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Derbyshire Debunks Gilder:

George Gilder of the Discovery Institute has an extended defense of "intelligent design" in the new print issue of National Review. John Derbyshire, writing on National Review Online, is wholly unconvinced. I often disagree with Derbyshire, and I found Gilder's early writings on capitalism and economic growth quite compelling when I was in college, but Derbyshire clearly gets the best of Gilder here.

On a related note, I am quite puzzled that so many conservatives who accept the idea of spontaneous order in the marketplace are nonetheless enthralled by the idea of "intelligent design." As F.A. Hayek and other important economic thinkers explained, the order and coordination of the marketplace arises spontaneously and does not require any central planner (or intelligent designer). Further, the economic order evolves over time without any such central planning, as successful innovations and organizations displace their predecessors. Why is it that those who see no need to ascribe the existence of complex evolutionary organizatioal systems to a central intelligence in one sphere find the concept so necessary in another.

Brian Cook (mail) (www):
The difference is, in markets you're not talking about the spontaneous movement of unintelligent particles resulting in a complex, functioning organism. Instead, you are counting on the random actions (driven by utility) of intelligent beings combining into an effective trade mechanism.

The two are not really comparable.
7.13.2006 3:07pm
Swimmy:
My guess is that many conservatives who believe in free markets do believe in an intelligent designer--just not a human one.
7.13.2006 3:08pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Aren't the pre-requisites for a functioning marketplace (e.g., property rights) put in place by an "intellegent designer?" Granted this doesn't mean every aspect of marketplace was designed, and it could have just emerged (evolved) after the requisite conditions were put in place.
7.13.2006 3:10pm
Chris S (www):
I think the converse question is just as apt - why do people that believe that biology has arisen spontaneously reject, out of hand, the spontaneous order of markets.
7.13.2006 3:10pm
te (mail):
Because, for the most part, people don't instill lies and petty prejudices in their children regarding the market economy so rational thought is possible in that sphere.
7.13.2006 3:14pm
Joel B. (mail):
I can only imagine that the model for "revenue" sharing at the Volokh Conspiracy has changed to a comment dependent model. We have a rehash of the box questions leading to over 200 comments, Eugene, throws in a post of soccer vs. football, and then we have an ID v. Evolution post here. Wow!
7.13.2006 3:16pm
Paddy O. (mail):
If the economic order evolves "over time" how is it the free market ideal exists in so few countries around the globe. Why, for instance, do we not see the spontaneous development of free market freedoms in the Sudan? The default is oppression. Our Constitution, that development of intelligent minds, creates the context wherein freedoms can develop. Looking around now we only see the seeming spontaneous working as the market regulates and balances and directs itself. It required, however, quite intelligent and even after 200+ years a very radical intervention into human society to create this appearance of present spontaneity.

Methinks you seem to prove the opposite point you are going for.
7.13.2006 3:21pm
Joel B. (mail):
Brian's right by the way, in a market, "the invisible hand" is each person seeking (within reason) their best interests, and so they come together, it is the coming together of two already intelligent beings, seeking their own interests. The same cannot be said for the molecular properties of the universe.

Materialism states that there is no intelligent person anywhere, the molecules and/or elements do not think, they do not work to their best interest, and even if they did what would that best interest be? To remain a stable molecule? To combine with others to be used? Why should an element of Oxygen care if it is the O in H2O or an O in CO2? The equivelence between a market an "the universe" fails.

I also honestly don't see how John Derbyshire (in this context) added much other than...Creationists don't do science. Or whatever, and the trite argument that "Evolution is Central to Modern Medicine" which doesn't really address any of the central issues of intelligent design (or even Creationism) than evolution.
7.13.2006 3:23pm
Joel B. (mail):
Great post Paddy O., and excellent point!
7.13.2006 3:24pm
williamandmaryalum (mail):
I assume this strange comparison between the markets and the universe also makes Alder an atheist? How many VC bloggers fit into this category?
7.13.2006 3:26pm
Cato:
Brian Cook has it almost right. It is that mere matter can change into living organisms and ultimately scentient ones that implies that the universe values life over non-life. Quite a strange preference for an unknowing machine, is it not?
7.13.2006 3:38pm
frankcross (mail):
I think the comparison is a fair one, despite the intentionality of people. In evolution, there are random mutations, and those that are most effective for species reproduction thrive. In free markets there are lots of ideas (some random) and those that are most effective in capturing markets thrive. In both cases, the system works better than one imposed from the top down.

Paddy O's point, in fact, misses the point. Nothing about evolution or the market says that it will evolve to perfection. The point is only that the myriad of bottom up actions produce a relatively successful functioning system as a whole. It is true that government institutions are necessary for large free markets, but this is no different than saying that certain climatic conditions are necessary for large evolution.
7.13.2006 3:43pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Derbyshire is a hopeless bigot. Shame on National Review for letting him post.
7.13.2006 3:49pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
On a related note, I am quite puzzled that so many conservatives who accept the idea of spontaneous order in the marketplace are nonetheless enthralled by the idea of "intelligent design."
I think you're describing two groups of conservatives who don't overlap overly much.
7.13.2006 3:49pm
Steve P. (mail):
John Derbyshire's analogy to 'whack-a-mole' definitely reminded me of previous conversations I've had. And Joel B., the idea that Creationists haven't done any reputable, testable, and reproducible science (except in areas unrelated to Creationism) is the key to his whole point. Asking the scientific community to throw away serious, replicable science in favor of more theories is where the problem occurs, I believe.

I am guessing that if the Discovery Institute published more papers on hard science, done in a lab, then people wouldn't be so like to dismiss the theories and ideas they seem to focus on.
7.13.2006 3:51pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Chris S.,

The theory of evolution doesn't itself suggest that natural selection leads to something perfect. It simply leads to things that are better at reproducing. That could be good or bad. With HIV, for instance, most people think it's bad. e.g., I believe in evolution, but that doesn't mean I support the spread of HIV.

It's a common misconception that evolution is supposed to somehow posit human perfection. Evolutionary theorists constantly point out the ways that evolution actually leads to undesirable things, like the appendix or the tail bone or the urinary tract going through the prostate, things we never would have chosen if we were God and started from a blank slate.

It's for this same reason that I recognize that market forces don't always lead to perfection either.

Paddy O.,

The point isn't that markets will evolve under all conditions, but rather that if markets are permitted, they will organize themselves in very complex and syngergistic ways. Liberals and conservatives both generally agree that this happens.

It's relevant, because it shows that these conservatives recognize the potential for chaos to turn into something organized, without a designer. Sure, the humans are intelligent, but you could say that's irrelevant, since they didn't design the market. It happens pretty much on its own.

I think the comparison is clearly valid, for the broad point that it is: things can organize themselves without a designer. The silly thing is that you need a comparison to show it, since the point should be so clear. Of course, you can say for whatever reason that you think natural selection didn't happen the way Darwin says. To say it's somehow impossible that nonliving things could organize themselves, though, is just silly.
7.13.2006 3:56pm
Joel B. (mail):
Having read both articles, it is completely beyond me how you could suggest that Derbyshire gets the better of the two. Gilder rightly explains the problem that any materialist has, and explains why evolution's explanations are incomplete. Derbyshire doesn't even explain anything other than to, point to Talk Origins, and mention that evolution is foundational to biology, which it most absolutely is not. Pasteur developed the vaccine for Rabbies, not as an evolutionist. Pasteur also demonstrated that life does not come from non-life. The "father" then of modern medicine handily disproves the idea that evolution is foundational to such modern medicine.

One point about the market that I think Paddy O, may be getting at, is that the free market is dependent on some external intelligence. As it is...That intelligence that the free market depends on is the intelligence of a "code of laws" without such a code, property rights are fairly meaningless. If they only right is to take what you can keep, then a free market will never develop. Further back, the "code of laws" is dependent on a human intelligence to create. A "code of laws" does not exist in nature, intelligence must create it.
7.13.2006 3:59pm
Mark F. (mail):
Um, who designed the designer?
7.13.2006 4:01pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
Joel B. wrote, "Brian's right by the way, in a market, "the invisible hand" is each person seeking (within reason) their best interests, and so they come together, it is the coming together of two already intelligent beings, seeking their own interests. The same cannot be said for the molecular properties of the universe."

My response: In our universe full of energy and particles, each particle is being pulled via various forces (gravity, magnetism, etc) and so they come together. It is this coming together of disparate particles that creates things like atoms, elements, and molecules. Given the rules by which they interact (physics), the eventual clustering of these particles stores their energy and allows for things like chemical reactions. These chemical reactions, given enough time and variety, can create self-replicating processes that increase in complexity over time. Eventually their complexity reaches the state at which you would call it, "life". Given even more time and more particles randomly changing the environment, this life increases in complexity and eventually you get "intelligence". The same cannot be said for Intelligent Design which incorporates neither design, nor intelligence.

-Riskable
http://riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
7.13.2006 4:01pm
Cornellian (mail):
"Derbyshire is a hopeless bigot. Shame on National Review for letting him post."

Sometimes, even "hopeless bigots" can be right on a particular issue.
7.13.2006 4:03pm
Joel B. (mail):
Steve P.,

I deny your underlying assumption, that "molecules to man" evolution has provided any "serious, replicable" science of its own. Pretty much all of the "evolution" I've ever seen explained, is a drawn up body on ambiguous bones, and an explanation of why something is a particular way, but as Gilder points out, I've then see evolution explain the opposite thing as well. Evolution explains "everything" and thereby "nothing."
7.13.2006 4:05pm
Paddy O. (mail):
I think frankcross misses the point about my missing the point about my point.

ID is not equivalent to Creationism. It's about first causes. A person can believe in ID and still have a very functional view of evolution among species. Creationism suggests animals burst onto their scene in their present form. ID suggests something intelligent stirred the chemical mix to make it a biochemical mix. The intelligence created the context in which the evolution towards perfection or less than perfection could take place.

That being the case the economic equivalent of ID is saying a group of people created a context into which the vast American economy was allowed to develop beyond any conceivable initial concept. Indeed the complexity of federal law suggests that it is entirely very difficult to keep economic society from descending back into utter chaos.

Note that this isn't a very good argument for ID. It's just an explanation how the economic example isn't entirely puzzling.

First causes have a faith quality about them no matter what one's position. Saying there is no God to start things off isn't more scientific than saying there is.

It's how we proceed after that. Which is why evolution has gotten such a terrible reputation. It was used to say a religious statement "there is no God" when all it could say was the process by which life, once it existed, developed. If science texts skipped first causes there would be no need for an ID debate.

Maybe it was a primordial stew and a bit of lightening. To say it absolutely was is a declaration of faith. We all are agnostic on the fact and attach our religious notions to free us from this unbearable agnosticism.
7.13.2006 4:09pm
Joel B. (mail):
Riskable-

In our universe full of energy and particles, each particle is being pulled via various forces (gravity, magnetism, etc) and so they come together.

No!...Our universe demonstrates the oppositve that over time, molecules do not "come together" they come apart, as trite as it is, our universe is one where greater order is descending uniformly into greater chaos, except where there is some external intelligence to force order. This however, seems to be uniformly rejected when it comes to "molecules to man" evolution.

Evolution has found its god...it is an drunk 8 fallen over on its side. But that is all it has, listen to anyone, the creation of the universe to an evolutionist now depends on the infinity of universes over an infinity of time, which are all "provable?" Or repeatable? I missed that part.
7.13.2006 4:10pm
Scott W. Somerville (mail) (www):
I've been surprised at how TOUCHY people get about this particular issue. I was a firm believer in [theory A] until 1991, when I read a chance note in one book that referenced some lectures John von Neumann did on "Cellular Automata" at Harvard in the 1950s. I happened to be attending Harvard Law School at the time, so I went over to the Science Library and dug up his lectures. What I read led me to reconsider my position, and now I'm a firm proponent of [theory B].

As long as I don't tell you which theory is A and which theory is B, I'm a model thinker. But if I tell which one is which, I'm beneath contempt to some folks.

I think we're at the edges of rational discourse here...
7.13.2006 4:14pm
MDJD2B (mail):
There are two questions.

The bioloigical question regarding intelligent design is whether random selection of spontaneous mutations has a statistically reasonable chance of producing highly complex structures such as the cochle, or the vertebrate lenticular eye in the time frame over which these structures developed. If the odds of this happening are infinitesimal, then one must look for other motors for invoke God's design to explain many phenomena. Non-religious scientists would like reductionist models to be able to explain everything. Such models well may, but to assume so at present involves faith as well. I don't know either the biology or the mathemeatics necessary to determine if natural selection of random mutations has a reasonable chance of accounting for speciation and for evolution of complex structures, and I doubt that most VC readers know much more. We all have to decide which experts to believe based on faith, esthetics, or wishful thinking. Someone wrote some nice essays on this subject about a year ago on the U of Chicago Law Professors blog.

Another issue is that theists have to believe there has been intelligent design of something. If God is not constructing life like a kid constructs an erector set, at least He constructed the world of physics with particles of a certain weight and forces that interact with certain constants.
7.13.2006 4:17pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
Paddy O-

You've got it exactly backwards. ID is not about first causes - it is about the mechanism (AFTER the initial spark of life, whatever it was) through which the various species have arisen (the same subject matter that evolutionary theory deals with). Further, evolutionary theory does not speak to whether or not any god or intelligent designer sparked an initial chemical reaction involving chemicals - it's just not part of evolution's subject matter.
7.13.2006 4:17pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
Joel B. wrote, "Pasteur also demonstrated that life does not come from non-life."

I would just like to point out that the above sentence is probably the perfect example of the flawed reasoning behind Intelligent Design. It assumes that non-life is so far removed from "life" that it might as well exist in a different universe.

Is the chemical reaction of DNA replicating really so different from a simple prion replicating? Even without the theory of evolution, surely you must admit that life is entirely made up of non-life!

-Riskable
http://riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
7.13.2006 4:19pm
College Student (mail):
Joel B.

You're making the classic "Second Law" argument; yes, in a closed system, you would be correct; things would tend to gravitate towards entropy, and away from order. But guess what! The Earth isn't a closed system!

This argument is also incredibly old, and very easy to debunk. It's probably the argument Derbyshire had in mind when he wrote about 'wack-a-mole.'
7.13.2006 4:19pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Why is Adler an atheist? You don't have to be godless to understand that evolution happened and is happening now; just ask the Pope.
7.13.2006 4:24pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
Derb's problem is simple. The idea that all modern medicine's advances are based on (i.e., would not have been possible without) a belief in evolution is almost laughable.

The fact of the matter is that the best science in all these fields is OBSERVATIONAL and doesn't really require a particular theory of anything. What happens in practice with evolutionary theory is that scientists start with observed fact and then try to think about how observed fact can be harmonized with their preconcieved theory of evolution.

A careful reading of Derb's recently recommended book on the subject ("Before the Dawn" by Nicholas Wade) illustrates this exact difficulty over and over. It is not easy to reconcile some (or even many) observed facts with certain aspects of evolutionary theory-- most importantly, with respect to the spontaneous generation of living molecules from dead ones, and the social behaviors that differentiate humans from most other animals.
7.13.2006 4:25pm
Colin (mail):
ID is not equivalent to Creationism.

ID is perfectly equivalent to Creationism. Its only distinctive feature is its conscious divestment of the Biblical trappings that proved so problematic at trial. ID, like traditional creationism, is a rejection of empiricism and the scientific method in favor an ideologically-dictated conclusion.
7.13.2006 4:26pm
Colin (mail):
Chandler,

I used to date a PhD student from the Harvard evolutionary biology labs. When I asked her who the major consumers of her research were, she said that aside from other academics it's pharmaceutical companies attempting to shave time off of their research. Modern pharmacology relies very heavily on a detailed understanding of the differences between human and non-human biology, which proceeds from an understanding of evolution. That's just one example; you might also look into epidemiology, which is very interested in understanding the evolution of microorganisms (and immune systems).
7.13.2006 4:30pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, ID is just a word (an abbreviation here). Practically, it is pretty equivalent to creationism as was demonstrated in the Pennsylvania litigation, where textbook authors simply did a search and replace for creationism and intelligent design.

If ID just meant first causes, abiogenesis, it would not be so controversial. But in fact, ID as commonly used means that the designer created specific features of living animals, that they were created rather than being evolved. Thus, the ID people claim that something so complex as an eye could not have evolved. This is far beyond abiogenesis
7.13.2006 4:31pm
Joel B. (mail):
College Student...

Are you suggesting as a whole then, that there is some kind of external energy acting on the universe (because after all the universe must be an open system to defy the second law), what is this energy? Is there some kind of perpetual motion machine of which I was not aware?

Riskable - Sure lifeforms are made of "atoms" and in that sense comprise non-life. Just as the wind blowning lines in sand do not make a sentence. But what about "infinite time and chance." Like I said, evolution has found its god.
7.13.2006 4:32pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
Paddy O. wrote, "ID suggests something intelligent stirred the chemical mix to make it a biochemical mix. The intelligence created the context in which the evolution towards perfection or less than perfection could take place."

Therein lies the problem: What process created the intelligence? Surely a scientist could not sit idly and accept such a theory as true without experimentation and peer-reviewed replicated results!

Or perhaps you are suggesting that intelligence is something that evolves, er, that occurs through some unknown natural process entirely different from evolution? Something we cannot observe or detect in any way? Something that doesn't exist?

-Riskable
http://riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
7.13.2006 4:33pm
exfizz:
ShipErect makes a good point, one that has struck me as well: within the Judeo-Christian world, the opposition to evolution comes from a very small segment. Catholics don't seem to mind it; nor Orthodox, nor Anglicans, nor Jews, and so on. It's a sub-species of American Protestants who get really worked up about it.

(I have no good explanation for this phenomenon, but as a retired physicist I generally spend most of my time on this subject holding my head in my hands, anyway, wondering why the strongest scientific &technological nation on Earth would willingly lobotomize itself...)
7.13.2006 4:35pm
College Student (mail):
Josh Chandler,

You may be better read on the subject than I, but my expirences were right in line with the premise you find almost laughable. My first year of college was in Biomedical Engineering. Pretty much nothing of of the bio I learned that year would make sense or be usefull in BME without evolutionary theory.
It may be that all the best science is observational, but to get to get to that level without the theory is, in my limited expirence, not possible.
7.13.2006 4:36pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
Joel B. wrote, "molecules do not "come together" they come apart, as trite as it is, our universe is one where greater order is descending uniformly into greater chaos"

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but if molecules didn't come together you wouldn't be sitting in front of that keyboard. You'd be a gaseous mess of basic elements floating about in an ever expanding space.

