Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dear creationist

Dear creationist

Since I was a child I’ve always been fascinated in the ‘ho
w’ questions of life and the universe. How do clouds form? How do plants grow? How do computers work? The answers that science provided were, and still are, deeply satisfying; the main reason being that science provides detailed and useful explanations that stir wonder and satisfy curiosity.

But I’m sorry to say that, after reading many of your books and watching some of your seminars, I’m still dissatisfied with your explanation of how we got here. You see, the only explanation that you provide concerning life on earth is “God did it”. You do not provide any detailed information of how God did it. Did God simply pop organisms into existence out of nothing, or did he use chemical and physical processes to create? How exactly did God create living things?

Imagine I asked a climatologist how clouds form. She can tell me, in detail, how hot air rises, how condensation occurs, how water molecules attach to small dust particles to create droplets. This detailed answer not only satisfies my curiosity, but I can in turn use this knowledge to solve practical problems (for example, artificially seeding clouds to produce rain in drought stricken areas). But imagine if the climatologist simply answered “God did it”, and left it at that. Can you see why such an answer is no answer at all? Can you see why it has no value?

Moreover, creationism does not seem to provide adequate explanations to some perplexing things that we observe in nature. If God was the creator, we
are left with some ‘why’ questions regarding his motives. For example, why did he give chimps and humans (who are closely related according to evolutionary theory) similar DNA? Why did he decide to place the majority of the world's marsupials in Australia? Why are whales and dolphins mammals (and not fish), and why do they breath air despite the fact that they are sea faring creatures?


I don’t fault ‘scientific’ creationism for not having answers to these questions. Rather, it seems to me that creationism is not even attempting to find answers. Maybe I haven’t read all your resources, but I haven’t found any reference to creationists who have actually suggested creationist explanations to these problems, and have then gone out into the field to empirically test their ideas.

Yes, there is a lot we don’t know regarding biological evolution, but at least evolutionists, like other scientists, are attempting to solve the mysteries of nature with workable explanations that we can empirically verify. Every year they are making important discoveries
regarding life on earth, and they are filling gaps in knowledge with specific details.

As an individual who has always found meaning in understanding, empowerment through knowledge, and excitement in detail, you can understand why I'm not satisfied with the answer of “God did it” to the question of how we got here.

Thank you for listening

Kevin

33 comments:

Laughing Boy said...

Some quick thoughts.

First, since you recently posted a review of a book by Hugh Ross, I'll suggest three others that he wrote or co-wrote that do more than say "God just did it":

Creation as Science
The Genesis Question
Who Was Adam?

The whole idea of Creation As Science is to lay out a testable creation model, just the kind of thing opponents of creationism say creationists are afraid to do. Well, there it is.

One recent finding regarding "mitochondrial Eve" (which was widely reported) has already put one in Ross' win column, at least for the time being. The finding is predicted by his model and it does not fit with the Darwinian model. If anything, you should get the book just to be the first non-theist on the block to know that the model has failed, if indeed it does. BTW, Ross, like any other scientist, does not say his model is perfect, just that it should prove a more reliable indicator of the results of current and future research. I'll get back to you with details.

Also Ross' group, Reasons to Believe, does a weekly 2-hour radio show available as a podcast via iTunes where they discuss up-to-the-minute scientific news in great detail. As you know he is an old-earth creationist who holds to an approximately 14 billion-year-old universe and who does not read the days of Genesis 1 as 24-hour days. Of course, there are a variety of positions available to us Christians—from young-earth creationism to theistic evolution. Unlike non-theists, we don't have to fall in line behind any particular theory.

Second, climatologists have it easy compared to those studying the origin of the universe don't you think? Can we observe the origin of the universe the way climatologists can observe weather patterns and cloud formations?

Third, as far as I understand it, science does not address most 'why' questions particularly well. Even so, I disagree that creationists don't give any 'why' answers. (Actually I think religious folk generally have lots more 'why' answers then the non-religious—for what that's worth.) I'll have to do some research to give examples.

On the other hand, why shouldn't God have put the majority of the world's marsupials in Australia? Does naturalistic evolution propose to answer why?

You ask, "Did God simply pop organisms into existence out of nothing?" I've got a better one. Did the universe itself simply pop into existence out of nothing? What's naturalism's answer for how that happened? How about why? If naturalism can't give a good answer to that, the most fundamental question, I don't see how it has any veracity whatsoever; it's a stillborn philosophy.

As a side note, chimp and human DNA is not as similar as originally thought. I'll look into that as well and get back to you with the article (from a prominent peer-reviewed scientific journal as I recall).

Finally, I don't generally take kindly to being told that, because I'm a Christian, I lack any significant degree of curiosity, intellectual integrity, or even rationality, or, minimally, that I am deficient in these areas compared to non-theists. You are typically more gracious than that, so I'll assume that not what you are insinuating.

I appreciate that you are willing to engage on these matters. I hope you can give the theistic perspective a fair hearing. I'll get back to you on some of these details as soon as I can.

A preemptive note: I'm not going to get drawn into a debate about merits of naturalism over creationism. I'm going to deal with Kevin's assertion that creationists don't address questions about origins in any substantive way. Such discussions, like skiiers, go only downhill. However, I may do a post soon (soon is a relative term) on Alvin Plantinga's argument that naturalism has been defeated philosophically. I'll let you all know.

CyberKitten said...

Laughing boy said: However, I may do a post soon (soon is a relative term) on Alvin Plantinga's argument that naturalism has been defeated philosophically.

Now *that* will be an interesting read......

Lui said...

Laughing boy, there are so many errors and inconsistencies in your reply that it's hard to know where to start in addressing the fallacies you've fallen prey to.

"One recent finding regarding "mitochondrial Eve" (which was widely reported) has already put one in Ross' win column, at least for the time being. The finding is predicted by his model and it does not fit with the Darwinian model."

