance on DNA in the spur of the moment, until that interview he was on the same boat as Prof Moran about JUNK DNA, Dawkins however jumped ship....

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Well you're trying your sucker punch here, I'd say based on the current evidence about 13 billion years old but that is certainly not cast in stone and is by no means the exact age.

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    5. Andre Gross says: If science is so awesome why the many retractions these days?

      The problem is not with science is with the people who do science: some make honest mistakes, which is expected, and some are guilty of fraud. Have you seen this website Science-Fraud.org: http://www.science-fraud.org/

      Attention Larry Moran, this site has a lot of entries on problems with the experimental studies in the ‘prion’ field. I think it would be a good idea that you take a look at this site before addressing (if ever!) my stance on the ‘prion hypothesis’ and ‘protein misfolding concept’!

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    6. Claudia

      you are indeed correct, people with thier feelings get in the way of the truth....

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    7. Andre,

      Lastly Richard Dawkins changed his stance on DNA in the spur of the moment, until that interview he was on the same boat as Prof Moran about JUNK DNA, Dawkins however jumped ship....

      1. No, he wasn't on the same boat as Moran.
      2. Dawkins position is about abundance of selfish DNA, not about junk DNA. There's a distinction.
      3. So ENCODE confirmed Dawkins' stance on the matter (he does/did not expect much junk, but rather functional, if selfish, DNA).
      4. Scientists disagree about some topics. Some are well established, some are not. Scientists thus should be open to new findings, but take them carefully to see if any point gets some strength and go by the evidence, not by what they previously thought. Thus, if Dawkins had changed his stance so what? What's so wrong about it?
      5. Do you understand that some issues in science are open questions, others are quite well established, and that there's everything in between? That scientists can be as ignorant as the public about some issues, and very knowledgeable about other issues?
      6. Do you really find it wrong that we would not hold to everything with dogmatic obedience? Do you rally think that it is wrong to change our stance when evidence is presented? If so, you are truly, authentically, too much of an idiot.

      (Now let's watch you missing the point)

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    8. Andre Gross says,

      Lastly Richard Dawkins changed his stance on DNA in the spur of the moment, until that interview he was on the same boat as Prof Moran about JUNK DNA, Dawkins however jumped ship....

      Richard Dawkins was never a proponent of junk DNA (=non-functional DNA) because it conflicts with Darwinism. Andre Gross is simply repeating the lies told by other creationists.

      Is Andre Gross also lying or is he just unaware of the truth?

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  9. If science is so awesome why the many retractions these days? I suppose you'll tell me that science always finds the truth right?

    No, the whole strength of science comes from giving up the idea of "absolute truth". Science builds partial models of reality and discards them or corrects them if they are inadequate, i.e. if they fail to account for the empirical data and yield incorrect predictions. We are always happy to abandon a hypothesis that doesn't pass tests. Well, at least we should, ideally, since scientists are human and have their weaknesses (pet hypotheses that they would like to be true, etc.)

    ... The material world appears to be designed; no one disputes that...

    I do, and so do many others. It may appear designed to you and other ignoramuses who confuse complexity with intentional design.

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    1. What is science? It’s the increase of our knowledge by understanding how things in the material world work. How do we do this? We study and learn on what causes what. That is it, you don't have to give it your own spin or any gloss it.

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    2. So Darwin was wrong to cite the appearance of design? Francis Crick was also wrong? Richard Dawkins also wrong? Are you serious? Tell me if something appears to be designed does it need a complicated explanation to infer that it is not designed or is it actually designed?

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    3. If there is no absolute truth, we fall into relativism, anything self-defeating like not knowing “absolute truth" is false. Are you saying that science is false since it’s un-affirmable by your own admission? Where is logic in your statement? Where is reason? Or do you base this on how you feel?

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    4. You say
      "Science builds partial models of reality and discards them or corrects them if they are inadequate, i.e. if they fail to account for the empirical data and yield incorrect predictions."

      Do you mean like the many failed Darwinian predictions? I list the famous 3…

      1.) Sexual selection
      2.) Pseudo-genes
      3.) Junk DNA

      Are we talking about the same failed prediction or do you have others in mind that does not include Darwinism? I'm just trying to understand your thoughts on this. Do these failed predictions not invalidate Darwinian evolution? Or is something unfalsifable exempt from science?

