Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Darwinists who don't want to debate

If you thought the scientific community was a place of free and open discussion, you'd better think again. Northern Kentucky University recently announced a mock trial involving a fictional public high school teacher who is fired for teaching creationism in a biology class. The program is part of a series the university is sponsoring on controversial issues. But there are some people who don't want the debate to happen at all.

According to Inside Higher Ed, NKU University president James C. Votruba has received hundreds of e-mails asking him to call off the debate. It isn't the conservatives who are complaining, says the article, "scientists are." “Evolution is science and creationism is faith,” Vortuba told the online education magazine, but, he added, that's no reason to be afraid of a debate on the issue.

But there are those in the scientific community who think otherwise, and their voices seem to be growing louder by the day. “What this really is is an attempt to contrive a debate between science and superstition in which the superstition side gets to pretend they have equal status. [sic] And, of course, science issues are not settled in a courtroom, ever,” said PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, whose weblog Pharyngula, purports to be a watchdog on anti-evolution activity.

Myers is just one of many voices that in recent years have tried shout down any debate about issues involving human development and origins on the grounds that any debate would give undeserved credibility to the anti-Darwinist side. The dogmatic tone Myers strikes is one being heard increasingly among those who hold to Darwinism, the reigning paradigm in the scientific community.

Earlier this year, advocates of Darwinism strongly opposed a bill passed by the Louisiana State Legislature that advocated objectivity, logical analysis, and critical thinking skills in the discussion of science and other controversial issues in state schools, claiming that the measure was a thinly veiled attempt to impose creationism in the classroom.

When you are reduced to arguing that objectivity is a creationist plot, you'd better start revising your public relations strategy. And when you have to abandon the very principles that you advocate on every other occasion in order to protect your beliefs, it's probably time for an intellectual gut check.

Tolerance and diversity are the academic watchwords when it comes to views that challenge other dominant paradigms, so why are they abandoned so quickly when it comes to discussion of controversial issues like evolution?

Why is there such a fear of debate?

"Within the larger scientific community, the issue is settled, but in the public policy arena, it’s not a settled issue,” Mark Neikirk, executive director of the university’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, told Inside Higher Ed. Scripps Howard, along with the university’s law school, is sponsoring the event. “In the real world, there is a public policy debate over how to handle this topic. Many Americans believe in intelligent design. Many Americans believe it should be taught."

Advocates of Darwinism are understandably frustrated. Despite the fact that they have had control of the nation's science education for decades, a majority of American's still hold to some form of creationism, or at least intelligent design, a broader theory that would include creationism but also includes those who belief in some form of evolution guided by a designer.

Maybe one of the reasons there are so many people in this country who maintain a suspicion of Darwin's theory is the behavior of those who are its most ardent advocates. If the evidence for Darwinism is as airtight as its advocates claim, then why are they so opposed to the discussion of the issue in an academic forum?

In other words, their failure to convince the larger public may turn out to be their own fault.

37 comments:

Lee said...

ID's opponents say that they are defending science, but their behavior says that they are defending a religious view.

I thought one of the strengths of science is that it takes on all comers and reasons from evidence and logic, not dogma.

Oh well.

Darwinism is an unproven inference followed by an assumption. The unproven inference is that all life evolved from a single living cell; the assumption is that it must have all happened by naturalistic phenomena.

This is what passes for science in the modern world.

I call it dogma.

And watch out for the priests of the dogma. They're pretty feisty.

Art said...

Frankly, Martin (and lee), it's the antievolutionists who should be up in arms about this mock trial. This is because they are being represented by an honest-to-goodness nut case, a charlatan whose ideas wander way, way beyond the bounds of earnest intellectual discourse.

Here is an example of what I will conclude you accept as logical and informed discussion on the matter of origins. I'd say you have done your credibility no good whatsoever.

The example - http://www.petrifiedhumanbrain.com/ .

(If I were at NKU, I'd be up in arms at how poorly the creationist side is being represented here. No good can come from such an event - NKU is either trying to deliberately show creationists to be the loopiest of wingnuts, or they are torpedoing their students by linking them in some way with this lunacy.)

Martin Cothran said...

