Friday, February 07, 2014

The real war is between rationalism and superstition

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy watched the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. He decided that both of them are wrong because the debate was framed as a war between evolution and religion. Like a long list of accommodationists before him, Phil Plait thinks he has the answer in his post: The Creation of Debate.
I can’t stress this enough. The conflict over the teaching of evolution is based on the false assumption that evolution is antagonistic to religion. This is why, I think, evolution is so vehemently opposed by so many in the United States. The attacks on the specifics of evolution—the claims about irreducibility of the eye, for example, or other such incorrect statements—are a symptom, not a cause. I can talk about how we know the Universe is old until the Universe is substantially older and not convince someone whose heels are dug in. But if we can show them that the idea of evolution is not contrary to their faith, then we will make far, far more progress.

That’s not to say I’ll stop talking about the science itself. That still needs to be discussed! But simply saying science is right and faith is wrong will never, ever fix the problem.

And this won’t be easy. As long as this discussion is framed as “science versus religion” there will never be a resolution. A religious person who doesn’t necessarily think the Bible is literal, but who is a very faithful Christian, will more likely be sympathetic to the Ken Hams than the Bill Nyes, as long as science is cast as an atheistic dogma. For example, on the Catholic Online website, the argument is made that both Ham and Nye are wrong, and casts science as an atheistic venture.

That must change for progress to be made.
This is the classic accommodationist position. Problem is, it's been tried and it doesn't work in the United States. And the reason it doesn't work is that Americans aren't that stupid. They realize that these debates really are about science vs. religion. They know that evolution is, in fact, antagonistic to religion.

Jerry Coyne points this out rather forcibly in his response to Phil Plait. Read Coyne's article: Debate postmortem II: Phil Plait goes all accommodationist. I'll get back to Jerry Coyne in a minute but first let me quote Phill Plait's "solution."
And who should do this? The answer to me is clear: Religious people who understand the reality of science. They have a huge advantage over someone who is not a believer. Because atheism is so reviled in America, someone with faith will have a much more sympathetic soapbox from which to speak to those who are more rigid in their beliefs.
It's possible that "religious people who understand the reality of science" is a very small group and it's even more possible that they will be opposed to science and evolution precisely because they DO understand the reality of science. Plait is probably thinking about Ken Miller and Francis Collins but it's not clear to me that they truly understand what science is telling us. Science is telling us that there's no need for god(s) in order to understand the world around us. Evolution tells us that life has no purpose.

What Phil Plait is saying is that the best people to defend evolution are those who think that there really is a creator god but he/she/it mostly used evolution as a method of creation. In other words, we atheists should rely on theistic evolution creationists to convince other creationists to adopt a somewhat different view of creationism! That probably means we should keep quiet unless we are willing to make the case for one version of supernaturalism. Why would we do that?

That may be acceptable to some people but it misses the point of the conflict as far as many atheists are concerned. Jerry Coyne said it best in response to the accommodationist views of Micheal Ruse some years ago. Coyne's letter, which appeared in Playboy after Ruse's article was published, said ...
[Ruse] fails to grasp the real nature of the conflict. It's not just about evolution versus creationism. To scientists like Dawkins and Wilson, the real war is between rationalism and superstition. [my emphasis, LAM] Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition. Creationism is just a symptom of what they see as the greater enemy: religion. While religion can exist without creationism, creationism cannot exist without religion.
This passage has been widely quoted and I wholeheartedly agree with Coyne's view.1

For many of us the real war is between rationalism and superstition and the battle over evolution is just a minor skirmish in that war. What this means is that New Atheists are not inclined to recruit people who believe in superstition in order to fight a war against superstition.

That may be acceptable to people like Phil Plait because they're not interested in fighting a war against all forms of superstition, including religion. Instead, they seem content to promote some forms of superstition over others. The accommodationists should not expect all atheists to agree with them and they should acknowledge the fact that many of us think science and religion are incompatible.2


1. There's some doubt about whether Coyne actually said this in his letter. I'm quoting a second-hand source: Dawkins in The God Delusion.

2. I'm not saying we are correct. I'm just saying that after all these years it's disappointing to see so many accommodationists who just don't get it.

185 comments :

  1. What this means is that New Atheists are not inclined to recruit people who believe in superstition in order to fight a war against superstition.

    In other words, you are using the American political model for this battle in the sense that people are treated as either with you or against you and forming coalitions is seen as a sign of weakness. I would have thought that a Canadian would realize that groups with different agendas can successfully work together rather than fighting a multi-front war.

    I don't know how often you venture into blogs where evolution and/or atheism aren't the main topics of discussion, but I often do, and even on left-wing blogs not very sympathetic to religion, lately, New Atheistic arguments (such as arguing that a "real" understanding of evolution is incompatible with religion) are seen as being "rude" or "arrogant" whenever evolution get mentioned and the inevitable resulting science/faith discussion happens. If these tactics fail even among a sympathetic leftist audience, what chance do they have among the general public?

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    1. Jonathan: it's not clear that the tactics fail. Dawkins is widele seen as "rude" or "arrogant" and his tactics have been hugely successful. Of course, the answer to the success/failure question does depend on what your goals are - hence Larry's post to clarify the matter.

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    2. Have they been "hugely successful"? What's the evidence for that? Did "The God Delusion" create atheists in any non-anecdotal way? It sold lots of copies, sure, but to whom? Existing atheists who don't really need it? A few theists who read (or at at least claimed to read) it in order to argue against it?

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    3. Some of these may be what you're looking for: http://www.richarddawkins.net/letters?category=Converts. Of course it's all anecdotal; I don't think anybody (even Dawkins) is interested in conducting a (very expensive, surely) scientific study on the effects of reading "The God Delusion".

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    4. Anecdotal nonsense like that is exactly what I'm *not* looking for. The problem of course is that you can find exactly the same sort of thing for religious converts (It's a pretty common trope for religious people to claim to have "found" religion after reading a book or having a "vision").

      We're scientists here. If we claim that something is successful we *need* studies to back it up. Yes, they may be expensive or impractical -- but if that's the case we shouldn't claim any success.

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    5. "If these tactics fail even among a sympathetic leftist audience...." As a stickler for having documented studies to back up claims, I'm sure you are not just relying on your own personal anecdotal evidence of that. No not at all.

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    6. It's not quite symmetric, however. My observations of lack of effect may have been anecdotal, but the burden of evidence for anything is demonstrating an effect and not the lack of it.

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    7. My argument doesn't depend on establishing the strong version of the claim, so I'll just retract "his tactics have been hugely successful" and replace it with "I have seen no indication at all that his tactics have failed". Debate closed?

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    8. Well, all this so-called new atheist business (e.g. books by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc.) certainly gets people talking and sometimes when people talk they also begin to do a little thinking.
      Contrast that with a world where it simply was not acceptable to challenge or question (read: disrespect) religion.
      This is why someone like Dawkins is always mis-characterized as being rude, shrill, angry etc etc. - he is rightfully perceived by religionists as a threat to the unfettered continuation of generational indoctrination.

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    9. Jonathan says:...and even on left-wing blogs not very sympathetic to religion, lately, New Atheistic arguments (such as arguing that a "real" understanding of evolution is incompatible with religion) are seen as being "rude" or "arrogant" whenever evolution get mentioned....

      Maybe, but here is something that should be remembered. While the conservative/right-wing (esp in the U.S.) may be in the thrall of christianity, they do not have a monopoly on irrationality. Many on the left have simply substituted traditional religious views with new beliefs just as unfounded and ridiculous and these people also sometimes feel that materialism is a threat to their world view. While I am appalled with most aspects of conservative politics, there is a lot of irrationality in this world to go around.

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    10. Quite correct, SRM, especially if what we're talking about are not real leftists, but the great squishy mass of center to center-right liberals with unformed social democratic notions. Plenty of them think that overt professions of atheism would be damaging to the Democrats' electoral chances (probably true, but not much of a consideration for confirmed leftists) and lots of them have anti-vax, HIV-denialist, and other superstitious positions. I had a conversation with one of them who mixed up philosophical materialism with economic materialism. He had nothing to justify this conflation of two different things except for the fact that the same word described each, so there must be some sort of commonality somewhere. And just because of that tenuous connection, he was into every kind of woo as some sort of pose of rejection. Never mind that to other people he just looked like a kook; it was enough that his intentions were pure and noble in his own mind.

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    11. There is certainly the "hippie/newage" sort of of leftism that often is associated with non-rational fears of genetic engineering, vaccines, and mainstream medical science and which is hardly more rational than the creationist/climate change denial movement on the right, but I'm not really referring to that. I'm talking about the mainstream leftist movement that is rational, supportive of science, and so forth. I encourage anyone who really thinks that the typical aggressive New Atheist arguments work to actually try them outside the echo chambers of atheist blogs. The problem with the Internet is it is too easy to think that arguments work if you just hang out where 90%+ of the people share your opinions already.

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    12. Jonathan Badger tries to be clever ...

      I encourage anyone who really thinks that the typical aggressive New Atheist arguments work to actually try them outside the echo chambers of atheist blogs.

      Last Friday night I attended a debate on Is There a God?". It was sponsored by the Roman Catholic church.

      The good guys were represented by an atheist who relied heavily on New Atheist arguments.

      These debates are becoming quite common because the mainline churches realize that they now have to defend their belief in god. I don't recall many debates like this in the last century.

      I wonder why Christians are more worried these days? Do you suppose it's because of the accommodationists? Yeah, that must be the reason. They're afraid of Phil Plait.

      Jonathan, I think you need to get out more. Even your President now talks about nonbelievers in a respectful manner. I doubt very much that he reads my blog. And I doubt very much that it was Michael Ruse who raised his consciousness.

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    13. The good guys were represented by an atheist who relied heavily on New Atheist arguments.

      Do you think he convinced anyone? Or that the Church converted any atheists? Or did both sides just make their supporters happy and their opponents annoyed and merely waste everyone's time?

      These debates are becoming quite common because the mainline churches realize that they now have to defend their belief in god. I don't recall many debates like this in the last century.

      You have a short memory then. At least in the US, there was a lot of noise made out about a supposed "decline in faith" in the 1970s. Time magazine even had a famous cover "Is God dead?" at the time, and it looked like religion was no longer going to be a major player in US politics. But then of course came Reagan and the resurgence of the religious right. This sort of thing seems to be as cyclical as tie and lapel widths.

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    14. Do you think he convinced anyone? Or that the Church converted any atheists? Or did both sides just make their supporters happy and their opponents annoyed and merely waste everyone's time?

      By all reports, and personal observation, the Roman Catholics were not happy.

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  2. One quibble: "Evolution tells us that life has no purpose" - no it doesn't, and neither does gravity tell us that falling has no purpose. Evolution undermines the teleological worldview by failing to provide evidence in its favour, not by providing evidence against it.

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    1. Tomato, tomahto. Failure to find evidence for is evidence against if you would expect to find evidence for, given the truth of the hypothesis.

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    2. That should be "tomayto, tomato" :-)

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    3. More seriously, I don't see that we would expect to find any evidence for a teleological worldview if it were true. It's non-falsifiable.

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    4. Of course we would expect evidence. The only way we wouldn't would be a god who wanted to remain undetectable and who would fake a natural world. You could postulate a god like that, but you would have to admit that he was a bit of an asshole.

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    5. But that is exactly what theological evolution proposes!

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    6. "Of course we would expect evidence."

      A hundred years ago, it was felt that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny' - that stages of embryonic development showed the stages of evolution, so that human embryos resembled fish and reptile embryos, and as things become 'less primitive', they just add another stage.

      (As I type that, I realise that's what we think the structure of brains demonstrate, the 'reptile brain' and so on, I wonder if that's an idea that will end up being discarded).

      We could imagine an engineer who'd create a genetic replicator containing 'the complete plan'. That we could grab a bacterium and strip out the 'program' from its DNA equivalent and learn it had instructions on how to make an elephant and a human and everything else.

      Analogy: like taking a packet of soup and instead of just there being a soup recipe on the side, there's a complete cookbook, with every possible recipe for every possible meal.

      The problem is ... we know that the instructions on how to make an elephant and a human being don't exist in bacterial DNA. And we know that the instructions on how to make a bacterium are garbled in human DNA.

      So a purely mechanical system is *possible*, just not what we observe.

      If you allow some parallel mechanism-that's-not-a-mechanism to operate, then that's different ... but why would such a thing be undetectable? Why *can't* we detect souls or angels or the divine presence? Especially when they're meant to be affecting the physical world?

      Is the argument that it's *impossible* for a scientific instrument to detect a soul, or simply that we've not built the right instrument? It's a rather important question. For those with reason to think there are souls, at least. If they want to shut atheists up, then perhaps they should get on and build a soul detector.

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    7. "It's a rather important question" - before it can be a question at all, let alone an important one, someone first has to be clear on what, if anything, the word "soul" means in the first place. That includes explaining how a world with souls would differ from a world without souls. Until then, we're better off spending our time analyzing a piece of prose written by Byers.

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    8. "That includes explaining how a world with souls would differ from a world without souls"

      Yup. It's not just that there's no evidence for souls, it's that the people that wibble on about them can't even come up with a theoretical method of how we might go looking for either a soul or its effects.

      At least with leprechauns we know what one's meant to look like.

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    9. Evolution undermines the teleological worldview by failing to provide evidence in its favour, not by providing evidence against it.

      I personaly would suggest that Absence of Evidence does suggests Evidence of Absence. This is what we do in Science all the time. The more one seeks for evidence of some prediction or confirmation of some hypothesis and find nothing, the stronger the suggestion that there is nothing to be found at all.