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    5. Do you mean like the many failed Darwinian predictions? I list the famous 3…

      1.) Sexual selection
      2.) Pseudo-genes
      3.) Junk DNA


      Only the first of them is Darwinian. Darwin discussed sexual selection but couldn't know anything about genes, pseudogenes and DNA, whether functional or junk. Last time I checked our genomes were still 90% full of pseudogenes and miscellaneous other junk, so I have no idea what you are talking about.

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    6. Andre,

      So Darwin was wrong to cite the appearance of design? Francis Crick was also wrong? Richard Dawkins also wrong? Are you serious?

      Are you stupid enough, Andre, to think that describing something as having "the appearance of design" is a scientific statement? Those scientists found the stuff to have the appearance of design. That does not mean that therefore everybody has to accept their description as if this was a dogma. Piotr disputes the "appearance of design" and so do many others (I know, I myself dispute the notion when looking at some levels, but understand how other levels might persuade others about such appearances). We think with our own minds. Maybe you should try growing one of your own.

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    7. Piotr

      Of course you don't know what I'm talking about, if your bedside reading material is still the selfish gene then you would not.

      Pseudo genes

      http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/rnabiology/article/18277/?nocache=108822206

      Sexual Selection

      http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/literature/2008/04/01/sexual_selection_falsified_in_the_case_o

      http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/07/a-key-study-on-sexual-selection-fails-the-test-of-replication.html

      Junk DNA

      Do I even need to cite any of this?

      When I said Darwin predictions you know exactly what I was talking about.

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    8. Negative Entropy...

      Calling me stupid gives you no credit, you can apologise for that statement please. I design things, sure they are material things, and that is just it nothing a human has made comes anywhere near how complex that human itself is. I speak on authority when I say when it appears to be designed it usually is regardless of what you or I might feel about it.

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    9. Andre,

      I would apologize had you not shown plain stupidity in your "answer" about pseudogenes, and had you shown no stupidity in your answer here (I truly would, and will if you show some better understanding next time). But you could not understand what I said after "stupid enough." You try and pretend that your work as a designer gives you some authority to conclude that the human body looks designed out of its complexity. You curiously missed that I said that I can understand how looking at it at some levels might persuade others about such appearance, while other levels allow people like myself to think otherwise. Read again and you will see that I am far from making an absolutist statement about what everybody should perceive. I said what I perceived, and acknowledge that people might disagree.

      Perhaps it was not stupidity on your part, but rather an expectation that we would/should think in such absolute terms as creationist do. But surprise Andre, I don't think like you. I can see that some issues are not black and white. (I see from one of your answers to Piotr that you might as well have this very problem. I think that expecting everything to be black and white qualifies as stupidity. I might be wrong though.) Do your designs always have right angles? In your worldview any other angles don't exist, right? And let's not talk about curves!

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    10. Negative Entropy

      It is truly funny how people resort to insults when they don't really have an argument based on solid evidence. So how do we remain civil after a response like yours? I'd say it’s fortunately easy for me because I have the evidence to back up my claims and all you have is your feelings and much just so science that is wrong.

      Again I will cite the paper on pseudo genes

      http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/rnabiology/article/18277/?nocache=108822206

      You see up and until 2009 the literature was abundant with a positive case for pseudo genes, since 2009 however this has strangely dried up and instead more support for function has been released rather than against it. Don’t take my word for it, study it yourself.

      What I do find amazing, is that you would out of ignorance tell me that I think my career and life's work is not based in reality but instead on some pretend "lala" world. Where have I been all along? Secondly you need to tone down on the creationist accusation because without actually knowing anything about my background you labelled me as so much.
      Is it a default position to be called a creationist if you are critical of Darwinian mechanisms? You make this so clear in black and white don't you? I find that ironic since you also said that not everything is black and white like I would like to believe. Hypocritical much?

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    11. Here is another paper on function in 2010

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7301/edsumm/e100624-02.html

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    12. andre gross said:

      "What is science? It’s the increase of our knowledge by understanding how things in the material world work. How do we do this? We study and learn on what causes what. That is it, you don't have to give it your own spin or any gloss it."

      That's hilarious coming from someone who's spinning and glossing like crazy. You're the one spinning a glossy imaginary designer-god.

      Who or what caused your imaginary designer-god?

