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August 16, 2005

Finding God in Science


Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

Tom Yulsman writes:

Is evolution compatible with religion?

People on opposite ends of the spectrum in the debate have shown in recent weeks that they do manage to agree on one thing: that the answer is ‘no.’ They frame the debate in black and white terms, leaving no room for nuance and ambiguity. In doing so, they pit religion implacably against science itself, harming both.

On one side of the debate stand proponents of intelligent design, most notably at the Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute. They say they do not reject evolution outright, just the idea that evolution of complex biological structures can happen without intervention by an intelligent designer.

In other words, evolution and religion are perfectly compatible — as long as modern evolutionary biology is rejected and replaced by a religious concept.

The center isn’t really all that shy about making this point, as its now infamous paper called the “The Wedge Strategy” shows. Published in 1999, the document plots a political strategy to replace what it calls the “scientific materialism” of traditional evolutionary biology with a “broadly theistic” worldview. The Wedge Strategy establishes a dichotomy between materialism, which it says has “infected virtually every area of our culture,” and what it describes as “one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built,” namely that human beings are created in the image of God.

“Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.”

The document describes a litany of horrors resulting from this infection, including the erosion of “objective moral standards,” the undermining of “personal responsibility”, and “a virulent strain of utopianism.”

Focusing on intelligent design, the Wedge Document states that it promises to replace the materialist worldview, as exemplified by evolutionary biology, “with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” (Emphasis added.)

Let’s put aside the obvious conclusion that the so-called “science” pursued by the institute is motivated not by a desire to seek the truth about nature but by a pre-determined political and Christian religious agenda, invalidating all claims to scientific legitimacy. The central point here is that evolutionary biology, as it is currently accepted by the vast majority of scientists, simply is not consonant with Christian convictions.

What’s so interesting is that polemicists on the opposite end of the political spectrum agree.

As Jacob Weisberg wrote in Slate recently, “That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument.” Claiming that evolution “destroyed the faith of Darwin himself” (a gross oversimplification see: here), Weisberg goes on to say that “the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence.”

Both Weisberg and his intellectual opponents in the intelligent design community are objectively wrong when they claim incompatibility between evolution and religion. To borrow a turn of phrase from Weisberg, that millions of Christians and Jews, including many scientists, believe both in God and traditional evolutionary biology, seems almost too obvious to require argument. And they suffer neither from utopian fantasies and moral degradation, nor from a diminution of their spiritual feelings and belief in God.

Owen Gingerich is one of many prominent examples of scientists who manage to hold their religious beliefs in harmony with their science. A Christian and a research professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard, he told this to NPR recently: “I believe in intelligent design, lower case I and D. And I do have a problem with intelligent design, capital I and capital D, because it's being sold as a political movement, as if somehow it's an alternative to Darwinian evolution.”

Concerning his religious belief, Gingerich says, “When we talk about the concept of God, it is such an infinity it's not really possible for us to wrap ourselves around it and come to terms with precisely what we mean. It's not a father figure sitting up there with the big `on' button and pushing it and the big bang happens.”

Contrary to what Weisberg argues, Gingerich believes that science and religion give different answers about existence. Science is like looking at music written out on a page, Gingerich says. “If you see it on the page, you can analyze all of the notes in great detail, but you won't hear the melody, you won't understand its aesthetic appeal. Without a capital I and a capital D, I am saying that I believe there is purpose and meaning in the universe, that it's not all just a macabre mechanical joke.”

Sir John Polkinghorne:, a theoretical physicist turned Anglican priest sees things similarly: “The fact that we now know that the universe did not spring into being ready made a few thousand years ago but that it has evolved over a period of fifteen billion years from its fiery origin in the Big Bang, does not abolish Christian talk of the world as God's creation, but it certainly modifies certain aspects of that discourse,” he writes.

Polkinghorne seems to be completely comfortable with biological evolution: “Mutations occur through happenstance,” he says. “That produces some new possibility for life, which is then sifted and preserved in the lawfully regular environment which is necessary for the operation of natural selection.”

Science, he says, reveals this duality of existence — chance, which makes all manner of things possible, and necessity, which arises from the fundamental laws of nature. “In every stage of the fruitful history of the universe there is an interplay between chance and necessity. Now, the question is, ‘What do we make of that?’”

Not that blind, stupid chance alone is important. Or that we live in the numbingly mechanical world of biblical literalists. “I believe that the Christian God, who is both loving and faithful, has given to his creation the twin gifts of independence and reliability, which find their reflection in the fruitful process of the universe through the interplay between happenstance and regularity, between chance and necessity.”

Polkinghorne clearly believes in an intelligent designer, but one who operates through traditional evolutionary processes: “To acknowledge a role for tame chance is not in the least to deny the possibility that there is a divinely ordained general direction in which the process of the world is moving, however contingent detailed aspects of that progression (such as the number of human toes) might be.”

Those on the left, like Weisberg, who insist that religion ultimately is incompatible with evolution, seem to have a laughingly naïve view of what belief in God must entail: Not Polkinghorne and Gingerich’s God but a bearded white guy sitting atop a cloud and throwing thunderbolts at us. It goes without saying that the bible anthropomorphizes God, and many Christians and Jews certainly do take it all literally. But in more sophisticated religious conceptions, both Christian and Jewish — including my own Jewish tradition — anthropomorphic descriptions of God are mere metaphors for something beyond real knowing in any kind of literal human terms. In fact, spiritual feeling for many people, myself included, is motivated in part by the realization that everything in this amazing cosmos rests on simple, elegant laws stemming from a singular, ultimately ineffable source.

Grist contributor Dave Roberts argues that it was science that forced God to "retreat" to what he derisively calls this “level of abstraction.” But this just isn’t true. Countless generations of rebbes and devout Jews have been motivated in their spiritual practice by the realization that everything is a harmonious manifestation of what is described in Judaism's central prayer simply as “The One.” In its own way, the prayer anticipates modern cosmology.

Stephen Hawking once wrote that probing the most fundamental mathematical order of nature was like “glimpsing the mind of God.” And it was Einstein who said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.” No Bearded One for him. And certainly this is not Polkinghorne’s God. But neither did the “abstraction,” if it must be called that, diminish Einstein’s deep reverence. Einstein himself described this reverence as "cosmic religious feeling," and he said it was motivated by a “spirit manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

Another example of a scientist with a spiritual side to his scientific worldview is Joel Primack, a cosmologist who co-developed the 'cold dark matter' theory. He writes of a “sacred dimension to science.” And he once described the ripples observed in the cosmic microwave background radiation – the literal afterglow of the big bang itself — as the “handwriting of God.” These ripples are theorized to have given rise to all of the structure seen in today's universe (with a little help from some cold dark matter...). Primack writes, “When we interpret the ripples in the cosmic background radiation, we are reading God’s journal of the first days. What human action could be more sacred than that?”

There is no denying that an alarmingly large percentage of the population believes the Earth is some 6,000 years old, and that human beings and dinosaurs walked the Earth together. But it does not help the cause of enlightenment to be so anti-religious as to deny that science and deep religious feeling can not only coexist but flourish together.

