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Is a materialistic approach to teaching the origin of life inherently atheistic and therefore religious?

[There's] a new 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that approaches the issue of teaching origin-of-life theories in public schools from a new angle . . .

Few are aware that the courts have ruled atheism is a religion for the purposes of the First Amendment in 2005 and thought about its implications on the teaching of origin-of-life theories in public schools. In brief, evolution becomes both a religious and scientifc theory (using the court’s definition of scientific theory), and abiogenesis becomes purely a religious theory. That being the case, these atheist origin-of-life theories should be treated the same as any other origin-of-life theory. Anything less is unconstitutional. Visit the website at http://originoflifefairness.org for much more information and the links/facts to back it up.

The mainstream media wants to keep this knowledge quiet. If you agree the public needs to know about this issue, your help would be greatly appreciated telling the public about this website. . . .

Sincerely,
Randel Huey
CEO/Founder “Origin of Life Fairness in Public Schools, Inc.”
Jacksonville, Florida

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102 Responses to Is a materialistic approach to teaching the origin of life inherently atheistic and therefore religious?

  1. The logic is flawless. The logic is also pretty much irrelevant. Expecting the federal courts to carry their logic where the judges’ political preferences don’t want them to go is naive at best.

    When faced with the issue, look for the courts to engage in rhetorical slight of hand to duck it. No one who knows anything about constitutional law (which has very little to do with the text of the constitution by the way) expects the courts to apply the same standard to atheistic origin of life studies as they do to ID. Remember, the only thing one needs to know to practice constitutional law before the US Supreme Court is how to count to five.

  2. I learned about evolution in my high school biology courses, including the concept that life on earth is the result of a chance combination of chemical compounds and energy, and at no time did any teacher deny the existence of God (a prerequisite to atheism). Denial of the supernatural in the origin of life does not constitute atheism, there are many Christian believers who are also proponents of TOE.

    You make a great leap of faith (pun intended) when you suggest that chance as an explanation for the beginning of life is the same as atheism. I would also suspect, though I do not know because I am not in the least religious, that many religious people who believe in that concept of the origin of life would be insulted at your attempt to pigeon hole them in this manner (ie “If you believe life on earth arose by chance you’re an atheist.) I would like to hear from those who are religious and believe in TOE on this subject, if there are any out there who read this blog.

    Therefore this semantic sleight of hand on the part of ID’ers will fail just as every other attempt to introduce the supernatural as a viable scientific explanation of the origin of life into public school curricula has failed.

  3. I agree with BarryA. Our federal judges are nothing more than black-robed oligarchs pontificating what *they* feel should be law.

  4. To the contrary, the logic is quite poor. Atheists existed prior to evolutionary theory so that theory cannot be foundational of the “religion” itself. You may as well say that, because the Catholic Church now rejects geocentrism that the standard model of physics is Catholic doctrine.

    While evolutionary models may certainly be accepted by many atheists, they aren’t themselves defining of atheism and there are several different types of atheist who reject them. Raelians, for example, are atheists who reject evolution quite vehemently. Buddhists, as well, believe in no particular god (and thus could be considered “atheists”) yet probably don’t view evolution particularly favorably.

    As a result, for several reasons, this legal effort is essentially non-sensical.

  5. Leo1787 writes: “this semantic sleight of hand on the part of ID’ers will fail just as every other attempt to introduce the supernatural as a viable scientific explanation of the origin of life into public school curricula has failed.”

    Leo, let’s see how you respond to the familiar Mount Rushmore test.

    Assume that a Stephen King super virus wipes out all human life next year. 500 years later an alien visits earth and observes Mount Rushmore. The alien has two and only two choices to account for his observation:

    1. He could infer from the specified complexity of the sculpture that it is not the result of the random erosion of the mountain, and based on this inference he could conclude that the sculpture is the result of design by an intelligent agent.

    2. He could appeal to chance erosion of the mountain to account for the sculpture.

    If he chooses theory 1, would it be fair to accuse him of trying to inject the “supernatural” into the debate when the theory says nothing about the nature or purpose of the intelligent agent who designed the sculpture?

    If the answer to this question is “No, it’s not fair” why is it fair for you to make the same accusation against ID proponents when they are attempting to account for specified complexity several orders of magnitude greater than that seen at Mount Rushmore?

    My prediction: Leo will ignore these two questions altogether or he will try to dodge them.

  6. @Leo1787 “Denial of the supernatural in the origin of life does not constitute atheism, there are many Christian believers who are also proponents of TOE.”

    2 Qs: Completely naturalistic evolution? And do they have good theology?

    The main point is, can we not infer intelligence of any kind? Heck you don’t even need to do something like Mt. Rushmore, even the “simple” Stonehedge will do. And if you’re a Christian, is not too much to ask that you believe God was Designer, even if it be the dreaded frontloaded theistic evolution?

    I’d like to see your answer to BarryA’s question w/ out resorting to the dodge.

    I really like this guy Randel Huey. Honestly, it took someone to point out to me that Atheism is the reigning paradigm in our school system. GO Origin of Life Fairness in Public Schools, Inc.!

  7. Leo:

    Learn to draw the proper distinction between ID and ID\’s philosophical implications. Conflating the two will get you drop-kicked thru the goalposts of this blog and back out into the nether-regions of Darwinian la la land.

    One more reference to ID invoking the supernatural (or some related canard) and you will be permanently unselected from this blog. See the sidebar for nonsense to avoid under \”put a sock in it\” ->

  8. 8

    Leo,

    “life on earth is the result of a chance combination of chemical compounds and energy, and at no time did any teacher deny the existence of God (a prerequisite to atheism).”

    You don’t have to “deny the existence of God” to be an atheist when your starting premise is that chance and random chemical combination started life. We could get ridiculous and suppose someone could believe in a god who didn’t start life by design, but is that really god? I can’t think of any religion other than atheism that teaches the world started by chance … certainly not the major monotheistic religions, not hinduism, … which one does?

    (God: “Oh wow. Look what accidently happened on earth. Cool!”)

    The point is that since there is no evidence that life can pop up by accident, since we haven’t even come close to proving that such a thing could happen, then we take it by faith. And since faith is a component of religion, as atheism is, then it shouldn’t be in school.

    “will fail just as every other attempt to introduce the supernatural as a viable scientific explanation of the origin of life into public school curricula has failed.”

    As if atheism has “a viable scientific explanation of the origin of life”? But for the sake of being obvious, what is that explanation? And what religion, other than atheism, accepts that doctrine? Is this a contradiction in the making?

  9. If the public schools are teaching a doctrine that is essential for one religion (atheism) but antithetical to another (those with creationist beliefs) should that doctrine be taught. Especially if the doctrine has no basis in science.

  10. Leo1787 wrote: “I would like to hear from those who are religious and believe in TOE on this subject, if there are any out there who read this blog.”

    Since he asked to hear from others who read this blog, presumably Leo came back to check if anyone had responded. It has now been over two hours since I posted my response. This means Leo has almost certainly seen the questions I asked, and my prediction was right on. He chose to ignore the questions. He knows a no win situation when he sees one.

    Are there any materialists out there braver than Leo who want to take a shot at a response?

  11. 11

    There is as yet no theory of evolution (TOE). There are only thoroughly disproven hypotheses like Lamarckism and NeoDarwinism and still viable hypotheses like the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis (PEH). Let us see if this harmless comment is allowed to appear. Being by nature an experimentalist, I would like to know.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  12. 12

    Now let us see if it will stand.

  13. The logic of Huey’s note is execrable. Methodological naturalism is not atheism. The conflation of the two on this page is ironic, given Scott’s warning:

    “One more reference to ID invoking the supernatural (or some related canard) and you will be permanently unselected from this blog.”

    But Bill Dembski has written (http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_idtheory.htm),

    “My broad conclusion is that information is not reducible to natural causes, and that the origin of information is best sought in intelligent causes. Intelligent design thereby becomes a theory for detecting and measuring information, explaining its origin, and tracing its flow.”

    So intelligent causes are outside of nature. Now let me see… What’s the word for “outside of nature”? Yes, I know that the ID movement has since decided that it is unfair to call information creation — oops, the origin of information — supernatural, and thus has decreed intelligence natural-but-not-material.

    It seems to me that IDists insist on others understanding their newspeak, but readily turn methodological naturalism into materialism and materialism into atheism to demonize their adversaries. I try to play it straight with you folks. I genuinely wish you would try to stick to the high road, and elevate the level of discourse a notch or two. I am a methodological naturalist, but you would have a hard time finding someone less materialistic in his personal beliefs and lifestyle than I am. The smear job is flat-out wrong.

  14. This is the problem with Fundamentalism. If a view, any view, conflicts with one of the foundational principles AKA “fundamental” that viewpoint is deemed atheistic or even worse it is deemed “evil”. Coming from the viewpoint of the fundamentalist, I can completely understand the link. To disagree with a “fundamental” is tantamount to disagreeing with the existence of that deity completely.

    I always think of the Elvis analogy. I think he’s dead. Is this atheistic? Is it even a religious viewpoint to think he’s dead? What if their is some crazy Elvis cult who thinks that he’s alive and is a God? Suddenly my viewpoint that Elvis is dead has become a religious viewpoint and to this cult, I’m atheistic.

    I just don’t agree with that letter above, and I think millions of Christians who accept evolution would be offended to be considered an atheist because they disagree with a fundamental.

    Let’s keep the fundies in the Middle East shall we? ;)

  15. “I would like to hear from those who are religious and believe in TOE on this subject, if there are any out there who read this blog.”
    Comment by Leo1787 — August 30, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

    My prediction: Leo will ignore these two questions altogether or he will try to dodge them.
    Comment by BarryA — August 30, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

    “Are there any materialists out there braver than Leo who want to take a shot at a response?”
    Comment by BarryA — August 30, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

    Barry, you threw down the gauntlet one hour and fifty-three minutes after Leo’s last post. Don’t you think it’s just a bit egocentric to think that because you challenged him, he was still around?

    I have seen your challenge before, and I didn’t bother with it because it is not much of a challenge.

    “1. He could infer from the specified complexity of the sculpture that it is not the result of the random erosion of the mountain, and based on this inference he could conclude that the sculpture is the result of design by an intelligent agent.”

    No one has demonstrated the utility of CSI in design detection. You premise your point on an unverified claim of the efficacy of specified complexity. Perhaps the alien scientists have learned through experience not to rely on CSI. But let’s consider the feasibility of estimating complexity. How does the alien compute the probability that natural processes on an unfamiliar planet would give rise to the formation? Even we earthlings, familiar as we are with natural processes on earth, do not know how to come up with a reasonable estimate of the probability. In other words, you are vesting in the alien a power you do not have yourself. I doubt you can tell me the CSI of Mount Rushmore. Last, and most important, how would the alien determine that Mount Rushmore is specified? He would have to recognize a pattern, wouldn’t he? But why would we expect an alien to be sufficiently similar to humans to recognize the faces of Mount Rushmore as a pattern? He could be The Blob, for all you know. To recap, you beg the question of the utility of CSI. You make a bad assumption as to the feasibility of the complexity computation. And you make a bad assumption as to the ability of the alien to recognize a pattern that humans recognize.