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    13. Since when is sexual selection a "failed prediction" of darwinism? What exactly are we talking about here?

      Is he denying that sexual selection happens? What is the nature of the "prediction"? I would like to see where the prediction is made, directly from the source, and then I would like to have it explained how this prediction has failed.

      In the mean time I will make my own prediction: I will not get what I just asked for.

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    14. Andre: Here is another paper on function in 2010

      Did you read and understand the full paper, or just the catchy title, the abstract and/or data-mining reviews on creationist blogs? If you did read it, you should have noticed that the article was about the exaptation of actual pseudogenes ("broken" copies of fully functional genes). It's crucial for the argument that pseudogenes are pseudogenes (related to functional genes via their evolutionary history) even if they secondarily acquire a function.

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    15. What's funny Andre, is that you missed every point I made and answered to things I did not say. Want some respect? Give some respect. If I make a point, and you ignore it and send a red-herring, I take that as much as an insult as you take my calling you an idiot. So, what about you look at our exchanges, start with the one where you mention a big Dawkins quote to me about junk-DNA, check what I said carefully, then see if your answer acknowledges what I said at all. To help you a bit:

      In my answer to your Dawkins quote I made a point in very long terms, then summarized the point in a shorted paragraph by the end. After you answered again as if you did not read what I said, I told you that you did not read carefully and repeated the point:

      1. What was that point?
      2. How does your answer relate to the point?

      Here you did that yet again. You think that I am discussing whether pseudogenes are functional or not. Are you sure that's my point in this conversation?

      Also, I missed a smallish but huge detail in this conversation, but, since you can't read very well, I rather not add to your confusion.

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  10. What is science? It’s the increase of our knowledge by understanding how things in the material world work. How do we do this? We study and learn on what causes what.

    Ah, that's what we do. And how do we learn it, by staring intensely into a crystall ball? checking things up in the Bible? asking the local shaman?

    That is it, you don't have to give it your own spin or any gloss it.

    Have you ever heard of a thing called "the scientific method"? I summarised it above. Now you know my method, Watson; apply it.

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    1. Are you serious what happened to testing something and doing it again and again to verify the results? If you ask me it sounds like your describing certain parts of biological evolution.... You know the type where scientists begin a paper with... It is presumed.... you know those just so stories. don't you?

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    2. And what do you 'presume' to be 'true', andre? Angels, demons, a devil, a holy ghost, a talking serpent, a magic tree, a worldwide flood, a dead guy coming back to life, an imaginary god knocking up a married human virgin, animals having striped offspring because they mate next to some sticks, and a woman being made from a man's rib?

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    3. The whole truth,

      Are you not invoking some supernatural here now? Have I even been speaking or pointing to anything supernatural? Is this really how you behave when people question the Darwinian mechanisms?

      Has it ever occurred to you that there might be other ways where neither creationism nor Darwinism is the answer? Is it Darwin or bust? If it is you are not arguing from evidence but from your very own feelings.

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    4. Since when is sexual selection a "failed prediction" of darwinism? What exactly are we talking about here?

      And since when a single study based on the observation of a limited number of traits in a single population of peafowl is enough to undermine a well-established theory? Takahashi's results were reviewed and criticised e.g. here:
      http://www.adeline-loyau.net/publications/Loyau_etal_AnimBehav2008.pdf
      (with lots of references to other studies which support the concept of sexual selection, often in a spectacular way).

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    5. Andre: Has it ever occurred to you that there might be other ways where neither creationism nor Darwinism is the answer? Is it Darwin or bust? If it is you are not arguing from evidence but from your very own feelings.

      It is the creationist side which resorts to false dichotomies. Modern post-synthetic evolutionary biology is not Darwinism, much as it owes to Darwin historically, so on the side of mainstream science there is no "Darwin or bust". What do you mean by "other ways" if you rule out both evolution and creationism? Intelligent design by aliens from space (designed by other aliens still, and so ad infinitum)? Please, if you are not a creationist, come out and tell us your views.

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    6. Piotr

      It's difficult to say where I stand on this, what I can say is that neither NS or RM can in anyway be responsible for what you read here. It is not even improbable, it is impossible and to invoke that it can would be to acknowledge a miracle. Once you acknowledge a miracle, God forbid....

      There might be other factors at play is there evidence for it? I'm not sure will we find it? I certainly hope so!

