Sunday, February 14, 2016

Justice Scalia's Misunderstanding

Antonin Gregory Scalia (March 11, 1936 – February 13, 2016), justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, died a few days ago. This creates a crisis in American politics because they have a strange set of Constitutional requirements guaranteed to maximize the probability of crises every time they need a new Supreme Court justice.

Scalia's death reminded me of the dissenting opinion in EDWARDS V. AGUILLARD (June 19, 1987). This was the case that invalidated Louisiana's "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act." Stephen Jay Gould was puzzled by the dissenting opinion so he wrote a wonderful essay to explain Justice Scalia's Misunderstanding.

It's worth reading the entire essay but here's the conclusion,
Following this theme, Scalia presents his most confused statement in the written dissent:
Creation science, its proponents insist, no more must explain whence life came than evolution must explain whence came the inanimate materials from which it says life evolved. But even if that were not so, to posit a past creator is not to posit the eternal and personal God who is the object of religious veneration.
True indeed; one might be a creationist in some vernacular sense by maintaining a highly abstract and impersonal view of the creator. But Aristotle's unmoved mover is no more part of science than the Lord of Genesis. Science does not deal with questions of ultimate origins. We would object just as strongly if the Aristotelophiles of Delaware forced a law through the state legislature requiring that creation of each species ex nihilo by an unmoved mover be presented every time evolution is discussed in class. The difference is only historical circumstance, not the logic of argument The unmoved mover doesn't pack much political punch; fundamentalism ranks among our most potent irrationalisms.

Consider also, indeed especially, Scalia's false concept of science. He equates creation and evolution because creationists can't explain life's beginning, while evolutionists can't resolve the ultimate origin of the inorganic components that later aggregated to life. But this inability is the very heart of creationist logic and the central reason why their doctrine is not science, while science's inability to specify the ultimate origin of matter is irrelevant because we are not trying to do any such thing. We know that we can't, and we do not even consider such a question as part of science.

We understand Hutton's wisdom. We do not search for unattainable ultimates.

We define evolution, using Darwin's phrase, as "descent with modification" from prior living things. Our documentation of life's evolutionary tree records one of science's greatest triumphs, a profoundly liberating discovery on the oldest maxim that truth can make us free. We have made this discovery by recognizing what can be answered and what must be left alone. If Justice Scalia heeded our definitions and our practices, he would understand why creationism cannot qualify as science. He would also, by the way, sense the excitement of evolution and its evidence; no person of substance could be unmoved by something so interesting. Only Aristotle's creator may be so impassive.


42 comments :

  1. Great blog post... agreed on all points... except for one typo

    ex "mihilo" should read ex nihilo as in ex nihilo, nihil fit

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    Replies
    1. It was ex mihilo in the version I copied but I corrected it without a "sic" because I assume it was correct in the original.

      Delete
  2. Unless of course you are taking particular exception to the interventions of the Archangel Michael...

    ;-)

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  3. Physicist Sean Carroll makes a very similar point in this article, which was published in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity:

    Does the Universe Need God?

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  4. “creationists can't explain life's beginning”

    Which is to say evolutionists can?
    -
    “while evolutionists can't resolve the ultimate origin of the inorganic components that later aggregated to life”

    Oh. There’s the explanation. Inorganic components aggregated to life. Spontaneous aggregation you might say. I’m glad they got that sorted out.

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    Replies
    1. while science's inability to specify the ultimate origin of matter is irrelevant because we are not trying to do any such thing. We know that we can't, and we do not even consider such a question as part of science.

      Certainly it's part of science, but certainly not part of evolutionary biology. Cosmology and the physical theories that inform it, yes.

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    2. sez txpiper:
      “creationists can't explain life's beginning”

      Which is to say evolutionists can?


      To the extent that the term "evolutionists" even makes sense in this context, "evolutionists" don't even try to explain "life's beginning". If that's what you're interested, you want abiogenesists… abiogeneticists? …anyway, you want abiogenesis. That's Room 12A, a couple doors down the hall.

      “while evolutionists can't resolve the ultimate origin of the inorganic components that later aggregated to life”

      Oh. There’s the explanation. Inorganic components aggregated to life. Spontaneous aggregation you might say. I’m glad they got that sorted out.


