Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What do Intelligent Design Creationists believe?

It's always difficult to pin down an intelligent design creationist. They demand detailed "naturalistic" explanations of everything before they will accept them but, on the other hand, they won't ever give you their explanation. For example, we know they have doubts about the evolution of bacterial flagella but have you ever heard them describe their hypothesis? Like who made the first flagellum? When? Why?

It's also difficult to tell the difference between the various creationist cults. Clearly there are Young Earth Creationists who support the Intelligent Design Creationist movement but sometimes the IDiots say that YEC is inconsistent with Intelligent Design Creationism. Isn't that strange?

Most IDiots define their movement in very broad terms but they get really upset with Theistic Evolution Creationists. Apparently, you can't believe in theistic evolution and still be an IDiot. Who knew?

Now Granville Sewell comes to the rescue by describing what Intelligent Design Creationists actually believe [Granville Sewell: Intelligent design shouldn't be dismissed]. A link was posted on Uncommon Descent under the title "Introduction to ID."

Here's the important part of Sewell's article.
So what do ID proponents believe?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to state clearly what you have to believe to not believe in intelligent design. Peter Urone, in his 2001 physics text "College Physics" writes, "One of the most remarkable simplifications in physics is that only four distinct forces account for all known phenomena."

The prevailing view in science today is that physics explains all of chemistry, chemistry explains all of biology, and biology completely explains the human mind; thus physics alone explains the human mind and all it does. This is what you have to believe to not believe in intelligent design, that the origin and evolution of life, and the evolution of human consciousness and intelligence, are due entirely to a few unintelligent forces of physics.

Thus you must believe that a few unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into computers and science texts and jet airplanes.

Contrary to popular belief, to be an ID proponent you do not have to believe that all species were created simultaneously a few thousand years ago, or that humans are unrelated to earlier primates, or that natural selection cannot cause bacteria to develop a resistance to antibiotics.

If you believe that a few fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the basic particles of physics into Apple iPhones, you are probably not an ID proponent, even if you believe in God. But if you believe there must have been more than unintelligent forces at work somewhere, somehow, in the whole process: congratulations, you are one of us after all!
This is a very broad definition. If you believe in God then you pretty much have to be an IDiot unless you are a strict deist. Every single religious person that I know believes that "there must have been more than unintelligent forces at work somewhere, somehow, in the whole process."1 Therefore, every Roman Catholic and every evangelical Christian is an IDiot, according to Granville Sewell. This includes Ken Miller and Francis Collins. In fact, it includes every religious scientist.

Not bad, eh?

For the record, I do not "believe" that " ... a few fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the basic particles of physics into Apple iPhones." I think it's the most reasonable explanation. I don't know of any other explanation that is supported by evidence.


1. Yes, I know about atheist Buddhists. That doesn't count as a "religion" in my book.

192 comments :

  1. Merry Christmas!

    Typical IDiot Sewell captures the ID "belief" perfectly. They believe in nothing. Sewell apes Meyer who gave a lecture on "What Is Intelligent Design" and went on for over an hour without ever touching the subject. He danced all around it.

    Intelligent Design creationism is the manufactured product of the Discovery Institute who use it to raise money for their salaries. That's it. Since they are a non-profit organization they rely upon charitable donations, especially big donors, who they attract by attempting to demonstrate that they are "fixing" society to make it more Christian. Thus, they lobby, write opinion articles, publish "popular" books and conduct Christian persecution dramas. One of the founders of ID, Phillip Johnson, wrote that "doubt in science" could be used as a tool to drive a wedge in society and that's what the Tooters do - they attempt to create fear, uncertainty and doubt.

    Of course the Tooters embrace all creationists, but only for convenience. As long as the dollars roll in they don't care the source and yet publicly, at least, they don't want the taint of "creationism" on them at all because of the US legal implications.

    And, yes, the Tooters will even tolerate crackpots like Sewell so long as he creates a fuss and plays the persecution card, which he does in spades.

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    1. Beal, Don't drink and write, In your case, don't even attempt to write on the subject you have no clue about. You bring real atheists a bad name, See, there is a difference between what's goin on in your pinhead and real life. lol

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  2. Intelligent Design "Theory" is easy to summarize:

    "Sometime or other, some intelligent agent (or more likely multiple agents) designed something(s), and then somehow manufactured those designs in matter and energy, all the while leaving no independent evidence of the design process, no independent evidence of the manufacturing process, and no independent evidence of the presence, or even the existence, of the designing and/or manufacturing agents."

    See? Easy peasy. Checkmate, atheists!

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  3. (Larry -- The comment two-above by "Mamunar" is pure spam, Delete it).

    Sewell apparently does believe that an evaporating salt solution can rearrange disorganized salt molecules into a salt crystal. That is one of the things that can happen when you have energy gradients. But he tries to make another thing that can happen on such gradients, evolution, sound impossible.

    For further such silliness, take a look over at Uncommon Descent, where poster "niwrad" is making another of his trademark mistakes in imagining that evolutionary biologists are saying that evolution would happen in an isolated compartment, with no inflow or outflow of energy. At least, that's what "niwrad" seems to be saying. Like Sewell's nonexplicit refutation of evolution, it's a bit vague.

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    1. Sewell has developed his own interpretation of the Second Law, or rather "the fundamental principle" behind it:

      Natural (unintelligent) forces do not do macroscopically describable things that are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view.

      (which, according to him, applies not only to thermodynamically isolated systems but to open ones as well).

      http://dx.doi.org/10.5048/BIO-C.2013.2

      Why? Because tornadoes can destroy aeroplanes but they can't create them. No equations needed ;)

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    2. Joe, As the best population geneticist in the world I know, (some creationists prefer Coyne) how could you describe the problem initiated by Larry with bacterial flagellum? It has become an icon of the ID movement, but I was advised (surprisingly) to ask you first. I'm a "simple person" who requires simple answers.

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    3. LouiseG, remind me what "the problem initiated by Larry with the bacterial flagellum" is, one that you could use population genetics on? Where did Larry say something to this effect?

      I am not an expert on the biochemistry of the bacterial flagellum. You want someone like David Derosier for that.

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    4. Joe, Thanks for being so humble. I like that. Here is what Larry said" For example, we know they (doubters like me) have doubts about the evolution of bacterial flagella but have you ever heard them describe their hypothesis? Like who made the first flagellum? When? Why?"

      I thought because of your impeccable record in population genetics, you may have some knowledge on the theme. Joe, admitting to not knowing is always better than pretending to know. I have learned this very thing last weekend.

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    5. So you're asking Joe Felsenstein if the ID creationists have a scenario for how the design of the bacterial flagellum was achieved, or did you just completely miss the meaning of what Larry was saying?

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    6. LouiseG: I don't know much about the evolution of flagella. Then again, I suspect you don't know much about the way the limit of a sequence of Wright-Fisher models tends, under the proper conditions, to a diffusion process. You might say "so what?" and so would I.

      Larry was talking about "they", meaning folks like you, not describing their hypothesis. The only sense I can make of your request is that you want me to solve your problem, perhaps by diverting the discussion. I can't. You and only you can (as Nullifidian notes above): what is your hypothesis about evolution of flagella? Is it that nothing evolved and the earth is only 6000 years old? Or that the earth is older, and some things evolve, but flagella were poofed into existence fully formed? By who? A white-bearded guy in a robe, holding a shepherd's crook and standing on a cloud?

      What His motives, and powers. Unguessable and infinite? If so, is that a scientific hypothesis? No, because it does not rule out anything, not even that he might make bacterial flagella out of titanium.

      Or do you actually have a scientific hypothesis to put forward?

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    7. Returning, briefly, to my original observation, any "discussion" of a scientific hypothesis about how ID does anything is doomed to fail because there is no theory of ID from which to start. As ID "theorist" and former Baptist seminary instructor put it, ID is not a mechanistic theory and it doesn't have to rise to the pathetic level of detail of the theory of evolution (or words to that effect).

      So, no, there is no ID alternative theory on how ANYTHING was done, or when, or how or by whom. (Except we all know the "by whom" is the Intelligent Designer (tm) blessed be he.)

      ID is propaganda, not science. One can't discuss science with a propagandist.

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  4. Must have been involved somewhere, somehow. That's so very precise and scientific. Has he got an equation expressing that? (The "few unintelligent forces" people have them aplenty, so surely the folks who believe in a role for intelligence must have something demonstrating where those forces become inadequate and intelligence enters in.)

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  5. He's also using the insultingly not so slight, slight of hand maneuver by saying that only those fundamental forces made things like iPhones knowing full well that people make iPhones and that anyone reading his tripe also knows this. In doing so, he hopes to sweep away the remarkably long time over which those forces acted and interacted and only recently giving rise to people to make those iPhones. The implicit dishonesty makes one want to punch him in the nose, or at least throw a nasty pie at him (I wouldn't throw a tasty pie.)

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    1. Mmmmmmmm, pie ...

      It's difficult for me to think of a nasty pie. I'll even eat rhubarb!

      How about "cow?"

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  6. Is the ID proponent suggesting that iPhones are meant to come about by blind physical law, or that human intelligence is an expression of physical law? Unless the Apple iPhone in this case is a metaphor for some "designed" feature in nature, in which case the burden is surely on them to point out which feature of nature can be analogous to the Apple iPhone in a key way. Apple iPhones are evidentially products of design, but nature doesn't assemble itself in the way that iPhones get assembled. That disanalogy alone should give pause to anyone wishing to use human design as a means to assess nature.

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    1. Unfortunately and without intending to be offensive, I must quibble with the supposed distinction between how humans designed (and assemble) iPhones and how natural evolution works - because, as I have argued here too many times, human design (and, I hypothesize, intelligence itself) works by a process of evolution. That is, having been a design engineer for 35 years I know designs evolve (as cars and phones have evolved over our lifetimes) and that trial and error plays a major role. (In fact, these days, genetic algorithms and Monte Carlo analyses play a large role.) As for intelligence, I expect that it is a mechanical process with no magic (or unknown forces) involved, and the evolutionary process seems like a prime candidate to me. (With many of our 86 billion neurons churning out random guesses and variations on previous ideas, and seeing how many survive comparison to available data.) (Example: a new manager once asked me why we did not save money by casting our turbine parts out of concrete.)

      People who assume there is something special, outside the realm of physics, happening in human design and thinking, are in fact leaning toward the ID side of the fence, it seems to me.

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    2. Why would I be offended?

      There's distinction enough to be made, since humans can use understanding how processes work as part of the design process. If there is an analogy between genetic evolution and cultural evolution, it breaks down at this point. The scientists who developed sonar came about it by a very different process to how bats developed it.

      "People who assume there is something special, outside the realm of physics, happening in human design and thinking"
      I must quibble with the idea that human design must be "something special, outside the realm of physics". It really depends on what you mean by "outside the realm of physics". Can thought be reducible to physical processes without recourse to the competency that is apparent in cognitive actions of rational agents? I don't think there's anything going on other than brain activity, but does that mean that human competence doesn't drive design? In any case, it does seem quite implausible prima facie to think that how we work as designers to how the evolutionary process works.

      "are in fact leaning toward the ID side of the fence, it seems to me."
      I can definitely say I'm not leaning toward the ID side of the fence. ID is a muddled concept, where they borrow the intuitions that are perfectly reasonable when it comes to human design, and misapply them on the vaguest of resemblance.

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    3. I have the same disagreement, with "... since humans can use understanding how processes work as part of the design process. If there is an analogy between genetic evolution and cultural evolution, it breaks down at this point.."

      If as I suppose that understanding has been built up via trial and error and survival of random ideas due to their fitness (effectiveness), then I fail to see an important distinction.

      An analogy in natural evolution would be the occurrence of Hox genes which provide a template for body development. Once such genes were widespread, an explosion of variations in body type could occur, and biological evolution could be said to "understand" a way of developing bodies.

      This seems similar to me to the occurrence of the steam engine at the start of the Industrial Revolution, leading to an explosion of different applications (locomotives, steam boats, threshers, etc.).

      To repeat tediously what I have written many times before, I see the basics of evolution as:

      1) A source of random variations (e.g., biological mutations)

      2) One or more selection criteria to distinguish good variations from bad ones (e.g., survival of designs in the marketplace, leading to the replication of engineers' salaries).

      3) Some sort of memory to keep track of what has worked well so far (e.g., DNA, design blueprints, brain memory, written records, computer memory, etc.).

      I see differences in degree and effectiveness among the examples, but the same basic process being followed.

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    4. "I fail to see an important distinction."
      How those ideas are used is the important distinction. How those ideas are enhanced is an important distinction.

      In terms of how they are used, the evolutionary process is more brute force than how humans use ideas. We see the competency of the ideas, are able to manipulate those ideas to our ends, and we can use that knowledge based on our own competencies. It's not only that it works, but we can see how it works, and use it based off that understanding.

      In terms of how they are enhanced, again there's the question of competency. People improve ideas based on an understanding of how the system work, and use deliberate action in order to enhance a product towards other ends. Whether or not there's "trial and error" in the brain, we still need to account for the fact that certain ideas get passed on because of conscious deliberation and deliberate action on account of intelligent agents.

      "I see differences in degree and effectiveness among the examples, but the same basic process being followed."
      I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that. Ideas to my mind don't have anything like the same kind of structure (ideas lack a DNA equivalent), nor do they replicate by the same process. And in terms of the selection process, how do we keep a strong link between reproductive fitness and personal competency? That's where I just cannot see how we could keep a strong analogy up.

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    5. "In terms of how they are used, the evolutionary process is more brute force than how humans use ideas."

      We evolve ideas faster than nature evolves creatures because we work in parallel (on several levels: neuronally, in design and research groups, as part of a society, and with aids such as computers) and have better types of memory. However, at bottom, initially, all ideas are generated randomly and then tweaked randomly. Where else could they come from, unless you believe in magic? When you lack experience, training, and data, how do you know a bad idea from a good one - you don't, and try things randomly. (That was the point of my concrete-casting anecdote.) I have numerous examples of this, mentioned at this site previously, but hoped to forgo listing them yet again. I will mention just one from common knowledge. Thomas Edison tried according to him "thousands" of designs for a light bulb before finding one which worked. I don't know of any human invention which poofed into existence in complete and final form. (I suspect the wheel was adapted from rolling logs.)

      Just as mammals now have a huge set of effective genes (and more ineffective ones) for natural evolution to work with, human science and engineering have evolved a huge set of principles which work effectively - but are still subject to change.

      "And in terms of the selection process, how do we keep a strong link between reproductive fitness and personal competency? " This seems to confuse what is surviving and evolving. Biological evolution - populations of organic creatures; "design" and "intelligence" - ideas. Ideas propagate themselves through time by being effective and evolve by becoming more effective. E.g., ideas on the physics of motion evolved from Galileo to Newton to Einstein. As Newton said, we think we are giants because we are standing on the shoulders of many past generations.

      Random variation, selection, memory. The power and form of any of these basic ingredients vary between biological evolution and other kinds, but not the principles themselves. So when a creationist once pointed to a car parked next to a tree and asked me, "Can't you see that they both were designed?" I replied, "From what I can see they both evolved."

      This deep algorithmic consistency in nature between how biological populations evolved and how individuals of those populations use their evolved nervous systems to help them survive seems very natural to me. As a side benefit, once IDers can be brought to understand what seem like very plain facts to me, their need for a supernatural guiding intelligence will become philosophically untenable, and it will be all evolution, all the way down.

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  7. What they believe is their business. I want to know what they have evidence to support. As of today, the answer to that question is: "nothing". Still waiting for those ID research programs to bear fruit....

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    1. We should be so lucky that they would have the good taste and manners to keep their beliefs private.

      It's when they inject those beliefs into the public sphere and use them to influence the formulation of public policy with respect to what are personal decisions of autonomous members of a secular society that what they believe no longer remains their business,

      When so called adult members of our society try to use stories about an invisible friend who is deeply concerned about womens control over their bodies, same sex marriage, end of life decisions, the teaching of science in science classes then as much as I'd like their beliefs to remain their business it's not an option as they are expending so much time and effort trying to ram that shit down our collective throats.

      So what they believe is entirely not their business and it is entirely by their choice.

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  8. At least the IDers are consistent. Notice how Sewell immediately refused to discuss positive evidence for design, but rather jumped right on supposed problems with an opposing idea. It's comforting to see the usual dichotomy and the usual focus on problems with the other side. I just don't know what I'd do if an IDer attempted to give interesting evidence for design.

    ~~ Paul

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  9. Larry wrote: "For example, we know they have doubts about the evolution of bacterial flagella but have you ever heard them describe their hypothesis? Like who made the first flagellum? When? Why?"
    Larry, this example is self-defeating. Here is why. I can't do it as well as Behe or Quest but the best way to prove it that bacterial flagellum could have evolved is to knock out the genes for the flagellum and put it under evolutionary pressure and see if it develops anything resembling a flagellum. Do you think this is possible? Don't tell me it only happened once in a billion. I don't buy sh.t, pardon my French,

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    1. So if an ID "scientist" were to do that, a "designer" would somehow "design" the missing pieces back into existence. Am I correct? After all, surely you're not buying the shit that it "only happened once in a billion."

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    2. Knock out the genes and then just sit and wait for a new flagellum to evolve?

      You realize that the flagellum evolved from different structures right? It wasn't just fully assembled de novo straight from a random assortment of proteins to a complete flagellum.

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    3. How do you know that? You have proof? Don't embarrass yourself! Any further hits mean what . I have too many details to point to you that it means one thing. You need to go back to school. But which one?

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    4. Mr. Rasmussen is referring to standard references in the field, such as Dr. Nick Matze's famous paper which you can read here:

      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/flag.pdf

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    5. Don't embarrass yourself!...You need to go back to school.


      Sigh. Another irony meter up in smoke.

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  10. Apparently LouiseG you are bit deficient in thinking - if ID is a scientific theory it needs to provide explanations for natural phenomena that appeal to known processes. So ID needs to explain on its own terms how flagella could arise. After all, even if evolutionary theory was insufficient to do the job, that wouldn't imply ID was correct - an explanation in clear and verifiable terms would be needed.

    Such an explanation from ID is never provided because it cannot be provided as ID is religion not science, so IDers must concentrate on trying to demonstrate that evolution is deficient, even if it means demanding ridiculous "tests" such as waiting for flagella to evolve.

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  11. LouiseG appears to be making an empirically-testable statement that a lottery with a billion to one odds (guessing 9 decimal digits - or 12 if one is British) could never be won.

    This reminds me of "Littlewood's Law of Miracles", which effectively states that while many people intuit that something that occurs against a million-to-one odds must be a miracle, math shows that such things happen to individuals naturally on average about once a month.

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  12. That's actually a good and honest admission that ID rejects all of modern science and that so does everyone who believes in a God that matters in this world. I like it.It's better to be open about these things than to pretend compatibility is easily achievable. It also moves the discussion from evolution to physics, which is also good - there is no "historical vs experimental" science excuse there and I have always thought that physicists have not done their fair share of work battling the various anti-science forces. Things like immaterial souls are right in their area of expertise but have featured too little in the religion-vs-science discussions, which is very unfortunate - it has made it possible for people to propose various versions of theistic evolution and claim one can still be a Christian and accept evolution - sure, you can accept the fact of evolution, but you can still deny the theory and modern physics, and that's only marginally better than being a creationist

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  13. YEC is in no way inconsistent with ID!!
    The operative word in ID is intelligent or rather a thinking BEING.
    ID simply means seeing in the evidence of nature the fingerprints of a thinking being. Many also attack evolution in many of its points or all.
    So YEC can agree this far.
    Many iD thinkers do not believe in biblical creationism or Genesis creationism.
    they want this segregation clearly understood. tHere simply is overlapping by persons in these tribes.
    ID might be seen as indicating a different tribe from YEC just because YEC is presumed to accept a thinking being and rejection of evolution.
    I guess some ID leaders want iD to mean FOR SURE NOT YEC.
    A actual species. However YEC folks use ID thinkers for our cause and so a confusion is made or a deliberate confusion is suggested by fearful evolutionists about ID's success.
    I guess ID is completely not YEC. It does mean a rejection of genesis or otherwise it would just be a more researched YEC.
    Id 'ers must remember we were here first and get first picks at the carcass.

