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Monday, June 19, 2006

Open thread/Odds against evolution questions

Greetings! In response to Dan S, and with good reasons, we have an open thread. Bring up whatever topic you want to continue discussion on by either mentioning it in the comments section, or linking to this post on your blog and doing a trackback. So readers, check out the trackbacks link to see if there is anything posted, please!

By the way, concerning the Dixie Chicks, go see what they've been saying lately, it isn't just a matter of ragging on the President...."The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country... I don't see why people care about patriotism."

The Odds

I began the revisitation of the odds against evolution by presenting four areas in which the odds are stacked against evolution and looking briefly at the first two:

1-Odds against the formation of the Universe
2-Odds against the Universe and the Earth having life-allowing conditions
3-Odds against the formation of life from non-life
4-Odds against numerous complex forms arising from one simple form of life

Evolution denies the idea of a Creator God having made the heavens and the Earth and all life within it. Therefore, they need a plausible explanation for the existence of, well, existence, and then the remarkable fine-tuning required for life to be able to exist at all. I touched on that briefly and no doubt more will be said, but since I am about to hit on point three, I want to set the stage. Perhaps evolutionists can help me, perhaps we can agree on some basic points before the discussion begins?

(Commenters, remember, derision is not an argument once you have graduated kindergarten. Thanks!)


Questions for commenters


1)Do you agree that the total number of electrons in the Universe has been calculated to be 10^78 electrons?

2)Do you agree that the age of the Universe, according to long-agers, is about 13.7 Billion years?

3)Would that equate into approximately 3 x 10^16 seconds?

4)Is the minimum number of components needed for a self-replication organism equal to 500,000? Do you know of any self-replicating organisms found in nature that are less complex than this? Better question, is there any evidence that any organism has ever been as simple as 500,000 parts, or bits, or components?

5)What is the amount of information held within cellular DNA?

(1.8×10^22 bits (2.25 zettaoctets) – amount of information which can be stored in 1 gram of DNA. 6.4×10^9 bits – Capacity of the human genome, 3.2 billion base pairs (each pair counts 2 for 2 bits of data).)

Can we agree on a minimum amount of information contained within the DNA of a cell?

I await responses....

32 comments:

highboy said...

I think mops are better than brooms. Discuss.

Anonymous said...

I smell a horribly flawed argument coming on. You know, one that doesn't account for natural selection's 'correction factor'.

...and one that lumps evolution and cosmology into one big stinking strawman.

-scohen

chaos_engineer said...

Let's see...

Points 1-3 look reasonable but I haven't done the math.

Point 4 seems questionable. 500,000 seems high for simple self-replication. I can see needing a lot of parts for survival in today's world (where there's heavy competition for resources), but you could probably get by with a lot fewer pieces if you had the whole planet to yourself. This is a hard topic to research because there's no way to know what the first self-replicators looked like.

Point 5 is a red herring. The first self-replicators were far simpler than cells and wouldn't have used DNA.

I really think that it's too early to talk about the probability of abiogenesis. Right now there's no accepted Theory of Abiogenesis. (That's not suprising given our current knowledge of chemistry.) If we don't even know what the first self-replicator was, then we can't calculate the probability of it forming.

Patriotism is good but nationalism is evil, and a lot of people get them mixed up. I try to see myself as a citizen of the world.

Mops are indeed better than brooms and anyone who thinks otherwise should be locked up someplace so decent people won't have to listen to their nonsense anymore.

creeper said...

Highboy,

"I think mops are better than brooms. Discuss."

Unfortunately I agree with you.

creeper said...

Radar,

"Evolution denies the idea of a Creator God having made the heavens and the Earth and all life within it."

Evolution does no such thing. You're thinking of something else.

"(Commenters, remember, derision is not an argument once you have graduated kindergarten. Thanks!)"

Neither is a strawman argument, Radar. Please reformulate your argument so that it is no longer, as scohen put it, "one big stinking strawman".

Another thing I smell here is Radar trying to sweep his claims about Huxley's horse under the rug without having to address them - but I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised on that score.

I'll second chaos_engineer's comments on the rest, especially the bit about the mops.

Anonymous said...

"I think mops are better than brooms. Discuss."

Clearly this is just silly! Mops and brooms each serve different and distinct purposes, and people are best picking the best tool for the job at hand (see, for example, Steven J. Gould's discussion of Non-Overlapping Neatness Apparatus, or NONA). Othewise it would be like using religion as a way to explain natural phenomena, or science as an all-encompassing source of ultimate meaning and morality.

