Friday, May 02, 2008

Is beauty in nature evidence of God?

Have you ever been in absolute awe at the apparent beauty of the universe? I remember, in my last year of high school, being part of a mission trip to Swaziland. On one of the evenings we ran a service at a rural mission station; we conducted short plays, a sermon, worship and an alter call. The little chapel which we used was overflowing with people from surrounding villages, and many in the audience committed their lives to the Lord that night.

As a young Christian, this was incredible. For the first time I had been directly involved in 'leading people to the Lord'. That night, after the service, the mission team lay outside on the grass, looking up into the clear African sky and talking excitedly about the evening. I suddenly realised how beautiful the night sky was, and how clear and colourful the stars were. Together with the spiritually charged events of that evening, I was convinced, then and there, that there was a God, and that all the surrounding beauty was the result of his handiwork.

So I can relate wholeheartedly to the following comment, left by Trevor on an earlier blog post of mine:

Then one day I looked outside from the classroom and saw Table Mountain in its splendour with a white cloud over it and I was very moved. I somehow got convinced that God existed.

As a Christian, this is exactly how I felt. But since my de-conversion, I've been bothered by the following question: is beauty something that humans discover in nature, or is it something that we impose upon nature?

Focussing on art, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, has suggested the latter: the emotional response to beauty is purely neurological. He proposes ten neurological principles of beauty that explain why we gain aesthetic appeal from certain images. Here is a fascinating summary of his work.

Basically, the argument proposes that the human brain is wired, through evolutionary and cultural forces, in such a way so as to be stimulated by specific visual patterns. For example, the brain is especially stimulated by images that are exaggerated from the norm (i.e, the 'peak shift effect'), as well as by patterns that are symmetrical. The brain also experiences a pleasing experience when it discovers patterns in noise (i.e, the 'grouping effect').

This kind of work lends weight to the argument that humans impose their idea of beauty on the universe, rather than the universe inherently possessing some sort of overarching beauty waiting to be discovered. A sunset is not inherently beautiful, our brains simply perceive it as being so.

Does this make the significance of the night sky less inspiring or awesome? No it does not. I look into the sky on some evenings and still feel a sense of awe and wonder. It makes no difference to me knowing that the beauty I perceive more likely comes from within, rather than from without.

35 comments:

CyberKitten said...

KP asks: Is beauty in nature evidence of God?

No. We can appreciate beauty but beauty is not inherent in nature (or anywhere else). Beauty exists in our minds - not in the outside world.

Why exactly we appreciate beautiful things....? Now that's a good question.

Korolev said...

People often mistake nature-based beauty for proof of god, and that is because religious folk tend to believe that the earth centers around them - they tend to believe that humanity's existence is the reason for the world's existence, and so they believe that if something is beautiful, god must have made it for them to make them happy.

Of course, this kind of thinking isn't very logical - we adapted to the world, not the other way around. The world just IS, and as you said, it is we humans who impose the notions of beauty and wonder.

In some ways, this is an argument for why humanity is important. With no gods or concrete reason why things exist, those reasons and those values must be generated by sentient beings like humans. Thus, without humans, the world ceases to have real meaning because no other animal imposes such values on the world. What do you think?

I'm not saying that Humanity is the reason why the world exists (the world exists for reasons we don't really know), but I am saying that Humanity has worth because we are the only species on earth that has the capacity to comprehend science and create values. And if humanity didn't exist, such values would disappear forever. So there you have it - a reason why an atheist like myself cares about the survival of the human species.

CyberKitten said...

Korolev said: Thus, without humans, the world ceases to have real meaning because no other animal imposes such values on the world. What do you think?

Why does the world *need* to have meaning? If we did not exist then the universe would go on its way very well without us. Just because we give our own meaning to things doesn't mean that we are in someway important because of that.

Korolev said: the world exists for reasons we don't really know

You seem to be assuming that the worls exists for some 'reason'. Why do you think that? Can't the world exist without any reason to do so?

Lorena said...

I was standing in front of a beautiful lighthouse in Oregon, USA, when I remembered a past-favourite Bible verse, "The heavens tell of the glory of God, and the firmament..."

Now as an ex-Christian, standing there among a number of magnificent rock formations overlooking the beach, I realized that the rocks didn't tell me anything about a god.

The rocks told me about evolution. They told me that water had spanked the mount for millions of years, carving the beauty I was watching.

But I still liked it. The sky was clear blue, the day was sunny, the waves were large, and the combination of it all gave me goose bumps.

No gods needed to feel the force of nature.

walkingawayfromreligion said...

I keep coming back and reading more and more of your blog...I resonate with SO MUCH of what you are saying here....I cried out to God for years as a Christian begging himself to let me know he was real...nothing.

Yet people around me had wonderful, intimate relationships with him.

I appreciate your blog.

Laughing Boy said...

cyberkitten said...

"Why exactly we appreciate beautiful things....? Now that's a good question."

Yes, that's a good question! At least it's a more fundamental one. What is the basis of this distinctly human quality? Why is it, as far as we know, distinctly human?

Laughing Boy said...

korolev said...

"Humanity has worth because we are the only species on earth that has the capacity to comprehend science and create values. And if humanity didn't exist, such values would disappear forever."

What difference does it make if they disappear forever? What good has our capacity to comprehend science and "create" values done for any other species or any other physical object in the universe? How would it's disappearance negatively impact those remaining objects? Those very capacities have been at least as detrimental as beneficial (or so goes the common wisdom). Maybe they'd be better off without us? In fact, that's the idea behind a National Geographic TV special that aired recently (I can't remember the name) the "moral" of which was that, once we're gone, all these man-made environmental travesties will be eroded away and the earth will return to a pristine and perfect wilderness, free from our meddling capacities.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: Yes, that's a good question! At least it's a more fundamental one. What is the basis of this distinctly human quality?

Welcome back to the Blogosphere. Are you back or just passing through?

I think that the human appreciation of beauty probably has a lot to do with the srtuture of our brains somehow & is probably either of evolutionary advantage or as a by-product of something that is. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with mathematics but I haven't read up much on the subject so don't really know.

LB asked: Why is it, as far as we know, distinctly human?

Its entirely possible that other animals appeciate beauty too - we'd never know as we really can't communicate with them.

Laughing Boy said...

Given that I don’t post much anymore I’ll take the liberty of making a somewhat lengthy one now which is taken from a book I’m reading. This passage speaks directly to mathematics but is highly relevant to your discussion of beauty:

---

Some distinguished mathematicians have been self-confessed Platonists. One of these was Kurt Godel…Godel based his philosophy of mathematics on his work on undecidability. He reasoned that there will always be mathematical statements that are true but can never be proved to be true from existing axioms. He envisaged these true statements as therefore already existing "out there" in a Platonic domain, beyond our ken.