    “If he chooses theory 1, would it be fair to accuse him of trying to inject the ‘supernatural’ into the debate when the theory says nothing about the nature or purpose of the intelligent agent who designed the sculpture?”

    And it’s deja vu all over again. Reread the quote of Bill Dembski in my last post (#13). Bill used to acknowledge that design inference was a matter of rejecting natural causes in favor of a non-natural cause. I have always assumed that he avoided “supernatural” because of what judges said about the term in decisions against creationism. Other philosophers of science do not hesitate to say “supernatural.” From dictionary.com:

    su‧per‧nat‧u‧ral
    –adjective
    1. of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.
    2. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to God or a deity.
    3. of a superlative degree; preternatural: a missile of supernatural speed.
    4. of, pertaining to, or attributed to ghosts, goblins, or other unearthly beings; eerie; occult.

    The appropriate sense in a design inference is the first. IDists want to avoid the second and fourth senses, but that does not mean that there is anything wrong with methodological naturalists like me using the word in its first sense. An intelligence that creates information stands “beyond what is natural.” If you do not agree with the scientific stance that the process giving rise to the sculpture was purely matter, energy, and their interactions, then from the prevailing perspective (not just scientific) you are saying that Mount Rushmore is not natural. And it is supernatural (sense 1).

    This is fair.

    “ID proponents when they are attempting to account for specified complexity several orders of magnitude greater than that seen at Mount Rushmore”

    That looks like two CSI bluffs. How can you talk about the CSI of some unnamed entities being so much higher when you haven’t estimated the CSI of Mount Rushmore?

  16. Tom English

    “Even we earthlings, familiar as we are with natural processes on earth, do not know how to come up with a reasonable estimate of the probability.”

    Yes, we earthlings have. In the case of Mt. Rushmore forming by natural processes we do indeed know how to come up with a reasonable estimate of the probability. The reasonable estimate is zero and it’s arrived at by way of elimination. If you think of a reasonable reason it should be non-zero to a significant degree please give those reasons otherwise through the process of elimination you must agree that a reasonable estimate is zero. What we earthlings don’t know how to do is arrive at a precise probability. There is some exceedingly small chance Mt. Rushmore could be a natural phenomenon but it’s so small there’s no way to give a precise number. Duh.

  17. The topic at hand is a “materialistic approach”. Materialism is a form of atheism.

    I’m not sure if some of the commenters understood that.

  18. Scott

    I think that some rough computation could be actually done by considering:
    1. the rough percentage of mountain contours that even only vaguely do resemble human faces => P1;
    2. the a priori probability that a face contour could, only by chance, have a sufficient level of detail to ve confused with the work of an artist (this figure could be obtained through computer simulation) => P2;
    3. with N faces an upper bound probability could be estimated by (P1*P2)^N

    No doubt that the obtained number would be anyway

  19. (P1*P2)^N

    No doubt that the obtained number would be anyway less than UPB

  20. @Drek
    >

    It really doesn’t matter, Drek, who founded the atheism. The idea is that atheism is a philosophy and not a scientific theory. The problem with TOE is that it’s trying to “convince” us that we – as living organisms – have the origins in some “organic soup” that organized itself in a first living cell, cell that contained not only the amazing machinery for feeding and multiplying itself, but also a lot of INFORMATION “stored” in DNA…

    So, taking that in consideration, and also, taking into consideration the fact that we are not able to prove scientifically any theory – materialist or not – that is trying to answer the big question WHO ARE WE & WHERE DO WE CAME FROM, we can (and must) treat atheism as a philosophy, as a religion, as a hypothesis and we must not be so close minded in our attempt to reject the possibility of the Designer’s existence. I believe that this is a “fair play” kind of approach that must be kept in mind by the courts of law. Otherwise, we are talking about FUNDAMENTALISM.

    >

    One of the atheistic approaches to the origin of life problem is TOE. And our children are indoctrinated by this theory day by day in schools world-wide… Nobody is teaching Buddhism nor Raelian religion in our schools as a scientific theory… THAT’S the difference and that’s why this legal effort has perfect sense.

  21. Tom English:

    “Barry, you threw down the gauntlet one hour and fifty-three minutes after Leo’s last post. Don’t you think it’s just a bit egocentric to think that because you challenged him, he was still around?”

    I have two answers to that question. As I pointed out above, it was Leo, not I, who implied he would be coming back to see if anyone had responded to him. Secondly, now it’s the next day. No one (including you) has answered my questions. Your point has no force.

    Turning to your non-response to my questions:

    “No one has demonstrated the utility of CSI in design detection.” This statement is absurd. Detecting CSI is central to a number of human endeavors, code breaking and forensics leap to mind.

    “I doubt you can tell me the CSI of Mount Rushmore.”

    DaveScott took care of this one with his usual aplomb above. The fact that I may not be able to hang a precise number on the CSI does not mean that the CSI is not obvious.

    “He would have to recognize a pattern, wouldn’t he? But why would we expect an alien to be sufficiently similar to humans to recognize the faces of Mount Rushmore as a pattern?”

    Here is where my predicted dodge comes in. You attempt to answer the question by turning it into a different question, i.e. whether aliens would know what humans look like. OK, let’s change it back. Assume, the aliens look like humans.

    “Reread the quote of Bill Dembski”

    I did not ask about Bill Dembski. I asked about a hypothetical alien (one who now, hypothetically, looks like a human in order to counter your dodge).

    The fact that you are unable are unwilling to deal with the questions I asked on their own terms speaks for itself.

  22. Tom English is the ultimate sophist. He is obviously well read and knows things about information theory that we do not. However, his objective is not to make clear but to obscure.

    He knows as well as the rest of us that when we witness some event that we infer certain things about it. If we witness a coherent written sentence we know that it has only appeared through an intelligence and no other process has ever produced a coherent sentence. Thus, when we witness a whole book, we know it took a fairly high intelligent effort to construct it, especially if we understand the implication and coherence of the book.

    Similarly if we witness a small machine like a mousetrap, we know that an intelligence made it happen and if we witness a complicated construction of materials that accomplished something useful and which had parts that depended upon each other we attribute a fairly high intelligent effort to construct it.

    What Tom English is saying is that we have not developed any coherent theory to verify that the book or the complicated piece of machinery has been constructed by an intelligence. I do not know enough about CSI to say one way or the other. If there is a flaw in the theory and Tom English has found this flaw, he could do a couple things. He could point out that the theory as presently constructed has some weaknesses and suggest ways to overcome this weakness or he might denigrate the theory implying there is no value in the theory and consequently the conclusions that some things are only the consequence of intelligent processes.

    Now, I ask Tom English which he has done. I expect a long winded reply that will probably say neither and be patronizing but in the end we will know more about Tom English then about the probability of complicated coherent constructions appearing by naturalistic means. We already know he is methodological naturalist and another question is do all his answers flow from that orientation. After all he is determined.

  23. OK, I’ll take a stab at answering BarryA’s challenge. Whether he thinks its being dodged, I can’t tell. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that DaveScot is correct about the probability and that the aliens would at least find the Rushmore sculpture curiously unlikely to have been formed by natural processes. So, if natural processes have been eliminated, they need to look for other possible causes.

    If we assume, as BarryA suggested, that they look human, then they may come to the conclusion that one of their own race is responsible. This may lead to their own questions of when they could have last visited the planet, etc…

    In order to determine that the sculpture is of aboriginal beings, they would need to learn about us from whatever is leftover after being wiped out. Nevertheless, their conclusion would be based on their experience with what they know about the intelligent creatures they are familiar with.

    If they are so different from us that similar facial recognition algorithms do not exist in their minds such that they are unable to recognize the faces for what they are, then they would have to turn to the likely artificial processes that they are familiar with which could have been used to create the sculpture. Perhaps they would conclude that only a P-38-SubMoleculizer (Marvin the Martian: Mmm, isn’t lovely?) could create such a complex sculpture, or they are unable to imagine beings who would use anything less efficient. This again might lead them to conclude that they are responsible for it, unless they learn about ancient human rock carving techniques and our penchant for doing the seemingly impossible. They still might not understand the sculpture or know what it represents. They may not even be aware of the concept of abstract art, which may lead them to conclude that some dumb primate got ahold of a P-38-SubMoleculizer and was lucky to have only ruined a single mountain. (Marvin: Get the P-38-SubMoleculizer away from that Earth creature!)

    My point, which I’ve tried to lighten up with some Loony-humor, is that it’s not enough to eliminate natural processes. You need to have EVIDENCE supporting any theory that places the cause behind an intelligent mind or a creature capable of manipulating an artificial process. The artifact is not itself evidence for intelligence, you need at least two lines of evidence that corroborate each other. Maybe all those ancient beads we’ve found are actually facial carvings of an ancient people who have holes in their heads? Our conclusion of their use as jewelry is based on our ability to replicate the carving process (which isn’t used today) and our familiarity with the idea of jewelry as a human interest. Without some experience with the ancient Holyons, we will remain blissfully unaware of their contribution to our society.

    If you have eliminated natural processes, by whatever means, and you have no experience with or evidence for any possible intelligent causes, you are simply left with an unsolved mystery for which your search for evidence must continue.

    In the case of evolution of ancient biological structures, we have no evidence of intelligent agents being present. The structures themselves can not count as that evidence, you need to produce an independent line of evidence that corroborates with the ability to manipulate these structures. That is what scientists have done to support evolution (e.g. genetic algorithms to examine its capabilities). If you are unwilling or unable to accept evolution as a possible design process, then you are simply left with an unsolved mystery for which more evidence needs to be unearthed.

    I hope you don’t see this as dodging your question. I showed quite plainly how I (or how I think your hypothetical aliens) would conclude an intelligent cause. I also explained why someone might not be able to draw upon intelligence as an agent, such as in the case of biology.

  24. 24

    Every thinking person on this planet is a creationist of some sort. It is just that some refuse to admit it. They were “prescribed” to deny that which normal minds have no difficulty recognizing by congenital instinct.

    “Of the few innocent pleasures left to men past middle life – the jamming common-sense down the throats of fools is perhaps the keenest.”
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    This is a test.

    A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  25. Wouldn’t the alien just say, “Hey, that looks like a really big sculpture. The only thing we know of that makes sculptures is our own species. Therefor, this sculpture was most likely made by something similar to us.”

  26. science can only work through a materialistic approach. It doesn’t mean that materialism is all there is. My car mechanic also uses a materialistic approach when he fixes my car. We all use materialistic approaches in our daily jobs. The theory of evolution is not the same as atheism. It makes no comment on God, angels or devils.

    You guys are only proving Judge Jones correct the more you talk about evolution as if it’s a religious debate. We all know the religious desires of the I.D. movement, but it’s definitely become way more clear over the past few months. In fact, it’s now on the same level as the creation science movement from the 80′s. What I mean by this is the discussion is not about science anymore, but about the theological implications of evolution.

    Now let’s pray ;)

  27. “science can only work through a materialistic approach” can’t be proved via materialism.