Certainly one doesn't necessarily preclude the other! It's possible to use brooms for certain practical tasks - sweeping up crumbs on a hardwood floor, for example - and still believe in mop use. Indeed,survey's show that 87% of Americans use both brooms and mops! This clearly is nothing more than an attempt to imply that the use of brooms is somehow anti-mop.

And please don't use the terms "broomist or "broomism, " as they are inaccurate and misleading. As wikipedia points out, things have greatlychanged since the days when round bundles of natural fibers were attached to branches. Indeed, the very name "broom" actually referred to the material it was made from, something that is almost never the case today. Even the form of modern brooms wasn't developed until the 1800s by the Shakers - which shouldn't be taken as proof that the supernatural is useful in science, since they used strictly natural observations and processes, even if they may have been originally inspired by religious belief. Nowadays, of course, we have brooms made of plastics and other synthetics, developed using techniques and fields of research that weren't even dreamed of back then . .

Note, however, that the so-called "dust mops" or "dry mops" are clearly an ideologically-slanted (read the Cleaning Institute's "Sponge Strategy") attempt to sneak mops into the public school curriculum under the guise of brooms; trying to combine both brooms and mops, they end up with a bizarre hybrid that serves neither purpose . . . .


Anyway, I think this link will clear it all up . . .


[goes on in this vein for 18 more paragraphs, containing thousands of words and totaling 27 column inches of type]

-Dan S., obexxlga

Anonymous said...

And now I don't have enough time to actually comment on what loboinok said, which was why Radar was nice enough (thanks!) to make a part-open thread!

Dan S., shaking head sadly - and what is with all you crazy mop-lovers?!

Anonymous said...

Dan,

"or science as an all-encompassing source of ultimate meaning and morality. "

Actually, using religion as an "all-encompasing source of ultimate meaning and morality" can have some seriously bad repercussions for Cannanites.

I've also run the calculations for the number of seconds in 13.7 billion years, and came up with a number that was significantly larger than the one Radar posted. I think he used 365 days as a year.

-scohen

Jake said...

So, radar, I note that you still haven't answered my question about the odds of an almight creator god coming into existence. It seems to me that if you're going to compare the material answers to the supernatural answers, and criticize the material answers on the basis of their (according to you) extremely low probability, you are required, in order for your argument to be sound, to show that the probability of your supernatural answer is higher.

Please address this flaw in your argument

xiangtao said...

Also how rain drops can beat the odds through natural laws but life as a whole cannot?

highboy said...

"I think mops are better than brooms. Discuss."

"Unfortunately I agree with you."

Why is that unfortunate?

Dan, tell me you didn't actually look up references about mops and brooms.

creeper said...

"Why is that unfortunate?"

'Cos it doesn't yield much of an endless argument back and forth.

"Dan, tell me you didn't actually look up references about mops and brooms."

What amazes me is that he found some. What possessed someone to write up a wikipedia entry on brooms? ("A broom is a cleaning tool consisting of stiff fibres attached to, and roughly parallel to, a cylindrical handle, the broomstick.") Amazing.

radar said...

Brooms? Mops? A Swiffer beats 'em both, yo!

365 days as a year, this is bad?

"Points 1-3 look reasonable but I haven't done the math.

Point 4 seems questionable. 500,000 seems high for simple self-replication. I can see needing a lot of parts for survival in today's world (where there's heavy competition for resources), but you could probably get by with a lot fewer pieces if you had the whole planet to yourself. This is a hard topic to research because there's no way to know what the first self-replicators looked like."


Well, I am waiting for a number we can agree upon. 500,000 seemed like an agreed-upon number for the simplest self-replicating organisms we observe today, correct? But I am waiting for a number and explanation for that number that will make evolutionists relatively happy....

Oh, and in a discussion of biogenesis, natural selection won't enter in so that strawman is an imaginary one.

Jake said...

Oh, and in a discussion of biogenesis, natural selection won't enter in so that strawman is an imaginary one.

Not really. First, given two molecules, one that's self replicating and one that isn't, which one will replicate? the one that's self-replicating, obviously. So the self-replicating molecule is the fitter of the two. It's simplistic, but that is fundamentally what natural selection is.

And second, although this is more a question of definition, there is a ways to go between a single, self-replicating molecule and anything we would call "life". Natural selection is what takes it there.

radar said...