Posted on August 16, 2005 08:03 AM

Comments

I think you raise a very good point here, and you are right: insisting science and religion are incompatible gives creationists an advantage. Draw the battle lines that way, and they will eventually win.

I am especially disturbed by the attack on "materialism", which I think is a code word for empiricism. That's where the society is breaking down, I think: between those who believe in honest brokers, and those who don't, those who believe in a judicious study of reality (the reality based community, as one White House aide mockingly referred to them) and those who believe in faith, gut and loyalty to nation/leader/church. But pointing that out gets us in the quandry you mention above.

So you're definitely right, the only solution is the "muddy the waters" whatever we think the contradiction is, and insist science is a separate realm from religion. There are still literalists, but framing it that way puts science on the side of the majority because most people don't find them incompatible.

Posted by: Dylan Otto Krider at August 16, 2005 11:43 AM


Oops. That formatting got all screwed up. Roger, maybe you could delete the previous comment? Let me see if this works:

It's important to keep three issues distinct:

Political (Dylan raises above): what evolution supporters should say publicly, as part of their campaign to preserve sane science education in the country.

Theoretical: is there a coherent worldview that both accepts evolution and is, broadly speaking, religious.

Practical: what kind of religious belief is common, and what effect would broad acceptance of evolution have on it.

Seems like much of the confusion has come from running these issues together.

On the political question, Roger and Dylan are obviously right -- it won't do evolution supporters any good to publicly discuss conflict with religion in a highly religious country.

On the theoretical question, Roger and Tom are obviously right -- there's no inherent logical or conceptual conflict between a respect for empirical science and belief in a God that undergirds or manifests the One of which everything is a part (or some such), who establishes (rather than interfering with via miracles) natural law. Sophisticated believer the world over hold some variant of this view.

But on the practical question, I think all y'all are being a little dense, perhaps willfully. What I've been saying is that in practice the vast majority of religious believers are not sophisticated -- they believe in a God or gods that created humanity, that holds humans (as a species, and individually) in a special relationship, that mediates disputes between people, that intervenes in human affairs via miracles or special dispensation, etc. This kind of stuff is written into religious texts, and unless one chooses simply to interpret all religious texts as metaphor -- which, I repeat, most people do not -- there's conflict with science built in, particularly with evolution.

In practice, a naive religious believer who is taught (and accepts) evolution will discover it to be in conflict with many of his or her religious beliefs. Their reaction might be to reject religion altogether, but maybe not.

Perhaps their reaction will be to develop a more sophisticated theology, like Tom', that removes the conflict.

But do you think the Kansas School Board would take comfort in that?

Posted by: Dave Roberts at August 16, 2005 01:29 PM


Maybe the best way to phrase this is being about equality of opportunity. It's not fair for kids in Kansas to think they're going to college, and then find out they're not, because the school board taught them stuff that wasn't true.

When you think about it, it all starts to look like high school cooking classes in the 50s where kids learned how to make cakes from a mix. The whole thing literally made us sick to our stomachs, but this too shall pass.

Posted by: serial catowner at August 16, 2005 01:56 PM


I don't know whether the vast majority of believers lack a sophisticated religious perspective, or just the majority, or simply very many. But Dave makes a good point nonetheless. The scary thing is that people on different sides of issues like this believe what an exceedingly sophisticated Christian friend (who may well describe himself as an evangelical) calls "bozo stories."

In the case of evolution versus religion, the literalist bozo story is that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and dinosaurs walked the planet with human beings. I would also include the bozo story coming from the Discovery Institute, which is that they are promoting a scientific concept (although this is where my Christian friend and I might part company). On the left, the bozo story I've been trying to rebut is the idea that religion is invariably incompatible with evolution — in part because it gives the "correct" answer or a "better" answer, as if the two were even addressing the same question.

From what Dave calls a "practical" perspective, I think it's important that we challenge the bozo stories of the left as well as the right. Otherwise people who don't think much about these issues much will have only two very unsatisfactory alternatives — and in the end, both religion and science will suffer greatly.

Posted by: Tom Yulsman at August 16, 2005 03:34 PM


I think SerialCatowner raises a good point. Arguing there is no God is unsound both politically and logically. Most people are religious, and most people recognize the value of science. Therefore, avoid the religious question altogether. What's the real issue here? How can we compete in biotech without teaching evolution? We're falling behind the rest of the world. It will put us at an economic disadvantage. This will sell with most people who see science as valuable.

Posted by: Dylan Otto Krider at August 16, 2005 04:10 PM


Dylan brings up a very good point.


"can we compete in biotech without teaching evolution?"


We need to answer this, and a few more.


Can we compete in computer science without teaching evolution?


Can we compete in mathematics without teaching evolution?


Posted by: Hinheckle Jones at August 16, 2005 05:45 PM


Wisdom is what is at stake here, not just our ability to compete in a global marketplace. And our children will never attain it unless they learn the most important concept in all of science — the big picture of evolution. Our children need to know that we live in an evolving universe, which started out simple and has evolved greater and greater complexity over time. Part of that larger story of evolution is, of course, biological evolution.

Stephen Jay Gould would caution us, if he were still alive, not to conclude that intelligent creatures — us — were the "purpose" of this evolutionary process. Theologians would say otherwise. Regardless, here we are, arguably the most complex entitites in the universe, and now we are trying to figure it all out. I believe our children need to know both the grand scientific epic of how this happened (from the big bang to us), and, as Gould once wrote, what this epic means in terms of "proper ethical values and the spiritual meaning of our lives." These separate questions are addressed by what he called the "non-overlapping magisteria" of science and religion.

"The attainment of wisdom in a full life requires extensive attention to both domains," Gould wrote, "for a great book tells us that the truth can make us free and that we will live in optimal harmony with our fellows when we learn to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly."

Posted by: Tom Yulsman at August 16, 2005 07:42 PM


Forgot to insert the URL for Gould's essay in Natural History magazine, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," in which he discussed these issues: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

Posted by: Tom Yulsman at August 16, 2005 07:44 PM


"There is no denying that an alarmingly large percentage of the population believes the Earth is some 6,000 years old, and that human beings and dinosaurs walked the Earth together."

I deny it. I'm not alarmed in the least. First of all, I doubt even 1 adult in 50 thinks the earth is 6000 years old. And why would anyone be "alarmed" about the 1 person in 50 who does think the world is 6000 years old?

I save my "alarm" for more important things...like the fact that terrorist using biological or nuclear weapons could easily kill hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

The fact that Jerry Falwell and his slightly nutty friends want to cling to a belief in something that's patently false isn't even a cause for "concern" to me...let alone "alarm." I think it's interesting (and a bit sad)...not "alarming":

http://www.reason.com/rb/rb071905.shtml

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 16, 2005 08:54 PM


"But it does not help the cause of enlightenment to be so anti-religious as to deny that science and deep religious feeling can not only coexist but flourish together."

I certainly hope to live to see the first human detection of extraterrestrial intelligence. If communication is possible, one of the first questions I'd like answered would be, "Where did y'all come from?"

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 16, 2005 09:03 PM


"Theologians would say otherwise. Regardless, here we are, arguably the most complex entitites in the universe, and now we are trying to figure it all out."