      More seriously, I don't see that we would expect to find any evidence for a teleological worldview if it were true. It's non-falsifiable.

      Sure if, as you said, one assumes that a god maskeraded the process in a way that makes it indistinguishable from a natural process. Which, of course, begs the question on why assume a god did it in the first place.

      Personaly, I disagree with the Popperian idea that things in Science have to be absolutely falsifiable or are otherwise non-scientific. There are many things about which you can only weight evidence for or against and not falsify in any definite maner. That doesn't make them any less scientific. In many cases, it's the weight of evidence that matters, not an absolute test that gives an absolute answer to the problem. That's why I don't believe in Santa Claus, unicorns or leprechauns (or gods). I can't absolutely prove they don't exist, but the complete absence of serious evidence of the supernatural strongly suggests I shouldn't.

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  3. Given that Nye was openly voicing accommodationism in the debate, it seems a bit odd for Plait to declare him wrong. It was Ham who, in the end, made it all about religion, not scientific evidence.

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  4. ['For many of us the real war is between rationalism and superstition"]

    'Everything came from nothing', 'nothing needs a reason to exist', 'the mind is meat', 'free will does not exist', 'life happens because survivors survive'.

    There is no superstition like atheist superstition.

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  5. ["Evolution tells us that life has no purpose.'}

    *slaps forehead*. One of the dumbest things I've read in a very dumb world.

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    1. And we're supposed to take your naked word for that?

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    2. One of the dumbest things I've read in a very dumb world.

      So you don't ever go back and read your own writings, I take it.

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    3. @mregnor

      So, you must think that evolution tells us that life has a purpose. Care to explain what that purpose is?

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    4. My views on life's purpose are well known. Nature manifests teleology, and man's purpose is to know and love God eternally.

      The real question is: what could you possibly mean by "Evolution tells us that life has no purpose."?

      Do you mean that the observation of changes in gene frequencies in populations over time has provided a definitive nihilistic answer to man's deepest question-- why am I here?-- that all of philosophy, literature, art, music, and history have failed to answer?

      The statement that "Evolution tells us that life has no purpose" is a black hole of ignorant scientism. It says nothing at all about life's purpose. It is merely a commentary on the intellectual depth of the person saying it.

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    5. mregnor wrote: " Nature manifests teleology"

      No it doesn't. We've been over this multiple times, but you're somehow impervious to reason and logic. You're still just arguing from blind statements of faith, Egnor.

      It's the same crap every time. You blindly assert that nature is teleological, then go on to assert that people who disagree are "ignorant" or some other similar insult.

      You never actually supply a logically valid argument that deductively concludes that nature is teleological. It's all assertion with you.

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    7. I should really proofread before I post. Second try:

      My views on life's purpose are well known. Nature manifests teleology, and man's purpose is to know and love God eternally.

      That's nice, but it doesn't answer the question Larry was asking. He didn't ask you for what you think of life's purpose and he didn't ask you for humanity's purpose; he asked you for what evolution tells us about the purpose of life. It's also well-known that you reject evolution, so obviously the purpose of life and the purpose of humankind are to some extent distinct from evolution's purpose for life in your mind. So perhaps you can now answer the question you were asked?

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    8. Evolution-- the observation that gene frequencies in populations change with time-- tells us that gene frequencies in populations change with time.

      Its relevance to teleology in nature and purpose in man's life is tangential at best. There is obvious teleology in evolutionary change, as there is in all natural processes.

      I can't fathom how someone could interpret a (relatively trivial) observation like (genes change in frequency) as a metaphysical profundity that denies purpose in life. Nuclear stupid.

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    9. A straw man. "Purpose in life" is not the same as "the purpose of life" (meaning not an individual human life but life in general, as a natural phenomenon). Evolution is not teleological, and so we can't say that its objective has been to produce Homo sapiens as the intended finished product.

      Changes in gene frequencies are less trivial if you consider why and how they change, and what their long-term effects are.

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    10. "Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno."

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    11. Egnor, you're still not answering the question. You were asked what evolution tells us about a purpose for life. Reiterating your rejection of the idea that evolution can tell us that there is no purpose for life does not answer the question about what evolution does tell us about the purpose of life.

      Its relevance to teleology in nature and purpose in man's life is tangential at best.

      I'm glad that you now recognize the irrelevance of your 'response'.

      There is obvious teleology in evolutionary change, as there is in all natural processes.

      Could you elaborate more on the "obvious teleology in evolutionary change"? I'm afraid it isn't as obvious as you think it is.

      I can't fathom how someone could interpret a (relatively trivial) observation like (genes change in frequency) as a metaphysical profundity that denies purpose in life. Nuclear stupid.

      Well, there are lots of things you don't understand, and that doesn't necessarily indicate that they are stupid.

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    12. Aaaaand the pattern repeats, and mr Egnor is none the wiser. Let's take a look.

      mregnor wrote: "There is obvious teleology in evolutionary change, as there is in all natural processes. "
      Here we have Egnor just mindlessly repeating the assertion. The proposition he's trying to prove is just declared as fact.

      "I can't fathom how someone could interpret a (relatively trivial) observation like (genes change in frequency) as a metaphysical profundity that denies purpose in life. Nuclear stupid."
      And here we have the insult thrown at people who disagree.

      Thanks Egnor, you've learned nothing I see.

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    13. Rumraket, let's see if I can follow your line of reasoning here...if I understand you correctly when Piotr says: "Evolution is not teleological, and so we can't say that its objective has been to produce Homo sapiens as the intended finished product." then that is a valid sound argument. When mregnor says: "There is obvious teleology in evolutionary change, as there is in all natural processes. " however then that is quote "just mindlessly repeating the assertion."
      IMHO, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

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    14. Andy Wilberforce wrote: "... then that is a valid sound argument."
      I didn't say that. Why would you ascribe to me the claim that his statement is "a valid and sound argument" when I haven't spoken to/about any of Piotr's statements?

      But now that you bring it up, that is a claim too, and while Piotr doesn't elaborate on why, it is one with evidential support. Arguments for this have been vented here on this blog many times which is why I don't bother asking Piotr to support it. I already know the underlying reasoning, both Larry Moran and others have touched upon it many times.

      Unlike Egnor's statement. Which he never actually bothers to elaborate on. It's just mindlessly asserted time and time again (it's not the first time on this blog he's asserted this). "Evolution/nature is teleological, you're insane if you disagree" - Which is why I managed to predict that he'd repeat the very same modus operandi in his response. You'll hear Egnor say these two exact things over and over again.

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    15. If I may (shudder) defend Egnor's key point:

      In amongst all the blather about natural processes manifesting teleology (whatever that might mean), he said "its relevance to teleology in nature and purpose in man's life is tangential at best" - which is actually an understatement. The relevance of evolution to teleology is exactly the same as the relevance of gravity (or beautiful sunsets, or Catholic priests sodomising young children) to teleology: nil, nada, and nothing.

      The fact that we have found no evidence of teleology in nature doesn't logically prevent anyone from claiming that whatever happens (and whatever will happen in future) is the will of god. And that's exactly what theology does claim. Why are people on this thread trying to falsify a claim that is entirely unfalsifiable?

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    16. Evolution is not teleological. Why? Because its mechanisms are known to us, and none of them is goal-oriented. Shall I elaborate, Andy? If you think evolution serves some grand overarching purpose, please present the evidence for that. The default hypothesis (in the light of what we already know) is that there is no such purpose. Hint: if X is the outcome of a historical process, it does not logically follow that X was the predetermined goal of the process from the start.

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    17. Piotr wrote: "Because its mechanisms are known to us, and none of them is goal-oriented"
      Ok Piotr, so let's hear the evidence for genetic drift not being teleological.

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    18. The heart of the matter:

      "My views on life's purpose are well known. Nature manifests teleology, and man's purpose is to know and love God eternally. "

      Nature manifests teleology - that's debatable. I say no it doesn't, it is indifferent to teleology, as it is to most things.

      Man's purpose is to know and love God eternally - that's a pretty weak purpose, from my point of view. The purpose is to pose like a statue for millions of years, emanating love for God? That's it? No new thoughts or experiences or observations or interactions, for millions of years? Some purpose.

      That sort of glib phrase, with no real substance to it, is what has always bothered me most about religions. There's a big build up, and then Ta-Da! The lamest of lame as a finale. "You know, love God eternally," as if that were obviously a good thing.

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    19. "Ok Piotr, so let's hear the evidence for genetic drift not being teleological."

      There are different versions of 'teleological'. The one mregnor talks about is final cause. His argument is that evolution was a process designed to bring about this specific result.

      It's a Texas Sharpshooter argument - there's a divine plan, we're here, so it must be the divine plan we're here.

      If he's right, there's no particular reason why he shouldn't be able to explain how the divine plan is communicated to the subatomic particles. Is it encoded in them, or is it transmitted to them? Is the problem that we can't currently detect the divine plan due to limits in science, or is it even theoretically unattainable?

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    20. @Andy:

      How can it conceivably be teleological if it's the effect of imperfect sampling from generation to generation? It's the very antithesis of teleology. If you run a simulation of random drift with the same initial conditions (you can easily do it yourself using an application like AlleleA1), you will get sometimes the one and sometimes the other of two possible fixation states, with a completely unique history of random fluctuations every time you run it. What sort of teleology is that?

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    21. Dearest Andy,

      When someone says X is not Y, they are not the one making a claim.

      The claim has already been made, namely that X is Y.

      So if I say that genetic drift is not teleological it is an invitation to you to pony up the evidence that it is teleological.

      Of course you are not honest enough to admit that this is your claim so you must indulge in these time wasting semantic games.

      And if you really think that something is rotten in the state of Denmark you may want to stop breathing through your mouth.

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    22. Teleology is the directedness of natural change. Things fall down, not up. Matches burst into flame, not ice, when struck. Electrons obey quantum mechanical laws, not traffic laws.

      Teleology is everywhere. There are some things in nature that are not teleological-- chance and accidents do happen, but most things manifest teleology.

      Evolution is replete with teleological processes (all physiology, for example, manifests teleology-- the heart pumps, it doesn't digest). Whether evolution overall is teleological-- whether populations evolve to distinct ends, is debatable. I think most do. Convergent evolution is an obvious example of teleology.

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    23. If evolution was teleological, why does isogenic, clonal lineages of bacteria all evolve in wildly different trajectories? (only one cit+ lineage in the Lenski experiment) It's almost like it's... random.

      What the hell kind of teleology is that?

      This is where Egnor and Andy comes back witht the infinitely inclusive, unfalsifiable and ad-hoc interpretation that "whatever happens was the plan all along". Which can fit any concievable observation.

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    24. "Teleology is the directedness of natural change. Things fall down, not up. Matches burst into flame, not ice, when struck. Electrons obey quantum mechanical laws, not traffic laws."
      None of which entails that they're intended to do so as part of some divine plan.

      "Teleology is everywhere. There are some things in nature that are not teleological-- chance and accidents do happen, but most things manifest teleology."
      So you keep mindlessly asserting... but no actual valid argument is ever forwarded by you.

      "Evolution is replete with teleological processes (all physiology, for example, manifests teleology-- the heart pumps, it doesn't digest)."
      There it is again, something does something - that still doesn't mean or imply it is intended to do so by some grand plan.

      "Whether evolution overall is teleological-- whether populations evolve to distinct ends, is debatable. I think most do."
      The statement is observationally falsified by the Lenski experiment. The trajectories are all over the place.

      "Convergent evolution is an obvious example of teleology."
      No, they're an obvious example of similar physical constraints. If the environment is a dark brown color, your most effective camouflage will be dark brown. This isn't teleology, it's environmental constraint.

      Have you ever had even a single critical thought in your life Egnor?

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    25. "Whether evolution overall is teleological-- whether populations evolve to distinct ends, is debatable. I think most do."

      That's actually quite a concession. What does 'ends' even mean in an evolutionary context, though? Modern organisms are not final forms.

      "Convergent evolution is an obvious example of teleology."

      It could be - see, I can concede a point, too - but equally well it might not be.

      The modern scientific consensus doesn't need evolution to look to the future at all. It's all about surviving in the present, based on what you've inherited. And that's just as well, because all the mechanisms we know about within organisms are very simple, small, blind processes. When you look at the 'rules' this organisms are following, they're incredibly simple ones. It's the consequences that are complex.

      The sort of teleology you're talking about dependent on some part of the process possessing knowledge of the future. So far, so God. But the sting in the tail there is that it's not enough for The Designer to possess knowledge of the future, he's somehow getting that information to the organisms in the present.

      If so ... this isn't modern science, but if you can demonstrate even the vague contours of how it *might* be possible, you'll go down as one of the greatest minds in history.

      I do not believe that organisms receive information from the future.

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    26. If it's so clear that genetic drift is random, how come biologist cannot agree about it's importance in relation to e.g natural selection? Some even claim it's all natural selection...

      Delete
    27. "If it's so clear that genetic drift is random, how come biologist cannot agree about it's importance in relation to e.g natural selection?"

      Because it's possible to understanding the rule without knowing all the consequences and permutations that following that rule will lead to.

      If genetic drift isn't random, is it directed, and if so, how? Answer that, win your Nobel Prize.

      Delete
    28. "Teleology" is not the same thing as "Grand Plan".

      Teleology merely means tendency for one outcome more than another-- it can be very simple obvious things-- warm air rises, it doesn't turn to ice. Striking a glass with a hammer shatters it, rather than making it turn into a bird.