No, no, a thousand times no! We have to get to the level of life before we have a self-replicating organism. No self-replicating organism, no natural selection! Natural selection is a factor in a process (assumed by evolution) in which complex life evolved from simple life. But before there is life at all, there is no natural selection at work at all.

xiangtao said...

So natural selection must have no effect on viruses then?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and in a discussion of biogenesis, natural selection won't enter in . . ."

The thing is, as bizarre as it sounds, the origin of life (as you're no doubt tired of hearing!) is essentially tangential to the study of evolution. Technically speaking, it doesn't matter if life on earth originated in some warm quiet pond or hellish undersea vent, as interplanetary germs, the result of an alien science experiement or illegal space garbage-barge dumping, or even by being !zapped! into existence by some divine being. All that matters, for evolution, is what happened next. Science doesn't - can't - deal with divine action, which puts that last option out of the running in terms of scientific research. The relatively few scientists - they're not, one should note, evolutionary biologists - who work in origin of life research have settled on an Earthly beginning as the most likely and fruitful approach, but it's always possible that some new finding will alter this view.

If you want to argue against atheism or against modern science - or both - that's fine, but to represent this as an argument against evolution is incorrect.

It's like (you knew it was coming!) I started arguing against a some IT security strategy or technique by debating how raw materials get extracted and made into computers (etc.) or how computers get from the factory to you -

It. Doesn't. Matter. Not in this case.

___________________

"Dan, tell me you didn't actually look up references about mops and brooms."

But of course - how could I not?!

"What amazes me is that he found some. "
And a remarkably informative one, at that (the mop entry is much less impressive).

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"365 days as a year, this is bad?"

You're forgetting that a year is 365.2421.. days, over 13.7 billion years, that's a lot of error to accumulate, but I ran the calculations using 365 days and it still doesn't add up. I'm still getting numbers an order of magnitude larger than yours. I get 4.323x10^17.

-scohen

Anonymous said...

""The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country... I don't see why people care about patriotism.""


I keep meaning to respond to Loboinok's comments in the almost-archived (still just hanging on in Recent Posts) Separation of Church and State thread - and this is a very interesting starting place. Now, I personally disagree with Natalie Maines here, but can see where she's coming from. More to the point, as I go on (and on, and on, and on) in the next comment, I want you to think through her question: Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? .

Why, for example, [begin playing devil's advocate] should Dan S. have any patriotic feeling, beyond some vestigial sentimentalism stemming gradeschool inculcatory ceremonialism? After all, as a Jew, besides a scattering of neighborhoods and perhaps a handful of villages*, my ethnic and religious heritage is everywhere in this country a minority - in most places, quite a numerically insignificant one, often granted at most perfunctory mention I'd guess that elementary or secondary American history textbooks make almost no mention of my people, even though Jewish settlement here rather predates the establishment of the U.S., we've fought with distinction in all the nation's wars, and within certain fields have contributed almost ludicrously out of proportion to our meager numbers. In fact, well into the first half of the 20th Century we faced open discrimination and anti-semitism, including exclusion from countless private organizations and a rough ~quota system instituted to limit the number of Jews at various prestigious colleges, universities, and medical schools.

Nor do the roots of my specific family tree reach especially wide or deep into this American soil. With a few exceptions, most of our family still lives or lies buried within 300 miles of where we disembarked or settled down - often well within that range. Our journey to these shores is well within living memory, and even the youngest of us have met ancestors born in the shtetls of Eastern Europe.

Local pride, material interests, or kinship ties might engender some regional loyalty, so that I could be reasonably expected to be found working to help - or ultimately fighting to defend, say, New York City or Philadelphia, the particular states, or even the broader Mid-Atlantic region. But again:
Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? .

[/devil's advocate]

* Y'know, that wikipedia entry is extremely poorly written . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"* Y'know, that wikipedia entry is extremely poorly written . . . "

Of course, that would be in a comment where I meant to say

" . . .some vestigial sentimentalism stemming from gradeschool inculcatory ceremonialism.

and to include proper punctuation in

" . . . often granted at most perfunctory mention I'd guess that elementary or secondary American history textbooks . . ."

-Dan S., who meant to hit preview, honest!

Jake said...

No, no, a thousand times no! We have to get to the level of life before we have a self-replicating organism. No self-replicating organism, no natural selection! Natural selection is a factor in a process (assumed by evolution) in which complex life evolved from simple life. But before there is life at all, there is no natural selection at work at all.