Tom, you're making my point for me.

Theology pushes inevitably for the view that we are special, and that we stand in a special relationship with God. Evolution pushes inevitably against that idea.

The idea that we are "the most complex entities in the universe" is theological. I don't see any scientific backing for it.

Posted by: Dave Roberts at August 17, 2005 10:05 AM


"Theology pushes inevitably for the view that we are special, and that we stand in a special relationship with God. Evolution pushes inevitably against that idea."

Why does evolution "push inevitably against that idea?"

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 17, 2005 10:50 AM


Because, Mark, it shows that we grew out of a process of more or less random incremental change, just like every other species and the planet itself.

I can't get too into it (I'm supposed to be doing my real job), but the deeper issue here is consciousness. We are self-aware and analytical, and don't see those qualities manifest in any other species, and intuitively we think that makes us unique -- unique, one might say, in our ability to discern God's will, unique in the gifts God has given us, etc.

Evolution deflates our grandiose conception of what consciousness is and what it means (Dennett gets deep into this in Darwin's Dangerous Idea). To the extent evolution works against that, it also works against many of our most cherished theological, philosophical, and moral conceptions.

Basically, I think that humanity has only just begun absorbing the lessons and consequences of evolution -- it's a process that will take many decades more. Traditional religion will, IMO, be one of the casualties.

But yes, in today's political situation, it's not wise to say so out loud. Ssssshhhhh...

Posted by: Dave Roberts at August 17, 2005 11:27 AM


Some interesting perspective on this topic at Time magazine. A baptist minister provides some evidence reinforcing Tom's argument that this debate is between ideologues on either side who are politicizing evolution:

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/2005_08_07_time.html

"I think it's interesting that many of evolution's most ardent academic defenders have moved away from the old claim that evolution is God's means to bring life into being in its various forms. More of them are saying that a truly informed belief in evolution entails a stance that the material world is all there is and that the natural must be explained in purely natural terms. They're saying that anyone who truly feels this way must exclude God from the story. I think their self-analysis is correct. I just couldn't disagree more with their premise."

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at August 17, 2005 11:30 AM


> "They say they do not reject evolution outright, just the idea that evolution of complex biological structures can happen without intervention by an intelligent designer."

> "In other words, evolution and religion are perfectly compatible — as long as modern evolutionary biology is rejected and replaced by a religious concept."

Two can play at that game. The insistence that all of life evolved randomly from a single cell is itself a religious concept. It is no more scientific, and no less religious, to infer "not God" from the physical evidence as to infer "God". Science can indeed point us to some evidence that species have evolved. You can no more prove "not design" than you can design.

Evolutionists have set up the argument in such a way that they don't have to prove "not God", nor even infer it: they assume it.

When an evolutionist says, "We have reason to believe that all life may have descended from a single cell, simply from the power of 'natural selection' as a feedback mechanism," he is on safe ground. It's a notion, though, not a fact, since we have no evidence that God either was, or wasn't, wrist-deep in DNA mutations, playing them like Horowitz.

It is when the evolutionists pretend that 'natural selection' explains everything that they become vulnerable. For, if they're going to infer metaphysical propositions from physical facts, why can't the Intelligent Design folks do the same?

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 17, 2005 08:35 PM


Dave, the idea that we may be the most complex entities in the universe is most definitely not simply theological. It is held by some of the leading scientists of our time, based on their understanding of what converging branches of cosmology, astronomy and biology are revealing.

Just a few examples:

From an interview I did with Sandra Faber, an observational cosmologist and University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz: Cosmologists "are figuring it all out by sitting on this tiny little planet collecting photons from space. So far from feeling dwarfed by the vast reaches and energy of the cosmos, what we really learn is that we are the most remarkable and complicated product of cosmic evolution."

More to the point, from a speech by Martin Rees (http://www.rsm.ac.uk/new/pdfs/rees02talk.pdf), renown Cambridge cosmologist and Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom: "The subatomic world is simple. On the largest scales, our universe is simple too--that’s why it isn’t presumptuous to do cosmology. But almost everything in between is too complicated. Humans, the most complex entities we are yet aware of, are poised between cosmos and microworld."

You also argue that theology and science say exactly opposite things about our status, with theology saying we are "special" and evolution saying that we are not. It is true that evolutionary biology teaches us that pond scum and people evolved by the same process, and that our lineage represents a tiny twig on the very bushy tree of life. From that perspective, I guess we are nothing special. But if you consider the question more broadly, taking into account the origin and evolution of the entire universe from the big bang to us, a very different conclusion is possible — one articulated by many scientists I have interviewed over the years.

One such scientist is Alan Dressler, an astronomer at the Observatories of the Carnegie Insitution of Washington who studies the large-scale structure of the universe: "The most amazing result of the Copernican revolution is that we're very special after all," he says. "Whether there are million of civilizations in the galaxy or just one, it's still the case that every one, or just the one, can feel very special because life has come about as a result of these many, many, many steps. And the result of that life is to understand the steps."

Dressler's key point there is "understand the steps." Only intelligent life does that, making it "special."

I think it's also important to point out, more parochially, that our intelligence has given us the capacity to dominate every global environmental system on the planet. We've finally achieved what Genesis says God gave to us: dominion over the Earth. Pond scum hasn't done that, not to mention blue whales or orangutans. And as far as we know, neither has any other species in the 4.5 billion year history of our planet.

Modern astronomy and cosmology also is providing provocative new evidence suggesting that, contrary to popular belief, we could be the only intelligent creatures in the universe. And if that's true, we would be more special still. Michael Turner, a theoretical astrophysicist and cosmologist at the University of Chicago, put it this way in an interview: "There are 100 billion galaxies, 100 billion stars per galaxy, and we may be the only intelligent life. We'd better be really careful not to extinguish it."

It is often said that we are puny creatures, insignificant motes in the cosmic scheme of things. But that's objectively untrue too. According to cosmologist Joel Primack at the University of California Santa Cruz, 60 orders of magnitude separate the size of the very tiniest thing that makes sense (a Planck length) and the very biggest thing we know about, the universe. It turns out that we humans are mid-way in size between these two extremes. And that is pretty much ideal for intelligence. If our brains were considerably larger, nerve impulses would take too long to travel from one place to another to support the very rapid processing of information. And if our brains were considerably smaller, they wouldn't have the necessary complexity.

From our vantage point in the center of the cosmic space scale, and with the intelligence this seems to have made possible, we are ideally placed to understand the story of the cosmos and our place in it. If that's not "special," I don't know what is.

Lastly, you say that evolution works against "the grandiose conception of what consciousness is and what it means." I guess what you're getting at here is that since the PROCESS of evolution is the same for all species, no OUTCOME has any special status. But that can't be right. And to say, in essence, that we human beings are no different in our relationship with the cosmos than pond scum strikes me as being just as much a theological statement as a scientific one.