Another Platonist is the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose. "Mathematical truth is something that goes beyond mere formalism," he writes. "There often does appear to be some profound reality about these mathematical concepts, going quite beyond the deliberations of any particular mathematician. It is as though human thought is, instead, being guided towards some eternal external truth—a truth which has a reality of its own, and which is revealed only partially to any one of us."

Another example that has inspired Penrose to adopt Platonism is something called "the Mandelbrot set"….This set has such an extraordinarily complicated structure that it is impossible to convey in words its awesome beauty. Many examples of portions of the set have been used for artistic displays. A distinctive feature of the Mandelbrot set is that any portion of it may be magnified again and again without limit, and each new layer of resolution brings forth new riches and delights.

Penrose remarks that: “The complete details of the complication of the structure of Mandelbrot's set cannot really be fully comprehended by any one of us, nor can it be fully revealed by any computer. It would seem that this structure is not just part of our minds, but it has a reality of its own….The Mandelbrot set is not an invention of the human mind: it was a discovery. Like Mount Everest, the Mandelbrot set is just there!”

"Is mathematics invention or discovery?" asks Penrose. Do mathematicians get so carried away with their inventions that they imbue them with a spurious reality? "Or are mathematicians really uncovering truths which are, in fact, already ‘there’—truths whose existence is quite independent of the mathematicians' activities?" In proclaiming his adherence to the latter point of view, Penrose points out that in cases such as the Mandelbrot set "much more comes out of the structure than is put in in the first place. One may take the view that in such cases the mathematicians have stumbled upon 'works of God.' " Indeed, he sees an analogy in this respect between mathematics and inspired works of art: “It is a feeling not uncommon amongst artists, that in their greatest works they are revealing eternal truths which have some kind of prior etherial existence….I cannot help feeling that, with mathematics, the case for believing in some kind of etherial, eternal existence…is a good deal stronger.”

Paul Davies, “The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World”, pp 142-144.

*****

If mathematics is a discovery not an invention, then who’s invention is it? We can ask the same question regarding beauty. We can also, I believe, ask the same question about ethics.

*****

ck...I suppose it could be that we just don't know whether or not animals appreciate beauty, but we know a great deal about animals and, as far as I know, we haven't found any evidence that they do. For instance, do animals create art? Do they exhibit any tendencies toward aesthetics? Certainly there is beauty in some of the things they do, but it is not purposeful, done for the sake of beauty. Humans do and always have purposefully exhibited purely aesthetic tendencies. This much is obvious.

yingerman said...

The expression goes "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".
Most likely its beautiful if you want it to be.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: If mathematics is a discovery not an invention, then who’s invention is it?

Maths is neither discovered (its not already 'out there') nor can it really be said to be invented - but it *is* developed as we understand more about the universe.

LB said: We can ask the same question regarding beauty.

You *could* but it would be meaningless. Humans find things beautiful. If there were no humans around to appreciate things they probably would still exist but there would be no one around to *define* them as beautiful. I don't think that beauty is independent of beings that can appreciate it.

LB said: We can also, I believe, ask the same question about ethics.

Absolutely not. Ethics are human constructions - but we've had this debate many times (or at least it seems that way - laughs)

LB said: For instance, do animals create art? Do they exhibit any tendencies toward aesthetics?

Apparently yes. Even putting aside apes, elephants & cats that paint (and have been critically aclaimed for their art works) I have read about several species of birds that spend a great deal of time & effort decorating the areas around their nests with what can be viewed as 'art-work'. But I guess that's pretty much in the eye of the beholder bird.

LB said: Certainly there is beauty in some of the things they do, but it is not purposeful, done for the sake of beauty.

That's difficult to say. They *may* be creating works of beauty just for that reason. How would we know either way?

LB said: Humans do and always have purposefully exhibited purely aesthetic tendencies. This much is obvious.

Apparently so. Interesting isn't it. Though I remember hearing that recognisable art is a fairly 'new' development in the scheme of things - somewhere in the region of 100K years I think - maybe when our brains evolved enough complexity maybe?

Anonymous said...

My question ... "Who wired the human brain?"

CyberKitten said...

anon said: "Who wired the human brain?"

No 'one'.

The human brain *evolved* to cope with survival pressures. It was working fairly well until we invented WMD [laughs].

Anonymous said...

Very interesting thoughts on this post; you all definitely have my brain working. It would indeed be difficult to claim that "beauty" in nature is evidence of God since we may have differing ideas of what constitutes beauty, but I would argue that complexity in nature provides very strong evidence of God. There has been much discussion on this post concerning mathematics, and in that regard, the odds of the universe having been spontaneously created and held together the way it has (let alone the development of life forms) has never been adequately explained apart from the notion of a sovereign creator and sustainer. I suppose one could assert that such unlikely complexity and adaptability of the universe and mankind is, in a sense, beautiful. In that case, beauty in nature would then be evidence of God.

phil

CyberKitten said...

Phil said: I would argue that complexity in nature provides very strong evidence of God.

No, it doesn't. There is actual evidence that complexity in nature is a result of evolution. There is, at least as far as I am aware, no evidence for the Hand of God in the process of increasing complexity.

Phil said: the odds of the universe having been spontaneously created and held together the way it has (let alone the development of life forms) has never been adequately explained apart from the notion of a sovereign creator and sustainer.

I agree that the origin of the universe has yet to be adequately explained - though this does not mean that "God did it" is an adequate explanation (for anything actually).

Anonymous said...

Cyberkitten,

Thanks for your response. It has been my understanding that much of what has led to and sustained the development of evolutionist theory is strikingly unscientific (meaning that it does not follow the standards normally applied to scientific analysis), and it in some cases opposes what has been much more conclusively confirmed and recognized as scientific fact. To place one's faith in evolution, one would have to trust in a number of untested and unproven assumptions, and trust in statistically impossible random-chance odds. This is not necessarily an argument for God's existence, but it demonstrates that it takes much greater faith to believe in evolution than in a Creator. For more on this, I suggest checking out the book "Dismantling Evolution" by Ralph Muncaster... definitely worth a read, even if you're a skeptic.

phil

Lui said...

"To place one's faith in evolution, one would have to trust in a number of untested and unproven assumptions, and trust in statistically impossible random-chance odds."

That's absolutely, completely false. A lot of nonsense has been written about evolution, and that nonsense has come in the form of selective quotation, nit-picking over small inconsistencies and blowing them out of proportion, accusation of "unproven assumptions" (even when those assumptions are themselves based upon evidence), and outright distortions and even lies ("there are no transitional forms", "evolution violates thermodynamics", and other junk like that which is repeated over and over until it is accepted as uncontroversial fact by the creationist).