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  14. The ID position that seems confused to me is the one around the exact role of the 'engineer' in the metaphor. OK, for sake of argument let's concede the game and say both cars and trees are designed using the same process.

    For a car to 'evolve', Ford - say - have to *actively* remain involved in the process. They need to research or develop new techniques, apply them, market them. Carbon fiber is invented, it's light but expensive, so they try it for some parts, the cost comes down, they use it more widely. Someone else invents Halogen bulbs, they get adopted into car designs. Someone else invents GPS, that gets adopted.

    So ... trees. Is that what the mysterious Intelligent Designer, let's called him Forfuckssakeitsthechristiangodwhyevenbotherpretendingotherwise, or God for short, is doing? Do creationists think that God is doing what non-fictional designers do? Taking an active role? Tinkering? Because, if so, God really isn't very good at engineering, is he?

    Most Christians understand that the idea God's making animals in a workshop in Heaven and tinkering away and sending them down to Earth with the occasional upgrade or special feature is blithering idiocy. Do creationists? If they don't, what do they think? What are the limits of this 'God as engineer' metaphor? Because the maximum extent of it, logically, would seem to be 'God created evolution' (among Christians who can read, the modern claim is even more modest - God merely created 'a universe where order was possible').

    The problem with ID is that it's not actually a theory. It's a rejection of another theory.

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    1. Beating my hobby-horse yet again: to me, establishing that both trees and cars came into being via the same fundamental process (evolution) is not conceding the game, but winning the game.

      IDers seem to think there is something mystical and magic about how cars and other human inventions come into being, and hence when they see something complicated like a tree they think it also required magic. As Ken Miller put it, since molehills are created by moles, mountains must be created by giant moles. If they understood that in fact humans use trial and error, random guesses, and lucky accidents (such as the cat who invented Lexan) and by simply keeping track of what works (both as to specific devices and on a meta-level as to what processes tend to produce the better outcomes) tend to adapt their inventions better and better to the market environment - in short, that there is absolutely no magic involved - why then they might realize that the same method is available to nature (using DNA to record successes) and over long enough times will also produce complex results.

      In my terms, the problem with "Intelligent Design" is that it should first understand how intelligence and design work, and it has no such understanding.

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    2. "As Ken Miller put it, since molehills are created by moles, mountains must be created by giant moles."

      [adds to lines I will steal]

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    3. But make sure it's correctly attributed (it was Barry Lynn rather than Ken Miller, I believe):

      And as I thought about it tonight, it's a little bit -- we were all talking about nature analogies -- it's a little bit like looking at a mole build a molehill. You say, that's very interesting. Then we walk out into the woods the next day and we notice a big mountain off in the distance. And we say, "Good grief, that's enormously large, a really big mole must have built that."

      http://www.ntskeptics.org/issues/creationism/firingline/FiringLineDebateCreationEvolution.PDF

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    4. jem
      You make a right point.
      For YEC or ID the idea is God created a great working universe and then it takes care of itself.
      The God of physics is the God of biology.
      Biology has laws controling it just as in physics.
      Its just that its so complicated the laws have not been discovered.
      Its innate triggers, i think, that can do almost anything.
      No tinkering by God as creation was finished on the sixth day. No more creation since. only innate mechanisms have changed everything.

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    5. So, Robert, it seems you believe that if God did not now exist, it would make no difference. And that free will does not exist. Yes?

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    6. Thats funny as I didn't think of that.
      As a practical machine, yes, it doesn't matter if god exists. HOWEVER Christians believe satan is striving to destroy everything and so God is protecting everything at a very very atomic level. There is another option that this need to protect actually has become a part of the machine of biology HOWEVER this is very much into deep levels of analysis.
      The practical point IS that creation was finished on the sixth day and so since its been mechanisms within biology that have brought great changes. this since the fall of coarse.

      Free will I don't see as relevant to biology.

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    7. So God created this "Satan" guy as part of his 6-day creation plan for the express purpose of messing up God's beautiful plan so that He'd have to keep intervening at the "very very atomic level" to keep things running? That was pretty stupid of God wasn't it?

      You may not think free will is relevant to biology. But surely it is highly relevant to theology, isn't it?

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    8. "The practical point IS that creation was finished on the sixth day and so since its been mechanisms within biology that have brought great changes."

      Or, to paraphrase, evolution accounts for all the biological diversity we see, but God invented evolution?

      If so ... well, we can shoot the YEC version in the head right now: the mechanisms that exist to create the biological diversity couldn't do so in the timescales YEC demands. Or, if we're being hyper-generous, the onus is on the YEC to demonstrate the scientifically testable hypothesis that they are, without recourse to any God bullshit.

      And once ID's at the stage where it's conceding evolution over billions of years with no direct intervention from God ... well, we're at the basic Christian position, which is the muddled, and entirely untestable, 'God created evolution'. At this point theists are reduced to coming up with theories on God's psychology (why would God create a system that accounts for life as we know it that's basically the only one that wouldn't actually need a God to create it?), and glossing over the fact that the Bible and pre-Darwin teaching said the *exact* opposite of 'living things emerged through a process of gradual change'.

      I think all we need do at this point is ask a simple question of Christians: 'do you believe your God to be deceptive?'.

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    9. Jem.
      not by evolutionary biology but indeed by biological mechanisms. Evolution is not proved and therefore other options are on the table even if not yet figured out.
      Timescales are just 6000 years.
      Its not evidence for evolution because creationism also needs mechanisms to explain biological diversity. Not complexity as its all just tinkering.

      The bible just gives basic boundaries. Wrongheaded former creationists were just wrong on this or that.

      It all comes down to hypothesis needing evidence to justify being called theories. ToE has not done this yet. People just like the hunch and not the alternatives as they originally imagined them.
      I have been reading recently Darwin's descent book and emotions book and constandtly, and funny, he invokes the error of a creator creating species within present type TO back up his evolution case.
      A great flaw of scientific investigation. The rest too.

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    10. The practical point IS that creation was finished on the sixth day

      Actually, Thomas Aquinas argued otherwise since, following Augustine, he believed that God created matter in motion, (kinesis). Evolution is one species of motion. In Summa theologica he wrote explaining that creation was a continuous thing, not a single event:
      Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.

      To put it another way, he expected that if any new species ever appeared they would be the result of natural powers possessed by nature ("the stars and elements") acting on existing potencies. (Not just anything can evolve from anything else. The potency must already exist in the form, as the word "cod" exists potentially in the word "cat" by means of a couple of phoneme shifts.) This was in line with the notion of "secondary causation," namely that material bodies had been created with "natures" capable of acting directly on one another.
      Aquinas' teacher, Albertus Magnus, put it this way:
      In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass. (De vegetabilibus et plantis) In other words: methodological naturalism.

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  15. Thanks to Mr. Gasiorowski for correcting the attribution. I was remembering it from the Firing Line debate but wrongly associated it with Ken Miller who was in that debate. (Evolution does not make perfect things, especially my memory - to err is an innate feature of evolution, but over time, as happened rapidly here, evolution can make improvements to correct errors. Embarrassing, though.)

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  16. "not by evolutionary biology but indeed by biological mechanisms. Evolution is not proved and therefore other options are on the table even if not yet figured out."

    But you seem to be saying that, once in place, whatever this other 'biological mechanism' is acts without direct divine intervention.

    You think, in other words, that the scientific model of evolution is a 'hunch', and that the real answer is that there's another scientific model of evolution, just not one any actual scientists have drawn up, developed or tested.

    It's a very, very silly position to hold.

    If everything's on the table until it's 'proved', does that mean 'God exists' is on the table?

    Let's agree to stop referring to 'God' and start referring to it as 'the God theory'. Would that help?

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    1. Yes its other biological mechanisms wqrking without Gods help. This is a foundation that no more creation took place after creation week and before the fall.

      God on the table is not relevant to biological origins as we all talk about it.
      We just attack evolution and assert gods fingerprints on the complexity of nature. YEC adds Genesis boundaries.

      Yes evolution was just a hunch. We say it still is. Its not proven or a theory because it has failed to provide enough/any biological scientific evidence.
      Its just lines of reasoning and unrelated subjects backing it up.

      Delete
    2. "God on the table is not relevant to biological origins"

      No, but the existence of God isn't proven, is it? It's 'just a theory'. I think, in fairness, from now on you shouldn't refer to God, you should say 'God's only a theory' or perhaps refer to him as Hunch.

      Delete
    3. God is proven but its not my topic here. I only flirt with God evidence things. i am to destroy evolutionary biology or any thing against genesis.
      This is very doable. god proofs are historic things and I have nothing to add.

      Delete
    4. "god proofs are historic things and I have nothing to add."

      Couldn't have put it better myself.

      Delete
  17. 'Its innate triggers, i think, that can do almost anything.'

    This isn't very clear. Can these "triggers" 'do almost anything' we've observed, or literally can they do anything at all?

    If it's the first, all you're doing is describing genetics as understood by modern science, just in playschool language.

    If it's the second, it's describing a world in which snakes could give birth to monkeys whose kids sprout wings. A fantasy world more akin to Harry Potter, the Cartoon Network or the Old Testament than real life.

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    1. Its another idea for biological mechanism.
      There is already a programme in biology to allow great physical changes to keep survival in a post fall world.
      these changes are triggered by thresholds being crossed.
      Just like in sea creatures that change in a second to hide in their immediate surrounding or winter creatures who change to a white colour. This is from a mechanism. likewise I say people changed colour by the same mechanism. The threshold simply is not easily crossed.
      There is no reason to not have a good hunch this is so.

      Everything is on the table as a option for biological mechanisms because biology is so complicated or complex. Its fantastic and its not trivial physics. Itself needed to be carefully figured out.
      Its just a line of reasoning that small changes could do anything in biology.
      A better reasoning is how thats very unlikely and impossible to have evidence backing it up if indeed not true.
      Thus the modern creationist movement is fuelled and moving fast.

      Delete
    2. "these changes are triggered by thresholds being crossed.
      Just like in sea creatures that change in a second to hide in their immediate surrounding or winter creatures who change to a white colour. This is from a mechanism. likewise I say people changed colour by the same mechanism. The threshold simply is not easily crossed. There is no reason to not have a good hunch this is so."

      The absolute best way to discredit creationism is to let creationists talk, isn't it?

      So you'd account for racial differences in humans by saying that like cuttlefish, we're all able to change our skin color?

      Please keep talking. Please shout this theory from the rooftops. Please staple this theory to your religion and declare that no Christian can believe otherwise. Please demand that schools teach this theory, out of respect for Jesus. Please say that it, unlike evolutionary science, is compatible with the Bible. Every time you do, you'll do the work of a thousand Dawkinses when it comes to the cause of ending your loathsome religion and its vile influence.


      Delete
    3. The influence of cHristianity is the most positive influence in mankinds history. this is obvious.

      Its too cold to shout it from the rooftops but the internet will work fine with hot chocolate.
      Why not the spectrum i suggest? It stares us in the face.
      what happens in nature can happen more in nature.
      Explaining human colour differences really does settle the whole business of biological change from original types. We all must explain it and no one does a good job.
      My two cents is that its just part of a continuum seen in nature already. Innate triggers from threshold crossings.
      Creationists need this as we don't believe in races. We must explain why different groups of people , like Europeans, are all white.
      We were all segregated perfectly at babel and only after migration did we turn white.
      evolutionists must teach there was a original white tribe/white adam, eve and then segregation into different language groups.
      This is not what happened.

      Delete
    4. "evolutionists must teach there was a original white tribe/white adam, eve and then segregation into different language groups."

      ... and now we're at the 'gibberish' stage, the bit where it turns out that all theology and theologically derived pseudoscience is basically just proclaiming 'Santa is white'.

      If 'evolutionists' must teach that Adam and Eve were white, then this would be easy enough to prove. If you are right, pick up a modern university-level scientific textbook on evolution. Show me the bit where it says 'Adam and Eve must have been white'.

      Come back when you've found that.


      Delete
    5. @Robert Byers

      -----what?------ slaps face with hand, and maybe drools a bit.

      Spanish Inquisition?
      Crusades?
      Do these words mean nothing to you? I guess not since you are not a Muslim or a Jew?
      I would agree that good has come from Christianity, when we consider charity and aide --but Christianity is not alone in these values.

      Delete
    6. 1. The Spanish Inquisition was a creature of the Crown in Castile and the Crown in Aragon, primarily pushed by Castile. In the Early Modern Age, as kings were becoming monarchs, they enforced established churches and equated nonconformity with political unreliability.

      Inquisitio, as such, was a legal form from the Late Roman Republic and replaced Accusatio in cases of what we would call "criminal law." IOW the responsibility for investigating crimes and prosecuting the offenders was placed in the hands of magistrates rather than being left to the individual plaintiff. Henry Kamen's book The Spanish Inquisition is a good summary.

      2. Crusades. Technically, began with the Spanish counter-attack in Iberia, the Reconquista. But the Pisans also took Tunis, whence jihadis had previously destroyed Genoa so thoroughly that the site was uninhabited for two generations. The Saljuq Turks erupted into Anatolia and broke the Byzantine Army at Manzikert. Horse nomads poured into what had been a Hellenized land. The Roman (Byzantine) Emperor called for help from the West. The West dicked around for a while as usual, but as the situation worsened, a call for volunteers scratched up first a clueless rabble of doomed enthusiasts followed by a professionally-led army of knights and men-at-arms. Together with the Byzantines, they reconquered the Byzazntine territories lost to the Turks, starting with Nicaea. When the Fatimid Caliph in Egypt heard this, he offered an alliance against the hated Turks. But the "Franks" were determined to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem and did not care if the Fatimids had recently reconquered the city from the Saljuqs or not. (They had been incited by the attacks on pilgrims consequent to the breakdown of civil order in the region after the Turkish invasions.) Once they had made pilgrimage, most of the crusaders went home. Some of the leaders stayed on to rule a county or a kingdom and for the next hundred years or so, Franks were coming and going in Outremar. They fought each other, and in alliance with some emirs fought other emirs.

      In whole, the "crusades" comprised a hundred years counterattack in the middle of a thousand year jihad.

      Hope this helps.

      Delete
  18. Larry,

    Your constant use of term "IDiots" makes you look arrogant, stupid and bigoted. This kind of talk is what you would expect from a kindergartener not a professor.

    Keep talking and keep defending junk DNA. It makes you look stupider every day. It will be a great legacy.

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    1. Hi Randy!

      Some people may not know who you are. I direct them to your website and your post on junk DNA from 15 months ago [Activist atheists, junk DNA and ENCODE].

      You asked two questions (see below) but before quoting them I'd like to remind you that there are many religious scientists (even Christians!) who agree about the presence of large amounts of junk DNA in our genome.

      Here are your two questions. Answering them is quite trivial so I'll leave it to the other "kindergarteners." There are even some IDiots who could answer them for you.

      1) If the vast majority of our DNA is junk, why is the DNA of humans 99.6 percent identical? Shouldn't junk portion of our DNA be able to vary considerably since it isn't under selective pressure?

      2) If the vast majority of DNA is junk, why are 95 percent of human diseases relating to DNA associated with non-coding regions?

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    2. Hi Randy! What's your evidence against Junk DNA?

      you look arrogant, stupid and bigoted.

      Oh. You sure do like name-calling! Hey, did you know that every baby born has 100 to 200 more mutations than its parents, and 200 to 400 more than its grandparents, etc. etc. back to coalescence I guess-- and if our whole genome were functional and essential, those hundreds of mutations would kill every baby and kill you too?

      Are you dead? No? Your kids dead? No? Can you draw the logical conclusion regarding how much of your DNA is functional and essential?

      What's your other evidence against Junk DNA?

      you look stupider every day.

      Wow, you're a gentleman and a scholar. Did you know that every species of salamander, caecilian, newt, and waterdog-- indeed, in every species of amphibian for which we have genome sizes, except the frogs-- they all have far, far more DNA than humans? And that the amphibian Necturus Lewisi, aka the Neuse River Waterdog, has 34 times as much DNA as a human? It seems someone has some junk.

      And among the frogs, there is huge variation, with some species in a single genus having far more DNA than humans and other species in the same genus having far less? For example, in the genus Hyla there is a 4-fold variation, with the smallest genome being half that of a human and the largest being more than twice that of a human? Even though all the species in that one genus have identical levels of complexity.

      Do you suppose some of them might have some junk?

      And that in the famous genus of tree frog Xenopus, a popular model organism, there is a 2.7-fold variation the smallest 86% of human and the largest 227% of human? Even though all the species in that one genus have identical levels of complexity, and can only be distinguished by an expert.

      Can you explain that, or is name-calling all you have?

      Did you know that the African marbled lungfish, Protopterus aethiopicus has 34 times more DNA than a human, and that another fish, the fugu pufferfish, has one-eighth as much DNA as a human?

      Do you suppose there might be some junk, and it might be you?

      But I'll give you a second chance. Please tell me this number: the maximum number of nucleotides that are constrained as to their biochemical identity ("letter") by an essential function related to regulating a gene-- any gene. I'll give you a hint. There are 25,000 genes in the human gene (including the RNA genes, generally short) and the human genome has 3.2 billion bps. So if the whole shebang were functional, the average number of nucleotides involved in regulation would be 140,000 per gene. 140,000 per gene. If they vary at all, the maximum would be more than 140,000.

      So don't tell me that number for every gene-- just the gene that has the most complex regulation known. Tell me the %$&* number, genius. No creationist nor anti-evolution $*%&hole will anwer this simple $@*&ing question. Tell me the %$&* number, genius. If it's less than 140,000, you lose.

      This kind of talk is what you would expect from a kindergartener not a professor.

      You know, some people earn the name IDiot.

      Delete
    3. "Your constant use of term "IDiots" makes you look arrogant, stupid and bigoted."

      I agree to an extent. What would you suggest as a polite way Larry might make it clear he dismisses the bullshit you pedal? It would have to be a term that efficiently indicates to even a new reader - or someone reading a quote - the contempt Larry feels for your nonsense. It would have to be something that didn't give your gibberish posing as science even the veneer of respectability. It would have to be a term that actively worked against the religious fanatics' attempts to rebrand their most absurd stories as 'science'.



      Delete
    4. Jem: "What would you suggest as a polite way Larry might make it clear he dismisses the bullshit you pedal?"

      And that's the rub. Your anti-evolution arguments are dumber than the worst material at the bottom of the peer-reviewed literature.

      So how do we communicate that effectively? Any suggestions?

      Delete
    5. Diogenes: And that in the famous genus of tree frog Xenopus,

      A tree frog? I totally agree with everything else you said, but xenopuses practically never leave water.

      Delete
    6. Diogenes wrote:

      'And that's the rub. Your anti-evolution arguments are dumber than the worst material at the bottom of the peer-reviewed literature.
      So how do we communicate that effectively? Any suggestions?"

      One way of effective communication against anti-evolution arguments would be to provide scientific proof for macro-evolution rather than intimidation and name calling.

      Delete
    7. Jem wrote: "It would have to be a term that actively worked against the religious fanatics' attempts to rebrand their most absurd stories as 'science'.

      What should we call the most absurd stories about abiogenesis sold as science? How about fairy-tails? How should we call those who believe fairy-tails as science? Idiots sounds about right ;)

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    8. One way of effective communication against anti-evolution arguments would be to provide scientific proof for macro-evolution rather than intimidation and name calling.

      Well, since the evidence for macroevoution is overwhelming in its abundance, and you creationists continue to ignore it, name calling seems all that is left to offer.

      Delete
    9. "What should we call the most absurd stories about abiogenesis sold as science?"

      Scientifically testable?

      Delete
    10. "And that's the rub. Your anti-evolution arguments are dumber than the worst material at the bottom of the peer-reviewed literature."