Sigh. I really wish you would read what I write before responding. My points, in user-friendly bullet form, using math notation when possible:

1. {self-replicating molecules}⊃{living organisms} (crucially, {self-replicating organisms}≠{living organisms})

2. self-replicating molecules will replicate. Therefore the chances of self-replicating molecules increasing in number is high.

3. the better a replicator the molecule/organism is, the more of it there will be (one definition of fitness).

4. Random changes occuring in the molecules as they replicate, plus the above point, will necessarily mean that some molecules will replicate at higher rates than others. This is what natural selection is.

5. Therefore, natural selection plays a crucial role in abiogenesis (which is what you mean when you say biogenesis).

highboy said...

"Why do you have to be a patriot? About what?"

I know you're just playing Devil's Advocate, but the correct answer is: you don't. You don't have to be a patriot. That's what's great about America. Another question is: "Why do I have to respect someone who is NOT a patriot?" Correct answer: I don't. I don't have to show anyone an ounce of respect if they disrespect my country. That is what is also great about America.

radar said...

Jake,

Your response is sensible when corresponding to point four of the four-point odds discussion. But, prior to the existence of self-replicating organisms, natural selection is not a factor. That is what I said and continue to say. So, is that clear? Yes, natural selection will be a factor in point four. No, it will not be a factor in point three.

radar said...

abiogenesis. Right. I agree.

""365 days as a year, this is bad?"

You're forgetting that a year is 365.2421.. days, over 13.7 billion years, that's a lot of error to accumulate, but I ran the calculations using 365 days and it still doesn't add up. I'm still getting numbers an order of magnitude larger than yours. I get 4.323x10^17.

-scohen"


I was simply estimating, but I am willing to say 10^18 (widening the stakes a mite) in order to be more than fair. Thank you, scohen.

radar said...

abiogenesis. Right. I agree.

""365 days as a year, this is bad?"

You're forgetting that a year is 365.2421.. days, over 13.7 billion years, that's a lot of error to accumulate, but I ran the calculations using 365 days and it still doesn't add up. I'm still getting numbers an order of magnitude larger than yours. I get 4.323x10^17.

-scohen"


I was simply estimating, but I am willing to say 10^18 (widening the stakes a mite) in order to be more than fair. Thank you, scohen.

radar said...

Hey, my responses are self-replicating!!!!

scohen, by the way, I am working hard to avoid strawmen even though I am sometimes unfairly accused. This is why I am seeking information.

Jake, I just did an entire post on the Odds for/against God.

Dan S - the abiogenesis discussion is relevant to evolution since, if evolution has no explanation for the advent of life, it is worthless. IMO

Anonymous said...

"scohen, by the way, I am working hard to avoid strawmen even though I am sometimes unfairly accused. This is why I am seeking information."

That's cool. I think I know where you're going with all of this though, but I'll reserve judgement until later. However, I still think lumping abiogenesis and cosmology into evolution is a strawman argument.

-scohen

Anonymous said...

Okey-doke.

So back in the comments to that post The Separation of Church and State, reposted from an interesting essay by Loboinok, I tossed out a link to a bit in WorldNetDaily by an evangelical Christian entitled Why I'm against pre-game prayers.

It's fascinating reading, but to make a long story (slightly) short(er), the Midwestern-born writer and his family ended up living right outside of the small town of Wahiawa in Oahu, Hawaii - a place with a predominantly Japanese- and Chinese-American population, and many adherents of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths. He and his wife made a point of attending the next football game at the high school, (as they worked with some of the teens in youth group and Sunday School) and initially thought nothing of it when asked to rise for the invocation - a ceremony they took entirely for granted and unquestionally accepted.

What they got, however, were not Christian prayers, but a Buddhist ritual! With their expectations knocked askew, confused and unwilling to give offense, they remained standing (in the author's eyes, a betrayal of their faith). Discovering that a Buddhist or Shinto prayer was standard pregame operating procedure, and forced to choose between offending their neighbors and going against their beliefs, they declined to attend any further games. As the author writes:

"when placed in a setting where the majority culture proved hostile to my faith and beliefs . . . I felt instantly ostracized and viewed myself as a foreigner in my own land. . . I would say in love to my Christian brothers and sisters, before you yearn for the imposition of prayer and similar rituals in your public schools, you might consider attending a football game at Wahiawa High School. Because unless you're ready to endure the unwilling exposure of yourself and your children to those beliefs and practices that your own faith forswears, you have no right to insist that others sit in silence and complicity while you do the same to them. "

Both the author himself, and scohen and I see what happened as an instance of a person finding themself (in what they could recognize as) standing in someone else's shoes for an endless, embarassing moment, and having their view rather changed as a result.