      But it's not "sorted out" yet, as well you know, txpiper. While mainstream scientists working on abiogenesis do have a number of ideas they're looking into, and some of these ideas are more promising than others, the big problem with studying abiogenesis is this: We just don't have the evidence to nail down which of the aforementioned ideas are closest to what actually did happen. Said ideas are sufficiently well-defined that we could recognize supportive evidence for them if we did see it, but… well… we just haven't seen it yet.

      The lots of ideas, not much evidence situation which obtains in mainstream science's studies of abiogenesis, is quite different from the situation which obtains in… whatever it is that Creationists do when they're doing Creationism. Those Creationist ideas which actually are sufficiently well-defined that we could recognize supportive evidence for them if we saw it, have instead been refuted by the evidence. Apart from those ideas which are well-defined and disproven, Creationism also has a bunch of other ideas which are so poorly-defined that even testing them is like trying to find the cube root of a sneeze.

      Note well that txpiper is not even trying to argue that Creationism is scientifically valid; rather, he's just sneering at mainstream science. In this, txpiper is as one with pretty much every other Creationist in the past 120 years or so. Creationists don't argue "here's why Creationism is right"; instead, Creationists argumentation consists pretty much exclusively of "here's why evolution is wrong".

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    3. Cubist,

      “To the extent that the term "evolutionists" even makes sense in this context”

      It was Gould’s word in Gould’s context.
      -
      “But it's not "sorted out" yet, as well you know, txpiper.”

      Yes, I know. But it was slick of Gould to try to push the argument back to the origin of matter, and then let “later aggregated to life” just slide right in.
      -
      “Said ideas are sufficiently well-defined that we could recognize supportive evidence for them if we did see it, but… well… we just haven't seen it yet.”

      Well, my perspective on accidents is that the results are usually simple enough to figure out what happened. Scientists can control all the variables; temperature, pressure, any kind of stimulation you can think of, concentration, purity…all of it. To date, they are hopelessly entangled in square one. And even it they do get a result that looks like supportive evidence, they will then have to back away and simulate a hostile universe drenched in 2LTD that will take it apart in a millisecond. Entropy is more reliable than natural selection, and this is why an RNA world is a sappy idea.
      -
      “Creationists don't argue "here's why Creationism is right"; instead, Creationists argumentation consists pretty much exclusively of "here's why evolution is wrong”.”

      This is basically true. But our arguments follow data that says that some things are beyond the capability of natural processes. The rules of materialism are just that, rules. Impositions. Restrictions. Limitations. If the evidence leads you out of the box, then out of the box you should go. However, if you insist on not letting a divine foot in the door, you should keep clowns out as well.

      Delete
    4. Tx:
      "But our arguments follow data that says that some things are beyond the capability of natural processes"

      Which data are we talking about? You don't present it. But once again, in the next sentence you start of again with why evolution can't be true.

      " However, if you insist on not letting a divine foot in the door, "

      I'd say it's up to YOU dear Txpiper to present the data in FAVOR of this divine foot. Up until now, you haven't presented one single shred of evidence for this divine foot. The only thing you have done is what Cubist mentions: "here's why evolution is wrong” .
      Would you be the first creationist to come up with the goods to say: "here's why Creationism is right"??
      I really hope so, this would make the discussions much more interesting.

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    5. Ed,

      “Which data are we talking about?”

      Actual data, like the information in Lenski’s experiments. What in his results would lead you to believe that mutations could result in any given biosystem you care to name?
      -
      “The only thing you have done is what Cubist mentions: "here's why evolution is wrong”.”

      That, in and of itself is sufficient to eliminate natural processes as a contender for origins, or complex development.
      -
      “Would you be the first creationist to come up with the goods to say: "here's why Creationism is right”??”

      No, I wouldn’t. My beliefs are hardly unique. They are coincidental with Isaac Newton’s (and many others) not in detail, but in source and principle. Anyone who can steer human history towards a conclusion that was forecast many centuries ago has adequately authenticated Himself.

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    6. Txpiper, thanks for your answer.

      I ask:
      “Which data are we talking about?”