      'Mainstream' Christianity (the sort that agrees Santa is white and thinks God agrees with Duck Dynasty guy but is smart enough not to say those things out loud) has made the smart move of swerving all their claims into ghost stories. Adam wasn't the first human being, he was the first with a soul. Life began because [snip] magic. Medical prayer because [snip] magic. They're not scientific claims, and they get their jollies nowadays by pretending that means they're masters of some super-secret-supra-scientific knowledge.

      The creationist need to mimic science just makes them bad scientists. The idea that if you breed a red flower and a white flower and get a pink flower is down to the flower being like a cuttlefish that's 'triggered' into becoming pink, when it could be red, white, blue or a crocodile ... it's science. Just very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad science.

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    11. LouiseG: How should we call those who believe fairy-tails as science?

      Such beliefs are absolutely non-scientific. Some fairies (especially Victorian ones) had butterfly wings, but there is no evidence whatsoever of fairies with tails!

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    12. "What should we call the most absurd stories about abiogenesis sold as science?"

      Scientifically testable?


      Not quite yet. Let's not jump the gun.

      +++
      Adam wasn't the first human being, he was the first with a soul.

      Not exactly. All living things have anima (ενεργια). If they did not, they would be unable to move (exhibit κινεσις) except in response to gravity, electromagnetism, etc. You may be thinking of "rational soul."
      +++
      Life began because [snip] magic.

      Doubtful. "Magic" is the employment of unknown ("occult") properties of matter. It is a form of pragmatic engineering, related to "science" (which is the transition from occult properties to manifest properties). Besides, there is never just one "because" (αιτια).

      They're not scientific claims

      Of course not. Scientific claims are not the only sort of claims. There is also humanism. The tragedy of creationism (sensu strictu) is the deep-seated need to regard their beliefs as a natural science.

      There is nothing "super-secret-supra-scientific" about humanism. It is simply the difference between "knowledge" (scientia), "understanding" (comprehensio) and "wisdom" (sapientia). Knowledge is that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting tomatoes in fruit salad.

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    13. Not exactly. All living things have anima (ενεργια). If they did not, they would be unable to move (exhibit κινεσις) except in response to gravity, electromagnetism, etc.

      It's ἐνέργεια, actually (if you show off your Classical education, make sure your Greek looks correct), but never mind... Do you believe in some kind of life force that is independent of known physical interactions -- electromagnetic, gravitational, etc. (whatever you mean by "etc." here)? I assume you mean mainly animals (plants don't move about much). Does the mystery force reside in their nervous systems?

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    14. Recall that motion (kinesis) is any reduction from potency to act. An apple moves from green to red (in the presence of sunlight). A plant grows and develops, turns toward the light, drives roots into the soil, etc. Plenty of motion; just not as much local motion as most animals.

      Do you believe in some kind of life force that is independent of known physical interactions -- electromagnetic, gravitational, etc. (whatever you mean by "etc." here)?

      I stated "in response to..." What do you mean by "independent of"? Throw a living being off the roof and a rock, and both will obey the laws of physics. Living things are also physical bodies. But they move/grow/change/develop from their own internal drivers, encoded in their DNA, rather than get chivvied about by external forces. A rock moves because it was struck by another rock and fell down a gravity gradient toward the attractor basin. My fingers move to strike the keys for this response without being struck by external forces. But this makes use of neural impulses, so is not "independent" of chemistry. What a weird notion.

      electromagnetic, gravitational, etc. (whatever you mean by "etc." here)?

      There are four all told, so far as we know. The etc. refers to nuclear (strong) force and the radiative (weak) force, which act over very short spaces.
      +++
      What "mystery force" are you referring to?

      Delete
    15. LuiseG wrote: "What should we call the most absurd stories about abiogenesis sold as science? "
      Which one are you thinking about in particular? Quote an actual scientist currently working on the origin of life, not some ID creotard strawman.

      Delete
    16. An apple moves from green to red (in the presence of sunlight)

      An apple changes from green to red. If you call any change in its chemical composition (such as the effects of chlorophyll degradation) "motion", then why isn't rock weathering "motion" too? Do rocks have animae?

      What "mystery force" are you referring to?

      Well, you tell me why you need the concept of "soul" (amina) as something that makes living critters move? How is it different from the flow of purely physical signals in response to external or internal stimuli? Does a robotic vaccum cleaner have an anima? It reacts to a range of stimuli, moves about, and has a purpose in its tiny mind.

      There are four all told, so far as we know. The etc. refers to nuclear (strong) force and the radiative (weak) force, which act over very short spaces.

      The strong and weak forces operate at subatomic ranges, so there's little chance macroscopic things could be affected by them directly, the way they are affected by gravity and electromagnetism.

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    17. To all those who think there are overwhelming numbers of examples of macro-evolution, I strongly recommend the free course on evolution at Duke. I always suspected that some of you needed to learn the basing truths. Now it is the time.
      https://www.coursera.org/course/geneticsevolution

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    18. An apple moves from green to red (in the presence of sunlight)

      An apple changes from green to red.


      And that is motion in the relevant sense of kinesis: an actualization of a potential. This was the meaning used by the folks who started the discussion and it seems strange to Late Moderns only because we have equivocated on the terms since then and insist on reading old arguments with new meanings.
      + + +
      If you call any change in its chemical composition (such as the effects of chlorophyll degradation) "motion", then why isn't rock weathering "motion" too?

      It is.

      Do rocks have animae?

      No. That is because their motions, like weathering, originate outside the rocks. Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA.

      tell me why you need the concept of "soul" (amina) as something that makes living critters move?

      The same reason you need "sphere" to talk intelligibly about bowling balls. Every thing is some thing. It must have some particular form, and anima is the form of a living thing. It doesn't make the critter move because making is the job of efficient causes. One of the reasons why Modern science ignores formal causes -- until a double helix smacks them in the face, or the Bohr-Sommerfield model of the atom -- is that they are not metrical and controllable and therefore do not lend themselves easily to the development of profitable new inventions. But even so, when a glass technologist tells us that glass shatters because of its amorphous structure, he is referring to a formal cause.

      + + +
      How is it different from the flow of purely physical signals in response to external or internal stimuli?

      What flow? What stimuli? What response? You realize that by such terms you are already assuming a living thing. IOW, you are assuming a being already in motion. How is a blueprint different from bending tin?

      Does a robotic vaccum cleaner have an anima? It reacts to a range of stimuli, moves about, and has a purpose in its tiny mind.

      No, because it is an artifact. You are making the same error Behe makes when he compares the clotting cascade to a mousetrap. The parts of a mousetrap have no intrinsic tendency to come together. Neither does a vacuum cleaner.

      The strong and weak forces operate at subatomic ranges, so there's little chance macroscopic things could be affected by them directly, the way they are affected by gravity and electromagnetism.

      That's why they were "etc." However, radiation does seem to have a potential impact on living things, and it certainly contributes to the motion of uranium toward actually being lead. Sorry, but I grew up in math and physics.

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    19. Let's imagine that you join a course entitled "Introduction to Atomic Physics". It concentrates on nucleons and electrons, with emphasis on electron configuration and molecular orbital theory. It briefly mentions beta decay (without discussing weak interactions as such), and the word "quark" is not used even once. Does it mean that there is no overwhelming evidence of the internal composition of protons and neutrons? No, it only means that if you wanted to learn about such stuff, you should have taken a different course.

      The course at Duke is about MICROEVOLUTION. Not because there is no evidence od macroevolution, but because the course has a restricted scope for practical reasons. They say so explicitly on their page, in the FAQ section, you fool.

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    20. No. That is because their motions, like weathering, originate outside the rocks.

      There are plenty of things that happen to rocks and minerals largely for internal reasons, like metamorphic processes. Since you are so well versed in physics, you surely know that unstable particles decay spontaneously without any external influence. Does a free neutron have an anima?

      Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA.

      DNA does not encode for any "principles of motion". Proteins and RNAs are molecules, not principles. We are capable of "motions" because we feed on flows of chemical energy: we must eat, drink and breathe to sustain the metabolic reactions that allow us to move and to think. How long will you perform your motions without things "originating outside of you", like food, water and oxygen? Without breathing, I'll give you a few minutes, and the motions will be unpleasant to watch.

      [Does a robotic vaccum cleaner have an anima? It reacts to a range of stimuli, moves about, and has a purpose in its tiny mind.]

      No, because it is an artifact. You are making the same error Behe makes when he compares the clotting cascade to a mousetrap. The parts of a mousetrap have no intrinsic tendency to come together. Neither does a vacuum cleaner.


      I'm not claiming that an Electrolux Trilobite is a living being. My claim is that it processes information like an animal. It perceives and analyses stimuli (including its own internal states, e.g. the fact that its battery is running low), and it acts accordingly. You haven't said before that an artifact can't have a soul, or that in order to have a soul an object also has to have "an intrinsic tendency" to self-assemble. You are moving the goalposts now.

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    21. No. That is because their motions, like weathering, originate outside the rocks.

      Piotr Gąsiorowski: There are plenty of things that happen to rocks and minerals largely for internal reasons, like metamorphic processes.


      Personally, I think the high temperatures and pressures do not originate in the protolith itself but are imposed upon it by continental collision, intrusion of magma, or simply the gravitational pressures of the earth itself. The protolith does not metamorphize itself.

      Piotr Gąsiorowski: unstable particles decay spontaneously without any external influence. Does a free neutron have an anima?

      All sorts of things come into being and pass out of being without being alive. Right now spontaneous decay is simply a matter of mathematical models. Whether the vacuum energy plays the role of mover or not will require new science.

      Piotr Gąsiorowski:
      DNA does not encode for any "principles of motion". Proteins and RNAs are molecules, not principles.


      principle. principium (Lat.) "a beginning, commencement, origin, first part."
      protein. proteios (Gr.) "the first quality."
      Technically, DNA builds proteins; but all motion, incl. "self assembly" or morphogenesis, is implict to the genome.

      Piotr Gąsiorowski:
      We are capable of "motions" because we [feed on flows of chemical energy: we must eat, drink and breathe to sustain the metabolic reactions that allow us to move and to think].


      You respond "We are capable of "motions" because we [have motions like feeding eating, drinking, breathing, sustaining metabolism, thinking]. This has a whiff of circularity to it.

      Piotr Gąsiorowski:
      How long will you perform your motions without things "originating outside of you", like food, water and oxygen?


      It's easier in Latin, which possesses an instrumental case in its nouns, but you seem to be confusing the principle of motion with resources needed to perform that motion. Food does not come to you and crawl down your throat. Oxygen does not force itself into your lungs. To put it another way: you don't breathe because air does goes in and out of your lungs; rather, air does goes in and out of your lungs because you breathe.

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    22. Right now spontaneous decay is simply a matter of mathematical models. Whether the vacuum energy plays the role of mover or not will require new science.

      New science will refer to antiquated Aristotelian notions like "the mover"? Do you really think this lingo means anything in terms of modern physics? Anyway, whatever happens to the components of a free neutron (quarks, gluon fields), is its purely internal affair. Random fluctuations of quantum vacuum within the neutron do not count as external influence. Fundamental particles are not tiny balls of matter added to and separate from quantum fields.

      Delete
  19. "Scientifically testable?"
    'Not quite yet. Let's not jump the gun.'

    You misunderstand what 'scientifically testable' means. It's scientifically testable that there's currently intelligent life on only seven planets in the universe. It is not possible for us to prove it was true, ever. It would be possible to prove it false relatively easily just by finding life on an eighth planet. But, in theory, it's scientifically testable.

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  20. "Adam wasn't the first human being, he was the first with a soul."
    'Not exactly.'

    The 'spiritual soul', then. Whatever. According to your stories, man has a unique type of soul. I've no interest in getting bogged down in any 'is Santa white?' bullshit like this. Current Catholic doctrine is - as of time of time of writing - that Adam was the first caveman to be ensoulled, not the first caveman. Correct. Sorry, I should have phrases that as a question: I'm correct, aren't I?

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    1. According to your stories, man has a unique type of soul.

      Actually, it goes back at least to Aristotle, who belonged to a different story-telling tradition; but lots of people all over the world noticed that man had systems of philosophy, mathematics, speculative science, art, and the like while horses, kangaroos, and peccaries did not.

      However, this does not necessarily make our biological species unique, since it is entirely possible that such creatures exist on seven other planets in the galaxy.

      + + +
      Current Catholic doctrine is - as of time of time of writing - that Adam was the first caveman to be ensoulled, not the first caveman. Correct?

      "Ensouled" is not a good word, since it seems to treat the soul as kind of substance added to the human substance. Doctrine is that anima ("soul") is the substantial form of a human being, analogous to the double helix being the form of the DNA molecule. Doctrine is that all humans today share a common descent from a single man.

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    2. Doctrine is that all humans today share a common descent from a single man.

      Are you aware that women also exist? What about "a single woman" as well? But then maybe she was made from a male rib.

      I don't think there is evidence that all human beings share a common descent from a single man. The ancestral lineages of Y chromosomes in modern males (or at any rate their non-recombining portions) do coalesce in a single male individual in a distant past, but that anonymous bloke (let's call him Jack) was just one among our numerous male ancestors, and our autosomal DNA has a much more varied ancestry. I hope you do not suggest that Jack was the first human with a special kind of soul, and that this unique property is somehow associated with the Y chromosome. If it were, women would not have no souls.

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    3. '"Ensouled" is not a good word, since it seems to treat the soul as kind of substance added to the human substance.'

      Catholic doctrine has changed, of course. Until recently it conformed with Aquinas, who held:

      "For, since the soul is united to the body as its form, it is united to the body as its proper act. Now the soul ‘is the act of an organic body’ (Aristotle, II De Anima, 412b, 5-6) Therefore, the soul does not exist in the semen in act [as opposed to in potency or virtually] before the organization of the body."

      'ensoulment' is not some scientific term, of course. It's the witch doctors of the Vatican who came up with it.

      Delete
    4. "Doctrine is that all humans today share a common descent from a single man."

      Obviously the catechism changes, but the wording of the current one (which dates all the way back to the ancient days of September 1997 - the same month as the Spice Girls' first album) is:

      'The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original "state of holiness and justice".'

      It clearly - as far as gobbledygook goes - states that the common male ancestor and common female ancestor were contemporaries. So, again, scientifically testable hypothesis. It's clearly false if we're talking literally about homo sapiens.


      Delete
    5. "For, since the soul is united to the body as its form, it is united to the body as its proper act.

      I don't think this means what you want it to mean. Try this:
      "For, since the sphere is united to the basketballas its form, it is united to the basketballact-ually.

      "For, since the double helix is united to the DNA moleculeas its form, it is united to the DNAas its proper act.

      You oughtn't think of it as one substance united to another, but rather as an intrinsic part of the thing itself. Chastek once wrote that "If triangles were alive, three-sidedness would be its soul."

      Now the soul ‘is the act of an organic body’ (Aristotle, II De Anima, 412b, 5-6)

      IOW, it is what makes it an actual organic body as opposed to a corpse or carcass, which is in practial terms a bag of chemicals

      Delete
    6. "You oughtn't think of it as one substance united to another, but rather as an intrinsic part of the thing itself."

      The disadvantage of your arguments being old is that it's child's play to remember the countermove. The flaws in this nonsense were evident for thousands of years before Jesus was a glint in the milkman's eye.

      Oh, great sage, did Aquinas believe to soul to be there from the moment of conception? I am an ignoramus and know nothing of these matters in which you are so wise. If it helps, look at the bit of the quote from my last post that you missed off, where he explicitly says 'no'.


      Delete
    7. I've composed the next three responses to you by the way. I know your moves. Checkmate in three. Try to surprise me. Or run away. Don't actually care which.

      Delete
  21. "Besides, there is never just one "because""

    Agreed. Oops, there goes the Argument from First Cause. Wait, let me guess, there are no exceptions to the rule, God's the exception to the rule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Besides, there is never just one "because""

      Agreed. Oops, there goes the Argument from First Cause.


      The four aitia are: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause. The argument from the ordering of efficient causes leads to a primary efficient cause (not necessarily "first" in temporal order, since accidentally-ordered causes might form an infinitely long chain). For example, for evolution the material cause is the variety of differing individuals within a species capable of transmitting their differences; the formal cause is the tendency of an interbreeding population to reproduce itself in a stable manner; the efficient cause is what we call natural "selection"; and the final cause is what Darwin called the "struggle for existence": the the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in a changing environment (i.e., a feed-back mechanism which guides the selective process toward a new type which can exploit new environmental possibilities).
      +++
      Wait, let me guess, there are no exceptions to the rule, God's the exception to the rule.

      This is not the venue to explain your misunderstanding of Aristotle's arguments. No offense, but you sound like a creationist dismissing the theories of evolution without the slightest understanding of what those theories are.

      Delete
    2. "The four aitia are"

      I remember, don't worry - it's Tinky Winkly, Lala, .Dipsy and Po, isn't it?

      "This is not the venue to explain your misunderstanding of Aristotle's
      arguments."

      Ha. Of course it isn't. I'm guessing your secret arguments are *brilliant* ones.

      Delete
  22. "Knowledge is that tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting tomatoes in fruit salad."

    Religion is inferring that because it's not customary to put tomatoes in a fruit salad, gay people shouldn't get married.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is not a logical "because." Besides, "religion" was not the reason why the ancient Greeks did not regulate homosexual relations; nor the Babylonians, nor the...

      Delete
  23. "If you call any change in its chemical composition (such as the effects of chlorophyll degradation) "motion", then why isn't rock weathering "motion" too?"

    Analysis of standard theological argument strategies suggests that TheOFloinn will shortly switch from 'my argument is based on Aquinas, a great and wise man who you are arrogant to disagree with' to 'oh, I was just saying what Aquinas said, I don't believe that old fashioned nonsense myself'.




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "If you call any change in its chemical composition (such as the effects of chlorophyll degradation) "motion", then why isn't rock weathering "motion" too?"

      It is. So is the motion from uranium to lead, or from sodium and chlorine to salt, from acorn to oak.

      The distinction between living and non-living consists in whether the principle of the motion is contained withing the thing itself. Rocks have no DNA, no inner "blueprint" by which they actuate themselves. Behe's mousetrap, for example, consists of parts which must be brought together by forces outside the parts themselves, whereas the parts of an organism grow from the organism itself. Art may imitate life, but that does not mean life imitates art. A living thing is not an artifact. That is why Behe's argument is philosophically flawed long before it is a scientific question at all.

      Analysis of standard theological argument strategies suggests that TheOFloinn will shortly switch from 'my argument is based on Aquinas, a great and wise man who you are arrogant to disagree with' to 'oh, I was just saying what Aquinas said, I don't believe that old fashioned nonsense myself'.

      Actually, the standard theological arguments have stood for hundreds of years. But these are philosophical arguments, not theological ones. They predate Christianity.

      It is not so much arrogant of you to disagree with Aquinas' Aristotelian arguments as it is ignorant. You don't know what the arguments are and so your statements do not rise to the level of a disagreement.

      Delete
    2. "It is not so much arrogant of you to disagree with Aquinas' Aristotelian arguments as it is ignorant."

      I'm formally trained in them, and I'd be happy to kick you around the park if you'd like that.

      Delete
    3. The distinction between living and non-living consists in whether the principle of the motion is contained withing the thing itself.

      Then uranium must be alive, since the decay chains that eventually transform it into lead depend on "principles of motion" entirely contained within its atoms.

      Delete
    4. Am I the only one that thinks that if you gave Robert Byers a spell checker, a thesaurus and a course in remedial English he would sound a lot like TheOFloinn ?

      And it is heartening to know that if LouiseG actually strains Larry's incredible patience past the breaking point, Randy Stimpson is willing to step in and pinch hit as the local raving IDiot creotard.

      Way to go Randy and TheOFloinn for being willing to take a hit for the team.

      Delete
    5. "Then uranium must be alive, since the decay chains that eventually transform it into lead depend on "principles of motion" entirely contained within its atoms.'

      I don't see any way in which the Sun isn't alive by TheOFloinn's definition.

      Delete
    6. I don't see any way in which the Sun isn't alive by TheOFloinn's definition

      By that definition, it's much more alive than any organism, including TheOFloinn. Unlike actual living things, stars do not depend in their "motions" on anything external. Moreover, they self-assemble from molecular clouds, and have some pretty complex features produced by purely internal processes such as convection.