No one has to have "faith" in evolution. It's a scientific fact that has been clearly verified from a large number of independent pieces of evidence, all converging onto the same conclusion. It's been observed repeatedly, and its lessons are applied in pathology and disease control, agriculture and conservation management, and even the design of new molecules and other products. Intelligent design/creationism, on the other hand, is utterly and completely useless, and doesn't even qualify as a theory. The evidence for evolution is written all over the place, and it's simply the vast literature of obfuscation that gives the literalist religionist an excuse not to have to accept it, while pretending to have "science" at heart.

The problem is simply that many do not WANT to believe evolution, because it clashes so frontally with their cherished beliefs, and will look for any escape from it. You should read "The Blind Watchmaker" or "Climbing Mount Improbable" by Richard Dawkins, as an antidote to the simplistic notion that complexity counts as evidence for God. If anything, complexity is evidence AGAINST God. A God capable of designing complex beings must be at least as complex himself, so positing God as an ultimate explanation doesn't get you anywhere at all, because you're just invoking a massive dosage of the very thing you're trying to account for in the first place. It's a complete abdication of having to provide an answer. It's ironic that creationists (falsely) criticise evolution so frequently for positing complexity arising "all of a sudden", when it's actually their "solution" that is the very embodiment of this out-of-nowhere complexity. Evolution, on the other hand, tells us how complexity can arise from simplicity via the cumulative, non-random process of natural selection. It's sad that so many have been misled to think of Darwin's great insight being primarily a theory of "chance", but then it's no surprise that such misunderstandings are so common, given that so many who are eager to misunderstand in the furtherance of prolonging archaic mythology.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments; however, I believe your description of natural selection as a "cumulative, non-random process" is false. Evolution of life forms, at the cellular and micro-cellular level, is entirely contingent upon random chance mutation, which is completely contrary to what is normally observed in cell life. I am familiar with "The Blind Watchmaker," but I will look into your suggestion regarding "Climbing Mount Improbable." Thanks for the recommendation.

phil

Lui said...

"I believe your description of natural selection as a "cumulative, non-random process" is false. Evolution of life forms, at the cellular and micro-cellular level, is entirely contingent upon random chance mutation, which is completely contrary to what is normally observed in cell life"

Clearly you don't understand how natural selection is supposed to work. The mutations themselves are random, but the selection process isn't. That's the point I'm making, and it's the point that people miss whenever they focus on the random aspect - mutation - and equivocate it with evolution in its entirety. Mutations only introduce variation into the population; selection works upon this variation and favours certain mutations by virtue of their phenotypic effects. Some mutations are weeded out owing to their deleterious effects, others are maintained because they are "silent" and have no phenotypic effect, and yet others (a minority) have some beneficial effect and are replicated more readily than their counterparts and can thus spread through populations. It matters not one bit that the mutation was random; the only thing that matters is the effect it has, which will largely determine its fate. If the mutations were actually guided, natural selection would still operate; natural selection is divorced from the actual mechanism by which the variability was ultimately generated in the first place.

With all due respect, I find it difficult to believe that you are "familiar" with The Blind Watchmaker, since Dawkins went to great lengths to make clear in people's minds the importance of natural selection as an inherently non-random process by elucidating it clearly, unambiguously and repeatedly. I don't believe that anyone who actually read the book could possibly continue to make the mistake you have, as it was pretty much the entire point of the book to refute it.

Furthermore, far from mutations being "entirely contrary to what is normally observed in cell life", they are routinely observed. Lots of mutations have also been found in human populations, some of them having been selected for their functional significance; if you can digest milk, it's because you possess a mutation at a locus involved in synthesising lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. In other people, the gene is switched off after infancy, so they can't break down lactose. There are many, many other examples. Forensics genetics wouldn't work if there wasn't significant genetic variability in humans, and this variability is ultimately there because of mutations.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I disagree with your assertion that "It matters not one bit that the mutation was random." The random nature makes all the difference as to whether or not one can reasonably believe that such mutations took place (evolution of cellular life as proposed would require an endless number of incredible naturally-occuring "coincidences" that no statistician would accept based on analysis of numbers alone). The degree to which such mutations occur naturally, in a manner that adds complexity to cellular structure to promote evolved lifeforms, more than meets the standards for statistical impossibility. Beyond that, it does not explain how "life" itself was ever infused into lifeless matter (the greater secular scientific community has arrived at no sufficient definition for "life" in the first place... most proposed definitions I've seen merely provide agreed-upon characteristics of life, with no indication of its scientific origin or causation).

What you mentioned about breaking down lactose is interesting-- I hadn't heard that before. Thanks for sharing.

phil

Lui said...

"The random nature makes all the difference as to whether or not one can reasonably believe that such mutations took place (evolution of cellular life as proposed would require an endless number of incredible naturally-occuring "coincidences" that no statistician would accept based on analysis of numbers alone)."

Once again, you harbour a fundamental misunderstanding of mutations. No one's talking about "incredibly lucky coincidences". Beneficial mutations happen alongside other mutations that are taking place in a population. It's simply that of that small minority of mutations that happen to have beneficial effects, they will be preserved more readily than their counterparts. There's nothing at all mysterious or incoherent about that. Like I said before, a MINORITY of mutations will be favoured by virtue of their phenotypic effects. That means that the mutations that have survived to this day were favoured while the vast majority (that had any effect) were left by the wayside. And of course, mutations don't have to be either "good" or "bad". They can have tradeoffs, and if the benefit of it outweighs the cost, then it can be preserved. In a different environment, that same mutation's costs can outweigh the benefits. Some mutations are only slightly deleterious, and can be "tolerated" by natural selection. Other mutations are only slightly beneficial over their counterparts, and might well be swamped before they have a chance to establish themselves in the population. Mutations that are beneficial one day can become deleterious the next. So there's a whole continuum involved, not a simplistic lumping into good or bad. Mutations happen all the time, and it's largely due to the environment that a lineage is in that will determine whether particular mutations become part of the wider gene-pool. Of course, part of the environment a mutation finds itself in will be the genes that already comprise the gene-pool.