-Riskable
http://riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
7.13.2006 4:37pm
Toby:
In a former life, as a synaptic pharmacology research, and later working with designer anti-cancer researcher, I echo quite loudly the memes of Colin's friend.

It always strike me that people who want God to appear before them as a testable reproducible process (such as ID) must have poor weak kind of faith...

"So that about sums it up, God no longer works in mysterious ways, but in these three defined laws of godhood. IT will be on the AP exams in the Spring" THis would take one past the free will/predestination debates to the kind of clock-work automata that Marxian analysis postulates.

Why so-called conservatives want to go there is beyond me.
7.13.2006 4:40pm
College Student (mail):
Joel B.,

I am suggesting as a whole then, that there is some kind of external energy acting on the earth (because after all, the earth must be an open system to defy the second law). Is there some kind of giant ball of fusion contributing a huge amount of energy at the expense of a greater amount of internal entropy?
7.13.2006 4:42pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I've always found that the most intelligent thing a designer could do would be to craft a system which would by itself lead to increases in complexity and diversity without further constant input from the designer. How wonderfully elegant a system that maintains and advances itself like that. The god who couldn't manage to set up an evolutionary framework is a rather shabby one indeed.
7.13.2006 4:42pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
It's a sub-species of American Protestants who get really worked up about it.

I have one pet explanation. This sub-species evolved in the mid to late 1800s at the same time as other competing ideologies also grew in an attempt to contain the effects of the Industrial Revolution--Victorianism, communism, nationalism. These ideologies affected other countries more than the U.S., but since America has historically been technologically more advanced, we got stuck with people who don't like the fruits of science.
7.13.2006 4:43pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Is there some kind of giant ball of fusion contributing a huge amount of energy at the expense of a greater amount of internal entropy?

Maybe Joel B. lives in Seattle and hasn't seen this fusion-ball you're talking about.
7.13.2006 4:44pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
"Modern pharmacology relies very heavily on a detailed understanding of the differences between human and non-human biology, which proceeds from an understanding of evolution."

My experience is limited-- sounds like yours is somewhat limited, too-- but my conversations with friends who should know (i.e., a Ph.D. biochemist with his own lab at NIH)lead me to believe that you are overstating the vaguely-stated connection you assert between the observational research that gets done at these labs and Darwinian theories of speciation through evolution.

I don't deny that these scientists believe in evolutionary theory, or that, to some extent, the manner in which certain molecules change over time bears some relationship to evolutionary theory, just that the observations these people have made over time in a lab, not the theory of evolution, are what is valuable. Moreover, those observations would exist with or without the theory.
7.13.2006 4:44pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
I've said it before, I'll say it again.

If you do not believe in God, the notion that He has had any part in anything is simply ludicrous.

If you *do* believe in God, the notion that He has NOT had a part in anything is simply ludicrous.

It is on that fundamental belief that the entire discussion rests, and it is not a rational belief that can be decided in a rational fashion. Furthermore, it is PERFECTLY IRRELEVANT to any scientific endeavor, so there is simply no scientific value in pursuing it.

There is, of course, immense non-scientific value in that belief. Unfortunately, God throws a bit of a spanner into the works when you try to find causes and systems, in much the same way you can't play effective chess if every piece can be moved anywhere and take anything. Both players are immediately in check at the beginning of the game, and the only possible move for white is to take black's king and immediately win the game. It's a stupid set of rules.

If you prefer to look at science as an analysis of what God is doing, please, feel free. Just don't insist that EVERYONE look at it the same way you do.
7.13.2006 4:45pm
byomtov (mail):
I am quite puzzled that so many conservatives who accept the idea of spontaneous order in the marketplace are nonetheless enthralled by the idea of "intelligent design."

Perhaps their reasons are political rather than scientific.
7.13.2006 4:45pm
steve k:
If anything Derbyshire doesn't go far enough. All great science work that I'm aware of, even that done by deeply religious people, proceeded from materialist presumptions. Replacing it with the new metaphysic that attempts to go beyond materialism (I mean really doing it, not just mouthing platitudes before you go back to materialism) will prevent any serious science from being done. Instead of actually studying how things have worked, or will work, in specific testable ways with actual observations, you'll create a science where nothing can be confirmed and nothing can actually be known.
7.13.2006 4:46pm
Colin (mail):
College Student,

Such a thing is impossible, and just another example of how desparate liberal scientists are to worship secularism. Why, do you have any idea how impossibly huge your imaginary "giant ball of fusion" would have to be? At least as big as the moon.

How your imaginary fusion-moon could possible add enough energy to allow molecules to coalesce or trees to grow or bloggers to type is quite beyond the comprehension of the most accomplished of creation scienctists, and therefore unknowable.
7.13.2006 4:46pm
jimbino (mail):
ExFizz: I belong to the same club and find it interesting that over 90% of hard scientists (mathematicians, physicists, chemists, biologists) are atheists of some stripe. On this blog we have to deal with a lot of lawyer types, most of whom are believers, I think. The gulf is wide, and most folks will never lift themselves from superstition.
7.13.2006 4:46pm
Joel B. (mail):
Riskable -

You say I hate to be the one to break this to you, but if molecules didn't come together you wouldn't be sitting in front of that keyboard. As though this keyboard just magically came together. You and I both know that is not the case, in fact there was some external intelligence that developed a series of ways of manipulating matter to develop plastic, the conductors, and all the extremely complex components that went together in putting together this keyboard. You say molecules put themselves together in a way that is more useful to me. I have observed the opposite, molecules left to themselves, become less useful to me. But you know, that's just my experience.

College Student states that "pretty much nothing" of the biology learned in their Biomedical Engineering course would have made sense without evolutionary theory. I am curious, what exactly would have been useless without or nonsensical without "molecules to man" evolution? What science did you learn that would fall apart without "molecules to man" evolution.

(I note that creationists, like myself, do not reject variability within created kind.)
7.13.2006 4:47pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I note that creationists, like myself, do not reject variability within created kind.

What's a kind? Is this what Noah brought on the ark?
7.13.2006 4:50pm
Rational Actor:
Jimbino:

find it interesting that over 90% of hard scientists (mathematicians, physicists, chemists, biologists) are atheists of some stripe.

What is the source for this data? Both of my parents are hard scientists and neither is an atheist. Many of their professional colleagues are also religious, or at least quite spiritual. Given that a tiny percentage of people identify as atheists, I find your 90% number quite improbable.
7.13.2006 4:50pm
Colin (mail):
Chandler, you understand that evolutionary theory isn't purely theoretical, right? That is to say, it makes testable predictions that are reliably born out in practice. That is why pharmacological researchers call on evolutionary biologists, rather than creation scientists, to understand the differences in how humans and chimpanzees metabolize potassium. It's why oil exploration outfits hire micropaleontologists instead of ID-advocates to help date core samples. It's why when Tiktaalik was discovered, people said, "Oh, we've been waiting for that," instead of, "Oh my God, a four legged fish? Impossible!"

I've yet to hear any testable prediction that ID / creationism makes, much less one that was tested and confirmed. Not one.
7.13.2006 4:50pm
non_Lawyer:
Riskable,

Or perhaps you are suggesting that intelligence is something that evolves, er, that occurs through some unknown natural process entirely different from evolution? Something we cannot observe or detect in any way? Something that doesn't exist?

If you accept the laws of thermodynamics, that is, that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and that energy cannot be created nor destroyed;
Why not also accept that intelligence is eternal?
As such, the intelligent creator of all things need not have a creator.
Kinda funny to me how those whose faith is in science can accept "infinity" but not "eternity."
Quick question for evolutionists:
Where did all the matter and energy come from in the first place? If all of *this* was built by itself, who created the building blocks? Does not our very existence, and the existence of the observable universe, logically denote a Creator?
7.13.2006 4:51pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Biological evolution is not inconsistent with a creator or intelligent designer. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

I don't know if evolution of some form or type is accurate or not. There is certainly evidence for differentiation via evoltionary forces WITHIN a species. There is much speculation but a lot less evidence for trans species biological evolution.

For me however with regard to the existence of God or a creator or intelligent designer biological evolution on Earth is but a small part of the total picture. To be an atheist or non-deist or non-creator/non-intelligent designer in its purest form one must believe that the entire universe sprang from nothing (big bang) went through a period of time of unknown duration when there was clearly NO LIFE of even the simplest kind, then spontaneously given enough time and chances life developed from NO LIFE and then again given only enough time and chances those elemental amino acids became a Human Brain an Eye and functioning Human organism (as well as all the other forms of life on planet earth).

I just have a hard time having *faith* and that's what it is belief in the unknown that non-life becomes a human being given only enough time and chances. Yet that is exactly what the non-deists/atheists/agnostics MUST believe. I find that it takes just as much if not MORE *faith* (belief in the unknown) to believe non-life becomes a human being given enough time and chances as it does to believe there is a creator/intelligent designer for all of the universe just not the small part of universe time that represents biological evolution on the planet Earth.

I also find it difficult to reconcile why the faith believers in chance and time feel their ideas must be protected by the government from even the slightest consideration that maybe it takes more than mere chance and time to get from the big bang to Einstein. Then again the rabid anti-creator anti-deist bigots don't even recognize that they have *faith* in the unknown just like deists have *faith* in the unknown. They criticize *faith* in deists but refuse to recognize the strong and profound elements of *faith* in their own non-deity religion.

Biological evolution may exist. It may be a tool used by the creator. I don't know the answer for sure. Nobody does. There is only speculation. However, one thing is for sure to get from non-life and the big bang to Einstein it takes a hell of a lot more than just time and enough chances, imho.

Deists have their faith and non-deists have their faith. Both have *faith* in the unknown, don't kid youself.

Says the "Dog"
7.13.2006 4:51pm
Joel B. (mail):
Since this fusion ball contributes to order on the Earth, would you suggest to everyone to get maximum exposure to said fusion ball, preferably without sunscreen or ozone layer so as to obtain, the maximum affect of this great "fusion" ball in the sky.

You didn't answer my question though, and my original statement that at the universe level...Is all the universe wearing down? Or is there some external energy acting on the universe as a whole?
7.13.2006 4:53pm
Colin (mail):
Ship,

Yes, "kinds" are Ark-types (if you'll excuse the execrable play on words). But they're not often acknowledged to be such. Basically, dogs are a "kind," which is why different breeds aren't "evolution." But chimpanzees and humans are different "kinds," so there can be no common ancestor. It's a sort of very basic, very simple Linnean map. Google "baraminology" (the schmancy term) to learn more.
7.13.2006 4:54pm
College Student (mail):
"matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and that energy cannot be created nor destroyed;"

The reason this second-law argument is flawed is because it is A. inaccurate (they can be converted to each other, and also created and destroyed on the quantum level) and B. not relevent to evolution (see my hypothetical fusion ball).

"Where did all the matter and energy come from in the first place?" That's an interesting question, and not in the realm of evolutionary biology.
7.13.2006 4:54pm
Fishbane (mail):
What this thread leads me to believe is that there are a lot of attorneys out there with a serious need for a remedial science class.
7.13.2006 4:56pm
College Student (mail):
"Is all the universe wearing down?"

Yes, actually, it is. Science expects the universe to eventually end in heat-death or proton-decay. But that doesn't mean some parts of the universe-system (earth) can have increased order at the expese of other parts of the universe-system (sun).
7.13.2006 4:57pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
If all of *this* was built by itself, who created the building blocks?

This is an endless Russian doll problem. From where did that creator come? "It is eternal" is not an answer; material could be eternal, but these questions are all outside the boundaries of science.

Does not our very existence, and the existence of the observable universe, logically denote a Creator?

First, prove that we do, in fact, exist.
7.13.2006 4:57pm
Colin (mail):
Junk,
There is much speculation but a lot less evidence for trans species biological evolution.

That's not actually true. There is an enormous mountain of data for speciation in particular and evolution of species more generally. Try the Talk Origins FAQ for details.

Joel,

I'm not sure that you are working with an accurate understanding of entropy. Localized reductions of entropy are possible, so long as the overall system increases in entropy. There is no clash between thermodynamics and the motion, collection, whatever of molecules.

Would you assuage my curiosity? I wonder if you've done any research on these questions, and if so, do you rely on creationist sources or read more broadly? What sorts of sources have you used? Would you mind giving us specifics? I ask because I often find that creationists have a very shaky grip on the underlying science, which comes from creationist authors playing fast and loose with facts but self-representing as authorities. See, i.e., the common creationist claim that mutations cannot add 'information' to a genome.
7.13.2006 4:58pm
Colin (mail):
Fishbane,

Amen.
7.13.2006 4:59pm
Joel B. (mail):
Colin,

Your examples of looking at chimpanzees to understand the human system still works from an intelligent design perspective for a simple reason. We would expect a designer to use repeated useful structures, for example, a young mechanic would probably start working on a lawnmower engine before working on a car engine. Or perhaps, the young electrical engineer might start working on older radios before opening up a computer. This would not seem to upset the, try it out on a chimpanzee before a human methodology.
7.13.2006 5:00pm
Manturtle (mail):
This debate always reminds me of the problems of squaring a circle or trisecting an angle with a ruler and compass. These two operations are provably impossible, and yet some math professors and departments continually get 'solutions' from people who think they have solved the unsolvable problems.

Some people apparently cannot believe that something as seemingly simple as trisecting an angle is actually impossible with a ruler and compass. I don't begrudge them their beliefs, but I'm not about to go through each of their attempts and point out where they are wrong. Likewise with ID, and I think Derbyshire captures this exasperation quite well. You either know the math or you don't, and likewise you either know the science or you don't.
7.13.2006 5:00pm
A.C.:
More for Josh Chandler,

A lot of early biology was more like what we call natural history today -- collecting observations without a whole lot of theory driving the enterprise. Brand-new fields are often like that, because there is no point in theorizing before you have assembled a preliminary knowledge base.

But then comes theory, in this case the theory of evolution. Theory is based on the observations that have been collected so far, assembled into a coherent picture that leads to certain predictions about what the NEXT set of observations are likely to be. Once the theory is there and the predictions are made, scientists go out and collect the new observations.

What then? There are three basic scenarios:

1. The observations match what the theory predicts, in which case the theory becomes more important in the field;
2. The observations don't match the predictions, and the honest scientist publishes the observation honestly. People in the field then have loads of fun discussing how the theory might be modified to account for this new information. This is actually a very good thing for the growth of the field.
3. The observations don't match, but the dishonest scientist covers up the fact. His or her professional rivals proceed to find this out, and things unfold as in (2) but with someone to kick around.

Repeat forever -- the system never really closes down, because there is always someplace new to make more observations. Theories get better as the field advances. They predict more things, perhaps over wider areas, and they allow applied researcher to target their efforts more accurately and produce more things (vaccines, medicines etc.) that people want.

The trouble with critics of evolution is that they tend to focus on a simplified and static concept of what the theory is for. If an observation contradicts any particular version of evolutionary theory that has EVER existed, they pull out of the whole exercise (and sometimes try to get everyone else to abandon it too) rather than trying to see how the new observation can be incorporated with the body of knowledge accumulated so far. That's a fundamentally unscientific thing to do. Science is the process, not the state of knowledge on any given day, and attempting to short-circuit the process takes you out of the realm of science and into something else.
7.13.2006 5:01pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
Colin:

We may be talking about very different things using the same words. If you mean that, through observations, scientists have discovered many different ways in which molecules can grow and change over time, due to differentiations, genetic drift, etc.-- and that's all you mean-- I agreee.

If you mean that Darwinian theory of speciation through evolution has been "confirmed" by different predictions made by the theory coming true, I would say that it's much more of a mixed bag.

For example, if you read N. Wade's book (he's not a scientist, but Edward O. Wilson endorses the book as a very good explanation of current science, FWIW) you will see that what happens in practice is not prediction followed by confirmation, but observation followed by harmonization. A good example is with respect to certain social behaviors of chimps, as well as humans, that are not easily explained in terms of reproductive advantage or population pressures. When Wade summarizes the current view, it is simply not all that plausible.

My point is that the "prediction" game doesn't go as as far as you think. That is not what scientists even pretend to do, at least now that evolution is accepted as the proper framework. They make observations and then back them into the theory. Some of these observations don't really harmonize that well. Some do. Indeed, I would say that some of the predictions made by evolutionary theory are at least prima facie contradicted by observable facts-- the evolution of language for instance, is still very difficult to plausibly explain. I'm not saying it can't be done, or won't be done, just that you're overstating the case.
7.13.2006 5:02pm
Rational Actor:
either you believe, or you don't....
7.13.2006 5:03pm
non_Lawyer:
JunkYardLawDog:

Well said. Well said, indeed!

In fact, I would say that the "faith" required to accept non-theistic belief systems is phenominally intense compared to theistic belief systems.

After all: I think it, ironically, runs contrary to Occam's Razor to believe that all things came into being by chance.
7.13.2006 5:04pm
College Student (mail):
"I think it, ironically, runs contrary to Occam's Razor to believe that all things came into being by chance."

Occam's Razor does /not/ say "The simplest solution is the correct one." It says "The solution which introduces the least extranious elements is most likely to be closest to reality."

Introducing invisible fairies runs contrary to Occam's Razor, while something you think unlikely does not.
7.13.2006 5:09pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
In fact, I would say that the "faith" required to accept non-theistic belief systems is phenominally intense compared to theistic belief systems.

I think you're confusing faith with the thick skin necessary to put up with believers who loudly state that everyone must believe in some kind of god. And I say this as a Christian.
7.13.2006 5:10pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
I forgot to point out another error in Paddy O's comments when he wrote, "The intelligence created the context in which the evolution towards perfection or less than perfection could take place."

Since when is our existence perfection? The theory of evolution doesn't gravitate towards perfection. It only gravitates toward increasing complexity.

At any given moment, all living things are in their most evolved state. If you gaze upon an oak tree, what you will see is a culmination of the evolutionary process. It is our magnificent cousin of extreme distance whose brothers and sisters carried us through the ages. Like our family of homo sapiens, its branches extend in all directions and we share a common ancestor. We both live our lives in our own ways and we are both lockstep in the process called evolution.

To suggest that we're somehow "perfect" or that we're done evolving just demonstrates that you don't understand the concept. Evolution may make a man, but a man does not an evolution make.

-Riskable
http://riskable.com
"I have a license to kill -9"
7.13.2006 5:11pm
AnandaG:
After all: I think it, ironically, runs contrary to Occam's Razor to believe that all things came into being by chance.