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    7. I will add to this to explain my position.

      Have we observed NS? Yes we have Darwin himself points us to the finches. For small adaptations NS can and does do the job.... If breeders can do forced selection there is no reason why NS can not do so by itself. Does NS or even forced selection have the ability to chage entire body plans? I have not seen it have the ability to do this and neither has anyone else ever!

      RM what we do know about RM is that it mostly has bad mutations, and when mutations do occur it is usually with loss of information. please explain to me how this mechanism can honestly take goo, evolve it to the zoo and then to you? Special pleading on this please.

      So in summary, we have an amazing diversity of life, how can a mechanism with limits like NS and a mostly bad mechanism that loses information have the ability to take a simple organism and transform it over time to a complex one?

      To say that it can do this is literally to invoke a miracle!

      A million bad mutations does not get cancelled by 1 good mutation. You see the more time you add the worse it will get.

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    8. Andre Gross says'

      To say that it can do this is literally to invoke a miracle!

      This is a little bit off topic but I'm curious to hear your answer.

      If evolution is so miraculous then why do you think the experts in evolutionary biology are so convinced that it explains the diversity of life.

      This is a serious question. Are we all stupid or is there a vast conspiracy to hide the truth? What's your explanation of this seeming paradox?

      Do you think it's possible that we know a lot more about the subject than you do?

      Are there any other fields where you feel confident that YOU know the truth and all the experts are wrong?

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    9. So where does this leave me? I will remain skeptical of those mechanisms until they can empirically show that they have the ability to make simple complex. I reserve the right to do so based on the evidence. you may call me all the names you like it won't change the fact that these two mechanisms can not account for diversity and they certainly can not explain a single thing about OOL. Again to say that they do would mean you have to invoke a miracle!

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    10. Piotr

      More on sexual selection being false, Bateman proven wrong just like Darwin

      http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/07/a-key-study-on-sexual-selection-fails-the-test-of-replication.html

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    11. Dear Prof Moran.

      Why are they convinced? I think you know very well why, it is no small matter indeed and it is certainly not based on the evidence. It is one thing to observe NS and show with evidence that it can do x or y. It is a totally different dynamic when you create a just so story that it can also do z because it might and did do x and y, even though z has never been observed! Tell me Pro has it been observed or is it in its totality still just pure speculation?

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    12. @Andre, You pick your own position of course. Most people take the view that, if we observe x% of change/divergence in time t - while we can look, given our lifetimes etc - then we are justified in inferring that the z% of change/divergence in time T is made up of lots of increments of x. It is hardly the wildest speculation in the history of mankind.

      No, we can't observe the timespan covering higher taxonomic levels, rather inconveniently for debating denialists. Even new species is a bit borderline, given the time it takes vs the time we can observe. I'd guess that you see taxonomic entities as discrete. But they tend to be viewed evolutionarily as continuous, but with a temporal consistency that looks like essentialism to the casual observer (ie most of us, during our limited lifetimes).

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    13. Yes Allan

      And this is where it falls flat, since NS has limited capability and RM is usually bad coupled with the loss of information no amount of time can make them do anything to go from simple to complex no matter how much time you allocate, if anything simple would just that well simple. When the things you claim is the cause of something and those causes have limits coupled with the fact that they are more bad than good you have a problem. Time certainly does not fix things either.

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    14. Andre Gross writes,

      Why are they convinced? I think you know very well why, it is no small matter indeed and it is certainly not based on the evidence.

      You are either stupid or a liar. It's hard to decide which. Maybe both.

      There is overwhelming evidence in support of the idea that humans and chimps share a common ancestor—just to give one example. So much evidence that it's considered a well-established scientific fact. It's definitely not a "just-so story." You probably don't even know what that term means.

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    15. See what happens Andre? You get a sincere question, you give an answer that is not an answer (failed to read the question, or failed at reading it for what it means, rather than for what you thought it meant), then you talk about "certainty" as if you knew better than any expert. Yet, before you said to me that your experience in design gives you absolute authority to claim that "the material world looks designed," yet, you dismiss the expertise of too many scientists as "just-so-stories" but I bet you have never looked at any of the evidence. yet you feel like you can tell why we have accepted evolution, while your information comes from creationist bullshit, rather than from scientists themselves.