      You answer:
      Actual data, like the information in Lenski’s experiments


      OK, in a scientific discussion you present specific data to support your claims. You present Lenski's experiments in support of your 'divine foot', but I can't find any mention of a 'divine foot' in his papers/ data. Could you please show me exactly where Lenski mentions the 'divine foot'?

      I ask:
      “The only thing you have done is what Cubist mentions: "here's why evolution is wrong”.”

      You answer:
      That, in and of itself is sufficient to eliminate natural processes as a contender for origins, or complex development.


      Oops, here you again, you do only mention 'why evolution can't do stuff', but you don't show us the how and what of the 'divine foot'. Please provide us with specific data to support your claim.

      I ask:
      “Would you be the first creationist to come up with the goods to say: "here's why Creationism is right”??”

      You answer:
      No, I wouldn’t. My beliefs are hardly unique.


      No, your believes are not unique, many people, religious and not, do not agrees with them though. Are you a trinitarian, father/ son/ holy spirit?

      "Anyone who can steer human history towards a conclusion that was forecast many centuries ago has adequately authenticated Himself. "

      OK, do tell which forecasts are we talking about? Newton's end of the world forecast? That's not until 2060.

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    7. Anyone who can steer human history towards a conclusion that was forecast many centuries ago has adequately authenticated Himself.

      Oh dear, you're going for *that* nonsense.

      - First: The universe is quantum. Been proved five ways to Sunday. That means it's inherently probabilistic, not clockwork, and thus inherently unpredictable. No one can reliably steer *anything* in a quantum universe, including God. If God made the universe quantum, it's because He didn't require a universe He was able to steer. Which of course screws up the whole idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God. Sorry, but quantum universe = no steering history, no Biblical God.

      - Second: But beyond science, if you're going for the Holy Book, all the fulfillment of prophecy stuff is sheer 20/20 hindsight, and not terribly well done at that. For instance Luke goes to some lengths to connect Joseph to the Davidic line, since that's where the Messiah was supposed to come from, and so we've got to get Jesus' fath - oh, whoopsie, Virgin Birth, so now we've got Matthew, which in the Greek clearly has to do with Joseph's ancestry, being interpreted as somehow also bringing in Mary.

      And then there are these little things the Messiah was supposed to do, like bring God's kingdom on Earth. Whoopsie again. But hey, if you didn't like the first act, we've got the Second Coming! Don't know when exactly (predicting being much easier to do for past events than for future ones, eh, txpiper?), but you're gonna love it....

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    8. Ed,

      “OK, in a scientific discussion you present specific data to support your claims. You present Lenski's experiments in support of your 'divine foot', but I can't find any mention of a 'divine foot' in his papers/ data. Could you please show me exactly where Lenski mentions the 'divine foot'?”

      Well no, but this experiment is cited as the definitive example of evolution occurring in real time. After 60,000 generations, Lenksi is able to show a modest adaptation. In the larger view, after hundreds of billions of supposed generations, there are only E coli species, subspecies and strains to show for it. It hasn’t even evolved out of its genus. This doesn’t speak well for the divine creative authority of DNA replication screw-ups, or natural selection. And neither do any of the numerous other forms that haven’t budged for supposed zillions of years.
      -
      “Oops, here you again, you do only mention 'why evolution can't do stuff', but you don't show us the how and what of the 'divine foot’.”

      No, I don’t, and I need not. Evolution should pass or fail based on its own merit without regard to anything else.

      In regards to the ‘divine foot’, that was a phrase that Richard Lewontin used when he outlined the cherished procedures for materialism. The rules allow acceptance of most anything, no matter how preposterous, as long as God is not invoked. This is a relatively modern mental technique, and one anyone can choose to use it. I am just not compelled to follow along.
      -
      “No, your believes are not unique, many people, religious and not, do not agrees with them though.”

      I’m good with that.
      -
      “Are you a trinitarian, father/ son/ holy spirit?”

      Yes. Newton was not, though I don’t know what his exact thoughts were on the subject.
      -
      “OK, do tell which forecasts are we talking about? Newton's end of the world forecast? That's not until 2060.”

      That was not a hard and fast prediction on his part. He just added the date of the coronation of Charlemagne to the 1260 figure mentioned by Daniel. Nobody I know refers to Newton’s commentaries on the apocalyptic books to understand the subject. But they, and I, can appreciate his reasons for pursuing it, and the decades he spent struggling to sort it out. It is much easier for us now.

