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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Darwinist believes the impossible to be inevitable

Darwinists commenting on this blog have stated that Creationists retreat and redefine arguments in order to avoid issues. I disagree. I had challenged one and all to take on the statistical argument in a straightforward manner and they could not do it. This time I am allowing other voices to speak for me. In the realm of chance we have a place where Darwinists have no choice but to retreat and redefine for otherwise they miserably fail.

How about the Fine-Tuning issue?

"...Astrophysicist George Smoot explains that the degree of fine-tuning required for life to exist on Earth would be similar to shooting an arrow all the way to the planet Pluto (four billion miles away) and having the arrow come within a hundred yards of the target.3

Do you like to bet? Would you be apt to bet if the odds were 5:1 against you? How about if they were 6,000:1 against you? If you were to bet on the universe developing without a Designer, the odds of our universe forming on its own is 10 to the 124th to 1.

Again, just because there is a vastly remote chance that all the requirements perfectly fell into place by chance, why would a reasonable person conclude that it actually did come about that way? If the odds of a jet making it safely to its destination were 10 to the 124th to 1, who would get on that plane? We are so reasonable in so many areas of life. We look at clay pots and watches and are willing to say that obviously people made these, even if we don't see those people. Could not the same logic be used when we consider the human body and the universe?

Don't the intricacies of the human body and the universe give reason to say, "Though I don't see him, it makes most sense to conclude that God exists"?"
EveryStudent.com

Simply put, yes. This is one reason Darwinists get upset, because the simple solution (The Occam's Razor solution) is that God created all things and that is why all things appear to be designed. Because they are designed! It's all in the math, baby, for anyone not too blind to see it.


FAT CHANCE: The Failure of Evolution to Account for the Miracle of Life1
by Hank Hanegraaff


"No rational person looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper would suggest that this masterpiece came into being through blind chance. Incredibly, however, many blindly believe that chance operating through natural processes can account for the masterful precision and design of the universe in which we live. The eye, the egg, and the earth are but three examples of organized complexity that can not be accounted for apart from the existence of an omniscient designer. As the science of statistical probability demonstrates, forming even a protein molecule by random processes is not only improbable; it is indeed impossible.

One of the primary dilemmas of naturalistic evolutionary theory is that it forces scientists to conclude that the cosmos in all of its complexity was created by chance. As biologist Jacques Monod, a Nobel prize winner, puts it, “Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution” (emphasis in original).2 Noted theologian R. C. Sproul explains, for the materialist chance is the “magic wand to make not only rabbits but entire universes appear out of nothing.”3 Sproul also warns that “if chance exists in any size, shape, or form, God cannot exist. The two are mutually exclusive. If chance existed, it would destroy God’s sovereignty. If God is not sovereign, he is not God. If he is not God, he simply is not. If chance is, God is not. If God is, chance is not” (emphasis in original).4"


Now, Darwinists try to distance themselves from the idea or even the very word, "random" even though it is inherent to their beliefs. I'll present one more small excerpt from this excellent article:

"....In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe further notes that there are black boxes within black boxes. As science advances, more and more of these black boxes are being opened, revealing an “unanticipated Lilliputian world” of enormous complexity that has pushed the theory of evolution beyond the breaking point.17 Evolution cannot account for the astonishingly complex synchronization process needed for, say, the shell of a developing egg to form from the calcium that is stored inside the bones of a bird’s body.18 This shell not only provides a protective covering for the egg but also provides a source of calcium for the developing embryo and a membrane through which it can breathe.19

Furthermore, evolution cannot account for the complex synchronization process needed to produce life from a single fertilized human egg. “The tapestry of life begins with a single thread.”20 Through a process of incredible precision, a microscopic egg in one human being is fertilized by a sperm cell from another. This process not only marks the beginning of a new life but also marks the genetic future of that life.21 A single fertilized egg (zygote), the size of a pinhead, contains chemical instructions that would fill more than 500,000 printed pages.22 The genetic information contained in this “encyclopedia” determines the potential physical aspect of the developing human from height to hair color. In time, the fertilized egg divides into the 30 trillion cells that make up the human body, including 12 billion brain cells, which form over 120 trillion connections.23

In Darwin’s day, a human egg was thought to be quite simple — for all practical purposes, little more than a microscopic blob of gelatin. Today we know that a fertilized egg is among the most organized, complex structures in the universe. In an age of scientific enlightenment, it is incredible to think that people are willing to maintain that something so vastly complex arose by chance. As Dr. James Coppedge, an expert on the science of statistical probability, puts it, “Chance requires ten billion tries on the average in order to count to ten.”24

In an experiment using 10 similar coins numbered one through 10, chance will succeed on the average only once in 10 billion attempts to get the number one followed in order by all the rest. Coppedge explains that if a person could draw and record one coin every five seconds day and night, it would still take over 1,500 years for chance, on average, to succeed just once in counting to 10.25 He goes on to demonstrate the difference intelligence makes by documenting that a child can do in minutes what chance would take a millennium to do. “Chance doesn’t have a chance when compared to the intelligent purpose of even a child.”26 Even more revealing is the fact that a child playing with the party game Scrabble can easily spell the phrase, “the theory of evolution,” while chance requires five million times the assumed age of the earth to accomplish the same feat.27"
Read the entire article here -FAT CHANCE:
The Failure of Evolution to Account for the Miracle of Life.


MATH/SCHMATH. Darwinists are driven to hold on to their position for reasons other than scientific evidence. This is the reason why when mathematics slam-dunks their hypothesis, they just change the equation. For most Darwinists, they are philosophically incapable of allowing for the idea of Creation (or perhaps in many cases simply unwilling).