How did Loboinok respond? Well, anybody who's interested might want to view the original thread, including the full text of Lobo's and scohen's discussion (scroll down almost to the bottom and start at 9:06 PM), but with our host's kind permission, I want to address some particular remarks up here, because I think they point to a fundamental and vital difference in outlook/viewpoints/one of those thingies.

Loboinok: "I think it sad that a state that was attacked by the Japanese would embrace the same culture and their religion, but it is their right to do under the constitution.(as presently interpreted)

As scohen pointed out, this is a weirdly ahistorical view. I'm not going all the way back to how Hawaii ended up a US possession - a chain of events that certainly doesn't show the US (and particularly US business interests) in the best light, although not in the very worst, either. Instead, I'll start after Hawaii was annexed as a US territory, as plantation owners - including what good old wiki-p basically describes as a (sugarcane) corporate oligarchy - opposed attempts to gain statehood in order to import cheap labor from overseas (sugar and capitalism are almost inextricably intertwined in a way that has shaped the entire history of the modern world - read, for example, Sidney Mintz's "Sweetness and Power").

To digress for a second, Buddhism, of course, was founded in India perhaps a bit before 500 BCE and ultimately spread throughout Asia, while Shinto is an ancient complex of Japanese beliefs. Buddhism in other words, is in almost no meaningful way associated with WWII-era Japanese militarism. Shinto was turned into a government-enforced state religion beginning in the late 1860s and very purposefully used to support an increasingly radical nationalism - but this was a blatent politicalization and in many ways, one might say, a corruption of a belief system largely concerned with harmony, health and luck, tradition, and reverence for nature (to grossly simplify, and ignore the remnants of previous use as a legitimizing ideology).

So the idea that the actions of the Japanese govenment and military in WWII should stop Hawaiians from adopting Buddhist and Shinto cultural and religious traditions is perhaps silly on its very face - but I'm just indulging myself here in historical detail and avoiding the main point, which is . . .

that most of the folks embracing Japanese or other Asian culture and religion are in fact embracing their own frickin' religious tradition, because they're the frickin' descendants of Asians brought over by big corporations to serve as cheap labor, and in fact it's mostly thanks to them (or their parents/grandparents) that Hawaii ever got to be a frickin' American state in the frickin' first place!

Ok, ok . . . deep breaths . . . count to 10 . . .

Alright, I'm ok. But we can already see a certain outlook here, where "American" is treated as a very specific, very limited set of ethnicities and cultural/religious practices, even in the case of a state consisting of a island settled by Polynesians and in the 2000 census being over 40% Asian-American (and not quite 25% "White American")

Note also that, as the writer points out, the specific community he was in is predominantly Asian-American, with many adherents of Buddhism or Shinto (Hawaii as a whole is majority-Christian, but less so, I think, than any other state?). As such, the pregame prayers were probably a simple majoritarian practice by the community, taken for granted, and without any intention to exclude or cause offense.

Now, that doesn't matter. No matter what - even if the community was and always would be 100% Buddhist/Shinto - it's an unconstitutional practice (by a public school). Moreover, we can see why it's not just unconstitutional, but not nice, in the simplest terms, by the writer's reaction. Simple civility and empathy, to say nothing of civil society, should cause us to reconsider such practices if previously favored.

So what does Loboinok say?

"The problem is not with a pagan religion infiltrating our schools. It was Americans in an American state and country and culture, allowing a pagan religion to infiltrate the same."

Again, Loboinok sees it as something outside creeping in and "infiltrating" - not an inconsequential or unrevealing word choice! - an American state, country and culture. Now, in this case it's just glaringly bizarre, because, again, the people whose heritage is in part these religious and cultural practices played a major role in getting Hawaii to become a state, and make up the largest single ethnic group in the state, one where whites are haoles. But this is just a ridiculously obvious example - they could just be plain ol' immigrants (or original inhabitants, although that doesn't come up in this specific case). More in the next bit -but note also that he can only think of it as " a pagan religion infiltrating our schools," rather than an unintended but real difficulty involving government endorsement. In my head, I sort of imagine him in this case crouching defensively behind a fence or wall, staring out at the others, rather than being also able to rise up to a higher vantage point and take a more general or universal view.

"We are not a Buddhist country and do not allow that religion and culture in our political or judicial arena. It should not be allowed in our educational arena."