      Some teleology is complex-- motion in relativistic circumstances, which requires tensor calculus to describe. Much teleology is quite mundane.

      But it's all teleology, and it's all around us, and if you think about it, all of nature is permeated with this remarkable directedness. It's not bedlam.

      Now, whether teleology means "a Grand Plan" or God is another debate. Aristotle didn't seem to think so. Aquinas did think so (the Fifth Way).

      I think teleology is proof of God's existence, but that is another argument. The fact is that teleology is everywhere, all around us, and many aspects of evolution and biology manifest teleology of one sort or another.

      Delete
    29. "Evolution is replete with teleological processes (all physiology, for example, manifests teleology-- the heart pumps, it doesn't digest)."

      This sentence seems to reflect a lack of understanding of the most basic principle of natural selection. Natural selection is a passive process, merely the consequence of some variations reproducing better than others. It does turn out that variations where the heart pumps reproduce more successfully than ones where it digests. But were it not so, natural selection would be just as happy to select for hearts that digest. It could care less what the heart does, as long as the creature reproduces successfully.

      Convergent evolution is nothing more than some variant showing up in two different lineages, and happening to work out well in both of them.

      What is left in the dust of history are all the variations along the way that failed, while what we see today are those variations that reproduce the most successfully. It should be no surprise that most of the organs do their jobs fairly well. It is certainly not a sign of intended purpose.

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    30. Things fall down, not up

      It's only a linguistic convention. Here on Earth we define 'down' colloquially as the direction in which gravity pulls things (note that your 'down' is called 'up' in the antipodes). But in physics the trajectory of a body in free fall (e.g. the ballistic path of a cannon ball) does not have to lead 'down'. As Newton realised, an object orbiting the Earth is also in free fall (neither up nor down).

      Teleology merely means tendency for one outcome more than another-- it can be very simple obvious things-- warm air rises, it doesn't turn to ice.

      You are confusing mere local directionality with teleology. Greek τέλος is 'completion, purpose, full realisation'. Neither the laws of physics nor the mechanisms of biological evolution are (or can be) descibed in such terms. A stone rolling down the hill is responding to the strictly local conditions; it isn't attracted by the eventual end-point of its trajectory. It doesn't know or care where it will come to rest.

      Delete
    31. Piotr writes: "Greek τέλος is 'completion, purpose, full realisation'. Neither the laws of physics nor the mechanisms of biological evolution are (or can be) descibed in such terms".
      You keep repeating that assertion but where is the evidence? My point here is that you do not live by the same standards that you hold others to. I'm personally leaning towards creation with built in flexibility for adaptation rather than teleology when it comes to biological evolution, but I'm open to changing my mind depending on where the evidence lead. When you look at the big picture however, i.e. the origin of the universe and the history of life on earth, to me it bears clear marks of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being.

      Delete
    32. "When you look at the big picture however, i.e. the origin of the universe and the history of life on earth, to me it bears clear marks of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being."
      There is no concievable observation you could not rationalize was what a supreme being wanted. There is nothing that merits this kind of rationalization in the first place, it constitutes an unnecessary complication. You see it because you want to, not because it's actually there.

      Again, try to imagine just for a moment a different planet with a different history of life. Whatever exists on that planet will have it's own history, contingent on different events that happened there. Different climate events, different extinctions, different oceans and weather patterns. Life there will be different. Now you come along and see that the history of life on that planet is unlikely, it could have been different in so many ways. Clearly, to you, it must all have been part of some grand design.

      But Andy, can't you see, that would be true for any imaginable planet? Even one without life.

      Look at the moon with it's millions of craters. There's no other moon in the observed universe exactly like it with the exact same pattern of craters the exact same size, exact same mass, exact same number of atoms in the exact same positions. Clearly the moon is so unfathomably unlikely it must have been planned by some supreme being, otherwise, how could it have ended up exactly the way it is today? This one specific unique Moon of ours. Wait, all moons are specific in all their unique ways. All planets are. They're all the result of some incredibly unlikely prior history that made them into what they are today.

      Look at it this way. There is only one Mt. Everest in the entire universe. Think about how many atoms Mt. Everest is made of, how they are all arranged exactly the way they are into the shape it has. All it's cracks, faults, peaks, valleys, whatever countless miniscule surface features, texture, hardness etc. etc. Every cubic millimetre of that entire mountain from it's core and foundation to it's surface and peak. Made of rock, which consists of atoms, incomprehensible number of atoms arranged into it's particular shape and structure. Any one particular atom could be in a different place. Any imaginable different place. But they aren't, they're part of the Mt. Everest, and not just arbitrarily, but they each have some particular and exact position. Litterally unique. Chance can't have produced it, it's too unlikely.
      Are we now to believe the Mt. Everest was intentionally designed. Are we now to believe the universe was made with the specific intent of making the Mt. Everest?

      Notice how you can make the exact same argument for anything that exists. Any particular rock, or leaf, or cloud, mountain, body of water, is exactly the way it is. The odds that anything would happen to be exactly like the way it is, sometime before it formed, is incalculably improbable. There's no concievable structure in any imaginable universe that would't have a contingent history in this way. Your ad-hoc interpretation adds nothing to this picture, it is entirely in your own head.

      Delete
    33. "all of nature is permeated with this remarkable directedness."

      Again, Texas Sharpshooter - before science came along and showed how individual physical processes could be both simple and predictable, the religious talked about 'God moving in mysterious ways', miracles, interventions and the unknowable. Now it turns out that God's not doing that at all, he's 'remarkably direct'.

      After billions of years, we clawed our way into a position where we're the only creatures we know of that are aware of the subatomic world and other galaxies. These patterns are not 'evident', they are conclusions that have taken the dedicated effort of millennia of learned people pooling their research, and despite that many (most) are still provisional findings.

      And 'evolution' is a simple process, but it's the opposite of a 'direct' one. Quantum physics shows a remarkable lack of directness.

      Delete
    34. I wrote: "When you look at the big picture however, i.e. the origin of the universe and the history of life on earth, to me it bears clear marks of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being."

      Rumraket responded: "Look at it this way. There is only one Mt. Everest in the entire universe. Think about how many atoms Mt. Everest is made of, how they are all arranged exactly the way they are into the shape it has. All it's cracks, faults, peaks, valleys, whatever countless miniscule surface features, texture, hardness etc. etc....Are we now to believe the Mt. Everest was intentionally designed. Are we now to believe the universe was made with the specific intent of making the Mt. Everest?"

      I'm afraid that you totally miss the point. Who cares in what order the atoms are arranged in Mt. Everest? What difference does it make?
      The world as we see it today bears clear marks of design. The naturalistic argument is that this is just an appearance of design and that everything could be explained without invoking the actions of a designer. In order for Naturalism to be an explanation for our existence it need to provide a theory which makes it not unlikely that a sequence of naturalistic processes starting with the chemistry on the infant earth could lead up to the first self-replicating unit. Naturalism must further be able to provide a reasonable explanation for how this self-replicator can account for the diversity of life, now and as shown in the fossil records, in the timeframes available. Further it needs to show how minds with consciousness and intentionality are not unlikely by-products of this process.
      To me it's clear that Naturalism fails give us answers to all of the above questions because it is built on the wrong premise. A better explanation is that the apparent design is the result of actual design by a Supreme Being.

      Delete
    35. "Who cares in what order the atoms are arranged in Mt. Everest? What difference does it make?"

      Do you think the same about genes?


      Delete
    36. I'm afraid that you totally miss the point. Who cares in what order the atoms are arranged in Mt. Everest? What difference does it make?
      It makes a difference to the Mt. Everest. If they were arranged differently, it might not be the tallest mountain on Earth. Or even a mountain at all. The pattern they correspond to is incredibly unlikely and very specific. Why aren't you all up in arms about how unlikely the pattern of craters on the moon is?

      "The world as we see it today bears clear marks of design."
      Thank you for your opinion, I disagree. So tell me, how would the world look if it wasn't designed? How do you know?

      "In order for Naturalism to be an explanation for our existence."
      ... it needs to provide an explanation for our existence. Yes, so what? We don't know how life originated, science is working on it.

      Declaring "design" and then sticking your head in the sand isn't an explanation. It's intellectual lazyness. Scientists actually do work, ID proponents just sit on the sidelines and write useless review articles full of spin and propaganda.

      "Naturalism must further be able to provide a reasonable explanation for how this self-replicator can account for the diversity of life, now and as shown in the fossil records, in the timeframes available."
      It already has. Evolution. Get over it.

      "To me it's clear that Naturalism fails give us answers to all of the above questions because it is built on the wrong premise."
      Good for you. Problem is that I don't see how you can conclude that it "fails" when the process is ongoing. These things take time. It took 150 years since Gregor Mendel to work out how the mechanism of inheritance actually works (how DNA is the unit of inheritance and is copied from generation to generation).

      Work in chemistry and the origin of life was basically kickstarted with the Miller-Urey experiments in the mid 50's and there's been several important insights about the chemistry of life since then. Give it another 50 years, see what happens.

      This desperation to give up and declare "design did it dunno where dunno how dunno when" seems a bit premature.

      Delete
    37. Jem, I fail to see the analogy.
      The arrangement of molecules in DNA must be very specific in order to store information and enabling transcription in to RNA for translation to a protein sequence.
      In what way is there a need for Mt. Everest to be exactly the way it is or even exist at all? Does our existence depend on it?

      Delete
    38. Well I think that children with inoperable brain tumours "manifest teleology".

      Is the catholic church, that bastion of kiddy fucking sexual predators, replete with teleological processes ?

      Do sociopathic brain surgeons who use the (misguided) respect that society accords them to promulgate a homophobic and misogynistic screed of hate manifest teleology ?

      This teleology thing is fun, you can use it to explain anything with no thought what so ever and abdicate any personal responsibility for your actions.

      Delete
    39. "In what way is there a need for Mt. Everest to be exactly the way it is or even exist at all?"
      In what way is there a need for us to be exactly the way we are or even exist at all?

      Delete
    40. Rumraket, I know since before that you cannot distinguish between specified complexity and complexity so I'm not going to pursue that discussion again.

      Delete
    41. @steve:


      [This sentence seems to reflect a lack of understanding of the most basic principle of natural selection.]

      Natural selection doesn't have "basic principles". It's moronic gibberish posing as a scientific theory. Jerry Fodor demolished it in "What Darwin Got Wrong". Educate yourself.

      [Natural selection is a passive process, merely the consequence of some variations reproducing better than others.]

      Survivor survive. What bullshit.

      [It does turn out that variations where the heart pumps reproduce more successfully than ones where it digests.]

      What a stupid thing to say. The reason that hearts don't digest is not that 'hearts that do digest were selected against', moron. The reason that hearts don't digest is that there never have been hearts that do digest. There are intrinsic constraints on evolution. Teleology.

      [But were it not so, natural selection would be just as happy to select for hearts that digest.]

      Natural selection is an empty concept entertained by half-wit "scientists" because they vaguely think that it justifies their creation myth. Natural selection isn't a process and it isn't "happy" about anything.

      Evolution is the consequence of intrinsic constraints (genetic, physical, etc) and the evolutionary history of a population (its ancestors and ecology). 'Natural selection' is superfluous bullshit, and is not a level of explanation.

      [It could care less what the heart does, as long as the creature reproduces successfully.]

      You ascribe agency to an empty logical error. Darwinism is a pitiful myth.

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    42. What a stupid thing to say. The reason that hearts don't digest is not that 'hearts that do digest were selected against', moron. The reason that hearts don't digest is that there never have been hearts that do digest.

      Peristalsis and the pumping action of the heart likely have a common origin; for details, see Shimizu 2012. Indeed, the transport of nutrients (rather than oxygen) seems to have been the original function of the "proto-heart".

      Delete
    43. Oh, I see, it is all just bullshit. How silly of me not to notice. Thanks for the incisive insight into the workings of the natural world. I feel so edified.

      Also thanks to Piotr for the Shimizu reference. I did not know that "gastrovascular cavity" was a thing, and now I do.

      Delete
    44. Andy Wilberforce: When you look at the big picture however, i.e. the origin of the universe and the history of life on earth, to me it bears clear marks of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being.

      The origin of the universe is outside my competence, but I would be interested in what you see as the marks of directed forethought in the history of life.

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    45. John, the world as we see it today have properties well suited for human life. Some of those properties are thanks to initial fine-tuning others are due to terraforming. An example of fine-tuning are the conditions giving the earth a geodynamo active over billions of years allowing it to retain an atmosphere and water. An example of what I mean by terraforming is the process leading to an atmosphere rich in oxygen by means of photosynthesis. This in turn permits the expansion in metabolic activities necessary for complex life forms. This is a teleological approach where earth’s initial conditions and history leads up to the world as we know it today, not by magic or chance, but because of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being.

      Delete
    46. The geodynamo bit has nothing to do with your initial claim about the history of life. That's what I'm asking about. So you're saying that oxygen-producing photosynthesis, of all the energy-producing metabolic processes found in various bacteria, shows the hand of God? I'm afraid it will take more than a simple assertion to make an argument.

      But let's talk mechanism for a moment. How did the hand of God work here? Did he poof cyanobacteria into existence, or did he nudge their evolution a little? How can you tell that this evolution wasn't a natural process?

      Another question: are cyanobacteria the final act of divine intervention, or do you see more such events? If so, what? And how do you recognize them?

      Finally, it looks to me as if you're making a claim identical to that of Douglas Adams' puddle. How do you deal with that?

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    47. "John, the world as we see it today have properties well suited for human life."

      Exactly the wrong way around, and should read: 'life as we see it today has properties well suited for the world.'