WHAT IS DARWINISM? Why Science Clings to a Fractured Paradigm

"Summary

The debate between creationism and Darwinism is often depicted as a dispute between naive biblical literalists, who ignore the overwhelming evidence for evolution, and scientifically enlightened intellectuals. But this is a caricature that serves the purpose of helping to perpetuate a world view hostile to Christian faith: atheistic naturalism. The debate hinges on five key terms: creationism, evolution, science, religion, and truth. Instead of trying to Christianize evolution we ought instead to challenge the assumption that atheistic naturalism is true.

The popular television game show Jeopardy reverses the usual order of things. Instead of being asked a question to which they must supply the answer, contestants are given the answer and asked to provide the appropriate question. This format suggests an insight that is applicable to law, to science, and indeed to just about everything. More important than knowing all the answers is knowing what question is being asked.

That insight is the starting point for my inquiry into Darwinian evolution and its relationship to creation, because Darwinism is the answer to two very different kinds of questions. First, Darwinian theory tells us how a certain amount of diversity in life forms can develop once we have various types of complex living organisms already in existence. If a small population of birds happens to migrate to an isolated island, for example, a combination of inbreeding, mutation, and natural selection may cause this isolated population to develop different characteristics from those possessed by the ancestral population on the mainland. When the theory is understood in this limited sense, Darwinian evolution is uncontroversial and has no important philosophical or theological implications.

Evolutionary biologists are not content merely to explain how variation occurs within limits. They aspire to answer a much broader question — how complex organisms like birds, flowers, and human beings came to exist at all. The Darwinian answer to this second question is that the creative force that produced complex plants and animals is essentially the same as the mechanism producing variations in flowers, insects, and domestic animals before our very eyes. In the words of Ernst Mayr, the dean of living Darwinists, "Transspecific evolution [i.e., macroevolution] is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species."

Neo-Darwinian evolution in this broad sense is a philosophical doctrine so lacking in empirical support that Mayr’s successor at Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould, in a reckless moment once pronounced it "effectively dead." Yet neo-Darwinism is far from dead. On the contrary, it is continually proclaimed in textbooks and the media as unchallengeable fact. How does it happen that so many scientists and intellectuals, who pride themselves on their empiricism and open-mindedness, continue to accept an unempirical theory as scientific fact?



DEFINING THE ISSUES

The answer to that question lies in the definition of five key terms — creationism, evolution, science, religion, and truth. Once we understand how these words are used in evolutionary discourse, the continued ascendancy of neo-Darwinism will be no mystery, and we need no longer be deceived by claims that the theory is supported by "overwhelming evidence." As we shall see, there are powerful vested interests in this area that thrive in the midst of ambiguity and confusion. Those who insist on defining terms precisely and using them consistently may find themselves regarded with suspicion and hostility, and even accused of being enemies of science."


Read this excellent article here.

One of the regular commenters on the blog has chimed in as well. Naturalism is illogical in more than one way. Not only does it fail to account for the Universe, it cannot account for morality, because, well, I'll let him explain.Tim High says this:

"...So where does good and evil fit in with naturalism? Many assert that naturalism makes no attempt at defining or explaining good or evil, and this in not consistant. How would a naturalist explain the evil acts of men? Well, sociopathy and psychopathy are popular arguments as for reasons why men commit evil. But then is that evil? Isn't this the same as saying that there is no good or evil, just sane and insane? A bold assertion since we have not been able to even locate the human mind yet, let alone use psychology to explain all human behavior.

Skeptic's Dictionary:

Naturalism is a metaphysical theory that holds that all phenomena can be explained mechanistically in terms of natural (as opposed to supernatural) causes and laws. Naturalism posits that the universe is a vast "machine" or "organism," devoid of general purpose and indifferent to human needs and desires.


So naturalism asserts that the universe holds no purpose, and that all phenomena can be explained through scientific reason.

Hence, understanding God is unnecessary to understanding the world.


But both remarks pose a problem. Naturalism is a self-defeating philosophy because:

The supernaturalist, with his moral and spiritual purposes inherent in every aspect of reality, must come up with some sort of explanation for the existence of evil.


Naturalism has already claimed that all phenomena can be scientfically explained. Why not evil? Here is where the sociopath, psychopath, argument comes into play. But as I said, that is eliminating evil and replacing it with psychosis. Fine to do so, except, as we see later, naturalists are not above labeling certain acts of man as "good" or "evil". The naturalist unfairly tries to place the burden of explanation on a system based on faith. (belief without seeing) Since the naturalist asserts that all phenomena is natural, and can be scientifically explained, the naturalist is in no position whatsoever to leave the explanation of evil up to supernaturalists. For that matter, what is evil from the naturalist point of view, and what is the final authority to decide good vs. evil? Observe the skeptic's view of pedophile behavior:

Their desires may be natural but that does not mean that they should be fulfilled. Both the supernaturalist and the naturalist hold pedophiles and sexual predators accountable for their evil behavior."


Confining one's science to only what is natural is a failure, just as a morality with no basis or standard is nonsensical. The great failure of Darwinism is the inability to consider the possibility of a Designer. The great failure of Humanism is the inability to consider a Definer of Absolutes. Both science and philosophy based on....nothing....eventually come back to their beginnings.

Coming Attractions:

FRIDAY - FLOOD WATERS AND SALINITY

This is absolutely and certainly the subject of Friday's main post. I promised it was coming and have no intention of backing off....See you tomorrow!

23 comments:

creeper said...

"I had challenged one and all to take on the statistical argument in a straightforward manner and they could not do it."

Actually, when we last visited this topic, it ended on this question to you:

"What you presented did indeed rest on at least one fallacy, was also incomplete and did not show the assumptions or the equation at hand. We tried to explain this to you at great length, in layman's language.

Now, before you accuse us of changing the assumptions and reworking the equation, please tell us what the assumptions and the equation are."


Your current post sheds no light on this question, and instead perpetuates the two most common fallacies re. the creationist statistics argument:

1. That the odds of a specific outcome are significant in this argument - the odds of you winning the lottery vs. the odds of someone winning the lottery.