    Materialism, by definition, excludes everything else. Why should science a priori preclude something?

  28. Fross,

    You are wrong on some things and right on others. Yes, the theory of evolution does not have to be the same as atheism but one side has definitely made that so and there seems to be evidence that the rise of atheism owes a lot to Darwinian ideas. Why the visceral fight over just allowing a discussion of it in the schools. Richard Dawkins is the poster boy for it.

    Yes there are some here who constantly cite the bible or use religious quotes as support for their position and I believe every time they do that they play into the materialist hands and undermine ID. If I were a materialist and wanted to make ID look like a kook theory I would go on the site and start quoting scripture or other religious concepts in support of ID. Nothing would push those in the middle away from ID faster than such an approach.

    But it also has been my experience that as soon as the materialist start to lose the evolution argument based on science they bring up the supernatural or religion to deflect the discussion or try to denigrate those who they are arguing with or to imply as you just did that ID and creationism are the same. Why? Read my previous paragraph about those in the middle and religion and ID. Read the definition of ID on the site and see what there is about any religion in it.

    Someone on the internet made up a law of how soon a liberal would call another a fascist when they start to lose an argument on something like economics or politics. Or to change the politics you could say how soon a conservative would call the other a pinko or communist when they did not like the other’s views. Socrates would point out how people would start to make ad hominen attacks or change the subject as soon as they started losing an argument (actually it was Plato since Socrates never wrote anything.)

  29. “Why should science a priori preclude something?”

    Pragmatism. The materialistic approach simply works very well. At least in terms of science, anyway.

  30. Socrates would point out how people would start to make ad hominen attacks or change the subject as soon as they started losing an argument (actually it was Plato since Socrates never wrote anything.)

    I started teaching Euthyphro today, so this comes close to home.

    I have to say, I’m still far from convinced that abiogenesis* implies materialism or that materialism implies atheism. (By “abiogenesis,” I refer to the view that causal interactions between organic molecules could, without any intervention by any intelligent agent, have produced the first organisms.)

    In any event, the job of school teachers is, among other things, to prepare students for college and/or for the working world. That means that difficult selections must be made. I’d be delighted if all my freshman students came in with a solid command of informal logic and critical reasoning, but it’s not going to happen any time soon, given what a low priority public education is to our fine elected representatives. (Much like clean air and world peace, it’s one of those things that everyone wants but no one wants to pay for.)

    In light of the difficult choices that must be made about curriculum and pedagogy, it does not seem unreasonable to me that science teachers teach the current consensus among scientists, and for the time being, that excludes ID alternatives to abiogenesis (as defined above). Maybe that consensus will change; in my own way I hope it does. But it’s unreasonable, and antithetical to the spirit of scientific inquiry, to legislate that change through commandeering public school curricula.

    At best, I think that science teachers could say — and should say — both that there is no consensus on any one model of abiogenesis, that all currently proposed models have flaws as well as strengths, and that neither “materialism” (whatever that is) nor “atheism” (whatever that is) follows from any of the models currently on the market. (If the RNA world scenario implies that God doesn’t exist, I’d really like to see the argument.)

    GilDodgen (if I’m getting your name right), I recall you’d said — recently, perhaps in this thread — that your daughter had asked her teacher if abiogenesis implied that God doesn’t exist. Your daughter’s teacher had said “yes.” There, the teacher overstepped her(?) authority. If I had been in the teacher’s position, I would responded that there is no role for God in any of the currently proposed models, but that it is not the role of science to weigh in on matters of faith.

    I’m not a theistic evolutionist, but I play one on the Internet.

  31. Pragmatism. The materialistic approach simply works very well. At least in terms of science, anyway.

    Pish. We should follow the evidence wherever it leads even if shakes up our traditional methodology.

  32. Carlos,

    Spoken like a true Sophist.

  33. Carlos

    But it’s unreasonable, and antithetical to the spirit of scientific inquiry, to legislate that change through commandeering public school curricula.

    In Texas the public school curricula has always been a legistlative matter. The commandeering is being done by chance worshippers who first conflate ID with religion then trump the duly enacted legislative curriculum choices through the federal judiciary and the establishment clause. I’m not scientists are anywhere given more than an advisory role in crafting public school curricula.

    What state do you live in and how are public school curricula determined there if not through legislation by elected school board members?

  34. I think the thing about abiogenesis is that there’s no evidence to support it yet it’s taught in a vacuum absent any other explanations of how life may have first appeared on this planet.

    The ONLY thing we have evidence of is that living things come from other living things. That is biogenesis. Abiogenesis is a living thing coming from a non-living thing. In point of fact over the course of recorded history there have been billions or trillions of observations of living things coming from another living thing and not a single observation of a living thing coming from a non-living thing. In any other science such unexcepted observations become laws of nature. Living things come from living things is indeed a law of nature. This is what should be taught to school children. The law, not the imaginary exception to the law. The exception to the law (abiogenesis) is taught in a vacuum like it was proven to have happened that way and only the details are missing.

    Someone needs to explain to me why a conjecture with no empirical support whatsoever (abiogenesis) that violates a law of nature (biogenesis) is taught at all much less taught in a vacuum like it’s a fact instead of a bassless conjecture. The only conclusion I can come to is that abiogenesis is the product of materialist dogma, predominantly if not exclusively driven by a desire to have biology accomodate an atheist worldview.

    I suppose it’s time to remind everyone again that over 70% of the National Academy of Science is composed of positive atheists and that this organization is the single most influential organization in the country on science education policy. If anyone thinks for a split second that the organization isn’t biased by its super-majority of positive atheists then that someone is clearly in a blind state of denial.

  35. “I think the thing about abiogenesis is that there’s no evidence to support it yet it’s taught in a vacuum absent any other explanations of how life may have first appeared on this planet.”

    Where?

  36. Jerry,

    As Socrates points out in Euthyphro, no one denies that the wrongdoer should be punished; what is contentious is who the wrongdoer is.

    If a “sophist” is “someone who makes the weaker argument appear stronger” (Apology, I’d like to hear from you about just how I’ve done that in my (29).

    Dave Scott,

    “Chance worshipper”? You mean, like a gambler who asks luck to be on his side? I know, I’m being facetious. But with a phrase like “chance worshipper,” it’s hard to resist.

    As for “conflating ID with religion,” the anti-IDers don’t need to do that. You guys doing fine on your own, from what I’ve seen in the two weeks I’ve been hanging on out this blog.

    I just moved to Virginia and I’ll confess that I don’t know exactly how things are handled here. (And by “just moved,” I mean that I’ve been here for a week as of today.) But I’d be startled if the school board doesn’t take into account the teachers’ sense of their professional obligations, as well as that of the community and the “concerned parents.”

  37. “science can only work through a materialistic approach” can’t be proved via materialism.
    Of course not, it is a pragmatic statement, not a fundamental law of the universe…

    Why should science a priori preclude something?

    We should follow the evidence wherever it leads even if shakes up our traditional methodology. [materialism]

    The power of the scientific method lies specifically in the application of methodological naturalism (materialism) to the problems that face us. Now, it is certainly possible to consider the existence of a “scientist+” (which we will use to denote a scientist who works by not restricting himself to materialistic hypotheses) who develops “hypotheses+” and “theories+” (note that according to most on this blog, ID is not a “hypotheisis+” since ID does not invoke the supernatural). However, for these “hypotheses+” to withstand scientific scrutiny they must be subject to making verifiable, testable predictions, and so far no such “scientist+” has never shown any “hypothesis+” which allows for the above.

    Of course, this does not mean that you should not come to your own conclusions regarding the evidence you percieve (re: follow the evidence where it leads), however, IMO, calling any such “hypothesis+” “science” is a misnomer.

  38. BarryA said:”The alien has two and only two choices to account for his observation:

    1. He could infer from the specified complexity of the sculpture that it is not the result of the random erosion of the mountain, and based on this inference he could conclude that the sculpture is the result of design by an intelligent agent.

    2. He could appeal to chance erosion of the mountain to account for the sculpture.

    If he chooses theory 1, would it be fair to accuse him of trying to inject the “supernatural” into the debate when the theory says nothing about the nature or purpose of the intelligent agent who designed the sculpture?

    Assume, the aliens look like humans.”

    improvious said: “Wouldn’t the alien just say, “Hey, that looks like a really big sculpture. The only thing we know of that makes sculptures is our own species. Therefor, this sculpture was most likely made by something similar to us.”

    In fact, if the assumption is that the aliens look like humans, then they should conclude that the sculpture was made by one of them, perhaps visiting at another time in history. If that is the case, then yes, it would be unfair to accuse the theorist with injecting the supernatural.

    Why is it then unfair for evolutionists to make the same accusation of ID? It’s quite simple. In order to make a design inference that isn’t of the supernatural kind, you need to have an independent line of evidence that suggests that an agent capable of that design was present when the design originated. ID tries to make its design inference without the evidence to back up the existence of such an agent. It tries to use the artifact in question as the evidence for the designer’s existence.

    You are wrong when you say that the mountain-designer theory would say nothing about the nature of the designer. In the case of Rushmore, the resemblence of the designer (or a similar creature to the designer) is etched into the face of the mountain! In that case, the shape of the design can be considered as independent of the evidence of the use of artificial processes.

    In the case of biological evolution, ID quite clearly presupposes that the designer must have something in common with ourselves. It must design or think like we do. However, we have no independent evidence available which suggests that there was a designer like us present when the flagellum was originated. Unless you think the flagellum bears some resemblance to the Designer?

    I hope this meets your criteria of not dodging your question.

  39. improvius asks “where” presumably meaning where is abiogenesis taught in public schools.

    Miller-Urey is standard fare in high school biology texts.

  40. “Miller-Urey is standard fare in high school biology texts.”

    And in how many places is it presented as the only explanation for how life appeared on Earth?

  41. Jerry

    What in dear God’s name :razz: have I said that would conflate ID with religion?

    I refer you sir to the sidebar item “ID Defined” which I placed there many months ago. That is the only definition of ID displayed on this blog. I challenge you to show me how that definition is in any way religious.

  42. improvius

    “And in how many places is it presented as the only explanation for how life appeared on Earth?”

    In every high school biology classroom where Miller-Urey is discussed. What other hypothetical origin other than abiogenesis do you imagine is introduced? Speak right up and include a link to support your claim.

  43. “What other hypothetical origin other than abiogenesis do you imagine is introduced? Speak right up and include a link to support your claim.”

    How about extra-terrestrial origins? http://users.rcn.com/jkimball......hesis.html

  44. Although Dr. Dembski has stated that he considers intelligent causes to be different from natural causes, I don’t believe that this is the case. Human beings are natural entities, and they can create information, such as mount rushmore (and this sentence), so I fail to see how intelligence need be non-natural at all. Treating ID as a “supernatural” theory is pidgeon-holing it, and anti-IDers and IDers alike often paint it as such to its detriment. The designer(s) need not be supernatural at all, it is merely philosphical wishful thinking – we should be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

    One of the things that I find troubling about this discussion is that ID is considered to be the antithesis of “atheistic” theories such as evolution by natural selection. Theistic evolutionists are by no means atheists, so evolution does not necessitate atheism – and to suggest such a thing would be unproductive. Likewise, one need not be a theist to support ID theory, as it stands based upon evidence, not philosophical assumptions. For example, if I remember correctly, DaveScot identified himself as an agnostic. And I don’t consider myself religious at all.