      Life did not materialise suddenly in some garden, life *is* the garden.

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    48. John wrote: "Another question: are cyanobacteria the final act of divine intervention, or do you see more such events? If so, what? And how do you recognize them?"
      The bible talks about a sequence of creation events. It appears that the creation of bacteria was one such event. The Cambrian explosion appears to have been another. I believe that the biological creation has a built in flexibility for adaptation rather than a being fixed, so there is no need for a separate creation of each species. One common (but not universal) interpretation of Genesis is that God after the sixth epoch "Hebrew -yom" entered the "day" of rest in which we still live, i.e. God will not create any new life forms during this time period.

      Delete
    49. Andy,

      You ignored most of my questions and answered one. Unfortunately, that answer serves only to raise more questions.

      Are you actually proposing that we should take the bible seriously as a record of earth history?

      When you say "creation of bacteria" do you refer to de novo, fiat, poofing-style creation?

      What do you think the Cambrian explosion was, exactly?

      In what way does "built-in flexibility" differ from what we would expect from a naturally-evolved system?

      And let me again note the previous questions you haven't answered. That isn't a demand, but if you want people to understand your point and possibly accept your arguments, you have to make them more clearly, and the questions are intended to help you do that.

      Delete
    50. Well John, I have limited time and you ask complex questions which I have never claimed to have all the answers to, if I had it would make me rather unique...I think the Bible is a historical document inspired by God. The primary intent was not to be a science book but you can find some astounding information in there. I think my view on the history of life is close to Old Earth Creationism, but I may be a tad inspired by ID to. I think God at several instances have created proto-life forms. I suppose that it could have been done both from dead matter and starting from life forms that he previously created.
      The built in flexibility is what you observe when you study "natural" evolution, but without built in teleology (which I do not think it has) it could not explain say the jump from proto-hippo to proto-whale in the time frame available.

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    51. "I think the Bible is a historical document inspired by God."

      Does that make it inerrant? Because there are certainly places where it's at odds with the observations of historians and scientists.

      "I suppose that it could have been done both from dead matter and starting from life forms that he previously created."

      How does matter become 'alive'? In my worldview, it's a question of complexity and definition. Intuitively, something's alive or it isn't, but there are real-world and thought experiment examples of some tricky borderline cases. It's easy enough to demonstrate that the idea that 'souls' aren't a simple solution to this problem.

      "it could not explain say the jump from proto-hippo to proto-whale in the time frame available."

      How much time would you need?

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    52. The built in flexibility is what you observe when you study "natural" evolution, but without built in teleology (which I do not think it has) it could not explain say the jump from proto-hippo to proto-whale in the time frame available.

      Andy, ye of little faith in what your supreme being has wrought: modern evolutionary theory provides comparitively unremarkable explanations for morphological changes over time. Artificial selection by humans demonstrates the remarkably rapid morphological changes that can occur over astonishingly short periods of time through natural genetic processes.

      Yet, you favor sudden creation of large complex organisms in a process that, since it involves atoms and molecules and flesh and blood, must in some sense involve chemistry and physics. But you do not seem to care that for these remarkable events, there is not the slightest indication of what the starting materials were, or what the mechanism was, and when and how it was brought about. So you abandon well-described physical processes for completely speculative (and quite improbable) unknowns that are (whatever your overall interpretation of the bible) the residual effects of a literal reading of a few sentences in that book.

      Delete
    53. but without built in teleology (which I do not think it has) it could not explain say the jump from proto-hippo to proto-whale in the time frame available.

      Quick, easy, humorous take on how folks who don't have the actual scientific explanation can think teleology is necessary:

      Three friends are having a discussion about the greatest invention of all time. One says fire. A second says the wheel. The third says the Thermos.

      The others chorus "The Thermos?!"

      The third says, "You put something cold in it, it stays cold. You put something hot in it, it stays hot."

      Say the other two, "Yeah, so?"

      Replies the third: "How does it know?"

      Delete
    54. Sorry, Andy, but you have just forfeited any claim to intellectual respectability. Here:

      .I think the Bible is a historical document inspired by God.

      If our epistmological bases are that far apart, there's nothing we can discuss. Genesis massively contradicts everything we know about earth history. If you believe it over the empirical data, we can only talk past each other.

      It also seems that you don't know what you think about earth history; you have only vague notions that something about science isn't right. Without an alternative scenario, there is also nothing to discuss.

      But I'll also say that the vagueness of your ideas, and your unwillingness to discuss them in any detail, protect you from noticing that your ideas are also theologically bizarre and imply a very odd sort of god, one who has no clear idea what he's doing and must constantly tinker with his creation to make it work properly.

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    55. I wrote: "I think the Bible is a historical document inspired by God."

      Jem responded: "Does that make it inerrant? Because there are certainly places where it's at odds with the observations of historians and scientists."

      Jem, I deliberately chose to write "inspired by" instead of "dictated/written by" not to have to quibble about the interpretation of passages taken out context. I personally think it's a remarkable collection of scriptures with a lot of insight and historical accuracy. I'm convinced that it contains prophecies relaying messages from the creator of the universe. I can admit that there are passages that I myself do not understand yet. I think where most people go wrong is not understanding the context, e.g. poetic language, historical accounts, Jewish law, prophecies, etc. There are also many examples where the meaning has gotten lost in translation or where we are missing the cultural context to understand the meaning.

      Delete
    56. John wrote: "Sorry, Andy, but you have just forfeited any claim to intellectual respectability."

      John, your opinion has been duly noted. I will now place it in the pile with the stuff the cat dragged in.

      Delete
    57. Jem wrote: "How does matter become 'alive'?"

      Now that is an interesting question in case you are an atheist and reductionist. I thought you were, but maybe I'm mistaken...

      Delete
    58. I wrote: "it could not explain say the jump from proto-hippo to proto-whale in the time frame available."

      Jem responded: "How much time would you need?"

      See response from Richard Sternberg at 38 minutes in to debate

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lzwHqqMMSaU&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DlzwHqqMMSaU

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    59. John, the world as we see it today have properties well suited for human life.
      Unsurprisingly, since we evolved to fit the planet, not the other way around.

      An example of what I mean by terraforming is the process leading to an atmosphere rich in oxygen by means of photosynthesis. This in turn permits the expansion in metabolic activities necessary for complex life forms.
      All you're doing here is describing how the environment on the planet has changed during it's existence. This is true for any planet, whether there's life on it or not. Life on that planet adapts to it where it can. There's no need to invoke designers or divine planning to explain what happens. You're adding something superflous and unnecessary to the picture, something that cannot be falsified. Even planets without life have some history of change of surface environment. Whatever their conditions are today will be contingent on that prior history, and so you could mindlessly postulate that some supreme being planned and guided it all into place. Pick any imaginable feature on the surface of the moon, it's current state will be contingent the specific prior history of the moon. Somewhere in the outer solar system 3 billion years ago, some asteroid got caught and accelerated by the gas giants and turned on a path resulting in that particular crater on the moon. The same will be true for all of them. All the craters, all the features, on any planet or moon. Anything at all. Are we now to believe there's some grand purpose to some particular crater on the moon?

      This is a teleological approach where earth’s initial conditions and history leads up to the world as we know it today, not by magic or chance, but because of the directed forethought of a Supreme Being.
      You're asserting as fact what you're trying to prove. How do you know it's being directed by a supreme being, instead of just being the result of natural mechanisms? How do you know what the world would be like without your grand cosmic planner?

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    60. Andy wrote: "See response from Richard Sternberg at 38 minutes in to debate

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lzwHqqMMSaU&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DlzwHqqMMSaU
      "
      The question of the hippo aside, why the FUCK would the IDiots want to debate whether "Neo Darwinism" (a population genetics model) is adequate to explain the origin of life? Who the fuck ever thought it was? Talk about an insanely stupid and loaded strawman to debate.

      Researching that debate, it turns out the IDiots changed the resolution to be debated the night before. Typical IDiot behavior.

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    61. Electrons obey quantum mechanical laws, not traffic laws.

      Teleology is everywhere.


      These two statements specifically and precisely contradict each other. Teleology, as it is used by people who speak English rather than Egnorese, has to do with final causes, purposes, being intended as a goal. Quantum mechanics is stochastic, disallowing any ability to determine outcomes at inception, i.e., final causes, purpose, intended goals are all absolutely impossible by the very nature of the universe.

      Since Dr. Egnor has made two completely contradictory statements in the process of one attempted argument, his conclusion cannot possibly be correct. It is like multiplying by zero and expecting a positive quantity to result.

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    62. "How do you know what the world would be like without your grand cosmic planner?"

      The key question for everyone in this debate. Personally, I believe that a universe with a God like the one in the stories Christians tell each other would be profoundly different from a universe without that God.

      As we can't tell the difference, as there is not even a thought experiment available to discern a difference, there is no useful discussion to be had about God.

      Delete
    63. Rumraket wrote: "...why the FUCK would the IDiots want to debate whether "Neo Darwinism" (a population genetics model) is adequate to explain the origin of life?"

      Sounds like someone missed what the debate is about again...Origin of life?!?

      Delete
    64. John, your opinion has been duly noted. I will now place it in the pile with the stuff the cat dragged in.

      Did I hurt your feelings, then? Is that why you have disengaged from the discussion? But I see now that you are using "inspired" as a weasel-word so that you can't be called to account for anything Genesis says but can deploy it yourself as needed. This sort of stealth is, unfortunately, common among creationists, who will seldom willingly subject their statements to empirical analysis.

      Rather than have us listen to Sternberg, yet another stealth creationist, why do you think there wasn't enough time for whale evolution? And why did God find it necessary to tweak evolution at that particular point? Was he just moving in mysterious ways?

      Here's another way your God is weird: he doesn't seem to care how long anything takes, as he's willing to wait 13 billion years for his purpose in creating the universe to come along. And yet he sometimes feels it necessary to hurry things up. Can you explain?

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    65. [ Rumraket wrote: "...why the FUCK would the IDiots want to debate whether "Neo Darwinism" (a population genetics model) is adequate to explain the origin of life?"

      Sounds like someone missed what the debate is about again...Origin of life?!? ]
      No, that's not the full debate resolution. The full debate resolution was, as stated by the moderator about 3 minutes and 20 seconds in: "How adequate has Darwin's theory, and it's modern version - Neo Darwinism, been at explaining the origins of life?".

      Please explain to me Andy, who ever thought it was? Who believes that population genetics explains the origin of life? Why would anyone be called upon to defend a resolution never believed by a single person? It is inherently dishonest.

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    66. And why did God find it necessary to tweak evolution at that particular point?

      And why did He tweaketh it in such a way as to give the whale rudimentary *internal*, useless feet? A particularly antic sense of humor, perhaps?

      Delete
    67. Judmarc, as all "vestigial" structures the "hind limbs" of whales do have function. In evolutionary theory the idea about vestigial structures is not that they lack function but have been co-opted for new function. The "proof" of this is based on comparative studies of homologous features in "related" species, i.e. it based on a circular logic. There are many arguments against the structures being vestigial legs, the most apparent is maybe the separation of the pelvic girdle from the spine.

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    68. Judmarc wrote: "And why did God find it necessary to tweak evolution at that particular point?"

      So you seriously mean that the Cambrian Explosion with all it's new phyla with unique body plans appearing in a geological instance could be described as "tweaking"?

      Delete
    69. Andy, Judmarc didn't write that. I did. And we weren't talking about the Cambrian explosion. We were talking about whale evolution. Would you care to answer that question, as well as others?

      I'll answer your question: no, I wouldn't call the Cambrian explosion "tweaking". But some of the same objections apply. Why did god choose that time to introduce lots of new phyla, many of which he immediately abandoned? Why was he incapable of setting up a world in which such intervention was unnecessary? If what he wanted was humans, why didn't he just create them in the Cambrian? And why, if this was some kind of a creation event, does it emerge grqadually over a period of 40 million years or so?

      Are you still not talking to me?

      Delete
    70. Andy, just to make things clear: do you think whales were created de novo and have no genealogical relationship to other animals, including hippos? If not, what is the point of your claim that whale "legs" are not vestigial?

      Delete
    71. Andy: Judmarc, as all "vestigial" structures the "hind limbs" of whales do have function.

      What function? Hiding under blubber so that they can't be seen?

      In evolutionary theory the idea about vestigial structures is not that they lack function but have been co-opted for new function.

      They may be so co-opted, but they may also have no function at all, in which case they don't contribute to the organism's fitness.

      The "proof" of this is based on comparative studies of homologous features in "related" species, i.e. it based on a circular logic.

      They also develop from very similar limb buds in cetacean embryos, and their growth is controlled by some of the same control genes.

      There are many arguments against the structures being vestigial legs, the most apparent is maybe the separation of the pelvic girdle from the spine.

      Basilosaurus had 35-cm-long residual hind limbs with all the typical skeletal elements still present (including a foot with three digits), but its pelvis had no articulation with the spine. If you look at the fossil cetaceans, you can see the gradual reduction of their hind limbs, via stages when they still looked like legs but could no longer be used for locomotion. Even today, some mysticetes (especially the bowhead) retain several elements of the hindlimb skeleton.

      Delete
    72. In evolutionary theory the idea about vestigial structures is not that they lack function but have been co-opted for new function.

      Andy, as Piotr pointed out, you are incorrect about this. Regardless of whether you admit they are vestigial legs, as the fossil and genetic records amply show, would you care to hazard a conjecture as to what possible function they *do* have?

      Here's another question along the same lines, which doesn't depend on your knowledge of paleontology or genetics: Why do guys have nipples?