It would be revolutionary indeed if the whole edifice of Darwinian evolution were to crumble in the face of a single finding, but however much many theists would like that to be the case, nothing remotely like it has transpired. Molecular evolution is a complicated business and some findings sometimes seem to flatly contradict other findings. But as the mathematics get more sophisticated and our models improve, these wrinkles get ironed out. There have been numerous difficulties encountered by geneticists over the decades, some of which at first appeared to pose problems for the standard Darwinian model. Upon closer inspection, these difficulties have melted away and become less formidable. All have proven to be false alarms. If Ross's contentions are so brilliant, I look forward to hearing about them in Nature or Science. Even if they were to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, they would still have to contend with the overwhelming evidence from the rest of genetics that points to Darwinian evolution.

"Of course, there are a variety of positions available to us Christians—from young-earth creationism to theistic evolution. Unlike non-theists, we don't have to fall in line behind any particular theory."

Actually, there aren't a "variety of positions" available to you if you; not if you adhere to the scientific method. The scientific method overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. You can't just pick and choose whatever tickles your fancy. It has to be based on hard evidence. The young earth model is flat-out ridiculous, for this reason (and many others, but this single fact is sufficient to render it hopelessly obsolete): if the Erath is less than 10,000 years old, then EVERY SINGLE catastrophe that has ever befallen life on Earth had to have happened in that tiny window of opportunity. Every earthquake, every volcanic eruption, avalanche, landslide, flood (and this isn’t including the preposterous global flood the young earth creationists are so fond of telling us is supported by the scientific evidence), bush fire, tsunami, and meteorite strike (including the one reputed to have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, which is estimated to have generated as much energy as 100 million Hiroshima bombs). Yet these catastrophes go unmentioned in the Bible. You’d think that the people living at the time would be perturbed by constant meteorite bombardment and “nuclear winter”, but they seem not to have noticed. Of course, anyone with a modicum of respect for science knows the reason for this, and I would like to think that you are among such people.

"Third, as far as I understand it, science does not address most 'why' questions particularly well."

That's because 'why' questions are meaningless outside of our anthropocentric yearnings. The universe has no obligation to be subject to them. Just because a sentence can be jumbled together doesn't mean it makes any sense. Why questions CAN be asked and reasonable answers to them have been found, but not in the sense that would be to our emotional satisfaction.

"On the other hand, why shouldn't God have put the majority of the world's marsupials in Australia? Does naturalistic evolution propose to answer why?"

Actually it does, and the answer is perfectly reasonable. It has to do with speciation and plate tectonics. The fossil evidence shows a species of fossil platypus in Argentina that is very like another fossil species found in Australia. They date close to when Australia and South America were still connected. That is an example of how biogeography can help us piece together the distributions of past species and at what times they became separated from one another, when they started to diverge morphologically, what groups they were related to or went on to spawn, and so on. The marsupial fossil record is pretty sketchy, but for other groups there is more information. As more fossils are uncovered, of course, more will be known.

"You ask, "Did God simply pop organisms into existence out of nothing?" I've got a better one. Did the universe itself simply pop into existence out of nothing? What's naturalism's answer for how that happened? How about why? If naturalism can't give a good answer to that, the most fundamental question, I don't see how it has any veracity whatsoever; it's a stillborn philosophy."

Not really. You've simply made a false comparison between the sudden appearance of matter, and the sudden appearance of biological complexity. The two don't automatically equate in such a way that these arbitrary comparisons can be made.

"As a side note, chimp and human DNA is not as similar as originally thought. I'll look into that as well and get back to you with the article (from a prominent peer-reviewed scientific journal as I recall)."

That's true, but your implication is unwarranted. First of all, chimp DNA and human DNA is still VERY similar, even if more differences turned up than was originally anticipated. Secondly, particular functional genes and pseudogenes are undoubtedly inherited from a common ancestor, and these findings have only strengthened the case for Darwinian evolution (the way they determine this is by studying not just the presence of the gene itself in two or more species but also by looking at the representation of particular mutations, some of which are expected to accumulate at different rates than others given a set of parameters, both within the gene and in flanking regions. We also know that there “fossil genes” present in some species that that have functional homologues in other species, homologous that have retained their function but that have been “switched off” in the lineages where natural selection has favoured the allocation of resources elsewhere, and has thus largely “forgotten” about these genes and left them in a state of decay. An example are the fossil genes associated with olfactory receptors, which are still active in many mammals but less so in primates and especially in higher primates, which have placed more emphasis on vision rather than smell). The field of evolutionary developmental biology is piecing together how genes interact to build bodies and what genes are involved, and the discovery of highly conserved regulatory genes (like the famous Hox genes) shows that organisms as different as flies and humans share many features they got from a common ancestor. Even Michael Behe, the famous intelligent design proponent, fully acknowledges that we share a common ancestry with chimpanzees, for he says that the evidence in favour of that is too strong to continue to deny (his latest creationist assertion, though, is that mutations were guided by an intelligence rather than being random. But even that is wrong, and has been known to be for a long time. According to Sean B. Carroll, a leading authority on molecular evolution and regulatory genes, Behe relies on a completely false picture of how mutations must accumulate before they can be take effect. He also points out that the elegant prose and seemingly objective nature of Behe’s latest book, “The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism”, will mean that many lay readers, and even scientists who aren’t altogether familiar with biochemistry and genetics, will be taken in by its seemingly objection assertions).

"I hope you can give the theistic perspective a fair hearing. I'll get back to you on some of these details as soon as I can."

If only it would go both ways. The problem with theistic assertions is that they all too often try to strong-arm science for their own ends. And all too often, theistic assertions misconstrue the actual scientific position. This ranges from relying on calling attention to outdated models that are no longer widely used and then proclaiming the errors in it; false models that are somewhat detailed but leave out important facts (and which have been addressed in the literature, despite confident assertions that they pose intractable problems for the standard scientific model), and appeals to incredulity. The more scientific these arguments can be made to sound to lay readers, the better. Better still if the person making them has scientific credentials of his own. Frankly, I have little time for any form of creationism, not because I’ve closed myself to all "possibilities" as you will probably accuse me of, but because I've heard it all before. Creationist arguments often sound great; they pretend to be completely objective assessments of the “latest scientific discoveries”, but scratch the surface, and one invariably finds religion rather than science pulling the strings. In fact, one finds a hasty eagerness to have religion vindicated. We keep giving it the benefit of the doubt, even as it comes up short every time. There is a good reason that the vast majority of scientists don't partake in creationism, and it isn't because of a commitment to ideology.