  45. Dave,

    I don’t understand. Did I mistakenly imply that you conflated religion with ID? If I did, then i screwed up which is quite possible. I accused materialists of doing that often and by materialists I mean those who deny anything but naturalistic causes for all of life’s events. I write things quickly in between doing my work so my posts sometimes lack precision. I often point to the same sidebar to make sure everyone has the correct image of ID for this website and which is my working definition.

    Today on this thread, I only addressed Tom English, Fross and Carlos.

  46. Truth is more pragmatic than materialism.

    Did materialism and Darwinism delay the discovery of uses for the tonsils and “junk DNA”?

  47. Truth is more pragmatic than materialism.
    Did materialism and Darwinism delay the discovery of uses for the tonsils and “junk DNA”?

    A) What non-materialistic techniques were used to determine the effectiveness of tonsils and junk DNA?

    B) Who ever said that tonsils and junk DNA were useless, and who discovered their uses? (Just because something is “vestigial” does not mean it serves no purpose, and the moniker “junk DNA” is used to describe non-coding DNA, not necessarily “useless DNA” (although it is interesting to note that many millions of base pairs of non-coding DNA can apparently be removed from at least some mammals without any adverse effects – see: here ).

  48. Carlos,

    Failure to address an argument and then appealing to authority as support for a position is something I was alluding to. You should know better than I that sophistry can take many forms. In places on this website people have shown the dishonesty that takes place in the public school and college curriculums relative to evolution. Now you can challenge each one of these contentions but to blithely blow them off with an appeal to authority is what I call an example of sophism. You present no argument. Is that what Socrates would do?

    If you do not understand the arguments, then you have an obligation to learn what it is about before you advocate a position. If you do not understand abiogenesis, then you should abstain. I think you should read the two sides carefully and then come back with your arguments. Try Robert Hazen and his recent book Genesis and then look at what the ID people say about origen of life and see if in fact there are any decent theories out there to explain the origin of life. The first cell had to be incredibly complex and if there were an RNA world how did the incredibly complex RNA molecules come about. The probabilities are staggering.

    Several places on this website the discussion of atheism comes up. The materialistic philosophy is essential for atheism because just one example of design obviates it. Our take is that the science does not support naturalistic processes in many places. If you cannot see the connections then I have difficulty understanding how you could teach philosophy which is all about seeing connections. If you disagree, fine but just don’t blow it off as an opinion unless you can make a good argument otherwise.

  49. DaveScot: “In the case of Mt. Rushmore forming by natural processes we do indeed know how to come up with a reasonable estimate of the probability. The reasonable estimate is zero and it’s arrived at by way of elimination. If you think of a reasonable reason it should be non-zero to a significant degree please give those reasons otherwise through the process of elimination you must agree that a reasonable estimate is zero.”

    Paraphrase: We don’t know how to estimate the probability, but we need to sling the “complex specified information” jargon around because we don’t have much else that makes us sound scientific. It puts us in a bind when you ask for the probability, so we will claim, from one side of our mouth, to have eliminated all nonzero values, and challenge, from the other side of our mouth, you to estimate a nonzero value yourself. Unless you do our estimation for us, then our undemonstrated “proof by elimination” that the probability is zero stands.

    ROTFLOL. You cannot legitimately ask me for a counterargument until you give an argument. Note that if the probability is zero, the complex specified information is infinite. Wow, that really is impressive — infinite information in a sculpture. Furthermore, with infinite CSI in the sculpture, there is absolutely no way to justify Barry’s claim that IDists are studying entities with CSI several orders of magnitude greater. Greater than infinity?

    “What we earthlings don’t know how to do is arrive at a precise probability.”

    Irrelevant. I said “estimate.” Have you ever heard of giving a lower bound on a quantity? By that, I mean by a procedure less vacuous than saying, “OK, zero.”

    “There is some exceedingly small chance Mt. Rushmore could be a natural phenomenon but it’s so small there’s no way to give a precise number. Duh.”

    Ah, but for almost all scientists (methodological naturalists), human sculptors are natural, and Mt. Rushmore is from a scientific point of view a natural phenomenon.

  50. Why teach abiogenesis at all? I would say because kids will inevitably ask about it. What else should we tell then other than our best guess? Anything about a designing intelligence is pure speculation, but we do know at least a little bit about how life works and we know a reasonable bit about organic chemistry. We also have reason to believe that we have a decent, albeit overly general, picture of what Earth was like at the dawn of life. We combine our knowledge to come up with a best guess. It is no where near certain and I have never heard anyone claim or teach otherwise.

  51. BarryA: “DaveScott took care of this one with his usual aplomb above. The fact that I may not be able to hang a precise number on the CSI does not mean that the CSI is not obvious.”

    ROTFLOL, again. CSI is beginning to sound like p*rnography: I may not be able to estimate it, but I know it when I see it. Or like an urban myth: I heard that some guy posted on the Web the CSI of Mt. Rushmore.

    “CSI bluffing” — I plan to use the term often.

  52. “The materialistic philosophy is essential for atheism because just one example of design obviates it.”

    You’re saying that it’s impossible to be an atheist and recognize design at the same time? NOW who’s conflating?

  53. Improvius,

    Atheists don’t seem to be able to recognize design in the universe or in life. So yes they seem to find it impossible to recognize design in these areas. That is what the whole debate is about.

  54. Ok, Jerry, you’ve got me confused. So is it a religious debate or isn’t it? Does an atheistic methodology by definition rule out design? Because if you’re saying it does (and it sure looks like that’s what you’re saying), then you’re saying that a religious approach is the only way we can detect design. And you would be the one who’s conflating ID and religion.

  55. Jerry,

    “Tom English is the ultimate sophist. He is obviously well read and knows things about information theory that we do not. However, his objective is not to make clear but to obscure.”

    There are many here who see the world in US-THEM terms. Clearly I am not one of you, but I am not one of them. I am not here to deceive you. I have never sought to obscure. I disagree with you, but I am not your adversary. Unlike most of you, I am not a syncretist. I feel no need to resolve the contradictions of science and religion. The upshot is that I see things very differently than most people do.

    I have read and understood quite a bit of Bill Dembski’s work, and I am genuinely interested in the procedure of the design inference, though I have my reservations about the interpretation. I have personally wished Bill good luck in showing that the “information ledger” of the universe is out of balance. I have no philosophical problems with an open universe. But I do have problems with people claiming that results have been established when no one has done the science.

    “What Tom English is saying is that we have not developed any coherent theory to verify that the book or the complicated piece of machinery has been constructed by an intelligence. I do not know enough about CSI to say one way or the other.”

    On the contrary, I believe the theory of design inference is coherent (that’s a weak requirement), but that those who sling it around are often incoherent. Ironically, I am treating design theory with more respect than they do. I am insisting that CSI be used with scientific rigor, while treat it as something one can assess ad hoc.

    Given all the expectations of response in this thread, note that I will be gone awhile.

  56. Jerry,

    I’m not sure where the “appeal to authority” was there — is in my suggestion that public school science teachers should teach the current consensus among practicing scientists? How is that an “appeal to authority”? It’s no more of an “appeal to authority” than asking a panel of surgeons about the best way to remove a tumor is.

    About “materialism” and “atheism”: when I say that I don’t understand how these positions follow from abiogenesis, I mean “I don’t understand” in the sense that Quine used when he said that he didn’t understand what Kant meant by “analytic”. He understood it perfectly well — that is, he knew backwards and forwards what lots of people said about it. He just didn’t see how such assertions were not something that, to put it politely, comes from the rear end of a bull.

    Likewise, I know perfectly well what creationists and IDists say about abiogenesis, the probability argument, the “747 from a junkyard,” etc. I just don’t see how these claims are not something that comes from the rear end of a bull. Because it sure looks like that to me. “The probabilities are staggering,” you say? No, my good sir, I say no. They are not.

    Does this show that abiogenesis must have happened in this way? No; nor am I saying otherwise. At this point I am interested only in arguing that non-interventionist models of abiogenesis do not imply “materialism,” let alone “atheism.”

    Now: I have put “materialism” in scare-quotes because I am not really sure what it is (in the sense that Quine was not really sure what analyticity was). I know what people say about materialism, but it looks like something that’s come from the rear end of a bull, and smells like it, too. Anyone who thinks that “everything that exists is made of matter” is a serious view — let alone being one that requires a refutation — had better have a very good theory about what “matter” is, and I don’t think anyone does. Just ask three quantum physicists, and see how many different answers you get. I bet it’ll be more than three.

    The more I look at it, the more “materialism” looks like “The unrefined and sluggish mind/ of Homo javanensis./ Could only treat of things concrete. And common to the senses” (Quine). It does not look like anything to take seriously.

    I also put “atheism” in scare-quotes because there are several different versions of atheism that are distinct and even incompatible, and I’m going to want to know which of them is supposed to be entailed by the RNA world.

    Finally: anyone who thinks that materialism and intelligent design are the only options shows a severe defect of philosophical imagination.

    I’m not an theistic evolutionist, but I play one on the Internet.

  57. Improvius,

    It is has nothing to do with religion but one may decide to embrace religion if one sees design in the universe or life. However, one could not say there was no creator of the design. Rather than repeat a detailed comment here, see the comment (#8) I made on DaveScot’s new thread he started today.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....hives/1534

  58. BarryA,

    Question 1: No it would not be fair to accuse the alien of injecting the supernatural into the debate. It’s also not fair to insist it choose from two answers which do not cover all of the possibilities – there is a good change it would give a reasoned answer that was neither “pure randomness” nor “CSI” (which it probably doesn’t know how to calculate either).

    Question 2: ID supporters are not in an analogous situation to this hypothetical alien. Nobody is suggesting that ID is creationism in disguise because its proponents answered A in a flawed Rushmore quiz. I am sure a fuller answer would not be welcome here (it’s off topic from the OP for a start).

    Steve

  59. Steve, ID can’t be both antithetical to atheism and non-religious at the same time. You can’t have it both ways. Let’s pick one or the other and go with it.

  60. Sorry, I meant Jerry.

  61. Carlos,

    If you want to say ‘At this point I am interested only in arguing that non-interventionist models of abiogenesis do not imply “materialism,” let alone “atheism.” ‘

    Fine go ahead an argue that. It has been done many times before and gets brought up here every couple of weeks or so. My guess about 20-30 times in the last year. That is where I was a few years ago, fat dumb and happy with Darwin and did not think it meant atheism. But I got curious and started to look at the discussion and what I found is that there are a zillion holes in this non-interventionist model in terms of evidence. Everything in the data screams lack of continuity.