Interestingly, I was working on a post about just this thing. There are two completely different aspects of this whole issue. The first is whether there is a willingness to debate the issue, and the second is whether it is done fairly. I think you are confounding the two. I only addressed the first in this post.

bobxxxx said...

There's nothing to debate. Evolution is a fact. Debating evolution would be like debating whether or not the earth is flat.

The only people who have a problem with evolution are uneducated religious hicks who know nothing about biology.

Anonymous said...

ID proponents should quit trying to sway the public and do some research if they want to be taken seriously scientifically. Phlogiston is no longer being debated either. And as far as critical thinking in grammar and high schools, students there need to learn basics before attempting to decide for themselves what is true. They might just as well be trying to critically analyze the evidence for quantum mechanics.

And that's something else that puzzles me. Why aren't all the ID people up in arms about the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics? It even bothered Einstein. From wikiquote, "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice."

jah

Lee said...

> There's nothing to debate. Evolution is a fact.

Depends on what you mean when you say evolution. If you mean, "species change over time," you're right.

If you mean, on the other hand, that all life originated from a single cell by strictly naturalistic means... well, it must be the only fact that cannot be observed and cannot be tested.

Lee said...

> ID proponents should quit trying to sway the public and do some research if they want to be taken seriously scientifically.

Who says they don't?

And by the way, how does one go about proving that all life did not originate from a single cell? It seems to me that the burden of proof should go the other way, but then again, I'm old-fashioned.

Since it cannot be observed or tested, then it must be inferred. It is therefore a theory.

But now we are in the world of probabilities. It is sufficient for ID theorists to question the odds of it happening strictly by random happenstance, i.e. without a guiding hand.

It's not a question of proving there was a designer. It's a question of showing how unlikely it is to have happened without a designer.

Lee said...

> And that's something else that puzzles me. Why aren't all the ID people up in arms about the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics?

Why aren't we up in arms about fluoridated water? Or natural vs. astroturf in football stadiums? Or tastes great vs. less filling?

Maybe we are. Maybe we aren't. But now we're discussing evolution.

Anonymous said...

lee: Why aren't we up in arms about fluoridated water?


That and vaccines are certainly allied topics which show up frequently and are correlated with anti-evolutionism. But I don't see quantum mechanics. How can people be bothered the chance aspect of evolution but not that of quantum mechanics?

jah

Anonymous said...

lee: But now we are in the world of probabilities. It is sufficient for ID theorists to question the odds of it happening strictly by random happenstance, i.e. without a guiding hand.

Very good. Lee has proved it did not occur by random happenstance. That is not equivalent to proving a designer. Take 100 compasses; they all point to the north pole (magnetic). The odds of this happening strictly by random happenstance, i.e. without a guiding hand, are very low. So who is the designer who is nudging all these needles to point in the same direction? No scientist is saying mere chance lined up all the atoms to form some molecular form of life or precursor thereof. There must be some underlying principle which caused this, which scientists may be someday discover.
Many times before I have asked (one of many questions never responded to), when should scientists give up on looking for natural explanations and accept a supernatural one (and yes, designers don't have to be supernatural, but if not, they would leave evidence behind)? The continents have matching edges yet at one time no mechanism for their movement as known. Should scientists back then have just concluded God was moving them around?

jah

Anonymous said...

lee: It's not a question of proving there was a designer. It's a question of showing how unlikely it is to have happened without a designer.

Lee's shown it couldn't have happened (or at least not very likely, one can never rule out chance, another lesson which some people (not necessarily lee, I don't recall his postings) using probabilities don't seem to understand). But has lee proved there isn't some other unknown pathway? Nope.

Anonymous said...

jah

Art said...

Hi Martin,

A few comments for this thread, with one or two saved for the other one.

First, speaking from personal experience, I know for a fact that it is antievolutionists who abhor a debate in which facts are freely accessible, where positions must be supported by reference to controlled and repeatable experiment. Just as I know that such a debate will never happen on your blog (or mine.)

Second, many (most?) of those who are pestering the NKU president are bemoaning the very poor image of NKU that the mock trial will give. This sentiment has nothing to do with not wanting to debate.