2. That the odds mentioned were illustrative of a series of completely random events, as opposed to a series of random events filtered and amplified by reproduction with variation and subject to natural selection.

If you want the statistics challenge to stick and show how or why these fundamental fallacies don't apply, you'll have to show the work.

creeper said...

"Darwinists commenting on this blog have stated that Creationists retreat and redefine arguments in order to avoid issues. I disagree."

Retreat - creationism as a whole has retreated in many instances to now allow for most of the theory of evolution, and only to argue about the mechanisms behind macroevolution; and even in that case not even to argue that the existing mechanisms don't work, but whether they are sufficient in some cases - this is what ID is when you get down to it. In the general debate, the creationist emphasis on so-called "macroevolutionists" - whatever they are - is an example of creationists conceding many aspects of the theory of evolution and now focusing on macroevolution, without being able to point out why a mechanism should apply in one case, but absolutely must not work after x number of years or x generations.

I'll grant you that YECs have not retreated that much, though since they are short so many answers to both their challenges to the theory of evolution as well as how a young earth scenario is possible given what we see around us, I take it this is more a case of stubbornness as well as, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently put it, a "category mistake". ("I think creationism is … a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories … if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories … My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it,")

Redefine arguments - if this is a polite way of saying strawman arguments, check, bigtime.

I'd also like to add the very pronounced habits on this blog of Radar avoiding questions or rebuttals to fallacious arguments, waiting a suitable time, then re-posting the fallacious argument.

"This is one reason Darwinists get upset, because the simple solution (The Occam's Razor solution) is that God created all things and that is why all things appear to be designed. Because they are designed!"

You brought Occam's Razor into the discussion, even linking to the Wikipedia entry, though it appears you didn't get far into actually reading this. I'll repeat a section here:

"In the spirit of Occam's Razor itself, the rule is sometimes stated as:

The simplest explanation is usually the best.

Another common statement of it is :

The simplest explanation that covers all the facts.

This is an over-simplification, or at least a little misleading. See above, "In science".

This rephrasing has several faults, the worst being that Occam's Razor is only supposed to be used to choose between two scientific theories which are otherwise equally predictive. The second problem with the "simplest is best" equation is that Occam's Razor never claims to choose the 'best' theory, but only proposes simplicity as the deciding factor in choosing between two otherwise equal theories."


... and...

"A common response is that God can "simplify" the world model, for instance by providing a less complex explanation of the origin of species via creationism (i.e. even though we are adding the God-submodel we are removing a more complicated "evolution" model achieving a simpler theory). Concurrently, some over-simplify Ockham's principles as meaning "the easiest explanation must be correct" and argue that given the complexity of the Universe and the extremely small chance that it would have developed this way simply by a series of accidents, there must be a driving force that built the universe to be so complex. However, such arguments are problematic on at least two counts (aside from describing natural processes as "accidents").

First, the "evolution model" is simply a way of describing the emergent properties of simpler theories of biochemistry (DNA replication and control of biological systems), probability theory (inevitable errors in complex systems such as DNA replication, the differential replication rates of traits and genes with differing effects on survival and reproduction). Evolutionary biology introduces nothing (no new entities or hypothetical constructs) that are not already present in these more basic sciences/processes. It simply produces a theoretical system that enables us to perceive the patterns that these basic processes produce. Just as the notion of an ocean wave is not a phenomenon/concept requiring any new, hypothesized elements other than the behavior of many water molecules, wave theories enable us to see patterns and make predictions about the aggregate behavior of many molecules.

The God model, unlike evolution theory, introduces a truly new, unrelated element to the explanatory system. Occam's Razor can shave away the God concept without affecting any of the basic concepts of science. If we try to cut away evolution theory, we have to shave away an enormous amount of knowledge about the world, as evolution theory is just a name for the patterns basic processes produce.

Second, the evolution model and the patterns it enables us to see has produced countless accurate predictions that would not be possible without the theory. Critics who claim the two models are equal do not take into account that the evolution sub-model is necessary for accuracy and precision (for instance the evolution models makes many good predictions about where we will find various kinds of fossils). Since removing the evolution sub-model reduces the accuracy and precision of the World model, unlike the God model that produces no novel predictions, it must be kept (in some form)."


Just out of curiosity - why do you think that all things appear to be designed to look as if they evolved? Why isn't there an example of an organism that isn't explained by common descent? YECreationism can make so many predictions of what we would expect to see (and wouldn't expect to see given an old earth and evolution) - there should be so many examples around of these predictions coming true; instead not a single clear case is presented.

Anonymous said...

"How about the Fine-Tuning issue? "

What about it? The whole if the Sun was slightly nearer/if physics was slightly different/etc. we wouldn't be here! thing must be interesting to someone, but it's rather beyond me, Anyway, it has no relevance (except in the rhetorical linkage made below) to questions of biological evolution. Remember, science, as far as we can tell, simply doesn't have the tools to deal with questions like: did God set up existence so as to be life-friendly, just like faith simply doesn't have the tools to deal with questions like: how do we make a rabies vaccine? It's like the epistemological version of the theory of comparative advantage (you know, countries should specialize in doing what they're best at).

"We are so reasonable in so many areas of life."
For example, we usually don't don't posit direct supernatural intervention in material circumstances (darn, those demons blocked up my plumbing again!)(my car won't start! It must be my guardian angel telling me I should take a day off from work and relax!) Even when we say we do, we - as much as possible - generally act as like little methodological naturalist-people. The circumstances where we don't do this tells you a lot about the way belief functions in people's lives (regardless of its truth value).

"We look at clay pots and watches and are willing to say that obviously people made these, even if we don't see those people."

Yes, because our experience includes the knowledge that simple artifacts are made by people. We know that watches and clay pots are made by people, even if we don't see them doing it. It's generally argued that since we have no experience in how life, worlds and universes are created, the comparison is faulty, but that's not entirely true. After all, we do have some experience in new living things appearing, and we don't rely on direct supernatural intervention to explain that! (and may I add, even in people, intelligence doesn't really have much of a role in the preceeding activities!)