    So I just followed the evidence as a lot of others here have done. It is interesting that you have swallowed like Mother’s Milk the Talk Origin discussion on probabilities. What I suggest you do is go to Dave Scot’s new thread referenced in my comment to Improvius above and suggest that this is support for why abiogenesis should be allowed into science school curriculums. That is what that discussion is about. See where that takes you. You should be ready to support their ideas even though no one in the research community seems to be really pursuing it. As I said, read Robert Hazen’s book on origin of life called Genesis and see how much you find there that is on the Talk Origin site you referenced. If you rather watch or listen then the Teaching Company has a course by Hazen which is essentially the same material.

    By the way I once did an analysis of all the 40 long proteins that there possibly are and just for a complete set of proteins it was more atoms then in the entire universe. Maybe my analysis was simplistic but so is a protein of only 40 amino acids. As I said the number get staggering really quick especially when you deal with things like ribosomes and ATP synthase or other proteins that are very large.

    Life happened quick, almost immediately after water appeared on the planet. So the processes Talk Origin say are responsible must have happened so immediately.

  62. Improvious,

    As hard as you insist there is no religious implication in ID other than there was someone who did it. Who, what the person did or, how they did it or why are not the province of ID. Is that hard to understand? Make your own assessments. It does not necessarily lead one to a religious view but it will be hard to deny that there isn’t someone who is responsible for what we see around us.

    Many take the point of view that the world was created and the creator then took a hike and had no expectations of what was created. Now those people recognize a creator exist(ed) but have no religion because there is no relationship or responsibilities between the creator and the person.

    But what it doesn’t allow is that no person was ever involved in the creation event(s). How hard is this to understand.

  63. Jerry says:”As hard as you insist there is no religious implication in ID other than there was someone who did it. Who, what the person did or, how they did it or why are not the province of ID. Is that hard to understand?”

    Well, yes it is. I am struggling to get my arms around ID here and am not succeeding. As near as I can tell in the short time here, ID seeks to detect design through something called Complex Specified Information. People can apparently assign values of “No CSI. Duh!” and “Alot of CSI. Duh!” by visual inspection, but don’t seem to stray away from the extremes and actually calculate CSI on anything that is less than already
    obvious. That is, I suppose, a start, but until you get away from the extremes I am struggling to see the explanatory potential.

    Now you say that you don’t seek to know who the designer is, what processes he used, or what his motivation was. Okay, fine. But, if you don’t seek the designer or to understand his method or motive, and don’t apply CSI in a rigorous way to discover his handiwork, I don’t see any paths to new knowledge here.

  64. Jerry, that’s exactly my point. The hypothetical designer could just as easily be an alien or time-traveling human. Neither of those causes could possibly be construed as conflicting with atheism or materialism. YOU are the one here who is trying to turn this into a religious issue, not me. Your claim that “The materialistic philosophy is essential for atheism because just one example of design obviates it” simply makes no sense.

  65. Improvious,

    I never mention religion, you mention it at every turn. I find it amazing. You seemed obsessed with having the other side invoke religion. Are you reading a script” “That shalt say religion” You are welcome to your time traveller or alien if you insist. So in our corner of the multiverse we had a time traveller or alien create life. OK.

    As one famous time traveller said “Hasta la vista, baby.”

  66. “I never mention religion, you mention it at every turn.” Are you INSANE? You mention religion in every one of your posts. Your very first sentence in this thread is about religion. Now tell me again how I’m turning this into a religious issue.

  67. Tom said:
    “If you do not agree with the scientific stance that the process giving rise to the sculpture was purely matter, energy, and their interactions, then from the prevailing perspective (not just scientific) you are saying that Mount Rushmore is not natural. And it is supernatural (sense 1).

    This is fair.”

    It seems odd to call processes that involve any intelligent interference “not natural.” Is a car supernatural? What about a bird’s nest?

    Fross: “science can only work through a materialistic approach”

    Science can only investigate the material world, and that to the extent it has sensing equipment to do so. Of course science cannot investigate any phenomena for which it lacks tools. But that doesn’t mean science must have a materialist bias as a philosophy.

    It is turning out that the material world is yielding up more and more subtle energies and particles and laws. What I predict is that there is no real gap between what we think of as the material world and what we think of as the spiritual world. If there were a true gap, then there would be no influence of the one upon the other, and if that were the case, the spiritual world would effectively not exist. That which people call supernatural or miraculous, is merely outside the ability of our crude senses to detect.

  68. If there were a true gap, then there would be no influence of the one upon the other, and if that were the case, the spiritual world would effectively not exist. That which people call supernatural or miraculous, is merely outside the ability of our crude senses to detect.

    This is the crux of the matter. By definition no scientific evidence for the supernatural exists, because whatever science can detect, observe or measure is not supernatural. You can choose to believe in the supernatural or dismiss it as the realm of cranks. Science will only help you expose the charlatans who falsely claim to demonstrate the supernatural such as Uri Geller, other than that, it has nothing to say. Religion and Science are not really in conflict.

  69. avocationist: “It seems odd to call processes that involve any intelligent interference “not natural.” Is a car supernatural? What about a bird’s nest?”

    The car and the nest are natural. Their causes are non-natural, to use Bill Dembski’s old parlance. But “non-natural” is synonymous with “supernatural” (first sense). As I intimated above, philosophers debate whether science should embrace supernaturalism (allowing natural phenomena to be explained by causes outside of nature). If you are an ID advocate, supernaturalism is your friend, even if it sounds odd to you.

  70. Tom,
    1) Natural or un-natural, the car and the nest have been DESIGNED by intelligent beings and they have a very well established PURPOSE, they are not a result of undirected, unguided processes.
    2) IMHO, it is important how we define supernatural. Supernatural doesn’t necessarily have to be unscientific, it may be something we cannot yet explain by (our present) science laws. It doesn’t mean that tomorrow we aren’t be able to find a scientific answer. And, of course, it’s not really necessary that the answer should be “NATURAL, UNGUIDED, PURPOSELESS process”… It may be DESIGN, as well. The only (philosophical) question is if we’ll ever be able to define/describe/locate the DESIGNER using our scientific knowledge…

  71. Tom English

    I’ve always wondered how Darwin apologists hold out in one hand a narrative that claims humans evolved naturally and in the other hand hold a story that says human-made objects are not natural. This seems to be contradictory. Either humans are a natural part of nature (so to speak) and thus intelligent designers are a natural part of nature (since we are intelligent designers) or else they are supernatural. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Is intelligent agency a natural thing or not? I’m of the opinion that we are a natural thing in the universe and hence intelligent agency is not unnatural.

  72. Is intelligent agency a natural thing or not?

    This seems to depend on what you mean by intelligent agency.

    I’m of the opinion that we are a natural thing in the universe and hence intelligent agency is not unnatural.

    I parse from this that “we are the intelligent agency”. What scientific evidence is there for any other intelligent agency? See comment #68.

  73. “Is intelligent agency a natural thing or not?”

    I don’t think science has any trouble classifying humans as a part of nature. But it is certainly useful to make a distinction between “man-made” and otherwise “naturally occuring” objects, is it not?

  74. “[…] it is certainly useful to make a distinction between “man-made” and otherwise “naturally occuring” objects, is it not?

    Perfectly right!

    A man-made object IS natural, but it’s DESIGNED, as well. In this case THE DESIGNER is natural.

    So, this also means that our Designer is also “natural”! We cannot see Him, we cannot touch Him, but we can suppose that He used NATURAL LAWS to create stuff… If we cannot imagine yet HOW He created, and if we don’t know yet WHAT ARE ALL OF THE NATURAL LAWS in the Universe, does not mean that we wouldn’t be able to understand that somewhere in the future. Because, as we can see – science is advancing fast, very fast!

  75. Sladjo

    You hit the nail on the head.

    supernatural adj. 1. Not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material.

    As our knowledge grows so does our capacity to explain things according to natural laws. Indeed, we are still discovering natural laws and in some cases we even know what we don’t know. An instance of this knowing what we don’t know is the nature of gravity at the quantum field level. Quantum mechanics and general relativity are both exceedingly well tested, successful theories yet they are incompatible. In GM gravity isn’t a force but rather an effect of curved space/time. QM is constructed in the flat space/time of special relativity and in that realm gravity is the fourth force and must operate as the other three forces do through elementary particles rather than through space/time curvature. The hunt is on for gravity waves which are the predicted cumulative effect of many hypothetical, massless gravitons much as electromagnetic waves are the result of many photons. Because gravity is so weak at small scales the detection of individual gravitons is considered hopeless. Other great mysteries we know we don’t know are called dark matter and dark energy. The motion of matter in the large scale universe doesn’t conform to prediction. Something we don’t know about is behind the inconsistency. And it isn’t a small inconsistency. The matter/energy we know about comprises only 5% of the apparent “stuff” contained in the universe. 20% is dark matter that we have yet to characterize and a whopping 70% is some mysterious form of energy that we have not characterized. With 95% of the stuff that makes up the universe veiled in mystery it’s pretty arrogant to presume we know what’s going on. It’s analogous to saying we know everything there is to know about the ocean by observing just the wind whipped froth on the surface!

  76. Sladjo: “Natural or un-natural, the car and the nest have been DESIGNED by intelligent beings and they have a very well established PURPOSE, they are not a result of undirected, unguided processes.”

    That design and intelligence are useful scientific constructs is merely an ID claim at this point. It will take a great deal of scientific work to persuade the scientific community that such is the case. What you say in plain (and therefore ambiguous) language may seem just as obvious to you as that fact that Newton’s laws are laws but… Oh, gee, they are not laws, and something much more difficult to grasp, relativity, is a better understanding of how nature works. From the perspective of a scientist, you are rash in making such strong claims.

    “Supernatural doesn’t necessarily have to be unscientific, it may be something we cannot yet explain by (our present) science laws. It doesn’t mean that tomorrow we aren’t be able to find a scientific answer.”

    Agreed. Read the first paragraph or two of the Wiki article on “supernatural.”

    “The only (philosophical) question is if we’ll ever be able to define/describe/locate the DESIGNER using our scientific knowledge…”

    No. ID is utterly inadmissible in contemporary science because of science’s philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism. If you want to talk about design by an intelligence that transcends matter, energy, and their interactions, then the philosophers pushing for supernaturalism to be admitted to science are your friends.

  77. DaveScot,

    “I’ve always wondered how Darwin apologists hold out in one hand a narrative that claims humans evolved naturally and in the other hand hold a story that says human-made objects are not natural. This seems to be contradictory.”

    Indeed it merely seems to be contradictory. You are equivocating on “natural.” Human-made objects are artificial, which is the opposite of natural in one of its senses. Almost all scientists consider everything to be natural, in another sense. You will find many apparent contradictions in language that turn out not to be real when you take context into account.

    “Either humans are a natural part of nature (so to speak) and thus intelligent designers are a natural part of nature (since we are intelligent designers) or else they are supernatural. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Is intelligent agency a natural thing or not? I’m of the opinion that we are a natural thing in the universe and hence intelligent agency is not unnatural.”

