Naturalism for Dummies:
Contradictions, Causal Connections, and the Center for Naturalism

Philosophy — By on April 7, 2005 at 2:33 am

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then. I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes.
“Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman

For decades, Christian thinkers ranging from the profound to the banal have argued that philosophical naturalism is internally inconsistent and contradictory. Yet this naked emperor continues to promenade through our culture, slipping just out of sight whenever someone observes that he wanders sans clothes. The critics of the theists assume that the portrayal of naturalism must be a strawman since is makes Scientology look in comparison.
But we Christian critics now have a handful of unwitting allies in our cause. A small group of atheist philosophers, including Daniel Dennett and Brian Leiter, have instituted a new organization that will prove to be our best ally in the effort to expose the self-refuting philosophy:

The Center for Naturalism (CFN) is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization devoted to increasing public awareness of naturalism and its implications for social and personal well-being. By means of local activities, publications, research, conferences, educational programs, and policy development, the CFN seeks to foster the understanding that human beings and their behavior are fully caused, entirely natural phenomena, and that human flourishing is best achieved in the light of such understanding.

Initially, I assumed that this was a brilliant April Fool ‘



  • http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus Gordon Mullings

    Joe:
    Are you SURE this is not an April Fool’s spoof by those “ID intellectual frauds” that seem to lurk under skeptics’ beds? (What is your evidence that it is not a spoof? How do you warrant this knowledge claim? Why should I accept it? . . .)
    Or, maybe, it is just another way of saying the same fallacy that led Freud to think potty training in effect can explain all; or Marx, that social class is the same; or Skinner to think we are all conditioned rats in a maze; or Crick to think we are nothing but neuronal chemistry and electrical impulses?
    Fallacy? Indeed, for as C S Lewis long ago pointed out (and a great many others before him! Try JBS Haldane on Materialism, if memory serves . . .) the implication of such claims is that a theory that explains away all thought as internal to the random chaos and deterministic laws of nature (and society), is self-referentially inconsistent. For, it explains away itself too.
    SO, is this a spoof or is it a public intellectual suicide?

  • Chris Lutz

    Naturalism undercuts retributive, punitive, and fawning attitudes based on the belief that human agents are first causes, as well other responses amplified by the supposition of free will, such as excessive pride, shame, and guilt. Since individuals are not, on a naturalistic understanding, the ultimate originators of their faults and virtues, they are not deserving, in the traditional metaphysical sense, of praise and blame.
    Okay, how can you feel excessive pride, shame, and guilt unless your environment and genetics make you that way at the start? Hence, it’s natural for you to feel that way. How can man then, since he has no free will, effect situations for the better? Any action man takes is solely based on preset conditions that make it impossible to escape the consequences of nature.