Jonathan said...

(sorry, before you read this, PLEASE excuse the spelling...)if i can shift the focus from creation for a momnet to a comment that laughing boy made; one that i belive is very important. he writes]

"Finally, I don't generally take kindly to being told that, because I'm a Christian, I lack any significant degree of curiosity, intellectual integrity, or even rationality, or, minimally, that I am deficient in these areas compared to non-theists. You are typically more gracious than that, so I'll assume that not what you are insinuating."

obviously, kevin i would agree that you were not insinuating that christians are stupid; yet in debates like this, often that is the final point. those who believe in a god are seen as irrational, non-questioning and drugged on the opium of the masses.

so, i would like to know how you, personally, view those who actually have thought logically and criticaly about God, who have read the same books and understand what you do, yet still hold faith in god as a reality. you would agree with me that cori is extremely intelligent and quick to question; so how would you reconcille your different 'worldviews'?
i am not trying to attack you; rather, i am hoping to establish a basis that those who belive in god can do so without being stupid or irrational. i did look at LUI's blog, and it seems that 'chritians' are often riducled here as lesser academics.
linked to this topic, and the idea of creation is a book by Kay Milton called "Loving Nature"; in which she argues along similiar lines relating to enviromental conservation. to summarise very breifly and badly; her argeuemnt is that in enviroemntal matters, those who are committed to the trees are seen as overly emotional and unrational, while those committed to profit are obviously seen to be the rational ones. she argues; rather lenghly but convincingly, that actions are realted to both thought and emotion; and thus those who love trees are jsut as rational as those who love profit. in a sense, all ones actions,and thoughts, have an 'emotional' element, and all reflcet something that one cares deeply about. thus having an emotion for soemhting does not automatically make on irrational. so she concludes that Science has told us about pollution, ozone layer, global warming, while the emotional side, "
A love of nature must be seen as a perfect basis for protecting it; on a level with a rational one."

if one extends this to christian beleif, surely that same can be argued. your rationality is born from your quest for the love of knowledge, an emotional aspect. my belief in god is born out of my rational reflections on matters of life.
thus, faith cannot be excused as irrational thoguht. obviosuly this needs to be explored; but please, to all athiests out there, give us christains the same recognition of rational thought and critical thinking as others.
once that is acknowldeged, the foundation laid, the 'lesser debates can continue...

CyberKitten said...

jonathan:

Is it possible to rationally arrive at the conclusion that there both *is* a God and that there *isn't* a God? Surely this is the case if both theists and atheists are using reason to arrive at their radically different conclusions?

If such a thing *is* possible - what does that say about the utility of reason in settling such arguments?

Jonathan said...

good question, cyberkitten.
maybe one needs to properly define what is meant by 'reason' and 'rational' thought. i may be shooting in the dark, but a while ago, how intelligent you were was measured from the results you got from a rational, logical IQ test. yet recently, calls have been made to include emotional intelligence, social intelligance... so suddenly, the person who scores major high IQ results is not actually 'completely intelligent', and a more well rounded person could in fact be the 'most intelligent'.
using that though process in terms of rationality and resaon; dare one say that a rational person who fails to acknolwdge any emotional side is actulaly being more illogical than some who feels and think...

so coming back to your comment, "modern" rational though does say that one way is right and one way is wrong--which we will find out when we die. but what if both are actually using differnt understanding and paradigms relating to knowing and logic...

CyberKitten said...

jonathan - Presumably you believe that the 'God Question' can be answered - in your case in the affirmative.

By expanding what is generally recognised as rationality you say that this belief (or certainty?) was arrived at rationally... Personally I believe that it is rational to attempt to live in harmony with your emotions - but consider emotions themselves to be irrational.

I also consider that my disbelief in God to be a rational, empirical and understandably sceptical position considering the (lack of) evidence for His existence.

People certainly have *reasons* for believing in God - just how rational those reasons are.... I guess that all depends how we all define rationality. When I ask theists to explain there reasons (as well as their reasoning) they either fail to do so - not apparently having any - or produce reasons that I do not consider reasonable. I think that's the core of the problem we have in all discussions concerning the existence (or otherwise) of God.

Laughing Boy said...

Is it possible to rationally arrive at the conclusion that there both *is* a God and that there *isn't* a God?

Interesting. Maybe both can be held rationally, but both can't be true. If both can be held rationally, then it's possible to rationally hold an untrue belief. How so? This is much more relevant to your Sue Blackmore post, so I'll continue my comments on this subject over there shortly.

Lui said...

The problem with expanding the definition of rationality in this way - to entail things like emotions and feelings and such - when trying to decide matters of truth is that the arguments made come packaged with the assumption that emotions and yearnings CAN count as "another way of knowing" about these matters, and it tries to place itself above the sort of scrutiny that could reasonably give us compelling reasons to think that we are onto something. It is human vanity to try to extrapolate our human-centric concerns and impose them on the entire universe. And if we do allow it, what criterion can decide whether the "insights" offered by a Christian should count for more than those of a Muslim, for example? I think the problem is that many people think that their "insights" and feelings are somehow entitled to be placed alongside hard-won evidence and thorough investigation as conduits to discovering the truth, but they give us little reason to take such claims seriously.

CyberKitten said...

That's right Lui. It's all very well redefining rationality to include 'other ways of knowing' but how does that get us any nearer the truth of the matter?

I for one believe that the 'God Question' can indeed be answered - and the only way that we can do that is by reason and evidence not by feeling and emotion.

laughing boy said: Maybe both can be held rationally, but both can't be true. If both can be held rationally, then it's possible to rationally hold an untrue belief. How so?