Posted by: Tom Yulsman at August 17, 2005 10:56 PM


Mark Bahner says "I doubt even 1 adult in 50 thinks the earth is 6000 years old." Well, consider these poll results:

In a Harris poll conducted in June, 54% of American adults surveyed said they did not believe humans had developed from an earlier species — up from 45% who held that view in 1994. (See Time's cover story last week: http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1090909,00.html)

According to Gallup polling, a third of Americans "are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word." (See: http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/login.aspx?ci=14107)

And more to Bahner's point, Gallup polls find that 45 percent of Americans "believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago." (http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/login.aspx?ci=14107)

I do find these results alarming. If such a large percentage of Americans are so stuck in ancient ways of thinking, how will we ever gain public support for effective policies to deal with the issue Bahner raises — biological and nuclear terrorism (we've done very little so far) — let alone technically challenging environmental issues such as climate change? (I have a feeling Roger may challenge me on this one...)

-- Tom

Posted by: Tom Yulsman at August 18, 2005 02:19 PM


@ Lee Dise
It is NOT a religious concept to infer from the vast majority of evidence that life evolved from a single-celled organism or group of organisms that was/were able to reproduce. Going by the evidence, it is the best explanation we have. The reason that the ID folks can't use the same evidence and interpret design is something you said yourself.

"It is no more scientific, and no less religious, to infer "not God" from the physical evidence as to infer "God". Science can indeed point us to some evidence that species have evolved. You can no more prove "not design" than you can design."

You've answered your own question here. Since you can't prove "design" any more than you can prove "not design" it is not a useful or scientific notion. Does science assume "not God" as you assert? Not in an a priori sense. God is not ruled out of the equation, but there is no way to test for "God" or "not God", which renders it unscientific. If the ID people could come up with a way to scientifically test for "God" or "design" then maybe the scientific community would take them seriously. Until then, they are playing metaphysics, not science. The reason evolution doesn't fall into that trap is because evolution follows the rigorous scientific method and does not make unwarranted a priori assumptions, just like every other science.

Posted by: GCT at August 20, 2005 10:47 AM


@GCI

"The reason evolution doesn't fall into that trap is because evolution follows the rigorous scientific method and does not make unwarranted a priori assumptions, just like every other science."

ID folks have been using information theory to demonstrate mathematically that it is highly unlikely (i.e. with probability approaching zero) that certain biological features have evolved randomly. Who's making unwarrented a priori assumptions now?

Posted by: tommy at August 21, 2005 08:50 AM


Dave Roberts wrote, "Theology pushes inevitably for the view that we are special, and that we stand in a special relationship with God. Evolution pushes inevitably against that idea."

I asked, "Why does evolution "push inevitably against that idea?'"

Dave Roberts answers, "Because, Mark, it shows that we grew out of a process of more or less random incremental change,..."

Dave, evolution "shows" no such thing. There is no way science can disprove the assertion that human beings appearing on earth were the direct result of the wishes of a Supreme Being.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 21, 2005 01:42 PM


Tom Yulman refers me to a Harris poll and two Gallup polls. Unfortunately, none of the links work (for me, anyway).

But I did find this link describing the results of the Harris Poll:

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=581

These results are very surprising to me. My previous thinking was clearly wrong. I based my thinking on the people *I* know (of course).

But I also based my thinking on the fact that even Pope John Paul II acknowledged the scientific validity of evolution:

http://www.cuttingedge.org/n1034.html

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 21, 2005 01:54 PM


"If such a large percentage of Americans are so stuck in ancient ways of thinking, how will we ever gain public support for effective policies to deal with the issue Bahner raises — biological and nuclear terrorism..."

If people don't agree that humans evolved from other species, we can't get funding for defense against biological and nuclear terrorism????!

How in the world do you arrive at that conclusion?!

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 21, 2005 01:58 PM


"...let alone technically challenging environmental issues such as climate change?"

Yes, if people are as technically unsophisticated as the Harris poll suggests, how will they ever understand that the IPCC Third Assessment Report's projections for methane atmospheric concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science?

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 21, 2005 02:03 PM


"We are self-aware and analytical, and don't see those qualities manifest in any other species,..."

Speak for yourself, Dave! I saw self-awareness ***in my dog*** when I was growing up. She was a cocker spaniel, and I doubt she was even extraordinarily intelligent as dogs go. But one time she got a haircut where they ***really*** cut her hair short. (It's like they thought she was a poodle or something.) Anyway, she came home and she was perfectly happy. But then everyone in my family (including me of course) laughed at her, and said she looked just like a rat.

She went and hid behind the couch.

And that doesn't even compare to the chimp that they taught to make stone tools. They put a banana under a cover, and tied the cover to a rope, such that if the chimp could cut the rope, it could get the banana. Then they chipped stones in their hands, and cut the rope.

The chimp understood that making sharp stones could cut the rope. So it started making sharp stones. But it make the stones by throwing round stones against the concrete floor of its cage (rather than chipping using its hands, like the scientists wanted). So the scientists fully carpeted the cage, so the chimp would have to use its hands. But what the chimp did was to rip away the carpet, so it could continue to throw the stones to make the cutting tools!

Eventually, according to the article, the chimp could make a better cutting tool than most humans.

I can't understand people who think humans are extraordinarily intelligen. Dogs can understand human speech. How many humans understand dog speech? Some chimps can even do sign language. How many humans can speak chimp?

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 21, 2005 02:21 PM


@ Tommy
"ID folks have been using information theory to demonstrate mathematically that it is highly unlikely (i.e. with probability approaching zero) that certain biological features have evolved randomly. Who's making unwarrented a priori assumptions now?"

Dembski's "work" has been thoroughly debunked by numerous sources, such as Elsberry and Shallit. Even if he were right, however, that evolution could not have happened, then it still does nothing to provide positive proof for ID. Negative proof against evolution does not make ID true. And, besides, I fail to see how evolution being wrong, as you seem to think it is, constitutes an incorrect, a priori assumption made by science.

Posted by: GCT at August 22, 2005 04:20 AM


@ Mark Bahner
"If people don't agree that humans evolved from other species, we can't get funding for defense against biological and nuclear terrorism????!

How in the world do you arrive at that conclusion?!"

The key is that we are talking about "effective policies." If the science is based on "goddidit" then we have no useful way of combating these threats.

"...the IPCC Third Assessment Report's...constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science?"

Um, is it a fraud because the Bush admin. stepped in and forced them to make changes that would be more to their liking politically, or do you think that the scientific concensus is wrong on the matter?

As for self-aware animals, you are spot on. Animals are self-aware. Apes do learn sign language and can speak to us and tell us that they have thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They also hold wakes when a member of their family dies as another example.

Posted by: GCT at August 22, 2005 04:26 AM


@GCI

Thanks for the refs as I am new to this topic. I will explore.

I have no particular dog in this hunt, although I think that evolution proponents give themselves a "by" on a lot of issues. There's a lot of "magic happens here" in the evolution story. I think they may be in the same place as the proponents of a physical ether were in the mid/late 19th century. Additionally, their arguments, at least the ones I've seen in the press, tend to use lot of ad hominums and arguments from authority, not usually a sign of arguing from a strong position.

I'll review and comment. Thanks again.

Posted by: tommy at August 22, 2005 07:02 AM


Tommy, we may never be able to say with 100% certainty what happened at every stage of the evolutionary process. Science doesn't operate that way in most situations anyway. The problem with ID, however, is that "magic happens here" is the whole entire argument. Not one ID proponent can tell you when the designer stepped in, nor what the designer specifically did, and they won't even consider those questions to be related to their "theory." In short, to posit the supernatural (as ID does) is to make the ultimate "magic happens here" argument.