  • Nick

    Think about what is being claimed: A human is indistinguishable from nature and comprised completely of physical matter; not one molecule in our bodies is sentient. Yet somehow when you combine all of these non-sentient molecules in the shape of a human being, a unique property magically arises.
    Is it your claim that all of the properties of a thing must be shared by the components of that thing? You seem to be arguing for a form of ultra-reductionism.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Joe:
    1] Quick, make sure to grab and archive the site before it is taken down!
    2] I think the best answer of all to this sort of blind folly was given by Peggy Noonan in her essay on John Paul II — The Great – and his first return to Poland as Pope in 1979:
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110006523
    Two months before the pope’s arrival, the Polish communist apparatus took steps to restrain the enthusiasm of the people. They sent a secret directive to schoolteachers explaining how they should understand and explain the pope’s visit. “The pope is our enemy,” it said. “Due to his uncommon skills and great sense of humor he is dangerous, because he charms everyone, especially journalists. Besides, he goes for cheap gestures in his relations with the crowd, for instance, puts on a highlander’s hat, shakes all hands, kisses children. . . . It is modeled on American presidential campaigns. . . Because of the activation of the Church in Poland our activities designed to atheize the youth not only cannot diminish but must intensely develop. . . In this respect all means are allowed and we cannot afford any sentiments.” . . . .
    The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw . . . . By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it–all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing–more than a million had come.
    In Victory Square in the Old City the pope gave a mass. Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels. The pope gave what papal biographer George Weigel called the greatest sermon of John Paul’s life.
    Why, the pope asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Perhaps it was because of how Poland had suffered for centuries, and through the 20th century had become “the land of a particularly responsible witness” to God. The people of Poland, he suggested, had been chosen for a great role, to understand, humbly but surely, that they were the repository of a special “witness of His cross and His resurrection.” He asked then if the people of Poland accepted the obligations of such a role in history.
    The crowd responded with thunder.
    “We want God!” they shouted, together. “We want God!”
    What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship.
    3] I think the experiment of conditioning people to reject God has been tried. At the cost of over 100 million lives, it failed and collapsed in infamy and shame. John Paul II, the Great, is proof positive. (BTW, I am not at all a Roman Catholic. But, I must acknowledge the Spirit and greatness when I see them!)
    Nick:
    THe problem is not that wholes have properties greater than the mere sum of their parts, but to explain how these properties originate — especially the inescapable fact that we are moral people.
    We argue as if we can make up our minds. We quarrel as if we really are obligated by principle. How can matter governed by only molecular chaos and natural forces give rise to such?
    How can the known physical forces — strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetic [the root of Chemistry] and gravitational, account for such, even in principle? Do we not instead see a clear pattern of self-referential inconsistency as Joe is pointing out — even when we cite say a Nobel Prize holder such as Sir Francis Crick?
    I daresay the site being dissected in this thread is strong evidence that this has never yet been satisfactorily answered from a naturalistic perspective.
    OKay. $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • Jack

    The crowd responded with thunder.
    “We want God!” they shouted, together. “We want God!”
    What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship.

    Yes. And it seems, based on the lines which have grown beyong all reasonable expectation, that even the supposedly liberal, secular, and modern European hungers for the spirtuality exhibited by Pope John Paul. It can’t be driven out of the human soul, can it?
    Jack

  • http://www.afterprogress.blogspot.com M.G.

    One question… I’m curious as to why it is self-defeating to claim that human beings have no contra-causal free will but also to claim that naturalism, as a philosophical and social movement, can bring about a great deal of good. It’s akin to saying that hurricanes and spring showers have no free-will, but one certainly is more pernicious than the other. I don’t think anyone over at CFN would claim that because they support naturalism and think that it is a force for good, they are therefore committed to the tenets of a libertarian conception of free-will.
    Those are two separate conversations.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    M.G.,
    One question… I’m curious as to why it is self-defeating to claim that human beings have no contra-causal free will but also to claim that naturalism, as a philosophical and social movement, can bring about a great deal of good. It’s akin to saying that hurricanes and spring showers have no free-will, but one certainly is more pernicious than the other.
    In order to claim that one is more pernicious than the other we must make a value judgment between the two. But to do so we have to be able to choose our preference. Naturalism, however, claims that the choice is not determined by us but is by our genetics and environment.
    I don’t think anyone over at CFN would claim that because they support naturalism and think that it is a force for good, they are therefore committed to the tenets of a libertarian
    conception of free-will. Those are two separate conversations.

    Anytime the naturalist starts referring to

  • Jack

    One question… I’m curious as to why it is self-defeating to claim that human beings have no contra-causal free will but also to claim that naturalism, as a philosophical and social movement, can bring about a great deal of good.
    Naturalism can claim that it, “can bring about a great deal of good” (though how it defines “good” would itself be up for debate). What it cannot claim is that the good is the result of a belief in naturalism, or anything else for that matter; since such a belief would be the result of natural causes, and not based on the adoption of a belief by a creature which is free to adopt beliefs. I.e., ‘good’ results aren’t caused by our choices as to what beliefs we have, good results from the same natural causes as ‘bad’ or ‘neutral’ – that is, good happens.
    Jack

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com mumon

    You know, Joe, sometimes I could metaphorically kiss you. This is an excellent post.
    I had to look up in the dictionary “naturalism,” which says for this, “The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.”
    Now these guys have kind of morphed that into behavioral determinism, which, as anyone who’s read anything on the subject (say, Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique) knows is inherently indeterminate.
    I admit that’s where I stopped reading your post. ;-)
    I went to their website, and found this, which is quite amusing because in order to subscribe to the principles therein one must deny, on a psychological basis, the obvious reality that there are, indeed, born again Christians as well as enlightened Zen masters (not to mention top seeded tennis players at the US Open). And that some of them, despite their backgrounds, derive from their experience an ability to do “good” in the world.
    Thanks. I gotta get to that on my blog later.