Good thing the theory of evolution says no such thing, then.
7.13.2006 5:12pm
non_Lawyer:
ShipErect:

material could be eternal, but these questions are all outside the boundaries of science.

Certainly the origin of matter/energy is within the boundaries of science. Or perhaps it is not, but then neither is the origin of species (good pun, eh?)


Does not our very existence, and the existence of the observable universe, logically denote a Creator?

First, prove that we do, in fact, exist.

Puh-leeze. That is a completely insufficient response (read: cop-out) to a perfectly legitamate question. If I am required to prove that we exist in order for my points and questions to be held valid, then it is impossible to have a rational discussion with you.
7.13.2006 5:15pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
What kind of Intelligent designer would have made the prostate gland so that it completely surrounds the urethra, and then enlarges with increasing age so that you have to get up in the middle of the night to piss? Seems like it could have been done better.
7.13.2006 5:19pm
College Student (mail):
"What kind of Intelligent designer would have made the prostate gland so that it completely surrounds the urethra?"
A computer scientist. That way, you eventually have to upgrade to the new, patched model.
7.13.2006 5:22pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
Drackmann:

Hilarious.
7.13.2006 5:22pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Certainly the origin of matter/energy is within the boundaries of science. Or perhaps it is not, but then neither is the origin of species (good pun, eh?)

Since matter originated at the exact same time as the physical laws that govern the universe (the Big Bang), science, which uses observation to uncover these physical laws, cannot describe anything that came beforehand.

That is a completely insufficient response (read: cop-out) to a perfectly legitamate question.

You asserted "We exist, therefore our Creator exists." What are the bounds of existence? Why does "existence" include an eternal Creator? We can only imagine the eternal; we have never observed it. If existence does not include the eternal, who created the Creator? This is a Russian doll problem.
7.13.2006 5:24pm
non_Lawyer:

I think you're confusing faith with the thick skin necessary to put up with believers who loudly state that everyone must believe in some kind of god. And I say this as a Christian.

I'm not saying everyone must believe anything in particular. Just stating that it makes no sense TO ME to NOT belive in God. And you're kidding yourself if you think that non-believers are the only ones who need a "thick skin" nowadays, when it's so clear that believers are under constant assault from the other side.

But, like someone else said in this thread, either you believe, or you don't. I'd add to that, that there is also a lot of "in between" for some people. But those with the strongest opinions know very well which side they come down on, and it is highly unlikely that they will be persuaded in the least by the other side. So, the result is the extremes fighting over which folks from the middle they can win over.

What a mess, huh?
7.13.2006 5:25pm
Colin (mail):
Nono, College Student. It must have been an urban planner from Texas A&M. Who else would put a wastewater pipeline through a recreational facility?
7.13.2006 5:27pm
Colin (mail):
Joel,

The value is not in describing the difference between a chimp and a man. It is in predicting the difference. That is, will Substance A work better in human trials than Substance B, given that both worked equally well in rhesus monkeys?

This, again, is where creationism fails. At its very best, it coopts the results of empirical biology and claims, "We could have predicted that, too." But it didn't. And it's not starting to, either. Again, where are the testable predictions, not to mention the confirmed predictions, of creationism? Derbyshire is right on track when he says that it's ludicrous for such a spectacularly failed research program to pretend to have the scientific high ground.
7.13.2006 5:28pm
Joel B. (mail):
Colin,

I readily understand that their can be localized increases in order as long as the greater system continues "winding down." My point is more simply that at the higher level entropy still applies our universe is winding down, so to suggest that molecules just put themselves together in someway to create greater order and complexity defies our general understanding. Hydrocarbons get broken down to less useful CO2 and H2O etc. So, to explain that gravity and magnetism "puts molecules" together is insufficient because on a larger order, things are not getting "put together" which was more a response to riskable's magical assembly point. The magical fusion ball point is also a simple one, that an unstructured introduction of "raw energy" in a system is hardly a positive thing generally either, this is also why we refridgerate our food, instead of putting it in the sun.

As to my general sources, let me say, I read a lot of different things, I've poured through the talk.origins website (which I have found quite poorly done my favorite example is here http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB090.html, the author claims abiogenesis is a fact because evolution is a fact, therefore evolution must be true. I saw that and was like, wow...impressive!) To be honest, that "proof" demonstrated to me, how bankrupt and circular evolutionary "logic" is in practice.

I have come to highly value the information that Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research has provided, and find it to be a far better explination of the world we see. I would be lying if I did not suggest that my ultimate primary source is the word of God. Additionally I find the "tablet theory" to be extremely persuasive from a reading of Genesis. This suggests that the past world had eyewitnesses who recorded history, and left it to their descendants who ultimately would become the people of Israel.

The evaluation of evolution vs. creation has been done with a great deal of introspection along the way, as crass as it is, I have sought myself to discard Creationism, I know that may be hard to believe from your PoV, but that is much the reason I have gone over much the talk.origins archive. If I could genuinely believe that there was no God, I would, life in would be far easier for me if there wasn't.

I thought it was very interesting, if you read Guilder's essay he refers to the idea of a "universal computer" as silly as it is, I have long thought of this myself, the human mind and so much of the world works so much like a computer, but the computer had to be built and put together, and then put to use.

I then think of my own computer, which I put together, because sometimes it seems as though it has a mind of its own slowing down getting infected with spyware whatever, and I think if I knew my computer had free will...and rebelled against me...What would I do to it? I would format the darn thing and start again, I might even destroy it (throw it away). And so, then I ask myself, what should be my response to the one who put me together? If I rebel against him does he not have the right (dare I say the duty), to wipe me out and put something back together that will not rebel and be useful. This is why I think life is more difficult with God than without him. If he exists, I owe duty to him, as my computer owes duty to me, if he does not I am free to do with myself as I would please, and then after 80 years, my time would be complete. It is instead the recognition that he exists, and that my rebellion against him would destroy me, not him, that takes work.
7.13.2006 5:28pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
Colin:

"The value is not in describing the difference between a chimp and a man. It is in predicting the difference. That is, will Substance A work better in human trials than Substance B, given that both worked equally well in rhesus monkeys?"

You don't need a theory of evolution to tell you that. In fact, it doesn't purport to. You need observational knowledge of the relative genomic and chemical structures of the organisms in question. Scientist understand their findings in terms of evolutionary theory, but the observations would be just as valuable without that understanding.
7.13.2006 5:33pm
Colin (mail):
Chandler,

Of course theories adapt to meet the facts. That is part of the scientific process. (Another part that creationism, even the ID sort, fails -- see Derbyshire's description of how the same arguments keep recycling in creationist literature.) That doesn't change the predictive nature of biology, or add a predictive element to intelligent design.

Here is a (very abbreviated) list of confirmed predictions made by evolutionary theory. You won't find the evolution of language on there. Why not? It's not part of evolutionary biology. Cultural evolution, like stellar evolution, is just a homonym. Biological evolution is the study of replicators.

I eagerly await a listing of the testable predictions made by creationism.
7.13.2006 5:36pm
non_Lawyer:

Since matter originated at the exact same time as the physical laws that govern the universe (the Big Bang), science, which uses observation to uncover these physical laws, cannot describe anything that came beforehand.

If the laws governing the universe came into existence at the fanciful "Big Bang," then what laws/forces/operators initiated the Big Bang, the matter involved in it, and the physical laws which emanated forth from it? To say "that is not within the realm of science and therefore not discussable here" is akin to claiming that "I can't discuss what makes an automobile work because I don't know who bought the gas for it and that is a fiscal matter, not an engineering question."

Perhaps that is the inherent problem with reliance on science. The fatal flaw of science is that it does not and cannot provide the answers to the most important questions. I just wish those who put so much stock in science would quit purporting that it can and does.

If science is unfit to answer the big questions, maybe it should willingly take its relegated position subordinate to religion, instead of constantly trying to usurp that authority.

Science is great for measuring stuff and trying to predict stuff. It strays into the wrong territory when it starts trying to explain stuff it can't possibly explain.
7.13.2006 5:38pm
ray_g:
"..within the Judeo-Christian world, the opposition to evolution comes from a very small segment"

Which I believe are those who take the Bible very literally. The theory of evolution says exactly nothing about the existence or non-existence of a deity. However, the time scales necessary for evolution does a lot of violence to the idea that the world was created around 6000 years ago.

I recommend a facinating book called "Measuring Eternity",which describes the history of humanity's efforts to measure the age of the universe.
7.13.2006 5:45pm
Confused:
Umm, okay, non_lawyer, i'll bite. What exactly do you think are the "most important questions?" You mean to tell me that all of what science has developed and proven over the years isn't important?
7.13.2006 5:48pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
I didn't say theories are adapted to fit the facts. I said that the facts are jammed into a theory that doesn't plausibly fit them, at least provisionally.

As for the predictions, there are as many very problematic issues as consistent ones. In such a circumstance, the proper attitude is skepticism, not uncritical acceptance.

You assume (incorrectly) that language is a social trait. Currently accepted view (per Wade's book) is that it has (and must have) a genetic (and therefore biologically evolutionary) basis-- I won't go into the evidence in detail, but it is extensive and (I think persuasive). Noam Chomsky (with whom I otherwise have little in common) is the one who first propounded this view. It is the state of the art. But there is no good explanation for how a linguistic capability could have evolved.

I am not a creationist. I am a person who thinks that we should be more critical and realistic about the faults and flaws of evolutionary theory, because the evidence is not as strong as some claim.
7.13.2006 5:49pm
non_Lawyer:

I eagerly await a listing of the testable predictions made by creationism.

I don't think that coming up with "testable predictions" is a charge that should be laid to creationism.
In accordance with my last post, that is like requiring scientism to come up with a list of laws such as "The Golden Rule" or "The Ten Commandments" or the Levitical Code.
I say, leave science to the scientists, and religion to the religious. That is one reason I do NOT believe in ID.
I am a strict creationist.
7.13.2006 5:50pm
Colin (mail):
Joel,

My point is more simply that at the higher level entropy still applies our universe is winding down, so to suggest that molecules just put themselves together in someway to create greater order and complexity defies our general understanding.

No, it doesn't. Consider this claim, and your argument that the sun isn't a sufficient source of energy for the Earth to be an open system. Leaving aside the science (I assume that neither of us are qualified to present an off-the-cuff mathematical proof), do you really think that generations of physicists somehow didn't notice that the entire universe violates the second law of thermodynamics? Can you provide any citation to a non-creationist source who can back up your rather shocking interpretation?

I don't see the claim you read into the TOFAQ. It makes two points: first, that evolutionary biology doesn't require a theory of abiogenesis, and second, that abiogenesis obviously occurred because there was a period in which there was no life on earth. Those are not circular claims, much less "bankrupt" ones.

Also, Answers in Genesis is a terrible place to learn science. As proof of this, see your faulty understanding of thermodynamics. If you're after theology, exegesis, apologetics, whatever, then that might be your source of choice. But AIG is there to support creationism, not to provide reliable scientific information that runs contrary to their presuppositions. (In fact, their A1 priority is that "The scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.") They're also six-day creationists, and there is more evidence for a flat earth than a 6,000 year-old earth. This is why they spend so much time calculating the tonnage of the dinosaurs on the Ark and so little time publishing or reviewing professional scientific literature.

Try a textbook to learn more about science; the Bible is notoriously short on formulae.
7.13.2006 5:51pm
Colin (mail):
Chandler,

That's an interesting take on language, and one I wasn't aware of. Thank you. But the most generous possible interpretation of that criticism is that there is something that evolutionary theory doesn't presently explain. How does that show that "the evidence is not as strong as some claim"? Derbyshire deals with this strain of criticism pretty well in the article when he slaps down Behe's IC nonsense. A more efficient way of putting it would be, "Show me a more successful theory."
7.13.2006 5:54pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Why is science subordinate to religion in your world, non_Lawyer? Seems best to keep the two apart. Creationists (such as those on the Dover, PA school board) are proven very foolish when the two are mixed together.
7.13.2006 5:55pm
non_Lawyer:

What exactly do you think are the "most important questions?" You mean to tell me that all of what science has developed and proven over the years isn't important?

You ask two questions.
1) The most important questions are:
a) Who are we (in the big picture)?
b) Where did we come from (our spirits, not our bodies)?
c) Where are we going (our spirits, not our bodies)?
d) Why are we here (what is the purpose of our lives here on earth)?
e) What should we be doing to fulfill our purpose?
f) How can we know for ourselves the answers to these questions?
g) Why is that knowledge important?

2) No. I did not say that the accomplishments of science are unimportant. In relation to the above questions they are certainly less important. But, sure, they are important in their own way. I never meant to imply that they weren't of value, and I don't believe that I did.
7.13.2006 5:59pm
non_Lawyer:

Why is science subordinate to religion in your world, non_Lawyer? Seems best to keep the two apart. Creationists (such as those on the Dover, PA school board) are proven very foolish when the two are mixed together.

We are in agreement here. I think the two should be kept apart, but scientists can't seem to keep their grubby little latex gloves off my Creation. ;)
7.13.2006 6:03pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
I understand the "show me a more successful theory" argument, and it's a nice fallback. I have no problem reaping what insights we can from evolutionary theory, but I don't think it explains as much of observed reality as people say.

Also, "the most generous possible interpretation" of the criticism that evolution doesn't explain language, an observed phenomenon (which Darwinism must explain to be valid) is that evolution is not valid. The MINIMUM compelled conclusion is that it "doesn't presently explain" it.

My claim is that this is not the only example-- in fact there are many similar issues. If a theory has too many things that it should explain but can't, eventually it should be dumped, right? But will evolution get dumped? Ever?

I realize that we haven't got anything better, but that could be because people aren't really looking. No one looked for relativity either-- Newtonianism was fine. But relativity turns out to be (far more so than speciation by evolution) probably true, and borne out by observable fact.

I am glad we have evolution, but let's not get carried away with making claims for it (i.e., all medicine depends on it) that are overstated at best, or maybe silly.
7.13.2006 6:04pm
Colin (mail):
n_L, how many of those questions do you think science is trying to answer? I tried to google whatever journal publishes scientific research in the "Where Are We Going" field, but came up emptyhanded.
7.13.2006 6:05pm
Hemingway:
. . . within the Judeo-Christian world, the opposition to evolution comes from a very small segment . . .

Umm, have you looked at public opinion polls on this recently? About 45% of the American public profess to be biblical literalists (God created life within the last 10,000 years in more or less its present form) and 40% more in some sort of evolution-creation hybrid (life evolved with God's help). Only about 15% accept a non-theistic model of natural selection.

Perhaps the numbers are lower in Europe (if that still counts as part of the Judeo-Christian world). On the other hand, perhaps they're higher in Latin America and the Christian parts of Africa . . .
7.13.2006 6:06pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I want someday to write a book entitled "Unintelligent Design and Nonevolution."

I mean ... why do we have an appendix, whose sole function is to give us appendicitis? Why do we often bald atop the head (exposing it to sunburn and melanoma) but not on the face (saving us the trouble of shaving)? Why do men, capable of reproducing at any age, have a sex drive that declines with the years, whereas women, who cease reproducing, have one that is unimpaired? And why don't doves build solid, secure, nests? Or evolve here to nest in cacti like the cactus wren? Is there some sort of biological patent so that when one species figures out a great survival ploy, nobody else can use it?

It seems to me that there are a lot of features which suggest either (1) evolution doesn't improve them despite millions of years or (2) if there is a designer, he needs to spend a lot more time on his blueprints.
7.13.2006 6:09pm
Confused:

a) Who are we (in the big picture)?
b) Where did we come from (our spirits, not our bodies)?
c) Where are we going (our spirits, not our bodies)?
d) Why are we here (what is the purpose of our lives here on earth)?
e) What should we be doing to fulfill our purpose?
f) How can we know for ourselves the answers to these questions?
g) Why is that knowledge important?


As Colin points out, I can't see that science is particularly concerned with these questions in the metaphysical sense you seem to be worried about. Your questions also presuppose a belief in a spirit and that there is some higher purpose to human existence. What do you say to someone who is happy just to live his life because he is alive, and doesn't feel that your questions are at all important, or even knowable?
7.13.2006 6:11pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
But relativity turns out to be (far more so than speciation by evolution) probably true, and borne out by observable fact.

But evolution is observable in both highly complex creatures and very simple ones. Relativity, on the other hand, works on the macro level but doesn't seem to apply on a very small scale. Quantum mechanics seems to work opposite relativity, and physicists are constantly working on a quantum theory of gravity as a result.

Who thought Newtonian motion was fine? Scientists pre-Einstein invented ether to try and explain problems with Newtonian physics.
7.13.2006 6:12pm
Colin (mail):
I don't think it explains as much of observed reality as people say.

Scientists only say it describes the descent with modification of replicators. Or the change in allele frequencies over time. Or some similar limited technical definition. It's generally creationists who are convinced that evolutionary theory is some sort of grand, unified "molecules to man" narrative.

I realize that we haven't got anything better, but that could be because people aren't really looking.

I disagree strongly. I think people like Dembski and Behe are looking very intently. They just aren't finding, and are unwilling to modify their theories to match the evidence.

I am glad we have evolution, but let's not get carried away with making claims for it (i.e., all medicine depends on it) that are overstated at best, or maybe silly.

I still haven't seen a solid argument that that is an overstated claim. Derbyshire makes a protracted but interesting analogy to laypeople lecturing aviation professionals on why they should disregard the science of aerodynamics. It's possible to make a flying machine without understanding aerodynamics, especially if you already have a jumble of functional parts. But what makes sense in the field of airplane design without aerodynamics? It's an underlying theory. It might not be necessary to bolt the seats into a DC-10, or even to get a simple machine into the air, but nothing makes sense without it.

That makes me guilty of overextending Derbyshire's already labored analogy, but it's still solid. Biological evolution explains the origin and function of biological features. You might not need evolutionary theory to diagnose a patient as having the flu, but the influenza virus and its relationship to patients doesn't make sense without the underlying theory.
7.13.2006 6:12pm
Porkchop (mail):
Frank Drackman wrote:


What kind of Intelligent designer would have made the prostate gland so that it completely surrounds the urethra, and then enlarges with increasing age so that you have to get up in the middle of the night to piss? Seems like it could have been done better.


Umm -- not a male designer? I'd say that really shoots down the "heavenly FATHER" persona.
7.13.2006 6:13pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):

Also, "the most generous possible interpretation" of the criticism that evolution doesn't explain language, an observed phenomenon (which Darwinism must explain to be valid) is that evolution is not valid.


First off, there is no such thing as a scientific theory called "Darwinism".