Now certainly I don't believe that the government should be making any establishments of religion - any religion, from animism to Zoroastrianism. So this would at first glimpse seem like an area of agreement. But look at Loboinok's reasoning. It's because "[w]e are not a Buddhist country," he says, that Buddhism should not be allowed in our educational arena, and I take the implication as being (tell me if I'm mistaken!) that Christianity should, because we are a Christian country.

And - at least in my America - we're not a Buddhist country (although we have an growing number of Buddhists, including some whose families have been here for at least as long - or longer - than mine). Nor are we a Christian country (although we are a majority Christian country, and one where various Christian denominations and beliefs have historically played an undeniable and important role). Nor are we a Baha'i, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Shinto, Sikh, Wiccan, assorted traditional/indigenous/animistic/
shamanistic/etc-religion or atheist country. [Pause for deep breath]. We're a country for everybody, of any religion or no religion, whether you worship the Abrahamic God or a small brown toad kept in a little tank by your bed (although that would be a bit odd).

Responding to scohen's claim that "Your implication that saying a Buddhist prayer is inappropriate while saying a Christian prayer would somehow be appropriate in this situation is bigotry," he says:

"Not as far as I'm concerned.
Buddhism is not a part of our national identity or culture.
I am tolerant of other religions and beliefs without surrendering my faith and beliefs."

Now certainly Buddhism has had - so far, and probably for at least quite some time into the future - less influence on our national identity and culture than Christianity, but that's not what is being said. Instead, this would seem to bluntly exclusionary - "Buddhism is not a part [which would seem to imply any part?] of our national identity and culture." This doesn't sound - although perhaps I'm misinterpreting - like a viewpoint that involves merely sticking strongly to personal beliefs, but nevertheless tolerating other citizen's religious beliefs as formal equals, no matter how silly or obviously wrong they are, because that's how we get along in a modern and religiously diverse society that values freedom of religion.

Instead, it sounds like a viewpoint where other beliefs are very much - if not necessarily violently - subordinated, not just in terms of historic tradition, but formal government endorsement. Indeed, I get the impression from this general viewpoint that a lack or lesser degree of government endorsement for one's religious belief (or at least, going along with such a lack) is in fact perceived as in some way partially surrendering one's faiths and beliefs. Perhaps I'm wrong.

"If I were to move to a country that were predominantly Buddhist, I would not expect that they would change their religion, culture and institutions to accommodate me or thousands like me."

And of course, this isn't completely unreasonable - yet is fairly off the mark. No one (in this case) is demanding that people change their religion, or wildly alter their culture or institutions. No one is telling Christians not to celebrate Christmas, for example, to pick a holiday that is during its time almost all-pervasive, if in a nearly entirely secularized garb, and for very materialistic reasons.

Rather, it would seem, what is being asked is two-fold. On one hand, people are insisting that the Constitution be followed, and that the government refrain from endorsing religons (which I can dimly see how, for people accustomed to such endorsement and unquestioned majority status, could be seen as an attack or loss) On the other, as the demographics of the country shift, and groups already present assert themselves, people are insisting that they be recognized as a part of America. This has already led to such horrible, country-crushing catastrophes as perhaps seeing menorah decorations in store windows or public school students learning about Hanukkah - that is, learning about religion, rather than learning religion - as well as Christmas.

Certainly there is a vital core of political and social practices - being a constitutionally limited representative democracy with a strong civil society and emphasis on civil rights, etc., etc., etc. - and a body of traditional and intergrative cultural practices. That can't and shouldn't be overlooked. Given that shared common core, though America is for everybody. But there's a counter-tradition, an almost tribal one, that exclaims, sometimes triumphantly, sometimes anxiously or even near-hysterically, America is ours, and ours alone. If you others can come here (and sometimes that's a big if), it is or should be by our leave and forbearance, with clear acknowledgement of who's the boss, of whose country it really is. You can stay, as long as you admit you're not really a part of our national identity or culture.

And of course this is nothing new. When my grandparents came to this country, such a view was in full swing, as people fretted and railed against the surging hordes flooding in from Southern and Eastern Europe, with their barbaric customs, incomprehensible tongues, and alien creeds. America was often seen as the domain of the Anglo-Saxon "race" (what we would today see as an odd amalgam of race, ethnicity, history and culture), often with others having little to add, and indeed quite likely to mess things up. While more progressive folks touted assimilation, others doubted this was even possible - at least anytime soon, perhaps centuries hence. Some even seemed to see the immigrants' adoption of American names, language, customs, clothes as an insidious threat - the manner by which they would weasel (one might say infiltrate) their way into society, take our women and push us out! (Visualize a dapper, refined, perhaps just somewhat overbred gentleman becoming more and more agitated, beginning to dab at his forehead with a pocket hankerchef, perhaps, almost unnoticed, a hint of spittle collecting in the corners of his mouth . . (Of course, when similar anxieties focused upon African-Americans, the reaction was, ah, rather more direct)).