      Isn't that a bit contradictory? Think about it. You might learn why I quickly started calling you stupid. Instead of reacting to the insult, what about you read for comprehension first?

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    16. Dear Prof Moran

      This should be easy for you, If you can give me evidence that NS and RM has the ability to take a simple organism and change its body plans and functions over time (use as much time as you need) then we can certainly discuss "common ancestory". From what I've seen neither the fusion event nor supposed Junk DNA can be called evidence for it anymore.

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    17. Let me set the scene here;

      Here are some papers that speak about the limits of natural selection and some that speak about the effects of random mutation. So I need to understand how these two mechanism have the ability to have created the diversity in life, how did these mechanisms make simple to complex?

      Limits to natural selection

      http://www.ufscar.br/~evolucao/popgen/ref12-5.pdf
      http://www.ugr.es/~jmgreyes/gene%20flow%20limit%20nat%20selection.pdf
      http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2395303?uid=3739368&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101308100527

      Mutations are usually bad and the cause loss of function

      http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1001352
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18179883
      http://cardiovascres.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/3/466.full
      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v472/n7342/abs/nature09975.html

      I am not being stupid or a liar I need to understand how something that has the odds and all probabilities stacked against it somehow overcame mount improbable without invoking a miracle. Because well, here we are!

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    18. Andre Gross asks,

      This should be easy for you, If you can give me evidence that NS and RM has the ability to take a simple organism and change its body plans and functions over time (use as much time as you need) then we can certainly discuss "common ancestory".

      Why would you even ask such a question? Haven't you already decided that professional biologists have no evidence for common ancestry? Haven't you already concluded that the history of life is just a bunch of just-so stories?

      Explaining all of biology to you would not be easy even if I were convinced that simple ignorance is your only problem.

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    19. Dear Prof Moran

      I have not decided, how can I make an informed desicion on the complete absence of evidence that NS and RM are indeed the mechanisms responsible or even cabable of creating the diversity of life? Worse still are the new papers published on brain complexity and the stasis of body plans from the Cambrian era, the creationists are indeed enjoying the moment because these findings ask very serious questions of NS and RM as the possible mechanisms. Telling people they are stupid does not answer these problems deepening almost daily now.

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    20. Andre,

      Your links to the limits of natural selection are about population genetics models, what they entail, and the limits and behaviour in evolution they would predict, then proposals to what they might mean in reality (models are not reality, but help for understanding reality, you know that, don't you?). It would be quite stupid from you to think that we think that natural selection has no limits. It can't do anything without a population with variable alleles, it can't do anything that is not available in the genetic pool. It can't do miracles, it has to have limits. What's the surprise there? We have never suggested that natural selection was all-powerful. We have always talked about the need for variability, and the time constrains. The many generations necessary to build upon both the variability and the selection process. So, seems like you did not do anything but search for the keywords "natural selection" and "limits," then conclude that because there's articles on that, therefore natural selection explains nothing. That's called a hasty generalization. Even if we forget that you made no effort at understanding the limits of those studies on the limits of natural selection. Which I find clearly dishonest (unless you are just stupid and can't really understand what I am saying, and what the articles were presenting).

      The links you provided about mutations are examples of deleterious mutations. Most of the mutations that make it to "the news" are deleterious. There's lots of databases of deleterious mutations too. There are no databases dedicated to "mutations that add variability and make no harm," or to "neutral and semineutral mutations." There is not much point, and I would have a very hard time trying to publish an article about having found a mutation that makes some cells a little more round than other cells. Even then, nobody would be too interested. We publish what we care about, namely, mutations associated to sicknesses. How does that mean that most mutations are deleterious? Another hasty generalization out of a complete lack of logical thought. This might be due to authentic ignorance. After all, you might be among those who thinks that we propose that the ancestral ape to both humans and chimps became each by magic in one step or so. This due to complete ignorance. Anyway, do you want to have a clue about neutral and semineutral mutations? Look anywhere around you. You will see that rarely other persons looks exactly like you. Tons of variability, right? Well, the variability shows that there are tons of mutations that have no problematic effects. Under the proper conditions the variability might provide advantages to a few. The key is the proper conditions.