      There are lots of things that will occur, but the strongest benchmark was the remarkable reformation of national Israel. The Jews are the centerpiece of the end-time drama. The prophecies, including the retrieval of the chosen people, are all over the Bible. Specific nations, events (such as wars and invasions) and players will be involved. Some seem to be in view, others are not clear, nor should they be. Seeing them in shadow formation is sufficient. It is a very broad subject, with lots of details and lots of elements.

      Delete
    9. More comedy from txpiper, as he drools insipidly:

      Lenksi is able to show a modest adaptation. In the larger view, after hundreds of billions of supposed generations, there are only E coli species, subspecies and strains to show for it. It hasn’t even evolved out of its genus.

      AAHH HA HA HA HA HA! Tell us, txpiper, exactly how something is supposed to "evolve out of its genus". Can you have a child who isn't a descendant of your grandfather?

      Oh, and how many generations have been produced in Lenski's experiment? You're only out by a bit:

      http://myxo.css.msu.edu/

      Doesn't it get a bit monotonous being completely wrong about absolutely everything?

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    10. The prophecies, including the retrieval of the chosen people, are all over the Bible.

      If they're chosen, and Jesus was one, why aren't you?

      Oh, and six million or so weren't "retrieved" because they were brutally murdered on an industrial scale. Where was that in the Bible? (Just a small blip, too little for Jesus to take any notice, I'm sure. But then, he was telling his followers the world would end during their lifetimes. So much for predictions.)

      Delete
    11. “Are you a trinitarian, father/ son/ holy spirit?”

      Yes.


      So "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" is Jesus talking to himself?

      Delete
    12. Tx says: the strongest benchmark was the remarkable reformation of national Israel. The Jews are the centerpiece of the end-time drama. The prophecies, including the retrieval of the chosen people, are all over the Bible.

      Please. Back in the 1970's Hal Lindsay and his "Late Great Planet Earth" nonsense said the Bible clearly predicted that the end of the world must come within one generation of the founding of Israel. That was 1948, some 68 years ago. Two generations have come and gone and from the fundies, we keep hearing the same bullshit.

      And it's money-making bullshit. Those guys at WorldNetDaily prophesied that the "Blood Moons" would end the world and there would be disasters. What happened? A couple of months before the last of the "Blood Moons", the American stock market had a small blip... two months before... and the fundies screamed "Prophecy confirmed!"

      But WND made money from the scam, they sold a lot of books about "Blood Moons". Back in the 1970's, Hal Lindsay's books were huge best sellers and on TV all the time and they scared the crap out of me. Lindsay made huge money.

      Conservativism is a money-making scam. You're a consumer. That's all. It's no different from Glenn Beck and his "Obama will crash the economy, buy my overpriced gold!" Or all the conservative "Obama will crash the economy, subscribe to our investment advice newletter for a small fee!" scammers. Or the conservative ScamPACs that exist to pay their executives' salaries. Or SarahPAC, Sarah Palin's money-making political "PAC" that pays for her first class airplane tickets.

      Prophecy is a money-making scam. It never comes true, but it usually pay$ off.

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    13. Txpiper:
      "This doesn’t speak well for the divine creative authority of DNA replication screw-ups, or natural selection. And neither do any of the numerous other forms that haven’t budged for supposed zillions of years."

      I do hope you realize you're (once again) not providing ANY evidence in favor of 'the divine foot'. But your arguments are still 'evolution can't do this', thus 'divine foot' is true.

      I'm afraid it seems you won't be the first creationist to provide evidence in favor of 'the divine foot'.

      I ask you to provide evidence, instead of 'evolution can't do it' and once again your arguments are:

      "No, I don’t, and I need not. Evolution should pass or fail based on its own merit without regard to anything else."

      Yeah, yeah. This is just another version of 'evolution can't blah blah'. Once again, you provide no arguments in favor of 'the divine'.

      So-called forecasts from a set of stories in a book written in retrospect are very easy. I can write a book with forecasts like: the Mets will not win the MLB in the 2015 season, the Bronco's will win 24-10 in Superbowl 50 and Barrack Obama will be the first black to sit in the White house as prez.