Third, my understanding is that the subject will not be of anything scientific, but rather legal. As in, is a teacher's incompetence protected by the First Amendment? Truth be told, I am sort of surprised that you seem to be supporting a teachers "right" to be incompetent. Who'da thunk that you could be so opposed to unions' coddling of poorly-performing teachers, but supportive of teachers whose incompetence flows from their religious beliefs.

Lee said...

> That and vaccines are certainly allied topics which show up frequently and are correlated with anti-evolutionism. But I don't see quantum mechanics. How can people be bothered the chance aspect of evolution but not that of quantum mechanics?

If the deal with quantum mechanics is that some things happen apparently at random, as best as we can tell and can measure it, I'm fine with it.

However, I don't think that one can scientifically infer that God can't predict it.

Lee said...

> Very good. Lee has proved it did not occur by random happenstance. That is not equivalent to proving a designer.

I haven't proven anything, of course, but I'm dying to know how this line of argument is going to end.

> Very good. Lee has proved it did not occur by random happenstance. That is not equivalent to proving a designer. Take 100 compasses; they all point to the north pole (magnetic). The odds of this happening strictly by random happenstance, i.e. without a guiding hand, are very low.

Things happen for one or more of three reasons: random happenstance, necessity, or design. Given the laws of physics, the odds that a hundred functioning compasses will point north are about 100%. Magetism provides the necessity; the construction of the compasses provide the design. Random happenstance has less to do with anything in your example. The earth has a magnetic field and compasses are designed to exploit it.

> Many times before I have asked (one of many questions never responded to), when should scientists give up on looking for natural explanations and accept a supernatural one...?

I can't answer that. But the converse proposition does not therefore need to be presumed: that there is no possibility of a supernatural explanation.

Lee said...

> But has lee proved there isn't some other unknown pathway? Nope.

And that is utterly unnecessary. I don't need to prove there is an alternative explanation. I'm happy to poke what holes I can in explanations that already exist.

Lee said...

> But has lee proved there isn't some other unknown pathway? Nope.

And that is utterly unnecessary. I don't need to prove there is an alternative explanation. I'm happy to poke what holes I can in explanations that already exist.

Lee said...

> First, speaking from personal experience, I know for a fact that it is antievolutionists who abhor a debate in which facts are freely accessible...

How did you freely access that rather questionable and debatable fact?

Anonymous said...

lee: I'm happy to poke what holes I can in explanations that already exist.

Then poke a hole and don't drag in red herrings.

Guess what - lodestones pointed north long before anyone came up with the concept of magnetism. So what should someone back then have thought - statistically there must be a designer? Most phenomena in science have been discovered before an explanatory theory was developed. Do they all prove the hand of a designer? No scientist claims that life formed by amino acids coincidentally reacting to form a functional protein. So all these arguments employing probability are null and void. Just because we don't know how life formed (just as at one time people did not understand magnetism) doesn't mean it didn't happen. I am sure there are people today who do not have lee's understanding of magnetism. What are they to make of compasses' inexplicable behavior?

So my question again - if scientists don't understand something, at what point do they give up and accept a supernatural explanation? Lee is correct; supernatural explanations cannot be ruled out, for anything. Even having a theory of magnetism doesn't rule out an supernatural cause. But at what point do we give up looking for natural explanations? I say not now, based on the ID arguments put forth so far.


jah

Anonymous said...

lee: But now we are in the world of probabilities. It is sufficient for ID theorists to question the odds of it happening strictly by random happenstance, i.e. without a guiding hand.

How is a guiding hand distinguished from the laws of nature?

What specifically, in case I am confused, does "random happenstance" mean?

jah

Lee said...

> Then poke a hole and don't drag in red herrings.

Fine. What red herring did I drag?

> So what should someone back then have thought - statistically there must be a designer?

How many variables are involved in getting compasses to point north? Magnetic earth? Check. Magnetic stone or instrument? Check. Laws of physics? Check. Leave anything out?

How many variables are involved in morphing one set of DNA into another set of DNA, all the while maintaining function? Can we even map them all?

How many variables are involved in a single functioning living cell, more complex by far than any invention yet by man, springing forth from a wet pile of amino acids? We can't map them all.