This is like: We look at letters and packages and are willing to say that obviously the postman brought these, even if we don't see those him. Therefore the stork brought our new baby!

""No rational person looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper would suggest that this masterpiece came into being through blind chance."

There are some interesting issues involved in how we know that the painting didn't come into being thusly, but more important: nobody with any understanding of the theory of evolution (whatever they feel about it) could honestly say that it relies solely on blind chance.

I know you think this is some sort of distancing tactic, but really, the idea above, it's like someone who was opposed to internal combustion holding up a beaker of crude and announcing incredulously to the audience that 'internalcombustionists say this moves chunks of metal and fiberglass weighing over a thousand pounds!' [Pointing a toy car on podium, dribbles petroleum over it, saying] 'Hmm, I don't see it moving yet! Maybe a little more? [glubglubglub - peers closer, turns to audience, shrugs. Laughter].

"The eye, the egg, and the earth"

Wasn't there a kid's book called that? : )

Are you guys still going on about the eye? That's so 19th century . . . and the formation of the earth has, strictly speaking, nothing to do with evolution. All these arguments are just people insisting There is too a God! - and we can prove it by proving science wrong. Sorry guys, it doesn't even work that way. Even if you manage to prove evolution wrong, that just proves evolution wrong. Doesn't do anything for your beliefs. Besides science not having God-detectors, the evidence doesn't match up with the account you present.

Anyway, you want to hear about the eye? Go read Carl Zimmer series of posts on them, starting with Eyes, Part One: Opening Up the Russian Doll


" . . .forming even a protein molecule by random processes is not only improbable; it is indeed impossible."

Speaking of protein molecules: more Carl Zimmer, The Blind Locksmith:
"Over the last few years, scientists have figured out how to recreate biological molecules that were last seen on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago. Until now, scientists have reconstructed ancient proteins to gather clues about life was like long ago. But now some scientists at the University of Oregon have done something new with these old proteins: they used them to figure out how evolution produces complex systems--exactly the sort of systems that creationists would have us believe cannot evolve."

Read it - it's actually rather jaw-droppingly cool.

"Sproul also warns that “if chance exists in any size, shape, or form, God cannot exist. The two are mutually exclusive. If chance existed, it would destroy God’s sovereignty"

Yep, there you go, putting shackles on God again, telling him what he can and cannot do - something science by definition can't. The idea that God - the creator, one presumes, of reality itself, couldn't be the Master of chance . . . it's just kinda sad.

" Evolution cannot account for the astonishingly complex synchronization process needed for, say, the shell of a developing egg to form from the calcium that is stored inside the bones of a bird’s body"

I know next to nothing about eggs (can't even hardboil them reliably!) but I'm predicting that if you go look them up, science will be at least on its way to explaining a lot of this. There will be gaps in our understanding, but over the years these gaps are going to be filled.

"Chance requires ten billion tries on the average in order to count to ten."

Go read about Dawkin's Weasel program. Here, I'll even paste in a bit for you:

"A computer program could be written to carry out the actions of Dawkins's hypothetical monkey, continuously generating combinations of 26 letters and spaces at high speed. Even at the rate of millions of combinations per second, it is unlikely, even given the entire lifetime of the universe to run, that the program would ever produce the phrase "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL."
Dawkins intends this example to illustrate a common misunderstanding of evolutionary change, i.e. that DNA sequences or organic compounds such as proteins are the result of atoms "randomly" combining to form more complex structures. In these types of computations, any sequence of amino acids in a protein will be extraordinarily improbable. (See: Fred Hoyle)
Dawkins then goes on to show that a process of cumulative selection can take far fewer steps to reach any given target. He refines the program to preserve "favorable" combinations (or "hits") and to allow the remaining letters in the sequence to be replaced."


Try to guess how many generations it took, then click the link. Is this ia good simulation of evolution? Not at all! It's a horrible one, because that's not what it's meant as. It's simply illustrating, as pointed out, a single misunderstanding - but the things that make it such a bad simulation are themselves creationist misunderstandings, amusingly!

" But this is a caricature that serves the purpose of helping to perpetuate a world view hostile to Christian faith: atheistic naturalism."
Maybe. Just goes to show how you guys, imagining yourselves to be flipping off science for God, are really just scoring one big own goal!

"When the theory is understood in this limited sense, Darwinian evolution is uncontroversial and has no important philosophical or theological implications."

See? The part of the theory that is effectively undeniable with even a simplistic and shallow understanding, the part that we've literally recreated in the lab, and on the farm, and etc. - that's hived off, and presented as if it had no connection to the broader theory. It's like saying, I believe that NaCl will dissolve in H20, but I don't believe in atoms.

And of course, this quote gives the game away. All this opposition on the creationist side has nothing to do with science, but rather the imagined "philosophical or theological implications". Meanwhile, the folks on the science side keep on working - learning and making new things.

Tim Hugh quotes part of a Skeptic's Dictionary definition, but doesn't go on to quote the next bits

"Naturalism does not deny the existence of God, either as transcendent or immanent. However, naturalism makes God an unnecessary hypothesis and essentially superfluous to scientific investigation. Reference to moral or divine purposes has no place in scientific explanations. On the other hand, the scope of science is limited to explanation of empirical phenomena without reference to forces, powers, or influences that are supernatural."

Again, you're gonna have to explain why this is a bad idea - for example, giving an example where invoking the supernatural produced a better scientific explanation. Yes, yes, you pointed out (beating me too it, actually)the idea that some early modern scientists used the concept of a divinely created order as a kind of a leg up to get to modern science. Anything, anything at all since then?