      Many, many countless times in history the end of the world has be predicted, with dates in the past, and... hey we're still here. Newton predicted 2060, a safe date for him, because he'll be dead by 300 years. And if 2060 ends and becomes 2061, what will we do? Dig up his bones and kill him?

      Furthermore, it's well known that the bible has been added to and changed since it's first edition. Many of the 32.000 christian denominations in the world have their own version of the bible. Which one is the true one? The WBC one?

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    14. Well no, but this experiment is cited as the definitive example of evolution occurring in real time. After 60,000 generations, Lenksi is able to show a modest adaptation. In the larger view, after hundreds of billions of supposed generations, there are only E coli species, subspecies and strains to show for it. It hasn’t even evolved out of its genus. This doesn’t speak well for the divine creative authority of DNA replication screw-ups, or natural selection. And neither do any of the numerous other forms that haven’t budged for supposed zillions of years.,

      This is a bit like the ridiculous questions which asks: If humans come from fish then why are there still fish? Hint: Because fish are still incredibly successful at being fish. If humans come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys? Hint: Because long tailed primates are still incredibly successful at being long tailed primates.

      To put things into perspective: There have been 64,000 generations in the Lenski experiment but roughly 300,000 generations separate us from the HC common ancestor and about 600,000 generations separate us from modern chimpanzees.

      In the long term, we don't expect Lenski's petri dishes to produce anything other than bacteria because the environment in which they find themselves is perfectly suited to bacteria.

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    15. Plus there`s an almost 3 billion year legacy of fixed mutations that would have to be reversed and taken back to near the beginning of the process before they could become something else. The corollary of the question "What happens if you rewind the the tape of life?" is "Can you rewind the tape of life?" And the answer is, "No."

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    16. Ed,

      "So-called forecasts from a set of stories in a book written in retrospect are very easy."

      This is really off-base Ed. You couldn't possibly know what you're talking about.

      Delete
    17. Aceofspades,

      “To put things into perspective: There have been 64,000 generations in the Lenski experiment but roughly 300,000 generations separate us from the HC common ancestor and about 600,000 generations separate us from modern chimpanzees.

      In the long term, we don't expect Lenski's petri dishes to produce anything other than bacteria because the environment in which they find themselves is perfectly suited to bacteria.”

      That’s interesting. So when the divergence occurred, it must have been on account of environmental influences. What would those have been?

      Here’s a really great article dealing with living fossils, which are apparently very annoying.

      http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34927/title/The-Falsity-of-Living-Fossils/

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    18. Here’s a really great article dealing with living fossils, which are apparently very annoying.

      http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34927/title/The-Falsity-of-Living-Fossils/


      LOL! txpiper once again cluelessly links to an article that argues against his point. Do you enjoy punching yourself in the face, too, txpiper?

      Delete
    19. That’s interesting. So when the divergence occurred, it must have been on account of environmental influences. What would those have been?

      You've had this question answered and refused to understand it before. Here (pay attention to the parts about "reproductive isolation"):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation

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    20. Txpiper,

      I actually do know what I'm talking about. I also do know many stories in the bible are nothing but stories. The flood? Where can we find the sediment layers?

      Tx it safe to assume you will not be the first creationist to show evidence for 'the divine'. The only thing you can come up with is 'evolution can't blah blah'. You submit links which completely contradict your 'evolution can't blah blah' stories.
      It's pretty clear Tx you can't provide a shred of evidence for 'the divine', and 'evolution can't blah blah' doesn't mean your creationist ideas are true.

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    21. Hi Ed. You probably won't be surprised to hear creationists have a whole discipline (if it can be called that) of "flood geology" that purports to explain stratification, the fossil record, and a whole lot else. And did you know this whole thing about radiographic dating is flawed? Yeah, the weak nuclear force and in fact all of quantum field theory and the thousands of confirming experiments are as nothing against the mighty Word.

      tx, since you're an expert on this Bible stuff and we can't possibly know what we're talking about, perhaps you'd be kind enough to answer a question I've had ever since 1st grade Hebrew school: When God banished Cain from Eden, why the worry about someone killing him, for which God gave Cain the mark? Who was around outside of Eden to harm Cain, and how would they know what he'd done?