    Dave, I am going to use the meaning of “natural” associated with methodological naturalism by the scientific community. That is, nature is comprised of matter, energy, and their interactions. If you do not adopt this meaning of “natural,” then what the community of philosophers has to say about the supernatural,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural,

    and its relationship to the natural make no sense to you. I suppose you do not understand that part of why Steve Fuller testified for the defendants in the Dover trial was that he advocates supernaturalism in science.

    There may be aspects of humans that are natural, and aspects that are supernatural. In Bill Dembski’s design inference, intelligence is a non-natural source of information. Only recently did he start saying that intelligence is non-material. For almost all scientists, this also means non-natural.

    I have been interested in the possibility that ID advocates MIGHT over time lead science to acknowledge an open universe — one with entities we know exist, but that are beyond the grasp of science, at present if not forever. ID used to be more than anti-evolution political action, you know.

  78. curtrozeboom: “The structures themselves can not count as that evidence, you need to produce an independent line of evidence that corroborates with the ability to manipulate these structures.”

    What if the structures were buildings made of huge stones, cut and fitted with high precision, like, say the Great Pyramid? And included within the design, at sorts of information about the layout of the solar system (like the Great Pyramid has)? What would the aliens be likely to conclude then, no matter what the nature of the aliens is, and how close or not to humans they are?

    What is the precise method you or the aliens would use to detect design in this case? What makes a thing obviously designed?

  79. curtrozeboom: “In the case of evolution of ancient biological structures, we have no evidence of intelligent agents being present… If you are unwilling or unable to accept evolution as a possible design process, then you are simply left with an unsolved mystery for which more evidence needs to be unearthed.”

    The existence of the first biological structure is a mystery in any case. There is no naturalistic theory of the origin of life. As for “ancient biological structures” in general, it is hardly less mysterious. For NDE to be shown to be a viable explanation, we need to know about that first lifeform, how it works and what it’s capable of. NDE is not a complete theory. It needs a preexisting lifeform with a particular nature that is capable of being modified and developed along the lines of what NDE specifies. If that lifeform never existed, then NDE is dead in the water. Merely assuming that such a biological lifeform existed will not do.

    “In the case of evolution of ancient biological structures, we have no evidence of intelligent agents being present…”

    We have no evidence for a lifeform with the nature required by NDE either.

    “If you are unwilling or unable to accept evolution as a possible design process, then you are simply left with an unsolved mystery for which more evidence needs to be unearthed.”

    If you ware unwilling or unable to accept a possible designer, then you are simply left with an unsolved mystery for which more evidence needs to be unearthed.

    Since when has the origin of life been solved by anyone scientifically?

  80. Tom English: “ID is utterly inadmissible in contemporary science because of science’s philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism.”

    You should insert the word “arbitrary” in front of “philosophical commitment.”

    Anyway, the majority of scientists are commited to a materialist view, but not all are. For those of us with no a priori commitment to methodological naturalism, please forgive us if we disagree with the conclusions of the majority especially when they have no empirical support.

    It’s funny that the entire foundation of the rational science began because scientists believed in natural law. And they believed in natural law because they believed in a Lawgiver.

    At any rate, the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, seems to be the best that those committed to an anti-ID position can come up with, and they expect the rest of us to accept it based on the idea that “it’s the best theory we have”, etc. And they expect us to lie back, and let school kids get endoctrinated with it. The problem is, while it may be the best materialistic theory we have, it has not been demonstrated to be true.

  81. Alan Fox: “This is the crux of the matter. By definition no scientific evidence for the supernatural exists, because whatever science can detect, observe or measure is not supernatural.”

    As one who is “supernatural” friendly, I would have to disagree here somewhat. The crux of supernature is that it is not dependent on nature, however supernature would be responsibe for, and may impinge on, nature.

    A good analogy is a virtual world within a computer. Normally the virtual world operates according to the programmed “laws”, but I (as the programmer on the “outside”) may tweak the program and it’s interal states at will for my own (perhaps inscutable) purposes. And I may do it in such a way that sometimes the virtual citizens may sense what I’m doing. What the virtual citizens would not be able to do is “scientifically” reproduce my actions such as to deduce a “law” since no law was involved in my action.

    A putative supernature and nature are part of an overall system, but nature is dependent on supernature, and not vice versa.

    Sidebar: there is nothing necessarily “religious” about any of this. I don’t care for the word, since it muddies the waters, and serves no purpose except to muddy the waters for those with agendas. That there may be a creator or creators is not necessarily a religious notion, in my book. I think it’s the *trappings* of religion that irk certain people. (Myself included.)

  82. Only recently did he start saying that intelligence is non-material. For almost all scientists, this also means non-natural.

    Non-material is a statement that is echoed by Wigner, Tipler and others. It proceeds from deductions in Quantum Theory. To be fair it coincides with non-materialist philosophy, but can independently be derived by physical law combined with a proof by contradiction. The Dualism was described in this senior level college physics class: Philosophy of Physics

    The words natural and super-natural have somewhat philsophical connotations. The don’t really have strong formal definitions in scientific theory, and until they do, it’s metaphysics masquarading as science.

    Salvador

  83. Mike1962,

    You said “there is nothing necessarily “religious” about any of this. I don’t care for the word, since it muddies the waters, and serves no purpose except to muddy the waters for those with agendas. That there may be a creator or creators is not necessarily a religious notion, in my book. I think it’s the *trappings* of religion that irk certain people. (Myself included.)”

    I couldn’t agree more and pointed out above that even if you believe there is a creator this does not necessarily make you religious. A lot of people in history believed there was a god or gods who created everything but that he/they then left everything alone to play itself out. Essentially this creator had no expectations of his creation nor did these people think that he did. So these are people who believe in a creator but are not religious in the sense that there is some expectations on either side or any relationship between them. Such a scenario is completely compatible with ID and not religious by any definition I know.

  84. Tom English: “ID is utterly inadmissible in contemporary science because of science’s philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism.”
    mike1962: “You should insert the word ‘arbitrary’ in front of ‘philosophical commitment.’”

    Hardly. Regarding supernaturalism, science has “been there, done that.”

    “The origin and functioning of the universe, solar system, Earth, plant and animal species, and humans were routinely ascribed to supernatural processes by legitimate scientists well into the nineteenth century, as the histories of catastrophism and creationism clearly reveal. Following the examples of Galileo and Newton, however, scientists such as Laplace, Hutton, Lyell, Darwin, and Huxley slowly and sequentially attempted to explain the origin and functioning of these real objects and beings solely by natural explanations. Naturalism as a necessary part of science thus developed gradually as science developed gradually with the practice and understanding of scientists; appreciation of the hypothetico-deductive method and empirical testing of hypotheses requires naturalism, since supernatural claims cannot be tested. Holdout scientists who persisted in supernatural explanations were gradually abandoned intellectually by their students and colleagues, and they eventually died with no successors. There was never a single moment or event when supernaturalism was evicted from the structure of science and naturalism locked in. However, by the twentieth century, supernaturalism had been methodologically eliminated and science came to be identified with naturalism; the philosophy of naturalism then became formalized in the 1930s and 1940s, chiefly in the United States.”
    From http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....rsman.html

    Mike: “Anyway, the majority of scientists are commited to a materialist view, but not all are.”

    If you read my writing closely, you will find that I always say “almost all scientists,” “mainstream science,” or the like.

    MIke: “For those of us with no a priori commitment to methodological naturalism, please forgive us if we disagree with the conclusions of the majority especially when they have no empirical support.”

    You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference you are going to have to persuade.

    “It’s funny that the entire foundation of the rational science began because scientists believed in natural law. And they believed in natural law because they believed in a Lawgiver.”

    It’s funny that the United States was founded a republic in which the power to make decisions (e.g., vote) was vested in the elite (white male landowners). And the Founders believed, having studied Plato, that democracy would lead to chaos. I’m glad things change, aren’t you?

    “The problem is, while it may be the best materialistic theory we have, it has not been demonstrated to be true.”

    Anyone who believes that science gets at truth is in the same boat as the most pathetic of atheists.

  85. Tom: “ID is utterly inadmissible in contemporary science because of science’s philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism.”
    mike1962: “You should insert the word ‘arbitrary’ in front of ‘philosophical commitment.’”

    Science may eventually readmit supernaturalism, but its exclusion is hardly arbitrary. Been there, done that:

    “The origin and functioning of the universe, solar system, Earth, plant and animal species, and humans were routinely ascribed to supernatural processes by legitimate scientists well into the nineteenth century, as the histories of catastrophism and creationism clearly reveal. Following the examples of Galileo and Newton, however, scientists such as Laplace, Hutton, Lyell, Darwin, and Huxley slowly and sequentially attempted to explain the origin and functioning of these real objects and beings solely by natural explanations. Naturalism as a necessary part of science thus developed gradually as science developed gradually with the practice and understanding of scientists; appreciation of the hypothetico-deductive method and empirical testing of hypotheses requires naturalism, since supernatural claims cannot be tested. Holdout scientists who persisted in supernatural explanations were gradually abandoned intellectually by their students and colleagues, and they eventually died with no successors. There was never a single moment or event when supernaturalism was evicted from the structure of science and naturalism locked in. However, by the twentieth century, supernaturalism had been methodologically eliminated and science came to be identified with naturalism; the philosophy of naturalism then became formalized in the 1930s and 1940s, chiefly in the United States.”
    From http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....rsman.html

    Mike: “Anyway, the majority of scientists are commited to a materialist view, but not all are.”

    I believe I always say “almost all scientists,” “mainstream science,” or the like.

    MIke: “For those of us with no a priori commitment to methodological naturalism, please forgive us if we disagree with the conclusions of the majority especially when they have no empirical support.”

    You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference in science you are going to have to persuade.

    “It’s funny that the entire foundation of the rational science began because scientists believed in natural law. And they believed in natural law because they believed in a Lawgiver.”

    It’s funny that the United States was founded a republic in which the power to make decisions (e.g., vote) was vested in the elite (white male landowners). And the Founders believed, having studied Plato, that democracy would lead to chaos.

    “The problem is, while it may be the best materialistic theory we have, it has not been demonstrated to be true.”

    You suggested above that you were a scientist, but now I have trouble believing you. You should know that there is no TRUE scientific explanation. All scientific explanations are tentative. In fact, it is hard to find a scientific explanation that has not been revised or replaced. How could neo-Darwinism possibly be shown true? If you look for truth in science, you are in the same boat as the most pathetic of atheists.

  86. Tom: “ID is utterly inadmissible in contemporary science because of science’s philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism.”
    mike1962: “You should insert the word ‘arbitrary’ in front of ‘philosophical commitment.’”

    Science may eventually readmit supernaturalism, but its exclusion is hardly arbitrary. Been there, done that. See

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....rsman.html

    Mike: “Anyway, the majority of scientists are commited to a materialist view, but not all are.”

    I believe I always say “almost all scientists,” “mainstream science,” or the like.

    MIke: “For those of us with no a priori commitment to methodological naturalism, please forgive us if we disagree with the conclusions of the majority especially when they have no empirical support.”

    You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference in science you are going to have to persuade.

    “It’s funny that the entire foundation of the rational science began because scientists believed in natural law. And they believed in natural law because they believed in a Lawgiver.”