The skeptic's dictionary also fails to differentiate between two kinds of naturalism
1) methodological naturalism - where we assume, for specific purposes, that phenomena can be explained "mechanistically in terms of natural (as opposed to supernatural) causes and laws." This is what you do in everyday life, by for example, not examining as a possibility that evil demons have made your car break down (without necessary discounting the existence of evil demons).
2) metaphysical naturalism: "all phenomena can be explained mechanistically in terms of natural (as opposed to supernatural) causes and laws . . . the universe is a vast "machine" or "organism," devoid of general purpose and indifferent to human needs and desires."

Using (1) doesn't mean you have to believe (2), nor is (2) actually verifiable using science, since it is, after all, metaphysics, rather than physics. You can't build a belief accelerator.

"Evolutionary biologists are not content merely to explain how variation occurs within limits"

Why should they, especially since 1) there's no scientific reason to stay within those limits, and 2) going beyond them has produced the most sucessful explanation for the diversity of life that we've come up with yet?

"Neo-Darwinian evolution in this broad sense is a philosophical doctrine so lacking in empirical support that Mayr’s successor at Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould, in a reckless moment once pronounced it "effectively dead.""

Besides the question of why they think the modern evolutionary synthesis (although not so modern anymore - the orginal has been modified in all sorts of ways) is a philosophical doctrine, why a philosophical doctrine would need empirical support, and why they want to torment the memort of poor SJ even after his death (are they planning to keep his corpse spinning at a high speed as a way to generate electricity to power the AIG server?),
I hope you'll permit me to quote a large chunk from Dispatches from the Culture Wars, commenting on a review of the AMNH Darwin exhibit in the magazine Crisis. The reviewer claims to be confused "because the exhibit's curator, the paleontologist Niles Eldredge, has written extensively about how Darwin's idea of gradual evolution has never been supported by the fossils and certainly doesn't explain them." Ed Brayton explains:

"Johnston is conflating two entirely different ideas from Darwin - the idea of common descentand the idea of phyletic gradualism. The theory of common descent not only helps us understand the fossil record, it's the only explanation that makes any sense out of the fossil record. Common descent is the notion that all modern life forms are derived from one or a few common ancestors via descent with modification. Phyletic gradualism is a theory about the specific mode of speciation, about the manner, mode and tempo with which new species arise from existing species. The theory of common descent not only helps us understand the fossil record, it's the only explanation that makes any sense out of it at all.

The broad patterns of appearance that we see in the fossil record are clear. For the first 3+ billion years of life on earth, there was nothing but bacteria. Then simple multicellular life begins to appear and it steadily diversifies into a variety of forms of marine invertebrates. Then the first hemichordates and chordates appear, then the first true vertebrate fishes. Fish continue to diversify over a long period of time until the first amphibians begin to appear. Then later, reptiles. Finally, mammals and birds.

And within each of these types of animals, there is a similar pattern. The first amphibians to appear look the most fish-like and over time they diversify into many distinct types of amphibians, progressively less fish-like and more like extent species as they adapt to new environments. The first mammals to appear are the most reptile-like and they gradually diversify and become less reptile-like and more like extent species over time. The first birds to appear are the most dinosaur-like and over time they become less reptilian and more like extent species.

The only explanation that makes coherent sense of those patterns is common descent. Now, Eldredge and Gould's criticism of phyletic gradualism as not being supported by the fossil record is an entirely different question. The fossil record clearly supports common descent, but does it support the particular mode of speciation that they call phyletic gradualism? Well, that depends. Darwin doesn't really commit himself to phyletic gradualism the way Gould and Eldredge initially claimed he did.

To a large extent, the battle between phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium (PG) is a mythical one. Speciation can take any number of forms, but the dominant mode is almost certainly allopatric (meaning that speciation takes place in a small subset of a larger population that has become reproductively isolated from the larger ancestral stock). That has certain implications for the more specific patterns we find in the fossil record and that is where PE was valuable, in applying allopatric speciation and Mayr's work on population genetics to paleontology and inferring from it how that would make the patterns of appearance look.

If Johnston understood these basic concepts in evolutionary theory, he would understand why the AMNH exhibit that Eldredge curates could say that Darwin's ideas help us to understand the fossil record while still criticizing what he perceived (wrongly, I think) to be Darwin's focus on speciation as the wholesale transformation of an entire species into a new species. There is much debate about how prevalent the various modes of speciation are over time, but there is no serious debate on the question of whether the fossil record supports common descent."


After a long quote from Gould, towards the end of which SJ exclaims "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists--whether through design or stupidity, I do not know--as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups," Ed continues:

"Not only does Tiktaalik roseae fill in a gap and provide a perfect transitional form between the more fish-like Panderichthys and the later, more land-adapted Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, but it is the result of the ability of evolutionary theory to make accurate predictions. Paleontologists knew that the transitional form between those two groups must have lived in a river environment and must have lived in the time period between the earlier species and the later ones (the early Late Devonian). And they knew roughly what it must have looked like as well. So they went looking for it where they predicted it would be and that's where they found it."

"Confining one's science to only what is natural is a failure"

Yes. I know. Isn't it depressing how the last century was just an uninterrupted string of science failures?*

Again, if you can give an example within modern science (not the 17th century, when they were still figuring out what science was and needed a philosophical prop) where not confining science to what is natural helped one bit? A cure for disease? A new invention? Help finding natural resources? Predicting natural disasters? Predicting anything?

Note that this isn't aguing religion is wrong or God doesn't exist - just that science works best on its own.

" Both science and philosophy based on....nothing....eventually come back to their beginnings."

The old bugaboo - evolutionary biology (and, I guess, molecular biology, and developmental biology, and genetics, and geology, and chemistry, and physics, and medicine, and etc.) is simply amoral atheism, or close enough (at least as an appeal to emotion) that it really makes no difference. It's not relevent, but more importantly, it's not, strictly speaking, true, any than driving a car is Christianity or baking bread Jewish or etc.

Creeper asks: "why do you think that all things appear to be designed to look as if they evolved?"