  • Xiaoding

    “The naturalist claims that humans cannot cause anything”
    I’m not that up on Naturism, but none of the quotes in your post indicate that naturists beleive that. Is this a straw man? Where is the quote about no free will?
    If naturism is wrong in claiming that Man is natural, can you please inform which part or region of your body is NOT natural? I’ll wait. Medical devices, fillings, etc., don’t count.
    So far, all I’ve read reads like people who do not understand science or genetics trying to critisize it from a religious standpoint. It is …amusing.
    Xiaoidng

  • Chris Lutz

    Xianding, the quote from the post above says that naturalism denies that man has free will.
    Naturalism, therefore, denies that persons have traditional, contra-causal free will

  • http://eternalperspectives.com/2005/04/07/naturalism-and-the-natural-person/#more-118 Eternal Perspectives

    Naturalism and the Natural Person

    It is good to demonstrate the weaknesses and ultimate failings of those philosophies that set themselves up against God and the truths of the Bible, and I am thankful for Joe, Amanda, and many other apologists who rise to meet the challenge . . . In …

  • Jack

    I’m not that up on Naturism, but none of the quotes in your post indicate that naturists beleive that. Is this a straw man? Where is the quote about no free will?
    Xiaoding,
    Joe quotes the website’s mission statement here:
    Practically speaking, naturalism holds that an individual

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Naturalism is more of a hypothesis than a religion. The hypothesis would be nothing observable in the universe is causd by anything other than natural laws. Determinism is the idea that free will is an illusiion…that our decisions are determined by the laws of chemistry, physics etc. operating on the atoms that make up our brains.
    Naturalism does not in itself imply atheism, although it is not inconsistent with naturalism. The dieists were naturalists yet believed in God. Naturalism is a very broad idea so it jumps the gun a bit to assume any particular subset of naturalists (such as Marxists, capitalists (yes friends, economics is built firmly on naturalism), etc.) should be read as anything more than examples of naturalists.

    The

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jack:
    “Naturalists deny the existence of a soul, obviously, and hold our beliefs to be merely aspects of our physical brain.”
    Therein lieth the problem.
    As Arch-ID proponent Philip Johnson once observed in response to Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Francis Crick’s reduction of thought etc to neuronal chemistry and molecular biology, what would happen if he were to preface his books:

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    It’s rather strange that so many posters on this thread insist on reading marxist economics into a debate about naturalism. Why not use mercantalism or Keynesian economics instead?

  • Jack

    If the brain communicates with the soul then we should be able to observe things happening in the brain that cannot be explained by chemistry, physics and so on. To date we have yet to find anything that happens in the body or brain that is not explainable by naturalistic laws…although we still have a ways to go before anyone can claim we have know the body atom by atom.
    I can think of lots of things “happening in the brain” that cannot be explained by chemistry and physics; personality, will, love, belief formation and modification, faith, imagination, creativity, epiphanies, spirituality…the list goes on.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Indeed but let’s keep things simple. You have your enemy at gun point. He begs for mercy. You make a decision to either spare his life or kill him. What makes the decision?
    If it is the soul and the soul is distinct from the brain then somehow the soul has to tell the brain which nerves to fire (to make your finger squeeze the trigger or relax). In that case the brain would be a bit like the antenna on a radio controlled car. This should show up somewhere as the ‘supernatual’ soul somehow communicating with the natural world of atoms, molecules etc.
    Otherwise you are left with the possibility that the soul doesn’t control the body (in which case you have a lot of theological things to hash out) or that the soul itself is the body (or brain) & the naturalist hypothesis is correct once again.