Second, the theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is accepted by scientists because it helps to explain observed phenomena. The theory of evolution is the best explanation for the biological similarities &differences that we see across &within species.

The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, need not explain the development of language, or predict the outcome of the 2006 World Series, to be a valid scientific theory. It's not a Theory of Everything, as are some philosophical or theological theories.
7.13.2006 6:14pm
Joel B. (mail):
Language interestingly enough is something that the Bible suggests God made Adam with, that it is a genetic trait is borne out by the fact that humans even without being taught language will create a way to communicate in a non-rudimentary way with each other. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6029190


Colin-

I did not say that the Earth is an "open system." I am saying that there is energy being rained upon the earth, it's not uniformly positive, and while the sun is a localized point of higher order, we can't know if the higher order was "created" on the 4th day, as the case may be, or it was the result of a ripple/disturbance in space where hydrogen elements accumulated and began to "fuse." We do know that in a closed system right all things run from order to chaos right? Question to you...Is the Universe a closed or open system? If it is an open system...what is acting upon it?

You must read the claim differently than me...it says Abiogenesis is a fact. Regardless of how you imagine it happened (note that creation is a theory of abiogenesis), it is a fact that there once was no life on earth and that now there is. Thus, even if evolution needs abiogenesis, it has it. That doesn't say anything at all. It even goes so far as to suggest that creation is a theory of abiogenesis which plumbs the depths of foolishness. If one accepts there is a god, then that god must be "alive." Creation is not abiogenesis, life is creating other life. Abiogenesis is a "fact" to this poster because materialism doesn't make sense without it, and he's right, it must have happened for his claims to be valid, but he can't prove it, so he just shouts louder "FACT!" Color me unconvinced.

Colin, I have read a multitude of textbooks and have taken and done well in College (Public University) in biology classes, I don't need your advice to read a textbook over the Bible. I am stating, that if you want to learn history you should read a history book.

We're just going to have to disagree over AiG, I've visited AiG and No Answers and other evolutionists claims, I think AiG does a very good job explaining and demonstrating the positions it takes. AiG calculates the capacity of the Ark because it is important for people to recognize that the Ark is not "impossible" instead it is a reasonable degree of size for the amount of space for the animals and feed for a year journey on the ocean. As it demonstrates fairly well.

"Evolution" has shown that speciation happens much faster than we've ever anticipated, it continues to show this, you say, see this proves evolution, I see it as showing how there is such much variety just 5000 years after disembarkment.
7.13.2006 6:15pm
Colin (mail):
Ah, I missed one. Chandler, you said, But relativity turns out to be (far more so than speciation by evolution) probably true, and borne out by observable fact.

Speciation by evolution (although that's sort a nonsensical phrase, as I think it's more properly the other way around) is frequently observed in the lab. It's a common misconception that we never see new species arise. In fact, it's exactly what you suggest it should be - an observable fact.
7.13.2006 6:16pm
non_Lawyer:
Colin -

My point is that science, by trying to explain how the universe came to be (the laughable Big Bang theory), and then behaving as if the Big Bang and Evolution theories should be treated as factual and accepted by the same population noted above by Hemingway, takes kahunas the size of a Red Giant star; and the problem with that approach is that it necessarily tramples on the beliefs of most people and the "answers" science offers are at odds with the religious realm.

Again, I promise not to use my religion to try to explain your scientific observations. Can the scientific community agree to stay out of the realm of religious matters?

Even ShipErect agrees we should keep them separate...
7.13.2006 6:17pm
Steveo987 (mail):
I'm still chuckling about the hypothetical huge fusion ball.
7.13.2006 6:18pm
Josh Chandler (mail):
Colin

Those are not good analogies. The point is that everything good about our knowledge of the human genome and how it works arose independently of evolutionary biology in the sense of speciation-- through observation.

If some theories were needed to reach that state I contend that evolution is not one of them, or was at most a minor player. I could be wrong, but I have reasons to think I'm right.
7.13.2006 6:19pm
Joel B. (mail):
A couple people have mentioned the appendix or prostate enlargement as potential flaws in the designers design. However, in a Biblical perspective, the introduction of sin is what leads to decay. As a result, that there are problems or deformities is not a fault of the design, but instead a fault of man, who introduced decay.
7.13.2006 6:23pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
My point is that science, by trying to explain how the universe came to be (the laughable Big Bang theory)

Why is it laughable? I would think that the Big Bang would validate religious belief in some way. Do you hold to the idea that the universe is just a few thousand years old, or what?
7.13.2006 6:31pm
non_Lawyer:

As Colin points out, I can't see that science is particularly concerned with these questions in the metaphysical sense you seem to be worried about.

I beg to differ. If the two weren't connected, there would be no debate. If science's reach was not encroaching on people's belief systems, this whole thread would be moot, no?

Your questions also presuppose a belief in a spirit and that there is some higher purpose to human existence.

A reasonable presupposition, considering that most people alive now, and most people who have ever lived presuppose same. Presupposing the opposite is illogical.

What do you say to someone who is happy just to live his life because he is alive, and doesn't feel that your questions are at all important, or even knowable?

They have my condolences. What a waste of time our short time on the earth would be if we did not acknowledge the bigger picture. Eternity is a LONG time to sit around and ponder what the "important questions" really were...
7.13.2006 6:32pm
non_Lawyer:

the introduction of sin is what leads to decay. As a result, that there are problems or deformities is not a fault of the design, but instead a fault of man, who introduced decay.


Good point, Joel.
7.13.2006 6:33pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Joel, if the appendix or prostate enlargement are the result of "decay," you are implying that these once served a function at some point in the past. If our bodies had abilities that, through time, we lost, in what way is this distinguishable from evolution?
7.13.2006 6:34pm
Colin (mail):
Joel,

I am saying that there is energy being rained upon the earth, it's not uniformly positive, and while the sun is a localized point of higher order, we can't know if the higher order was "created" on the 4th day, as the case may be, or it was the result of a ripple/disturbance in space where hydrogen elements accumulated and began to "fuse." We do know that in a closed system right all things run from order to chaos right? Question to you...Is the Universe a closed or open system?

This is a confused mishmash of pseudoscience.

The sun's energy isn't "positive"? What does that mean? It is energy added to the open system of the earth, making localized reversals of entropy possible. The universe is a closed system, and is generally running to disorder. Someone explained that to you above. You might want to read the Wikipedia entry on entropy. It is more informative, and more honest, than Answers in Genesis.

Frankly, as to your reliance an AiG, I don't know what do say. I can't, and don't, criticize your faith. But at the point at which you're weighing dinosaurs for the Ark and calculating a 6,000 year-old Earth, you've left the sphere of scientific inquiry and are operating solely on the religious plane.
7.13.2006 6:39pm
Confused:

I beg to differ. If the two weren't connected, there would be no debate. If science's reach was not encroaching on people's belief systems, this whole thread would be moot, no?


Well, if reality disturbs belief, which is correct? If you believe that you can dodge bullets and as a result get shot in the head and die, should the rest of us follow your beliefs, or trust our observation of what happened to you?
7.13.2006 6:40pm
non_Lawyer:

Why is it laughable?

First, I apologize for the term "laughable." That is not a civil term in a discussion such as this. Sorry.
To answer the question, it is highly unscientific to claim that an agent can be acted upon by a non-agent. That is, it defies logic to assert that the Big Bang had no antecedent. An effect without a cause just seems pretty nonsensical, especially when purported by the very people who base all of their conclusions in empiricism.

Do you hold to the idea that the universe is just a few thousand years old, or what?

The universe, as we understand it, no. The Earth, as matter is presently organized to form such, yes.
Perhaps yuo would find such a belief "laughable." :)
7.13.2006 6:41pm
Joel B. (mail):
The appendix itself is not the result of decay, importantly it is not accepted today that the appendix is genuinely useless. It is better said that we do not know what it does, there has been some suggestion to its use, some relating to the digestion of raw meat (which isn't common today so removing it would not make a noticable difference). Also, I am not implying that prostate enlargement served a function in the past, instead that we get old and our body ages and it works much more poorly than it did when we were young. Why, if we are just chemical reactions (with energy being introduced into the system) these chemical reactions could not continue on indefinately is unclear, except that it does end. Prostate Enlargement, cancer, etc. are the result of decay. Death is the result of sin.

One interesting question for evolution is...why haven't we evolved out of old age? After all wouldn't the most beneficial adaptation be the cell that can copy itself indefinately?
7.13.2006 6:44pm
Colin (mail):
Yikes, I'm getting swamped here. My own fault; just like some people get amped up by Hamdi or gay marriage, creationism pushes my buttons. I can't turn away - it's like staring into College Student's imaginary fusion ball.

n_L, scientists accept theories like evolution and the Big Bang on the basis of evidence. You're rejecting them on the basis of faith. That's great and all, but don't expect science to disregard empirical evidence because it doesn't jibe with your faith. And I still haven't figured out where you think that science is intruding on religious matters simply by describing the natural world.

Chandler,
The point is that everything good about our knowledge of the human genome and how it works arose independently of evolutionary biology in the sense of speciation-- through observation.

Wow. Care to back that statement up? TO has a nice list of published research describing the crucial contributions of phylogenetics. What are your good reasons for discounting the modern synthesis of genetics and evolution?
7.13.2006 6:47pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
To answer the question, it is highly unscientific to claim that an agent can be acted upon by a non-agent.

You're right; nothing in the Big Bang says this, however, so this is irrelevant.

That is, it defies logic to assert that the Big Bang had no antecedent.

Nothing about the Big Bang says this, either. As I explained earlier, science cannot explain what was before physical laws, and the Big Bang is the birth of physical laws. How did you come about believing this erroneous information? A Brief History of Time is a good place to start if you want something relatively easy to understand about the Big Bang.

The universe, as we understand it, no. The Earth, as matter is presently organized to form such, yes.

So a few thousand years ago, Earth formed? Whatever gave you that idea? That's neither Biblical nor scientific.
7.13.2006 6:49pm
non_Lawyer:

Well, if reality disturbs belief, which is correct?

So, only scientists can lay claim to "reality," huh?
Too bad their "reality" is constantly changing.
Once upon a time, scientific "reality" told us that the sun orbited the earth. So, now science has corrected that fallacy and a few others, and some of those have been "corrected" again since (and no doubt will be yet again).

But, some truths are eternal and *shock, horror* independent of science. Some truths actually contradict science. This is because, in the end, science is a product of man, and man is fallible. But some of the things that man has the choice to put his faith in are indeed infallible (such as God).
7.13.2006 6:50pm
ray_g:
"...science's reach was not encroaching on people's belief systems"

I think that is unavoidable as long as the beliefs are about something scientifically testable, like the age of the Earth. I'm sure that proving that throwing virgins in volcanos does not stop eruptions encroached on someone's belief system, but is that a bad thing?
7.13.2006 6:51pm
Colin (mail):
One interesting question for evolution is...why haven't we evolved out of old age? After all wouldn't the most beneficial adaptation be the cell that can copy itself indefinately?

No. This is the result of a critical misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Natural selection selects for the most successful replicators, not the longest-lived, strongest, fastest, or smartest organisms. Those traits are byproducts of successful replication strategies. You'd have to show why immortality, even if biologically possible for complex organisms, would benefit reproduction rather than harming it. Intuitively, it would seem that population pressures from long-lived organisms would inhibit reproduction beyond a certain point.
7.13.2006 6:51pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
The appendix itself is not the result of decay, importantly it is not accepted today that the appendix is genuinely useless.

But you are saying it had a more important function in the past than to get infected and cause the owner to die, right? So how is this different from evolution? Time passed, the organ "decayed," this decay was passed on to children--sounds like evolution to me.

One interesting question for evolution is...why haven't we evolved out of old age? After all wouldn't the most beneficial adaptation be the cell that can copy itself indefinately?

Sometimes we do "evolve" out of old age; it's called cancer. Why would it be beneficial for everyone to be immortal when we can still procreate? All of our resources would be gone if no one died.
7.13.2006 6:54pm
Wombat:
This is not a troll:
I reject Creationism/ID on religious grounds. Quickly stated, the prior crowd (and most of the latter crowd) reject evolution because of the belief that God made Man in His Own Image.

Well, my God can do a whole lot better than us.

This is not to say I am an atheist. To the God is Dead, 21st century edition, I ask two questions:
1) Doesn't the freaking universe springing from nowhere violate the Laws of Conservation of Energy?
2) And given the old chestnut of E=MC squared, mind explaining how when that E changes into M, into an equivalent amount of matter and antimatter, I have never once managed to step into a puddle of antimatter? That all known visible matter is of the regular matter kind?

Yes, when we do not have an explanation for something, the correct course of action is not to say "God did it, don't worry about it!" But when that something we can't explain is all of existence, I think it's fair to leave the existence of God on the table...

So I think that God made the universe (or made a multiverse of universes, of which this is one, I don't care either way), instilled them with various Cosmological constants and set them on their way, only popping in occasionally to put words into a prophet's mouth of how they should change their civilization for the better, when that civilization was finally ready for it. Neo-Deist, I know, but it works for me.

And as far as the Original Post goes, few people really get Emergent Systems - heck, how many people understand how the very thoughts they are having came into existence?
7.13.2006 7:00pm
Joel B. (mail):
So Colin,
direct from wiki we have for the definition of entropy's increasing "disorder."

The "disorder" of the system as a whole can be formally defined (as discussed below) in a way that is consistent with the realities of entropy, but note that such a definition will almost always lead to confusion. It is only if the word is used in this special sense that a system that is more "disordered" or more "mixed up" on a molecular scale will necessarily also be "a system with a lower amount of energy available to do work" or "a system in a macroscopically more probable state".

Now, you've accepted that the universe as a whole is a closed system as such, the universe in running in a single direction to a "macroscopically more probably state." Let me suggest, from what I have read and understand that even the very existence of life and the accumulation of molecules into life generating forms is a macroscopically less probably state.

When I suggested that the energy of the sun is not uniformly positive I meant what I said earlier about if one would suggest standing out in the summer sun, without sunscreen day after day, without the ozone layer in the hopes that they rained down energy would increase order in their body? I think not. The energy of the sun destroys as well as can be useful. But to be used, it must be put to work through various processes, the most relevant being photosynthesis. Energy alone does not create order.

AiG examines the Ark and other items because that is important issue in the origins debate. It is relevant because it is part and parcel with is the Bible reliable, that the capacity of the Ark shows it to be plausible for its intended purpose, if the Ark was the size of a Yacht then the Bible's account would not be plausible. To say AiG is operating solely on a religious plane is inaccurate, they are wholly unabashed however, that they operate from a strictly Biblical paradigm. Something very different.
7.13.2006 7:02pm
Bob Loblaw (www):

I have come to highly value the information that Answers in Genesis . . . has provided.
That's the funniest thing I've read all week. I can't believe anyone is wasting time arguing with this guy.
7.13.2006 7:05pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I can't believe anyone is wasting time arguing with this guy.

I have faith that intelligence evolves.
7.13.2006 7:08pm
e:
n_L:
I don't think that coming up with "testable predictions" is a charge that should be laid to creationism.
In accordance with my last post, that is like requiring scientism to come up with a list of laws such as "The Golden Rule" or "The Ten Commandments" or the Levitical Code.
I say, leave science to the scientists, and religion to the religious. That is one reason I do NOT believe in ID.
I am a strict creationist.

So morality requires religion? I disagree. Logical reasoning can make me treat my neighbor as I want to be treated. And I'd like to think that people wouldn't start murdering each other just because some god retracts his commandments.

Not sure who mentioned the faith thing, but 'scientism' doesn't require faith. If you prove it wrong, it will thank you for contributing to our knowledge.

The whack-a-mole analogy reminds me of discussions I've had with 9/11 conspiracy theorists too (no plane hit the Pentagon).
7.13.2006 7:09pm
Bob Loblaw (www):

I can't believe anyone is wasting time arguing with this guy.

I have faith that intelligence evolves.
Yes, but what is going to provide the initial spark from the non-existence of intelligence to the existence of intelligence?
7.13.2006 7:11pm
Colin (mail):
I suppose that's a good point, Bob. I can't stop myself sometimes, but you're right. Joel, AiG is badly misleading you. You severely misunderstand the concepts of entropy, energy, and evolution. If you choose to rely on them for information regarding the construction of very large ships, well, that's your own business. But it's just goofy to dilute this thread with a discussion of such egregious misinformation.
7.13.2006 7:11pm
jimbino (mail):
When I claimed that over 90% of hard scientists are atheists of some stripe, Rational Actor asked:


What is the source for this data? Both of my parents are hard scientists and neither is an atheist. Many of their professional colleagues are also religious, or at least quite spiritual. Given that a tiny percentage of people identify as atheists, I find your 90% number quite improbable.



So much the worse for his parents and their professional colleagues, but check this out: www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html
7.13.2006 7:11pm
Colin (mail):
Er, I meant that your first point was good.
7.13.2006 7:11pm
ray_g:
"But when that something we can't explain is all of existence, I think it's fair to leave the existence of God on the table... "

Perhaps, but that just pushes the problem back one step, now you have to ask how did God appear out of nothing? This is an old discussion (I think it is called the infinite regression problem). There is no good way to pick a starting point, most boil down to appeals to authority (the Bible says so or something similar).

Wombat:

I rather like the term Neo-Deist, and I know more that one person whose beliefs are nearly identical to yours.
7.13.2006 7:15pm
Bob Loblaw (www):

Er, I meant that your first point was good.
Second was supposed to be a joke. Guess I'm not very funny.
7.13.2006 7:20pm
Steve P. (mail):
This conversation seems to revolve around people believing in ID (or Creationism) poking holes (or 'straw holes') in the evolutionary theory, and everyone else saying, "Well, what do you have?".

Seriously, where are the testable hypotheses and replicable experiments that arise from ID? If we're not talking about using observable facts to predict and test based on the scientific method, we're no longer talking about science. If we're not talking about science, then why drag evolution into the mix?
7.13.2006 7:26pm
Dan28 (mail):

To answer the question, it is highly unscientific to claim that an agent can be acted upon by a non-agent. That is, it defies logic to assert that the Big Bang had no antecedent. An effect without a cause just seems pretty nonsensical, especially when purported by the very people who base all of their conclusions in empiricism.


And yet, something exists. To say that, because the universe exists, it must have an antecedent makes some logical sense. But the same logic would then apply to God: if God exists, God must also have an antecedent. So you haven't really solved the dilemma. So you might respond, well God is without cause; God is the first mover, the uncaused cause. But if God can be without an antecedent, why can't the universe itself be uncaused? All you've done is taken God outside the realm of logic. Now, it's a perfectly acceptable thing to believe that God is just beyond human reasoning, but if that's what you believe, don't pretend that you've made any kind of logical argument for God's existence. You haven't.