But don't mind me. You keep bringing up compasses and quantum mechanics, but I'm the one who brings in red herrings. Go figure.

> Do they all prove the hand of a designer? No scientist claims that life formed by amino acids coincidentally reacting to form a functional protein.

Scientifically, it doesn't prove it. It simply casts doubt on the naturalistic explanation. I see that as a rather modest, but still important, contribution.

> So all these arguments employing probability are null and void.

If you declare them so, then they must be so, I guess. But nobody is denying that probability is science. Just how is it inappropriate to try to assess the odds of unguided evolution?

> But at what point do we give up looking for natural explanations?

Speaking for myself, and not Duane Gish or Michael Behe, we don't. We keep looking. All we do is just quit pretending we've found it, when we haven't.

Anonymous said...

lee: Fine. What red herring did I drag?

Probability. No scientists believe life arose that way so disproving a probabilistic mechanism has no bearing on whether life came about naturally.

lee: How many variables are involved in getting compasses to point north? Magnetic earth? Check. Magnetic stone or instrument? Check. Laws of physics? Check. Leave anything out?

Yes, you know that now. But what about a time before these laws of physics were known? I am trying to point out that the phenomena were observed before the concept of magnetism or physical laws were known. So today, maybe there are laws and effects which are unknown to scientists (given the vast numbers of scientists doing research now, I fervently hope so).

What is not clear about this?
Artur C. Clarke wrote "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I might paraphrase that to "Any insufficiently understood natural phenomenon is indistinguishable from a supernatural guiding hand."


lee: All we do is just quit pretending we've found it, when we haven't.

OK, show me a scientific article which claims to have found how life originated.

jah

Lee said...

> Probability. No scientists believe life arose that way so disproving a probabilistic mechanism has no bearing on whether life came about naturally.

Remember we are also talking about the evolution of life oncce it had already been established as a given.

I'm sorry: I cannot imagine why probabilities are not relevant in this issue. If one side claims that all the diversity of life can be explained by naturalistic evolution that had a couple of billion years to do its thing, it is perfectly reasonable to ask, was that enough time? If the odds say yes, congratulations. But if the odds say no, it is perfectly appropriate to mention it, and to suggest that perhaps the naturalistic model has a lot more 'splainin' to do before we accept it as gospel.

> So today, maybe there are laws and effects which are unknown to scientists (given the vast numbers of scientists doing research now, I fervently hope so).

I would count on it.

> OK, show me a scientific article which claims to have found how life originated.

If there are no scientific articles that claim as much, as you suggest, then why all the popular articles and TV documentaries by prominent scientists that claim that naturalistic explanation is sufficient? And why the insistence that such claims cannot be tested? Dawkins is free to suggests all he wants that God was not involved, and he never loses his cachet as the Great Scientist. But Behe modestly suggests that the odds look favorable for the existence of a designer, and how does everyone just know that he cannot possibly be correct?

onein6billion said...

"passed by the Louisiana State Legislature that advocated objectivity"

Well, let us say that the bill claimed to advocate objectivity. But if that claim is a lie and the purpose of the bill is to try to get around the Supreme Court decision against creationism, then it's not fair to claim:

"When you are reduced to arguing that objectivity is a creationist plot"

The creationist plot is that the supernatural may be taught in science class. This violates the Constitution as currently interpreted by the Supreme Court and Judge Jones.

"I'm happy to poke what holes I can in explanations that already exist."

A fundamental argument from ignorance. Since we don't know everything perfectly (yet), therefore I am not convinced.

This is anti-evolution. But there is no reason why it should be considered pro-creationism. False dichotomy.

"I cannot imagine why probabilities are not relevant in this issue."

Well, maybe probabilities are relevant - but no one is competent to compute the probabilities accurately. Not you, not me, not creationists and not scientists.

On the other hand, the genetic and fossil evidence is very clear that evolution has happened over the last few hundred million years. No probability calculations are required. Only when you want to go back to the creation of "life" 3 billion years or so ago does the question of probabilities come into play.

"But Behe modestly suggests that the odds look favorable for the existence of a designer, and how does everyone just know that he cannot possibly be correct?"