I assume he doesn't think this. Radar, is that correct?

* Now, you can argue that it was a century of moral, ethical, practical, and plain ol' common sense failures, if you wish - but scientific failures?

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

I wrote:Even if you manage to prove evolution wrong, that just proves evolution wrong. Doesn't do anything for your beliefs.

Of course, I should also add that even if evolution continues to be supported beyond a reasonable doubt (although that's a legal rather than scientific standard), that doesn't do anything for, belief in God, positively or negatively. All it means is to the very best of our knowledge, this is how life changed and diversified over hundreds of millions of years, and continues to do today. Can't say that God is or isn't backstage, pulling invisible strings - can't even say that some supernatural being didn't create everything at 7 am this morning with the complete and infalliable appearance of having existed for billions of years, etc.

-Dan S.

highboy said...

"Yep, there you go, putting shackles on God again, telling him what he can and cannot do - something science by definition can't. The idea that God - the creator, one presumes, of reality itself, couldn't be the Master of chance . . . it's just kinda sad."

If God is the Master of chance, then it is not chance, it is His plan. It is you putting shackles on God, by implying that there are things beyond God's control, which is what chance is.

"Tim Hugh quotes part of a Skeptic's Dictionary definition, but doesn't go on to quote the next bits

"Naturalism does not deny the existence of God, either as transcendent or immanent. However, naturalism makes God an unnecessary hypothesis and essentially superfluous to scientific investigation. Reference to moral or divine purposes has no place in scientific explanations. On the other hand, the scope of science is limited to explanation of empirical phenomena without reference to forces, powers, or influences that are supernatural."

Again, you're gonna have to explain why this is a bad idea - for example, giving an example where invoking the supernatural produced a better scientific explanation. Yes, yes, you pointed out (beating me too it, actually)the idea that some early modern scientists used the concept of a divinely created order as a kind of a leg up to get to modern science. Anything, anything at all since then?"

First, my name is Tim High, and I cited the whole article, even if I personally only quoted some. You have to read my whole post. Second, the idea that naturalism is for/against God was not the point of the post. It was actually to point out the many inconsistencies of naturalism, chiefly that it claims that ALL human behavior is completely natural, (therefore humans are not responsible) yet would still use words like "good" and "evil", and would also still hold those in the "evil" category accountable.

"Using (1) doesn't mean you have to believe (2), nor is (2) actually verifiable using science, since it is, after all, metaphysics, rather than physics. You can't build a belief accelerator."

What is your point? I think its obvious that the Skeptic's Dictionary is pushing #2. In any event, it is totally inconsitent and inadequate, as has been pointed out. It claims, (while first stating that it has no need to explain evil) that evil, such as pedophilia, is perfectly natural. It can't be evil and be natural, with no purpose, at the same time.

creeper said...

Creeper asks: "why do you think that all things appear to be designed to look as if they evolved?"

I assume he doesn't think this. Radar, is that correct?


Radar thinks that all things appear to be designed. I pointed out that they all appear to look as if they evolved - whether they were designed that way or not.

Why wasn't anything designed in a way in which it could not have evolved?

creeper said...

"If God is the Master of chance, then it is not chance, it is His plan. It is you putting shackles on God, by implying that there are things beyond God's control, which is what chance is."

Chance does not need to be beyond God's control, merely causality and order that is beyond our perception.

I made this point in an earlier comment; here it is again:

"What appears random to us is actually quite predictable if you only have more information and perception. Say you have a pair of dice in a perfectly controlled environment. If you can throw them in a perfectly controlled way, you can predict every bounce, and predict exactly where and how they will land, and that numbers they will show. Yet to someone who has less information, this is a completely random process.

Or think, for example, of Brownian motion: individual particles appear to be moving randomly, but if you look closer, you see that they are being impacted by other particles. Being aware of these other particles and all their paths makes it possible to predict every movement everywhere.

It's not possible to us, though. It requires something like God to accomplish this, since the laws of physics prevent us from ever constructing anything that could contain within it information about every particle in the universe.

But since God is all-knowing and eternal, it is possible for Him to accomplish this. And so what would appear to be utterly random to us, can easily be part of a planned process for God. I'm not sure if I've explained this well, but that is why in theory I see no contradiction between God planning something that contains randomness - to God, there is no randomness, since randomness requires a certain level of not-knowing and not-seeing, of which God is not capable."

highboy said...

Creeper: What you are saying, if I understand correctly, is that chance and God can co-exist, it is just that chance pertains to our understanding, not God's control? Fair point, if I'm reading you correctly.

creeper said...

Highboy,

Yes, you read that correctly. What appears random to our limited perception and understanding can have connections of which we are not aware. Since God is purported to be all-knowing, nothing can be random to Him.

Anonymous said...

" We look at clay pots and watches and are willing to say that obviously people made these, even if we don't see those people. Could not the same logic be used when we consider the human body and the universe?"

The analogy which you attempt to establish between the contrivances of human art, and the various existences of the Universe, is inadmissible. We attribute these effects to human intelligence, because we know beforehand that human intelligence is capable of producing them. Take away this knowledge, and the grounds of our reasoning will be destroyed. Our entire ignorance, therefore, of the Divine Nature leaves this analogy defective in its most essential point of comparison.

You assert that the construction of the animal machine, the fitness of certain animals to certain situations, the connexion between the organs of perception and that which is perceived; the relation between every thing which exists, and that which tends to preserve it in its existence, imply design. It is manifest that if the eye could not see, nor the stomach digest, the human frame could not preserve its present mode of existence. It is equally certain, however, that the elements of its composition, if they did not exist in one form, must exist in another; and that the combinations which they would form, must so long as they endured, derive support for their peculiar mode of being from their fitness to the circumstances of their situation."


Percy Bysse Shelley, 1814

quoted in a very neat Aetiology post post . . . go forth and read. . .