Posted by: GCT at August 22, 2005 07:39 AM


> GCT: "It is NOT a religious concept to infer from the vast majority of evidence that life evolved from a single-celled organism or group of organisms that was/were able to reproduce. Going by the evidence, it is the best explanation we have...."

Sorry, but wrong. It is not an explanation; it's an untestable assumption.

> GCT: "Since you can't prove 'design' any more than you can prove 'not design' it is not a useful or scientific notion."

That cuts both ways. The only difference is that ID folks are at least trying to argue their case in the realm of evidence. Evolutionists simply presume that God played no part, and thus place it outside the realm of debate.

> GCT: "Does science assume 'not God' as you assert? Not in an a priori sense. God is not ruled out of the equation, but there is no way to test for 'God' or 'not God', which renders it unscientific."

When evolutionists claim that all life evolved from random mutation, that is the opposite of saying that a designing hand was involved. In other words, no designing hand = no God or no involvement by God = not God. Science assumes "not God" all the time. Dawkins even makes a big deal out of it.

> GCT: "If the ID people could come up with a way to scientifically test for 'God' or 'design' then maybe the scientific community would take them seriously."

Oh, I think the scientific community is taking them very seriously -- as heretics who need to be burned at the stake. But your response begs the question. Why do ID folks need to prove the existence of God rigorously, while evolutionists get a free pass on their presumption of "not God"?

> GCT: "Until then, they are playing metaphysics, not science."

That's right, and up until recently, only evolutionists are allowed to play metaphysics.

> GCT: "The reason evolution doesn't fall into that trap is because evolution follows the rigorous scientific method and does not make unwarranted a priori assumptions, just like every other science."

Show me, please, an example of a rigorous scientific methodology, without any a priori assumptions, that shows a favorable mutation and can scientifically measure the absence of God.

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 22, 2005 09:26 AM


Lee Dise, no one is arguing that science can "measure the absence of God." In fact, I specifically stated that science can not show "God" or "not God." That is why "God" or "not God" falls outside of the realm of science. Evolution is the first and only truly scientific theory to ever come out in regards to the origin of species. Why? Because it allows one to be a self-fulfilled atheist (to paraphrase Dawkins) and yet also allows one to believe that God is behind the whole process. In short, science and evolution make no pronouncements on whether God exists. The same can not be said of ID, which necessarily needs a supernatural power.

Well, here's the problem. How are you going to test for this supernatural power? That is why the IDists have not been able to come up with a single hypothesis yet, because it can't be done.

You also seem to make a lot of hay from the "random mutations" but I don't think you understand the concept behind it. Random in this sense does not mean that a God could not have done it. What random means in this sense is that we can not predict when/where the next mutation will occur. Therefore, your premise is false.

Posted by: GCT at August 22, 2005 10:04 AM


GCT: "It is NOT a religious concept to infer from the vast majority of evidence that life evolved from a single-celled organism or group of organisms that was/were able to reproduce. Going by the evidence, it is the best explanation we have...."

"Sorry, but wrong. It is not an explanation; it's an untestable assumption."

That life evolved from single-celled organisms is an "untestable assumption"? How so? One just looks at the fossil record. If one sees some modern human skeletons 500 million years ago (or any complex animal or plant), one knows that complex animals/plants have been around as long as one-celled organisms. If one goes back in time (through the fossil record) and one gets to a time when only single-cell organisms were around, one can reasonably say that multi-cellular organisms evolved from single-celled organisms.

Or else one can say that God chose to put the multi-cellular organisms in at a later time. But the key thing is that it's clear that single-celled organisms have been around much longer than multi-cellular organisms. And the really complex forms (e.g. dinosaurs) came even later than the simple multi-cellular organisms.

That's all testable via the fossil record.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 22, 2005 10:58 AM


> GCT: "You also seem to make a lot of hay from the 'random mutations' but I don't think you understand the concept behind it. Random in this sense does not mean that a God could not have done it. What random means in this sense is that we can not predict when/where the next mutation will occur. Therefore, your premise is false."

A given mutation could have occurred randomly or it could have occurred by design. "Random" is therefore a specification. To use the dictionary's definition, a random mutation would be one that occurred "having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective." A designed mutation would be its opposite number: a mutation that was caused to happen by someone who had a purpose or objective in mind.

I flatly reject your definition of random as "...we can not predict when/where the next mutation will occur." After all, even the ID folks aren't claiming that they can predict what's coming next. All they're saying is that, in hindsight, it looks like someone designed life as we know it.

And by the way, you're already waist deep in metaphysics here. Either that, or this is the first time I've heard an alleged scientific theory justified on the grounds that it cannot predict anything.

Mark: I didn't say that someone could not reasonably posit the notion that all life evolved from a single cell. Of course it's a reasonable notion. All I said that it was unprovable. You cannot observe it, and you cannot test it. All you can do is to try inferring it from the fossil record.

> That's all testable via the fossil record.

Sorry, that's nonsense. If I can prove to you that four-wheeled horse carriages preceded Model A Fords, it does not therefore follow that Model A Fords were the result of horse carriages mating with each other. All that you can safely infer from the fossil record is that it appears that an evolution of sorts that took place. In the case of Model A Fords, it was an evolution of design. If you assume that the evolution of life was *not* by design, you're going to beg questions.

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 22, 2005 12:41 PM


Lee Dise:

"A given mutation could have occurred randomly or it could have occurred by design."

That is flat wrong. You have drawn a false dichotomy here. Evolution could very well be guided by a deity, and therefore designed, yet the mutations would still be random to us. We can, however, discern no pattern, purpose, or objective from scientific methods, ergo it is random as judged by science.

"And by the way, you're already waist deep in metaphysics here. Either that, or this is the first time I've heard an alleged scientific theory justified on the grounds that it cannot predict anything."

I didn't justify anything. I merely defined terms.

"Sorry, that's nonsense. If I can prove to you that four-wheeled horse carriages preceded Model A Fords, it does not therefore follow that Model A Fords were the result of horse carriages mating with each other."

I don't think you can call Mark's comment nonsense and then reply with this statement. No one is saying that Model A Fords are the result of horse carriages mating with each other. Of course, the ID people try to go the other way with it. Because we have machines which are complex, and biological systems are more complex, then they must be designed, or so the argument goes.

You still have the problem of the fact that even if evolution is wrong, it posits no positive evidence for ID. Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find positive evidence for ID? Also, can you explain how it would show positive evidence for ID?

How about this: evolution works under the same scientific method as all other science. So, what makes evolution any more atheistic than any other science?

Posted by: GCT at August 22, 2005 01:26 PM


@ GCT

"You still have the problem of the fact that even if evolution is wrong, it posits no positive evidence for ID. Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find positive evidence for ID? Also, can you explain how it would show positive evidence for ID?"

So, if I'm understanding this correctly, an argument that leads to contradictions if ID (or evolution) is not *correct* is inadmissable because you haven't demonstrated ID (or evolutionary) process.