This is all clear from looking at "fossil genes", for example, which are remnants of previously functional sequences but which have become defunct due to mutations in them. Dolphins have fossil smell receptor genes that are clearly homologues of functional genes in other lineages, but which have become defunct in dolphins. Because dolphins have hardly any sense of smell, this decay has been allowed by natural selection, which has allocated resources to other parts of the dolphin's physiology. Humans likewise have fossil smell receptor genes which have functional homologues in other primates, like monkeys that still largely rely on their olfaction (whereas humans are more visually oriented). As Sean B. Carroll says, "Our genomes bare the scars of our evolution." There are many other examples, not only of genes becoming defunct but still leaving their decaying sequences in the genome of their carriers, but also of gene families in which genes have been co-opted for different functions. Anti-freeze in some Arctic and Antarctic fish is affected through a gene family that is clearly homologous to genes that have other functions in other fish. These associations arise through duplications, in which a gene or a group of genes is copied so you have two sets, but then, since you have two sets, one set can continue doing what it was doing before, while the other can acquire some other function. The mechanisms for duplication are well known and they effect not only functional genes but also non-coding sequences like microsatellites, which are used in forensics to identify suspects and match samples to individuals.

As Daniel Dennett has said, natural selection is a sifting process. It's not one that waits around for massively unlikely events. It sieves through the ocean of alterations that regularly take place, and retains those that have some benefit (or no effect), and it keeps doing this generation after generation. No incredible coincidences required. When you have enough permutations, you get get beneficial changes cropping up in that ocean on a reasonably regular basis, and that's all that natural selection requires to build up complex structures.

"The degree to which such mutations occur naturally, in a manner that adds complexity to cellular structure to promote evolved lifeforms, more than meets the standards for statistical impossibility."

Actually, it doesn't. "Adding complexity" is a slow process, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to even see it happening in the very limited amount of time we have for observing evolutionary events. Eyes don't appear all of a sudden; they're built up gradually, from steps that are themselves simple, but that, when their effects are added together, produce, over vast periods of time, complex structures. While countless mutations have been observed and documented, not ONCE has special creation been observed or documented. So if you're going to talk about what we can see, you should focus more harshly upon your own favoured hypothesis. At least evolution makes claims that are readily verifiable in the form of small changes. Creationism talks about great, big, whopping changes happening all of a sudden. Indeed, if a complex organ were to appear all of a sudden, it would be evidence for creationism, not evolution. Evolution, unlike special creation, doesn't require miracles. It only requires things that are known to take place and, even if the evidence for it were poor, it would still provide the only coherent explanation for how we got here.

"Beyond that, it does not explain how "life" itself was ever infused into lifeless matter (the greater secular scientific community has arrived at no sufficient definition for "life" in the first place... most proposed definitions I've seen merely provide agreed-upon characteristics of life, with no indication of its scientific origin or causation)."

Which, if true, lends absolutely no credibility to the creationist "alternative", which has not one shred of evidence to back it up. Creationists imagine that when scientists come up short and are unable to provide a full explanation for something, that they are somehow entitled to hold their mythology up as an "alternative". The problem with this is that, when scientists finally do get around to providing a satisfactory account, the creationists are left with nothing. The arguments you have provided thus far are outdated and have been discarded countless times. Any textbook on genetics or evolution would give you the information you're after. Creationist propagandists make the most audacious, unbelievably ignorant claims imaginable, either ignorant of the fact that what they're saying has already been debunked, or safe in the knowledge that their followers won't check the information for themselves.

The reason "life" is hard to define is because it's not neatly delineated. Do viruses constitute life? They are unable to replicate without invading a host cell and co-opting its machinery (and here I might add that part of the reason that HIV is so successful is because of its high mutation rate, which allows it to evolve very rapidly and circumvent our best efforts to keep it in check. That's fact). The don't have their own metabolism. But their genomes are composed of RNA or DNA, and they are able to integrate into their host genomes and even lie dormant until conditions favour replication. When exactly does something become "living"? This could be like asking when exactly cold water becomes hot water. There are systems that have some features of what we would class as "life", but lack other things. Nature isn't obligated to slot neatly into pigeon-holes for our convenience. There are many things that are sort-of this and sort-of that. We can place something into a group, but that doesn't necessarily say much about the thing itself, only of our desire to find unambiguous categories into which everything somehow "must" be placed. But why must it? Perhaps you have a better definition of life than the scientists have been able to provide? Perhaps you can also tell us why you think - on scientific grounds - their definitions are inadequate, and how yours would fare better.

CyberKitten said...

Excellent posts Lui [looks impressed].

Anonymous said...

Lui,

Thank you for your well-researched answers and examples. I understand your description of natural selection as a "sifting process." However, the types of mutations you describe as having been observable and beneficial do not add complexity in the manner posited by natural selection theory. Your explantion is that "Adding complexity is a slow process, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to even see it happening in the very limited amount of time we have for observing evolutionary events." This is what has been suggested by evolutionist theorists all along, and is one of the factors that leads many to suggest that the earth is several billion years old. Still, even the most liberal estimates regarding the earth's age do not provide adequate time for such theorized mutations to occur in a manner that provides evolutionary complexity to cellular life. It seems the more unlikely that people realize evolution is, the older they declare the earth to be. This is a highly subjective practice that is aggressively debated even among scientists of the non-faith community. The failure to arrive at even a general consensus demonstrates the enormously dubious nature of such man-made assertions.

You asked my thoughts about the nature of life. I have a feeling, however, that you would reject my sentiments as unscientific. Indeed, my beliefs are a matter of faith, and can not be proven because they are not demonstrable or repeatable. However, I believe this does not discredit them. The biblical creation account has withstood the highest degree of scientific scrutiny, and has been around much longer and is far more trustworthy than the ever-modified man-made suppositions of evolutionary theory.

phil

Lui said...

"However, the types of mutations you describe as having been observable and beneficial do not add complexity in the manner posited by natural selection theory."

Yes they do. Gene duplications add complexity by adding not only extra genetic material, but by adding extra potential pathways that can later be (and often are) co-opted by evolution in different ways. When you have two pathways where once there was one, and where these pathways are now performing different tasks, you have increased complexity. Hox gene families, for example, were the result of gene duplications that likely had profound ramifications for the complexification of organisms. Flies have one set of Hox genes, where as mammals have four. Having more Hox genes probably allows a broader repertoire of developmental processes that can be tuned for a wider range of responses. What's more, the effects of mutations can have a temporal dimension, especially when we're talking about developmental genes. Over time, simple changes accrue in gene families, and their overall effects can be manifested through increasingly intricate (and convoluted, not CAD-CAMesque) interactions.

"This is what has been suggested by evolutionist theorists all along, and is one of the factors that leads many to suggest that the earth is several billion years old."