But we got over it. Viewed in the light of years of shared sacrifice, struggle and victory in the Depression and WWII, postwar prosperity, the leveling aspects of suburbia and of course the horrific lesson, in that war, of where such attitudes can ultimately lead, this kind of bizarre prejudice against what were recognized to be just other kinds of white people - the white ethnics - evaporated like a weird dream. (And bigger, if slower, changes were coming up).

It's happened before, it'll happen again. (My deepest hope is that before I die I'll hear kids saying in amazement - you mean thet used to think people of color were inferior, and discriminated against them? That's crazy! Of course, by then there'll be folks flipping out about the genetically engineered intelligent chimps, or aliens, or robots, or probably, sadly, just some other group of plain old people.) Of more interest is what comes across, at least initially, as a kind of failure of imaginative reciprocity . The writer of the piece can take their own experience and flip it around, to see how somebody else might feel, and from there can no longer support such action. Loboinok doesn't do this.

I don't know whether this is an issue of causation - from America is ours, not really yours! to this, or vice versa - or correlation, but I can't help but see a connection. And of course this division reaches back to the very beginnings of our nation's mythic history, with the Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution (a bit more complex, but nevermind) - and promptly instituting it themselves on one hand, and folks like Rhode Island co-founder Roger Williams, Pennsylvania founder William Penn on the other. Then, of course, there were later and lesser known people like Thomas Kennedy of Maryland, who in the early part of the 19th century dedicated and almost destroyed his political career fighting to overturn a provision in that state's Constitution that made a specifically Christian oath a requirement for public office: the so-called "Jew Bill" finally allowed Jews to instead declare a belief in a Creator. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem he had ever even met a Jewish person (at least to begin with).

By now you're probably considering buying me a one-way ticket to Hawaii if only so I'd stop talking (=writing, but whatever ), but one more thing: this distinction, these different approaches to religious freedom we see here (the WND writer's other's-shoes-wearing opposition to gov't-sponsored prayer, and Loboinok's 'it's ok because we - not they - are doing it in our country) makes me think of Kant's categorical imperative. Basically - or so Wikipedia tells me, it's not like I know any of this stuff by myself - this cornerstone of Kant's moral philosophy is in contrast to a insufficient hypothetical imperative, a conditional command meaningful only as a means to an end, dependent on circumstance and viewpoints, merely relative (this is, more or less, the concern that without an objective moral standard, how can we say X is wrong, and what stops someone from X-ing?) A categorical imperative, on the other hand, applies universally to any rational being. He presented this in three successive formulations:

""Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law."
->
"Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."
->
"So act as though you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends."


Loboinok's argument for no Buddhist prayers before games (but Christian ones), because this isn't a Buddhist country, (but a Christian one) is, I would think, a hypothetical imperative. With the the WND writer, on the other hand, and the Constitutional issues, we approach (I hesitate to say fully realize) a categorical imperative.

If I understood it, I would suggest that one reason for patriotism here, beyond accidents of birth or residence or temporary political/economic patterns of migration, is that America - incrementally, hestitatingly, imperfectly, backslidingly - at its best strives towards being, insofar as any real country can, a space for a Kingdom of Ends . . .

But I don't, so instead let me wish you good night.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

I truly admire the folks who could write, say, my last post in three compact paragraphs (but better). Maybe one day.

Anyway, to switch to one of the other topics (but interesting point, Highboy, and I certainly agree . . . kind of . . .):

"Dan S - the abiogenesis discussion is relevant to evolution since, if evolution has no explanation for the advent of life, it is worthless. IMO"

But that's not true, because that's not its job! The theory of gravity has no explanation for why fools fall in love, but that doesn't mean it's worthless. Or more to the point, MapQuest driving directions won't tell me how to start the car (or even how to find it and get in, let along fit all the luggage), but that doesn't mean it's worthless. If you imagine science as a large corporation, you could think of abiogenesis research and evolutionary theory as two different (though linked) departments . . .

. . . and so on . . .

-Dan S.

radar said...