      From the length of my answers you might catch a glimpse of what Larry said about not being easy to explain all of biology to you. I tried hard. I bet that, even so, my explanations are too short and too simplified. But you have made hasty and unwarranted generalizations. From misunderstanding evolutionary processes, from misunderstanding articles on population genetics, and from concluding from examples that don't represent the whole on mutation effects. I blame ignorance and misinformation. But I don't discard stupidity and/or dishonesty. However, I gave you a proper and lengthy answer. I doubt that you will give it any consideration or proper thought. I doubt that you will learn what kinds of mistakes you are making. We'll see.

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    21. Negative Entropy.
      Firstly thank you for the explanation, I read it a few times to make sure I get the gist of your explanation. It saddens me to say that it does not answer the question in anyway; in fact it just makes it worse. Let me explain.
      The different populations need all these mutations to cause the variability; they will eventually become fixed in the population over time. You acknowledge that mutations are indeed bad or neutral and it seem good ones are few and far between. This still does not explain how NS and RM can account for the diversity of life. How can it if there are very few good mutations? I don’t understand how neutral mutations can account for body plans so I will read up on that, The real problem however is the bad mutations since the entire population collectively have them and spread them, I fail to see how that population is going to survive after just a few generations never mind a few hundred or hundred thousand. You have to ask with all the deletions happening how did they make it to be here today over so many generations.

      Secondly the latest findings in the Cambrian explosion on brain complexity and stasis of body plans makes the idea of NS and RM more problematic as they do not even seem to be needed as an explanation due to the diversity of complex creatures appearing suddenly in the fossil record.

      Lastly how do you explain homoplasy? Convergent evolution is a real problem for NS and RM, not only can they not explain diversity they have to be able to account for diversity a few times over because there is no common descent.

      Now I would like to say, you are welcome to call me stupid or a liar or a creationist or an IDiot or whatever you feel will work for you but that will still not answer these questions and that is all I am asking for because the truth is there is no answers out there.

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    22. Andre,

      My explanations work all right. As I said, they were bound to be incomplete. That was a primer. A taste. But for detailed information you have to go further. Mostly by yourself in places where there's ample explanations rather than ~4000 character blog comments with people who will write the first thing they can, when and if they can. To show you another taste:

      I did not acknowledge that most mutations were bad or neutral. I said that most are from neutral to semi-neutral (don't forget the semi-neutral). I added that despite we have no databases, you could witness yourself the variability thus produced by looking around you. How will organisms with mutations survive thousands of hundreds of years? Easy: those who carry bad mutations die. Those who carry other mutations reproduce. Guess which mutations thus spread in a population? Any lethal combination dies, any beneficial mutations, and their combinations, spread because, well, they are beneficial. Guess what happens with reproduction? You get lots of organisms carrying the beneficial mutations. Since best mutations survive, and, since there's sexual reproduction, then best mutations combine with each other. Organisms carrying these combinations are more successful at reproducing. What happens with reproduction? And on and on. Of course, variation continues to build up. After all, mutations continue to happen. But please go and check for further resources. Scientific ones. Creationist propaganda only looks for excuses not to understand. Example? Your next points:

      I see no problem with the Cambrian explosion, brain complexity, stasis of body plans, and homoplasy. None of them invalidate the mechanisms of evolution, nor do they invalidate any of the evidence that evolution has happened and continues to happen. I see no way in which evolution would demand that there should be no species radiations at the opening of several new niches, or that no species should remain anatomically static for any period of time, or that no species should evolve any convergent structures ever.

      To make a better example. I can't tell you how our brains evolved from our unicellular ancestors to ours. Interesting question as it is. However, I can show you where to start looking for answers: Our brains have no single structure that is not found in a more average ape brain. Thus, it is easy to imagine that changes in gene pattern expression might make one or another structure more/less developed, thus producing all kinds of ape brains currently existing. Some differences might require a couple differences in protein sequence, but nothing looks impossible to come out of variations within populations built upon generations of random but harmless drift plus selection. Combining that with the evidence that we share ancestry with the rest of the apes, it becomes nonsensical to deny it out of our brain structure. If we followed this procedure, we might be able to figure out that the ape brain has no structures that many other mammal brains don't have ... following this process, and depending on the evidence that we can find, maybe we will know the whole history. Maybe we won't. That still is no problem to understand and accept, out of the evidence, that we share common ancestry with a lot of other living forms, and that no magic is required at any step.