As you probably already know I don't think that both conclusions are rational though I do believe that one of them is wrong. I'm not sure that you can *rationally* arrive at an untrue belief although you can probably 'reason' your way to one... Humans are very good at self-delusion.

Jonathan said...

Jonathan here, have no idea to write under my name, so...: (this msut be why some who believe in a god see him/her like a computer, someone you cannot function without, who at times works like you want them to, but mostly confuses you, shows you up as having no actual idea about how the hardware functions,and every know and then, throws in a crash to make your life intresting...)

i would be intrested to find out where Cyberkitten and Lui have gotten their definition for rationality; (has it been what their modern, rational schools have taught them...).
i am not being derogatory,at all, but i am trying to understand where you have developed such a 'modern' worldview, and whetehr you are able to acknolwdge its source. Plato had his ideal world of ideas, and a recognition of a higher (completely still) being (god); how would you view his rational and reasoning. are you holding to the belief that as humanity has advanced and evolved, logic, reason and rationality has shown that before Desecartes most major thinkers were irrational,a nd were these great minds alive today, they would be athiests, based on pure rationailty. was the anceints rational and reasoning lacking in depth? if so, it is a strong claim to make.

so would you claim that all your thoguhts are free of any emotional influence. i am not sure what you have discussed before, but i am sure the pure objectivity of any sceintist has beeen debated...and possibly of this notion has been shown to be a falacy (but this is another debate).
i would battle to see any one as being completely objective.
now obviously one can still be rational and reason logically even with objectivity, and sceince has proof and facts that one needs to face. often people use the "because god cannot be proved does not mean he doesnt exist". i do see problems with this, especially with the scientific research in mind....


yet if one does claim to be rational without emotion, i would then question the use of metaphor, especially intheir lives. i am afraid i am going to present this point very breifly, but i mean metaphor in terms of describing a sceinitifc phenoneom (once again with help from milton). when the term mother earth is used, a powerful metaphor is used to represnt material, scientific realities. yet this metaphor is meaningless apart from the emotional meaning and undertsanding one brings to it. Mother earth needs to be seen in a personal way to give that image power to stir peoples hearts to action, and in even helping atheists understand their reality. metaphor is used throughout ones daily life.yet a metaphor, like the representation Mother Earth, has no meaning independent of my (or someone else’s) knowledge. Nor can my knowledge be described as literally true, metaphoric or false, because my knowledge does not represent the earth, it simply is the earth as I know it. now without being accussed of heresy or pluralism, there is strong truth in the fact that what we beleive and understand about somehting could possible have no relation to that thing; especailly when emotions have played a part. an athiest's metaphor of a father god may be based on an abusive parent along with sceintific fact--thus the emotional side does play a role in impacting the metaphor and ultimate beleif. therfore, no christin or theist should claim to understand and know much about this god,and no ahtiest should claim to have absolute knowledge. the facts and rational thoguht need to be argued from a sceintific view, yet the role of emotion needs to be acknowledged... await your crit..

Laughing Boy said...

I'm not sure that you can *rationally* arrive at an untrue belief...

Sure you can. You can logically process all available evidence and come to a valid conclusion based on that evidence using your properly functioning cognitive faculties. The available evidence could subsequently be shown to be wrong—as often happens—and hence you would have, for a time, rationally held an untrue belief.

This explanation fails if rationality is defined in such a way as requiring omniscience of all relevant past, present, and future evidence. Is anyone suggesting that?

jonathan, don't have time now to read your reply carefully, but I hope to soon. I have give those references I promised to Kevin and then briefly respond to lui. I just wanted to jump with a quick comment.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: The available evidence could subsequently be shown to be wrong—as often happens—and hence you would have, for a time, rationally held an untrue belief.

You mean that the *interpretation* of the evidence or the *conclusions* made from the evidence could be wrong..... How can evidence itself be 'wrong'? Maybe an example would help me understand what you mean...

laughing boy said: This explanation fails if rationality is defined in such a way as requiring omniscience of all relevant past, present, and future evidence. Is anyone suggesting that?

Not me. [grin]. You can certainly follow a chain of logic (or maybe bad logic) to produce false beliefs though. Logic is, after all, a way of making mistakes with confidence!

Skywolf said...

Perhaps what laughing boy is saying is that there are often (and have been throughout history) conclusions made about something based on the available evidence, which would appear to point to an obvious conclusion. If, later on, more evidence is provided to refine the previous evidence and conclusion, a new conclusion may be reached and the old one dismissed as untrue. So the interpretation of the available evidence isn't necessarily wrong if the whole picture isn't available. The belief in a flat Earth readily springs to mind. The people of that time simply didn't have all the evidence to hand yet... did they? Rationally, they had reached an untrue belief because they saw flat land around them and reached the fairly logical conclusion that the Earth was consistently flat. I wouldn't call this belief irrational at the time, although I certainly would now, given the undeniable additional evidence we now have.

Anyway, sorry for jumping in there. I just think I see where LB is coming from here. But he can happily correct me if I'm wrong. :)

CK said: Personally I believe that it is rational to attempt to live in harmony with your emotions - but consider emotions themselves to be irrational.

Why do you consider emotions irrational? I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Surely many emotions are perfectly rational? We don't distinguish phobias as 'irrational' fears for no reason... implying that other fear is perfectly capable of being rational. Maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick here. I just found this an odd comment.

Laughing Boy said...

[the sound of Laughing Boy banging own head against wall]

Thanks, Skywolf. Feel free to jump in anytime I need rescued from my own stupidity.

What makes it so bad is that I spend most of the last evening thinking about the difference between evidence and interpretation and how critical it is to keep that difference in mind since interpretation is so often driven by presuppositions that we don't 'arrive at' but 'begin with'.

CyberKitten said...

Thanks for your comment skywolf. That's the very point(s) that I was trying to make. We can arrive at a wrong conclusion on a question if:

We do not have enough evidence to make that conclusion (but make it anyway)

We have a preconception and have collected 'enough' evidence to back it up

We have misinterpreted the information that we do have and therefore draw the wrong conclusions from it.