    It’s funny that the United States was founded a republic in which the power to make decisions (e.g., vote) was vested in the elite (white male landowners). And the Founders believed, having studied Plato, that democracy would lead to chaos.

    “The problem is, while it may be the best materialistic theory we have, it has not been demonstrated to be true.”

    You suggested above that you were a scientist, but now I have trouble believing you. You should know that there is no TRUE scientific explanation. All scientific explanations are tentative. In fact, it is hard to find a scientific explanation that has not been revised or replaced. How could neo-Darwinism possibly be shown true? If you look for truth in science, you are in the same boat as the most pathetic of atheists.

  87. 26. “You guys are only proving Judge Jones correct the more you talk about evolution as if it’s a religious debate. We all know the religious desires of the I.D. movement, but it’s definitely become way more clear over the past few months.”

    Consider these quotes

    “A direct implication of intelligent design, is that it could only have been carried out by a God.

    The claim may be made that evolution is a necessary condition for being, so that nonevolved beings are intrinsically impossible. It may be a truth too fundamental for having as yet been discovered. God is not possible.

    Biology makes this abundantly clear, life can only result from a history — no God can be almighty.

    God brought evil-doing into the world when he devised animals that feed on other animals. The horrific pain that living beings inflict upon other living beings is part of a world created by a “good” God? Good God!

    Why would God tinker? Doesn’t He know in advance the biological pathways that work? Isn’t a tinkering God one who loudly says “I am not”? And why would He say so if He existed?

    The process is mostly one of progressive reduction of an all encompassing territory that religions had confiscated in bulk, no doubt at the dawn of human time, with each of the thousands of different religions, claiming for itself, absolute and eternal truth – a claim whose implication for the truth of any particular faith, is a prime target of Freudian repression, in contemporary believers. In the course of its advances, science does uncover new territory that religions can then undertake to invade.”

    Quotes from “Intelligent design and biological complexity” Gene 2006 Emile Zuckerandl

    Emile makes it abundantly clear that for him personally, as the father of molecular evolutionary biology, the debate is religious to the core. Not only the pro ID side, but also the anti ID side.

    With 93% of the most prominent NAS scientists said to be atheist or agnostic, they have a lot of religious ground to defend, and plenty of power to ensure that only one side is heard.

  88. Tom English: “You suggested above that you were a scientist, but now I have trouble believing you. You should know that there is no TRUE scientific explanation.”

    You can play games if you want. But I think you know what I mean. NDE does not rise to the level of, say, gravity, or quantum mechanics, which have loads of empirical evidence that can be reproduced by anyone regardless of their philosophy. NDE is not “science” in this regard. It begins with a particular philsophical position, and forces any putative evidence into that mold. There is simply no good reason to folks like me to adopt such an irrational position.

    Tom English: “You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference in science you are going to have to persuade.”

    You, and the 70% of NAS, can hold onto a materialistic philosophy all you want, and but to make a difference in minds of those who have no commitment to materialistic philosophy, you are going to have to demonstrate that NDE can deliver what you imagine it can. If it was in the same league as the hard empirical sciences, you wouldn’t need to persuade. It would be obvious to all rational people, like relativity, gravity, and QM. Maybe you don’t care to convince us. That’s fine. But folks like me are rather tired of the political and educational fall out from an ideology such as NDE. And we vote. You are right to be nervous about it, if you make you living by supporting such an ideology.

  89. Mike 1962 said

    “If NDE was in the same league as the hard empirical sciences, you wouldn’t need to persuade. It would be obvious to all rational people, like relativity, gravity, and QM.”

    Enile Zuckerandl does not agree. He thinks it is the theory of relativvity that needs further confirmation!

    “Intelligent design and biological complexity” Gene 2006 Emile Zuckerandl

    “Evolution as a theory”, reduces science to incertitude, and, evolution as an “ism”, reduces it in practice to an unscientific belief.

    Use of the word “Theory” seems to be in keeping with the “theory of relativity”, since the theory of relativity indeed, seems to continue to be on the look-out for further confirmation.

    For many decades, now – and this is worth pondering — no biologist in his right mind has been out to confirm the existence of biological evolution, given the overwhelming amount of evidence, and of kinds of evidence, in its favor. Biological evolution as a process is now too certain for being considered a theory.”

    He wrote over 60 pages reviling ID in the “peer reviewed” “scientific” journal Gene. His sentence structures and logic streams are often extremely complicated, yet he says that “It is simplicity that is, much of the time, a hallmark of actual intelligent design.”

  90. Tom,

    –”The car and the nest are natural. Their causes are non-natural, to use Bill Dembski’s old parlance. But “non-natural” is synonymous with “supernatural” (first sense). As I intimated above, philosophers debate whether science should embrace supernaturalism (allowing natural phenomena to be explained by causes outside of nature). If you are an ID advocate, supernaturalism is your friend, even if it sounds odd to you”

    Perhaps it is useful to speak of natural causes to mean only matter and energy and their interactions, but that pretty much excludes living things. Unless, by ‘matter and energy,’living things are included? Alright, so nonliving forces cannot do what living beings can do. We manufacture cars but we are not outside nature. God creates a Universe – why the accusation of supernaturalism?

    I am an ID advocate, but for the life of me I just can’t grasp the concept of supernatural. For example, I am quite sure telepathic communication is possible, and that we don’t know how it works, but that there IS an mechanism and a medium, absolutely is required.

  91. mike1962: “NDE does not rise to the level of, say, gravity, or quantum mechanics, which have loads of empirical evidence that can be reproduced by anyone regardless of their philosophy.”

    You are looking less and less like a scientist. Gravity? That is precisely what physicists have never managed to work into the standard model. And thus they have resorted to string theory. Do you really think there is more empirical evidence for string-theoretic accounts of gravity than for neo-Darwinian evolution? String theory isn’t testable. Even if we leave string theory out of the picture, gravity is not well understood.

    But you will accuse me again of responding to what you write instead of what you think I should know you meant to write, so I’ll observe also that it is inappropriate to compare the empirical support for neo-Darwinian theory to that of quantum mechanics. The reason is that the study of past life forms on earth is an historical science. The appropriate comparisons are to, say, geology and astrophysics. Do you think neo-Darwinism has less supporting evidence than continental drift? than Big Bang / expansion model?

    “You, and the 70% of NAS, can hold onto a materialistic philosophy all you want”

    The correct figure is 72%, and it is the percentage of self-identifying atheists in the National Academy of Sciences. According to the Wiki article on atheism, “Although some atheists tend toward skepticism, and toward secular philosophies such as humanism, naturalism and materialism, there is no single system of philosophy which all atheists share…” Do you recall that when Bill Dembski was involved in the Dover trial, he pointed out to the judge that the plaintiffs’ experts were secular humanists (definitely not materialists)? Golly, gee.

    The NAS has a membership of about 2,000. That is a tiny fraction of the number of scientists in the U.S. In a survey of American professors last year, the greatest level of disbelief in God was among physicists and biologists — 41%, which is of course much lower than the level in the NAS. See
    http://www.washtimes.com/natio.....-9143r.htm

    You have no basis for calling me a materialist, and in fact I am not one. I am a follower of Jesus who adopts methodological naturalism out of pragmatism (it has a history of working well) while doing science. That has no impact on my life otherwise. In my opinion, only a fool would try to get TRUTH from science, even if methodological naturalism were dropped.

    Tom: “You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference in science you are going to have to persuade.”
    Mike: “If [NDE] was in the same league as the hard empirical sciences, you wouldn’t need to persuade.”

    Teaching is a form of persuasion. If teachers and professors were not highly successful in persuading students of the scientific validity of neo-Darwinian theory, this blog would not exist.

    Neo-Darwinism is the unifying framework of contemporary biology. It is a scientific paradigm. If you have never read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, you should at least read the Wiki article on it. You IDists, as the challengers to the established paradigm, are definitely the ones who have to persuade other scientists.

    The so-called hard sciences are no less “materialistic” than biology. Why do you condone materialism in them but not biology? Are you bringing to the table an unstated commitment to some religion or philosophy that says life is inherently different from the rest of nature?

    “Maybe you don’t care to convince us. That’s fine. But folks like me are rather tired of the political and educational fall out from an ideology such as NDE. And we vote. You are right to be nervous about it, if you make you living by supporting such an ideology.”

    You indeed worry me more than anyone else I have encountered at UD. You know less science than most. You do not reason as well as most. You do not write as well as most. You slur when you’re frustrated. And you evidently believe that the American Way is for a majority that disagrees with an intellectual enterprise to use its power to squelch that enterprise. Did you know that “the people” used political power in another country to suppress genetics? Opposition to genetics was called Lysenkoism, and it was instituted in the Soviet Union. See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

  92. P.S.
    “If teachers and professors were not highly successful in persuading students of the scientific validity of neo-Darwinian theory, this blog would not exist.”

    I know that teachers are actually not very persuasive at all, with half of American adults believing that God created humans in more or less their present form, and with nearly another third believing that God directed evolution. But you IDists say over and over how effective those teachers are in indoctrinating the poor little students.

  93. avocationist: “Perhaps it is useful to speak of natural causes to mean only matter and energy and their interactions, but that pretty much excludes living things.”

    For now, the vast majority of biologists assume that life is reducible to matter, energy, and their interactions, though many (most?) oppose reductionism. I’m not a biologist, so I don’t feel comfortable saying much beyond that.

  94. Tom English

    Actually I’ve said on more than one occasion that for every American who doesn’t buy the Darwinian evolutionary narrative there is a science teacher who failed him.

    But I don’t really blame science teachers. I blame the fairy tales they try to peddle as science when it comes to evolution. Most people can see right away it’s a narrative not a theory. Still, a good salesman should be able to BS his way through it and indeed they do with the other, less discerning half of the classroom.

  95. Re: 92. So European children are more gullible than American children?

    Re: reductionism. There are many different flavors, but the basic stance is that reduction is successful when all talk about As (for any entity) can be entirely translated into talk about Bs. Then A-talk (i.e. biology) has been reduced to B-talk (i.e. physics).

    So far, reductionism has been exceedingly difficult — if not impossible — to successfully implement. That’s why reductionism is not highly regarded among biologists or philosophers.

    In any event, reductionism should be contrasted with holism or with some version of emergentism. Holism and/or emergentism might be compatible with materialism. One could think that new properties and principles, irreducible to atomic and molecular events, emerge over time without thinking that non-material entities need be posited in order to explain those properties.

    Like I keep on saying, there are a lot of options besides materialism/atheism on the one hand and intelligent design on the other.

  96. DaveScot,

    “Most people can see right away it’s a narrative not a theory.”

    Most people? Would that include the three in ten Americans who do not graduate from high school? How about the rapidly increasing fraction of those who graduate but cannot demonstrate rudimentary science knowledge in testing?

    Years ago, I heard about a little boy whose dog had a litter of puppies. One day, the boy asked his mother if he could take a puppy to school for show-and-tell. She agreed, and carried a pup to his classroom later that day. After the boy had made his presentation, a hand went up.