      See what I did? I started with manageable information instead of focusing on the extremes. Again. My comment cannot be but a slimmer of the info you would find elsewhere. But maybe this little example can show you some light. Once you learn how evolution works at its fundamentals, you might figure out that most creationist propaganda is but rhetoric that distracts you from understanding.

      I hope these explanations inspired you to learn better and from reputable resources. I think that these explanations are all I can do without getting into giving you a full course on evolution. As I said, there's lots of resources that you can check out. Up to you.

      So, I am out of this conversation. Have a great weekend.

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    23. "Has it ever occurred to you that there might be other ways where neither creationism nor Darwinism is the answer? Is it Darwin or bust? If it is you are not arguing from evidence but from your very own feelings."

      Andre, you don't read this blog very carefully, do you? Darwinism is not evolution, it is a short-hand term for the process of natural selection. Natural selection is but one of the factors in a number of processes involved in evolution.

      Larry Moran has made it clear that adaptationism is a short-sighted view of evolution. There is so much more and if you wished to understand the Theory of Evolution you would spend more time learning about it than arguing about how darwinism is limited to studying the material world.

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    24. Mike Haubrich

      Much more what? Other than adaptations there is 0 evidence that evolution could and did change any animal's body plans from one function to another, speculation plenty, just so stories many!

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  11. andre gross said:

    "The material world appears to be designed; no one disputes that..."

    No one? You asked everyone on Earth?

    "I speak on authority when I say when it appears to be designed it usually is regardless of what you or I might feel about it."

    Talk about a contradictory statement. You think you're an authority because you feel that you are.

    "It is truly funny how people resort to insults when they don't really have an argument based on solid evidence."

    Yes, it is funny (in a way) when creationist IDiots constantly resort to insulting Darwin, "Darwinists", evolutionists, naturalists, scientists, science supporters, and other people because the creationist IDiots don't have an argument based on solid evidence.

    "So how do we remain civil after a response like yours? I'd say it’s fortunately easy for me because I have the evidence to back up my claims and all you have is your feelings and much just so science that is wrong."

    Evidence of what? Intelligent design by your imaginary god? Let's see it. Or do you think that denigrating science is all you have to do to support ID? How about showing positive evidence and a working hypothesis for design? And no, your self-proclaimed "authority" isn't evidence. Even IF all of science is wrong (it isn't) that still wouldn't do anything to support ID.

    "Secondly you need to tone down on the creationist accusation because without actually knowing anything about my background you labelled me as so much."

    Well, if the shoe fits.

    I've asked a lot of other IDiots but I don't think I've asked you; can you tell me how much CSI, FSCO/I, or dFSCO/I there is in a banana, and show your calculations? If you can't do it with a banana a frog, a galaxy, a 5 pound piece of granite, or a dandelion will do. It would also be nice if you would calculate the amount of irreducible complexity and CSI, FSCO/I, or dFSCO/I in a pseudo-gene.

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    1. How do I even respond to a post that convey's someone's personal feelings without hurting those said feelings? I wonder.... This is all about how you feel mate, worse still instead of the argument you just have to play the man, it's very shaky ground indeed that you stand on.

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  12. andre gross said:

    "Have I even been speaking or pointing to anything supernatural?"

    You've been pushing intelligent design and you've brought up the origin of life (OOL), which relates to special creation unless you accept a natural OOL. Intelligent design and creation requires an intelligent designer-creator. Are you saying that the intelligent designer-creator you're positing is or could be natural? If so, will you elaborate on the possibilities and/or particulars of the 'natural' designer-creator you envision?

    I realize that you've said that your mind isn't made up and that you think there could be or is something else besides RM and NS behind biological evolution (there is- drift, etc.), but you also speak as though you're an authority on design and that living things are designed. I also realize that science hasn't found all the answers to all the questions about evolution or the origin of life but that doesn't help you if you're trying to promote a designer. To support a designer you're going to have to produce evidence and an hypothesis for your claims that can be examined and tested. Keep in mind that alleged evidence and many hypotheses have been proposed by scientists and have been examined and tested and either quickly or ultimately discarded, so it isn't as though scientists are given some sort of free pass when it comes to substantiating their claims. As time goes on some of the currently accepted evidence or hypotheses (or inferences or theories) may or will be discarded or modified. That's the way science works, and it's a good thing. Science can be slow or stubborn at times but it ultimately has to follow the evidence where it leads. The thing is, there has to be evidence to follow. Bald, allegedly authoritative assertions, and especially those that are based on religious fairy tales or other supernatural woo, produce no evidence to follow.