The universe, as we understand it, no. The Earth, as matter is presently organized to form such, yes.


If God created the Earth only several thousand years ago, then either (a) he did so in such a way that intentionally placed an enormous amount of evidence - from fossils to carbon dating to the very existence of certain compounds like diamonds, oil and nuclear materials - that suggests that the Earth is much, much older than that. I don't know why God would choose to do such a thing, but it seems highly unlikely that a good God would try to fool human beings to such an extreme degree. The only other possibility is (b) there is some kind of collosal conspiracy of scientists to fake evidence suggesting that the Earth is billions of years old. This, it seems to me, is extremely unlikely.

Take a look at what science has to say about the Earth. The position that it is only a couple thousand years old is really untenable.
7.13.2006 7:27pm
Rational Actor:
Jimbino -
Thanks for the reference. Your 90% number should have been 72%.
7.13.2006 7:28pm
non_Lawyer:
Reported here in the USA Today Science section, it says:

The universe expanded rapidly — growing from the size of a marble to billions of light years across — within the first trillionth of a second after its cataclysmic birth, astrophysicists reported Thursday.

Help me understand how the universe could expand from the size of a marble to billions of lightyears across in one-trillionth of a second.
Wouldn't that mean that all that super-dense matter MOVED at zillions of times the speed of light? I thought faster-than-light travel was impossible without warp drive...
It's nonsense like this that makes the Big Bang theory look ridiculous.
7.13.2006 7:35pm
e:
The USA Today treatment makes many things look ridiculous. Somethings need more than a paragraph of explanation.

I prefer the oscillation hypo.
7.13.2006 7:39pm
ctw (mail):
colin:

sisyphus needs some rest - could you take over for a while? you might find it to be a nice break from your even more hopeless task.

-charles
7.13.2006 7:39pm
Rational Actor:
And do we need to plumb the depths of why creationism makes itself look even more ridiculous?
7.13.2006 7:39pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Help me understand how the universe could expand from the size of a marble to billions of lightyears across in one-trillionth of a second.

OK. Read A Brief History of Time, if this is an honest question.
7.13.2006 7:42pm
non_Lawyer:
I gotta go - but thanks for all the interesting conversations!

If only these age-old dilemmas could be solved by a handful of posters to a comments section on a thread on a blog on the internet...that would be cool.

But, as usual with this stuff, I respectfully agree to disagree and realize that neither of us will convert the other to the other's way of thinking/feeling/believing about these things.

But, it has still been fun and stimulating.

It's a quarter to five (MST) and I have a bus to catch.
See ya!
7.13.2006 7:44pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Why is it that those who see no need to ascribe the existence of complex evolutionary organizatioal systems to a central intelligence in one sphere find the concept so necessary in another.
Because we aren't hopeless ideologues who need to fit theory A to every possible situation?

By the way, Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) implies something about the nature of the "Invisible Hand" to which Wealth of Nations alludes as the organizing principle of free markets (and also explains why it is capitalized):
They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species. When Providence divided the earth among a few lordly masters, it neither forgot nor abandoned those who seemed to have been left out in the partition.
For those not familiar with eighteenth century writing, Providence is a literary way of referring to God. It seems clear that Smith believed that the self-interest that makes a free market work reflects attributes of human character that God has imprinted upon us.
7.13.2006 7:44pm
jimbino (mail):
Rational Actor,

The reference gives figures of 7% and 7.9% for "believers." The rest, by definition, consist of "non-believers." Those would be the atheists (nonbelievers in god). I think the figure you quote is for those who have a "personal disbelief," more properly called anti-theists, a subset of the class of nonbelievers.

You surely concede that a scientist who is agnostic about black holes is one who does not believe in the existence of black holes, whereas a disbeliever is one who asserts that they don't exist?
7.13.2006 7:46pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
jimbino, an agnostic is not an atheist. An agnostic about black holes would say that they don't know or they have reason to doubt they exist, not that they are definitely sure that black holes do not exist.
7.13.2006 7:50pm
non_Lawyer:
P.S. -- I saw the movie "A Brief History of Time" -- does that count?

My final thought: Scientific conclusions drawn from faulty assumptions (such as "there is no God") will frequently be faulty conclusions. That's why it is uselss to try to convince me that science is correct by using science.

Likewise, it would be fruitless for me to try to convince you that my religion is right by using religion. Hence the standoff, hence the nature of faith, and hence my agreement to disagree.

Goodnight!
7.13.2006 7:50pm
Colin (mail):
n_L,

If only these age-old dilemmas could be solved by a handful of posters to a comments section on a thread on a blog on the internet...that would be cool.

They're not. They're solved by professional scientists, who devote their lives to a rigorous and unfortunately often thankless investigation into the natural world. Those scientists rely on the scientific method, evidence, research, and boring things like that. Do you really think that by reading a USA Today article you've stumbled across a mistake made by professional, learned scientists all around the world? You don't think that's just a tad arrogant? There's an answer to your question, and you don't need to look to blogs for the answers. Read a book. Ship Erect's suggestion is a good one.
7.13.2006 7:51pm
donaldk:
Arguments about science of any kind is irrelevant. What needs to be confronted is metaphysics. Belief in an intelligent Designer comes very easily to us fortunate ones, many of whom believe in the benevolence of mankind and free will.

But in most places and among the vast majority of humans, mankind is not benevolent, but is in fact monstrous. No need to be specific. Every one of you know that this is true. A belief that an intelligent, benevolent Designer would create such a world is seriously frivolous.

I like religion and religious people - Christians, Jews, and Buddhists at any rate. They are almost 100% benevolent and try to make life better for the rest of us. But I don't have to accept their metaphysics, or beliefs if you like.

Well, I will give one specific. Ask any victim of Stalin, Hitler, or any of a large number of Sudanese, whether they think that a Creator made the world in which they must be innocent victims.

Such a belief among us few fortunate ones borders on the obscene.
7.13.2006 8:02pm
Joel B. (mail):
I would like to see where AiG has been misleading, I do not see it. If they are show me.

Look, the god of time and chance is an inadequate god, this god fails, destroys and creates chaos not order. That's the main point I want to make. Show me how this god of time and chance got just so lucky, because that's all you have. That is why the "science" of today depends on string theories and multiverses, because the likelihood of everything working out in just this one universe is too unlikely. Too unlikely, this possibility is infinitely small so, "science" relies on a god of infinite chances. Then "science" suggests those who reject this god of time, chance, and infinity as fools.
7.13.2006 8:05pm
Bob Loblaw (www):

Scientific conclusions drawn from faulty assumptions (such as "there is no God") will frequently be faulty conclusions.
There is no such thing as a scientific conclusion drawn on the assumption that there is no god. Science has nothing to say about whether or not there is a god.


I would like to see where AiG has been misleading, I do not see it.
The ultimate example of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
7.13.2006 8:13pm
Joel B. (mail):
Donaldk-

The problem that exists in Intelligent Design is just as you said. Intelligent Design can only makes you confront the question of what to do if this world was intelligently designed. This is where we have to choose what to make of it. To the Christian, death and suffering is explained because of man's free choice to rebel against God. Adam rebelled against God and his law, we then see in the antediluvian world, that just one generation from Adam, greater rebellion against God, led to the first murder, and the sin in that line continued so that by the seventh generation, polygamy and frequent murder had grown substantially. This rebellion against God grows and becomes worse, and it consumes us. As God warned Cain "Sin is crouching at the door, its desire is for you, but you must master it."
7.13.2006 8:14pm
Joel B. (mail):
The ultimate example of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Bob Loblaw-

(Love the name by the way, I truly miss AD)

Your argument appears to be that since evolution is true, AiG must be misleading me because it is suggesting evolution is not true. While your argument would be true is I agreed with your assumption "evolution is not true," since I do not agree with your assumption, I do not see how I am missing the forest for the trees. (Show me the trees).
7.13.2006 8:17pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I would like to see where AiG has been misleading, I do not see it. If they are show me.

For starters: how can we observe light from stars millions of miles away in a 6,000-year-old universe?

That is why the "science" of today depends on string theories and multiverses

Wow, even Wikipedia is more reliable than this.
7.13.2006 8:17pm
frankcross (mail):
Because we aren't hopeless ideologues who need to fit theory A to every possible situation?

Does this strike anyone else as extremely odd? It is the consistent application of a theory that is non-ideological. It is the picking and choosing of different theories, to suit their preferences, that is the sign of ideologues. Just like a judge might switch back and forth in his or her use of originalism in order to reach ideological results. A non-ideologue would use the theory consistently
7.13.2006 8:20pm
jimbino (mail):

jimbino, an agnostic is not an atheist. An agnostic about black holes would say that they don't know or they have reason to doubt they exist, not that they are definitely sure that black holes do not exist.


Well, if you admit that over 90% of the greatest living American scientists feel about the existence of god about the same as they feel about the existence of goblins, leprechauns, witches and ghosts, I'll be happy to drop the matter.
7.13.2006 8:26pm
Joel B. (mail):
Shiperect-

AiG is quite honest in admitting pretty much straight out that the most complex problem for a creationist is the problem posed by distant starlight. They have had various individual propose ideas as to how distant starlight might have reached the Earth, but even they admit that while some ideas are better than others, this is still the area of greatest weakness for the proposition of a 6000 year old Earth. How that is misleading I am not sure. It seems like a fairly reasonable approach to their current understanding.

Wow, even Wikipedia is more reliable than this.

I think I'm honored being compared to wikipedia, as for a great deal of things it is incredibly useful and accurate (although I wouldn't get political information from them, maybe that'll be your response to me oh well.) In any event, is not the current explanation of all the "luckiness" in our universe explained at current, as well it might just be because we're one of an infinate number of universes, and we're the only universe that had ever developed a consciousness to measure the universe. Maybe I'm way off, please correct me, but I understand a great deal of non-Biblical cosmology as standing on ideas that seem (maybe they are) unprovable, 8 dimensions, multiverses all sorts of things.
7.13.2006 8:30pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
The link you cited stated that, in 1998, 72.2% of scientists didn't believe in a personal God, not 90%. You keep adding agnostics and doubters (20.8%), but doubt or "I don't know" is not the same as disbelief.
7.13.2006 8:31pm
Colin (mail):
I would like to see where AiG has been misleading, I do not see it. If they are show me.

Obviously you aren't going to embrace empiricism just because I show you some goofy thing AiG says. But I think it's worth showing where ID leads in the end:

"Originally, before sin, all animals, including the dinosaurs, were vegetarian. . . . This means that even T. rex, before sin entered the world, ate only plants. Some people object to this by pointing to the big teeth that a large T. rex had, insisting they must have been used for attacking animals. However, just because an animal has big sharp teeth does not mean it eats meat. It just means it has big sharp teeth."

What is the evidence for their vegetarian carnivore theory? Basically, that it has to be true; otherwise, their reading of certain Genesis verses would be in error. According to the AiG statement of faith, "No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record."

You can't get reliable scientific information from someone who tells you up-front that they will ignore any evidence that contradicts their preconceptions.
7.13.2006 8:34pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
How that is misleading I am not sure

Anyone who is motivated enough to learn can understand the observations and logic that leads scientists to conclude that stars are billions of miles away and the universe is billions of years old. What can I observe and what reasoning will lead me to conclude otherwise?

Maybe I'm way off, please correct me, but I understand a great deal of non-Biblical cosmology as standing on ideas that seem (maybe they are) unprovable, 8 dimensions, multiverses all sorts of things.

If you are honestly interested, I recommend A Brief History of Time.
7.13.2006 8:39pm
Joel B. (mail):
You can't get reliable scientific information from someone who tells you up-front that they will ignore any evidence that contradicts their preconceptions.

So want to say something about evolution at this point......Must Resist.

Look, you reject the Biblical record, as a result, your going to say you can't rely on it as history. I trust the Biblical Record, I've mentioned the tablet theory of Genesis, which strongly suggests that Genesis was written by the people who were actually there. "These are the generations of Adam," for example. That I accept the Bible, is because I haven't found a better explanation of how the world actually got here. One of the things I love about the Bible, is that it quickly explains the why of so many questions, for example why do people where clothes? Science tries to answer this question, but it is inadequate.
7.13.2006 8:44pm
Steve P. (mail):
jimbino --

I think the questions that were asked in the study that you link to, and the resulting answers, can't directly be used to prove a belief/disbelief in God.

Larson and Witham present the results of a replication of 1913 and 1933 surveys by James H. Leuba. In those surveys, Leuba mailed a questionnaire to leading scientists asking about their belief in "a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind" and in "personal immortality". Larson and Witham used the same wording [as in the Leuba studies], and sent their questionnaire to 517 members of the [U.S.] National Academy of Sciences from the biological and physical sciences (the latter including mathematicians, physicists and astronomers). The return rate was slightly over 50%.

Citation: http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/sci_relig.htm

I'm not sure that belief in 'a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind' is the same thing as belief in 'a God'. I wouldn't be surprised if the strange wording affected the results. If you do a quick bit of Googling, you'll find many other studies that have the percentage of scientists that believe in God at closer to 40%. Though, I can't speak to the accuracy of any of these studies, just something to think about.
7.13.2006 8:48pm
Dan28 (mail):

That I accept the Bible, is because I haven't found a better explanation of how the world actually got here. One of the things I love about the Bible, is that it quickly explains the why of so many questions, for example why do people where clothes? Science tries to answer this question, but it is inadequate.

Don't worry. With that attitude, you never will find a better explanation of how the world got here.

Longing for quick answers to complicated questions is not a particularly admirable quality. One of the things I love most about this universe is its extraordinary and beautiful complexity. It's a little sad to me when people, exposed to such an amazing place as this world, decide they'd rather live in a smaller, more simple place of their own creation.
7.13.2006 8:50pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
One of the things I love about the Bible, is that it quickly explains the why of so many questions, for example why do people where clothes? Science tries to answer this question, but it is inadequate.

? It was cold, people saw that animals have fur, they decided to kill them and wear what made them warm. Does this question need science or the Bible?
7.13.2006 8:54pm
donaldk:
To indulge in a bit of frivolity: I find the Big Bang theory less convincing than the Book of Genesis.
7.13.2006 8:56pm
Joel B. (mail):
Dan28-

But looking for long drawn-out contrived answers when a simpler explanation exists, just because you reject the existence of the Creator, can hardly be that wise either. If, I thought the long drawn out complex answer was more compelling I would believe it. I do not.

Don't think my attitude is not one of ignoring the challenges posed to the Bible, I entertain them, consider them, and reject them. One of my favorites is that archeology has supposedly rejected the Biblical invasion of Palestine by Joshua because the pottery dated in Jericho was 100 years off from what the Bible suggested it should be...So let me get this straight, walls collapse, invasion of Jericho, destroyed consistent with the Biblical account and we reject the Biblical account because the pottery is 100 years off? Now who's coming in with the presuppositions?
7.13.2006 9:00pm
Colin (mail):
Does this question need science or the Bible?

Actually, there is an interesting biological discussion about why humans don't have the thicker pelts that our primate cousins do. The debate has raised some fascinating questions, such as the energy cost of growing body hair and the social value of intensive grooming. They're questions that would never be raised in a school system controlled by Answers in Genesis or the Discovery Institute.

Similarly, no one would ever have had to ask where rainbows come from. No one needs to study prisms when they can just read the Truth that rainbows are God's bow, set in the sky as a sign of his covenant to not flood the earth again.
7.13.2006 9:01pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
But looking for long drawn-out contrived answers when a simpler explanation exists, just because you reject the existence of the Creator, can hardly be that wise either. If, I thought the long drawn out complex answer was more compelling I would believe it. I do not.

But you most assuredly do believe them; otherwise, you would accept that light traveling from stars billions of miles away would take far longer than 6,000 years to reach us, and you would also accept that carnivorous dinosaurs ate meat rather than only appear to do so and ate plants instead. The answers in AiG are more convoluted (and far less internally consistent) than the fossil record or astronomy.
7.13.2006 9:03pm
Joel B. (mail):
It was cold, people saw that animals have fur, they decided to kill them and wear what made them warm. Does this question need science or the Bible?

And yet in the summer people still do not routinely undress, where did the compulsion to where clothes consistently come from? Did our ancient Great^400 Aunts do this? Why do humans bear this shame?

I am also not sure how cold equitorial Africa gets in the Winter, but I don't imagine it's anything blankets couldn't assuage, also, we put our animals in clothes, it's not like they develop a sense to keep wearing them. In any event it just a minor point.
7.13.2006 9:05pm
Confused:

And yet in the summer people still do not routinely undress, where did the compulsion to where clothes consistently come from? Did our ancient Great^400 Aunts do this? Why do humans bear this shame?


Check out an issue of National Geographic that has an article on the indigenous peoples of, for instance, Africa or South America. They ran around with not a whole lot of clothes on. So to claim that "humans" as a group are somehow ashamed is specious.

And if you're ashamed of being naked, well, not much I can say to that. ;-)
7.13.2006 9:14pm
Joel B. (mail):
But you most assuredly do believe them; otherwise, you would accept that light traveling from stars billions of miles away would take far longer than 6,000 years to reach us, and you would also accept that carnivorous dinosaurs ate meat rather than only appear to do so and ate plants instead. The answers in AiG are more convoluted (and far less internally consistent) than the fossil record or astronomy.

In all fairness, that is actually a really good point.
FWIW, I agree that when it comes down to starlight time travel problem, this is most difficult for creationists, as to the herbivorous status of dinosaurs, this is really more a point AiG is more directed towards theistic evolutions who proclaim to trust the Bible. That is, if the fossils come before sin, and we see death and destruction before sin, how can this be reconciled with the idea that death is introduced because of sin. That the fossils would be carnivores or omnivores is not conflicting, because the fossils would have predominantly been from the time of the flood, which is after sin (and by extension) death entered the world.

That the "starlight problem" has not been resolved adequately at this time, does not mean that I do not find the entirety of the Biblical explanation more convincing and more reasonable than the Evolutionary explanation.
7.13.2006 9:20pm
Joel B. (mail):
They ran around with not a whole lot of clothes on. So to claim that "humans" as a group are somehow ashamed is specious.

Not a whole lot of clothes vs. no clothes is I think a very relevant distinction in kind.
7.13.2006 9:22pm
Dan28 (mail):
If, I thought the long drawn out complex answer was more compelling I would believe it. I do not.
7.13.2006 9:29pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
That is, if the fossils come before sin, and we see death and destruction before sin, how can this be reconciled with the idea that death is introduced because of sin.