Actually, I don't think Behe has tried that tactic. But it is clear that his "irreducibly complex" argument is false. And his "specified complexity" argument is nonsense. Now Axe tried a strange probabilistic argument for one specific example. And the refutation said that his assumptions are unrealistic and that is why his conclusion is unjustified.

On the other hand, this might be right and we would never know. The hypothesis that life came from somewhere else in this universe is "scientific" (but there's no evidence). But the hypothesis of a supernatural designer is forever "beyond science". And since everyone who advocates this is religious, there is no way it's going to get into science class without a fight.

Lee said...

>> "I'm happy to poke what holes I can in explanations that already exist."

> A fundamental argument from ignorance. Since we don't know everything perfectly (yet), therefore I am not convinced.

What is unscientific about arguing that we are ignorant when we are ignorant?

And, by the way, I wasn't the first person in this thread to make this argument. It was suggested as a reason why we can't question the odds of unguided evolution.

> This is anti-evolution. But there is no reason why it should be considered pro-creationism. False dichotomy.

Which is fine by me, since I put forth no argument on Creationism's behalf. Straw man.

> Well, maybe probabilities are relevant - but no one is competent to compute the probabilities accurately. Not you, not me, not creationists and not scientists.

But why then is this the one area in which we are incompetent that we should not work towards acquiring competence? When we don't know something, we look for answers, right? Or are we only looking for answers when the answers we seek would tend to corroborate the naturalistic view?

> On the other hand, the genetic and fossil evidence is very clear that evolution has happened over the last few hundred million years.

The fossil evidence is clear that there are a lot of extinct species, and many of them them bear taxonomical similarities to other extinct species, and to modern species. Any other revelations to be had from them are inferential in nature.

As for the genetic evidence, you would have to specify how we can deduce common ancestry from it. How we can duplicate the experiment, observe, and test it. Or else it too is inferential in nature.

And since we have introduced inference into our scientific process, we can't very well allow it for one side and disallow it from the other side, can we?

> But it is clear that his "irreducibly complex" argument is false.

I don't think it has, but it is clear that you have put forth no such argument.

Lee said...

> Well, maybe probabilities are relevant - but no one is competent to compute the probabilities accurately. Not you, not me, not creationists and not scientists.

And by the way, weren't you the fellow who just threw the flag on me for making a classic argument from ignorance?

onein6billion said...

"originated from a single cell"

You are a "one trick pony".

It would seem that you are fixated on exactly what happened about 3 billion years ago when something that we might call "non-life" or "proto-life" evolved into something that we might call "life". A lot of "life" today uses DNA, so you might ask "how was the first DNA formed?"

You seem to think that it could not have happened "randomly" (as if that really meant something) and therefore your "creator" must have been involved.

But there has been more and more research into this area and it seems clear that there is no reason why it could not have happened "accidentally".

And if it could happen once, there is no reason why it could not have happened many times. But if one of the many times was "better" than the others, then perhaps all life is descended from "that time" instead of the "other times". It's hard to guess what happened 3 billion years ago.

But "I don't believe it" is not a good argument against it.

Lee said...

> OI6B: "You are a "one trick pony"."

And you are still relying on question-begging epithets.

> It would seem that you are fixated on exactly what happened about 3 billion years ago when something that we might call "non-life" or "proto-life" evolved into something that we might call "life".

Actually, I fantasize about it.

> You seem to think that it could not have happened "randomly" (as if that really meant something) and therefore your "creator" must have been involved.

If I only seem to think it, then I am not communicating very effectively.

> It's hard to guess what happened 3 billion years ago.

Apparently not, since you just guessed that non-life or proto-life evolved into life. I think the hard part is coming up with specifics.

> But "I don't believe it" is not a good argument against it.

I don't think I have said I don't believe it. My agenda has been somewhat limited. I'm merely arguing that ID proponents have a place at the table. Let them make their case. If you guys can demolish it, fine, it won't be the first time something was demolished in the name of science. Even a few evolutionary icons have gone down that way, if memory serves. Remember Piltdown man?

Good to hear from you. Next time, bring an argument.

onein6billion said...