No it isn't. We accept an old Earth because of the evidence from geology and physics. The age of the Earth was a sore side for Darwin, because back then it wasn't know that the Earth's interior is heated by radioactive processes. According to the then-best estimates, the Earth, if it has started off as a molten ball, would have taken only a few tens of thousands of years to cool off. Later on, when radioactivity was discovered, it pushed the best estimates out into the hundreds of millions and even billions of years, and the latter have been corroborated by not only analysing Earth rocks and geophysical processes, but also meteor fragments and moon rocks and other measurements that all agree very well with an old Earth and solar system. What's more, for Earth to be a paltry 6,000 years old (a magnitude of difference to the actual age equivalent to saying that New York and London are only a few yards away from each other) would be to say the following: that every meteorite impact, volcanic eruption, landslide, mountain formation, ice age, continental movement and mass extinction event that has ever been detected by science had to have occurred within that tiny window of opportunity. This is, frankly, beyond ridiculous. The Earth and all of life on it would have been constantly been under an incessant pounding. There is NO real controversy over whether the Earth is old. Creationists find themselves at war not only with the entirety of biology, but also with the entirety of astronomy and geology. If you honestly believe that these old age measurements are accepted just to prop up evolution, then I'm sorry but you're living in a cocoon. I would also venture to say that the reason YOU don't accept an old Earth is because you fear it would give credence to evolution. You NEED for the Earth to be young so that insufficient time was unavailable for evolution to take place. Of course that doesn't make it so. As Galileo is rumoured to have muttered under his breath, "And yet it moves".

The evidence for an old Earth - taken from a plethora of sources - is independent of whether evolution is true or not. Even IF we discovered that evolution was completely false, that would not falsify an old Earth.

"Still, even the most liberal estimates regarding the earth's age do not provide adequate time for such theorized mutations to occur in a manner that provides evolutionary complexity to cellular life."

Who says so? There's a great deal we don't know about rates of evolution, and who's to say that there hasn't been enough time for such-and-such an organ or biochemical structure to arise? Evolution can be observed happening within our lifetimes. If anything, it could be that there's been too much time for evolution to take place. To give you an example, the evolution of complex eyes - like the type used by crustaceans, for example - could have taken place over a surprisingly short period of time, which, in geological terms, would have been near instantaneous. Using conservative estimates - that is, bending over backwards to not bias their estimates unfairly - Swedish scientists simulated the evolution of the eye from simple precursors with not only a weak selection pressure, but a relatively low mutation rate. Yet they were able to evolve a complex eye in only a few hundred thousand generations that, in the organisms that such estimates are most likely to apply to, translates to roughly as many years. In geological terms, that's a very small amount of time.

As far as we can tell, four fifths of life's history was exclusively bacterial. Humans, according to the best available evidence, occupy such a short period of time that if life's history were squeezed into a day, we would need to wait till a few small fractions of a second before midnight to see the advent of anatomically modern humans.

Saying that there hasn't been enough time for evolution says more about the limitations of our imagination than it does about evolution. It is little more than an argument from incredulity - "I can't imagine how such and such could have evolved. Therefore, God must have done it". Nothing is so difficult to evolve as we humans naively imagine it to be. And the fact is that the evidence is there to corroborate that life did evolve; whether we find that hard to come to terms with because of the time scales involved or the awesomeness of the adaptations that it has produced is of no consequence. The universe doesn't have any obligation to be easily digestible just because we happen to live in it. Indeed, to get around these cognitive brick walls, we routinely resort to mathematics to quantify things that are otherwise too grandiose to fit into our minds, which are not used to thinking of time scales greater than a few generations.

It also seems ironic that creationists would gun for a young Earth when God is supposed to be "infinite". It's almost as if creationists have a morbid fear of large, incomprehensible numbers, and cannot fathom that even their God is capable of working over such vast realities. Not only do they downsize the universe until it is an insignificant shadow of its actual self, but they also feel compelled, apparently, to downsize God himself. Surely, it insults God to limit his field of operation to the tiny, miserable, almost viciously anthropomorphic time span of a few thousand years? What is that compared to the grandeur of billions of years? Some theist scientists, like Kenneth Miller, see creationism as sacrilegious because it implies that God was so incompetent that he had to intervene in his own creation to affect change, rather than working through the subtle processes allowed by the laws of physics. Personally, I have no time for that, and it shocks me that people would still look for God in something as inherently godless as natural selection. But if I were to believe in God, I imagine it would be that God. Not only is the creationist God small and uninspiring, but he is also positively boring.

"It seems the more unlikely that people realize evolution is, the older they declare the earth to be."

Give me an example of that. This great awakening you're alluding to is in fact pure fantasy. At no time has evolution been so broadly accepted as it is now, and never have its lessons been so broadly applied, and its processes quantified so precisely. The revolution in bioinformatics and genetics makes a complete mockery of any notion of evolution as a "collapsing" theory.

"The failure to arrive at even a general consensus demonstrates the enormously dubious nature of such man-made assertions."

This is typical creationist propaganda, which I'm sad to say you've fallen for. In all sciences, there are lively controversies (as there should be. That's the way science moves forward). Creationist propagandists take these controversies and blow them out of proportion to try to make it look as though the very foundations of "secular science" are crumbling. Nothing like this is even close to happening. When scientists disagree over whether punctuated equilibrium is an important factor in evolution, for example, they are not - NOT - casting doubt over WHETHER evolution happens. There are things that virtually all reputable scientists are agreed upon. It's in the details that disagreements arise.

This is also hypocritical. If there weren't controversies, you would use that as evidence to say that the field was stale. When there are controversies, you use it as evidence to say that "no one agrees on anything". The real problem, of course, is that creationist propagandists have no interest whatsoever in science, and would rather sow confusion in the minds of lay people than to actually look at their own flawed presumptions. They are presenting a wholly false view of how science operates, and making it look as though the healthy disagreements and controversies that take place as the norm within evolutionary biology somehow show cracks in the fundamental theory.

I'm afraid that what you're saying is so far off the mark - so far off everyday scientific experience - that it wouldn't even be worth rebutting if the illusion weren't so widespread.

"You asked my thoughts about the nature of life. I have a feeling, however, that you would reject my sentiments as unscientific. Indeed, my beliefs are a matter of faith, and can not be proven because they are not demonstrable or repeatable."

So why did you even venture to criticise the scientists' tentative definitions as though they were somehow lacking? Could it be that none of this in fact has anything to do with science, but that you would nevertheless like to use the language of science when it suits you, but discard it when it becomes burdensome? You can't have it both ways. Why should your definition - based on "faith" - be seen as better, or even equal in import? I might also add that I'm not interested in "sentiments", only in suggestions that are amenable to scientific scrutiny. If they're not, then it hardly seems appropriate for you to criticise science in this respect, when you elsewhere talk about the Biblical account being supported by science. Finally, I'm very much interested in knowing where you stand on viruses. They are Darwinian entities par excellence. Or were they also created? If so, why would God create such terrifying things like Ebola and HIV?