      Delete
    73. John Harshman said: Why did god choose that time to introduce lots of new phyla, many of which he immediately abandoned? Why was he incapable of setting up a world in which such intervention was unnecessary?

      John, I believe Andre Gross addressed this in another thread where he told us that in the bible, god (sounding no more omnipotent than the auto mechanic down the street) has owned up to his mistakes.

      So there's that.

      Delete
    74. I wonder if they all believe in the same deity. Egnor's is a Texas sharpshooter (who fires a load of shot first and then paints the telos), Andre's is an absent-minded engineer (who makes mistakes but what the hell: nobody's perfect!), Andy's is just the Lord of the Gaps (there are lacunae of knowledge, therefore God).

      Delete
    75. I hate to point this out to Wilberforce, but the Theory of Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life, any more then it has to do with the origin of the universe. Just to repeat something I have stated on this blog previously, the origin of the universe is a problem in physics, the origin of life, defined as the appearance of the first replicators, is a problem in chemistry, and the evolution of life is a problem in biochemistry. Sorry to rain on Wilberforce's parade but that's the size of it. Therefore, the statement that evolution doesn't explain the origin of life is absolutely true and absolutely irrelevant. It is not designed to explain the origin of life and never claimed to, except in the imaginations of the creationists and the IDiots.

      Delete
    76. Colnago wrote: "I hate to point this out to Wilberforce, but the Theory of Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life"

      Could you show a quote where I say that?

      John, wrote: "Are you still not talking to me?"

      Sorry if you feel neglected, I just haven't seen any new question that I haven't already answered.

      Delete
    77. Andy, If you could point out where your answers are, that would be fine. But I certainly don't recall them. If you're interested in making your views known, you are not currently succeeding.

      Delete
  6. The fight is between truth and untruth.
    Origin contentions are just a example of this fight.
    Evolutionism is not based on intellectual study of biological scientific evidence.
    Its based on the need to deny the bible of a God for origins.
    Then sincere error in investigation and just a failure of smarts like everywhere else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Evolutionism is not based on intellectual study of biological scientific evidence.
      Its based on the need to deny the bible of a God for origins."

      Sorry, sweetie, but it's the exact opposite. We know that Darwin came to his conclusions, then realized it meant there was no room for God in that model, not the other way around. You probably imagine scientists sitting around plotting to disprove God, but it's just not what happens. The whole joy about being an atheist is that you don't sit around trying to second guess a giant space pixie, you just get on with things.

      Scientists aren't setting out to demonstrate that God doesn't exist - He's just collateral damage.

      Delete
    2. Absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence.

      Darwin was inclined to believe that there existed no evidence for Victorian England’s concept of deity – the problem of course was that Victorian England’s concept of deity was particularly naïve and Victorian England had an expectation of G-d's personal beneficence.

      Simply put - Victorian England’s concept of deity was little removed from simple superstition and Darwin was correct to reject it.

      That does not mean science has rejected religion… or can reject religion or is even inclined to reject religion.

      Religious belief is non-empirical. By definition Intelligent Design is a non-starter. Empirical method cannot address the super-natural. But hold that that thought. If religion is by definition super-natural then according to Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability science is in fact neutral regarding religion.

      Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief. It is logically possible to simultaneously embrace both and as a matter of fact, most MODERN mainstream religions/denominations do just that.

      Put that in your pipe and smoke it Egnor. And please refrain from identifying yourself as Catholic... clearly you have succumbed to some "born-again" experience and no longer hold as true any statement regarding faith and reason as understood by Catholics.

      Delete
    3. Absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence.

      Sometimes it does. That depends on what we would reasonably expect to see if something were present. I am well assured there is no elephant in my living room right now, because he would be blocking my TV if he were. Of course you could redefine "elephant" to mean an invisible, intangible, undetectable but still elephant-shaped object; absence of evidence wouldn't be evidence of absence of that kind of elephant. If that's the kind of god you postulate -- a god who has no detectable effect on the world -- then you're right. But what good is that god, and why would anyone want to believe in him?

      Delete
    4. Shay:

      Thanks for setting me spiritually straight. I don't know what I'd do without your sage advice.

      Regarding your specific misunderstandings:

      [Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief.]

      Science-- understood as the rational empirical investigation of nature-- is utterly dependent on Judeo-Christian metaphysics. That's why modern science only arose in Christendom. Science depends critically on the view that nature is rational, nature is consistent, nature is creation and not Creator (ruling out pantheism), man is capable of understanding the rationality of nature and of nature's Creator, and it is good for man to know how nature works.

      Only the Judeo-Christian system of metaphysics provides the basis for modern science. Pantheism and various idolatries and Islam, atheism and Buddhism have all failed to produce modern science, because their metaphysics don't support science.

      Atheists and other non-Christians who do science do so by (unconsciously) accepting Christian metaphysics, even though they're too stupid and dishonest to admit it.

      If you really believe that the reason the universe exists is "shit happened", you have no basis to do any science.

      And spare me your moronic lectures about the consilience of Christianity and "Evolution". Evolution, understood as a materialist non-teleological theory of origins, is junk science and abysmal theology.

      Delete
    5. "Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief."

      ... as an abstract concept, yes. But that's because even within a single religion like Christianity you have some people very clear on the fact God wants X and other people who say God wants the opposite of X.

      If you mush all 'spiritual beliefs' every human being has ever held together and add in a bunch of New Age nonsense about how fractals are religious because they look a bit like a tiled floor, then, no, you will never be able to extract a functional truth statement from that mash of contradictory, all-encompassing nonsense.

      We can take down the individual truth statements. 'God embodies truth' and 'God faked up the universe to look old 6000 years ago' are not compatible statements, for example.

      At some point, Euthryphro just kicks in. If your local god doesn't have to follow the rule, it's not a rule, it's merely a divine whim. If your local god does have to follow the rule, then the rule's more interesting and universal than whichever local god you only happen to worship because your granny did.

      If there's teleology in nature, then let's study that, not folk stories about what you shouldn't do with a penis.


      Delete
    6. As much as I may regret this post: I have to concede that mregnor has made two valid points.

      According to the little I remember from my university philosophy courses – Reductionism is sometimes untenable; meaning a materialistic explanation of some phenomena proves decidedly unsatisfactory.

      For example, it is sometimes said that consciousness is an "emergent property" of "physical brain states".

      For more - http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties-emergent/

      Bottom line – a thorough reductionist explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience.

      Some philosophers have taken this line of thought to logical extremes – if consciousness cannot be understood in materialist terms – then that means that consciousness for all intents and purposes does not exist… higher levels of consciousness? Don’t even go there!

      Bottom line - 'canonical' empiricism and 'canonical' materialism are two separate notions that cannot be conflated - ITMT while many who imagine themselves to be bona fide materialists really aren’t.

      Such considerations now represent a thin edge of an uncomfortable wedge according to what some on both sides of the debate have posted here.

      For a more detailed discussion of the problems of Reductionism in Biology with specific reference to false dichotomies check out - http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reduction-biology/

      Bottom line: I stand by my contention that Science in general and Evolutionary Theory in particular are patently neutral regarding religious belief. It is logically possible to simultaneously embrace both and as a matter of fact, most MODERN mainstream religions/denominations do just that.

      Mregnor also made a valid point when suggesting

      [Atheists and other non-Christians who do science do so by (unconsciously) accepting Christian metaphysics, even though they're too stupid and dishonest to admit it.]

      I concede his contention has merit, although I would substitute “western intellectual tradition” for “Christian metaphysics” remembering that Aristotle, Plato and Socrates (for example) were anything but Christian.

      Delete
    7. Shay wrote: "Bottom line – a thorough reductionist explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience.
      Some philosophers have taken this line of thought to logical extremes – if consciousness cannot be understood in materialist terms – then that means that consciousness for all intents and purposes does not exist… "

      I think mind is an excellent example of where materialistic reductionism fails. Materialistic processes cannot explain consciousness or intentionality nor is mind a likely by-product of biological evolution. Also the mind is available for everybody to reflect on and explore. Denying minds existence would render us mere robots. This is of course un-reconcilable with the self image of all but die-hard materialists.

      Delete
    8. I think mind is an excellent example of where materialistic reductionism fails.

      The history of seeking materialistic explanations for the nature of things includes a long history of failures - that is, until they were successful. Its amazing that you can view our current limitations in understanding as evidence for something outside of the purview of empirical investigation. Almost everything was not properly understood at one time and only one sort of human activity has changed this (hint: not theology). And at some point in the future humans will become extinct almost certainly still not having the answers to all questions - and within those unanswered questions I suppose will lie the last vestige of your gods.

      Delete
    9. [I think mind is an excellent example of where materialistic reductionism fails. Materialistic processes cannot explain consciousness or intentionality ....]
      So you say. Let's presume that's correct. Tell me how "supernatural designer did it" - "explains" consciousness and intentionality. How does it work?

      Delete
  7. This is interesting! Things that make you go hmmm...

    Pat Robertson Disagrees With Creationist Ken Ham, Says 'Let's Not Make A Joke Of Ourselves'

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/pat-robertson-creationism-ken-ham_n_4733625.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. "In Aristotle’s view: the universe, as a whole, had its own soul. In modern terms the universe could be considered as some giant fractal http://classes.yale.edu/fractals/ and we are all but elements therein. Even today, various mystical traditions hold similar ideas."

    Oh good grief, where to start?

    Is this a 'class' on your stream of consciousness, or is it meant to be about something?

    Explain how a 'fractal' is a 'soul' and name five 'mystical traditions' that talk about fractals.

    Please let me know where it runs, I think we need to put up cones and warning lights in case anyone accidentally wanders in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American, Australian Aboriginal and Kaballah

      there I think that counts 5... would you like more?

      My particular favorites have always been Buddhist Mandalas - especially from Tibet.

      Here is an interesting link on the subject

      http://fractalenlightenment.com/14683/life/carl-jungs-psychological-diagnosis-using-mandalas

      I was first alerted to the ubiquity of this metaphor when discussing Chasidus with a Lubavitcher rabbi who was attempting to explain the term "ehad" in the "shema".

      but hey what do I know... I'm just a Shay Gaetz! ;-)

      Where is Joe Felsenstein when you need him? ;-)))

      Delete
    2. "Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American, Australian Aboriginal and Kaballah"

      They have pretty, circular designs. But all you're doing here is the usual cargo cult nonsense. It's Chariots of the Gods stuff - a picture looks like a space helmet, so the Mayans were basically NASA.

      Just googled 'mandala fractal'. All the usual stuff about quantum fairies and soul crystals. Utterly ridiculous. I doubt you're sincere in pushing that, in which case shame on you for conning the gullible.

      Delete
    3. I agree that your google search can generate a lot of new-age mumbo-jumbo…

      The fact remains; the intent of Mandalas representing the microcosm reflected within the macrocosm (and vice versa) is understood as such in many mystical traditions. Ergo my comparison to fractals!

      Here! This is cut and pasted from Wikipedia on the interpretation of Tibetan Mandalas.

      ‘The mind is "a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe”’
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala

      Simply put, a mandala can represent the entire universe and the relationship of the individual to the universe.

      Hey, I am with you… a lot of this does sound like mumbo-jumbo and I for one do not buy in. I mean I admire Jung’s intellect (discussed in this wikipedia article) but hey much of what he says has to be taken with more than just one grain of salt.

      The fact remains that my original suggestion that the modern mathematical notion of “fractals” is similar to the notion of the relationship of the individual soul to the universe is not so specious as you immediately suggested. At least that is what my research not to mention many conversations with those adept in various mystical traditions bear out.

      Delete
    4. "The fact remains that my original suggestion that the modern mathematical notion of “fractals” is similar to the notion of the relationship of the individual soul to the universe is not so specious as you immediately suggested."

      Sigh.

      No. The Kaballah, Mandala and Australian rock paintings are basically maps, they're aids to meditation and devotion, and contain symbols and forms that are representative.

      So, yeah, if you don't look too closely the concentric rings in Australian rock paintings look a bit like the Mandlebrot Set, but then you actually ask someone from that culture, and they'll tell you that they represent campfires and watering holes.

      Absolutely nothing like fractals, at all, which are mathematical forms that produce complex shapes from simple rules and aren't maps, meant as devotional aids and aren't really symbolic of anything. Sorry. You've been sold a crock.

      Delete
    5. A fragment of the Mandelbrot set may look like little Buddha sitting in the middle of an intricate mandala (as in this picture which I have generated using some fractal-making software), but this is something done for amusement, without any real significance. Fractals are a formally defined class of mathematical objects. If you stretch the meaning of "fractal" to cover "anything that looks like a fractal from a sufficient distance", you no longer talk sense.

      Delete
    6. Piotr

      Please do not shoot the messenger. I was merely reporting what others adept in mystical traditions relayed to me: namely that fractals defined as similar patterns recurring at progressively smaller scales constitutes a handy metaphor to illustrate relationship of the individual to the universe.

      I am merely reporting what has been explained to me by those that do know whereof they speak!

      A little google-whacking confirms my memory has not failed me.

      Here is the entire quote I mentioned above:

      Despite its cosmic meanings a yantra is a reality lived. Because of the relationship that exists in the Tantras between the outer world (the macrocosm) and man’s inner world (the microcosm), every symbol in a yantra is ambivalently resonant in inner–outer synthesis, and is associated with the subtle body and aspects of human consciousness.

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

      Please explain to me what I got wrong.