Arguments of this sort were, and maybe still are (I'm not really plugged in anymore), all the rage mathematical foundations: Platonic vs. constructivist. I guess it depends on your viewpoint.

Constructivist methodology can be limiting, although I suppose that's the preferred methodology in the sciences. But, as you're probably aware, a significant portion of mathematics at the base of the sciences is not constructive in nature. Could this be a problem?

Posted by: tommy at August 22, 2005 02:12 PM


Lee Dise writes, "Mark: I didn't say that someone could not reasonably posit the notion that all life evolved from a single cell. Of course it's a reasonable notion. All I said that it was unprovable."

You seem to be confused about what science is. Science does not consist of what is provable. Science consists of what is DISprovable. That's why postulating the existing of an Intelligent Designer is not science. (Unless you can come up with a test by which the existence of an Intelligent Designer can be DISproved.)

I gave you a TESTABLE way to DISprove evolution: find organisms that look like modern organisms (e.g., modern human skeletons) that go all the way back to the beginning of the fossil record.

If you find a modern human skeleton can be dated back 10, 20, 50, 100, or 500 million years, you will have DISproved that humans are a result of evolution from other species.

"All that you can safely infer from the fossil record is that it appears that an evolution of sorts that took place."

That's right...you can safely infer that the fossil record does not DISprove the theory of evolution. You have TESTED the theory of evolution by looking at the fossil record. And you have failed to DISprove evolution. That's all science can ever do.

If I test 100,000 machines against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and not even one of them violates that law, I have NOT "proved" the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But if I find a single machine that DOES violate that law, then I've DISproved that law. (And assured myself of a Nobel Prize in Physics!)

Evolution is science, because it can be DISproved. Until "Intelligent Design" proponents can come up with some test by which ID can be DISproved, it's not science.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 22, 2005 04:39 PM


GCT asks Lee Dise, "Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find positive evidence for ID?"

That isn't the important question. The important question for Lee Dise is, "Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find *negative* evidence for ID?"

If ID can not be falsified (proven wrong) then it's not science. No proponent of ID, to my knowledge, has ever made a testable hypothesis that they would agree will FALSIFY ID (prove it wrong).

I can do so for evolution. But no one can do so for ID. Ergo, evolution is science, and ID is not.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 22, 2005 04:46 PM


@ Mark Bahner
I agree that ID needs some bit of falsifiability and lacks it. I do feel, however, that it is important that a science also be able to make positive claims. ID, of course, can do neither.

@ tommy
"So, if I'm understanding this correctly, an argument that leads to contradictions if ID (or evolution) is not *correct* is inadmissable because you haven't demonstrated ID (or evolutionary) process."

I'm not sure what you are saying here, so let me try to rephrase what I was saying. Even if evolution is proven wrong, it would not mean that ID is automatically right. The only time that relationship works is when you have a true decision between 2 choices, which is not the case in the evolution vs. ID arena, even though the IDists would like you to think that is the case.

To go further with this; ID has to be able to say something along the lines of, "If ID is true, we would expect to see (blank) because of the fact of (blank)" and they would be expected to fill in the blanks. Of course, this is a problem for ID. For example, IDists refuse to say who is the designer, or anything about him/her/it, so it is impossible to stipulate what that designer would do.

@ Lee Dise
You haven't replied, so let me add something else that I thought of after my last reply to you. Going back to your snarky comment:

"And by the way, you're already waist deep in metaphysics here. Either that, or this is the first time I've heard an alleged scientific theory justified on the grounds that it cannot predict anything."

My reply before was a little weak (although true) on this point. Evolution can make predictions, and does. The mechanism in question operates in a random fashion. One other arena where we see a relationship like this is quantum theory, where randomness plays a major part. Your method of discussion seems to be trying to belittle your opponent, but that won't work here. Please keep the discussion civil and let's work with substance please. Please do try to answer my questions, as I've never heard of one ID hypothesis, so if you know one I'd desperately like to hear it.

Posted by: GCT at August 23, 2005 04:13 AM


> GCT: "That is flat wrong. You have drawn a false dichotomy here. Evolution could very well be guided by a deity, and therefore designed, yet the mutations would still be random to us. We can, however, discern no pattern, purpose, or objective from scientific methods, ergo it is random as judged by science."

Now it's clear which one of us doesn't understand what is meant by the term, "random mutation". You think it's a perspective; I insist that it's a specification. Tell you what: float past Richard Dawkins the idea that any apparent randomness in natural selection may be explicable by a deity, and see how much further he lets you fly before you get smacked. I just perused Darwin's chapter on natural selection, and the word "chance" (i.e., random) came up 24 times. The word "God"? Zero. The word "deity"? Zero. The word "design"? Zero.

The whole idea behind natural selection -- the part that excites atheists such as Dawkins, whom you approvingly quoted earlier -- was that it posits a world where chance mutation rules. The feedback mechanism of "natural selection" has been rhetorically designed so that it serves as a placeholder for God.

> GCT: "I don't think you can call Mark's comment nonsense and then reply with this statement. No one is saying that Model A Fords are the result of horse carriages mating with each other."

I'm perfectly comfortable with my analogy, here. The idea that common ancestry of all life is evinced by taxonomical similarities in the fossil record is one of the great propaganda ploys of evolutionists. Yet, as the auto analogy demonstrates, taxonomical similarity does not necessarily imply common ancestry. Who's to say whether similarities in fossils aren't of the same type as similarities in autos? That is, they are similar not because they evolved randomly, but because they had a designer?

> GCT: "Of course, the ID people try to go the other way with it. Because we have machines which are complex, and biological systems are more complex, then they must be designed, or so the argument goes."

I think Behe is still waiting for an evolutionist to explain the evolution of irreducibly complex mechanisms. I guess it's a question of who you think has the burden of proof.

You still have the problem of the fact that even if evolution is wrong, it posits no positive evidence for ID. Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find positive evidence for ID? Also, can you explain how it would show positive evidence for ID?

How about this: evolution works under the same scientific method as all other science. So, what makes evolution any more atheistic than any other science?

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 23, 2005 05:48 AM


Sorry, I garbled the previous posts with extraneous cut-and-paste quotes. I'll answer those here:

> GCT: "You still have the problem of the fact that even if evolution is wrong, it posits no positive evidence for ID. Do you have a hypothesis to share with us that we could test to find positive evidence for ID? Also, can you explain how it would show positive evidence for ID?"

I don't really have a horse in that particular race. I've read a lot of Behe, Johnson, Dembski, etc., and I find their arguments interesting. They seem to think an evolution of some sort happened. I'm not even willing to go that far. I'm just basically skeptical.

> GCT: "How about this: evolution works under the same scientific method as all other science. So, what makes evolution any more atheistic than any other science?"

What makes evolution atheistic is the insistence that life must have evolved randomly. They weren't content to say that it could have evolved randomly.

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 23, 2005 05:55 AM


@ Lee Dise
"Now it's clear which one of us doesn't understand what is meant by the term, "random mutation". You think it's a perspective; I insist that it's a specification. Tell you what: float past Richard Dawkins the idea that any apparent randomness in natural selection may be explicable by a deity, and see how much further he lets you fly before you get smacked. I just perused Darwin's chapter on natural selection, and the word "chance" (i.e., random) came up 24 times. The word "God"? Zero. The word "deity"? Zero. The word "design"? Zero."