"Next time, bring an argument."

Unfortunately, the argument in this case is "it does not seem to be impossible, even if it might be improbable".

There have been a number of observations over the years about certain possibilities. But "we don't know yet" seems to be the current situation.

Perhaps you wish to argue that it does seem to be so close to improbable that it is effectively impossible.

So that is why this comes down to computing the probability and no one is yet competent to do that.

But this digression is irrelevant to the fact of evolution. It is abiogenesis - the creation of "life" from "non-life".

"I think the hard part is coming up with specifics."

Quite true - and irrelevant to the fact of evolution.

"that ID proponents have a place at the table"

No, the supernatural has no place at the scientific table.

"Let them make their case."

They have been making their supernatural case for 20 years and it has been rejected for 20 years as non-scientific nonsense. Do you wish to discuss a specific "case"?

onein6billion said...

"As for the genetic evidence, you would have to specify how we can deduce common ancestry from it. How we can duplicate the experiment, observe, and test it. Or else it too is inferential in nature."

Of course it is inferential. So what? Means, motive, opportunity - guilty. Means is mutation and other things, motive is survival, and opportunity is changing environment. So the genetics of closely-related species will be similar and for non-closely-related species not so similar. And the "degree" of "relatedness" will depend on how long ago there was a "common ancestor".

You will again say "I don't believe it". But still, it moves.

Anonymous said...

1i6b: You will again say "I don't believe it".

No, what lee (I think, as he has provided no details) is saying:

1) I (lee) believe in ID due to religious faith.
2) Some people have proposed ID as a scientific idea.
3) Almost all scientists (many atheists) have dismissed the arguments put forth by ID'ists.

So without evaluating the pro and con himself (which is impractical), lee feels that the rejection of ID (which he knows to be true) is unfair, almost definitely due to the atheistic stance of scientists rather than to the nature of the arguments.


jah

Lee said...

> There have been a number of observations over the years about certain possibilities. But "we don't know yet" seems to be the current situation.

Nothing wrong with not knowing something. I find it annoying, though, when something that is not known is presented as if it is known. You watch practically any documentary on wildlife (which otherwise I love to watch), and invariably you run into remarks from the narrator such as, e.g., "This animal evolved this from that..." The narrator doesn't know this happened. He has not a shred of hard evidence that it happened. All he knows is that evolutionary theory is part of the Zeitgeist, and no one will challenge him for saying it.

Certainly, evolutionists won't challenge him for saying it, even if they have unspoken doubts about that particular set of specifics. If it furthers public acceptance of evolutionary theory, then no one is going to sweat a little overreaching in the popular culture.

But Michael Behe writes a thoughful, thought-provoking book, and he is attacked as if evolution is the one true faith and he's the AntiChrist. If being unscientific is a problem, why not also scold wildlife documentary producers for being unscientific?

His critics don't sound thoughtful or reasonable. They sound like Pharisees, and like they are looking for a wooden cross and some nails.

> Perhaps you wish to argue that it does seem to be so close to improbable that it is effectively impossible.

It may not be as impossible as you seem to think. In any event, I wouldn't rule it out before we have established why it is impossible. I don't consider repeated assertions of a proposition to be the same as proof of them.

> So that is why this comes down to computing the probability and no one is yet competent to do that.

Keep repeating it, if it makes you feel good. But of course, I'm the one-trick pony.

> But this digression is irrelevant to the fact of evolution.

The "fact" of evolution? I thought you already admitted that there was a lot of inductive reasoning in evolution due to the difficulties of direct observation and testing. Inductive reasoning does not ensure validity or truth.

> They have been making their supernatural case for 20 years and it has been rejected for 20 years as non-scientific nonsense. Do you wish to discuss a specific "case"?

The case for design is not necessarily the case for the supernatural, though that is indeed how I tend to see it. In any event, your proposition is the same as saying that a supernatural creator could not possibly have left physical signs of intelligent design on earth or in the physical universe. The proof of such intelligence would take an inductive form, with all of the limitations that inductive methods would bestow on it, and would not rely on the supernatural itself, but only on the ability to infer whether an intelligence was involved.