      Delete
    22. lutesuite,

      “txpiper once again cluelessly links to an article that argues against his point.”

      Well, gosh. I didn’t expect anyone to comment on the article, but I really didn’t think anyone would miss the point.

      This is definitely a cog-diss generator. See, the reason these guys are offended by the term ‘living fossil’ is simple embarrassment.

      If:

      “Today’s tadpole shrimp, or notostracans, have a shield-shaped body, ending in a forked pair of filaments—a shape that makes them almost indistinguishable from their ancestors in the Triassic period some 265 million years ago”,

      It’s enough to make you blush, isn’t it? This means they made it through three supposed major extinction events, and had goodness knows how many opportunities to respond to changing environments, crushing selection pressure, wide open niches, and all the rest. And what do they have to show for it? No impressive morphological change at all. Only minor speciation.

      Now the guys in the article just want to get rid of the term (definitely a popular tactic). It evokes unpleasant thoughts. Like the French guy said:

      “Calling a given species a living fossil suggests that it has crossed time without evolving—a hypothesis that is in sharp contrast with evolutionary genetics principles.”

      But what you can really conclude from the forms they mentioned, and many more including beloved E coli, is that you can mutate your socks off, and not evolve.

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    23. Ed,

      "I actually do know what I'm talking about. I also do know many stories in the bible are nothing but stories."

      No, that's just what you believe. It isn't what you know. And the idea of writing about historical events after the fact to make them look like prophecies is unworkable and absurd.
      -
      "The flood? Where can we find the sediment layers?"

      Well, there are supposed to be about 50 million cubic miles of sediments, almost all of them resulting from water deposition. You can find them almost everywhere.

      Delete
    24. "But what you can really conclude from the forms they mentioned, and many more including beloved E coli, is that you can mutate your socks off, and not evolve."

      No, that's not what you can conclude. What you can conclude is that there are other ways to evolve than superficial morphological change.

      Besides, the E coli in the LTEE all show different and divergent morphology. They'll remain bacteria forever because they aren't sharing their environment with a potentially compatible endosymbiont. Bacteria remained bacteria until endosymbiosis between a bacteria and an archeon. But endosymbiosis requires a symbiont, there is none in the LTEE.

      Besides, bacteria is a DOMAIN of life. To complain that the E coli in the LTEE are "still bacteria" is equivalent to complaning that a choanoflagellate evolving into a Poriferan is "still a Eukaryote". It's supremely idiotic. You could say the same thing about fish turning into tetrapods, they're "still just animals".

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    25. "Well, there are supposed to be about 50 million cubic miles of sediments, almost all of them resulting from water deposition. You can find them almost everywhere."

      They don't all result from the same deposition event you utter nutjob. They show an extreme range in time and contain vastly different organisms, arranged in chronological order. There are no whales or sharks in the Cambrian strata, despite it containing pretty much only aquatic organisms(and much later marine strata contain both crustaceans, whales, fish and sponge-fossils, but none of them similar to the ones that lived in the cambrian, so that's hydrolytic sorting falsified right there). There are no humans, birds or mammals sharing a stratum with Dimetrodon.
      There are no mammals in a strata that contains Acanthostega fossils etc. etc.

      All you have in response to this is literally unworkable religious apologetisc and excuses, such as the utterly stupid and endlessly debunked idea of "hydrolytic sorting" bullshit. Or how about the fact that accelerated nuclear decay enough to compress 4500 million years of history into 6000 years would produce so much heat it would literally vaporize granite into an incandescent plasma? Young Earth Creationism is delusional and people who believe in it when they have been exposed to the facts belong in a mental institution. I feel sorry for you.

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    26. judmarc,

      I overlooked you question. My apologies.

      “When God banished Cain from Eden, why the worry about someone killing him, for which God gave Cain the mark? Who was around outside of Eden to harm Cain[?]”

      Well, Cain wasn’t banished from Eden. He was conceived after his parents were driven out. I would speculate that he feared the resentment of other siblings or their descendants.
      -
      “and how would they know what he'd done?”