      Delete
    7. steve oberski:
      Way to go Randy and TheOFloinn for being willing to take a hit for the team.


      I don't know what you're talking about. What team is that? I was simply concerned that folks seem willing to throw out the rational baby with the creationist bathwater.

      Delete
    8. "A living thing is not an artifact."

      How about genetically engineered corn? Or specially bred decorative plants? Birds and fish bred to make them more attractive?

      What you're attempting to do is a cargo cult bit of thinking. You've half-read something about how information is encoded in DNA and bolted that onto your pre-existing superstition about the existence of teleology in biology and ended up with an entirely made up sort of mutant hybrid DNA-as-God's-secret-instructions-to-tell-atoms-to-meet-up-and-become-a-particular-giraffe. You're basically applying ancient astronaut theory - saying that Aquinas somehow knew about DNA, even though what he describes isn't actually anything like DNA.

      It's not just that evolution doesn't need God to account for the biological diversity we see, it's that the process, as understood by scientists, rules out the idea of 'ultimate goals'. 'Evolution, but guided by God' is not evolution, it's just creationism. Your 'creationists' tend to be the sort of people regularly outwitted by barnyard animals. The 'guided evolution' crowd tend to be slightly smarter, but they believe in the same thing, and that thing isn't evolution as modern science understands it.

      We can rule out this particular God with a straightforward pincer movement. From the point of view of science, God doesn't need to be part of this equation. There are no gaps that God could usefully fill. It's fully accounted for.

      From the point of view of superstition, (a) evolution is pretty much the opposite of what's described in the Bible, and the idea the Biblical account is a metaphor is ridiculous. 'Metaphor' does not mean 'almost literally the exact opposite of'; (b) and this is the killer one ... sure, DNA is a great way to have *something* evolve on Earth, but it's, again, almost the exact opposite way an engineer would use if they were trying to end up with a specific result, which is what Christianity teaches God did.

      If you generate a ten digit number, there's a reasonable chance it'll be someone's US phone number (your odds are a lot higher if the first digit isn't a 0 or a 1). Randomly generate ten numbers, dial them, there's a better than even chance the phone will ring.

      If you do that hoping to call *my* number, you'd be insane to randomly dial ten numbers. I have a phone number, it exists, but it's literally a billion to one that you'd dial it on your first attempt.

      So, once again, you'll have to resort to magic. 'God knew a random process would produce this exact result'. God was dialing those numbers at random, but knew he'd get the right phone number. It's a ludicrous attempt to reconcile a silly story with observed facts. There's nothing to reconcile. One's wrong.

      There's no actual way to prove that what we see isn't some faked up work of a capricious, deceptive superbeing. It's can fool us if it is, and that's good enough. As Aquinas himself noted. But the God in your storybooks - the Old Testament, Summa Theologica, the Catechism - is said to be honest. So if there's a God, it's not the one from your stories.

      Delete
    9. "A living thing is not an artifact."

      Jem: How about genetically engineered corn? Or specially bred decorative plants? Birds and fish bred to make them more attractive?

      Careful, or Jem will accuse you of playing word games. Are you really trying to convince me that Behe was right when he compared the blood clotting cascade to a moustrap?

      Jem: What you're attempting to do is a cargo cult bit of thinking. You've half-read something about how information is encoded in DNA and bolted that onto your pre-existing superstition about the existence of teleology in biology and ended up with an entirely made up sort of mutant hybrid DNA-as-God's-secret-instructions-to-tell-atoms-to-meet-up-and-become-a-particular-giraffe.

      I'm pretty sure a fertilized giraffe egg does in fact become a giraffe.

      It also appears that you do not understand what telos is.

      Jem: You're basically applying ancient astronaut theory - saying that Aquinas somehow knew about DNA, even though what he describes isn't actually anything like DNA.

      Show with empirical facts -- not your personal leap of faith -- that I ever said that.

      Jem: It's not just that evolution doesn't need God to account for the biological diversity we see, it's that the process, as understood by scientists, rules out the idea of 'ultimate goals'.

      Actually, it does not rule that out. That was an a priori metaphysical choice made by 19th century mechanists. At roughly the same time, the physicists (hard scientists) were discovering that the world was a great deal stranger than 19th century machines. No science can derive as a conclusion something that was previously set as an axiom. The use of final causes -- one is unsure what you mean by "ultimate goals" -- was dropped by Bacon and Descartes on pragmatic grounds. I'm not so sure why it would be surprising that auto mechanics does not need Darwin, or that haute cuisine does not need a sledge hammer. It all depends on what you are trying to do. As Albertus Magnus put it: “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”

      Jem: 'Evolution, but guided by God' is not evolution, it's just creationism

      It's more than that. Evolution and creation are not even the same kind of thing. There is no more intersection between them than between creation and distillation.

      Delete
    10. "I'm pretty sure a fertilized giraffe egg does in fact become a giraffe."

      Learn to read, read what I actually wrote, respond accordingly. It shouldn't be hard. The overreach of the Christian belief system is not that giraffes give birth to giraffes, it's that each individual birth is the precisely executed enactment of a specific plan.

      "It also appears that you do not understand what telos is."

      Sigh.

      You believe God has a plan, that evolution serves His purpose. Yes?

      "Show with empirical facts -- not your personal leap of faith -- that I ever said that."

      TheOFloinnFriday, January 03, 2014 6:33:00 PM - Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA.

      What do I win?

      "That was an a priori metaphysical choice made by 19th century mechanists".

      It is the conclusion they reached, having studied the process, yes. Evolution, as understood by a modern biologist, lacks the 'final cause' that Christianity says has to be there.

      "As Albertus Magnus put it"

      ... and that's you repeating yourself. As I say, there's nothing you've got to offer but tired, circular arguments. That quote is entirely devoid of any claim or other practical value. I'm not saying 'where are the miracles, then?', and have no interest in going down that rabbit hole. Perhaps you understand that you're on a losing streak and want to shift ground. Or perhaps this intellectual dishonesty come naturally to you. Stick to the subject, try to answer at least one of the questions. Thanks.

      Delete
    11. "It also appears that you do not understand what telos is."

      Jem: Sigh. You believe God has a plan, that evolution serves His purpose. Yes?

      But Aristotle did not. That alone should be a clue that there is something else going on with the concept of telos.

      +++
      Jem: You're basically applying ancient astronaut theory - saying that Aquinas somehow knew about DNA, even though what he describes isn't actually anything like DNA.

      Show with empirical facts -- not your personal leap of faith -- that I ever said that.

      Jem: TheOFloinnFriday, January 03, 2014 6:33:00 PM - Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA. What do I win?

      Nothing. The first part was a summary of what Aristotle said, not a quotation. The subordinate clause was my own amplification, noting the modern way of looking at it. Aquinas was not mentioned.

      +++
      "That was an a priori metaphysical choice made by 19th century mechanists".

      Jem: It is the conclusion they reached, having studied the process, yes. Evolution, as understood by a modern biologist, lacks the 'final cause' that Christianity says has to be there.

      That would be like carefully studying the events of Macbeth and finding no evidence of Shakespeare. No, it was not a conclusion, certainly not a scientific one. That is evident from the historical facts. It was an a priori assumption. There is no need to invoke God in explaning of a natural event.

      +++
      "As Albertus Magnus put it"

      Jem: As I say, there's nothing you've got to offer but tired, circular arguments.

      Albert was not offering an argument, let alone a circular one, but was simply making a statement. We would call it "methodological naturalism." It was the default assumption of the medieval natural philosophers. Heck, that was why Aquinas did not assume that the world had a beginning when he stated his famous "Five Ways." He knew of no way to prove that belief philosophically, so he did not incorporate it into the arguments.

      Delete
    12. "Jem: Sigh. You believe God has a plan, that evolution serves His purpose. Yes?
      TOF:But Aristotle did not. That alone should be a clue that there is something else going on with the concept of telos."

      I am profoundly aware that I'm debating you here, not Aristotle. Now, either you've finally got around to 'this isn't what I believe', as predicted, or we can keep debating what the Christian story requires of evolution. The Christian story requires that evolution serves God's specific ends. That it is a tool not to achieve broad aims (life will flourish in unknown forms), but pinpoint specific ones (as the plan unfolds, a specific set of people will be born who will fulfill the following roles).

      Do you believe God left evolution to its own devices and had no knowledge or interest in what evolved, he was just happy that there would be life of some kind? If it had remained single-celled, if it had stayed in the oceans, if vertebrates had never developed, if flight or intelligence or a sense of smell had never evolved, it would all be the same to him? The Virgin Mary or pond slime, he wouldn't mind?

      I square this circle very easily: there's no God involved in this process, so I don't need to second guess his intentions, or to back engineer 'the purpose' of evolution. But that's kind of the opposite of Christianity, isn't it?

      "Jem: TheOFloinnFriday, January 03, 2014 6:33:00 PM - Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA. What do I win?
      TOF:Nothing. The first part was a summary of what Aristotle said, not a quotation. The subordinate clause was my own amplification, noting the modern way of looking at it. Aquinas was not mentioned."

      Aquinas, as you yourself noted, based much of what he wrote on his understanding of Aristotle. So, before we go on, answer the following, by simply stating 'a' or 'b' are you (a) so stupid you don't see that or (b) willfully dishonest? I really can't tell, but it has to be one or the other. Single letter answer first, if you want to add something after that, please do. I'm predicting an attempt to wriggle out of a straight answer, possibly by starting '(c)', which would be suggestive that you're knowingly dishonest.

      The fact of the matter is that you did explicitly welded something Aquinas believed in to a bit of modern scientific terminology. You believe - or stated that you did - that the 'principle of motion' is 'encoded in DNA'. Where is it encoded? Which part of the genome? Did you or someone else write up a paper we can all read?

      Or, like an astrologer who mentions Neptune or Pluto, is it actually the case that, as I say, this is just a bit of John Frum nonsense, someone who doesn't understand the first thing about what DNA encoding is hearing something that sounds a little like it might match something in the grab bag of superstitious nonsense that he calls his belief system?

      "That would be like carefully studying the events of Macbeth and finding no evidence of Shakespeare."

      Again: lazy. Where did you get that from, Mark Shea's posts from a couple of weeks ago where he said exactly the same thing?

      http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/seven-billion-characters-in-search-of-an-author

      Are we 'all in a story, and God's the author'? Rubbish metaphor, for reasons that are obvious with a moment's thought. Mark Shea is not a cretin. He sure attracts them, though, and I do wonder if that's ever given him pause for thought. Wherever you got it from, it's a tired point. Why's it always Shakespeare, for one thing?

      Delete
    13. "no evidence of Shakespeare"

      Also, up until this point, what passes for your argument has been, I will quote you, 'A living thing is not an artifact'. A character in a play and the play itself are artifacts. This is where the Christian argument collapses into incoherence: its assertion that God made the unmade things.

      Once again, to claim the circle we observe is actually a square, you have to say that it's a sort of magic square which has all the measurements and characteristics of a circle.

      Delete
    14. No sign of TheOFloinn for three days. With Christians, I think the rule is that if they're dead more than three days, they're not coming back, isn't it?

      Delete
    15. Sorry, Jemster, I've been busy. I have a consulting gig on Failure Modes and Effects Analysis coming up, a novelette to finish, and a novel to unstick. Ack, and a presentation to work up. Merde!

      Jem:
      either you've finally got around to 'this isn't what I believe', as predicted, or we can keep debating what the Christian story requires of evolution.


      All I pointed out was that you had telos confused.

      Jem: That it is a tool not to achieve broad aims (life will flourish in unknown forms), but pinpoint specific ones (as the plan unfolds, a specific set of people will be born who will fulfill the following roles).

      Since a cause must be proportional to its effect, it would be nugatory to assign specific effects to a generic cause, like "evolution."

      Jem: Do you believe God left evolution to its own devices and had no knowledge or interest in what evolved...?

      Your question shows a confusion between creation on the one hand and evolution on the other. Why do you think God would be any more surprised by the passage of time than Shakespeare would be by the ending of Macbeth?

      Jem: back engineer 'the purpose' of evolution.

      There are three kinds of telos: a) termination (e.g., a chemical reaction reaches completion); b) perfection (e.g., an acorn grows into an oak); and c) intention (e.g., a lioness hunts a gazelle for food). The lioness may be said to have "purpose," but not the acorn or the chemical reaction.

      IMHO, the generic telos of "evolution" would be the "origin of species." That is, evolution overall works toward the production of new species. Someone should write a book about that. More specifically, natural selection works toward greater aptness of a species for its niche. This is called "ad-apt-ation". Then there is what Darwin called the "struggle for existence" by which an organism finding itself in altered circumstances will attempt to survive by trying this or that (and either failing or succeeding) and thus redefine what is a "beneficial" trait.

      Jem: [If] the 'principle of motion' is 'encoded in DNA'. where is it encoded? [In] which part of the genome?

      a) You are committing Russel's Paradox.
      b) In which component of the automobile is mobility encoded?
      +++
      "studying the events of Macbeth and finding no evidence of Shakespeare."

      Jem: Rubbish metaphor... Why's it always Shakespeare, for one thing?

      a) It's not a metaphor. It's an analogy.
      b) Shakespeare's the one author we can assume the general reader has heard about, and "Hamlet" or "Macbeth" are his best-known plays. If we were to say "search The Stone Guest for evidence of Pushkin" most American readers would say, "Hunh?"
      c) My other favorite example is discovering Frank Whittle by making measurements and tests on a jet engine.

      Jem: up until this point, what passes for your argument has been... 'A living thing is not an artifact'. A character in a play and the play itself are artifacts.

      What part of "analogy" escapes you? Knowledge generally proceeds from what is first and most familiar and proceeds to what is less familiar but more complete. Thus, we start by thinking of an electron as a particle or a wave and proceed to an understanding (via the slit experiment) that it is like both but is neither. It is perfectly legitimate to use a mechanical analogy, as long as we remember that it is only an analogy. Every author knows that moment when the characters "come alive" and start doing things on their own -- and that bad art results when you force a character artificially to do things contrary to their nature.

      Delete
    16. TheOFloinn,

      you have attempted to dodge Jem's point where he nailed you on your contradiction regarding living things not being artifacts. You made an analogy to Macbeth, but Shakespeare plays are artifacts. Thus you contradicted yourself. Your attempt to dodge this issue by bitching with comments such as:

      What part of "analogy" escapes you?

      This is a red herring, and does not address the substance of Jem's criticism.

      Delete
  24. "Am I the only one that thinks that if you gave Robert Byers a spell checker, a thesaurus and a course in remedial English he would sound a lot like TheOFloinn ?"

    Theology is like checkers - it's a solved game. All the moves are old and known. It depends entirely on the charity of people not pushing too hard and pretending that, somewhere, it's being played at a higher level. I thought TheOFloinn would play the 'it's not what I believe myself, I was just spelling out the argument' move, instead he played the 'the answer is brilliant, but you just wouldn't understand it' one. I didn't think he'd play the 'mainstream media and science and Obama are persecuting us' one, but Catholics are so desperate now they've started to.

    I studied theology, to see if there was anything in it, at all. I have spoken to theologians and philosophers, online and offline, friends and strangers. I read every book they recommended. Trust me, your instinct is right: it's nothing. It's a shell. Scratch its millimeter deep surface and there's the howling void Philip Pullman talked about. Believe in God depends on a leap of faith. Every theologian will concede that in five seconds flat, if they're honest. And once they've conceded that, they've conceded that all they're trying to do is play for the draw, not the win.

    The biggest irony of all is that they, like TheOFloinn did, will appeal to ancient wisdom. The objections atheism raises are the oldest surviving theological arguments, and a modern Catholic Archbishop can't answer them any better than some guy dressed in a bullskin dancing in a firelit cave could. They talk about 'New Atheism', but monotheism's a recent fad by comparison, and if history is any guide, our lot will be using the same arguments against religion when 'Jesus Christ' is, like Thor and Hercules, just a character in a kids' comic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jem: The flaws in this nonsense were evident for thousands of years before Jesus was a glint in the milkman's eye.

      That would also make it thousands of years before Aristotle and Plato. To whom was their nonsense evident? Zeno? Please don't tell me you buy into Achilles and the Tortoise! Or Babylonian mysticism!

      Jem: Oh, great sage, did Aquinas believe to soul to be there from the moment of conception?

      Sage? I made no such representation. Stop arguing with the little man inside your head. Aquinas was informed by the science of his age and would not in philosophy commit on a matter beyond the available evidence, supposed life began when discernable movement began, so-called "quickening." Theology, of course, advances and as science discovered that life began at conception, then logically there must be a form of life, and "soul" is the form of a living thing.

      Jem: I've composed the next three responses to you by the way. I know your moves. Checkmate in three.

      Not bad, considering you were wrong the last time you confidently predicted what the little man inside your head was going to so. I am curious why it is that people who purport to worship the intellect seem to use it so sparingly.

      Jem::
      I don't see any way in which the Sun isn't alive by TheOFloinn's definition.


      The Sun whirls around the galaxy under its own power??? Who knew.

      Jem:
      [TOF did not do what I predicted] instead he played the 'the answer is brilliant, but you just wouldn't understand it' one.


      Actually, it was the "you didn't understand it." That was evidenced by your own statements. I didn't say it was "brilliant," either. Try to stick to empirical facts.

      Jem:
      I didn't think he'd play the 'mainstream media and science and Obama are persecuting us' one,


      I didn't think I so, either. Where did I bring up Obama? If not, what was your purpose in bringing it up? Is it simply a dog whistle to signal your orthodox beliefs on political issues?

      Jem:
      Believe in God depends on a leap of faith.


      "Be-lief" is the intensifier of "lief" or "love." "Believe" is thus cognate with "belove." The term "faith" is the Latinate equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon "truth." They both mean "trust, reliance." An example of a literal leap of faith is the team-building exercise where one falls backward trusting in one's team-mates to catch him. If belief in your team requires a leap of faith, surely belief in Moran or Shapiro or anything else does so, too. You have to trust that they are speaking sooth -- unless you are in a position to replicate all the experiments yourself.

      Delete
    2. Yawn. Resorting to folk etymology and 'scientists depend on faith, too' and 'oh, Aquinas was a product of his time' in the same post. You really are a scoundrel.

      The first is just silly. Today's Saturday. From 'Saturn's Day'. Therefore we can agree that we all still worship Saturn. Or, alternatively, get bogged down in the origins of words instead of discussing the issue at point.

      The last ... after a dozen posts where we were being ignorant for not swallowing Aristotle whole, like Aquinas, suddenly all that ancient wisdom is just a bit of quaint old fashioned nonsense. It's flawless wisdom up until the point it disagrees with the answer you need, at which point it's dumped without ceremony.

      Yes. Science is, at heart, an exercise in creating trust. There are various formal ways in which scientists do that. No, that is not the process Aquinas talked about when he said 'to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.'

      Before you waffle on about 'fides' in Latin, please acknowledge that you understand that there's a difference between 'faith' and 'trust' in the modern English language. And that there's a difference between accepting the conclusions of a peer reviewed paper about an experiment that broke down a protein rather than repeating the experiment yourself, and 'I believe in the Holy Spirit'.

      Do you believe that we have a logical proof of God that allows us to accept God' existence without faith? If so: share it. Aquinas didn't believe such a proof could exist, so obviously we'll take it as read you won't be using any of his arguments. So, instead of 'you wouldn't understand' or giving us a lesson in etymology, or telling us that science is just as bad, please just lay out the logical proof of God that doesn't rely on faith. One good test of that is that it couldn't apply to a powerful being that's not God but is powerful enough to persuade any human being that it is.

      So, skip everything else: present us with that, please. Evidence of God that doesn't rely on faith.

      Meanwhile ... I'm not a scientist. I hear that proteins apparently have something called 'peptide bonds'. I have no particular reason to believe this. Can any scientist here offer me evidence that proteins contain peptide bonds?

      Delete
    3. Resorting to folk etymology...