Sorry, Tim! Didn't mean to misspell your name . . .

-Dan S.

creeper said...

Tara Smith is a cutie.

Jeffahn said...

Radar,

Pick a number between 0 and 53 trillion. Done? OK.

Now did you know that the chance of you picking the number you did is like winning multiple lotteries in a row. Tell us how you did it if the odds were so against it?

Never done before, but somehow you managed it.

creeper said...

I just picked a number between 0 and 53 trillion and had no problem with that at all. I dare say the number I picked (I'm keeping it a secret) has never been picked before, in all of recorded history.

On the other hand, I seem to be incapable of winning the lottery, despite a significant number of attempts. Where am I going wrong?

xiangtao said...

Likewise, I just shuffled five decks of cards together. The odds of them randomly coming up in the order they did is astronomically against it, and yet, somehow it magically happened! Isn't probability fascinating?

radar said...

********argh*********

You give me one random event. Suppose you need multiple thousands of random events in an exact order before you get a horse, or a fish, or a tadpole? That is exactly how the statistics work, sorry, not like a deck of cards. Organisms are far more complex than a deck of cards. Plus, the method for a change to occur in the genetic code requires mutation. There are odds against any one mutation being successful enough to change the gene pool and you need millions to go from protein molecule to horse. Millions!

Forget the cards, play it straight, admit it is in violation of statistical law.

Anonymous said...

Except (well, for starters) we're not, as far as anyone can tell, aiming for a specific outcome, but one that works. We're not looking at a endless chain of specific random changes to produce a specified outcome (a fish, say), but rather any random event that results in a neutral or net-positive result in terms of reproduction.

" Plus, the method for a change to occur in the genetic code requires mutation"
Sure, by definition. The wikipedia page on Mutation lists seven main categories of mutations.

" and you need millions to go from protein molecule [sic] to horse. Millions! "

Which, granted, might be a bit of a tickish situation if the time frame involved was a few thousand years. Luckily, physicists (using the same ideas which gave us nuclear weapons and nuclear power) and geologists have discovered that it's actually several billion years. That is, several thousand million years.

-Dan S.

Jeffahn said...

radar,

Natural selection is NOT RANDOM -it is in fact THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF RANDOM.

Now that that's settled, when will be hearing this argument from you again?

creeper said...

"Forget the cards, play it straight, admit it is in violation of statistical law."

How can we admit such a thing if you don't want to show us the underlying assumptions and equation of the number you quoted, nor even show us which statistical law it is supposed to violate, and how?

Evade evade evade. Then try to claim victory. Nice try, Radar.

The point re. the last few cards and lottery examples were intended to demonstrate the difference between a specific outcome and a workable outcome. We've expended quite a few words trying to illustrate this point to you, but it appears you're just not willing to get this.

Let's try it this way. Answer these questions, and explain your reasoning:

1. What are the odds of you winning a lottery that has a million possible combinations of numbers, with a million participants?

2. What are the odds of someone winning a lottery that has a million possible combinations of numbers, with a million participants?

Would you rather bet on you winning the lottery, or on someone winning the lottery?

The statistics "violation" you keep talking about is the former; evolution is much more about the latter: it does not say that evolution had to result in, say, the horse or homo sapiens. At each stage the random event that is selected for does not need to be the one that will result in a straight line in the horse, but any one that is beneficial or neutral. That changes the odds considerably.

Now please tell us the equation and assumptions behind your thinking, and how you think they violate statistical law.

cranky old fart said...

Cranky,

There's not a prayer that radar is going to answer you here. Another future post perhaps, which would mean another evasion for sure.

nudge, nudge.

radar said...

"Which, granted, might be a bit of a tickish situation if the time frame involved was a few thousand years. Luckily, physicists (using the same ideas which gave us nuclear weapons and nuclear power) and geologists have discovered that it's actually several billion years. That is, several thousand million years."

Sorry, but the formulation includes giving you billions of years and you still don't have enough time. Did you miss that part the first time?

"There's not a prayer that radar is going to answer you here. Another future post perhaps, which would mean another evasion for sure."

April 9th post, people. The math thing is answered. I'm not evading, it is the Darwinist's twisted math that is the evasion. Hopefully I have finally made that clear? Read the post.

"I'd also like to add the very pronounced habits on this blog of Radar avoiding questions or rebuttals to fallacious arguments, waiting a suitable time, then re-posting the fallacious argument."

Any argument that is opposed to your viewpoint you label as fallacious. That gets old after awhile. I often answer questions in postings so there is more room to go into depth. I certainly disagree with you concerning Occam's Razor and while I often use Wiki as a quicky site to give basic information, no one considers it truly authoritative. In any event, since you usually label an answer other than the one you prefer either 'fallacious' or 'evasive' it waters down any good arguments you might make.

"radar,

Natural selection is NOT RANDOM -it is in fact THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF RANDOM.

Now that that's settled, when will be hearing this argument from you again?"


Oh, you sure will! Mutations are random. No mutation, no way for natural selection to select any genetic property that is not already in the genetic code. Game/set/match!

(Oh, and the opposite of random is designed. So, are you now telling us that you are an Intelligent Design guy?)

radar said...

Dan S- By the way, I don't think that things have been designed to look as if they have evolved...and I don't think anything looks evolved. You are pretty much right there.

Dawkin's weasel program was not random, actually. It included design properties.

When science was dominated by believers in God, it ran along rather smoothly, too. Unless guys like Newton and Mendel and Pasteur were, in your view, pikers.

The Locksmith piece is interesting and intelligent. It is also very speculative. It assumes that these mutations occurred and then looks to see how they may have happened. There are speculative assumptions made, but in fact there is no proof of these mutations and no proof that any of it had actually happened. It is simply a way that it might have happened, if it had happened...and of course I am among those who don't believe anything like happened at all.