In short, it would use empirical methods, despite your hand-waving about keeping the "supernatural" away from the table.

onein6billion said...

I said:

"There have been a number of observations over the years about certain possibilities. But "we don't know yet" seems to be the current situation."

But I was referring to abiogenesis about 3 billion years ago - your fundamental sticking point.

Then you changed the subject:

"I find it annoying, though, when something that is not known is presented as if it is known. You watch practically any documentary on wildlife (which otherwise I love to watch), and invariably you run into remarks from the narrator such as, e.g., "This animal evolved this from that...""

This is evolution, not abiogenesis. The evolutionary tree of life is based on the fossil record and genetics. Much of the tree of life is known with high probability. And there was tiktaalik.

"He has not a shred of hard evidence that it happened."

I disagree. The fossil record and the genetic evidence are pretty certain.

"But Michael Behe writes a thoughtful, thought-provoking book"

Darwin's Black Box? 1996? 12 years ago? Yes, it provoked thoughts for a little while. Then his thoughts were dismissed as incorrect. Do you wish to discuss any particular one or more of his thoughts? I don't think any of his thoughts were truly original.

"His critics don't sound thoughtful or reasonable."

Perhaps his critics were less strident 11 years ago. But when creationists repeat the same discredited arguments over and over again, it gets pretty irritating and the critics become rather strident.

I said:

"Perhaps you wish to argue that it does seem to be so close to improbable that it is effectively impossible."

But, of course, my "it" was abiogenesis, not evolution.

You seemed to misunderstand:

"It may not be as impossible as you seem to think. In any event, I wouldn't rule it out before we have established why it is impossible."

This seems to refer to some other "it" than abiogenesis. And it seems that you think I am ruling "it" out. But I thought you were trying to rule "it" (abiogenesis) out as so close to improbable as to be impossible.

Someone is confused.

And I said:

"So that is why this comes down to computing the probability and no one is yet competent to do that."

and I was referring to abiogenesis.

I said:

"But this digression is irrelevant to the fact of evolution."

And I was referring to the digression about abiogenesis.

You said:

"The "fact" of evolution? I thought you already admitted that there was a lot of inductive reasoning in evolution due to the difficulties of direct observation and testing. Inductive reasoning does not ensure validity or truth."

Science is not about "truth", science is about the best explanation. If the best explanation seems really good, then it is considered "scientific truth" until a better scientific explanation comes along. Since "intelligent design" is "not scientific" and really "no explanation at all", it cannot challenge evolution.

"but only on the ability to infer whether an intelligence was involved."

Ok. Fine. And that is why both "intelligent design" proponents and scientists agree that one possibility is that "life" existed somewhere else in this vast universe and was carried to this Earth by some natural means - drifting between the stars or alien spacecraft. But if that happened 3 billion years ago, there may not be much evidence currently available. And it just pushes back the abiogenesis problem - how did life come to exist in that other place?

So let's consider "infer whether an intelligence was involved."

How could this be done? Did we find "Kilroy was here" written in the DNA? Or do we try a silly argument - humans are the only intelligence we know of that can "design" things, life is "designed", therefore an "intelligence" is required? This is mainly silly because there is no scientific evidence that "life is designed".

"it would use empirical methods"

Wonderful. Make my day. Use empirical methods. Be specific.
Show your work.

Lee said...

> This is evolution, not abiogenesis. The evolutionary tree of life is based on the fossil record and genetics. Much of the tree of life is known with high probability. And there was tiktaalik.

What do you mean, "known with high probability"? How was that determined? And why can you bring up probability in defense of evolution, but I can't go near it for ID "because we haven't enough data?" The rules do keep changing.

So show us how the probability for what you say is so high. We certainly don't know it through direct observation. By inference? Very well, how do you put it...? Show your work.

> I disagree. The fossil record and the genetic evidence are pretty certain.

It seems pretty certain that there were animals that are now extinct, which bear certain taxonomical similarities to other extinct animals, and to living animals. What is not pretty certain is that they are necessarily related to each other. We don't have the videotape. We may think animal A begat animal B based on similarities, but we don't know it. And we have precious few facts about it, other than their remains.