      Protein was inspired by Greek πρώτειος 'of the first quality' (it's an adjective, TOF, not a noun), and Lat. principium means 'commencenment, origin', therefore it's legitimate to associate proteins with principles per etymologiam. What if we call them polypeptides instead? Ah well, there are bases in DNA, and Greek βάσις may mean 'motion', so I suppose internal motion is implicit in DNA anyway. Is TOF taking us back in time to the ages when word games were regarded as valid arguments?

      Delete
  25. "The Sun whirls around the galaxy under its own power??? Who knew."

    So the Sun's not alive because the principle of this motion is not contained within itself?

    Oh, let's just save time. You have to say 'yes' to that. You're saying the Sun does not contain the principle of its own motion.

    You are also saying that as we're alive, we contain the principle of our own motion.

    We're on a planet orbiting the Sun, we are therefore 'whirling through the galaxy' at, by definition, the same course and speed.

    So for you to be right, the Sun is 'whirling through the galaxy' under the influence of another force, but we're doing it under our own steam.

    Your argument is absurd, and it's absurd because it's based on an ancient scientific view. It probably made more sense when the universe was thought of as relatively small and with Earth fixed in its center. What's interesting, of course, is that you were happy to throw Aquinas' reading of Aristotle under the bus as merely being based on 'the science of the day' when it disagreed with you on the development of souls. But you've doubled down on it when it's talking about measurable, actual things like thermodynamics.

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  27. I just wanted to know the percentages with the most recent science information on how our 'junk DNA' is divided?

    % epigenome
    %biochemisty activty?
    %repetitous
    %conserved?
    %dead genes
    %dead viruses

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    1. 0% epigenome, as the epigenome isn't part of the genome, by definition
      unclear% biochemistry activity, as the meaning of that is ambiguous
      0% conserved, as conserved sequences aren't junk by definition

      The other three categories do make up much of human junk DNA. I don't have a recent number, but the pseudogenes may take up around 5% of the genome. Much depends on how you count retroelements. Are broken retroelements pseudogenes? Should SINEs be considered "broken"? If so, we may go up to 50%. ERVs and chunks thereof are about 8%. Repetitive DNA other than retroelements makes up around 3%. Retroelements can be counted both as repetitive DNA and (a majority of them) as pseudogenes, but they make up close to 50% altogether.

      Delete
    2. So why does Wikipedia- and I know it is not the best source for info- say there are conserved genes of close to millions of year ago and many uncoded genes for biochemistry activity and on another site it said 19 % is dpi-genome.

      I'm confused on this issue.

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    3. Your source says that there seem to be "some regions of noncoding DNA that are highly conserved, sometimes on time-scales representing hundreds of millions of years, implying that these noncoding regions are under strong evolutionary pressure and positive selection". If they are indeed under positive selection, they are not junk. Your confusion possibly results from a common error -- equating "noncoding" with "junk".

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  28. Yes, that could very well be since I know very little about this, but I want to understand this more...so if you or someone who knows about this area can explain this? What does conserved actually mean to a layman's understanding?

    And so what of our genome is coding? non coding? junk? and are there overlaps?

    Junk being dead viruses, genes, and repetitive genes....

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  29. Is it correct to say our coding genes are 2% of our genome and our non coding is 97%
    And out of this non coding 97%, 50% is junk (repetitive/dead genes and viruses) and the other 48.5% is what?

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    1. These figures remain approximately valid:
      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2011/05/whats-in-your-genome.html

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    2. ""junk DNA"is not equivalent to repeats. Repeats are mostly (but not even completely) a subset of junk DNA. There has been a lot of exaptation of repeats into functional elements (note that "a lot of exaptation of repeats" means exaptation of a small minority of them).

      Also, the genome can expand by means other than the insertion of large pieces of DNA.

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    3. There is no precise estimate for the percentage of junk DNA, but a good case can be made that it's around 90%. That is, 2-3% protein-coding DNA and structural RNAs, 7% or so non-coding, regulatory DNA, and the rest useless crap. I would count functioning retroelements among this crap, as they have no function from the cell's or body's perspective. A tiny proportion of what was once junk DNA, not enough to be worth a percentage, has acquired a function in the same way any mutation can.

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  30. "Since a cause must be proportional to its effect,"

    Not according to Aquinas, but go on.

    "it would be nugatory to assign specific effects to a generic cause, like "evolution.""

    You're tripping over your own argument here.

    There are two possible theistic models:

    1. God, to simplify a little, 'just created evolution'. His role was to will there to be the process of evolution, he set that ball rolling but has let that ball just roll wherever it rolls ever since.

    2. God's steering that ball, or has steered the ball from time to time, or knows where the ball is heading and is happy with it.

    The second is just a fancy form of creationism, and we can dismiss it. The first is more interesting, because it's what modern Christian theology says happened, but it completely negates modern Christian theology. It's saying 'God's a really good bowler and that ball will end up where he wants it to', but misses the fundamental point: there's no 'end point' to evolution, any more than there is to 'erosion'. You seem to have conceded this without understanding the implications.

    As a way of creating 'any complex organisms', a self-replicating molecule that retains selective advantages over billions of years would be a great engineering solution. Extremely efficient, and - barring accidents that wiped out the entire stock - requiring no further intervention.

    But if - as Christianity states - God wanted to achieve *specific* results, it's a terrible solution. If (1) holds, and 'evolution' means what modern science says it does (that it's a blind process), then it's such an astonishingly bad method for achieving specific aims that no rational being would use it. As I say, it's the difference between dialing a random ten digit number to get *any* phone to ring compared with dialing a random number to get a *specific* phone to ring.

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    1. "Your question shows a confusion between creation on the one hand and evolution on the other. Why do you think God would be any more surprised by the passage of time than Shakespeare would be by the ending of Macbeth?"

      ... as I say, the confusion's yours. You want the history of the universe to be Macbeth, a specific play, but you also want God to have written Macbeth by throwing alphabetty spaghetti against a wall and waiting for it to slide into the right configuration.

      In stories about him, the Christian God is talented enough to have written Macbeth, but he's also not so stupid as to choose to write the specific play Macbeth by creating the alphabet and letting letters swirl around and waiting until the conjunction that matches Macbeth.

      'IMHO, the generic telos of "evolution" would be the "origin of species." That is, evolution overall works toward the production of new species.'

      Yes. And that's absolutely your fundamental error. Evolution does not 'work towards' a goal, except by anthromorphic analogy. Lightning does not 'seek out' tall buildings to strike. It contains no awareness, no consciousness, no purpose. When conditions are right, lightning will hit that tall building with more frequency and precision than the most precisely guided human machine could manage. Yes, there is a figure of speech by which 'giraffes evolved long necks to reach the tall branches' but it's utterly wrong to take that to mean that there was anything with a sense of purpose - *anywhere* from the genetic level to the empyrean - that set out to achieve that as a goal. Not under any model of evolutionary biology as understood by modern science.

      You have to pick. 'Evolution as understood by modern science' *or* 'evolution with a sense of purpose'.

      What you seem to be arguing is that modern science made a wrong turn at some point. Fine. Then you concede the point: modern understanding of genetics is fundamentally atheistic.

      It then becomes a matter of working out if the modern understanding of genetics is correct. And at that point it becomes a purely scientific question, not a theological one. To cut a long story short, while science is an ongoing and probably necessarily incomplete process, subject to refinement and challenge, modern evolutionary biology can offer a full and convincing account of what's observed. Or, to simplify: 'it's true'.

      Delete
    2. "In which component of the automobile is mobility encoded?"

      Exactly. It's a nonsensical question. *You* are the one who said (direct quote) 'animate things contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA'. You are making a claim using modern scientific terminology, but about a medieval (and earlier) concept. It's a category error. Your error, not mine. If I'm wrong, answer the question: where is the 'principle of their own motions' encoded in the DNA of an organism? Again, *you* are the one that said it was, not me. It's nonsense. It's what you said. You said something nonsensical. You are now asking me an incredulous rhetorical question that's mocking *your* position.

      "What part of "analogy" escapes you?"

      I understand what an analogy is. My objection is that your analogy is a shitty one, because it takes something artificial as a stand in for something that you say isn't artificial, then appeals to the skills of the artisan. You're saying 'the world isn't a song, it has a very skilled composer who came up with a brilliant tune'.

      Flapping around for a way to explain the difference between a machine and a living thing, your argument up until this point has been that 'nature' is *not* artificial. The 'all the world's a stage' metaphor, or analogy, or *whatever* depends on there *not* being that distinction, in there being a skilled playwright. As you dart from one well-rehearsed bullet point on your list to another, in an increasingly desperate attempt to not admit defeat - or possibly a lack of comprehension of that point - you've flipped 180 degrees on this one.

      You are now saying the opposite of what you were saying before. Now that you've had that brought to your attention, does that not concern you?

      What you have, I'm afraid, is a list of standard responses that you're working down. It's an incoherent list, though, taken as a whole. As I say, theology only works if you don't push the point too long. It collapses under its own self-contradictions three or four questions in. You're demonstrating this perfectly. Standard tactic at this point is to tell me I just don't get it, or to start throwing words like 'nugatory' around in the hopes people think you're smart because you've got a Websters. No, you're wrong, your arguments are rubbish, you literally have this entirely the wrong way round. The world's not a poor analogy for the Bible that got a few things muddled, the Bible story is just a book written by rather muddled men.

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    3. Jem: Evolution does not 'work towards' a goal, except by anthromorphic analogy.

      But then it is not an explanation of the origin of species.

      Jem: Lightning does not 'seek out' tall buildings to strike. It contains no awareness, no consciousness, no purpose.

      Of course not. Only animate beings contain the principle of their own motions, although elsewhere you objected to this. And only some of these have consciousness. "Purpose" is only one kind of telos. There are others.

      Jem: there's no 'end point' to evolution, any more than there is to 'erosion'.

      But an "endpoint" or "terminus" is only one kind of telos. There are others.

      (It's been observed that the evolution of a species follows a logistic curve, with a period of rapid change followed by a steady state that lasts as long as the niche remains constant. That is, once the species is "fit" for its niche, there is little reproductive "pressure" and we get the observed fossil record of long runs of unchanging fossils.)

      Erosion is a phase in the rock cycle. Cyclic behavior is a kind of Aristotelian "rest" (i.e., "equilibrium"). A Belusov reaction is in a state of rest; a planet in a stable orbit is in a state of rest. Generally, any thing in a dynamic system governed by a potential function tends toward an attractor basin. Some attractor basins in physics are called "strange attractors." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractor)

      "Erosion," of course, is not a "thing," but a relationship between things. The rock is the thing. It is being eroded.

      Consider the rock or water cycles. Specific objects and processes within each cycle operate or function in the occurrence of other objects and processes. (E.g., in the water cycle, condensation causes precipitation; precipitation brings about later evaporation, etc.) Geologists or hydrologists sat things like, ‘How does evaporation function in the water cycle?’ ‘It does such-and-such.’ ‘What role does sedimentation play in the rock cycle?’ ‘It functions in such-and-such a way.’

      And function talk is telos talk.
      + + +

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    4. Jem: As a way of creating 'any complex organisms', a self-replicating molecule that retains selective advantages over billions of years would be a great engineering solution.

      The boldface is the teleological portion of your statement.

      Jem: 'evolution' means what modern science says it does (that it's a blind process)

      But modern science cannot say that, since "that X is a blind process" is not itself a scientific statement. Physics does not use different forces or different equations to describe a thrown baseball versus a falling rock. No analysis of the forces will tell you that they are "blind."

      Jem: You want the history of the universe to be Macbeth, a specific play,

      Nah. It could have been "The Stone Guest" or "The Playboy of the Western World." The precise play macht nichts. It was an illustration of a point, not a declaration on the history of the world.

      Jem: but you also want God to have written Macbeth by throwing alphabetty spaghetti against a wall and waiting for it to slide into the right configuration.

      The decision that the underlying process of evolution are random was an a priori metaphysical choice by 19th century folks impressed by the physicists' mojo in thermodynamics. But it's not entirely clear whether physics and chemistry might not place constraints and boundary values.

      Besides, as I have been assured elsewhere by your confreres, natural selection gives direction to evolution; so it's not at all like throwing AlphaBits against a wall. And see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnsley_fern for an example how random inputs can generate determined outputs.

      Delete
    5. Jem: *You* are the one who said (direct quote) 'animate things contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA'.

      Ah! I now grasp the nature of your confusion. You are being overly literal. I can only repeat what I have said: the "motions" (kinesis) of living beings originate within themselves. A cue ball needs an external cue stick to get moving (transient cause). But a fertized egg contains all its instructions for its own motions (e.g., growth & development) within itself (immanent cause), and these instructions are "encoded" in the DNA. What part of this is unclear? Do cue balls have something analogous to DNA that enables them to move on their own? But you have already denied this as it pertains to lightning. By denying this distinction (essentially, denying Newton's first law) you make the same error as Behe and other IDers and play into their hands.

      Jem: to explain the difference between a machine and a living thing, your argument up until this point has been that 'nature' is *not* artificial.

      No. It was that animate beings were moved by immanent causes while inanimate beings are moved by transient causes: i.e., those originating outside themselves. (This is not a dichotomy. Animate beings are also subject to transient causes: you can throw a cat from the roof and it will be subject to gravity, same as a rock.) I said that "art imitates life, but life need not imitate art" as a way of discounting Behe's analogy of the blood-clotting cascade to a mousetrap. If you want to argue that the IDers are correct on this, feel free; but it seems an odd position for you to take.

      Jem: My objection is that your analogy ... takes something artificial as a stand in for something that you say isn't artificial, then appeals to the skills of the artisan.

      a) I made no appeal to the skills of an artisan. I said you could not discover Shakespeare by studying the contents of "Macbeth."

      b) I thought you said you understood analogy. Your objection is like objecting to Behe's mousetrap on the basis that the blood cascade is not made of wood and metal. The real objection is that the relationship between parts and whole is utterly different, and that was the point of his analogy.

      Jem: start throwing words like 'nugatory' around in the hopes people think you're smart because you've got a Websters.

      ??? Maybe I went to school in an earlier age.

      Jem: The world's not a poor analogy for the Bible that got a few things muddled, the Bible story is just a book written by rather muddled men.

      What has the Bible got to do with it?

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    6. “But then it is not an explanation of the origin of species.”
      By understanding the process of evolution, we can fully account for the living organisms we see on the Earth, past and present. Are you just about to play the ‘it explains the how, but not the why’ card? Is that really how deep into the barrel you are at this point? Go on, feign ignorance. Stick to what you’re good at.
      “Of course not. Only animate beings contain the principle of their own motions, although elsewhere you objected to this.”
      Again, learn to read. I objected to you saying the Sun doesn’t contain the ‘principle of its own motions’ because its movement through the galaxy is a result of it being under the influence of other forces, but that we – on a planet dragged along by the Sun – do contain that principle. Modern science understands that we don’t live in the simplistic chain-and-pulley-and-levers universe the classical philosophers imagined. Three thousand year old theories about why frogs move but rocks were great for their time, but we’ve moved on.

      ‘"Erosion," of course, is not a "thing," but a relationship between things. The rock is the thing. It is being eroded.’
      OK. For your point to make any sense here, that means that you don’t think evolution is a process, it’s a ‘thing’ in its own right which exists without any relationship to other things. Please explain. Or save time and admit you’re wrong.

      “Jem: As a way of creating 'any complex organisms', a self-replicating molecule that retains selective advantages over billions of years would be a great engineering solution.
      The boldface is the teleological portion of your statement.”
      My statement describes the theist position I don’t hold, as I made very clear. In this (I believe fictional) scenario God, or any sufficiently advanced being, deliberately engineered DNA – or the forerunners of DNA, some kind of self-replicating molecules. In this story, that fictional being would have done so for a reason. And we might infer – from the results – that the reason was ‘to create the conditions for life’. It’s a neat solution … if he just wanted to create ‘life’ and he wasn’t worried about what type of life *and* if he allowed billions of years for the process to work.
      That is absolutely the *opposite* of all Christian teaching on the subject. Leave aside the timescales for a moment – I mean, that’s kind of the killer blow, as the YECs understand – the Christian teaching is that God *had a purpose* for life, and willed *specific results*. For that matter, hyperspecific results – he’s not trying to create ‘life’ in whatever form happens to develop, he is enacting a plan that will see *named individuals* emerge *at exact moments in history*.
      Yes, the Christian position is a teleological one, imbued with OCD levels of control freakishness and underwritten by a universal sense of purpose. Here’s the point: THAT. IS. NOT. EVOLUTION. If we’re telling stories about God, and his ‘reasoning’, then anyone who understands what modern scientists understand evolution to be has to concede that it’s simply not the right tool for the job.
      “The decision that the underlying process of evolution are random was an a priori metaphysical choice by 19th century folks”
      Yes. Modern scientists have made that determination. If you are saying evolution is not random, you are flying in the face of the model scientists have used for almost a hundred and fifty years now. Correct. That is precisely what I’m saying. ‘Modern scientific understanding of evolution is that it’s a blind process, not a directed one.’ They may be wrong. But that is the modern scientific understanding.
      Again: If we’re telling stories about God, and his ‘reasoning’, then anyone who understands what modern scientists understand evolution to be has to concede that it’s simply not the right tool for the job.

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    7. “But then it is not an explanation of the origin of species.”
      By understanding the process of evolution, we can fully account for the living organisms we see on the Earth, past and present. Are you just about to play the ‘it explains the how, but not the why’ card? Is that really how deep into the barrel you are at this point? Go on, feign ignorance. Stick to what you’re good at.
      “Of course not. Only animate beings contain the principle of their own motions, although elsewhere you objected to this.”
      Again, learn to read. I objected to you saying the Sun doesn’t contain the ‘principle of its own motions’ because its movement through the galaxy is a result of it being under the influence of other forces, but that we – on a planet dragged along by the Sun – do contain that principle. Modern science understands that we don’t live in the simplistic chain-and-pulley-and-levers universe the classical philosophers imagined. Three thousand year old theories about why frogs move but rocks were great for their time, but we’ve moved on.

      ‘"Erosion," of course, is not a "thing," but a relationship between things. The rock is the thing. It is being eroded.’
      OK. For your point to make any sense here, that means that you don’t think evolution is a process, it’s a ‘thing’ in its own right which exists without any relationship to other things. Please explain. Or save time and admit you’re wrong.

      “Jem: As a way of creating 'any complex organisms', a self-replicating molecule that retains selective advantages over billions of years would be a great engineering solution.
      The boldface is the teleological portion of your statement.”
      My statement describes the theist position I don’t hold, as I made very clear. In this (I believe fictional) scenario God, or any sufficiently advanced being, deliberately engineered DNA – or the forerunners of DNA, some kind of self-replicating molecules. In this story, that fictional being would have done so for a reason. And we might infer – from the results – that the reason was ‘to create the conditions for life’. It’s a neat solution … if he just wanted to create ‘life’ and he wasn’t worried about what type of life *and* if he allowed billions of years for the process to work.
      That is absolutely the *opposite* of all Christian teaching on the subject. Leave aside the timescales for a moment – I mean, that’s kind of the killer blow, as the YECs understand – the Christian teaching is that God *had a purpose* for life, and willed *specific results*. For that matter, hyperspecific results – he’s not trying to create ‘life’ in whatever form happens to develop, he is enacting a plan that will see *named individuals* emerge *at exact moments in history*.
      Yes, the Christian position is a teleological one, imbued with OCD levels of control freakishness and underwritten by a universal sense of purpose. Here’s the point: THAT. IS. NOT. EVOLUTION. If we’re telling stories about God, and his ‘reasoning’, then anyone who understands what modern scientists understand evolution to be has to concede that it’s simply not the right tool for the job.