Dan S - first, I believe evolutionists shun the abiogenesis issue because they are bereft of good answers. But frankly it is integral to the discussion. You cannot arbitrarily draw a line and say "life evolved into what we see today" but we cannot look into what it evolved from! If evolution is true then all of life evolved from non-life. Otherwise life simply appears, voila! This then likely necessitates God, which takes away the need for evolution anyway. IMO.

~

On the other hand, I agree with Dan S to some extent about pre-game prayers. If all participants wish to have Christian prayer, it is a free country, rock on! But it is up to the leaders to make sure that all are in agreement. Alternatively, you could attempt to have a non-specific prayer or no group prayer at all.

But we were truly formed as a nation by believers and of believers but not as a "Christian Nation" or a "Theistic Nation." We are a secular nation founded largely on Christian principles and allowing for freedom of ( not from ) religion.

Therefore, a bunch of Buddhist kids in Hawaii engaging in a Buddhist prayer is just as American as a bunch of Christian kids in Pennsylvania engaging in Christian prayer. America was formed with this very freedom in mind!

In my business, over the phone, I pray with my boss on a regular basis. However, we don't have a company-wide group prayer. The wise leader seeks to bring his group or team together, choosing to do things that bind together and avoid those things which tear apart.

In summary, if a pre-game prayer is not desired by everyone in the group, it is best avoided altogether. Were I in a situation where a meeting was being opened in a Buddhist prayer, I would silently translate it within myself to a Christian prayer going up to God and probably keep it to myself going forward. It wouldn't offend or intimidate me.

radar said...

Oh, yes, and Dan? Some nice work and research on that post. I am thankful that the atmosphere that brought about lynchings in the South or genocide in Germany is not the one we have today.

I see today's ACLUnacy in trying to remove religion from the public eye is as onerous as trying to promote one religion as the official one of the government.

I disagree with Kant's premises and do not agree that man should be the final authority. However, the concept of the "kingdom of ends", when including Christian values into the mix, is indeed what America tries to be.

This is the greatest country ever, IMO, one where freedom is revered and opportunity abounds. I love my country and put my life on the line to serve my country. I am pleased that Buddhists may worship openly here and that Jews run for office and people of various colors can sit next to me on the bus or operate on my back or whatever else. I am free to say it and mean it: God bless the USA!

creeper said...

"first, I believe evolutionists shun the abiogenesis issue because they are bereft of good answers."

Speaking for myself, I don't shun it, but consider it a separate topic. An interesting one, but a separate one. When a meteorologist studies the weather, weather patterns, climates, he doesn't ask (or need to ask) where the first water molecules came from.

"But frankly it is integral to the discussion. You cannot arbitrarily draw a line and say "life evolved into what we see today" but we cannot look into what it evolved from!"

So should we drop all research into evolutionary biology (which is quite fruitful) until this abiogenesis issue is settled once and for all? And how could it be settled, anyway? All that the scientists could come up with would be a possible pathway. Even that leaves wide open the possibility that "God did it", either via this pathway or some other (possibly magical) one.

"If evolution is true then all of life evolved from non-life."

That doesn't follow logically, Radar, but it appears to be the point where you are most confused.

I think this is in part because you're falling victim to your own obfuscation. You apply evolution to anything from, say, gradual changes in the genepool of a population to an absolute materialist worldview (and most of the time, you use it closer to that second part). To you, accepting the theory of evolution as the best explanation immediately necessitates an absolute materialist worldview, the rejection of God in all cases etc.

For example, let's plug in an actual definition of evolution and see where that leaves your statement:

"If [change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species] is true then all of life evolved from non-life."

Doesn't follow logically, does it? Now let's plug in your fallacious definition:

"If [an absolute naturalistic worldview] is true then all of life evolved from non-life."

Which turns out to make the statement somewhat more logical. So perhaps you should get your terminology straight; you're even confusing yourself. You're ranting against the theory of evolution when it's an absolute materialist worldview that you have a problem with.

It is entirely possible for God to have created the initial spark of life on Earth, and for the naturalistic processes that are gathered under the theory of evolution to have taken their course from that point on. The laws of nature in your belief system should be created by God, so I don't see how you would object to this.

"Otherwise life simply appears, voila!"

Perhaps it did. Perhaps it flew in from outer space. And perhaps the scientists exploring abiogenesis are right, perhaps there is a naturalistic path from non-life to life.

"This then likely necessitates God, which takes away the need for evolution anyway. IMO."

How so, when you can't know that natural selection isn't the method God chose?