      Delete
    7. I fail to see why the relationship of the individual to the universe should be analogous to "similar patterns recurring at progressively smaller scales". Individuals are not like little fleas that have lesser fleas upon their backs to bite 'em. I don't think I contain a multitude of homunculuses composed of still smaller sub-homunculuses, and so on. The Universe has many levels of complexity, but there is little if any self-similarity across them. Atoms are NOT tiny planetary systems, for example. The metaphor just doesn't make any sense to me.

      Delete
    8. Piotr

      I think part of the problem here is that I needed to repost the bit entitled “
      Chapter 2 – Biology as viewed through 19th Century Lenses” which seems to have provoked Jem

      …the thread is now out of sequence.

      My original contention was simply that

      [In Aristotle’s view: the universe, as a whole, had its own soul. In modern terms the universe could be considered as some giant fractal http://classes.yale.edu/fractals/ and we are all but elements therein. Even today, various mystical traditions hold similar ideas.]

      I went on to say that

      [Is there something magical, spiritual or supernatural to life? Many 19th Century Scientists (beholden to Aristotle) reckoned; yes. Maybe there is some supernatural force – present in air perhaps - after all, we need air to live! This unknown was not called “x” as in algebra. In Biology, it was called “vital force” or “vital principle”. That explains why the ancient Hebrews did not believe that life began at conception. According to the Hebrew Testament, life (“ensoulment”) commenced with the baby’s first breath. Connection with vital principle somehow meant connection with air! Meanwhile, “may-the-force-be-with-you” movies were ultimately inspired by Aristotelian traditions.]

      I think you must be misunderstanding me! I am NOT arguing that Aristotle is correct! I am merely reporting what Aristotle believed and the effect he had on 19th Century Naturalists.

      Book two of the Tanya has striking similarities to Aristotle’s De Anima… which prompted me to make my original comparison. (I now regret sharing such thoughts on this particular forum given the arc-reflex nastiness elicited thereby – of course I am not referring to yourself)

      There is much literature on the subject. I found Rodger Kamenetz’s book The Jew in the Lotus very intriguing. It would appear that much cross-pollination of ideas occurred between mystical traditions along the Silk Road and beyond.

      You say you don’t buy into the relationship of the individual to the universe could be analogous to "similar patterns recurring at progressively smaller scales"?

      Me neither.

      I repeat - I was merely providing background information regarding Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic notions that were part and parcel of a classical education in the 19th Century – which continue to cause confusion today. Mregnor is a case in point.

      I remind you that Darwin’s original “Pangenesis” in many ways resembles Lamarck’s (and Geoffroy’s) version of events. Darwin took for granted the now discredited idea of the “effects of use and disuse”. Darwin however did part paths with Lamarck on one key point: Lamarck embraced metaphysics, by imagining evolution to be a goal-driven process or “teleological”. The misconception of telological evolution often mislabeled as “Lamarckism” is better identified as “Orthogenesis”, a version of events espoused by many 19th Century Naturalists such as the celebrated Ernst Haeckel of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” fame.

      Darwin on the other hand recognized the capricious randomness of the natural order. According to Darwin, Evolution does not correspond to some specious “vector of progress”, otherwise known as the “Scala Naturae” as espoused by Lamarck, Haeckel and many other Naturalists even as recently as Teilhard de Chardin in the 1950s.

      I am amazed that such 19th Century debates are being repeated in the 21st Century.

      Delete
    9. Piotr -

      I had a good night's sleep and revisited your answer.

      I realize now that Aristotle would have viewed your rebutal as entirely materialistic/mechanistic begging of course the METAPHYSICAL (i.e. non material/nonmechanical) explanations of proposed "anima" Aristotle was originally suggesting.

      Delete
    10. And I would have yawned in Ol' 'Tottle's face. ;)

      Delete
    11. Piotr, I hear ya

      ...that said - I remember reading the comments (in Time magazine if I remember correctly) of a phyicist turned anglican minister who observed that we are indeed the centre of the universe.

      The universe is about the size of 1 m^20s and the smallest sub-atomic particle is about 1 m^-20s putting our scale of existence exactly in the middle.

      He went on to say that the universe compacted to the dimensions of an average human would have the same density of an average human.

      OK where did he go with this?

      He then suggested if mind was an emergent property of our physical existance, then perhaps mind could also be an emergent property of the entire universe... he then went on to some more speculation along the lines of repetitive reflections of mind on a smaller scale recapitulating what was happening on a cosmic scale...

      Hey - I for one do not believe any of it for an instant. You have to admit - he was imaginative and clever.

      Why even bring any of this new-age Aristotlean mumbo-jumbo up?

      I repeat - that none of the above can be addressed by science according to Popper's critereon of falsifiability.

      That leaves us again with what I believe is an inescapable conclusion - science can only be neutral with respect to matters religious.

      OK - what about pain and suffering and the meaning of life?

      Viktor Frankl offers some interesting ideas without resorting to the existance of a voyeristic celestial Sanata Claus ... I think his work is sometimes referred to as Jewish Existentialism.

      http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl

      Delete
    12. "The universe is about the size of 1 m^20s"

      No it isn't.

      "and the smallest sub-atomic particle is about 1 m^-20s"

      No it isn't.

      I'm probably out of date, but a tau neutrino is around 10^−35 m. The universe is 8.8×10^26m.

      "putting our scale of existence exactly in the middle."

      ... and so: no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. He, and therefore you, are talking absolute rubbish.

      Delete
    13. And the idea that the universe compacted to the size of a human would have the same density as a human is so patently ridiculous that you should be embarrassed even to mention it. Even two humans compacted to the size of a human would have twice the density. Imaginative, yes. Clever, not so much.

      Delete
    14. Shay Gaetz: The universe is about the size of 1 m^20s

      One meter to the power of twenty seconds? It's the strangest kind of size I've ever seen.

      Jem: The universe is 8.8×10^26m.

      Truth is, we have no idea how large the Universe really is. It may even be infinite. We only know a lower bound on its size, which is twice the co-moving distance to the edge of the observable part of the universe, which is indeed about 8.8×10^26m.

      Delete
    15. "Truth is, we have no idea how large the Universe really is."

      You are right, of course. I apologize for the shorthand.

      Delete
    16. Uhmm

      Jem - what part of the word "mumbo jumbo" do you not understand?

      I did not bother to verify the physicist turned anglican minster's figures for accuracy because as I repeatedly mentioned - I do NOT suscribe to Aristotle's metaphysical musings on anima

      ... neither do I subscribe to any new-age neo-Aristotelian musings on cosmic soul.

      I did think his rationalization of scripture somewhat "clever" if in fact accurate and patently untenable.

      On this we both agree.

      Piotr - I should have been less rushed in typing... I read that Time Magazine article around 1997-8 and I forgot the details. I remember the citation as the size of the universe being somewhere in the range of 1 meter to the power somewhere in the positive 20 range (ergo the "s") and the smallest particle somewhere in the range of of 1 meter to the power somewhere in the negative 20 range. I was struck by the (incorrect!) claim of symnetry.

      I must be aging - my grasp for detail is slipping. Still it was almost 20 years ago.

      Delete
    17. One meter to the power of twenty is the hypervolume of a 20-dimensional hypercube with an edge length of 1m.

      Delete
    18. "Jem - what part of the word "mumbo jumbo" do you not understand?"

      You went on to say:

      "none of the above can be addressed by science according to Popper's critereon of falsifiability."

      It can. That address is 1 Bullshit Boulevard, Loadofcrapsville, Nonsensylvania.

      "That leaves us again with what I believe is an inescapable conclusion - science can only be neutral with respect to matters religious."

      No. This is a perfect example. Some priest has tried to dress up his nonsense in some scientific sounding terms. 'Science' can hand his ridiculous point to him in small, broken pieces and call him on it.

      And what we can do is see that the religious just can't drop ideas we just know to be false now. That, when it comes down to it, when observed reality clashes with even an Anglican priest's view of the universe, he dumps reality before he changes his view.

      Delete
    19. Jem - I concede you are correct on this one. I now regret even bringing up this particular version of new-age Neo-aristootelian mumbo-jumbo.

      Delete
    20. "I concede you are correct on this one. I now regret even bringing up this particular version of new-age Neo-aristootelian mumbo-jumbo."

      Thank you.

      Now, the next step is to understand that there are no 'good arguments'. It's *all* mumbo-jumbo.

      There may or may not be gods. It's impossible to logic your way to proving it one way or the other. You need faith. And that in itself is telling. You don't need 'faith' in electrons or Finland or Narnia or sadness. These all 'exist' in ways that we can readily understand and demonstrate.

      It used to be thought that God's 'existence' was just as obvious, immediate and demonstrable. We know better, now. Rather than accept the obvious conclusion, that God 'exists' only in the sense Narnia does, people have tried to convince themselves that God exists in a special God way. A special God way that doesn't apply to any *other* God, just theirs.

      It's nonsense.

      Scratch the surface of theology, there is nothing. Nothing at all. A howling void. And I think the current Christian obsession with the 'why is there something instead of nothing?' a question is just a simple case of psychological projection. Deep down, they get it. They get that at the heart of their belief is nothing, at all, the God that didn't bark.

      It's a story. A good story in places. And there's nothing wrong with stories. But if I came up to you and said two men shouldn't get married because of an ambiguous passage in Lord of the Rings, or that we should plot to set off a bomb in a shopping precinct because that's what Gandalf would do, then you'd think I was psychotic, that I was criminally insane.

      It's *all* mumbo-jumbo. Find me a statement you *don't* think is mumbo jumbo.

      Delete
    21. Jem

      Again - this is beyond my comfort level, but I will take one last stab at your question about *mumbo-jumbo*

      I fervently BELIEVE there really is some purpose and meaning to life and I would suggest you would admit you share such beliefs... or you wouldn't be wating your precious time on altruism - case in point: correcting fallacy and righting wrong.

      ...pushing the envelope further, such notions of altruism, and righting wrongs really cannot be addressed at an enzymatic or molecular level.

      Reductionism fails.

      That is not to say the empirical method fails or that Theism succeeds... that is NOT my intent at all.

      ... just saying.

      Delete
    22. " ...pushing the envelope further, such notions of altruism, and righting wrongs really cannot be addressed at an enzymatic or molecular level."

      Of course they can: I want to live in a world full of kind people, not nasty ones, therefore I try to be kind.

      Now, what's nicest: a person who just wants to be kind, or a person who can only be kind if they think one of the gods wants them to be and might reward or punish them?

      If you want to reduce this to the molecular level, then ... well, co-operating is generally a great way to survive longer to pass on your genes.

      Delete
    23. I was first alerted to the ubiquity of this metaphor when discussing Chasidus with a Lubavitcher rabbi who was attempting to explain the term "ehad" in the "shema".

      Attempting? What exactly is the great mystery in translating the word for "one," as in "The Lord is one," as in monotheism? (Except for all the confusion engendered by a certain offshoot Jewish sect that developed an urgent need to show the Lord was actually three - oh, and one also, at the very same time!

      As Dr. Egnor says, this type of very precise thinking can be seen to lead directly to Science.

      Delete
  9. so sorry about that... let's try this again

    Chapter 2 – Biology as viewed through 19th Century Lenses

    Most modern readers have difficulty appreciating the resilience of spiritual or metaphysical overtones to 19th Century scientific thought, sometimes referred to as “vitalism”. At this point, a quick historical digression is in order.

    What exactly is life?”! Traditional education systems were well-grounded in the classics, and many 19th Century naturalists could relate to an ancient Greek philosopher named Aristotle who was convinced no real boundary existed between “living” and “non-living”. According to Aristotle, non-living matter could give rise to living things because our universe possesses some vital life force or soul, “anima”, which could “animate” non-living matter. In Aristotle’s view: the universe, as a whole, had its own soul. In modern terms the universe could be considered as some giant fractal and we are all but elements therein. Even today, various mystical traditions hold similar ideas.

    Is there something magical, spiritual or supernatural to life? Many 19th Century Scientists (beholden to Aristotle) reckoned; yes. Maybe there is some supernatural force – present in air perhaps - after all, we need air to live! This unknown was not called “x” as in algebra. In Biology, it was called “vital force” or “vital principle”. That explains why the ancient Hebrews did not believe that life began at conception. According to the Hebrew Testament, life (“ensoulment”) commenced with the baby’s first breath. Connection with vital principle somehow meant connection with air! Meanwhile, “may-the-force-be-with-you” movies were ultimately inspired by Aristotelian traditions. (Go figure!)

    Scientists were also beholden to ancient traditions that air (or maybe electricity present in air) was obviously important to spontaneous generation! Medical Science’s job was to figure out how to harness this vital force to cure disease and undo death. Remember the novel Frankenstein was considered credible in its day. Link


    Pasteur’s famous experiments proved that sterilized broth exposed to air via swan necks never generated microscopic life, provided they avoided contamination. Pasteur went on to characterize anaerobic microbes (confirming air is not “vital”) and even figured out how to sterilize wine (“Pasteurization”). Only as a later afterthought, were techniques developed to “pasteurize” milk. French scientists always had a firm grip on priorities! Link

    That all said: Pasteur still believed in Aristotelian Vitalism! Pasteur reckoned that all life processes (including fermentation) were special reactions that could only occur in living organisms. Living cells produced pure optical enantiomers. Scientists in the lab could only synthesize “racemic” mixtures. According to Pasteur, those marvelous macromolecules made by living cells could never be made in a test-tube; and for some good, albeit obscure reason.

    There just had to be something special, maybe even supernatural, to life. Pasteur maintained that living things (the cells) still contained some mysterious “vital force” albeit not associated with air. Many 19th Century scientists embraced Pasteur’s modified faith in Aristotelian Vitalism.