      I don’t know if it was written, or word of mouth family history. But knowledge of the curse persisted. Six generations later, Lamech mentioned it in the context of his own guilt for killing a guy. (4:23-24) If the line of Cain resembled that of Seth, Cain could have very well still been alive when this happened.

      ====

      Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen,

      “What you can conclude is that there are other ways to evolve than superficial morphological change.”

      Well, I guess that’s about the best you can do with it. But tadpole shrimp evolution does not contrast well with your whale tale.
      -
      “Bacteria remained bacteria until endosymbiosis between a bacteria and an archeon.”

      And that’s about the best they can do for the origin of eukaryotes. I’m glad you’re enjoying that idea, but do you ever ask yourself questions before you lock in on stuff like that? Have there ever been any Lenskiesque demonstrations of this happening? Did it occur just one time between two microbes? What would have sustained this amazing new form? How did it get along with the neighbors?

      They say that human health depends on something like 3000 individual microbial types that we carry. They actually outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. Do you see this as just a lucky symbiotic network?
      -
      “Besides, bacteria is a DOMAIN of life….You could say the same thing about fish turning into tetrapods, they're "still just animals”.”

      But fish are a completely different CLASS. And the reality and reliability of stasis tells us that a transition from one to another is, of course, completely idiotic.
      -
      “Young Earth Creationism is delusional and people who believe in it when they have been exposed to the facts belong in a mental institution.”

      Well I hope if I wind up in one, they don’t pair me off with somebody who thinks dinosaur soft tissue can last 65 million years.

      Delete
  5. @ lutesuite

    Physicist Sean Carroll makes a very similar point in this article, which was published in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity:


    uhmmm let's be clear here. Please do not put words into Gould's mouth. Gould's opinion is in fact quite different than Carroll's.

    I am not claiming Carroll to be correct/incorrect nor am I claiming Gould to to be correct/incorrect...

    I am saying that Gould's thesis of Non Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) represents a particular POV quite different from Carroll's

    On this one point there is no dispute.

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    Replies
    1. On NOMA they probably disagree, but that is not the point of the passage that Larry quotes above. Both agree that science is distinguished from religion by the former's not concerning itself with "the search for unattainable ultimates." As Carroll writes:

      These (theistic) ideas all arise from a conviction that, in various contexts, it is insufficient to fully understand what happens; we must also provide an explanation for why it happens – what might be called a "meta-explanatory" account.

      It can be difficult to respond to this kind of argument. Not because the arguments are especially persuasive, but because the ultimate answer to "We need to understand why the universe exists/continues to exist/exhibits regularities/came to be" is essentially "No we don't." That is unlikely to be considered a worthwhile comeback to anyone who was persuaded by the need for a meta-explanatory understanding in the first place.

      Granted, it is always nice to be able to provide reasons why something is the case. Most scientists, however, suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase "and that's just how it is." It is certainly conceivable that the ultimate explanation is to be found in God; but a compelling argument to that effect would consist of a demonstration that God provides a better explanation (for whatever reason) than a purely materialist picture, not an a priori insistence that a purely materialist picture is unsatisfying....


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    2. @lutesuite

      We have rehashed the demarcation problem on frequent enough occasion. I don’t want to even touch this particular Tar Baby with you anymore.

      My one and only single point remains standing. Gould’s and Carroll’s understanding of religion in the grander scheme of things may overlap but do not coincide!

      Carroll’s dismisses the "meta-explanatory" as being predicated on God’s existence. Gould takes a subtler stance. Gould affirms the "meta-explanatory" whether or not God exists. Gould's subtle distinction is clearly different from Carroll's.

      Meanwhile Gould takes particular exception to much of what you admire in Carroll.

      I do get discouraged when some of my colleagues tout their private atheism (their right, of course, and in many ways my own suspicion as well) as a panacea for human progress against an absurd caricature of "religion" erected as a straw man [irony alert] for rhetorical purposes. Stephen Jay Gould

      I am grateful to this forum for reigniting my enthusiasm for both Karl Popper and Stephen Jay Gould. Gould endorses Popper’s most emphatic contradiction of (whatever label you may want to attach to) “Verificationism” by correctly maintaining that that while non-falsifiability may demark the boundary between scientific and non-scientific; non-scientific statements CAN still be "meaningful".