Now, I have no goal of trying to prove science wrong. I love science and find it fascinating. Up until around 1860, the normal scientist was usually one who believed that there probably was a God and certainly believed in Catastrophism. Uniformitarianism and Darwinism became the vogue in around 1860 and continued on until around 1960. This is when the problems of Uniformitarianism became more obvious and also when a groundswell of Creationists began to come back upon the scene. The very few, people like Henry Morris and Donald Patten, have been joined by more and more scientists who see major problems for Darwinism.

The Locksmith article illustrates this. The argument is well done and lots of careful research went into it and yet it is all speculation. You must approach the article from a Darwinist point of view. Really, it is typical of Darwinists to present speculation as fact.

One of the most misleading things happening in science today is the presentation of Darwinist supposition as fact. Dan, no matter how much you believe in it, macroevolution has not been proven. It does not rise to the level of theory. It is popular. But then, so was Alchemy. Just as Alchemists did all sorts of great things, so there are Darwinists accomplishing great things today. I don't hate them, just wish they would be able to admit the truth to themselves so they would tell the truth to the world: Darwinism is an unproven supposition that you happen to believe fits the question of origins better than any other. Now that is honest!

creeper said...

Radar,

"Sorry, but the formulation includes giving you billions of years and you still don't have enough time."

Where is the formulation?

cranky: "There's not a prayer that radar is going to answer you here. Another future post perhaps, which would mean another evasion for sure."

radar: "April 9th post, people. The math thing is answered."


No, the fallacy has merely been repeated. I'll (re-)address this in a comment on the April 9th post.

me: "I'd also like to add the very pronounced habits on this blog of Radar avoiding questions or rebuttals to fallacious arguments, waiting a suitable time, then re-posting the fallacious argument."

radar: "Any argument that is opposed to your viewpoint you label as fallacious."


No, any argument that contains a fallacy is labeled as fallacious. I don't merely label the argument as fallacious, I point out exactly what the specific fallacy is. You're free to address this if you think the specific fallacy doesn't apply.

"I certainly disagree with you concerning Occam's Razor and while I often use Wiki as a quicky site to give basic information, no one considers it truly authoritative."

I wasn't using it as an authority on the matter, merely using it as a useful summary. I illustrated the specific Occam's Razor fallacy that you use most often (along with ignoring that it is supposed to distinguish between two equally predictive theories) with an example about using what you currently know about how hardware and software works (which is naturalistic) vs. an explanation of "it's magic". Using your fallacious understanding of Occam's Razor (which can be summarized as 'the simpler-sounding explanation is the right one'), you would have to conclude that our computers work by magic.

"In any event, since you usually label an answer other than the one you prefer either 'fallacious' or 'evasive' it waters down any good arguments you might make."

I don't label any answer other than the one I prefer as fallacious or evasive. I label the fallacious ones as fallacious and point out exactly where the fallacy lies, and I label evasive ones as evasive when they are demonstrably so. Don't blame the messenger if you evade so much and post so many fallacies.

"Mutations are random. No mutation, no way for natural selection to select any genetic property that is not already in the genetic code."

That's right: random mutation is a key factor in evolution. So is natural selection. Both are necessary.

"(Oh, and the opposite of random is designed. So, are you now telling us that you are an Intelligent Design guy?)"

Fallacy: false dichotomy. Random and designed are not the only options available.

"Dawkin's weasel program was not random, actually. It included design properties."

I don't think it was claimed that the weasel program on the whole was random. It included randomness as a factor, as well as selection (albeit not natural). It is not intended to illustrate natural selection, but the effect of selection of any kind in shaping the outcome of a process that includes randomness.

"When science was dominated by believers in God, it ran along rather smoothly, too. Unless guys like Newton and Mendel and Pasteur were, in your view, pikers."

For the umpteenth time we have this confusion between world view and process. Even today believers in God are perfectly capable of engaging in the naturalistic process known as science, as did Newton, Mendel and Pasteur.

Yes, Newton, Mendel and Pasteur were believers in God. Yes, they made breakthroughs in our scientific understanding of the world. And yes, they did this using a naturalistic process, without invoking supernatural explanations in their work.

"One of the most misleading things happening in science today is the presentation of Darwinist supposition as fact. Dan, no matter how much you believe in it, macroevolution has not been proven."

That macroevolution has taken place has been so overwhelmingly demonstrated that it is taken as fact by the overwhelming majority of scientists in related fields. This is what among scientists is referred to as the "fact of evolution". In creationist posts and articles, this is often misrepresented (I assume in many cases due to genuine misunderstanding) as scientists being so arrogant as to refer to the theory of evolution as the fact of evolution, when they are actually two distinct things.

The current theory of what mechanisms are behind evolution is the "theory of evolution". The theory of evolution is not a fact, but it is a scientific theory confirmed by the evidence on an ongoing basis. Debate continues on the importance of the different mechanisms. ID for example takes on board common descent/macroevolution, but questions not the validity of the mechanisms, but the sufficiency of them to explain some aspects of evolution.

"It does not rise to the level of theory."

It was a hypothesis that has been expanded on and was confirmed by evidence again and again. It is falsifiable, and yet has not been falsified. What, in your opinion, stops it from being a scientific theory?

"Darwinism is an unproven supposition that you happen to believe fits the question of origins better than any other. Now that is honest!"

The question of origins doesn't fall under the theory of evolution. Abiogenesis is being studied, and there are possible pathways under investigation. No, it isn't "proven" (as scientific theories in general aren't anyway, they are merely confirmed).

creeper said...

jeffahn: "Natural selection is NOT RANDOM -it is in fact THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF RANDOM.

Now that that's settled, when will be hearing this argument from you again?"

radar: "Oh, you sure will! Mutations are random. No mutation, no way for natural selection to select any genetic property that is not already in the genetic code. Game/set/match!"


Nope, Radar, just another one smacked into the net, albeit with gusto.

Random mutations are random, natural selection is not. It features randomness as a factor, but is not random on the whole.