    It turns out Pasteur was wrong for all the right reasons! It turns out Pasteur was wrong for all the right reasons but deserves credit for being the first to recognize the homochirality problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see no problem with homochirality at all. But keep posting!

      Delete
    2. You have no problem with homochirality because you understand something that Pasteur had no idea of... enzymes.

      That said - Pasteur's insights into the homochirality problem vis-a-vis abiogenesis were on target.

      and

      Homochirality did (and continues to) present a problem for neo-Darwinism
      http://www.allaboutscience.org/chirality.htm

      If you think you have the definitive answer to the problem - I for one - would love to hear it!

      Delete
    3. Larry

      Re: [You're welcome.]

      Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! ...these are awesome!!!

      Let’s work from the bottom up:

      You appended to your last link:

      [UPDATE: I now believe that Metabolism First and the Origin of Life is a more likely explanation for the origin of life. Please ignore references to "primordial soup" in the essay above.]

      Wow – interesting, I just want to point out that your original “final word” has changed.

      Re you penultimate link [Can watery asteroids explain why life is 'left-handed'?]

      Interesting QUESTION… begging the question of whether there is more than one answer…

      But let’s not quibble… I am about to send you a worksheet (a couple of years old and hopelessly out of date) of my own design that discusses various theories addressing the homochirality problem.

      I was unaware then of your links when I wrote it.

      I will now need to rewrite!!!

      Do I have your permission to post these references on the AP Bio teacher’s forum? I humbly suggest you should do so yourself. These are outstanding and frankly I am awed!!!

      "Frankly"??? frankly – I am bordering on fanboy here right now!

      Best and grateful regards,

      Delete
  10. con't

    Ironically, Darwin’s solid grounding in divinity training enabled him to totally reject all such metaphysical speculation out of hand. Natural Selection alone explained, for example; how moles, still possessing rudimentary eyes could lose the sight their ancestors once possessed…

    … or how parasites, formerly free-living, could become degenerate both in form and function while inflicting great suffering upon their hosts. Darwin’s great insight (as embraced again later, by August Weismann) was to acknowledge the evident lack of direction, “intelligent design” or moral order to the Natural World. The loss of his 10 year old daughter to childhood disease seemed only to buttress Darwin’s lack of faith in any putative interventions by a merciful Deity.


    The English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson had just two years prior to Annie’s death, completed his epic poem (seventeen years in the making): In Memoriam A.H.H. This poem represented the acme of Victorian Society’s search for meaning in a cruel world seemingly devoid of divine beneficence.

    Canto 54
    …So runs my dream, but what am I?
    An infant crying in the night
    An infant crying for the light
    And with no language but a cry …

    Canto 56:
    …Who trusted God was love indeed
    And love Creation's final law
    Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
    With ravine, shriek'd against his creed …

    Ironically, the penultimate line above was co-opted and frequently echoed as an oft-repeated rallying call to arms for Social Darwinism: i.e. for laissez-faire capitalism, eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism and Fascism/Nazism. More on that later…

    ReplyDelete
  11. mregnor says,

    Natural selection doesn't have "basic principles". It's moronic gibberish posing as a scientific theory. Jerry Fodor demolished it in "What Darwin Got Wrong". Educate yourself.

    I'm not going to respond. I just thought this comment should be preserved as an example of Michael Egnor's level of education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Larry,

      Does Fodor's book play a role in your education? What do you think of his arguments?

      Delete
    2. Michael,

      Even YOU play a role in my education.

      Delete
  12. Shay Gaetz says,

    Bottom line – a thorough reductionist explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience.

    How could you possibly know this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because, Larry, the salient properties of the mind-- subjectivity, intentionality, qualia, restricted access, incorrigibility, intellect, will, etc. are not properties of the things to which reductionists propose to reduce the mind.

      The argument that mental properties are "emergent properties" is nonsense on its face. The concept of emergence presupposes mental acts (the properties of the whole must "seem" different than the properties of the constituents), and thus emergence cannot be a level of explanation for the mind, because it presupposes the mind.

      Delete
    2. Let's do a thought experiment.

      Imagine that we were able to identify every single molecule in a human zygote. Now imagine that we could synthesize all those molecules and reconstruct an exact copy of the zygote.

      Let's assume that it was allowed to divide and grow under completely artificial conditions in the laboratory. It develops into a baby. The baby grows up to become an adult.

      Does that adult have a "conscious experience"?

      This is a thought experiment. Answer the question based on the assumption that the experiment is possible. Do not avoid the question by quibbling about details.

      There will be follow-up questions based on the answers. You may want to anticipate them in your response.

      Delete
    3. It's even easier than that.

      After the exact moment of conception when Catholics tell us The Blessed Virgin Mary. God, Father Ted, the Pope or whatever have glued one soul to the lovely embryo that's a real human being, take the ball of cells and split it in two. This often happens naturally, but can easily be done artificially nowadays. Voila: twins.

      Which one is the inhuman one, or do they both have half a soul? If so, did separating the physical cells also split up the soul? If so, explain how that works. Did both twins' lives 'start at conception'?

      Or, alternatively, is the entire 'soul' thing just a bunch of horseshit?

      Delete
    4. "Because, Larry, the salient properties of the mind-- subjectivity, intentionality, qualia, restricted access, incorrigibility, intellect, will, etc. are not properties of the things to which reductionists propose to reduce the mind."

      Mregnor, do you accept that (a) water's wet and (b) scientists have rightly determined water to be a molecule made from hydrogen and oxygen atoms?

      If so, would you say that it's the hydrogen atoms which are wet, or is it the oxygen atoms?

      Delete
    5. Jem, another analogy would be that H2O relates to river as brain relates to mind. It is the matter that makes up the physical object, but not the full explanation.

      Delete
    6. "Jem, another analogy would be that H2O relates to river as brain relates to mind. It is the matter that makes up the physical object, but not the full explanation."
      I actually agree. It's not merely water that makes a river, it's what that water does. In the same way, it's not enough to simply list the constituent matter of brains to explain how the brain generates mind, you have to explain what all that matter actually does, how information is recieved through the senses and processed by the brain, through physics and chemistry.

      Delete
    7. "It is the matter that makes up the physical object, but not the full explanation."

      Sure. But there are nonsense questions you can ask about rivers, like 'who is steering this river?' and 'what is the ultimate purpose of this river?'. And the river can 'be beautiful' without needing to imagine the river has had the 'property of beauty' glued to it by supernatural creatures.

      Delete
    8. @Andy WilberforceMonday,

      H2O relates to river as brain relates to mind.

      So are you proposing a non-material explanation for the behaviour of rivers ?

      Delete
  13. Larry,

    I respectfully - and I emphasize MOST RESPECTFULLY suggest - that you are straying from your level of expertise!

    I urge you to carefull peruse the two links I posted above before offering your own answer:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reduction-biology/

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties-emergent/

    Your thought experiment is typical grist for undergraduate philosophy classes and attempted answers are not so straight-forward as presumed by self-identified so-called materialists.

    Again - do not fall into the trap of conflating materialism with empiricism.

    I humbly (please forgive my presumption) offer you the suggestion that you may want to broach this topic with a colleague from the philosphy department at UofT better versed in epistomology than I (or anyone else present on this forum for that matter).

    Finally - a most frustrated and alarmed teacher just posted a most interesting problem on the AP Bio teachers' forum about Creationist administrators in schools posing obstacles.

    I think you would find that thread most informative and perhaps you would finally agree that champions such as PZ Myers are creating UNNECCESARY problems for teachers on the front lines of education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could you provide a link to that thread?

      Delete
    2. Shay Gaetz says,

      Your thought experiment is typical grist for undergraduate philosophy classes and attempted answers are not so straight-forward as presumed by self-identified so-called materialists.

      You can answer the thought experiment question with a "yes" or a "no." What's so hard about that? Unless, of course, you want to answer "no" but can't think of a way to defend such an answer and don't want to be embarrassed.

      I humbly (please forgive my presumption) offer you the suggestion that you may want to broach this topic with a colleague from the philosphy department at UofT better versed in epistomology than I (or anyone else present on this forum for that matter).

      I'm only an amateur but I'm pretty well versed on mind-body dualism. I talk to academic philosophers all the time and they assure me that the issue is all-but-settled. Dualism lost.

      As for epistemology, your statement that ...

      Bottom line – a thorough reductionist explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience.

      ... doesn't have anything to do with epistemology unless you are quibbling about the word "reductionism." If I replace your statement with ....

      Bottom line – a thorough scientific explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience.

      Would it make any difference to you?

      Delete
    3. "I talk to academic philosophers all the time and they assure me that the issue is all-but-settled. Dualism lost."

      So they say. But I have yet to find one that actually lives his or her life that way. If they're right, and thus determinism is a necessary fact, then we do indeed live in The Matrix, slaves born into bondage with only delusions of choice, creativity, deliberation and preference. Yet each and every one (as far as I'm aware and with the possible exception of Skinner, though he was no philosopher) looks to convince those who disagree, takes credit for work, thinks his or her ideas and approaches are objectively best, and absolutely believes that s/he can and will decide what to have for dinner. If they're right, we are necessarily delusional -- all day, every day; instead of looking to persuade creationists, the only truly rational approach is behavioral modification. They claim to deny dualism, but their actions give them away.

      Delete
    4. "They claim to deny dualism, but their actions give them away."

      The Christian God knows what every atom will do until the end of time. He knows every choice you'll ever make. No atheist believes in such a totalitarian, oppressive, monitored reality.

      If we live in a deterministic universe, then free will is merely the inability to correctly model the future. At the scale we operate, we have functional free will.

      Personally, I think we are part of an extremely complex system that's impossible to predict, particularly as some of the actors can anticipate and counter other actions.

      'Free will' to me is like the so-called 'problem of evil'. It's a theological problem, using fairytale words, it's only a problem for theists.

      Delete
    5. If we are the final result of our causal antecedents and if it is impossible to be responsible for our causal antecedents - then ipso facto moral responsibility is ultimately an inherently incoherent concept.

      In other words - you are correct: Free will' is only a problem for theists.

      Delete
  14. lutesuite

    so sorry - it is a closed community. Larry is technically a "Biology" Professor - so he is allowed access.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mregnor

    I owe you an apology!

    As you witness above, I have been the target of some uncivil puerile comments - an annoyance really - about as annoying as the background noise of barking dogs in the backyard.

    In retrospect I realize I was myself guilty of similar uncivility towards yourself and for that I apologize.

    That said – I found your comments suggesting you are represent the position of Catholicism as most offensive.

    I should have taken pause to consider that you offer the board a perfect teaching opportunity that diversity of opinion within the Catholic Church is more than evident and that the Catholic Church does not represent a hive of non-thinking drones all humming in tune to some curial party-line.

    Your opinions are definitely outside the pale… that’s OK, on the other side of the spectrum within Catholicism there are those who could not be more diametrically opposed to your POV

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/controversial-theologian-hans-kueng-on-death-and-church-reform-a-938501.html

    Do not get me wrong – I am no champion of the Church! To the contrary, I am decidedly unsympathetic to religion in all its incarnations. I reacted to your stance because I reckoned you were unnecessarily muddying the waters and creating confusion that could hurt the cause of public education.

    I am convinced you are playing a clever chess game by provoking champions of evolution such as Larry to inadvertently provide policy-makers the necessary justification to include in curricula your faith-based teleological version of ID which constitutes nothing less than Creationism-lite.

    I am calling you out on that.

    Regarding your suggested teleological postulates… been there done that. Let’s leave the 19th Century behind and move on into the 21st shall we?

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Shay Gaetz

    Are you a LouiseG (banned if I recall correctly) sockpuppet ?

    If so I congratulate you on finally coming up with a medication protocol that allows you to type without an excessive amount of drooling on your keyboard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea who LouiseG is... but your comment made me LOL!

      I will probably borrow your excellent line at some point in the near future...

      Delete
  17. @ Larry

    OK Larry - I did beg forgiveness for presumption. I was only checking out your comfort level with epistomology.

    No, I was not attempting to set up yet another strawman argument. I never intended to suggest a revisit of Gilbert Ryle's "Ghost in the Machine"

    Nor am I suggesting a phenomenalist reification of mental states, as some of your detractors would seem to suggest above. That Shibloleth has already been slain by M.R. Ayers http://www.iep.utm.edu/perc-obj/

    and

    Yes a thorough reductionist explanation along the lines of enzyme kinetics providing a satisfactory explanation of the conscious experience indeed would have everything to do with epistomology.

    I refer you to one of my favorite authors on the subject:
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neuroscience/


    We must be misunderstanding each other! I am scratching my head. I do not know how to bring this back on track.

    Please accept my apologies - I intended no offense!


    Your question, as stands, is little different than a lawyer demanding of the plaintif: "Have you stoped beating your wife; a simple yes or no will do!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have found quite a few ways of avoiding the question.

      Why? You haven't given any reason at all to believe that it's a trick question. I suspect you just don't want to deal with it.

      We must be misunderstanding each other! I am scratching my head. I do not know how to bring this back on track.

      Easy. Just answer the question.

      Delete
  18. @ Larry

    Quick answer Yes

    Detailed response

    [Let's do a thought experiment.

    Imagine that we were able to identify every single molecule in a human zygote. Now imagine that we could synthesize all those molecules and reconstruct an exact copy of the zygote.

    Let's assume that it was allowed to divide and grow under completely artificial conditions in the laboratory. It develops into a baby. The baby grows up to become an adult.