      Delete
    8. “The decision that the underlying process of evolution are random was an a priori metaphysical choice by 19th century folks”
      Yes. Modern scientists have made that determination. If you are saying evolution is not random, you are flying in the face of the model scientists have used for almost a hundred and fifty years now. Correct. That is precisely what I’m saying. ‘Modern scientific understanding of evolution is that it’s a blind process, not a directed one.’ They may be wrong. But that is the modern scientific understanding.
      Again: If we’re telling stories about God, and his ‘reasoning’, then anyone who understands what modern scientists understand evolution to be has to concede that it’s simply not the right tool for the job.
      “No analysis of the forces will tell you that they are "blind." “
      We’ll leave aside the plain fact that this is scientific illiteracy of the highest order and that whole branches of scientific and mathematical research are entirely dedicated to the task of working out what are patterns and what aren’t. Instead, let’s just point out that your argument about life is that it *is* possible to determine whether something ‘contains the principle of its own motions’, and point out that your argument is *self* defeating.

      “Jem: You want the history of the universe to be Macbeth, a specific play,

      Nah. It could have been "The Stone Guest" or "The Playboy of the Western World." The precise play macht nichts. It was an illustration of a point, not a declaration on the history of the world.”
      You’re an idiot or impersonating one. Sorry if my use of *your* analogy confused you. My point is this: Christian belief is that God didn’t just ‘spin the wheel’ and end up with a random universe. He wanted specific results. He said ‘let’s go to Macbeth tonight’, not ‘let’s go to a play, I don’t mind which one’.
      Please give some indication that you understand and accept this point.
      “ I can only repeat what I have said”
      I know. That’s your main problem.
      “the "motions" (kinesis) of living beings originate within themselves. A cue ball needs an external cue stick to get moving (transient cause). But a fertized egg contains all its instructions for its own motions (e.g., growth & development) within itself (immanent cause), and these instructions are "encoded" in the DNA.”
      So ‘animate things DON’T contain the principle of their own motions, typically in their DNA’. You admit that was a false statement. Good. All I was saying is that what you said was incorrect.

      “Jem: My objection is that your analogy ... takes something artificial as a stand in for something that you say isn't artificial, then appeals to the skills of the artisan.

      a) I made no appeal to the skills of an artisan. I said you could not discover Shakespeare by studying the contents of "Macbeth." “
      You can infer the existence of a playwright. You can say with confidence that Macbeth is the product of a guiding intelligence. And what you are doing is creating an analogy ‘the universe is like a play and we’re actors’ and then inferring from that the necessary existence of a playwright. That’s a poor – and second hand – over-stretched analogy from you, not an insight into the nature of the universe. And again, that’s all I’m saying. Your argument, again, is a poor one.

      Delete
  31. TheOFloinn boasts:

    I grew up in math and physics.

    I don't believe this for a minute. TOF has not yet said anything accurate about physics, and what he has said is inaccurate. I will let Jem tear up TOF's defense of Aquinas' metaphysics, and Piotr tear up TOF's grammatical and spelling mistakes in Greek and Latin. But I won't sit by while TOF makes hash out of physics.

    TOF has so far told us bizarre things that go against physics, such as:

    1. An apple changes from green to red. And that is motion in the relevant sense of kinesis: an actualization of a potential.

    No, that is not "motion" in the sense of physics (neither kinetic energy nor v = x/t motion), nor is it "potential" in the sense of potential energy. If you wish to change to some greek meaning of "kinesis" which could mean anything, you've switched to entities which have no definition in terms of physics.

    2. Since a cause must be proportional to its effect

    What goggledygook! Everything in modern physics goes against that, especially chaos theory. Massive effects can be produced by changes in initial conditions too small to be detected. And virtual particles do not have a cause.

    3. Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA.

    Both Piotr and Jem have already jumped on this, so let me join the bandwagon. DNA does not encode "motion." It does encode information, but to decode that information you need to know the genetic code which is built into tRNA and in turn, tRNA interactions with the ribosome. DNA does duplicate, transcribe nor translate itself. It is one cause (among several) leading to the synthesis of protein and structural RNA. These molecules in turn may engage in "motion" but you cannot decode nor predict their motions only from the DNA sequence-- you need to know the laws of physics at a quantum level applied to protein molecular structure, RNA hairpins, etc.

    When you living things "contain the principle of their own motions" I can only wonder what equation could be used to define or measure or quantify "the principle of their own motions"? I know TOF won't answer.

    In information theory we can define Shannon mutual information and Kolmogorov information. What is the mathematical definition of "the principle of their own motions" and how can it be detected and shown to exist inside living things, but NOT inside a mouse trap? How can the "principle of its own motion" encoded in DNA be measured, and what units would it be measured in? Bits? Pounds? Kilograms?

    4. TOF asserts that by his definition of life, the sun is NOT alive only because [sarcasm]: The Sun whirls around the galaxy under its own power??? Who knew.

    So the sun is not alive if it orbits the center of the galaxy, not by its own "power"? What a mess.

    First, Jem has already pointed out that the Earth and its living inhabitants also orbit the center of the galaxy.

    Second, you imply somehow that the sun is "passive" in its orbit of the galactic center, which means what, that the galaxy is active? But we know from physics that the sun's attraction to the rest of the galaxy is exactly equal to the rest of the galaxy's attraction to the sun. Here TOF is making the classic metaphysical error of trying to distinguish between "active" and "passive" which doesn't fly in physics, chemistry, molecular biology etc. etc.

    Third, you introduce the word "power" which has a specific meaning in physics: energy expended divided by time. There is no "power" either from the sun nor from the galaxy that makes it orbit-- there is an attractive gravitational force, mutual between the sun and the rest of the galaxy.

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    1. 1. An apple changes from green to red. And that is motion in the relevant sense of kinesis: an actualization of a potential.

      Diogenes: No, that is not "motion" in the sense of physics (neither kinetic energy nor v = x/t motion), nor is it "potential" in the sense of potential energy. If you wish to change to some greek meaning of "kinesis" which could mean anything, you've switched to entities which have no definition in terms of physics.

      Kinesis cannot mean anything. It means what Aristotle defined it to mean: the actualization of a potential. A green apple is potentially red, and is moved toward redness by sunlight in the 3,600 to 4,500 Å range activating the anthocyanin in its skin. So moved, it absorbs the near-ultraviolet, violet, blue and green regions of the spectrum, thus reflecting red. The anthocyanin is this the principle ("first") of this motion toward redness. (The sunlight is the efficient cause. Without it, the apple will move toward yellow).

      You are confused because post-Cartesian physics concentrates strictly on the physics of local motion, that is, change in location. This was much easier to deal with than change in general. Potential and kinetic energy are restricted usages of more general terms, but preserve Aristotle's original meaning.
      + + +
      2. Since a cause must be proportional to its effect

      Diogenes: What goggledygook! Everything in modern physics goes against that, especially chaos theory. Massive effects can be produced by changes in initial conditions too small to be detected. And virtual particles do not have a cause.

      a) The proportionality is one of genus and species, not quantity or magnitude. A generic cause cannot be assigned to a specific effect. That is, "evolution" does not aim at particular species, but generically at the multiplication of species. The causes of particular species must be sought in the specific circumstances of niche and the potentials of the genome. An analogy for potentials in the genome: the word "ped" (Lat.) is potentially "foot" (Eng.) through a series of mutations following the kinesis of Grimm's Law. The initial voiced stop p becomes the fricative f, etc.
      b) Complexity theory: d'uh? It also shows how random inputs can result in determined outputs. (The "butterfly effect" in state space depends on whether the system in parameter space crosses through the bifurcation set.) Hence, even if genetic variation is random some fractal means may still work toward a determined output. At this stage, we just don't know.
      c) The ontological status of "virtual" particles (as the name implies) is very much an open book. If virtual is not actual, why should there be a cause? They are only potentials.
      + + +

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    2. 3. Living things -- animate things -- contain the principle of their own motions, typically encoded in their DNA.

      Diogenes: DNA does not encode "motion." It does encode information, but to decode that information you need to know the genetic code which is built into tRNA and in turn, tRNA interactions with the ribosome, etc.

      Information concedes the game. The motions of the organism -- which I remind you is any actualization of a potential to an actuality -- are inherent in the genetic code. The fertilized egg is not nudged into morphogenesis by a divine cue stick. It begins to unfold by itself. And nothing in kinesis precludes the existence of multiple intermediate steps. (E.g., the kinesis from uranium to lead passes through thorium, palladium, and radium.)

      Diogenes: When you living things "contain the principle of their own motions" I can only wonder what equation could be used to define or measure or quantify "the principle of their own motions"? I know TOF won't answer.

      What equation is used to define "evolution," "fitness," "reproductive pressure," etc.? Philosophy isn't mathematics.

      Diogenes: how can "the principle of their own motions" be detected and shown to exist inside living things, but NOT inside a mouse trap?

      Are you an IDer? If not, why are you taking their side in this?

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      4. TOF asserts that by his definition of life, the sun is NOT alive only because [sarcasm]: The Sun whirls around the galaxy under its own power??? Who knew.

      Diogenes: So the sun is not alive if it orbits the center of the galaxy, not by its own "power"? What a mess. First, Jem has already pointed out that the Earth and its living inhabitants also orbit the center of the galaxy.

      Does the Sun initiate its own motions or not? Does it make itself move around the galaxy the way a cat makes itself move into the sunlight to sleep?

      Living things initiate their own motions, but that does not mean they are never moved otherwise. You don't need an Earth and a Galaxy. Just push someone off a bridge. Duh?

      Diogenes: Third, you introduce the word "power" which has a specific meaning in physics: energy expended divided by time.

      Sure, but it also has a meaning in philosophy. What do we mean when we say that natural selection has the power to form new species from variants of the old? Can you express natural selection as E/t? See http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02003.htm#1

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    3. Our sun, as I understand it will in the course of its stellar evolution expand to a radius which encompasses the Earth's orbit. This change, or kinesis, will be due to internal mechanics, not to external forces.

      In a general sense, everything we or the sun does is implicit in the physics of this universe (I claim, since I have seen no convincing evidence of miracles). In that very broad sense, the only difference I see between mouse traps and biological systems are the complexity of their workings. One could divide artifacts between those which involved humans in their construction and those that did not, but this seems like a chauvinistic rather than an important distinction, to me.

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    4. "One could divide artifacts between those which involved humans in their construction and those that did not, but this seems like a chauvinistic rather than an important distinction, to me."

      'Living' and 'non living' seems chauvinistic to me. The Sun was around before we were, it'll be around after we've gone. The processes and forces and scale on which the Sun operate boggle the human mind. I don't think it's 'alive', but that's just an argument for 'life' not being some amazing special category.

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    5. It kind of made us, by the way, by attracting gas into a protoplanetary disk, keeping it in place till the planets formed, and then providing a stable supply of energy over billions of years. We are part of the Sun's outer envelope.

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    6. the only difference I see between mouse traps and biological systems are the complexity of their workings.

      That concedes too much ground to the IDers and leaves evolutionary theory vulnerable to the "irreducible complexity" complaint, when the fact of the matter is that the assembly of otherwise unrelated components into a mousetrap s nothing at all like the morphogenesis of a living being. That is, the metaphor fails on its most basic level.

      'Living' and 'non living' seems chauvinistic to me.

      Then how can you know that Socrates is dead?

      The same conclusion is given (albeit without the neologistic use of "chauvanistic") in the recent Scientific American article, and (long before) in N. W. Pirie’s The Meaninglessness of theTerms Life and Living (1937) -- although they made arguments for their conclusion. They thought it was arbitrary because there are cases where it is ambiguous and you cannot prove such negatives as "the sun is not" alive. The Sci Am article preferred "complexity" (evidently at some level of complexity magic happens). But the same ambiguity of definition applies to complexity, as the Maverick Philosopher pointed out. Is the figure-8 complex or not? No one has answered yet, perhaps suspecting some sly topological humor.

      Part of the problem may be "physics envy." The physicists have had great successes in describing the properties and powers of inanimate objects, and those who seek to imitate their success may suppose that their own objects of study are the same kinds of objects and require the same kinds of methods. The confusion arises because biological systems are also chemical systems and physical systems. But that does not mean that biologists should hang up their spurs and turn everything over to the physicists.

      Or perhaps conversely, they should try to catch up with the physicists, who abandoned the Cartesian worldview a century ago?
      "Although an immense over-simplification, the old Newtonian view was nevertheless a fascinating one. The world had the clarity and intelligibility of a machine such as man himself might build. Now there is in fact nothing more known to us, as to what they are, than the things that we ourselves have made by art or craft. True, a good deal of the material that goes into a motor, for example, is known only vaguely. But mere practical knowledge of this mate-rial is enough to get the machine to work. We know that a spark will explode gasoline vapor. With very little more knowledge than this it is easy enough to see why gasoline engines operate as they do. The works of our hands,once made—from hammers and saws, to nuclear bombs and missiles—are well known to us, as to purpose and function, because we ourselves concoct them. Now, if nature were the same kind of thing, if the whole world and each of its parts were just like a machine, we could then truly speak of physical and biological phenomena as accessible to our understanding. But it so happens that even in physics this model theory, though it worked for centuries, has now quite broken down. Some biologists apparently survive still unaware of these developments, serenely confident that living bodies, as Descartes once thought, are just machines."
      -- Charles DeKoninck, "The Lifeless World of Biology"
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/9775352/DeKoninck-Lifeless-World-of-Biology

      IOW, we can fail to make an adequate distinction between living and non-living simply because we know our own artifacts first and more clearly and have a tendency to pull the analogy over from artificial to natural and so fall into the trap of Paley, Behe, and some of those here in this commbox.

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  32. To sum up, TOF's recurring error is his attempt to defend a classical metaphysics based on a fake distinction between "active" and "passive" things. So living things supposedly initiate their own motions, while dead things do not initiate their motions. But the distinction between "active" and "passive" doesn't fly in physics, chemistry, molecular biology etc. In physics, every action is counterbalanced by an equal and opposite action, and to reiterate, the sun's attraction to the galaxy is equal to the galaxy's attraction to the sun.

    In physics you can compute a scattering matrix for an electron off a much more massive charge (typically a proton) by assuming the heavier thing doesn't move, but that's an artificial distinction. In reality, both particles move, neither is "passive", and as their masses become more equal, you can no longer make that approximation.

    In molecular biology as well, any distinction between "active" and "passive" is purely by convention. Enzymes modify their substrates, but the substrates can also modify the enyzmes-- certainly this is important in the case of oxidation/reduction reactions, where the reaction will typically oxidize or reducte NAD/NADH cofactors.

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    1. So physics and chemistry deal with inanimate objects? Who knew? We are shocked, truly shocked. But what is this "active" and "passive" to which you refer? I have not heard of it up to now.

      Naturally, protons are moving. [Pun intended] But do they move themselves? (I take it you refer only to motion of place.)

      The sun's "attraction" to the galaxy and the galaxy's "attraction" to the sun are predicated on two very different masses, and are hardly "equal." Mach's Conjecture was that the gravitational attraction of the rest of the universe on a body is what we call its "inertia" (Lat. "laziness"). But it is difficult to see how this might be tested in practice. The point is that the sun does not move itself around the galaxy. It will remain at rest in simple rectilinear motion (along its geodesic lines) "unless acted upon by an outside force."

      It is no great astonishment to learn that what receives a kinesis from another may also give a kinesis.

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    2. Thanks, Diogenes. The problem is that vast chunks of Christian theology are based on Augustine and Aquinas, who in turn based almost everything on Aristotle (obviously there are far more people involved in this process, I'm simplifying). The three men I named were all probably the smartest people of their generation, and understood the science of the day better than anyone for centuries either side of them. They were Newton, Darwin, Einstein league scientists. Geniuses.

      An eight year old now could set them straight about some very basic facts of the universe we live in. A kid that knows the Earth goes round the Sun and that we're related to gorillas and that there are things called germs knows more about the world.

      The trouble is that Christianity, Catholicism in particular, is entirely wedded to the Aristotlean model. Ask how the Eucharist works, any priest can give you an entirely solid, scientific explanation. But it's the philosophy of Form and Matter, something we know now just isn't how things are. TOF is doing the same thing.

      He's trying to take this old science 'principles of motion' and use some modern buzzwords to make it sound like scientists are catching up with Aquinas, that Christians had all this figured out years ago. It's the same con trick as 'Physicists are only now catching up with Eastern mysticism' or invoking quantum physics as magic.

      People like TOF shouldn't be patted on the head. They should be staked through the heart. Expose it for the Black Knight calling it a draw that it is.

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    3. Blithering TOF: The sun's "attraction" to the galaxy and the galaxy's "attraction" to the sun are predicated on two very different masses, and are hardly "equal."

      They are exactly equal in terms of force and in term of change of momentum over time (action and impulse). If you really grew up in physics as you claimed, you would know that.

      But what is this "active" and "passive" to which you refer? I have not heard of it up to now.

      Everything you write is based on the assumption of this distinction, but it is anti-physics. I think you're partially away that you've made that assumption, e.g. in your distinction between living things with "souls" and artifacts, the former "moving of itself" and the latter not containing the principle of its own "movement." All your many expression of the form "by itself" or "of itself" imply an active/passive distinction that is anti-physics.

      I am going to boldface all your wabble words, the words that allow you to equivocate between different definitions in an ad hoc fashion, in your attempt to evade falsification of the indefensible.

      First example: Does the Sun initiate its own motions or not? Does it make itself move ... the way a cat makes itself move into the sunlight to sleep?

      YES IT DOES. Here again we see an artificial distinction between active and passive. A cat cannot "move itself" unless it pushes or pulls on another object in exactly the same way that the sun pushes or pulls on other bodies. The cat moves itself by pushing on a carpet, the sun moves itself by pulling on other bodies. The cat releases energy which entered it by absorbing matter. No real difference between that and an active galaxy with a central black hole shooting out a relativistic jet.

      The point is that the sun... will remain at rest in simple rectilinear motion (along its geodesic lines) "unless acted upon by an outside force."

      Wabble words: "acted upon." Every time a particle is acted upon, it also acts upon another, by the same criterion. This is true of all particles and all bodies.

      In mechanics, very action corresponds to an equal and opposite reaction. In quantum mechanics, if particle a is quantum-entangled with b, b is entangled with a. In information theory, if property X encodes information about Y, then Y encodes information about X.

      Living things initiate their own motions

      Wabble word: "initiate." You will define this one way for living things and a different way of stars or atoms or mousetraps. Living things "initiate", dead things don't "initiate." Such ad hoc equivocation is used to maintain your artificial and subjective distinction between active living things with "souls" and passive "inanimate" things with no souls.

      The fertilized egg... begins to unfold by itself.

      Wabble word: "by itself." A fertilized egg cannot grow unless it absorbs matter from outside; it both acts upon the matter it absorbs, and it is acted upon by the matter outside it. Sodium chloride in water that evaporates will crystallize "by itself" also.

      The motions of the organism -- which I remind you is any actualization of a potential to an actuality -- are inherent in the genetic code.

      Wabble word "inherent." The genetic code by itself cannot tell you the sequence of the protein molecules it codes for (for that you need to know the structure of tRNA and its interaction with the ribosome) nor does it tell you the structure of protein molecules nor structural RNA (for that you need to model the phenomenology of quantum forces at the atomic level.) So no, it is not inherent.

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    4. Blithering TOF: I'll also note you're using "motion" with two different meanings.

      The motions of the organism -- which I remind you is any actualization of a potential to an actuality

      But then:

      Does the Sun initiate its own motions or not?

      If "motion" here means the same as above, the sun certainly initiates its own motions. It throws out solar wind and magnetic bridges, gets bigger and smaller, absorbs matter, emits matter, and goes supernova.

      So it contains the principle of its own motions.

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    5. Blithering TOF: I'll also note you're using "motion" with two different meanings.

      TOF has to equivocate, because the Sun's "self-initiated motions" have virtually nothing to do with its orbital motion in the Galaxy. If the Sun were a runaway intergalactic star, that would hardly have an effect on its inner life.

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    6. Hmm. I was under the impression "blithering toff" came from Shakespeare. Upon googling, I found it came from... Maureen Dowd... referring to... Mitt Romney.

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    7. A cat cannot "move itself" unless it pushes or pulls on another object in exactly the same way that the sun pushes or pulls on other bodies. The cat moves itself by pushing on a carpet, the sun moves itself by pulling on other bodies.