The evidence problemis an interesting one - especially on the God Question. Both sides in the argument (leaving Agnostics out of it for the moment) believe that they have sufficient evidence - or lack thereof - to come to their conclusions. However, we must remember that both groups are operating within their own philosophical paradigms which means that one persons argument (or evidence) will be another persons belly laugh. I have, on more that one ocassion been completely incredulous regarding the things theists produce as 'evidence'. I think that this factor is central to the problem we have in resolving this issue.

skywolf said: If, later on, more evidence is provided to refine the previous evidence and conclusion, a new conclusion may be reached and the old one dismissed as untrue.

Very true. It's called the Scientific Method I believe...

skywolf asked: Why do you consider emotions irrational? I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Surely many emotions are perfectly rational?

Here's a pretty good definition I just found on Wikpedia:

Emotion, in its most general definition, is a complex psychophysical process that arises spontaneously, rather than through conscious effort, and evokes either a positive or negative psychological response and physical expressions, often involuntary, related to feelings, perceptions or beliefs about elements, objects or relations between them, in reality or in the imagination.

So an emotion is one that "arises spontaneously, rather than through conscious effort" and "evokes involuntary positive or negative psychological response and physical expressions".

Sounds pretty irrational to me [grin]. We may have 'reasons' for love or hate & much else besides but (at least as far as I'm concerned anyway) such feelings/emotions are deeply irrational.

laughing boy said: What makes it so bad is that I spend most of the last evening thinking about the difference between evidence and interpretation and how critical it is to keep that difference in mind since interpretation is so often driven by presuppositions that we don't 'arrive at' but 'begin with'.

*Very* well said. I totally agree.

Anonymous said...

Many of these comments have now "evolved" into a discussion on the scientific process itself. I think that is essentially what the whole point is anyways. Sure science can be wrong and often is but the more evidence you compile on a certain idea or theory the more supported it becomes and the more likely it is to be correct. As for evolution the verdict is now in, the details may change as the evidence grows but the end result is understood.
The problem comes in convincing those who use faith. Faith is the opposite of science, faith is not self correcting, faith is not supported by evidence. Faith is not a rational position for any other aspect of the universe. I myself have faith in nothing, I do not have faith that my children love me, I have evidence. I do not have faith that the sun will com up tomorrow, I have evidence. There is no more reason to have faith in a god than there is in Santa Claus or that Elvis is alive.

Anonymous said...

sorry didn't mean to be anonymous. I am Skeptic from www.SecularEarth.com.

Skywolf said...

Sounds pretty irrational to me [grin]. We may have 'reasons' for love or hate & much else besides but (at least as far as I'm concerned anyway) such feelings/emotions are deeply irrational.

Okay... I think I see what you're saying, in that emotions aren't based on reason. We don't sit and reason them out before we feel them. However, something being 'irrational' also implies that it is illogical, and therefore has no sensible place in the scheme of things. Emotions most certainly do have this, in that they play a vital part in both making us human and enabling us to survive in a more primitive setting.

A feeling of fear at encountering a large and dangerous predator is not irrational. No, it is not carefully thought out; it's an instant, involuntary response - but without it, an animal (or human) stands a far worse chance of surviving such an encounter. The emotion of fear sparks a reaction that causes the receptor of that emotion to flee, or seek a safe haven. Other emotions play similar roles - happiness and love can keep a person in a situation that is beneficial to their physical wellbeing. Anger can spur them to change a negative situation. So I would argue that because emotions can play a vital role in our survival and wellbeing, they cannot be considered irrational things that we simply have to learn to live with - they are often things we have to listen to and learn from.

And you're welcome, Laughing Boy... glad I didn't step on your toes. :)

P3T3RK3Y5 said...

nailed it bro: "it seems to me that creationism is not even attempting to find answers".

peace!

CyberKitten said...

skywolf said: However, something being 'irrational' also implies that it is illogical, and therefore has no sensible place in the scheme of things.

I think your conflating three different things here...

skywolf said: Emotions most certainly do have this, in that they play a vital part in both making us human and enabling us to survive in a more primitive setting.

Indeed. Emotions must have had some evolutionary advantage (or lack of disadvantage) to survive this long. They are also an important part of what makes us human. I think that they have a name for someone who doesn't feel emotions - they're called sociopaths - not nice people at all! But neither of those things mean that emotions are rational in any way. People are irrational almost by definition. This is not meant in a purely bad way. There are times when irrational behavious is useful or indeed life saving - but that doesn't make it rational.

skywolf said: So I would argue that because emotions can play a vital role in our survival and wellbeing, they cannot be considered irrational things that we simply have to learn to live with - they are often things we have to listen to and learn from.

I agree with that - except when you say that they cannot be considered irrational - for all the reasons you stated. We obviously define rationality in different ways!

Laughing Boy said...

Kevin, (and also p3t3r)

I'd be interested in knowing what books, etc. you're referring to. I'd also like to know what kind of answer you're looking for as to how "God did it." I don't think we can know how God does much of anything he does. If we care to, we can study the evidence and try to determine for ourselves what theory best accomodates that evidence. If you want certainty and exhaustive knowledge from God or religion you won't get it, but you're not going to get it anywhere else either.

One reason I don't believe in naturalism is because I can't get an answer for the essential question of how life came from non-life. I've never seen any evidence for a "primordial ooze" that isn't self-referentially linked to common descent. I've not heard convincing explanations of why the fossil record conflicts with the Darwinian doctrine of gradualism. I've never heard convincing evidence for macro-evolution beyond a question-begging extrapolation of micro-evolution (which even young-earthers [I'm not one] acknowledge). I have plenty more questions, just like you do. From what I hear, nobody is allowed to believe anything for which they don't have evidence that could convice a skeptic, so I don't have a intellectual reason to trade creationism for naturalism.

As promised, I'm listing some articles that Ross' group, Reason To Believe, discuss at their website. That was probably not a good idea for a variety of reasons, but here they are.