This problem perfectly illustrates why science does not involve sin: our observations of the fossil record don't say when sin was introduced.

That the "starlight problem" has not been resolved adequately at this time, does not mean that I do not find the entirety of the Biblical explanation more convincing and more reasonable than the Evolutionary explanation.

Astronomy and biology are entirely separate fields. Observed starlight has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution except to creationists.
7.13.2006 9:31pm
Dan28 (mail):

But looking for long drawn-out contrived answers when a simpler explanation exists, just because you reject the existence of the Creator, can hardly be that wise either. If, I thought the long drawn out complex answer was more compelling I would believe it. I do not.

But your simpler explanation is completely at odds with anything that has ever been reliably observed by human beings. Look, if you really believe that the Earth is several thousand years old, here are a couple of things you should do. You should refuse all medical treatments that use advanced antibiotics, because clearly it is impossible for bacteria to evolve defenses to antibiotics. You should stop turning on your television, or in fact from using electricity at all, because your electricity probably comes from either plant material that decomposed hundreds of millions of years ago (coal, oil) or from nuclear technology which, when applied to fossils of organic life forms, suggest that life on earth is millions of years old. And you should stop believing in any kind of astronomy, because the Bible clearly states that the sun onced stopped in its rotation around the Earth.

It's amazing that people like you still exist, willfully ignoring the universe around you and thinking you've got the only answer to the mysteries of this universe.
7.13.2006 9:35pm
Joel B. (mail):
Ship Erect-

I don't want to get dragged into semantics, fine though "scientific materialism."
7.13.2006 9:36pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I don't want to get dragged into semantics, fine though "scientific materialism."

I'd say it's more like the facts don't fit what you want to believe, therefore you disregard the facts. If you feel comfortable with disregarding scientific data, why even bother with a pseudoscientific explanation that attempts to explain the observable world?
7.13.2006 9:42pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
If the earth and moon are really billions of years old why is there such a thin layer of dust on the moon? If interstellar dust accumulates at 1/1000 inch per 1000 years there should be over 300 ft of dust on the moon.
7.13.2006 9:51pm
Dan28 (mail):

If the earth and moon are really billions of years old why is there such a thin layer of dust on the moon? If interstellar dust accumulates at 1/1000 inch per 1000 years there should be over 300 ft of dust on the moon.


No, those numbers are based on a totally inaccurate study that was disproven three decades ago. Have you read a book from your movement that tells you differently? Well, that's because the people who are behind 'creationism' as a movement are liars who do not care about the truth. See this:

Since this evidence had been published in 1968 it is surprising that a book, claiming to be scientific, published six years later is unaware of it, or ignores it. One of the basic rules of good scientific work is that you must keep up to date with what is being published in the area in which you are working. If you fail to do this you risk basing your conclusions on out-of-date evidence or disproven arguments. It is amazing to find people associated with what is called The Institute for Creation Research falling into this basic trap. It undermines confidence in the quality of their science and their research. It is even more amazing to find a book published in 1992 (The Facts of Life by Richard Milton) and highly acclaimed by advocates of the 'young Earth' theory, still quoting the argument about the lack of dust on the Moon, based solely on Pettersson's 1960 paper, and apparently totally ignorant of all the relevant new evidence that has accumulated in the 30 years since then...

Does the failure of these authors to be up to date really matter? Yes, for several reasons. First of all, Christians should be concerned about the truth. The God we are committed to is the God of truth (John 15:26 ). Of all people, Christians should be most punctilious about using only those arguments that are based on sound methods of scholarship and the best evidence available. This is a matter of obedient Christian discipleship, not simply a desire to look good in the eyes of other scholars. Secondly, following from this, it is dishonouring to God when Christian scholars are found to be using sloppy arguments based on out-of-date evidence - and I know secular scholars who have little respect for Christianity because of this. Finally, it is a matter of considerable pastoral and evangelistic importance. Christian scholars who wrongly claim to be presenting sound 'scientific' arguments are misleading their fellow Christians who read their books. Most of these readers do not have either the opportunity or the inclination to check up on the reliability of the arguments used and evidence presented. Some of those readers may in time be stumbled in their faith because of their misplaced confidence in what they have read. Christian students who, with more zeal than wisdom, confidently confront lecturers with arguments culled from books like Scientific Creationism have sometimes been made to look foolish when the lecturer has been able to show that the argument does not stand up to the evidence, even the evidence available when it was first put forward. That has not only shaken the faith of the Christians, but undermined their witness to their fellow students. Perhaps publishers of books on 'scientific creationism', and the managers of bookshops which sell them, ought to consider putting a spiritual health warning on them.
7.13.2006 10:00pm
Dan28 (mail):
http://homepages.tcp.co.uk/~carling/footprin.html
7.13.2006 10:00pm
Joel B. (mail):
Dan28 - you draw up straw men and knock them down. I do not doubt that oil exists, or that antibiotics develop resistence to antibiotics. Or any of these other things you propose, instead, bacteria already possess the traits required for resistance, when an antibiotic is created, the antibiotic kills the bacteria without the resistance trait, leaving behind only the resistant strain. Since that resistence was already created it is not new, it is just now presenting itself as the more fit trait.
7.13.2006 10:04pm
Bob Loblaw (www):

If the earth and moon are really billions of years old why is there such a thin layer of dust on the moon? If interstellar dust accumulates at 1/1000 inch per 1000 years there should be over 300 ft of dust on the moon.
This is awesome - Joel B., this one's for you, I hereby give you what Answers in Genesis has to saw about this...

Moon-dust argument no longer useful
http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v15/i4/moondust.asp
7.13.2006 10:05pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Since that resistence was already created it is not new, it is just now presenting itself as the more fit trait.

I am truly amazed by how you can somehow explain biology using a funhouse mirror version of evolution! It's as though creationism is constantly compelled to describe the world in evolutionary terms but without the "evolution" label. First the "decay" explanation and now this. Truly bizarre: bacteria was created with inborn, contradictory traits, and over time one came to dominate. Why is evolution incorrect if you are accepting all of this?
7.13.2006 10:17pm
Joel B. (mail):
Dan28-

You should know AiG also rejects the moon dust argument http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v15/i4/moondust.asp

Ship Erect-
Look I reject claims that are purported to be science, but are just metaphysics masquerading as science. Now, you'd probably say that creationism is just that, but the thing is AiG does not deny that it starts from metaphysics, or from the Word. It's straight up honest about that, you know what you get. Now, maybe you don't trust the Bible. Fine don't, but it's the best book of ancient history you're going to find, absolutely best, it was meticuluously kept and recorded, that the Dead Sea scrolls matched with a accuracy of >99% (unheard of for ancient texts) is throughoghly amazing. It is then, the best link to history we as humans have. Before 600 BC, what do we have? Pretty much nothing, we've dug up monuments and the like, but recorded history is so weak, you discard the best history textbook we have and you're going to be lost.

You want science to explain history. Here's the fundamental key. Science does not and can not explain history. It can't, this is why we learn about the civil war in American History and not Biology class, now let me ask you, when it comes to history, should I take a meticuluously kept ancient source documents, that both records successes and failures of a people (so that you can tell it was not doctored to increase or decrease the glory of various individuals along the way), that claims to have eyewitnesses accounts of events that happened and matches up plausibly with the world we observe, or should I reject that history and accept the story of scientists, who have seen nothing of the past and claim to explain what happened? If I want to know about the past, I like most people, am going to go to a history book, and not a science textbook, and the Bible, is the best ancient history book we have.
7.13.2006 10:18pm
Joel B. (mail):
Bob Loblaw- Apparently we went to the same place, you beat me to it though

Ship Erect- The fact of the matter is, if you look at much of what creationists accept they do not reject speciation within kind. The difference, creationists like myself believe that the variation from bacteria through to people is that you can work back once you've lost the necessary alleles. If that bacterial population that doesn't have the resistence dies out, all that's left is the alleles that the resistent bacteria had. Similarly, if all the world died out, but Fair Skinned Scots, it'd be my contention that you couldn't unwind that progression, you have to have the created information available that can combine and recombine, but there has to be a brown hair gene somewhere for brown hair to because "chosen as fit", this brown hair gene will not pop into existence, instead, we'd all just live where the sun is not as hot, and develop much better sunscreens. The key is what is the source you are drawing from. Creation says you start with a full deck and draw what works best, and the pool down, Evolution says the cards come into existence through time and chance.
7.13.2006 10:26pm
Joel B. (mail):
Been fun, I'm headed out, maybe tonight I'll be back. Later gang.
7.13.2006 10:27pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Frank Drackman,

>If the earth and moon are really billions of years old why is there such a thin layer of dust on the moon? If interstellar dust accumulates at 1/1000 inch per 1000 years there should be over 300 ft of dust on the moon.<

See, to me, this kind of argument reveals the inconsistency of the people who promote it (not saying that you do). I mean, if they didn't bring things like this up now and then, you'd think they were completely oblivious to concepts of evidence or scientific theory. But here we have proof that they really do! The argument admits that some things on earth could make the existence of God more or less likely.

Now, I have no idea what the deal with the moondust is. But the thing that strikes me: How ridiculous would it be if the one piece of hard evidence God gives us of his existence is the uncanny lack of the expected amount of moondust on the moon? But then at the same time, he manages to fool virtually every astronomer in the world into thinking the universe has been expanding for billions of years, fools every geologist and school child into thinking that there were dinosaurs on earth millions of years ago, and so on down the line. I don't feel like you have to know the prevailing theory on moondust to see that it just doesn't make sense.
7.13.2006 10:49pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Joel B.,

>If I want to know about the past, I like most people, am going to go to a history book, and not a science textbook, and the Bible, is the best ancient history book we have.<

Is it conventional to accept the supernatural claims of ancient books as true?

I don't know how you suggest science can't tell us about history. The "history books" are all hopelessly contradictory. Is there really no way of scientifically investigating which stories might be more likely than others?
7.13.2006 11:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I believe in evolution. The origin of the first "life" is separate. If the evolutionists--who also address it--are correct, then life must, absolutely must, occur wherever circumstances allow, which would be on any planet with a permanent supply of liquid water, at least.
If not, we need to see the mechanism holding it back.

So every planet with liquid water has life, or had, or will. And since intelligence is favored, and technological intelligence favored, every planet will have, or had, or has, technologically competent life.

Now, if interstellar travel is possible, one or more of those folks is going to do it.

Do we want to be Montezuma, or Cortez? Or Schweitzer?

The naturalistic theory of evolution demands the above, including the question.

However, I see the debate as a proxy for the culture wars, and, although I prefer evolution, I have some sympathy for the creationists, although the young-earthers are making it difficult.
7.13.2006 11:09pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Hey I heard that Moondust theory from a caller on the old "Chuck Harder" radio show years ago. Chuck Harder was sort of a Black Helicopters,Conspiracy,etc guy but even he had no patience with that caller. I don't believe it either, but I love how it riles up the know it all evolutionists. Alot of attacking the messenger going on. I think the correct answer would be...since theres only about 2 cm of moon dust,it acummulates at the rate of 2cm/4000,000,000 yrs, not the 1/1000 per million years or whatever rate you choose.
7.13.2006 11:13pm
Dan28 (mail):

I believe in evolution. The origin of the first "life" is separate. If the evolutionists--who also address it--are correct, then life must, absolutely must, occur wherever circumstances allow, which would be on any planet with a permanent supply of liquid water, at least.
If not, we need to see the mechanism holding it back.


What? That would only make sense if the *only* requirement for life was liquid water. I've never heard anyone claim that. In fact, biologists tend to be extremely skeptical of the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, precisely because that the conditions that created life on earth are so precise and specific that it is extremely unlikely to happen on another planet. AFAIK, the leading theory on the origins of the first life involve complex amino acid chains forming in vocanic vents beneath the ocean. Eventually, fed by the precise combination of chemicals needed for life in a highly charged chemical soup, some of those amino acid chains started reproducing - and from there, we have the first stage of life. (Of course, this is only one theory, there are many others). This requires a lot more than just the presence of liquid water!
7.13.2006 11:22pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
So every planet with liquid water has life, or had, or will. And since intelligence is favored, and technological intelligence favored, every planet will have, or had, or has, technologically competent life.

Well, as Dan28 noted, there needs to be a lot more than just plain water to form life. A massive planet (so complex organisms can stick to the ground and not float away) with an atmosphere, not so far from a star as to freeze forever or so close as to boil forever, are necessary conditions as well. Water is probably only necessary for earthlings because there is so much of it; if another liquid was abundant elsewhere, organisms there would probably be made of it like we are made of water.

Guess we won't know until we meet an alien.
7.13.2006 11:52pm
Wombat:
Moondust is not my specialty, but why aren't the average rates explainable by vacuum welding? And if these estimares are assuming 4 billion years without any moon-magma activity, they are sorely mistaken.

Although, I'd like to get in an extreme, extreme ironic chuckle about pro-creationists bringing up the moon. They are aware that humans' circadian rhythm is only 23 hours long because the moon has slowed the earth's rotation down an hour in the hundreds of thousands of years since that was genetically set, right? Thus not only discounting the Genesis lifespan of the earth, but providing another human feature where either A) God screwed up, or B) it became part of the "human" genetic code long before humans were around.
7.14.2006 12:14am
plunge (mail):
I think the really fascinating thing about creationist arguments is how revealing they are about the mindset of those who make them. In short, they never give you the sense that they actually CARE about the subjects they raise. They already know what's true, so all these arguments are basically just timesavers for wasting the time of scientists who have to patiently debunk them. But there's no payoff. Very very occasionally, a creationist will say "well, gee, I guess that argument isn't so good" but even in the very rare cases where they admit that, it doesn't much change things. They know they are right. They didn't really care whether the argument was sound or not. It doesn't matter to them. They know they are right.

And so on. Is it any wonder that scientists get bored very quickly? They aren't arguing with people who sincerely care about learning anything about the world around them. They don't need to. They already know what's true and what isn't, so what's the point?

The moondust is a case in point. It's based on a very lousy understanding of ANYTHING having to do with what we know about moondust. And yet it comes up over and over and over, despite being a terrible argument based on demonstrably bad assumptions that were thrown out after countless measurements showed they were in error... and that was DECADES ago.
7.14.2006 2:45am
plunge (mail):
The 2nd law argument is even more bizarre in the way that it completely understands what a "law" is (and this is not a term many scientists are crazy about anymore in the first place, btw) and actually seems to contradict itself.

If the 2nd law really prevented all the things creationists claim it did, then life would not function. I'm not saying that it wouldn't evolve, I'm saying that it wouldn't FUNCTION. In fact, many many many quite mundane chemical reactions couldn't and wouldn't happen. Heck, ICE could not form!

Worse, the implication of 2nd law arguments is that natural forces can't overcome increasing disorder, but somehow intelligence can. Well, it can't. You can't run around declaring that something is impossible and then immediately saying that it happens with YOUR pet theory just fine. Intelligent beings are just as bound by the 2nd law as everything else. And if they aren't, then it cannot be a law in the first place, in which case there is no way to bar natural violations of the law either. You can't have it both ways.... but it certainly is asthonishing that you nevertheless try!
7.14.2006 2:57am
James of England:
Jonathan Adler, do you disagree with Clayton Cramer and believe that Smith believed in an atheist market? What basis do you have for believing that most Creationists, amongst whom I do not count myself, disagree with my belief that the market is a divinely ordained system? There's a good chunk of biblical verbiage to support this belief.
7.14.2006 3:50am
exfizz:
non_Lawyer: "Help me understand how the universe could expand from the size of a marble to billions of lightyears across in one-trillionth of a second."

Sure: inflation.

"It's nonsense like this that makes the Big Bang theory look ridiculous."

Ridiculous? Please explain. Using math.

donaldk: "To indulge in a bit of frivolity: I find the Big Bang theory less convincing than the Book of Genesis."

I agree. I think the Book of Leviticus offers a stabler solution to Einstein's field equations.

[Jonathan: please put this thread out of its misery. China: please crush us -- we're turning into a nation of marching morons. (And I must admit, I used to admire Gilder; now I worry that he's become a crank. It is possible he was a crank all along and I didn't realize it or chose not to realize it.)]
7.14.2006 3:56am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dan28, et al. A planet which has permanent liquid water has sufficient gravity to keep an atmosphere--or the water wouldn't be liquid.
It has an orbit relatively close to circular, or the water would freeze at some point when the planet got too far out. Or the water would go to vapor when the planet got too far in.
A planet with permanent liquid water would likely have the other light elements useful for life. It would probably have volcanoes. There are volcanoes on other planets and moons in our system, remember.

We have discovered about one hundred and fifty systems with planets. Should say that our observations favor finding the bigger planets, super jovians. But anybody who looked at our system from three hundred light years and found only Jupiter and Saturn and concluded no other planets existed would be kind of....wrong.

Nope. Given time and enough atoms and molecules bouncing around, the naturalistic theory not only allows but requires life.

Interesting how the scientific-sounding folks seem to rush to insist that it can't happen. Except here.
7.14.2006 9:33am
Frank Drackman (mail):
When those 9ft silicon based benevolent aliens get here and start doing all sorts of great things for us, and start sending us on exchange trips to their planet, remember the "To Serve Man" episode from the old Twillight Zone.
7.14.2006 10:00am
lucia (mail) (www):
A fellow engineer who had a Ph. D. in Aero came to my office one day. The night before, he'd heard the 2nd law argument and was tempted to believe it based on a "gut feeling" that "things didn't just self organize." After all, we engineers expend lots of thought and effort organizing things we want to organize.

It was fall. I pointed at the leaves that had self accumulated in the corner of our strangely shaped building and said "So, how'd that happen?" His answer was "Oh, .... right!" He still didn't believe in evolution, but he realized instantly that actually trying to show it violates the 2nd law of thermo would be pretty much impossible.