Ask Miller the same question.

What I am saying, and what you refuse to understand is that evolution is NOT atheistic and does NOT rule out the logical possibility of God. It does not speak of God at all. You seem to think that it rules out God, but it plainly does not, no matter how many times you stomp your feet and declare that it does.

Does Dawkins personally believe that God guides evolution? No, he doesn't, and that is his right as a person to hold non-theistic beliefs if he so chooses. If you were to ask him whether the possibility exists that there is a God and that this God either set up evolution or somehow guides it, I don't think he could honestly say that there is no possibility of this based on the science. Again, conflating the term, "random," with atheism is not correct usage of the term.


Obviously designed systems like automobiles and biological systems that reproduce are like apples and oranges to each other. To belittle the argument from the fossil record simply because horse drawn carriages don't reproduce is simply silly. Besides, you can't make the assumption that the "intelligent designer" would make similar designs for life. The reason? Because IDists refuse to speculate about the nature of the designer, and even if they did, who's to say that they are right. It's tautological to say that the similarity of species on this planet proves design, while design proves the similarity.

"I think Behe is still waiting for an evolutionist to explain the evolution of irreducibly complex mechanisms. I guess it's a question of who you think has the burden of proof."

Behe's IC systems have not held up. Even if they do, genetic algorithms have produced IC systems through evolutionary processes, thus showing that IC systems are NOT a problem for evolution. Even if they were a problem, once again, it would not be evidence of design. Another problem with Behe is that he is unable to even point out when the IC systems were designed, what the designer did to make these IC systems, etc.

"I don't really have a horse in that particular race. I've read a lot of Behe, Johnson, Dembski, etc., and I find their arguments interesting. They seem to think an evolution of some sort happened. I'm not even willing to go that far. I'm just basically skeptical."

Perhaps you are unaware of the wedge document that clearly lays out the goals of the DI (namely to bring God back into science and the classroom.) Also, not one of them has ever come up with even one testable hypothesis. Not one. To put their musings on the level of a theory that is widely accepted and has stood the test of time for 150+ years, been tested and retested over and over again is patently absurd. Maybe when they can come up with a hypothesis we can start to take them seriously.

"What makes evolution atheistic is the insistence that life must have evolved randomly. They weren't content to say that it could have evolved randomly."

Then, you must also say that quantum theory is atheistic. Once again, I will point out that random does not equal atheism in this sense and evolution does NOT rule out the logical possibility of God.

Posted by: GCT at August 23, 2005 06:24 AM


"I'm perfectly comfortable with my analogy, here. The idea that common ancestry of all life is evinced by taxonomical similarities in the fossil record is one of the great propaganda ploys of evolutionists."

It's not a "propaganda ploy". It's called "science." The fact that we see single-celled organisms, then multi-celled organisms, then increasingly complex organisms, fails to falsify the theory that it was a pattern of evolution.

Again, if you could find a thoroughly modern human skeleton that was 50 million years old (or even 5 or 10), that would falsify the theory that homo sapiens sapiens evolved from more primitive forms, e.g. homo heidelbergensis and homo erectus:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/species.html#archaics

"Who's to say whether similarities in fossils aren't of the same type as similarities in autos? That is, they are similar not because they evolved randomly, but because they had a designer?"

No one can say. That's why hypothesizing a designer exists is not a scientific hypothesis. Elephants in China are increasingly being born without tusks:

http://www2.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-07/16/content_460623.htm

Do we know that they are **evolving** that way because those elephants who happen to be born that way are less likely to be killed by poachers, or that God is now designing them that way because She sees them being killed by poachers? (Or even because it now pleases Her to do so?) We don't know. That's not a scientific question.

What *are* scientific questions (because they can be falsified) are:

1) Are a greater percentage of elephants in China now being born tuskless than in the past?

2) Is there any variation in the percentage born tuskless, such that those born in high-poaching areas are more likely to be born tuskless?

3) If there is a higher percentage born tuskless in high-poached versus low-poached areas, does this higher percentage disappear if the poaching is eliminated?

All those are scientific questions, because the answer can be shown to be "no." What is not a scientific question is, “Is God doing all this?”…because the answer to that question can’t be conclusively shown to be “no.”

Posted by: Mark Bahner at August 23, 2005 10:13 AM


Mark Bahner, those are some wonderful examples, and ones that ID really has no way of addressing.

Posted by: GCT at August 23, 2005 11:15 AM


Science don't get poetry

Posted by: Glen at August 24, 2005 01:42 PM


> GCT: "What I am saying, and what you refuse to understand is that evolution is NOT atheistic and does NOT rule out the logical possibility of God. It does not speak of God at all. You seem to think that it rules out God, but it plainly does not, no matter how many times you stomp your feet and declare that it does."

I agree it does not necessarily rule out the idea of God. What it rules out is the idea of God as a Creator who is involved with His creation, who had man the finished product in mind before He set in motion the steps to create man. You're right, insofar as the theory leaves open entirely the idea that God may exist, so long God is viewed as a mere spectator to His creation.

We can argue this all day, but won't get anywhere until we accept each other's definitions. When I refer to "random mutation" -- chance mutation is put forth by some as a better phrase -- I mean that mutations are arrived at totally by random, chance occurrence and are not guided. Every textbook I have read, and every article I have perused on the Internet by those who are apparently and even zealously pro-evolution, has spoken of "random mutation" in the same manner that I have. This includes Gould. Dawkins quibbles and plays word games, but still refuses to accept as a possibility that the mutations were somehow guided.

You, on the other hand, present me with the idea that "random mutation" can possibly mean "non-random mutation" -- "random to us", I think was your phrase. Sorry, I'm just not aware of any literature that puts that idea forth. The whole idea of natural selection is that it is capable, by itself, of explaining the diversity of all life from one single cell. If you know of any citations by respected evolutionists that argue that "random mutation" can incorporate "designed mutation" into its definition, please point me to an article or two, if you can.

Until you do, I'm going to stand by my argument that "random mutation" is the *opposite* of "designed mutation", and that therefore God as a creative force is removed forcibly from the debate as an assumption rather than a conclusion.

> Does Dawkins personally believe that God guides evolution? No, he doesn't, and that is his right as a person to hold non-theistic beliefs if he so chooses.

Does he speak as a scientist when he argues against religion? Does he get the kind of opprobrium in scientific circles for linking his science to his atheism that unscientific mutterings by Creationists tend to get? Would you like to take the opportunity, here and now, to state that when Dawkins tries to draw metaphysical principles from physical science, that he's being unscientific?

> If you were to ask him whether the possibility exists that there is a God and that this God either set up evolution or somehow guides it, I don't think he could honestly say that there is no possibility of this based on the science.

Do I need to go out and dig up some Dawkins quotes?

> Obviously designed systems like automobiles and biological systems that reproduce are like apples and oranges to each other.