Lui has decided that since Ross, like lui himself, is not published in Science or Nature that he can be dismissed. However, Ross' "contentions" are not about his own research. His role is to discuss current research that bears one way or another on the RTB model. So when he says something about Y-Chromosome research, "mitochondrial Eve", or human/chimp DNA comparisons, it's not his own private, biased, faith-head research he's talking about, but research that has been published in the journals for all to see. He does not say, "research shows such and such" and expect everyone to take his word for it.

For example when they claim that new Y-Chromosome research is changing the generally accepted the date for human origins (making it more recent) they gives us the reports, so we can go read them for ourselves:
Peidong Shen, et al., "Population Genetic Implications from Sequence Variation in Four Y Chromomosome Genes," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97 (2000): 7354-59.
Russell Thomson, et al., "Recent Common Ancestry of Human Y Chromosomes: Evidence From DNA Sequence Data," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97 (2000): 7360-65.

Similar date changes are required by mitochondrial DNA research. If we want to know more, again, we can read for our selves:
Patricia Kahn and Ann Gibbons, "DNA From an Extinct Human," Science, 277 (1997), p. 177.
Ann Gibbons, "Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock," Science, 279 (1998), p. 28.

For new research on Human/Chimp DNA comparisons we can look here:
Nick Patterson et al., "Genetic Evidence for Complex Speciation of Humans and Chimpanzees," Nature (2006): Advanced On-Line Publication.
Dennis Normile, “Comparative Genomics: Gene Expression Differs in Human and Chimp Brains,” Science 292 (2001): 44-45.

So, in a way, the contentions Ross and RTB make are indeed published in journals like Science and Nature. They are not spouting religious mumbo jumbo that they hope their readers and listeners don't attempt to verify for themselves.

---

As for the numerous purported inconsistencies and fallacies in my first comment, I'll leave that to you all to judge for yourselves. I do think that lui tended to have problems with what he thinks I wrote instead of what I actually wrote, but that's neither here nor there.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: I don't think we can know how God does much of anything he does.

So... We should just shrug our shoulders and say to ourselves "Hey, this is beyond our understanding and it's not worth even trying to know what's going on." I think not!

laughing boy said: One reason I don't believe in naturalism is because I can't get an answer for the essential question of how life came from non-life.

We don't know the answer to that question - at least not yet. That doesn't mean that we need to abandon naturalism & accept that 'God did it'. All we need to do is accept the fact that there are (many) things we don't know the answer to. Is that *such* a difficult position to hold?

laughing boy said: I've not heard convincing explanations of why the fossil record conflicts with the Darwinian doctrine of gradualism.

You mean the 'gaps'? That's because the fossil record isn't exactly complete... there are gaps because fossils are actually quite rare things. Though we have excellent fossils of the whale and can see its 'gradual' transition from a land animal to an aquatic one.

laughing boy said: I've never heard convincing evidence for macro-evolution beyond a question-begging extrapolation of micro-evolution...

That's probably because you're introducing a false divison between mico & macro evolution. No such split exists - it's just evolution. I do find it quite bizarre that people can believe that lifeforms can adapt to their environment by gradual change but can't take it just a little bit further and see how gradual change over millennia can lead to wholy different life forms.

thehappster said...

Hi CyberKitten.

I don't think that Laughing Boy is saying that it's not worth knowing what's going on, but that, at some point, you have to look at the evidence, or lack of evidence, and "pick a side". (In fact, I think his citations prove that he has done homework on the subject, and is not just blindly endorsing Creationism). For him, Creationism answers more of those questions than Evolution.

I've only been following the site for a couple of weeks now, and haven't developed the rapport that maybe you and Laughing Boy, and Kevin, and others have developed, so I hope that I'm not being too bold if I ask this of you...
Isn't your arguement, um, cyclical? What I mean is, you are suggesting that Laughing Boy is in the wrong because "we don't have the answers to those questions yet", so he moves on to the next available solution - Creationism, but your response to "the questions that we don't have answers to yet" is to stay on the same possible solution, and say, "Well, let's wait here. Someday, we'll have the answers." I'm not sure if I was able to say that they way I was thinking it, so I hope you understand what I was asking.

Can you point me to the whale fossils that you speak of? My understanding is that Fossil Records show us sudden appearance of species... that they appear abruptly and fully formed, not transitionally. In fact, didn't Stephen Jay Gould confirm this, "Studying the fossil record, the two students could not find the gradual, continuous change in fossil forms that they were taught was the stuff of evolution. Instead they found sudden appearances of new fossil forms (sudden, that is, on the achingly slow geological time scale) followed by long periods in which these organisms changed little." (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/inremembrance.html)

Micro vs. Macro - has Natural Selection ever been observed to create new species? I find it quite bizarre that people can believe that a fruit fly could become a dog. ;-)

Thanks for listening.

CyberKitten said...

thehappster said: What I mean is, you are suggesting that Laughing Boy is in the wrong because "we don't have the answers to those questions yet", so he moves on to the next available solution - Creationism

Except that I don't agree that the 'next available solution' *is* Creationism. I am quite happy knowing that we don't know all of the answers. I suspect that we will know more answers (and have more questions - which is the fun part) as time goes on. My default position though is that any answers we come up with will be naturalistic answers rather than supernatural ones.

the happster said: Can you point me to the whale fossils that you speak of? My understanding is that Fossil Records show us sudden appearance of species... that they appear abruptly and fully formed, not transitionally.

As far as I am aware we have several excellent examples of transitionary fossils. Check out any non-religious site on Evolution to read up on them. I'm sure that other readers can point you to particular sites.

thehappster said: Micro vs. Macro - has Natural Selection ever been observed to create new species? I find it quite bizarre that people can believe that a fruit fly could become a dog. ;-)

Very funny [laughing]. Again check out any non-religious Evolution websites to answer these questions you have. As long as you have an open mind regarding evolution I expect that you'll learn a lot.

Alternatively you could read books by Dawkins Or Gould.... Or any other Darwinian Evolutionist.

Skywolf said...