"The biblical creation account has withstood the highest degree of scientific scrutiny"

No, it hasn't. It's been utterly demolished by it, repeatedly and unceasingly, and hardly any reputable scientists nowadays pay any attention to it. I make no apology whatsoever for saying that, and this is why: because it's true. It would be just as gratuitous for someone to strong-arm science in the furtherance of Myan myths or Aboriginal myths, which are myths in exactly the same sense as the events in Genesis.

"and has been around much longer"

That's absolutely irrelevant. Many false beliefs have been around for a long time and persist to this day, but are easily refuted by basic science. The only thing that matters is whether the claims agree with reality. That they carry over is due to cultural inertia, not scientific merit. You're not going to tell me that the vast majority of the world's people are clued-in on science.

"and is far more trustworthy than the ever-modified man-made suppositions of evolutionary theory."

A baseless supposition. For it to be true, the first of those claims would have to be true. So far you have offered only classic misunderstandings about evolution, which is entirely consistent with having gotten your information from propagandists with no interest in critical thought rather than the scientists you so confidently (and mistakenly) criticise.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

Thanks again for the responses. I appreciate your insight regarding Hox gene families, though I believe your usage of this phenomenon as evidence of evolutionary complexity of life is highly assumptive and by no means univerally accepted in the scientific community. Even you assert that they only "likely" have ramifications for celluar complexity. Far too often, what has been deemed "likely" or even "certain" by humankind has later been proven untrue. Examples such as this do not yield conclusive ramifications for the development of life forms, and they also necessitate a number of unproven assumptions and a large imagination. According to the scientific method, they have not passed the "hypothesis" stage.

You seem to discredit my assertion that Old Earth theory has been furthered by evolutionists. I absolutely stand by that statement because it is true, though, as I said, it is only "one of the factors" that have led to Old Earth theories. You are right in stating that physics and geology have played a part in this process as well, but these phenomenon are better explained by the biblical accounts of creation and the flood than by billions of years of supposed cosmological events. Furthermore, I don't follow your argument about how a young earth in any way suggests that God is limited or less than eternal. Earth and lifeforms are simply a creation of God, and God is infinitely greater than his creation, no matter how old creation is. Sure, an older universe might make us more "impressed," but I am personally plenty impressed by what I see. I believe in a young earth because it is taught by the biblical record, and supported by observable phenomenon in the world around us (a fact I am sure you will disagree with, but we could address that as well if you wish).

Regarding your question about viruses, I believe God would create such "terrifying things like Ebola and HIV" because His primary concern is His glory, not our comfort. While He is a loving God, he is also a God of justice, and He uses means that are sometimes not pleasing to mankind to further His purposes.

You assert that I have been brainwashed by "propagandists with no interest in critical thought." This is another assumption. The most compelling evidence I've encountered in this field actually comes from former athiest scientists who had determined, through critical, scientific means to disprove the teachings of the Bible. It was only through intellectual examination of scientific evidence (and, I would argue, the work of the Holy Spirit), that they saw the highly subjective, assumptive, and unstable foundation upon which much of evolutionist theory is based. Like you and I, they were seeking truth, not an agenda.

phil

Lui said...

"Even you assert that they only "likely" have ramifications for celluar complexity."

While you claim that they CAN'T be the basis for complexity. You talk about the need to look deeper, yet you think you already have all the answers.

"According to the scientific method, they have not passed the "hypothesis" stage."

Fair enough, but they still make rubbish of your claim that there mutations can't provide the basis for, when they give every indication that they can. What's more, the specific mechanisms involved in evolution are separate to whether evolution occurs. There is evidence that tells us nothing of the mechanisms involved but tell us THAT evolution has taken place. It is now the task of science to find out how exactly evolution occurs, not whether it occurs. The latter is old news, and is obsessed over by those with an emotional need to keep ignoring reality.

"You are right in stating that physics and geology have played a part in this process as well, but these phenomenon are better explained by the biblical accounts of creation and the flood than by billions of years of supposed cosmological events."

A baseless assertion, backed by not one shred of evidence.

"Sure, an older universe might make us more "impressed," but I am personally plenty impressed by what I see."

And yet, you ignore so much. There are countles phenomena that makes no sense at all from a creationist perspective. Sexual antagonism, for example, makes no sense as something that is "intelligently designed". Parasitism, predation, and sexual manipulation all involve exquisite adaptations. They all involve allocating resources to harrassing other individuals. And this conflict extends down to the genetic level, too, even within our own genomes. Segregation distorters and other meiotic drivers, homing endonucleases, transposons, imprinted genes: all these things are readily explainable through evolutionary biology. But they speak of a world of conflicting interests and coevolving entities. and these aren't isolated cases; they are part-and-parcel of what goes on in nature. Creationists have no response to these things other than to say "It's because of sin", which isn't an answer because sin isn't a mechanism for organismal and genetic change. It's simply an excuse for not providing any sort of real answer. As is the asseriton that God does what he does for his own purposes. That provides no criteria by which we can judge the probability of something being "for" something or other. If there's no criteria, then saying "God did it" is useless.

"Regarding your question about viruses, I believe God would create such "terrifying things like Ebola and HIV" because His primary concern is His glory, not our comfort."

In other words, his criteria for glory is entrely alien to our notions of decency and humanity. When creationists look at something like the vertebrate eye, they claim "Ths is surely proof of God. Look at how finely tuned the eye is, with all its parts working harmoniously together. Only a loving, omnipotent God could have brought this about." So the "good" things are proof of God, but so, apparently, are the nasty things that infect and kill us. Including things that kill innocent children.

"While He is a loving God, he is also a God of justice, and He uses means that are sometimes not pleasing to mankind to further His purposes."

So children who are born to mothers who have been raped in the Congo by marauding militia, and who have contracted HIV, are simply getting what they deserve. This God of yours is awfully imprecise and indiscriminate in the way he administers "jutice". Sorry, but what you're saying is simply stupid. It gives us no quantitative basis from which to study viruses, and it has nothing to do with science. It is dogma, pure and simple, and vile dogma at that.

"You assert that I have been brainwashed by "propagandists with no interest in critical thought." This is another assumption."

Actually, it's a simple observation. Your ignroant statements testify to you all-round lack of knowledge about the things you purport to be talking about.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I have rather enjoyed us sharing our contrasting viewpoints, but unless I misinterpreted, there was quite a bit of hostility in your latest remarks. It is not my desire to bring out unkindness in anyone through debate such as this. I appreciate our freedom to disagree, as long as we can do so in a mature manner. Referring to my viewpoints as "stupid," "vile," and "ignorant" may in fact be your true feelings, but such terminology is unbecoming of intellectual debate. I apologize if I have misinterpreted your sentiments.