      I submit that you are speaking only about the mechanics of how the cat moves, not the fact that it does move. If the principle of the cat's motion walking toward the sunlight by the window were in the carpet, then any cat placed on that carpet should move toward the window.

      On what bodies does the sun "push"? As I recollect, the existence of mass introduces a distortion into the field of Ricci tensors, creating geodesic lines down which bodies run. The sun doesn't pull the earth; the earth runs along the slope induced by the sun in space-time.

      Every time a particle is acted upon, it also acts upon another, by the same criterion. This is true of all particles and all bodies.

      Yes. And?

      Living things "initiate", dead things don't "initiate." Such ad hoc equivocation is used to maintain your artificial and subjective distinction between active living things with "souls" and passive "inanimate" things with no souls.

      Okay, "Dr. Behe." But "living things with 'souls'" is a tautology: "res animae habent animas" It's like "ruddy things with redness." Anima simply means "alive." The distinction between "animate"and "inanimate" is not subjective -- or else Biology would have no distinctive body of knowledge -- even if the boundary is fuzzy. Does it not trouble you the extremes to which you are driven to deny plain facts?

      A fertilized egg cannot grow unless it absorbs matter from outside; it both acts upon the matter it absorbs, and it is acted upon by the matter outside it. Sodium chloride in water that evaporates will crystallize "by itself" also.

      Indeed. Metabolism and homeostasis are among the powers possessed by animate forms. (Details found here: http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02004.htm#1) But note that if the fertilized egg is not living in the first place, it would not absorb the matter in the second place.

      The sodium chloride does not initiate the evaporation that causes the crystallization. It is the evaporation that causes the sodium chloride to crystallize. (That it does so and forms cubic crystals is a telos of the sodium chloride, inherent in its form (molecular structure) in a way analogous to the tiger and her motions being inherent in the form of the tiger genome.)

      The genetic code by itself cannot tell you the sequence of the protein molecules it codes for

      Of course not. The genome is too small for a complete set of descriptive blueprints. It's probably more along the lines of a fractal system: a minimal set of rules that lead to unfolding complex behaviors/actions. Hence, "inherent." Some people like to have everything spelled out in detailed procedures, but for example while evolution cannot tell you the sequence of evolving forms that will unfold in the future, those descendent species are inherent in the genome of the ancestor by the application of a set of possible mutations. For an anology: "foot" is inherent in "ped" through the process of Grimm's Laws (p→f, d→t). You seem to confuse "inherent" with "explicit." Rock climbing is inherently dangerous, but you cannot point to any particular piece of equipment or procedure and say "that is the danger."

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    8. For an anology: "foot" is inherent in "ped" through the process of Grimm's Laws (p→f, d→t)

      In less highfalutin English, there is a historical connection between, say, the Latin stem ped- and English foot. By comparing them systematically (with each other and with many other 'foot' words in other Indo-European languages), we can reconstruct the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European ancestor of foot. You could just as well (or perhaps with more reason) say that the reconstruction *pod-/*ped- is "implicit" in the documented languages, because we (I mean "we" -- I'm a historical linguist) use them to formulate hypotheses about ancestral forms. Given enough time, language change has no limit, and the same recionstructed "protoform" is ancestral to many very different attested forms (Armenian otn also comes from the same source), so we prefer to say that words are related (via a common ancestor that may or may not be directly attested), not that they are "implicit" in one another.

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    9. Sure. The professional terms differ. But it remains that English "foot" emerged from Latin "ped-" by a process of "descent with modification, "aka "evolution." The word "foot" is implicit in the earlier term simply because there is a network of possible "mutations" connecting them. There are, of course, many possibilities, and as you note there are many other terms that could emerge from the same ancestral forms. In a similar manner, various proteins are implicit in the genome -- and yes, there are other factors involved in their emergence, as Shapiro points out. It's just that so many folks here seemed utterly confused by this concept of emergence and implicitness. It's why creationists will sometimes crow that dogs do not give birth to cats, as if they had said something important. They do not understand this point, either.

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    10. But it remains that English "foot" emerged from Latin "ped-" by a process of "descent with modification, "aka "evolution."

      No, it didn't. I don't think you understand Grimm's Law correctly.

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    11. Oops. Not from Latin, but from a common ancestor in PIE. Now if Grimm's law does not reflect evolutionary changes, but simply makes comparisons across languages (Latin p- corresponds with Germanic f-, but the p- sound did not actually mutate into the f- sound) you raise an interesting point: can the appearance of descent-with-modification be mimicked by other processes?

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    12. The comparative method does reconstruct unattested forms, but the reason why we put an asterisk in front of them is to remind the reader that they are just that -- working reconstructions. Something changed into Latin /p/ and (independently) into English /f/ (and was lost in Armenian), and it's quite likely that the actual pronunciation of the ancestral segment was /p/ (that's why we symbolise it as *p), but it isn't the only possibility seriously considered by linguists.

      But my real point is this: implicit means 'implied, though not directly expressed'. Neither in biology, nor in linguistics are descendants "implicit" in their remote ancestor. Not in the sense that "the oak tree is implicit in the acorn". You can be expect beyond reasonable doubt that an acorn will produce an oak, not a palm or a pine tree. You can't predict macroevolution (of life or language) in this way -- there are too many possible outcomes, and too much contingency. If you already know all the regular correspondences between English and Latin, you know what other matches are plausible: if pēs is related to foot, pater to father, and piscis to fish, it becomes likely that penna may be somehow related to feather despite the differences (and it is, by the way). Then you analyse many such correspondences carefully and infer the hypothetical prehistory of each pair of cognate words. But it makes little sense to claim that feather and penna were somehow present in the PIE paradigm of the 'feather' word (nom.sg. *potr, gen.sg. *petns, etc.). It could have developed into anything humanly pronounceable. It's just a matter of historical accident that the outcome is what it is. You may use the word implicit in a strictly Pickwickian sense, to mean 'historically connected', 'cognate', or 'descended from', but if we have precise terms used by professionals, there's no need to import superfluous jargon. There's no insight to be gained.

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    13. Good research Pioter! I learned something new today :)

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    14. "But it makes little sense to claim that feather and penna were somehow present in the PIE paradigm of the 'feather' word"

      It's the problem with the teleological view: it literally gets things the wrong way wrong. Yes, we can work backwards from any event and explain 'causes'. What we can't do in most real-world scenarios is look at a situation and project what will happen beyond the very short term.

      We can note that the word 'radical' and 'radish' both have the same Latin root word (literally the word for 'root', in fact). We can see how if something's radical it's metaphorically 'rooted', we can see that a radish is an edible root. So it's easy to understand why words that meant those two things used the Latin word for 'root'.

      What we can't say meaningfully, though, is that two thousand years ago 'radical' and 'radish' were 'present' in the Latin word 'radix'. If TOF or someone else thinks I'm wrong, that's fine. I'd invite him to take the properties that he says are 'present' in 'radix', 'radical' and/or 'radish' and tell me which words will be 'descended' from them in 2000 years time.

      If he can't answer it specifically, answer it generally - what method would he employ to extract that information, which he says is meaningfully 'present', from a word?

      The answer is 'speculation based on guesswork'. And that's the case with evolution. Dougal Dixon can write some very entertaining books about what animals *might* evolve in the future that are scientifically allowable. Yes, it's possible gigantic penguins will fill the ecological niche whales have now. It's possible spiders will become eusocial, like ants. If it does, there will be perfectly plausible scientific explanations as to why that happened. There is no way, at all, to say that *will* happen.

      You can see a die that's just been rolled that says 'six' and easily work back and say 'I rolled a die and it came up six'. You can look at a die and say 'It has to come up one to six, it can't come up seven or higher'. You *can't* look at a die and say 'it will come up six'.

      Modern Christianity has the absurd situation where a being throws a die and knows it will come up six. To reconcile omniscience with randomness - Aristotle didn't believe in omniscient gods, so just accepted that randomness existed - an elaborate knot of teleological philosophy had to be developed.

      And that's fine, they have plenty of other fairy stories, too. But this one is insidious because it gets in the way of explaining evolution to people. It imposes fictional 'purpose' on the process.

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    15. "But it makes little sense to claim that feather and penna were somehow present in the PIE paradigm of the 'feather' word"

      In the same sense that the Pythagorean Theorem are implied by the basic postulates of Euclidean plane geometry plus the rules of deduction and construction.

      In the same sense that dogs and bears were both implicit in the amphicyonids (beardogs) of the late Eocene plus the rules of mutation and natural selection.

      In both cases there is a connectivity of the nodes in the topological network.

      What we can't say meaningfully, though, is that two thousand years ago 'radical' and 'radish' were 'present' in the Latin word 'radix'. If TOF or someone else thinks I'm wrong, that's fine. I'd invite him to take the properties that he says are 'present' in 'radix', 'radical' and/or 'radish' and tell me which words will be 'descended' from them in 2000 years time.

      Dude, this is exactly the challenge creationists often level at evolutionists. Take the genome 'present' in some current species and tell them which species will be 'descended' from them in umpty-ump years time.

      That's not how evolution works. The best we can say is that whatever word or species does evolve, it will be "fit for use" to some purpose. Consider the three different kinds of "rodents" that evolved over the eons: tritylodonts, a reptile "rodent," supplanted by multituberculates, a mammalian sort-of rodent, supplanted by modern rodents. All of them were shaped by natural selection to act as gnawers and had the same general tooth arrangement. Similarly, there will always be a need for a word for "head." So if Roman slang starts using "pot" (testa) for "head" (caput), a word like tete will show up in French, while chef becomes "head" in a metaphorical sense.

      Creationists who make demands like yours do not understand the process; and I am surprised that you are replicating so many of their arguments.

      It is quite possible, if genetics reaches the heights achieved by physics, that once we know how a genome might change, we can make some statement about what possible genomes might result from it, but this will be a range of possible genomes and some of them may be non-viable or may express themselves differently in different environments. We are only beginning to understand these things, and the world of biology may be even less like that of physics than the Moderns supposed.

      +++

      You will find atheists of the deterministic sect who will tell you that once you know all the forces at work on the die, you will indeed be able to predict from the starting position whether the throw will be six, and that to contend otherwise is a load of theistic crap.

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    16. "In both cases there is a connectivity of the nodes in the topological network."

      There is not the same *kind* of connectivity, though. That's the whole point of what I'm saying. There's no 'DNA' in the word 'radix' that somehow unfurls to create 'radical' and 'radish'.

      "I'd invite him to take the properties that he says are 'present' in 'radix', 'radical' and/or 'radish' and tell me which words will be 'descended' from them in 2000 years time."

      " Dude, this is exactly the - "

      [snip the blah blah and not answering this question]

      "That's not how evolution works."

      No, but it's how Christians need evolution to work if it is consistent with a divine plan.

      Please just concede this point. And with it, obviously, the basis of your faith tradition and belief system.

      "It is quite possible, if genetics reaches the heights achieved by physics, that once we know how a genome might change, we can make some statement about what possible genomes might result from it, but this will be a range of possible genomes and some of them may be non-viable or may express themselves differently in different environments. We are only beginning to understand these things, and the world of biology may be even less like that of physics than the Moderns supposed."

      OK.

      We agree on this. The maximal level of knowledge when we look at a given genome is that we can look at a range of *possible* future stages.

      That, then, is the level of knowledge *God* has, in your story, as he has maximal knowledge.

      This is inconsistent with other lines from your story, in which God knew the fate of every individual before the universe began.

      So, *either* your story is true *or* evolution as modern science understands it is true.

      See?

      You've already conceded that you think the fault is with modern science for 'taking God out of the equation'. That's fine. But don't pretend that there's some accommodation or compatibility between the two models. *Either* Christianity is true *or* modern scientific understanding of evolution is.

      "You will find atheists of the deterministic sect who will tell you that once you know all the forces at work on the die, you will indeed be able to predict from the starting position whether the throw will be six, and that to contend otherwise is a load of theistic crap."

      No. You will find some atheists who say that *theoretically* it ought to be possible. You will not find anyone who says that it's *practically* possible to make that call.

      The idea that one being could make every such call hits the same paradox the 'why would God use evolution?' does - it requires a very stupid, or at least staggeringly inefficient, God. Any engineer capable of marshalling the resources to do that wouldn't ever do it that way.

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  33. I'm not smart or prepared enough to understand everything heretofore in what I will call the TOF (The OFloinn) debate, but find it interesting reading. My tentative conclusions:

    I think TOF entered the discussion to draw a distinction between ideas that are due to religion/creationists per se and those that were developed by ancient thinkers who were not religiously motivated. Perhaps, the ideas of creationists vs. those of Aristotle (and others). Some of the latter may still be useful, if only to provide terms which categorize and define philosophical ideas. Before criticizing the arguments of ancient thinkers we need to understand fully what they meant by those terms (which I for one do not).

    Anyway, I do not see TOF as advocating for the ID position, but more of a "something is wrong on the internet" responder (a syndrome which I have succumbed to myself at times).

    My own thoughts on Aristotle are biased by recollections of second-hand statements about him, such as: he thought objects in motion tended to come to rest unless continuously acted upon by an external force; he thought women had fewer teeth than men; and he thought philosophical arguments were a better way to truth than empirical observation. We all make mistakes, but those make me suspicious of his thinking in general. So while admitting I do not fully understand the terms of his arguments, I am not very interested in studying them.

    I may not understand this fully either, but while I don't want to get into the semantics of "anima", I for one do not consider it a fundamental error for Behe to use an artifact (mousetrap) as an analogy for the blood-clotting cascade or any other biological system. I think a rock, or better, a growing crystal and myself are not distinguished by presence or lack of anima, but by the complexity of our physics (i.e., our chemical, electrical, and other interactions with our environment). I think we are biological robots with nanotech nervous systems, randomly produced over a long time with many lucky accidents by random, purposeless forces of nature. Therefore, everything we produce, such as the mouse trap, has as its ultimate cause those same random forces. Yes, there are selection mechanisms which filter those random forces in favor of those that can best survive and be reproduced - and in fact similar selection mechanisms produced the mouse trap. We evolved, and so do cars, phones, and mouse traps.

    To me this is a very fundamental disagreement with the beliefs of ID proponents, not a support. The problem Behe has (IMHO) is that he does not understand that mouse traps evolved, and in a somewhat random fashion (guided by survival in the marketplace due to relative effectiveness) rather than being spontaneously created in a poof of supernatural causation.

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    1. JimV seems to realize that Aristotelian principles undermine the standard ID story while Jem et al. present arguments that tend to support it. This is all unwitting, of course, and driven largely by an ignorance of what the Stagerite and his successors have actually said, as well as a reflexive reaction to various key terms.

      The rejection of Aristotelian physics was largely deserved; but realize that Bradwardine demolished the Aristotelian theory of motion and Buridan developed a theory of impetus within the context of Aristotelian thought itself. The metaphysics otoh, that which lies "behind" physics, deals with underlying principles that must be true in any physics in any "possible world." The decision by Bacon and Descartes to jettison these was entirely based on their utility to the new science, which was dedicated to useful and profitable products. (See Bacon's "The Masculine Birth of Time.")

      (Note: The physics referred to the study of anything physical. That included what we call biology, but excluded mathematics, logic, law, etc.)

      In Aristotle's day pregnancy resulted in calcium loss and the rule "one child, one tooth." So any woman whose teeth Aristotle tried to count would likely have had fewer teeth in fact. IOW, he was wrong about it being natural, which meant stemming from the nature of the thing, but he was not stupidly wrong.

      In recent years, many Aristotelian concepts have been re-appearing in the sciences. Formal and final causation have shown up as "emergent properties" and "attractor basins." The aether has popped up as "dark matter" and "quantum vacuum." The problem of the proper and common sensibles has re-emerged as the "observer effect," and so on.

      What happened terminologically was that many terms got shrunk down to special or limited cases that were easier to handle in the new Cartesian methodology -- math was to the the privileged language for scientific discourse -- and as a result we now find it difficult to talk about the general case.

      The result of the rampant denialism wrt Aristotelian principles is that while Aristotle's philosophy was self-consistent and coherent, modern philosophy from Hume and Descartes through Nietzsche, Sartre and Derrida, is fundamentally incoherent, self-contradictory, and mutually incompatible. Natural science skated through this morass for a long time by largely ignoring it and remaining unwittingly Aristotelian in practice.

      There was a Sci Am article recently: "Why Life Does Not Exist" which we might re-title "Why Biology Has No Subject Matter" that also claimed that life was simply complexity. But then, as the Maverick Philosopher commented, infinite mathematical sets would be alive. But if the reason the Sci Am article gives for why there is no Life -- namely, the difficulty of making an iron-clad definition of "life" -- also applies to "complexity." So there is no complexity, either. Comments here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/12/scientific-american-why-life-does-not-really-exist.html

      Such are the absurdities into which we fall as we flee the center.

      Quick question: which is more complex: a figure-8 or a maze?

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    2. "In Aristotle's day pregnancy resulted in calcium loss and the rule "one child, one tooth." So any woman whose teeth Aristotle tried to count would likely have had fewer teeth in fact. IOW, he was wrong about it being natural, which meant stemming from the nature of the thing, but he was not stupidly wrong."

      No. Aristotle was stupidly wrong. You don't get more stupidly wrong than that.

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    3. The aether has popped up as "dark matter" and "quantum vacuum."

      If you can equate "aether" with anything that can be said to "fill the Universe", it only goes to show that the notion of aether is practically meaningless. Whatever dark matter is, it is something very different from quantum vacuum, and neither of them have the properties attributed to aether by Aristotle.

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    4. Actually not. The Aristotelian aether had certain properties that are cognate to those of the dark matter. I've got a list somewhere. I'll see if I can find it. Remember, this is not the Lorenzian ether, which was supposedly disproven by MM. It may or may not relate to Einstein's relativistic ether.

      And according to my cosmologist friend when he talked to Alex Flippenko, the connection between dark energy and quantum vacuum is hot. The conviction seems to be that there is some kind of relation, but the connection is not yet clear. Or was not two years ago when I asked.

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    5. You seem to be confused as to what Formal and Final cause means versus emergent properties and attractor basins.

      A Formal Cause: Why is what I am sitting in a chair? Because it takes the form of a thing that we call a chair: a flat surface with four legs and a raised back. Taken individually, the parts are not a chair, but together, they are a chair. That is not what is meant as an emergent property. An emergent property is one that results in a time dependent evolution of a complex system, or a property caused by interactions with the individual parts that are not inherently predictable by those parts . Each component of a chair can itself be a chair if we so desire to define it. And it's easy to predict "Chair" as a possible configuration of some of those parts. Thinking that Aristotle had in mind the notion of emergent properties of complex systems is reading into his nonsense way to earnestly.

      A Final Cause is Aristotle dabbling in teleology. A computer is for computing so it's Final Cause is the purpose of it's existence: computing. Basins of Attractions are not Final Causes because there Basins of Attractions are not the reasons for the dynamic system.

      Aristotle envisioned the Aether as the fifth element whose property was that it moved in circles around the earth (all the stars and planets move in circles, so the aether must move in circles). Aristotle had a Jones for circles because who knows. Dark Matter doesn't fill in the celestial sphere and doesn't move in circles any more or less than anything else. Nor is it an element. Nor is it an aether. The same goes for quantum vacuum energy. That is imagination run wild.

      As far as terminology, what happened was language became more precise as the real world came more closely in focus after the Baconian revolution ousted the 1600 year stagnation caused by religious adherence to classical dogma.

      "The result of the rampant denialism wrt Aristotelian principles is that while Aristotle's philosophy was self-consistent and coherent, modern philosophy from Hume and Descartes through Nietzsche, Sartre and Derrida, is fundamentally incoherent, self-contradictory, and mutually incompatible. Natural science skated through this morass for a long time by largely ignoring it and remaining unwittingly Aristotelian in practice. "

      I will agree with you that philosophy for the most part is as you have described, but it was indeed more so with Aristotle and Plato. Virtually nothing of his philosophy remains except in terminology. Your character assassination of scientists as being unwittingly Aristotelian in practice is flatly contradicted by examining Aristotle's practices and comparing them to the practices and methodologies of scientists in their respective disciplines.