CK - The dictionary definition of 'rational' is 'Able to reason; sane; based on reasoning.' To my mind, although we don't consciously reason out our emotions prior to feeling them, there is reasoning (even if only subconscious, evolutionary reasoning) behind them.

But I do see what you're saying, and think that perhaps we're not so far adrift on this one after all. Depending on one's interpretation of the definition... Anyway, I thikn you'd agree this is totally off topic now, pleasant little tangent though it was. ;)

Micro vs. Macro - has Natural Selection ever been observed to create new species? I find it quite bizarre that people can believe that a fruit fly could become a dog.

And this is why I find it quite bizarre that people so frequently spout such strong opinions against evolution when they clearly have no real knowledge of how it works. At all. Please take CK's advice and read up on evolution... even if only to put yourself in a position for educated counter-debate.

No one has ever claimed that fruit flies become dogs, or any of the similar ideas of which Creationists are so fond. I wouldn't dream of trying to debate creationism without knowing the details of how it supposedly works. I find it frequently frustrating and odd that people arguing against evolution think they can debate it without at least learning something of its detailed, complex, and completely fascinating processes.

Lui said...

"They are not spouting religious mumbo jumbo that they hope their readers and listeners don't attempt to verify for themselves."

Do you think really think so? Because it’s entirely consistent with the modus operandi of creationism - wrapping itself in a cloak of respectability - to cite the literature and make grand claims, even at the cost of completely misrepresenting what the original scientists had actually discovered and what the implications of those discoveries were. In the hands of many creationists, citing the literature is no impediment to something being propaganda. They have elevated this to a high art, writing in a seemingly objective manner, whilst having a very different agenda at heart.

The creationist tactic is to shuttle from mystery to mystery, trying to poke holes in everything and stretching them out to make them look larger than they are (and if scientific journal articles can be cited, all the better, because that just shows "that even the scientists themselves are having doubts about evolution". Of course, nothing like that is happening). When evolutionary theory gets around to providing an answer to one outstanding problem, the creationist retorts “But how do you explain this?” Having solved it, another gap in our knowledge or controversy is brought out. “But what about this? Surely, this is evidence of an intelligent designer!" And so on. It’s a familiar game. Every single time creationist claims are carefully scrutinised, they turn out to be hollow - based on caricature or worse - or else an inflated controversy or gap in our knowledge that science is hard at work on and that eventually gets sorted out. A long line of dead ends and defeats are no deterrents, for as long as mysteries abound (and they always will), there will be a steady stream of things for creationism to latch on to, boast about how “the naturalistic worldview is unscientific” because it can’t answer yet provide a fully satisfactorily answer, hoping against all prior experience and reason that this time, a new revolution will be ushered in. It never happens. I’m sorry to say, but evolution is not in error, and that’s the reason it’s so widely accepted by the scientific community. And it isn't just an academic pursuit: evolutionary theory is applied in industry, too, like fisheries management and farming. It has medical applications in disease control, and environmental applications, as in applied ecology. It is being used to design new molecules with commercial and medical significance. RNA strands are being evolved to fight help detect anthrax and fight cancer.

“One reason I don't believe in naturalism is because I can't get an answer for the essential question of how life came from non-life.”

The automatic presumption at work here is that, since current science hasn’t got all the answers (and some answers are indeed exceedingly difficult to attain), God is a reasonable fall-back position. The exact conditions for the emergence of the first life forms are just as much of a mystery whether God is invoked to explain them, as whether they came about through entirely naturalistic processes. We don’t know how it first happened, but that’s not to say we’re completely in the dark. And the lack of current knowledge isn’t an automatic vindication of creationism, however much those who loathe evolution for ideological reasons may wish it to be.

“I've not heard convincing explanations of why the fossil record conflicts with the Darwinian doctrine of gradualism.”

Properly understood, it doesn’t. See below.

“I've never heard convincing evidence for macro-evolution beyond a question-begging extrapolation of micro-evolution (which even young-earthers [I'm not one] acknowledge).”

It’s not “question-begging” at all; it’s a perfectly reasonable assumption given what we know about how evolution has been observed to operate: small changes accumulated over vast expanses of time (microevolution happening over a long period) can lead to large changes when compared to the initial starting position. Beginning with a speciation event (and these have been studied and verified), two lineages can continue to accrue changes until the more recent members of one lineage can be placed into a different phylum to those of the other lineage. We’re more closely related to fish than to insects, because we share a more recent common ancestor that is shared by fish and humans (and lots of other things as well, like the entire class of mammals) that is not shared by insects. But insects are more closely related to us than we are to some other groups, because we share a more recent common ancestor with insects than we share those other organisms. It is fashionable among creationists to present micro-and macro evolution as two separate things that are utterly disjoint. They are not, and a moment’s thought for how gradualistic evolution must necessarily unfold (and how it is presented by the prevailing scientific consensus) reveals the flaw in this thinking.

"My understanding is that Fossil Records show us sudden appearance of species... that they appear abruptly and fully formed, not transitionally."

Just because a fossil appears that is different to those that previous to it is no indication that that species actually appeared biologically "fully formed". Gould's statement (and he complained bitterly that creationists have seized on and caricatured his position, in an article titled “Evolution as Fact and Theory”) has nothing whatsoever to do with species appearing all of a sudden out of the blue with no predecessors. He is saying that the fossil record, even allowing for the inevitable coarseness that follows from the rarity of fossilisation, seems to show that species tend to stay pretty much the same over long periods of time, and then change relatively rapidly in geological time. The reasons for this are interesting in and of themselves, but they involve no special acts of creation. Punctuated equilibrium is still a gradualist theory, in the sense that it is not a saltationist one. That creationists have to distort the positions of scientists and blow certain controversies out of proportion in order to bolster their own weak position is the tell-tale sign that they have nothing to contribute to the field except complaining about how science hasn't gone along with their preferred view of things.

"I find it quite bizarre that people can believe that a fruit fly could become a dog."