      That is clearly NOT what Carrol is saying. I’ll say no more as I really don’t want to rehash tedious and wearisome not to mention futile exchanges of the past.

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  6. We do not search for unattainable ultimates.

    I know Gould was making a specific valid point but needless to say the concept of "unattainable ultimates" is a bit problematic (as he would of course know) in the sense we never know where the dividing line lies. And at any given time we think we know of a reasonable line, what lies beyond that line is still a scientific question, even if unanswerable. Not being able to answer a question does not magically transform it into a non-scientific matter.

    This isn't a criticism of Gould's ideas, just a comment, since it is common with some to assume that religion becomes somehow valid where science fails. Any magesteria apart from science can be called for what it is.. uninformed speculation.

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  7. The unmoved mover doesn't pack much political punch; fundamentalism ranks among our most potent irrationalisms.

    Indeed.

    Where Gould's essay doesn't go is a place that is essential to understand the motivation for Scalia's "misunderstanding" (and the disingenuousness of it).

    The Edwards case revolves around the interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This clause provides "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." That is, neither the US (nor the states nor local governments, under later amendments that brought Constitutional protections to lower levels of government) shall establish a state religion.

    The importance of the question as to whether Creation Science was "science" in Edwards derives from its relation to that question. If the motivation for having something taught in science class in a state-provided school is not because it is valid science, but because it imparts a religious view, then the state through its school is establishing that religious view as the state's view, in violation of the First Amendment rights of its citizens to be free of that sort of government interference.

    Scalia is trying to say we wouldn't object to teaching Aristotelian views as science, though they are as invalid as the views of Creation Science. This (as Scalia full well knows) sidesteps the major Constitutional issue, which is not validity itself, but what validity tells us about the state's motivation, i.e., whether that motivation is to establish a religion. And this is of course the very same reason why IDiots (except when they forget, which is often) are the proponents of the Designer whose Name They Dare Not Speak.

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    1. Yes, Scalia was dishonestly playing the game of "I am an innocent babe in the woods, I cannot imagine that fundie politicians talking endlessly about their fundie religious motivations for opposing good science could *possibly* have a fundie religous motivation for opposing good science. I can imagine a secular motivation for opposing good science; therefore, their motivation was secular. As I know the motivations of politicians better than they themselves do, when they incorrectly claim that their fundie religion motivated their opposition to good science. How would they know?"

      Scalia was a breathtakingly dishonest man, the founder of conservative Machiavellian nihilism. As he showed in Bush v. Gore, his legal philosophy was "conservatives win by any means at their disposal, including lying and trashing the Constitution."

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  8. There was no misunderstanding on Scalia's part.

    He understood full well the subterfuge atheists'...er i mean darwinian evolutionists are compelled to commit in absense of an explanation for how said modification actually happens void of intelligent input.

    There isn't one evolutionist capable of offering an explanation without co-opting designed objects to tie their narrative together.

    Even their vaunted natural selection acting on variation requires a pre-existing excess reproductive driver to kick start it.

    They are either woefully dishonest or just plain ignorant of their own self-deceptions. I would like to think it was the latter.

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    1. Steve says: Even their vaunted natural selection acting on variation requires a pre-existing excess reproductive driver to kick start it.

      So what? All your vaunted intelligent designers require input of preexisting information created by natural processes in order to kick start their design process. Every airplane designer requires input of preexisting information about, e.g. aerodynamics, and where did that come from? From material processes, matter interacting with matter. Watching birds and test models.

      ID promoters cannot point to a single example of an 'intelligent designer' creating information without the input of preexisting information created by natural processes.

      And every 'intelligent designer' we have ever observed was himself the product of evolutionary design. No ID proponent can point to a single example of an observed, visible 'intelligent designer' who is not himself a product of evolutionary processes.

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    2. Even their vaunted natural selection acting on variation requires a pre-existing excess reproductive driver to kick start it.

      Is this sentence supposed to say something?

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    3. It means that evolution will not occur without the existence of living things that will die.

      This is what passes for a profound insight in creationists circles.

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  9. We actually know quite a bit about "whence came the inanimate materials". Just yesterday I ran across this lovely figure that summarizes it nicely. Nucleosynthesis Periodic Table

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