    Does that adult have a "conscious experience"?]

    My answer – Yeah - why not? So what?

    I like Jem’s line of thought on embryos above even better…

    Let’s say I convert a StarTrek transporter into a StarTrek duplicator (along the lines of 3D printers). I throw in Larry Moran and a bag of chemicals along the following recipe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_the_human_body

    I end up with two identical versions of Larry Moran and for the briefest instant the electron configurations of each and every atom in both bodies are identical before they begin their independent histories.

    Which one is now Larry Moran and which the copy or in fact do there now exist two Larry Morans? Let’s even modify the experiment by mixing Larry’s atoms with the atoms contained in the bag of chemicals (the so-called ship of Theseus conundrum).

    Either Larry is indistinguishable from the other according to any Turing test.

    I remember discussing this interesting problem of personal identity in the first epistemology course I ever took. My philosophy professor had a huge impact on my life… Thank you for this opportunity to trip down memory lane. http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/ It has been a long time (decades) since I thought such thoughts!

    ITMT – are both versions of Larry possessed of consciousness?

    Well if we agree the original Larry before stepping into the duplicator was conscious, there is no reason to doubt that both subsequent incarnations of Larry possess consciousness.

    Does any of this prove that consciousness can be reduced to materialistic terms? … that mental states are identical (tautologous) to brain states?

    We could have asked this question before doing the duplicator experiment – we are no further ahead after having done the experiment.

    (check out the links)

    Larry – I do not want this to morph into some adversarial donfrontation between the two of us… I have no axe to grind. I hold you in high esteem but still feel your pillorying of Religious belief as misplaced and hurtful to the cause of teaching evolution in public schools. Maybe we just need to agree to disagree on that particular point.

    Best and warmest regards -

    p.s. I just finished your chapter 10 pdf. Any chance I could purchase a autographed copy of the entire from you? I would most grateful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shay Gaetz asks,

      Does any of this prove that consciousness can be reduced to materialistic terms? … that mental states are identical (tautologous) to brain states?

      You don't prove anything with a thought experiment. They are mainly used to illustrate inconsistencies in an argument or difficulties in the logic of an argument.

      In this case your answer highlighted an inconsistency. You have simultaneously agreed that the experience of consciuosness can be created by entirely materialistic means while, at the same time, claiming that it will be impossible to explain consciousness in materialistic terms.

      BTW, if you really think that criticism of religion in Canada is "hurtful to the cause of teaching evolution in public schools" then that must mean that you think there's some connection between evolution and religion. What is that connection and why should it matter whether your students are Christians or nonbelievers when you teach evolution?

      In any case, you should know from reading this post that the real war is between rationalism and superstition. If getting students and parents to question their religious beliefs is a laudible goal—and it is—then that's a far more important objective than teaching an accommodationist view of evolution in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.

      In those countries that have mostly freed themselves from religion, teaching evolution is not a problem. It's only "hurtful" when a large proportion of the population is unable to think critically about superstitious beliefs.

      Delete
  19. @Larry

    [Larry: You don't prove anything with a thought experiment. They are mainly used to illustrate inconsistencies in an argument or difficulties in the logic of an argument.]

    Interesting –I thought many mathematical proofs could be considered thought experiments – ditto Quantum Theory - but now I am straying outside my own comfort level and any area of expertise.

    Your suggestion is borne out by my favorite citation of thought experiment that simultaneously beats up on Aristotle and the Catholic Church (so I presume it will be well received)

    [Galileo Galilei: Let's glue a feather to a stone and drop it. Together, they weigh more than either the feather or the stone alone. If Aristotle is correct, they will now fall faster together than either would fall alone. But who could believe the feather wouldn't slow the stone? Aristotle has to be wrong.]

    [Larry: You have simultaneously agreed that the experience of consciuosness can be created by entirely materialistic means while, at the same time, claiming that it will be impossible to explain consciousness in materialistic terms.]

    Yes – you understand me perfectly. That is exactly what I am suggesting. Essentially – physical states are necessary for conscious experience but a complete explanation of physical states do not constitute a complete explanation of mental states. How about – “Brains States” are necessary for “Mental States” but there is more to a “mental state” than whirling electrons.

    Perhaps (as suggested by some, I am not so sure) mental states are an emergent property that cannot be reduced to physical or chemical properties of the biological system being examined.

    One thing is for sure – you are advocating Reductionism pure and simple. According to you, the whole is nothing more than a sum of its parts. I am no expert in epistemology, but this much I do remember from my epistemology courses – it is NOT that easy!

    Please – let us not belabor the point. Frankly, you are in close proximity to experts better than I to redirect this question. For a quick précis here is that link again:
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reduction-biology/#4

    …and here is a brief over-view of emergent properties:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties-emergent/

    How about what Wikipedia says about emergent properties? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

    Please remember that I am not at all certain that emergence is indeed the case with mental states vs. brain states. Just understand that a rejection of Reductionism does NOT constitute a rejection of Rationalism or Empiricism. Don’t commit the same category of error as mregnor.

    ReplyDelete
  20. con't

    [Larry: In any case, you should know from reading this post that the real war is between rationalism and superstition.]

    Agreed

    [Larry: If getting students and parents to question their religious beliefs is a laudible goal—and it is—…]

    Agreed – yet again!!!

    [Larry: …then that's a far more important objective than teaching an accommodationist view of evolution in order to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.]

    This is where we disagree!!!!

    I actually took your approach in class! I waxed eloquent and would go so far as to cite Richard Dawkins example: “If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of Biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry as well.”

    I composed eloquent summaries outlining the implausibility of religious objection to evolutionary theory. I am very grateful to Larry Flammer and to Craig Nelson at ENSI http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/ on the time and effort they took to correct my misguided efforts.

    Following their gentle suggestions I discovered that indeed many students did react defensively to my erstwhile indignation and outspoken criticism of religious deference. Exit surveys proved that far more students became sympathetic and appreciative of evolutionary theory when first reassured that science was neutral regarding faith and I was not attacking their belief-system.

    Look at mregnor’s reaction to my suggestions. You Larry are a ‘stand-up guy’ according to him while he blasts me with indignant outrage. That should tell you something; mregnor feels more threatened by my stance than by yours.

    So I repeat, what are your goals? What goal is most important? What strategies best achieve the most important goals? I am suggesting that two-front wars are difficult to win. I want to win this war one battle at a time.

    Re: “hurting anybody’s feelings”

    [Larry: It's only "hurtful" when a large proportion of the population is unable to think critically about superstitious beliefs.]

    Google: teacher ethics code conduct religion

    You enjoy a luxury I do not. ITMT – I have discovered that I won more over to the cause by my approach than when I employed strategies closer to yours.

    … just saying.

    Basta… can we move on? I think we agree on first principles but need to disagree on details.

    Best and grateful regards

    ReplyDelete
  21. [I actually took your approach in class! I waxed eloquent and would go so far as to cite Richard Dawkins example: “If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of Biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry as well.]

    [Following their gentle suggestions I discovered that indeed many students did react defensively to my erstwhile indignation and outspoken criticism of religious deference.]
    I think this is your mistake. It's possible to teach the science correctly without actually making an effort to weave what will invariably appear as insults, into that teaching.

    Instead of spending time calling objections to evolution perverse and ignorant (even though we may agree that they are), which expectedly will put people on the defensive, I would suggest simply honestly dealing with those objections in a sort of disconnected, unemotional and rational manner. You don't have to mention religion specifically, you don't have to call it superstition, you don't have to call proponents ignorant(even though they might be, which is not itself a crime) or perverse.

    Simply take the time to explain what is evidentially, rationally and logically wrong with those objections. This takes time and practice, but I think it can be done and that people can come to appreciate how and why evolution, properly understood, is in fact a threat to various religious beliefs, without this point having to be made explicitly and inadvertently, insultingly to believers.

    I've seen people do this, I've tried it myself. Now I will be the first to concede I don't normally do this to the various ID-creationist types who come to the forums and blogs I frequent, mostly because I've come to appreciate that these people are a very vocal and hardline minority among believers in general. They can't be reasoned with at all (they come to the discussion with their armor-of-god and jesus-goggles on, prepared to just spread the gospel message and feign ignorance at every rational argument), so I simply don't bother with those types. I'm speaking primarily of the people who also frequent the discovery institute websites and associated blogs. The people who find themselves on those sites are deeply committed religious nutcases and to be honest, I don't give a shit about them. They're so manifestly deluded it sometimes seems to be deliberate trolling when they write shit so utterly ludicrous is boggles the mind. Take Egnor and his "natural selection is bullshit" stuff. That a grown, thinking man can get himself to write something so silly tells you that a person like him is unreachable.

    But there are a whole different class of religious people, who don't frequent rightwing fundamentalist blogs and websites to read about the latest "darwinist feminazi's are coming to teach your teengirls to abort" and don't go rushing out to buy the newest ID screed. We don't hear from them exactly because they don't spend their time doing this crap, they don't actually care. They live a normal life, go to work and/or school, church on sunday and just sort of believe because they grew up with it. They might hear some IDcreationist propaganda here and there, but they don't spend time dealing with that stuff normally. These are the kinds of people that can be reached with reason, provided of course, you don't go insulting them into a defensive position right out the gate.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dr Moran,

    Please understand I do not mean to insult, but you are an ignorant, idiotic, dangerous biggot, one who most certainly will not waste his time attending to contrary views (and even if you did I doubt it would do you any good), you literally do not know what you are talking about. I believe this is entirely your fault, as you display the necessary intellect to grasp the flaws in your bullshit and thus the stupidity here is entirely your own. I think you know on some level to be true, the alternative is that you possess mental retardation of one form or another. You are espousing a dangerous ideology that is responsible for the wholesale murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings as well as the destruction and devastation in both of the cultural revolutions in China as well as the deliberate brutal genocide and cultural liquidation in Russia. While I understand unthinking brutes such as yourself are impervious to reason I can only hope that you actually think about what you are saying. The irony is, of course, you aren't thinking otherwise you wouldn't be saying the very things you are; this is indicative that this activity is beyond your capabilities.

    Nevertheless, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt in spite of your obvious stupidity, its just the kind of person I am. I doubt you will bother to rouse yourself from your dogmatic slumbers to actually read his book (there are several in this strain but Dr. Cavanaugh's is really the forefront of this line of scholarship), that would require you to actually think about this issue and I am not sure you are up to such a task. No, here's something someone with a lazy and dull mind, such as yourself, can WATCH as reading for such a low thinker is a difficult chore, unless of course the subject serves to masturbate the ego.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWnInrHihAM

    It'll only do you good if you're humble enough, pearls before swine and what not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please understand I do not mean to insult, but....

      and thusly begins the letters from many a good christian, it seems. This should be interesting. And just when it seemed that the comment section for this post was getting quite long enough.

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    2. One of the most fascinating things about the Christian Right is that they project themselves onto their enemies. The ones that fret most about 'Shariah Law' are exactly the ones who want the laws change to reflect (their) Christian values. The ones who talk about invading hordes are the ones that deploy hundreds of thousands of troops abroad. The ones that bleat about individuality want us all to conform, there's a two in three chance that a Catholic bishop talking about secularism destroying families has covered up a child rape in his diocese.

      I guess it's 'do unto others' in action.

      Once you notice this, it's terrifying. Once you see that what they accuse atheists of is what they would love to do to atheists ... well, be afraid.

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    3. P.S.

      Jesus loves you and I'm praying for you - GS Talbert

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    4. GS Talbert accuses me.

      You are espousing a dangerous ideology that is responsible for the wholesale murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings as well as the destruction and devastation in both of the cultural revolutions in China as well as the deliberate brutal genocide and cultural liquidation in Russia.

      What "ideology" would that be?

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    5. Re GS Talbert

      I always get a laugh then noodle brains like Talbert try to blame what happened in Russia on evolutionary biologists like Prof. Moran. Just for his edification, the Communists under Stalin rejected Darwin's theory of natural selection in favor of the inheritance of acquired traits theory espoused by Trofim Lysenko. The acceptance of that theory directly led to the famines in the former Soviet Union that led to the deaths of millions of its citizens. Evolutionary biology was rejected by Stalin because it was not in accord with Communist ideology, much like it is rejected by fundy Christians, Jews, and Muslims because is is not in accord with their nonsensical "holy" books, the Hebrew bible, the Christian bible, and the Quran.

      Just to complete the circle, the fundy claim that Darwin's theory led to Frankenberger and the Nazis is also disproved the latter's rejection of common descent in Mein Kampf.

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  23. I believe belief itself is irrational. For example, if someone believes something to argue or debate that point may be a rational thought however if the motive to that thought is irrational or in other words not reasonable to ones belief it shows ones true aim. I can honestly say I am truly irrational about a lot of things except the obvious. The obvious is not ones belief in something or something proven through facts but the factual conclusion which leads to the debate of death. This has no debate you just die. In saying that I will not quote any but say that once we face death all is proven to rather one is religious or not. Everyone fears death to say you don't is suicidal, so this leads to the facts crushing all superstition and rationality that ones life is lived based on ones belief. Any rational thinking cannot save you from death rather religions or non religious. Faith is a belief, a thought is not a belief rather an idea or opinion. Like one saying, "I believe I will be an all star NFL running back" and another replying, "you know there's only a 1 in 1,000 chance that you will be in the NFL?" Superstition is an illusion not a belief so the battle is not rationality vs superstition it is but faith vs doubt which leads to your own studies and indulgence in those studies. Theologically speaking to believe in it you must fully indulge yourself in it.

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