    If you or anyone else comes up with something worth considering that pertains to intelligent design, and it isn't just another religiously based, science bashing bald assertion, reputable scientists will likely take a serious look at it.



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    1. The whole truth

      Now I have to say I enjoyed your post immensely, does the appearance of design intrigue me? I will tell you that it most certainly does and I am saying this because of what I do. Let’s just be clear I do not design abstracts but functional systems. Components of these systems have a particular function inside the system together with other components they create a whole that has a purpose. This is where I see the parallels between living and non-living systems.

      I say to you now I will completely embrace NS and RM as the mechanisms that are capable of diversity if it can be demonstrated. Until then I reserve my judgement and I do so based on my experience with what is required for the functioning of any system as a whole. I cannot in my best efforts see how a living system can in anyway be different in its requirements that a non-living system. If anything a living system is even more complex and would need far more rules and processes than a non-living one.
      There is a reason why people still reject the notion that NS & RM did it and unless it is explained and demonstrated no amount of name calling will make it go away.
      You might not understand what I’m trying to tell you here but give it a thought; an effect can never be greater than its cause.

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    2. Andre Gross, may I suggest you read this paper: ?

      Evolution of increased complexity in a molecular machine
      http://www1.osu.cz/~elias/czech/Evoluce_bunky/Finnigan2012.pdf

      It explains pretty well how "degenerative" or deleterious mutations result in increased complexity and large functional structures.

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    3. Thank you Rumraket I'm going to study it tonight...

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  13. Andre Gross says: "...There is a reason why people still reject the notion that NS & RM did it and unless it is explained and demonstrated..."

    Yes, and that reason is nothing more than willful ignorance. Occasionally it is because people are unaware of what they do not know or they assume that they know more than they think they do, but it still boils down to ignorance.

    I design systems and interfaces professionally and have done so for close to 30 years. In fact, my professional involvement with design was one of the first things that started me questioning my YEC background, because it is painfully apparent that the universe, this planet and the life on it, is most definitely not designed.

    It should be pointed out, if it has not been already, that the age of the universe is around 13.72 billion years (this is from one dating method, there are several others that give similar estimates but are not as precise). The age of this planet is 4.5 (give or take a few hundred million years) billion years.

    As for what selection can accomplish, besides taking an in-depth look at the fossil record, I suggest that you review domesticated species such as dogs (and their wide variety of breeds), rutabagas, wheat and corn...

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    1. I'm not YEC as you imply, I'm pretty certain the earth is 4 billion years old and universe is 13.7 billion years old. What has given you the impression that I might be because I doubt Darwins mechanism I must be a creationits?

      Yes what can intelligent selection accomplish? It can accomplish different types of dogs with different sizes and traits, but it has been unable to change the body plans of any dog as far as I know.

      Tell me you say you have great experience in design, so what are the first fundamental rules that any design requires so that it might function for an intended purpose?

      Regards

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    2. Intelligent selection (as in selective breeding) has only really operated for a few thousand years. Fundamental changes in body-plans took tens of millions (dinosaur->bird, or fish->tetrapod), which, if you do the calculations, amount to several million generations of entire populations.

      Selective breeding has been happening on small populations, usually a few hundred, for very few generations. Heck, if the mean generation time of a wolf is about 4.5 years (a number that popped up on a quick google search), in the 10.000 years since the we started domesticating wolves this amounts to a mere ~2222 generations of change.

      Contrast this with the 25 million years fish-tetrapod transition implied in the fossil record. How big are natural populations? Usually tens of thousands of individuals. What's the generation time of a large amphibian(to pick something in the middle, I found this paper on Tiger Salamanders: http://www.oriannesociety.org/sites/default/files/Spear_salamander_bottlenecks.pdf), it's 4-5 years again. That's 5.556 million generations of morphological change, with a lot more genetic emerging variation to work on(because of the much larger populations compared to human selective breeding with small packs of dogs/cows/sheep or whatever).

      Really, your extremely knee-jerk and simple comparison analysis fails to take account of several important factors here. The kinds of changes that took place in nature don't seem to me unreasonable given corrections for time and population size.

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