Regarding your assertion that there is not "one shred of evidence" of the creation/flood accounts in physics and geology, I believe that is untrue. The formation of earth's sedimentary layers is incredibly consistent with what one would observe from a single, worldwide event such as the flood described in Genesis. Fossil types of long-extinct animal species have been discovered at surface levels in several parts of the globe which would have been impossible if geological layering had occurred over purported billions of years. There are many phenomena such as this that have never been sufficiently explained by any theory other than what is indicated in the Bible. Creationists are often accused of believing in God to "explain away the unknown," but I believe that what God has revealed in the Bible does an excellent job of explaining what we observe today.

Your thoughts about the injustice that occurs in places like the Congo Republic are well noted, and I don't mean to suggest that the immoral actions of mankind pleases God. The Bible teaches that our world is currently under the "curse" of sin (brought into the world by Satan and man--not by God), and that God is temporarily allowing sin to exist, but He will ultimately punish those who reject Him and commit acts such as you described. But yes, I believe that God is right now allowing and using tragic circumstances to accomplish His sovereign purposes in our world, which are far beyond simply always making people happy. I can see the beauty, goodness, and love of God in certain aspects of the world, while at the same time seeing very unpleasant events as evidence of God as well. His love and His justice/wrath are both characteristics of His eternal nature.

phil

CyberKitten said...

I struggle with any kind of reasonable response in the face of such outlandish beliefs.

Lui said...

"Referring to my viewpoints as "stupid," "vile," and "ignorant" may in fact be your true feelings, but such terminology is unbecoming of intellectual debate."

It's true, of course, but the presupposition here is that you're actually engaged in intellectual debate; for that, you would need to have an interest in understanding the things you so confidently denounce, and unfortunately you give no indication of this. Your statements have been decidedly anti-intellectual. You're free to eschew scientific respectability if you so desire, but do not pretend that you are engaged in "intellectual debate". You are engaged in nothing of the sort. Since you are calling upon the faith card, you have effectively excluded yourself from the table of rational discourse. If you cannot abide by the rules of rationality, then do not be surprised when others refuse to feign respect for what you're saying. I frankly don't have the stomach for it. All too many religionists imagine that, when they bring God into a discussion, everyone else is somehow obligated to hold their viewpoints in high regard, as though believing in God were a free pass to being seen as talking from a position of "deep insights". This is pure intellectual vandalism, and I'm not going to dignify it.

"The formation of earth's sedimentary layers is incredibly consistent with what one would observe from a single, worldwide event such as the flood described in Genesis."

Absolutely not. For one thing, an iridium layer from the K/T boundary covers nearly the entire Earth in strata dating back from 65 million years, due to the meteorite impact that took place at the time and kicked up a large amount of matter into the atmosphere. Corroborating this is shocked quartz dating back from the same time, and the real clincher: a huge crater off the coast of Mexico. This crater would have required an impact energy equivalent to 100 million times the explosive energy of the world's entire nuclear arsenal. And that's just the K/T event. An even more horrendous incident took place during at the end of the Permian, in which what is now Siberia was basically covered in larva. Similar examples are available for other events. We find the same rock types of the same age from different continents that moved apart, and the same fossils from each (as would be expected). We have the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with the many magnetic bands emanating out from the fissure and mirrored on either side, with a corresponding fanning out of older and older rock, also mirrored on either side.

Saying that any of this can be accounted for by a scenario like a worldwide flood, in which a man and his family carried all the world's species on a wooden boat (how utterly cartoon-like can it get?) is not only an affront to one's intelligence, it is frankly on the other side of the door of the barking mad. It's not even remotely possible. Think about what sort of administrative apparatus Noah would have needed to perform his feat (and without a computer in sight, presumably. At least concede that). Where did he suddenly acquire the expertise to tend so many animals, of so many different types? Isn't it rather odd that nearly all the world's marsupials happen to live in Australia? Did the koalas and kangaroos decide to swim back here? What about the vegetation that these animals live off? How were those ecosystems re-established? Some animals require a very specific environment; if it is perturbed, the animal dies. Did Noah have a cryogenics chamber we don't know about? Where was all the food stored? How did it not go stale? How were wood-boring insects kept form eating the boat? What about endoparasites? How were the animals kept from becoming depressed in such cramped quarters? How were they kept from mating? How was waste disposed of efficiently? How were outbreaks of disease contained? What about asexual organisms? Once all these poor sea-sick animals got off that wretched vessel, how was inbreeding depression avoided? We have trouble maintaining animals and reintroducing them back into the wild in the 21st century due to continued gaps in our knowledge about animal psychology, physiology and ecology. And yet, we're expected to believe that a man living thousands of years ago put today's leading experts to shame? That can be dismissed without further comment.

Like I said before, for the Earth to be 6,000 years old would mean that every meteorite impact, earthquake etc that has ever been detected by science would have to have happened within that tiny window of opportunity. And those things aren't even including a worldwide flood. There'd be nothing left alive if you had that sort of bombardment taking place. But on top of all that, you would also have a gargantuan flood.

"Fossil types of long-extinct animal species have been discovered at surface levels in several parts of the globe which would have been impossible if geological layering had occurred over purported billions of years."

What counts as "surface level"? Earth's surface isn't flat; you have uneven terrain with wind erosion wearing away the sides of hills, for example. When I went to Wellington Caves here in New South Wales, I stood on a gently sloping exposed surface cutting into strata from the Mesozoic Era.

"but I believe that what God has revealed in the Bible does an excellent job of explaining what we observe today."

Then let it explain the comical exploits of surviving daily nuclear winters, as alluded to above.

"Your thoughts about the injustice that occurs in places like the Congo Republic are well noted, and I don't mean to suggest that the immoral actions of mankind pleases God."

They are made all the more immoral precisely because they perpetuate things like HIV. If God is displeased with human evil, then he should stop excacerbating it.

Scientists are busy at work trying to find solutions to the terrible damage wrought by these entities. They have employed evolutionary theory to track the development of viruses and bacteria, and such knowledge is absolutely vital in working out strategies for dealing with them. When you know how a virus is likely to evolve in certain circumstances - whether it will become increasingly virulent, what its mutation rate is like and how that impacts upon the rapidity with which it adapts to our drugs, what vectors it can use, and other such parameters - you can prepare more effectively by administering help to people, armed with that knowledge. Having an understanding of how viruses evolve isn't an idle intellectual exercise. It's literally a matter of life and death. Without evolutionary biology, there are no vaccines, no anti-biotics, no effective strategies for dealing with pathogens. Choosing between prayer and population genetics is a no-brainer. The latter is predictive and amenable to improvement; the former is nebulous and basically a waste of time. However, it seems that, for some people, these urgent humanitarian matters are less important than propping up archaic mythology, which allows them to live in a bubble and ignore what's going on, by slavishly bestowing praise upon God while a thousand miles away, someone's liver cracks and their blood fills up with urine. That's like saying "fuck you" to the mothers and children in Africa and Asia. The denial of evolution is not only an intellectual emergency, it is a moral emergency. Perhaps when these viruses get around to severely impacting your life, however, you'll have a more appropriate appreciation for what science can do and feel less compelled to turn to God for all your answers. I'm just putting this out here for your consideration so that you'll think about it next time you basically accuse scientists of being motivated in their life-saving work by an anti-God agenda.