    “Yes?” the teacher said.

    “Is it a boy puppy or a girl puppy?”

    The little boy did not know.

    “Does anybody know how to tell?” the teacher asked.

    A silence fell over the room. Then another hand went up.

    “Yes?” the teacher said.

    “We could vote!”

  97. Tom English

    Most people? Would that include the three in ten Americans who do not graduate from high school? How about the rapidly increasing fraction of those who graduate but cannot demonstrate rudimentary science knowledge in testing?

    High school attendence is mandatory through 10th grade biology which includes sophomore biology. Nice try. Many of those people you mention accept evolution too. Chance worship increases with years of formal education with no stark cutoffs as you seem to be implying. That’s to be expected. A longer period of indoctrination into the dogma means more success at it. Can you spell “peer pressure”? I knew you could.

  98. DaveScot,

    I suspect that you overestimate how much students actually absorb from school, for one thing. Teenagers are not known for their scholastic dilligence. For another, evolution is not a big component of public school education, from my limited experience. (Not that n=1 allows any substantial conclusions one way or the other.)

    From what I’ve seen in my own experience, and from what I’ve heard about others, most public school science teachers have decided that the best way to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of their students and their students’ parents is to say as little as possible about “the e-word.” And I never learned anything about abiogenesis through public school, either — it simply wasn’t brought up. I didn’t receive any significant formal training in evolutionary theory until college.

    And a final note: even if people say that they accept evolution, that doesn’t mean that they understand it. I’d be willing to bet that if you took ten average people off the street and asked them if they accepted evolution, most of them would say yes — but if you then asked them to explain the theory, you’d get a half-dozen (at least) different responses, all of them incomplete and probably quite a few that are wrong.

  99. mike1962: “NDE does not rise to the level of, say, gravity, or quantum mechanics, which have loads of empirical evidence that can be reproduced by anyone regardless of their philosophy.”

    Tom English: “You are looking less and less like a scientist. Gravity? That is precisely what physicists have never managed to work into the standard model.”

    I’m talking about what’s taught in schools as essentially fact, Tom. Things like gravity being related to mass, and General Relativity. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity.) Anyone, regardless of philosophical presupposition can verify these things, Tom.

    Tom English: “And thus they have resorted to string theory.”

    Say what? Some physicists are certainly playing with string theory, although there are notable exception, such as Roger Penrose (no slouch), who think it’s the wrong direction.

    But you miss the point entirely, Tom. String theory, which so far being utterly unverified empirically, is not taught to children as fact.

    “Do you really think there is more empirical evidence for string-theoretic accounts of gravity than for neo-Darwinian evolution?”

    String theory has no empircal evidence thus far. NDE has no empircal evidence that leads to the conclusion that it is alone responsible for the complexity and variety of life on this planet.

    Tom English: “String theory isn’t testable.”

    You don’t seem to be keeping up with the forefront, Tom. These guys want to test it: See http://www.physorg.com/news10295.html

    Tom English: “Even if we leave string theory out of the picture, gravity is not well understood.”

    Depends on what you mean by “well.” There are a lot of things about it that are well understood. And the point is, what is taught about it to school kids is verifiable by anyone regardless of their commitment to methodological materialism.

    Tom English: “But you will accuse me again of responding to what you write instead of what you think I should know you meant to write, so I’ll observe also that it is inappropriate to compare the empirical support for neo-Darwinian theory to that of quantum mechanics.”

    There is no eimpircal suppose for NDE for the claim that it alone is responsible for all the complexity and veriety of life on this planet. Only someone with a commitment to methodological materialism would conclude that. How could they not? But that conclusion is merely a presumption masquerading as a conclusion.

    Tom English: “The reason is that the study of past life forms on earth is an historical science. The appropriate comparisons are to, say, geology and astrophysics. Do you think neo-Darwinism has less supporting evidence than continental drift? than Big Bang / expansion model?

    mike1962: “You, and the 70% of NAS, can hold onto a materialistic philosophy all you want”

    Tom English: “The correct figure is 72% and it is the percentage of self-identifying atheists in the National Academy of Sciences. According to the Wiki article on atheism, “Although some atheists tend toward skepticism, and toward secular philosophies such as humanism, naturalism and materialism, there is no single system of philosophy which all atheists share…”

    Well, Tom, they share one thing: atheism! :) They reject any notion of an intelligent designer involved in the development of life on this planet. And any “conclusions” based on evidence will necessarily yield an anti-ID result. This should be obvious, Tom. (I don’t care, one way or the other what they think, Tom. But I do care about what’s taught to school kids as fact.)

    Tom English: “The NAS has a membership of about 2,000. That is a tiny fraction of the number of scientists in the U.S. In a survey of American professors last year, the greatest level of disbelief in God was among physicists and biologists — 41%, which is of course much lower than the level in the NAS. See
    http://www.washtimes.com/natio.....-9143r.htm

    That’s good to know, Tom. Thanks.

    Tom English: “You have no basis for calling me a materialist, and in fact I am not one. I am a follower of Jesus who adopts methodological naturalism out of pragmatism…”

    “Pragmatism” : 1. Philosophy A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences. 2. A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems.

    So then, Tom, how is your “scientific” approach to life on this planet “pragamatic?” I consider myself pragmatic. As I understand it, pragmatism is essentially linked to practical results. If something works, adopt it. The more you can understand why it works, better still. However, NDE makes claims that are are unveriafiable. Such claims do not “work” in any practical sense. They yield not practical effects. To take the position that all the evidence points to life being the produce of a blind process is not a pragmatic conclusion with practical results. It is merely a restating of the premise, which is a commitment to materialism. If you start out with materialism and do not allow intelligence to be smuggled in along the way, *of course* the “conclusion” will always have to be that a blind process is the source of life. How this is “pragmatic” I cannot guess.

    Tom English: “(it has a history of working well) while doing science.”

    Certainly, in the hard sciences. If something works, why then, it works. That’s the kind of science I can live with. But one need not commit to a methodological materialism for the stuff that “works well.”

    Tom English: “That has no impact on my life otherwise. In my opinion, only a fool would try to get TRUTH from science, even if methodological naturalism were dropped.”

    As for your commitment to Jesus, this is a sidebar question, but I’ve always been puzzled by people like. Are you telling me you don’t accept the claims of NDE regarding evolution being “blind”, but only accept it as the best that materialist science can do? Or do you actually believe the claims of NDE about evolution being blind and try to harmonize that with your beliefs about Jesus creating the world?

    Tom: “You can disagree all you want, but to make a difference in science you are going to have to persuade.”

    Mike: “If [NDE] was in the same league as the hard empirical sciences, you wouldn’t need to persuade.”

    Tom English: “Teaching is a form of persuasion. If teachers and professors were not highly successful in persuading students of the scientific validity of neo-Darwinian theory, this blog would not exist.”

    Most public school students are not well trained in logic and philosophy, Tom. Do you really expect most of them to see any logical gaps or evidentiary holes in some presentation made by a teacher whom they are taught to respect? I think it can be demonstrated quite well from history that the reason for NDE’s hold over biology is because of philosophical and political reasons. But I’m not going to do that now.

    Tom English: “Neo-Darwinism is the unifying framework of contemporary biology. It is a scientific paradigm. If you have never read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, you should at least read the Wiki article on it.”

    Tom English: “You IDists, ”

    I’m not an IDist. I am merely ID friendly.

    Tom English: “…as the challengers to the established paradigm, are definitely the ones who have to persuade other scientists.”

    I, personally, am not interested in persuading other scientists that ID is valid, only that some of the claims made my NDE are unproven. And I’m interested in persuading those who hold positions of power over education of this fact.

    Tom English: “The so-called hard sciences are no less “materialistic” than biology.”

    Correct, but they make no untestable claims. And “hard” means “empirical”, Tom. No reason to use “so-called” for that. Empirical is empircal. NDE just isn’t a member of that club.

    Tom English: “Why do you condone materialism in them but not biology?”

    One need not commit one’s self to a methodological materialism to test the claims of physicists when they tell us that gravity and space are affected by mass. One can be a raving fundamentalist baptist and empirically verify such claims. One cannot be a raving fundamentalist baptist and conclude “pragmatically” that life on this planet is the result of blind events.

    Tom English: “Are you bringing to the table an unstated commitment to some religion or philosophy that says life is inherently different from the rest of nature?”

    Nope. I’m bringing to the table a commitment to empiricism. All positive claims must be verifiable.

    mike1962: “Maybe you don’t care to convince us. That’s fine. But folks like me are rather tired of the political and educational fall out from an ideology such as NDE. And we vote. You are right to be nervous about it, if you make you living by supporting such an ideology.”

    Tom English: “You indeed worry me more than anyone else I have encountered at UD. You know less science than most. You do not reason as well as most. You do not write as well as most. You slur when you’re frustrated.”

    Thanks, Tom. :)

    Tom English: “And you evidently believe that the American Way is for a majority that disagrees with an intellectual enterprise to use its power to squelch that enterprise.”

    That power exists and is exercised by anti-ID zealots constantly. You just happen to be on the majority (for now) side. Time will tell if it will maintain that position.

  100. avocationist: “I am an ID advocate, but for the life of me I just can’t grasp the concept of supernatural.”

    No need to, except that whatever a supernature might be, our nature/universe is dependent on it, and not vice versa. Supernature and nature are part of a single system, but with a unidirectional dependency and causality. Consider a virtual world within a computer where the programmer sets up algorithmic “laws.” Assume this virtual world is sophisticated enough to have virtual scientists within in, musing about their environment. The virtual scientists could conceivable detect what the “laws” were that operated normally witin their virtual world. But what happens if I, the programmer/designer on the “outside”, decide to tweak some events within the virtual world? No theory or law could ever be devised by the virtual scientists for my actions, since they are based on no internal laws within the system. To the inside, my outside actions are completely arbitrary and “miraculous.” (Moreover, the virtual scientists would be forever arguing over how life exists, whether the laws of their virtual world came from, and whether or not it was “religious”, and therefore banned from public life, to acknowledge my possible existence. :) )

    This is my view. Some posit a platonic like world that “transcends” spacetime, and I think this is the supernatural you may have had in mind. But, like you apparently do, think that’s a pretty meaningless idea. But one can have a notion of supernatural if one takes it as simple a dependency issue, as the virtual computer world analogy suggests.

  101. OK seeing that natural causes only exist in nature, natural causes cannot account for the origin of nature. That is why the debate is NOT “super” natural vs. natural but guided, intentional processes vs. unplanned, unguided processes.

    Even though the anti-ID position tries to claim immunity from intial causation that alone does not excuse them from the inevitable-> that all scenarios “turtle down” to something beyond nature.

    Christians have their trinity and materialists have theirs- Father Time, Mother Nature and the blind watchmaker. And it is obvious that people place a lot of faith in the latter trinity. But that is to be expected. Any framework that relies so heavily on “sheer-dumb-luck” (which is what makes up the anti-ID position) requires more faith than most (if not all) common religions.

  102. [...] Is a materialistic approach to teaching the origin of life inherently atheistic and therefore religi… [...]

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