Of course, if "evolution violates the second law of thermo" is your pet theory, you can knock yourself out trying to prove it. But, please, for the sake of those of use who know the second law, if you are going to try to "prove" evolution violates the second law of thermodynamcis you should at least:

a) Know that to decrease entropy in a closed system, you must remove heat. (See carnot heat cycle. (Please examine step C. Note heat is removed, entropy of the gas drops. This is the reason many nuclear power plants have large cooling towers. )

b) Know that conservation of mass, and the first and second laws of thermodynamics can be applied to open systems and are on a daily basis. (Internal combustion engines are open systems. I could name a bajjillion others.)

c) Know entropy does decrease locally in natural systems-- both open and closed. (Yes, the temperature of Lake Michigan drops during winter. If you fill your pool with water, and cover the top with saranwrap perventing mass transfer, the water will also cool during winter. Heck, the surface migth even freeze. If you look up the intrinsic entropy of water iin a thermo text, you'll find the entropy of the cold water is less than that of the warmer water. )

d) Know that "greater disorder" and "less disorder" have special meaning in thermodynamcis. ( A liter or water 33 F spilled on the kitchen outer waiting for you to clean it up is "more ordered" than a liter or water at 211 F sitting in a pot near boiling ready to fulfill your fondest desire for a nice cup of tea. If the cold water evaporates, you have no mess to clean up, but the evaporated water is "less ordered" than the spilled water! )

e)Know that, yes, things do spontaneously "organize themselves" in the way normal humans considered "ordered". (Though, this does not necessarily mean they are lower entropy.) These "things" include fairly large objects and mocular objects. Leaves accumulate recirculation zones permitting trash collectors to find heaps, gold veins form, coal veins form. These phenomena do not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

f) The fact that "self organization" of "things" does not violate the 2nd law makes it really difficult to claim "self organization" of "complicated things" like life violates the second law! The 2nd law doesn't distinguish between "complicated" and "simple" phenomena.

Arguments that disprove evolution by relying on absolutely mistaken notions of the 2nd law are just not going to convince anyone who knows the 2nd law! (Lucky for you, people who know the 2nd law tend to stay out of these metaphysical arguments. Otherwise, you might start seeing computations to demonstrate that the entropy associated by the amount of excrement created by "life" is sufficient to explain any local entropy decrease inside the control volume containing "life".)
7.14.2006 11:19am
William Swann (www):

Also, "the most generous possible interpretation" of the criticism that evolution doesn't explain language, an observed phenomenon (which Darwinism must explain to be valid) is that evolution is not valid. The MINIMUM compelled conclusion is that it "doesn't presently explain" it.

My claim is that this is not the only example-- in fact there are many similar issues. If a theory has too many things that it should explain but can't, eventually it should be dumped, right? But will evolution get dumped? Ever?
That's quite a confusing point for me, Josh. The norm for scientific theories appears to me to be an absence of explanation for vast numbers of facts or even whole areas of study, in many cases. Science as it exists today explains a segment of the physical world, but that's a rather small minority segment, I suspect.

Do geologists, for example, really know how the earth's core works? I saw some science program that suggested recent changes in the basic model of it. I wasn't convined that the new model is all that well grounded empirically. You certainly couldn't say they have a detailed picture of what's going on down there. Why not?

Can meteorolgists tell you where a hurricane is going to hit? I grew up in Florida and my parents still live down there. I know the answer to that one.

Can physicists or astronomers tell you whether the universe is open (e.g., permanently expanding) or closed? I think one side of that debate has gotten stronger recently, but is it scientifically settled?

Can a physicist tell you even something as fundamental as how many dimensions exist in the spacial universe we all live in and walk through every day? Theories like relativity and quantum mechanics have something to say about that -- they're involved in the speculations and calculations. But they haven't solved it.

Finally, would you abandon relativity, quantum mechanics, modern geology, and meteorology based on the absence of explanations of large chunks of our observable world?

I doubt it. I think this "argument from the gaps" is something you're uniquely applying to evolution, probably without realizing how different your expectations are.
I realize that we haven't got anything better, but that could be because people aren't really looking. No one looked for relativity either-- Newtonianism was fine. But relativity turns out to be (far more so than speciation by evolution) probably true, and borne out by observable fact.
Case in point. My understanding is that relativity predicts under certain conditions (like at the center of a black hole) the existence of a singularity, which is the suspension of all physical laws. You could view that as more of a "proof" that relativity is wrong than just about any known fact regarding species and evolution.

I believe it's also the case that relativity and quantum mechanics (the two dominant theories in physics) are inconsistent with each other in some ways. They make incompatible predictions.

Is the example you cite for evolution -- the lack of an explanation for language -- really the same as these rather stark inconsistencies in physics? I don't know, maybe you could tell me more about the language issue. But it's easy for me to imagine, at least, an evolutionary path to language. Most animals make some kind of sounds, and making sounds that have meaning is a huge advantage for any species. So meaningful sounds and the tendencies to use them would be positively "selected", presumably. Other big-brained creatures, such as dolphins, make rather sophisticated use of sounds for communication with one another.

Help me understand why an evolutionary explanation doesn't fit with the development of language. Is it that it hasn't explained language? (which might be comparable to physics not yet explaining the dimensions of the physical space in front of me right now). Or is it that it can't or is somehow unlikely to?
7.14.2006 11:27am
plunge (mail):
It doesn't matter whether the universe itself is open or closed (and we're not even sure that means anything in regards to the universe). Local entropy can increase regardless of the longterm fate of the universe.
7.14.2006 12:18pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Does this strike anyone else as extremely odd? It is the consistent application of a theory that is non-ideological. It is the picking and choosing of different theories, to suit their preferences, that is the sign of ideologues. Just like a judge might switch back and forth in his or her use of originalism in order to reach ideological results. A non-ideologue would use the theory consistently
Actually, part of what identifies someone as an ideologue is that they insist on applying a wonderful theory from field A to every other field--whether it produces sensible results or not. Libertarians are notorious for this; they find a theory that makes good sense in perhaps 90% of human situations, and rather than admit that are cases where it doesn't fit--they just get insistent that it does, it does, it does! I'm thinking of Ayn Rand's refusal for many years to admit that there was air and water pollution, because the alternative was to admit that the government might serve some useful purpose in dealing with it.
7.14.2006 12:22pm
Colin (mail):
Given time and enough atoms and molecules bouncing around, the naturalistic theory not only allows but requires life.

Interesting how the scientific-sounding folks seem to rush to insist that it can't happen. Except here.


I haven't seen any "scientific-sounding folks" rushing to "insist" that it can't happen here. At most, I think scientists are dubious that life must arise elsewhere, simply because it has here. You still haven't shown why the "naturalistic theory" requires that life arise elsewhere; even if your first statement quoted here is correct, you'd need numbers that haven't been (and may not ever be) calculated in order to decide that the space of possible locales is large enough to make life probable, let alone necessary.

Nor is it at all relevant. As you say, we don't have the ability to observe potentially life-bearing planets in other star systems. There could be life everywhere and without our knowing.

Nor is your earlier statement true:

And since intelligence is favored, and technological intelligence favored, every planet will have, or had, or has, technologically competent life.

Now, if interstellar travel is possible, one or more of those folks is going to do it.


Intelligence isn't "favored." I misremember, but I think the most prevalent macrocellular species on the plant are arthropods. And without knowing how or when intelligence evolved, we can't say that its an inevitability. And on top of your already enormous pile of assumptions, everything we know suggests that interstellar travel, even if it is possible, would be astronimically (har har) expensive with little to no benefit.

I can't remember the name of this "paradox." It was first proposed by a sci-fi author, and answered many times since then... but who was that first author? Anyone remember?
7.14.2006 12:46pm
Joel B. (mail):
As I understand the law of thermodynamics, perhaps the simplest way to describe it, is that over time, the entire system works its way toward "average." Now, I accept that there can be local disturbances of this trend toward "averageness." My larger point though, and I think that most peoples point when we talk of the 2nd "law" of thermodynamics is that asking intelligent life to form with all attendent requirements seems like an awfully strong pull from this descent into averageness. After all, Intelligence isn't "favored." Does the law accept disturbances? Yes, absolutely, it must, but the trend works against it. The larger point, "scientific materialism" in this sense is swimming upstream against an apparently large current.

As to the example of piled leaves...I don't see how this really demonstrates your point, apparently you pointed out the odd shape of your building, perhaps the wind "channelled" by the shape of the building drew the leaves to a common pile. Yeah even that is an example of a greater order (that of the building) forcing a order of a smaller scale on underlying processes (wind blows leaves to the building, where the are impeded by the building.)
7.14.2006 1:16pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Colin,

I suppose technological intelligence isn't favored. After all, the major predators are now on the endangered species list, we've wiped out smallpox because we want to--and probably could anything else we wanted to, as well--and so we may end up offing ourselves through too much intelligence.

I have no idea if space travel within a lifetime, even allowing for relativistic time contraction, is feasible. Problem is, if it is, then what?

Naturalistic theory of the origin of life is enough molecules bouncing around long enough MUST combine to larger and more complex molecules which MUST, given enough time, combine to be life. If we insist on certain limits, such as carbon being the only likely basis since its valence (is that an ancient concept, like me?) count is so high, then someplace without carbon can't have life. Okay. Can you picture a planet in the universe which doesn't have carbon? Or hydrogen, or oxygen, or nitrogen, or, etc? Those are the easy ones. The heavy elements coming from supernovas are less necessary for life, if important for technology.

Anyway, the theoretical burden is on those who would explain why it can't happen elsewhere.
7.14.2006 2:15pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Jonathan: please put this thread out of its misery. China: please crush us -- we're turning into a nation of marching morons.

Come armageddon, come armageddon, come!
7.14.2006 2:45pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Joel B.
You do not understand the second law of thermodynamics at all.

Yes, the leaves were trapped in a the recirculation zone created when wind blew by a building. This has nothing to do with the "greater order" of the building.

My friend, who knew thermo, immediately understood I was just pointing to the example of a general case of "things that happen all that time". The particular example just happened to manifest itself outside my window on the day he happened to walk in and bring up this subject. He immediately realized there were a bajillion examples of "self ordering" phenomena. (Like mineral ore deposits.)


I would say more about the second law, but it's ridiculous to try to teach the first course in thermodynamics in blog comments. For the few here who do know some thermo, I will simply suggest that someday, some one should write a book entitled:

"Live shits: or why evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics".

I submit that those who don't get the title also don't understand the second law.
7.14.2006 3:06pm
Colin (mail):
Problem is, if it is, then what?

Why is that a problem for "naturalistic theory"?

Anyway, the theoretical burden is on those who would explain why it can't happen elsewhere.

Who is arguing that, and what relevance does it have to the theory of evolution? I'm really not sure why you're so worked up about alien lifeforms. We seem to agree that we don't know if such life exists, and I don't think you've demonstrated that it matters whether or not it does.
7.14.2006 3:16pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Shoot! The title should be:
"Life shits: Why evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics".
7.14.2006 3:37pm
Colin (mail):
As a somewhat related aside, one of the most prolific, most dishonest, and highest-paid young-earth creationists just got arrested for tax evasion. It's like a drink of cool water. The saga of "Dinosaur Adventure Land," an amusement park built on the same sort of "Adam and Eve rode vegetarian tyrannosaurs through the garden of Eden" research Answers in Genesis does, is a long and goofy one. The county eventually bulldozed it because, in "Dr." Kent Hovind's opinion, if you're a citizen of the Kingdom of God you don't need Man's secular building permits.

Speaking of which,

"Over Kent Hovind's protests, the judge took away his passport and guns Hovind claimed belonged to his church."

Do many churches own guns?
7.14.2006 4:29pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
For those who are *genuinely* interested in understanding the tenets of modern physics, including the Big Bang and string theory, I highly recommend Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos." It's also available as an audiobook.
7.14.2006 4:36pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Naturalistic theory of the origin of life is enough molecules bouncing around long enough MUST combine to larger and more complex molecules which MUST, given enough time, combine to be life."

No. This is a typical (and gross) oversimplification. Please, please, please read some valid material on the topic. There is nothing "ungodly" or "atheistic" about it, I assure you.

There is no "must" here, only a "did." Life on this planet *did*begin at some point. Science has two choices: accept the Biblical account (or the Epic of Gilgamesh, or any of the numerous other religious accounts of creation) and close the book; or, for the sake of expanding our knowledge of the nature of life itself, try to understand what the process might have looked like and under what conditions it could have occurred.
7.14.2006 5:00pm
Barry Kearns (mail):
My larger point though, and I think that most peoples point when we talk of the 2nd "law" of thermodynamics is that asking intelligent life to form with all attendent requirements seems like an awfully strong pull from this descent into averageness.

Joel, as has been pointed out many times, the "second law" canard might approach a meaningful discussion point IF we didn't have a massive source of extra energy, perhaps from some hypothetical giant ball of fusion, being added to the system on an oscillating basis.

If you have a cyclical system where lots of extra energy is added and released locally over and over (say, every 24 hours or so), you've got the prime conditions for doing things that naively look like they "violate" the second law.

Cyclical application and release of energy is at the heart of what most people describe as engines... and engines are well-known for producing work.

It's only a "violation" if you ignore a primary tenet of the second law: that it applies only to closed systems, which Earth doesn't remotely qualify as...

Unless, of course, you'd like to argue against the hypothesis there's some giant ball out there giving Earth scads of extra energy, with the turning of the Earth providing the cycling?
7.14.2006 5:44pm
Joel B. (mail):
Lucia-

My point in examining your example of the leaves is that this dissymmetry is a result of the dissymmetry created in the building and the way in which air flows around/over the building (along with other effects upon the wind). Thus the effect...the dissymmetry is present in the cause, not the leaves. This apparent order we see is not because the wind "got lucky," it's because of the property of nature around it. Otherwise, the leaves should be distributed isotropically. Even "gold veins" and the like are demonstrations of the same thing, the dissymmetry is the result of the dissymmetric cause.

SO, here's where Richard's point is very useful to me (he probably didn't anticipate that so don't take it out on him) for all this "ordering," is there some dissymmetric cause that is pulling molecules to life? I posit there is not one in the materialistic sense. BUT, if there is, as Richard posits we should see life in more places throughout the galaxy, after all there must be some dissymmetric cause pulling these molecules into the unusual combination required to begin life.
7.14.2006 5:46pm
Barry Kearns (mail):
Joel -

It would probably be vastly more accurate to say that there is almost no chance at all that anyone today can calculate, with anything approaching accuracy, what the actual a priori probabilities are for life to arise on any given world.

We just don't know (and quite probably can't know), so we cannot say that it is likely or unlikely, and we therefore cannot say that it must happen, either.

We currently have one data point to work from... Earth. We haven't been able to perform anthing remotely like the tests that would be necessary to establish a conclusive proof, one way or the other, as to whether any forms of life exist (or have ever existed) on any given world. We also lack the technology to accurately determine a priori the probability that any given initial set of life might eventually achieve intelligence, nor the probability that any given intelligent species will eventually develop space travel or forms of interplantary communication.

We simply can't compute it in advance of it happening. We lack the technology to gather enough underlying data on initial and all future conditions to do so. That doesn't mean it's wildly improbable, it doesn't mean that it's certain... all it means is that we just don't know how likely it is.

Functionally incomputable is not the same as highly improbable.

Is that a difficult concept to grasp, for some reason?
7.14.2006 6:08pm
Joel B. (mail):
Functionally incomputable is not the same as highly improbable.

Is that a difficult concept to grasp, for some reason?


No, that is a fairly simple concept to grasp, but just because something is functionally incomputable does not mean that we can see that something appears to be pretty unlikely. Science has devised all sorts of tests (Urey-Miller being the most famous) to show that it is "theoretically possible;" unfortunately, even Urey-Miller didn't move the ball very far and that is why abiogenesis on Earth has been a game of kick the can with the more preferred theory being panspermia. Granted, we can't get a perfect number of the actual likelihood, but at this moment in time, it does seem quite unlikely.

If that changes, (if we meet aliens with a radically different religious underpining for example) then my position would probably adapt as well. At this point, though my position remains. (Wouldn't that be really weird though if we met aliens who had a very similar religious underpining to us? What then? Would that reinforce the idea that the dissymmetry principle pulls all intelligence to a particular kind of religion, or would that reinforce those religions. Weird, and an aside.)
7.14.2006 6:28pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Joel B.
If I'm not mistaken your current "point" is: You admit naturally occuring local order arises, and you can explain that.

That's a bit interesting, because the claim that local order cannot arise naturally (because that violates the second law) seemed pretty darn central to your "proof" that life cannot evolve (or possibly arise.)

So here's my question to you: How does any explanation for how and why local order arises naturally prove that local order cannot arise naturally?

BTW: I love the idea that you think I was suggesting the wind "got lucky"!!
7.14.2006 6:36pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Josh Chandler:
Some do. Indeed, I would say that some of the predictions made by evolutionary theory are at least prima facie contradicted by observable facts-- the evolution of language for instance, is still very difficult to plausibly explain. I'm not saying it can't be done, or won't be done, just that you're overstating the case.


If you have been following the discussions here of updating the OED, the acceptability of splitting infinitives and "10 times less than", and the usage of fulsome and other words, it's pretty clear that the evolution of language closely mirrors the evolution of species, as it has been described. Mutations (new words, new meanings for old words, moving words from one part of speech to another [i.e., verbing a noun], new grammatical structures) happen all the time. Some arise and quickly die out ("dig that crazy beat, man" "I'm chill"). Others persist and spread because they name some new process (Thirty years ago, no one anywhere would say "I'm going to go online"--not even a tightrope walker--and everyone on here should recall there was a time when "access" was used only as a noun, not a verb). Some mutations remain persistant regional variations (I'm from the small midwestern region where we end questions with "with" without a pronoun "I'm going to the swimming hole; you wanna come with?" and consistently drop the "of" after "couple" "Grab me a couple donuts") like regional traits.

Reading Shakespeare or Chaucer, one can sense how the language has shifted in recent centuries. Grammatical structures common in those texts are rarely used today ("They did impart this to me in dreadful secrecy, and I kept the watch with them the third night.").

And the slow drift from regionalism to dialect to a different language, suggests exactly how two species can evolve from a common ancestor. Linguists and etymologists generally agree that English and German spring from a common Anglo-Saxon root--a language that would not be recognizable as either English or German to modern speakers of either language.

Or are the Intelligent Design proponents going to reject all the evidence that all the human languages eventually come from the same root through mutation and evolution, and instead claim that that some literal version of the Tower of Babel rather than mutation and evolution through time and geographical separation created the different languages?
7.14.2006 6:54pm
Joel B. (mail):
Lucia-

If you like the idea that I suggested you were saying that the wind "got lucky" I will say that that's what I was suggesting. More or less I'm trying to draw upon an idea that life appeared more or less at random, or that something is dissymmetrically "pulling" life to form.

This still requires there to be this "dissymmetric cause," is there such a cause? I think not. Natural processes should show no preference for life over non-life, so where remains this cause. If there is a cause then life should be more abundant "universely" than it currently appears. But life instead appears to be very rare.