I'm drawing an analogy. All analogies are imperfect. But bear with me: living organisms are complex things; so are automobiles. The fossil record shows a gradual increase in complexity as organisms have been around longer; so do automobiles. The fossil record shows extinct species in various rock strata with certain taxonomical similarites; you can also apply the principles of taxonomy to the classification of automobiles. New functions, or adaptations, are apparent in living organisms; they are also apparent in automobiles. My argument is simply that if evolutionary inprovements in design in automotive development cannot allow us to infer anything *more* than an evolution that took place in a designer's brain, then similar evolutionary improvements in nature cannot either by necessity prove any more than that.

You say cars are "obviously designed". Well, yes, they are, I agree. The interesting thing, though, is that a living organism is a lot more complicated than a car.

> Besides, you can't make the assumption that the "intelligent designer" would make similar designs for life. The reason? Because IDists refuse to speculate about the nature of the designer, and even if they did, who's to say that they are right. It's tautological to say that the similarity of species on this planet proves design, while design proves the similarity.

It's also tautological to argue that you believe in survival of the fittest, and then turn around and define the fittest as those who survive.

> Behe's IC systems have not held up. Even if they do, genetic algorithms have produced IC systems through evolutionary processes, thus showing that IC systems are NOT a problem for evolution.

I think what they may have shown is that IC systems are not a problem for genetic algorithms. I'm certainly not an expert in genetic algorithms, but as I understand it, for them to be useful, they have to be highly specific. Here's a link, for example: http://www.generation5.org/content/2000/ga.asp

Here's part of what they had to say:

> "The limitations of genetic programming lie in the huge search space the GAs have to search for - an infinite number of equations. Therefore, normally before running a GA to search for an equation, the user tells the program which operators and numerical ranges to search under."

In other words, the writers of the genetic algorithm have to sort of help it along. If I understand them correctly, that starts to sound like... design.

> Perhaps you are unaware of the wedge document that clearly lays out the goals of the DI (namely to bring God back into science and the classroom.)

That doesn't bother me too much. I don't think ID belongs in grade school, but I don't think evolution does either. From my perspective, both are teaching metaphysics. In the public school, I'd prefer they stick to verifiable facts -- but if one side is allowed to present implicitly anti-God material, I'm fine with presenting implicitly pro-God material.

> Also, not one of them has ever come up with even one testable hypothesis.

Can you test whether all life orinated from a single cell? Evolutionists sure get worked up when others take a cue from their playbook.

Posted by: Lee Dise at August 26, 2005 10:40 PM


Lee Dise writes, "You say cars are "obviously designed". Well, yes, they are, I agree. The interesting thing, though, is that a living organism is a lot more complicated than a car."

A car is "obviously designed" because we KNOW who the designer(s) are. A living organism is not "obviously designed," in the sense that we do NOT know who the designers are/were. (Some of us may "know," in the sense of faith, but that's not like looking at the Vehicle Identification Number, and tracing the automobile back to the factory where it was assembled!)

Similarly, if we unearth chipped spearheads at archeological sites, we know they were "obviously designed"...even though the design might not be sophisticated. We know they were "obviously designed," merely because we don't have any examples in nature of spearheads spontaneously appearing. For example, even though my parents' yard in Connecticut has plenty of rocks in and on the ground, none of them are shaped and chipped like spearheads.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at October 13, 2005 10:09 AM


> A car is "obviously designed" because we KNOW who the designer(s) are.

Mark, are you saying that had human beings never invented cars, and we were to find a 2005 Honda Accord buried in a slag heap somewhere in Mesopotamia, that we would not be able to infer that it had been designed because we don't know who the designer was? In other words, unless we were to observe a Honda being built, we'd have to assume it was some sort of interesting but ultimately misleading rock formation?

After all, metal occurs in nature. Glass occurs in nature. Rubber occurs in nature. Pigment occurs in nature. Leather occurs in nature. Obviously, what has happened is that strong geological forces, over a long period of time, iron, silicon, rubber plants, and cow hide were tossed together in a primeval soup and -- remember, we're talking about billions of years -- quite by accident, a Stanley Steamer was eventually formed. In the eons since, natural selection has tended to favor gasoline powered engines, due to the abundance in nature of petroleum and the relative scarcity of steam. We know that Stanley Steamers evolved into Model Ts somehow, and eventually into Honda Accords; what we're missing, so far, is the transitional autos that bridge the evolutionary gap between steam and gasoline power. But we're still working on that.

Here's a thought: In the recent Delaware trial ID vs. Darwinism trial, SETI came up. It seems that we fund folks to listen to interstellar radio waves in the hopes of discerning an intelligent message from some unknown extraterrestrial and intelligent life form. That is, they are trying to listen to radio static and discern traces of... design.

Absolutely no one, so far, has objected to this research on the grounds that, since we cannot know who originated the broadcasts, we cannot therefore infer design should something come across that appears intelligible.

> We know they were "obviously designed," merely because we don't have any examples in nature of spearheads spontaneously appearing.

You're telling me that in a span of billions of years, it is not possible that geological forces could have formed something as relatively simple as an arrowhead. On the other hand, something as complex as life just spontaneously formed out of pond scum.

Posted by: Lee Dise at October 20, 2005 06:31 AM


(I tried to respond earlier, and it didn't take. We'll see if this one does...)

> Mark: "A car is 'obviously designed' because we KNOW who the designer(s) are."

Question: Why are we spending good money on SETI programs if design is something that cannot be inferred without first-hand knowledge of the designer? SETI is premised on the notion that there may be intelligent extra-terrestrial life, and it absolutely depends on being able to tell the difference between a random (radio "static") and a designed response (an attempt to communicate, perhaps).

> (Some of us may "know," in the sense of faith, but that's not like looking at the Vehicle Identification Number, and tracing the automobile back to the factory where it was assembled!)

Could a Honda Accord ever be mistaken for a rock formation? If some future race, long after we're gone, were to discover a well-preserved Honda Accord, and knew nothing else about us, would they be justified in inferring that intelligent life designed it? After all, metal occurs in nature. Glass occurs in nature. Resins occur in nature. Rubber occurs in nature. Petroleum occurs in nature. Maybe there was a primordial salad of some sort that tossed these various ingredients into a time-lapsed blender that eventually resulted in this particular formation. After all, we've had billions of years for such coincidences to occur.

To complicate matters, what if deeper in the strata two other fossils emerged: a 1905 Stanley Steamer and a 1932 Model A. Would anyone start searching for the missing link that connected steam power with gasoline power? Would anyone hypothesize that natural selection must have favored the gasoline powered car, and noted other evolved improvements such as the mechanical starter?

Maybe. But I don't think anyone would miss the fact that they had obviously been designed, even if no one in that distant age had ever seen an automobile factory.

> Similarly, if we unearth chipped spearheads at archeological sites, we know they were "obviously designed"...even though the design might not be sophisticated.

I don't know how you can conclude that, based on your previous objections. Just because we've heard second-hand reports that primitive man used spears to kill the mighty mammoth doesn't mean that natural geological formations could not have given rise to these rock-formational mutations.

I always find it so interesting that something as simple as a spear head provides conclusive proof of design, whereas something as complex as animal life could have, ostensibly, arisen spontaneously.

Posted by: Lee Dise at October 20, 2005 03:57 PM




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