>> "But Michael Behe writes a thoughtful, thought-provoking book"

> Darwin's Black Box? 1996? 12 years ago?

Yeah. Ancient history. Especially compared to Darwin, 160 years ago.

> Yes, it provoked thoughts for a little while. Then his thoughts were dismissed as incorrect.

I know they were dismissed. I'm still trying to figure out why anyone thinks they were successfully refuted.

> Do you wish to discuss any particular one or more of his thoughts? I don't think any of his thoughts were truly original.

You haven't shown that, but if true, what difference would that make?

>> "His critics don't sound thoughtful or reasonable."

> Perhaps his critics were less strident 11 years ago....

The reaction was strident from the start.

> But when creationists repeat the same discredited arguments over and over again, it gets pretty irritating and the critics become rather strident.

He's not a creationist. And before an argument is dismissed as discredited, it should first be discredited, don't you think?

> I said:

But, of course, my "it" was abiogenesis, not evolution.

>> Someone is confused.

You're right, someone is.

In your first response to me on this thread, you quoted me:

> Lee: "I cannot imagine why probabilities are not relevant in this issue."

But you left out this part, which immediately preceded it:

> Lee: "Remember we are also talking about the evolution of life oncce it had already been established as a given."

And you left out the statement I made immediately thereafter:

> Lee "If one side claims that all the diversity of life can be explained by naturalistic evolution that had a couple of billion years to do its thing, it is perfectly reasonable to ask, was that enough time?"

Note the phrase, "diversity of life." Not origin. So whatever you have been talking about, it's pretty clear that I've been talking about evolution -- mostly, if not always, in this thread.

So now I've done my best to clear up the confusion.

onein6billion said...

"The rules do keep changing."

There are different "rules" for abiogenesis and evolution.

"Show your work."

There are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles about the relationships between the genetics of different species. And there are thousands of scientific articles about the fossil record. And there is tiktaalik. Tiktaalik was predicted and then found.

"And we have precious few facts about it, other than their remains."

Remains tell us a lot. Dinosaurs with feathers. And the genetic evidence of the descendants of a common ancestor confirm the conclusions.

"So now I've done my best to clear up the confusion."

Well, there was the "one trick pony" of the origin of the "single cell" associated with the word "probability". Whenever I was talking about "probabilities", I was referring to abiogenesis. The "probability" of evolution over the last billion years is 100%. And this is due to the scientific evidence, not due to prejudice against creationism/intelligent design. So I did not realize that you sometimes tried to use the word "probability" to refer to evolution. It's also confusing because we are covering the same ground on multiple threads.

Lee said...

> Well, there was the "one trick pony" of the origin of the "single cell" associated with the word "probability". Whenever I was talking about "probabilities", I was referring to abiogenesis.

Yes, I figured that out, finally, even though you were answering a point I wasn't making.

I had made a statement about life having descended from a single cell -- which is evolution, not abiogenesis, right? -- and somehow you conflated that with abiogenesis, and then had a merry time whacking at your own pinata.

Here's the comment I had made:

Lee: "If you mean, on the other hand, that all life originated from a single cell by strictly naturalistic means... well, it must be the only fact that cannot be observed and cannot be tested."

And here was your response:

>> "originated from a single cell"

> OI6B: "You are a "one trick pony". It would seem that you are fixated on exactly what happened about 3 billion years ago when something that we might call "non-life" or "proto-life" evolved into something that we might call "life". A lot of "life" today uses DNA, so you might ask "how was the first DNA formed?"

Re-read what I wrote again, and explain how you concluded I was talking about abiogenesis. In any event, I wasn't. I was asking what evidence exists that all life descended from a single cell.

> OI6B: "Remains tell us a lot. Dinosaurs with feathers. And the genetic evidence of the descendants of a common ancestor confirm the conclusions."

Explain how a structural similarity necessitates a common ancestry. Spiders have hair; does that mean we descended from spiders?

onein6billion said...

"Spiders have hair; does that mean we descended from spiders?"

After this intelligent question (not), I will leave you to your ignorance. It is very clear that there is absolutely nothing I can say that would affect your ignorance in the slightest.