What’s bizarre is that you could believe that that’s what people actually believe. It is such a crude and unwarranted caricature it's not even funny, and I sincerely hope you meant it as a joke. That people can have such a warped misunderstanding of evolution speaks volumes about the extent to which religious thinking has interfered with their ability to think critically on the issue. Its hardly surprising that no such cases have turned up when they bare not the slightest resemblance to what evolutionary biologists are even advocating. NO evolutionary biologist actually thinks that these sorts of inter-genus jumps can actually occur. That would actually be closer to creationism than evolution. You position amounts to this: there’s no need to understand what evolutionary theory actually entitles us to expect if evolution is true, but you would have it that your emotions (!) be admissible as evidence of truth claims about the universe, as though it were just a given that they should count as evidence in the first place. Not even the most arrogant scientist comes close to exhibiting this level of infantile special pleading, yet it is standard operating procedure for many theists, who imagine that science is somehow obligated to vindicate their religious beliefs. This species of arrogance is not just gratuitous, it is utterly breathtaking.

It is very tiring going back over the same material, simply because creationists think they are step ahead of the scientific community when in fact they're simply wallowing in wishful thinking.

Lui said...

I meant to say "...boast about how “the naturalistic worldview is unscientific” because it can’t yet provide a fully satisfactorily answer".

thehappster said...

(posted again, hopefully not a double)

I haven't had a lot of time to come back and expand on my previous comments (and I probably won't be available now for some time), but I did want to drop a quick note and clarify that my fruit fly to dog comment /was/ intended to be tongue-in-cheek. I didn't mean to endorse the notion that the evolutionist position promotes inter-species transition. (It was actually intended to be a fun jab at CK's previous post, but it doesn't seem like I pulled if off right.) But... I do believe that evolutionists believe in a common ancestor. Am i wrong there?

To those comments that suggest I need to do more homework on the evolutionist perspective... I'm okay with that. That why I'm here, I want to be able to rationally (there's that word again) and objectively (can any of us truly be objective? that another topic) discuss and ponder these issues. I admit I don't know it all, I'm not a scientist, but I am interested, and that's why I may ask for examples or direction. I hope that you'll humor me, and look beyond my novice knowledge set, but also approach any ideas or examples that I present with an open mind.

Thank you for listening.

Also, to Laughing Boy, I hope I wasn't putting words in your mouth. Forgive me if I did, especially if they were in-accurate.

Lui said...

"But... I do believe that evolutionists believe in a common ancestor. Am i wrong there?"

That's correct. When we trace any two organisms back through their evolutionary history, they eventually share a common ancestor. That means that there was once a species that split into two or more sub-species, which eventually came to accumulate so many differences that they could be classified as two proper species. These in turn gave rise to other species, and so on, until eventually we arrive at modern day representatives. But that's not to say that if we find the common ancestor between, say, a human and a fly, that it will look like a grotesque mixture of both. The common ancestor of humans and flies is also the common ancestor of lots and lots of other things, including all the vertebrates and all the insects, and if we were zoologists working at the time and came across this organism, we would have no inkling that it would go on to become the common ancestor of such large and seemingly disparate groups. Speciation events are not momentous things that are heralded by fanfare. Of course, that doesn’t mean that a speciation event WILL be the first step in giving rise to a great radiation of future species. Most species become extinct before they have a shot at doing that. And finally, no species actually tries to evolve. Organisms do not live in the shadow of their successors, “aiming” towards becoming them. Our hominid ancestors did not take to upright posture in order to become us; they did so for reasons that had to with the type of environment they were living in. We look back and think that it must have all been "for" us, but then what of the millions of other species that we share the planet with? We are the products of history, just as much as any other organism. Organisms just do what organisms do: eating, hunting, defending, mating and excreting.

Anyway, I apologise if I've come across as too abrasive. I also apologise to Laughing Boy if I have said anything untoward. I hope that we can keep discussing these things without any ill feelings towards one another.

Laughing Boy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laughing Boy said...

As I come back to your blog to read more recent posts I always get an unsatisfied feeling regarding my responses to this post. I'm going to try one more time to get a point across. Hopefully you're still paying attention to this thread.

---

You can know how clouds form because you asked someone who knows and she told you. But what if she wouldn't tell you? What if all climatologists were sworn to secrecy and none of them would give you the information? No papers or textbooks were allowed to be published and all research was held under tight security. What then? Well, unless they tell you, you wouldn't know.

If God created the universe it seems reasonable to think that we would only know "exactly how He did it" if He deigned to tell us. He has not. So what do we do? We examine the world and try to discover for ourselves, as best we can, how things work. Christians throughout the ages have done just that. Galileo and Newton did not simply say "God did it", did they? We wouldn't know their names today if they did. Francis Collins did not just say "God did it" and sit in his lab reading the bible; rather, he lead the team that first decoded the entire human genome. Christians search for answers in nature, just like non-religious scientists. Some scientists have been impressed enough by what they found in nature to come to the conclusion that God indeed did do it. Others, of course, have not.

To wrap things up I'll repeat that it may not be possible to answer your questions that way you've asked them. Many questions about how God accomplishes things or why He behaves as He does are unanswered. By acknowledging that, I'm not saying that in every case I don't want to know or I'm not curious, or even a little angry about being left in the dark. If the Creator didn't tell us how he created, all we can to is try to figure it out what we can for ourselves, and grudgingly accept our limitations when some mysteries remain.

That may not be a satisfying answer, but it's the best I can do for now.

---

Lui...I appreciate that. I hope so, too.

Hilton Harrell Jr said...

ALL ARE WELCOME TO FIND SOME ANSWERS THAT YOU SEEK OR WERE NOT GIVEN.

The first step forward is to realize that Genuine & Original Christianity was never a man-made religion nor were we originally called Christians. We were called "The Holy People" and therefore apart of the same company with those who followed the One and Only Holy God of the Bible.

Isa 62:12 -
And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken

Jesus never came to bring us a religion; He came to give us a KINGDOM that we had lost along with fellowship with God.

For more Information check out:

DARWINISM and ATHEISM: UNSCIENTIFIC & MYTHICAL