Also, not this "dissymmetric cause" for life must be pulling a lot of different things because just a few chemicals here and there is insufficient for life.

Without such a dissymetric cause the 2nd law of Thermo holds, open or closed, and in that case "order" does not arise on its own.
7.14.2006 7:01pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Joel B.
Does the expression "got lucky" mean the same thing in your dialect and mine?

Limiting my comments to the second law of thermo and symmetry:

The 2nd law of thermo holds in both symmetric and asymmetric systems. Our planet, solar system, galaxy and universe are highly assymetric. The second law of thermodynamics is know to hold on earth, and sure as shootin' appears to hold anyplace we observe. There may be a few pockets of symmetry somewhere, but it's the exception. As far as I'm aware.

If your claim is life can't arise in a symmetric (or presumably isotropic) system, that's a pointless proof. The world isn't symmetric!

Have fun though.
7.14.2006 7:30pm
Joel B. (mail):
Lucia-

Yes, I reckon it means the same thing in your dialect and mine.

As to symmetry, the point is that in the case of "spontaneous" order there is some dissymmetric cause. So, sand sorts because gravity acts on the different size sand to differing degrees, gold sorts similarly in veins, we can attribute this "orders" to a dissymmetric cause. What however, is the dissymmetric cause that leads to the order of life? Or is it simply...that nature "got lucky." Very lucky.
7.14.2006 7:37pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Joel,
If you think flow only concentrates particles in the presence of symmetry, you are simply wrong.

Particles are known to cluster in homogeneous isotropic turbulence. This has been shown repeatedly.
7.14.2006 7:44pm
Barry Kearns (mail):
Joel -

No, that is a fairly simple concept to grasp, but just because something is functionally incomputable does not mean that we can see that something appears to be pretty unlikely.

I've read this sentence about a dozen times now, and I strongly suspect that it means the opposite of what you intended for it to mean. Did you intend to say that this doesn't mean that we can't see that something appears to be pretty unlikely?

(This seems oddly apropos of the Dangers of Trying To Be Colorful thread here on VC)

At the risk of being labelled an "activist judge", I'll assume you meant "can't"... in other words, your double negative cancels to say that we can see that something appears to be pretty unlikely, the something in this case being naturalistic abiogenesis on Earth (or another planet).

That's precisely what I'm arguing against. I contend that we cannot tell if it is near-certain, likely, unlikely, rare, or near-impossible. We lack the tools to get even close to the ballpark on computing something like that.

If there is a cause then life should be more abundant "universely" than it currently appears. But life instead appears to be very rare.

I contend that we (you included) lack the tools to make any meaningful pronouncement on how abundant life is in the universe, nor how abundant intelligence is among that life, nor to say that it "appears to be very rare".

That "appearance", in my opinion, is an artifact of the premise that appears to drive much of the Intelligent Design movement and its advocates: People assuming that they know how to (and do) eliminate all "other" explanations, therefore the only one remaining is their pet hypothesis (or religious motivation).

Personally, I blame that blasted Sherlock Holmes:

"...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

IMO, where Behe and Dembski go astray is in assuming that they are clever enough to eliminate as "impossible" every possible natural path, and then declare that the only possibility remaining must be "design".

The problem is, in most non-trivial situations, we can't successfully eliminate these things... we're only arrogant enough to assume that we can (and have).

More typically, it seems to come down more to "I can't imagine how this could have arisen naturally, therefore it could not have!"

Fortunately for us, the universe is not constrained to only do those things that a theorist happens to imagine. A failure of imagination does not constitute a proof of non-existence.

When trying to say that "life... appears to be very rare" on a universal basis, I contend that you're falling victim to the same arrogance. You seem to be assuming that you know what would happen if life were abundant in the universe, or even if intelligence were abundant in the universe (and since you don't see it, life must be rare)... but you simply don't have the tools to do so accurately. I don't think anyone does.

That's why I object to the argument. I dislike it when people state things as if they were facts, when they have no firm rational basis whatsoever for doing so. Our position as Earthlings is one of utter ignorance on the actual probability, so there should be near-zero confidence that "very rare" must be an accurate assessment of the probability.

Sorry if that seems harsh.
7.14.2006 7:46pm
Colin (mail):
IMO, where Behe and Dembski go astray is in assuming that they are clever enough to eliminate as "impossible" every possible natural path, and then declare that the only possibility remaining must be "design".

I think they're shooting for an easier target. Because their objectives are political, religious, and increasingly legal, they don't need to achieve an accurate or robust result. They only need to convince a credulous audience that they've done so. It just has to look like they're clever enough to eliminate all possible natural paths to a sympathetic layperson.
7.14.2006 7:55pm
Dan Weber:
The way of measuring the likelihood of life arising on a planet is done using the Drake Equation. The mystery of no alien species having contacted us is the Fermi Paradox.

The Drake Equation is sometimes used (erroneously) as a proof that life exists in other places in the universe. However, it should merely be used as a guide, as some of the variables are still completely unknown to us, even within several orders of magnitude.

The Fermi Paradox says that, if life is anything less than a miracle, then some species should already have colonized the galaxy, since it doesn't really take that long to move from one star-system to the next, when you measure the age of the universe.


Biologists have not come to any conclusion as to the origin of life on earth. These scientists hotly debate it, and panspermia has some interesting evidence behind it (bacteria can survive in space — why did they develop that resistence?). There is other evidence that life began underground where it is very very hot, and gradually moved upwards into places that are more friendly to the type of life we meet regularly. (And don't forget the mysterious red rain in Kerala.)

However, one thing all these biologists have in common is belief in evolution. It's as fundamental to debating the creation of life as understanding gravity is to debating the formation of the universe. They may discover something that causes us to modify our understanding of how evolution happens, but they are all going to be starting from that position.
7.15.2006 12:58am
exfizz:
Joel B. "Wouldn't that be really weird though if we met aliens who had a very similar religious underpinning to us?"

Uh, depends. Who d'ya mean by "us"?

American fundamentalist Protestants?
Bwiti Fang from Cameroon?
An atheistic Buddhist Khmer particle physicist?
Or someone else?
;-)
7.15.2006 5:06am
exfizz:
Joel B: "But life … appears to be very rare."

Extensively explored: 1 world, with life just effin' everywhere
Superficially explored: ~10 worlds, some inconclusive hints of life
Completely, utterly unexplored: ~100,000,000,000,000,000,000 worlds

So... how rare is life? Again, use math.

Joel, unless you've been doing a whole lot of exploration in your free time, I agree with Barry that the correct position to take is that we are ignorant of the facts.

But Colin's right: this is not about science. It never was. It's about politics and about imposing a rather small and restrictive view of human affairs on a vast and dynamic nation. We should not be counting planets, we should be counting voters.

(And I count myself as a conservative voter. But I swear, if I ever abandon the right/GOP, it'll be because of these damn know-nothings. Where's the party for smart, non-Bible-thumping right-wingers? Why, why would anyone think it strategic to lobotomize the most dynamic nation on Earth, at a time when the competition is really heating up?!?)
7.15.2006 5:08am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Grover:

Life is, admittedly, a hugely unlikely accidental combination of molecules under certain conditions.

Probability theory tells us that, given sufficient time (die rolls, coin flips, etc), even the hugely unlikely is inevitable. As a result, life must exist in many places. To keep the process close to what we understand of the initial process here--damn' near zilch--the speculation is restricted to the "golden zone", planets with permanent liquid water.

I'd be interested if somebody has some idea of what mechanism would offset probability theory.
7.15.2006 9:39am
Dan Weber:

If that changes, (if we meet aliens with a radically different religious underpining for example) then my position would probably adapt as well.

What about meeting Earthlings with radically different religious underpinnings? There's over a billion Hindu, y'know.

(Wouldn't that be really weird though if we met aliens who had a very similar religious underpining to us?)

If an alien religion is very similar to an Earth religion, that would be extremely interesting. By the birthday paradox, though, we should expect there to be some overlap, even if religions are a purely random.
7.15.2006 11:16am
Joel B. (mail):
Uh, depends. Who d'ya mean by "us"?

American fundamentalist Protestants?
Bwiti Fang from Cameroon?
An atheistic Buddhist Khmer particle physicist?
Or someone else?
;-)


Just humanity in general, if the "alien religion" was hinduism, it'd be an awfully strange coincidence, is all I'm saying the same is true if it is broader Christianity.

As to the rarity of life, I readily grant that 40 years is a short time for "SETI" projects to have found anything. Yet they haven't. They may, and if they do, that'll upset a lot of existing ideas. That's fine, that's the way the world is supposed to work, but until it does, it seems reasonable to suspect that we are alone. Especially because we'd tend to think, that we're either mediocre or perhaps last in time. Now, it's always possible that we're the first intelligent life, but isn't that itself kind of amazing. It's an upending of the Copernican Principle all over.

Dan - I was thinking of the possibility of the birthday paradox or that we have found a "universal religion" if that happens, it would be fairly amazing, because then how would we react? You'd have to guess...bday paradox or universal religion.

One thing about "creationism" and "lobotimazation" come on...really? Need we think that creationism and lobotimazation go hand in hand? Because they don't, I know a good number of engineers and scientists at national laboratories who are creationists. Similarly, as recognized way up earlier in this thread, numerous creationists have put out well-regarded scientific articles in scientific disciplines, including physics and the like.

A belief/faith in creationism is not incompatible with scientific development. Most major scientists of the past were creationists, and not just creationists but Christian creationists.

Creationism vs. molecules to man Evolution is as exfizz pointed out more political and religious than almost anything else. What of it? This is a question of where we came from, and ultimately the answer doesn't affect the science we do, it affects our perspective on our past. That is pretty much it. To myself, and many other creationists, this is a question of where we came from, not where we're going, I wouldn't change the way science was conducted, nor would most creationists. Instead, it's an alternative history. We can't completely explain exactly what happened without an eyewitness, and even science admits that it cannot determine if things just appear old. Now, I don't think the universe was made to intentionally look old when it was young, instead I think whatever God did in creation was done out of necessity. Millions of stars in the heavens cannot be 4000 light-years away, that would not be good for us, but God still wanted the light there.

That creationism or Christianity is antithetical to science is an irrational prejudice. Christianity and Creationism are antithetical regarding liberation from morality, and that is why I think people get so wound up on this point. It is not science vs. non-science, it is liberty vs. libertinity.
7.15.2006 1:20pm
Colin (mail):
I know a good number of engineers and scientists at national laboratories who are creationists. Similarly, as recognized way up earlier in this thread, numerous creationists have put out well-regarded scientific articles in scientific disciplines, including physics and the like.

None of them are biologists, or publishing accurate research in the field of biology. Creationism is an obstacle to rational, productive thought in at least that field. But it's not a good sign of critical thinking in any field; a physicist might not have trouble reconciling the speed of light and special creation (assuming he's comfortable with an old earth), but he's also ignoring scientific data that conflicts with his preconceptions. If he's not intellectually honest outside his field, why will he be inside his field? What happens if his experimental results start to conflict with what his preacher taught him as a child?

Frankly, in this day and age an adult human being has to be either ignorant or intellectually dishonest to be a creationist. We're way past the point where even a casual understanding of basic science was consistant with six-day creationism.
7.16.2006 3:52pm
Joel B. (mail):
Frankly, in this day and age an adult human being has to be either ignorant or intellectually dishonest to be a creationist. We're way past the point where even a casual understanding of basic science was consistant with six-day creationism.

And so with that we see that science is no longer science, evolution cannot withstand the idea that the world could have been created, it simply must be true. To disagree is to be either ignorant or intellectually dishonest. Where is the introspection, where is the quesioning of the "theory" is that science? No! That is a blind faith. You see Colin, the difference between you can trust mine I can (and have shown) areas of development, observations that would shake my faith, and I'm sure many creationists if they came into observations that upended their faith would not ignore them, but consider them, and review them in depth, but your evolution...your faith Colin is blind, where is your questioning that evolution goes against the experience of our lives that the order, the information needed for complex machines does not come from luck, it comes from a greater intelligence, where is your questioning? It cannot see the faith it holds in evolution, and instead condemns all who disagree (and that's an awfully large number) as ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

Is that the light of your science? That to disagree on this single point is to condemn someone as having given "not a good sign of critical thinking in any field," where good sir is the critical thinking in evolution that labels those who disagree as ignorant or intellectually dishonest. That may be criticism, but it is but no means critical thinking.
7.16.2006 5:52pm
William Swann (www):

And so with that we see that science is no longer science, evolution cannot withstand the idea that the world could have been created, it simply must be true. To disagree is to be either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.
I don't think Colin is arguing that the world could not have been created, or that such belief is inconsisted with science. I mean, the Big Bang theory looks an awful lot like creation. He's saying that young-earth creationism is inconsistent with science. Geology, physics, and astronomy are all against it, aside from biology and the theory of evolution. On the other hand, if creation happened billions of years ago, it might be consistent with known science.

You could argue that we have a young, created earth, and that God manufactured all the other evidence that scientists interpret as indicating an old earth. But at that point, you're not in a scientific mode of reasoning.
7.16.2006 7:13pm
Colin (mail):
Swann is correct. While I would think that a person who disclaimed empiricism outright - who announced that while evidence exists, it just doesn't matter in the face of blind faith - was ridiculous, I wouldn't think that they were necessarily dishonest or ignorant. But creationism, including ID, requires either or both. That not because science can't stand scrutiny, as you suggest, but because it has already withstood as much scrutiny and debate as creationism has to offer. Creationism peaked as a scientific proposition about a hundred years ago. The weight of evidence in support of evolutionary biology is so staggering, and so obvious, that it is not possible to honestly address it and discard it. Evolution has been well-established as a fact for longer than any of us have been alive.

You might take your own arguments as an example. Your arguments about thermodynamics are frankly fatuous. A high-school textbook would disabuse you of your notions that the second law precludes life on earth (or anywhere). But rather than read that textbook, you trust Answers in Genesis - an organization that tells you up front that they will ignore any evidence that challenges their beliefs. If that's your position, that's fine -- see my first paragraph. But pretending that the evidence, the science, or the facts are something other than what they are is dishonest at worst, and ignorant at best.
7.17.2006 3:42am
Barry Kearns (mail):
Joel B -

observations that would shake my faith, and I'm sure many creationists if they came into observations that upended their faith would not ignore them, but consider them, and review them in depth, but your evolution...your faith Colin is blind

We're not talking about "many creationists", Joel, we're talking specifically about the position of Answers In Genesis, which matches the position of the pastor at the church I attend: that if anything is science contradicts what the Bible says, then the science is wrong.

That is blind faith, Joel. These people will not consider in depth and review something that science says that may upend their faith. They categorically reject it before they ever see it.

This is the organization that you said was one of your prime sources of science information. Can you see how this position is inconsistent with the basic tenets of science and progress in general?

If any given creationist, even a young-Earth one, were to come up with a solid reproducible experiment that conclusively shows that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, then scientists would accept that, and you'd see a major revolution in science. And that would be progress, because we'd better understand the truth.

If, on the other hand, science came up with a solid reproducible experiment that showed that the Earth must be not less than 4.3 billion years old, these folks will reject it without ever even looking at it. They have proclaimed in advance that their position cannot ever be wrong.

Which of the two is more like blind faith again?


where is your questioning that evolution goes against the experience of our lives that the order, the information needed for complex machines does not come from luck, it comes from a greater intelligence, where is your questioning?


The "experience of our lives" isn't the yardstick by which science proceeds. The experience of our lives tells us that the Earth is flat and still, not round and spinning.

The experience of our lives says that the Sun and the Moon are the same size, and that the Moon gives off its own light (which the Bible says, too). The experience of our lives says that stars are tiny, and therefore that the Sun cannot be one.

There are lots of true things that are counter-intuitive. They don't make sense at first glance, and contradict what our senses naively tell us.

The test for counter-intuitive truth is whether we can explain that what happens is consistent, matches our counter-intuitive premise, and show that it is true regardless of who does the checking.

So when the experience of our lives tells us that "the order, the information needed for complex machines does not come from luck", we look to see if we can come up with something.

Something reproducible... that can show that something that appears to be designed and is highly effective can arise through the combination of random changes and non-random environmental rules (like the laws of physics). It's the combination of random and non-random that allows progress to be made.

One of the fields I work in is evolutionary computation. I've seen a great many solutions to exceedingly tough problems arise through "luck", by creating engines that harness those two elements to make a computer solve problems when I've never even stated the problem.

If you're serious about considering something that might show you how a "complex machine" can arise through "luck", look up the work that Fogel and Chellapilla did on co-evolving a neural network that could play checkers competitively with humans.

The rules of the game of checkers served as the "physics" of the experiment... that was the non-random part, and set the benchmark for what would be more likely to survive and reproduce.

The populations started out completely randomized, and the only information supplied to the evolving population, the only "selection pressure" applied, was how well overall they scored in ten games against other members of the current population.

That's it. Then with breeding and many generations, what arose through application of those rules (over and over and over again) was a neural network that could play checkers at a level equivalent to a Class B human player (a rating of 1750).

If you were trying to write a "complex machine" in the form of a hand-coded computer program, this would take some pretty massive complexity to accomplish.

That's a decidedly non-trivial result, and more-or-less impossible to achieve if everything involved was what we think of as "random". But evolution isn't pure randomness... it's not a tornado in a junkyard. Evolution only works because there is a mechanism for preserving and building upon progress, in the sense of fitness for a given landscape at that moment.

That makes it a very, very powerful engine for adaptation and improvement, and sexual reproduction kicks that engine into warp drive, because it adds a mechanism for consolidating separately developed improvements together to make something even better.

Evolution is counter-intuitive, because we don't expect (at first glance), that randomness can give rise to improvement. And if randomness was all that was involved, our intuition would be more-or-less right. But there's a very non-random element too... non-random selection. That force acts (crudely) like a kind of ratchet or sorting mechanism, preferentially preserving the beneficial random changes and tending to select against the random changes that are harmful.

With that added piece of non-random selection (no matter what causes the non-random selection), there is a built-in mechanism to make progress in a given direction.

Look up Brownian Ratchets for another good example of how unidirectional motion or rotation can arise out of "randomness", too. Seeing the visual representation can sometimes help the light bulb turn on for some folks.

Personally, I think that I had grossly underestimated the power of evolutionary processes until I started using them with computers. I had considered biological evolution plausible enough before then, but it wasn't until I saw my computer solve unstated problems via evolution, with powerful soultions arising rapidly out of the digital goo, that I really understood what evolution can do.
7.17.2006 2:38pm