And of course, it isn't just disease control we're talking about. Conservation biology also requires sound theoretical underpinnings with an eye to evolution. Dealing with agricultural pests (which evolve resistance to pesticides) and continuing good selective breeding of crops to ensure a plentiful food are also things that evolutionary biology has a lot to say about and contribute to. Or we can go back to sacrificing goats to the eclipse.

"I can see the beauty, goodness, and love of God in certain aspects of the world, while at the same time seeing very unpleasant events as evidence of God as well."

I can see the beauty, goodness and love of human beings, as well as the terrible evil they are capable of inflicting. I also see that the universe has no special love for us, that it doesn't exist for our sake, and that it runs by its own rules, whether we like them or not. There is nothing here that God supposedly explains, that science and common sense don't explain more parsimoniously. Hurricanes and Ebola strains are testimony to the need to get out from beneath our selfish comfort blankets and embrace rationality, rather than succumbing to sycophantic pandering aimed at the sky.

Anonymous said...

Lui,

I thank you for the time invested in your last response, and unfortunately, time does not currently permit me to respond at length to all of your points. I would, however, like to respond to the following statement you made: "Perhaps when these viruses get around to severely impacting your life, however, you'll have a more appropriate appreciation for what science can do and feel less compelled to turn to God for all your answers."

Here you have jumped to the faulty and presumptive conclusion that I and my family have not been seriously affected by viruses and other such medical tragedy. Clearly, you make this assertion based on what you feel you have perceived in my previous comments, and this is a typical (albeit much more personal) example of the many groundless assumptions you have posited over the last several posts. In this case, you couldn't be further from the truth, and I likewise believe that is indicative of many other statements you have made. Your suggested links between helpful medical/biological research and natural selection theory are by no means conclusive; one does not necessarily have to do with the other. I believe in God, yet I find value in scientific development as a God-given tool, so long as it is accurate. Regarding your multiple (and very good) questions about the account of Noah and the flood, much of what you have asked has been very intelligently addressed by Mike Snavely's "Mission: Imperative" research, and I would refer you to that source for more on that subject. Just because you don't have the answer to a question doesn't mean there isn't an answer. You have needlessly segregated faith issues from those of so-called "intellect" and "rationality," (man-made terms that have no objective substance apart from a universally sovereign being) but biblical faith has been upheld by both human intellect and reason for millenia. Do not be deceived into thinking that worldwide "enlightenment" has occurred only in our modern era; there have been thoughtful challenges to the teachings of the Bible throughout history, and there is a reason that the faith has survived such scrutiny: it is objective truth, and it is rationally defendable.

phil

Lui said...

"Clearly, you make this assertion based on what you feel you have perceived in my previous comments, and this is a typical (albeit much more personal) example of the many groundless assumptions you have posited over the last several posts."

All of which have been answered.

"Your suggested links between helpful medical/biological research and natural selection theory are by no means conclusive; one does not necessarily have to do with the other."

It's easy to say that, but that doesn't make it true. The actual people out in the field find evolutionary biology absolutely indespensible; they couldn't do what they do if they didn't have a working knwoledge of how populations evolve. So while it's not necessary to ALWAYS have evoulutionary biology at the front line, a lot of things rely very much on it. It's simply something we can't dispense with, when we're dealing with entities that are so prone to change.

"I believe in God, yet I find value in scientific development as a God-given tool, so long as it is accurate."

Yet you ignore everything that's going on at the cutting edge.

"Just because you don't have the answer to a question doesn't mean there isn't an answer."

Likewise, just because you have no idea how evolution works doesn't mean it doesn't occur, or that other people are obligated to remain as ignorant as you have been.

"You have needlessly segregated faith issues from those of so-called "intellect" and "rationality," (man-made terms that have no objective substance apart from a universally sovereign being) but biblical faith has been upheld by both human intellect and reason for millenia."

Another baseless claim. I know THAT you believe it, but you've given no reasons why I shuold take it seriously.

Basically you've just talked a lot of wank, backed up with no evidence whatsoever. You have failed to seriously address anything I've challgened you with, instead focusing on gaps in current scientific knowledge and using myths as evidence for myths. If you honestly and sincerely belive in a literalist account of the Bible, then good luck to you.

Lui said...

Scientists discover a "frogmander", an ancient amphibian with a mosaic of features from frogs and salamanders.

Gabriel Florit said...

hi kevin,

thanks for your insightful posts. i'm a christian dating a jewist atheist - so far we've had a great relationship, but of course the idea of marriage and how to raise children will required thoughtful conversations. it's interesting to see you guys share a life and not share worldviews. thanks for all the time you guys take to write all this down.

love from alaska,

gabriel

Lui said...

Hey Kevin, I hope you're okay because I've been reading some very disturbing things that are going on in South Africa at the moment. I don't know what the extent of the violence is but I hope you haven't been adversely affected by it. My condolences to all who have been, and I hope the situation improves soon.

Anonymous said...

I am certainly not going to say that it is absurd to believe that nature's beauty is subjective, a product of some sort of apprehension in the mind.

I am to old and too unsure of my own prejudices to play God myself. However, as a friend, let me ask you to open your mind to at least one possibility. There is a very real conundrum that scientists are aware of and discuss privately but will not discuss publicly. That is the current problem of the necessity of true tychism in the macroscopic world to explain its apparent inconsistency with classical physics. There is, in a sense too much beauty in nature (and other "macroscopic" phenomenon - in the sense of above the quantum realm) This current. This is real. Have an open mind, research it thoroughly FOR YOURSELF and I think you might surprised.

Also, in my opinion, there is no dichotomy between you and nature. You are part of nature, your perceptions are a real part of nature. There is a purpose to your perception.

Also, in my opinion, it's not all relative. Certain aspects of modern art being reactionary and therefore largely discountable, we can honestly say that beauty has certain characteristics, the most obvious of which is an aspect of order tempered with a creative element that has some aspect of chance or novelty. This is not unlike nature itself. That is perhaps part of the reason why art stirs the emotions the way it does.