      "There was a Sci Am article recently: "Why Life Does Not Exist" which we might re-title "Why Biology Has No Subject Matter" that also claimed that life was simply complexity. But then, as the Maverick Philosopher commented, infinite mathematical sets would be alive. But if the reason the Sci Am article gives for why there is no Life -- namely, the difficulty of making an iron-clad definition of "life" -- also applies to "complexity." So there is no complexity, either. Comments here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/12/scientific-american-why-life-does-not-really-exist.html"

      Quick question: which is more complex: a figure-8 or a maze?"

      It just goes to show you that philosophy is pretty useless.

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    6. Here is a list of "aether qualities" from http://www.sciforums.com/Dark-Energy-vs-Quantum-Vacuums-vs-Aristotle-s-Aether-t-109939.html

      My comments below each concerning the relationship with Dark Matter.

      1) Aristotle's aether was a celestial substance or celestial matter.

      All things are a celestial substance or a celestial matter. Everything. Hydrogen, Dark Matter, you, me, everything.

      2) It is simple and not a compound of elements and thus neither heavy nor light.

      That doesn't even mean anything.

      3) It is only effected by only one internal principle or cause.

      Dark Matter interacts with normal matter through gravitation, but it may interact weakly in other ways, and it may be something that can be created in a collider. So I'll give half credit.

      4) It is ungenerable and incorruptible, and that it is not capable of growth or alteration. It follows then that "aether's prime matter and substantial form must be so perfectly united that the latter must actualize and thereby exhaust the potency of the former".

      That is not necessarily true of Dark Matter. It could very well be something that can be generated by smashing particles of sufficient energy inside a collider.

      5) Aether can act upon other substances without being able to be acted upon.

      Dark Matter interacts gravitationally and is interacted upon gravitationally so, no.

      "And according to my cosmologist friend when he talked to Alex Flippenko, the connection between dark energy and quantum vacuum is hot. The conviction seems to be that there is some kind of relation, but the connection is not yet clear. Or was not two years ago when I asked."

      The idea is that they are one and the same phenomenon. Vacuum energy over cosmologically large scales may be what is responsible for accelerating the expansion of space.

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    7. @TOF: "Dark energy" has nothing directly to do with "dark matter", except that they are both described as "dark" and that both remain mysterious.

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    8. 1. I said nothing about dark energy.
      2. Usually before saying "that doesn't mean anything" one should probably ask "what did he mean by that?"
      + + +
      F1. Formal causation had to do with the form, which is the principle of act. It is what makes a thing what it actually is. For artifacts it is trivially a shape; but for natural things it is more complex, and may be thought of as a "field" that organizes protomatter. It is form that gives a thing its powers. For example: a chlorine atom and a sodium atom are made of the same parts: protons, neutrons, electrons. What makes one a flammable metal and the other a poisonous gas is the number and arrangement of these parts; i.e., their form. Evolution is the trans-form-ation of a species from one form (say, a beardog) into another form (say, a bear, or a dog) In fact, all of science deals with trans-form-ations of one sort or another.
      F2. Thus, the powers of a thing emerge from its form. Chlorine has powers and properties which electrons, protons, and neutrons individually do not. Emergent properties are thus a reflection of formal causes.
      T1. Final causation is the telos. It is the end toward which a thing tends (irrespective of whether it ever reaches it): A→B "always or for the most part." Thus, any rest point (equilibrium), whether a single point terminus, a cycle or orbit, etc., is a telos. An attractor basin is a mathematical description of this.
      T2. Final causes are called "the cause of causes" because efficient causes, of which masculine Baconian science is enamored, are incoherent without them. We cannot say that A causes B "always or for the most part" unless something in A "points toward" B.
      + + +
      7. Most Late Moderns shy away from telos because of a dread fear that You-Know-Who lurks at the end of it. But you need not take that step any more than you need to deny motion, efficient causation, generation and corruption, or ordering. Hume did, but by substituting correlation for causation he actually undermined the scientific program.
      8. Bacon recognized final causes as real. He disregarded them because he wanted to subordinate science to industry and engineering, so as to make useful and profitable products to further man's domination of the universe. For that, you need efficient causes that are metric and controllable. Descartes, of course, went further.
      + + +
      Quick question: which is more complex: a figure-8 or a maze?"

      It just goes to show you that philosophy is pretty useless.

      The question was mathematical, not philosophical. If one is going to appeal to complexity, as Behe and others do, it would be well to have some clear idea of what it means.
      ++ +
      Aristotle envisioned the Aether as the fifth element whose property was that it moved in circles around the earth (all the stars and planets move in circles, so the aether must move in circles). Aristotle had a Jones for circles because who knows.

      Who knows? You do. You said so yourself. Empirical observation of the heavens. You can see them moving in circles. However, he also said that because we are so far away from the heavens, we have very little sense information on them and so our theories about them must be tentative; but based on the data we have now, the following theory seems true to the facts...

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    9. Ugh. What a goddamn word salad.

      TOF @Jan 9, 6:46pm :And according to my cosmologist friend when he talked to Alex Flippenko, the connection between dark energy and quantum vacuum is hot.

      TOF @Jan 9, three hours later:1. I said nothing about dark energy.

      Just shoot me in the goddman head right now. Do you pay attention to what comes out of your own mouth?

      You still haven't explained how DNA contains the principle of the organism within itself. What gobbledygook.

      Dark matter is not goddamn dark energy. And neither one is Aristotle's goddamn ether. James above summarizes Aristotle's ether:

      [On ether] It is ungenerable and incorruptible, and that it is not capable of growth or alteration. It follows then that "aether's prime matter and substantial form must be so perfectly united that the latter must actualize and thereby exhaust the potency of the former"

      So the ether is neither of them.

      Dark matter is just a bunch of particles that have mass but don't interact electromagnetically. We don't know what kind of particle, but it will be governed by QM according to the usual dynamical laws.

      Dark energy could theoretically be related to the quantum vacuum (but vacuum pressure is off by several orders of magnitude) but quantum vacuum can only exert pressure because it is dynamical, and that is only because it can dynamically produce and absorb virtual particles with diverse energies without any cause.

      In other words, vacuum energy is the opposite of Aristotle's ether.

      And as Immanuel Kant emphasized, time and space are not required by pure reason and thus are not truly metaphysical anyway.

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    10. "7. Most Late Moderns shy away from telos because of a dread fear that You-Know-Who lurks at the end of it."

      Sigh.

      Of all the self-aggrandizing lies the religious tell each other, 'scientists are running scared of finding God' is one of the most egregious.

      TOF, God was collateral damage. In establishing that the universe was formed slowly and blindly by a series of processes that saw complexity increase from very small, simple particles with very simple properties, science *has* demolished the view that it was formed quickly and deliberately by an infinite being. But it doesn't set out to do it.

      Modern science ignores telos because it *can* ignore telos. It's not needed. Most of the people reading this are scientists, most of them will be looking at your descriptions of Final Causes and scratching their head, just as modern doctors don't worry too much about humorial theory.

      And it's your lot scared by the implications of that, and rightly so. Evolution, as understood by modern science, is entirely incompatible with God as understood by Christians. One of them *has* to give, you've pretty much conceded that yourself. Evolution is simply not 'for' something or directed 'at' something in the way Christian theology requires it to be. Yes, looking backwards, we can trace the route it took. We can talk in terms of 'necks grew longer to reach the tall leaves'. But that's us, retroactively imposing an anthropomorphic purpose on natural processes to frame something in terms we can picture more easily. And, reading that sentence back, I very strongly suspect that's exactly where gods came from, too.

      You're entirely the wrong way round - you cling to teleology in biology because the moment you concede it, you've conceded that God can't possibly exist in anything like the form you believe him to.

      I'm not 'scared' by addressing issues of teleology. You kidding? Exactly the opposite. I want people to understand what modern biology says evolution is. I want people to understand what teleology is. I want them to then try to reconcile the two.

      The YECs get it. They understand that if you give an inch, you have to go into full retreat. The moment you concede that the Earth is old is the moment you concede evolution is possible. The moment you concede that, God is not necessary. And the moment God isn't necessary is the moment he isn't God.

      I would *love* biologists to learn the ins and outs of teleology, because every time they'd describe it to someone, they'd end up going 'which isn't what we think happens in biology'.

      Evolution doesn't rule out 'gods'. It does, though, rule out the various Christian Gods, the Muslim God, the Jewish God. That's not a bad day's work.

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    11. "Most Late Moderns shy away from telos because of a dread fear that You-Know-Who lurks at the end of it."

      The quickest way to put this idea to the sword: imagine a scientist working in the lab examining genes discovered the 'encoded divine plan' in there. He checks his work, repeats it ... so on and so on. Eventually, it's agreed (let's not sweat the details of how): he's genuinely discovered the divine plan, encoded in DNA.

      What do you think he would do? He's just discovered, using science, the existence of God. Would he:

      (a) 'Shy away from it in dead fear' - the TOF suggestion.
      (b) Happily embrace the title of greatest scientist-philosopher the world has ever known, accept all the Nobel Prizes, bling and fellatio that the world would queue up to offer him and eventually die confident that for the entire subsequent history of the human race, his name would be sung and praised.

      I contend that Richard Dawkins himself would choose (b). And furthermore, this is the absolute killer thing, I think Dawkins would *happily* concede the point even if it wasn't him that made the discovery.

      Which is why casually going 'the divine plan is encoded in DNA' is so fucking preposterous. Science isn't 'scared' of God, it's far, far worse if you're religious: God's just not relevant, it's just not a thing if you want to describe the hows and whys of the universe.

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    12. Diogenes:TOF @Jan 9, 6:46pm :And according to my cosmologist friend when he talked to Alex Flippenko, the connection between dark energy and quantum vacuum is hot.

      TOF @Jan 9, three hours later:1. I said nothing about dark energy.

      Just shoot me in the goddman head right now. Do you pay attention to what comes out of your own mouth?


      Evidently not. My profound apologies. I had meant to write "dark matter" and did not scroll back to check.

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    13. TOF, s'all right. I've myself made similar errors. I rant at everyone at one time or another, so don't take it personally. I hope you continue to contribute to Sandwalk.

      I apologize for calling you "blithering TOF", which I thought was a Shakespearean reference, alas not Shakespearean.

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  34. "The motions of the organism -- which I remind you is any actualization of a potential to an actuality -- are inherent in the genetic code."

    Again, this is just sleight-of-hand, an attempt to claim that when Aquinas said "Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship." This was him describing DNA.

    Note that, when challenged last time, TOF ran away screaming from the very idea that him saying something was 'encoded in DNA' meant there's, y'know, literally DNA with that literally encoded in it. Here, he says exactly the same thing again using a very slightly different form of words.

    Simple question, TOF: is the 'divine plan' Aquinas talked about there 'encoded' in genes? You're back to your etymological games again. So let's take the word 'encoded'. If it's 'encoded' we can see that code? Perhaps even decode it?

    No.

    What we have two different ideas that, if you pretend very hard, sound similar. You are willfully blurring the lines to make what you believe sound like science, not stories. It's a silly bit of wordplay, meant to make wisdom from the era of the Danegeld look like modern genetics, and it should be treated with utter contempt.

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  35. "I for one do not consider it a fundamental error for Behe to use an artifact (mousetrap) as an analogy for the blood-clotting cascade or any other biological system."

    It's not an error, we just have to be careful with analogies. If I say I've got a brain like Swiss Cheese, I don't mean it'll go nicely in a fondue. There are clearly analogies between nature and artifice. Human divers wear flippers 'like' creatures like seals have. By that, I mean there are *some* ways they are like that. They're not made of the same material or using the same method.

    There are some ways in which 'all the world's a stage'. But TOF is taking that analogy and saying 'and if this is a play, there must be a playwright'. No. No more than there must be an audience, a ticket booth or an area nearby where all the props and costumes are kept when we're not using them.

    When it comes to the divine plan being 'encoded in DNA', that's just flat out wrong. It's as silly as saying the divine plan is stored in the trunk of my car. The most generous, accommodationist position is to pat TOF on the head and forgive his exuberant category error and terrible imagery. I don't think that's wise. I think we should be careful to keep science terms for science, not let religion put on a white coat and pretend.

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  36. Larry, why do you have to resort calling people names?...aka (IDiots) as an occasional lurker I find it unnecessary and unprofessional.

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    1. I find it necessary to point out that most Intelligent Design Creationists are stupid. One easy way to do this is to refer to them as IDiots.

      I consider it to be part of my professional responsibilty since my goal is to create a more rational society by eliminating superstition.

      You can thank me later.

      Have you also raised this issue on the IDiot blogs or do you not notice that their name-calling is much more insulting?

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    2. Larry wrote:

      "I consider it to be part of my professional responsibilty since my goal is to create a more rational society by eliminating superstition."

      "... their name-calling is much more insulting?"


      Who would have guessed that the fastest way to a rational society was through "name calling" and excuses such as "they started it".

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    3. Who would have guessed that the fastest way to a rational society was through "name calling" ...

      I can't take credit for discovering this. It's been known for a very long time that mockery is a very effective form of argument. The creationists, for example, have been doing it quite successfully for almost a century.

      Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired...Jonathan Swift (1720) "Letter to a Young Clergyman"

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    4. Personally, find that people like Larry, Jerry Coyne and others on this blog use name calling and intimidation to make up for the total lack of evidence when they are trying to persuade creationists and others to their beliefs. All one has to do is ask them for evidence for abiogenesis

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    5. Re LouiseG

      When is LouiseG going to realize that abiogenesis and evolution are two separate issues. This type of comment is as moronic as stating that the Theory of Evolution doesn't explain the origin of the universe.

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    6. All one has to do is ask them for evidence for abiogenesis

      The various theories of evolution explain different ways in which some portion of an existing species is transformed into something humans call a different species. There is plenty of evidence that evolutions take place. Those are facts. There is good evidence that natural selection is at least one of the mechanisms by which evolutions take place.

      But abiogenesis is more the realm of chemistry and physics. That is the transformation of non-living to living. (Granted, some folks even at Scientific American have been driven to deny that there is a distinction.) Evolution does not even address the matter. The two strokes of the Darwinian engine (reproduction to the utmost followed by the struggle for existence) do not apply to things that do not reproduce or struggle.

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    7. LouiseG wrote: "All one has to do is ask them for evidence for abiogenesis."
      It's in the genomes of extant organisms and can be elucidated using structural phylogenomics. From http://gca.cropsci.illinois.edu/research.html, among others see for example: Structural Phylogenomics Reveals Gradual Evolutionary Replacement of Abiotic Chemistries by Protein Enzymes in Purine Metabolism.

      Notice though, how I didn't claim that we know everything about how life originated. We're still missing many, many pieces. But that doesn't change the fact that there is evidence of the natural emergence of life. Also notice how creationists are all too keen to appeal to ignorance, and to engage in denial of the progress of science.

      With that out of the way, let's send the question back to LouiseG:
      Where's the demonstration that instantaneous magical creation of life is possible?

      What progress have IDcreationists been doing proving that divine magic creation by will alone, is a real, independently verifiable, empirical possibility?

      I predict that I will not recieve a direct answer to this question.

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  37. "Living things "initiate", dead things don't "initiate." Such ad hoc equivocation is used to maintain your artificial and subjective distinction between active living things with "souls" and passive "inanimate" things with no souls."

    I think it's interesting to ask what makes something 'alive'. The answer is clearly not the one TOF comes up with. There are some creatures that have very simple strategies for catching prey - their food stands on a certain spot, they trap it. I have no hesitation in saying a Venus Fly Trap is alive but a mousetrap isn't, but what's the actual distinction? It's clearly a complex, interconnected, pedantic one. Each individual argument can be knocked down really easily - 'lifeforms have DNA' ... well, so does a wooden mousetrap.

    The 'principles of motion' thing is an honest scientific attempt to answer the question, but it's one from an age where we thought the universe was basically made of Lego bricks being moved around by levers, pulleys and that it was all underwritten by magic. It's also a profoundly human-centric, geocentric view of the universe. It also wasn't even seen as a satisfying, complete answer at the time.

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  38. There is a recent post at The Panda's Thumb which is relevant to the topic here:

    "Robert Asher on Stephen Meyer’s 'uniformitarianism' argument in Darwin’s Doubt"
    By Nick Matzke on January 9, 2014:

    ... "Meyer basically claims that inferring intelligent design is an application of uniformitarianism, because in everyday human experience the only known explanation of “information” is intelligence, therefore we should infer ID when new information arises billions of years ago in the origin of life, or hundreds of millions of years ago in the Cambrian Explosion." ...

    I realize the question Dr. Moran has posed here would be best answered by ID proponents, but I think we can infer what at least some of them believe based their statements as summarized by Dr. Matze above.

    I think the underlying assumption of ID which is implied by the quoted statement is that intelligence is somehow magical/supernatural. Note that if you think, as I do, that design is a (high-speed) process of evolution and that intelligence itself uses the evolutionary algorithm to find its solutions (as I have discussed too many times to get into again unless prompted), then uniformitarianism gives the opposite conclusion to that of ID. That is, I claim we have no valid evidence of supernatural creation, only of evolution: biology, design, intelligence - evolution, evolution, evolution (picturing Elaine of "Seinfeld" in her "fake, fake, fake" bit).

    We have computer programs (which I presume most would characterize as non-living and lacking animas) which can beat human grand masters at "Jeopardy" and chess - two activities which I presume most would consider as requiring high intelligence. These and many other observations give me high confidence that every complex "artifact" (including ourselves) was produced by a process of evolution - a natural process that happens to work well in this universe.

    "Life" may always be a fuzzy term, evolving as it did from vitalism, but if I had to make a definition on the spur of this moment I would attempt to from this starting point: life as we know it are those artifacts which arose from naturally-occurring chemicals via a process of natural evolution.

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    1. After a long morning walk, I have generated enough hubris to feel that I can probe a bit deeper into the ID psyche, to a more fundamental error. I think perhaps what they consider to be magical about human intelligence is that it creates new information.

      Whereas I think that both the Pythagorean Theorem and the design details of an automobile are implicit in the physics (in the broad sense of that term as alluded to previously by The OFloinn) of this universe. They are like Blackbeard's treasure buried on remote islands. When we dig them up, we are not creating the pieces of eight, but finding them.

      Under that perspective, it becomes easy to understand that random searches are a feasible, plausible way of finding things. For example, in a "perfect 2D maze" (technical term), keeping your right hand on a side wall will eventually find a way out, but if the maze is not perfect, doing so may lead you around a fixed path inside the maze, whereas making a random guess at each intersection can and eventually will find a way out of any maze that has a way out.

      The challenge to ID then is prove that human intelligence can produce something which is not implicit in the physics of nature. "Show me the miracle": move a mountain, walk on water (using only your magical power of creation). Until they do, uniformitarianism suggests that information is only found by searching within the physics of nature, and that random searches will succeed in finding complex things over long enough search times.

      How about a plaster saint weeping tears of blood? No, that is implicit in natural physics when a hypodermic is used to inject blood into the statue's head.

      How about parting the Red Sea? No, telling tale tales (see Paul Bunyan) is consistent with the physics of this universe.

      How about faith healing? Fine, if you can substantiate it in statistically-significant results of controlled, double-blind experiments and win Randi's million-dollar prize.

      However, as a creationist informed me, that will never happen because the Bible says anyone unfaithful enough to demand a test from God will never, as a deliberate policy on God's part, receive a positive result. By stating this policy, God has made himself unfalsifiable. Well, I never said he wasn't clever.

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    2. Good points, but I'm going to walk back the Pythagorean Theorem. It cannot be established by physics, but by mathematical logic. Consider the right triangle whose base and height measure "1". The hypotenuse will by SQRT(2), which is irrational. Any attempt to verify the Pythagorean Theorem through physics on a unit triangle will fail, because the measured hypotenuse will only match SQRT(2) to the limits of the measurement system's precision and discrimination.

      However, the Pythagorean Theorem IS implicit in the postulates of Euclidean plane geometry. That is, there is a chain of deductions and construction that connect these postulates (and axioms) to the theorem. In a way, they are like a line of descent from ancestral forms.

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