  • Jack

    What Joe ignores is that larger systems take on relationships & characteristics of their own. Take rocks arranged in a circle. The circle is a real thing yet you cannot detect any ‘circleness’ by studying an individual rock from the circle.
    That’s because the ‘circleness’ does not reside in the rocks themselves; the idea of a circle resides in the mind of the human who makes the circle with the rocks; a circle could be made with virtually any objects, because it’s based on the idea of the circle. There’s another thing chemistry and physics can’t explain; ideas.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The circle of rocks is a relationship between them. I can lay out an objective definition of a circle (all points are equaldistant from the center) & we can examine how closely a pattern of rocks conforms to that definition.
    What’s relevant, though, is that while the rock circle is reducible to individual rocks the property of being a circle only arises among many rocks. In other words, the whole has more properties than the sum of its parts.
    Joe is perplexed that consciousness might spring from just a bunch of brain cells ‘like magic’ but a circle can spring from a bunch of rocks with no need to invoke magic at all.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “There’s another thing chemistry and physics can’t explain; ideas.”
    There are a lot of very interesting studies of neurological diseases and/or brain traumas which cause people to perceive of shapes, colors, numbers, letters, etc., in ways that are different from the normal people.
    Drugs and/or electric or mechanical manipulation of brain tissue can be used to replicate or repair some of these interesting changes in “perception.”
    So the relationship between chemistry and physics — e.g., brain chemistry and the electrical physics underlying neurological processes — is slowly being teased apart by scientists.
    Does that mean that science is any closer to “understanding” or proving the existence of souls or gods?
    Of course not.

  • Jack

    If it is the soul and the soul is distinct from the brain then somehow the soul has to tell the brain which nerves to fire (to make your finger squeeze the trigger or relax). In that case the brain would be a bit like the antenna on a radio controlled car. This should show up somewhere as the ‘supernatual’ soul somehow communicating with the natural world of atoms, molecules etc.
    Otherwise you are left with the possibility that the soul doesn’t control the body (in which case you have a lot of theological things to hash out) or that the soul itself is the body (or brain) & the naturalist hypothesis is correct once again.
    The words of this post are being transmitted to you via electronic impulses traveling through metallic wires to a phosphor or LCD screen. The existence of images on the screen can be explained by physics and chemistry; the ideas contained within the post however cannot be explained by physics and chemistry; the ideas of this post are from my mind; not from my neurons, but from me as a person, not my collection of atoms, but that part of me which compels me to communicate ideas and intentions and contains my will and personality. You don’t see me, but you see the result of my non-mechanical existence; it is displayed on your screen, but is not your screen.
    We are continually bombarded with the immaterial aspect of humanity; we may not understand the connection between the immaterial and the organic, but it cannot be explained simply by physics and chemistry, anymore than my posts could be explained by an extensive knowledge of computer science theory.

  • http://www.afterprogress.blogspot.com M.G.

    Another question. Traditional theology denies that animals possess immortal souls. Yet the characteristics that some might argue are incompatible with a naturalistic conception of the brain, such as belief, will, personality, love, etc., are present to some degree in certain animals. How then is it possible to explain animals behavior in naturalistic terms, without doing so for human behavior, without resorting to a “God of the gaps” type argument?

  • Jack

    The circle of rocks is a relationship between them. I can lay out an objective definition of a circle (all points are equaldistant from the center) & we can examine how closely a pattern of rocks conforms to that definition.
    What’s relevant, though, is that while the rock circle is reducible to individual rocks the property of being a circle only arises among many rocks. In other words, the whole has more properties than the sum of its parts.
    Joe is perplexed that consciousness might spring from just a bunch of brain cells ‘like magic’ but a circle can spring from a bunch of rocks with no need to invoke magic at all.

    But that’s the point; a circle doesn’t ‘spring’ from rocks; the rocks are arranged intentionally; and even if the fall in a circular pattern, that pattern is recognized by a mind, it isn’t inherent in the rocks themselves. ‘Circleness’ is not an exhibited property, it is an externally imposed construct; imposed by the human mind. Now if the rocks had a tendency to form circles, then the comparison would be valid; we could say something inherent in the rocks was circle forming.
    The human mind has tendencies; tendencies that transcend neuronal arrangements.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    We are continually bombarded with the immaterial aspect of humanity; we may not understand the connection between the immaterial and the organic, but it cannot be explained simply by physics and chemistry, anymore than my posts could be explained by an extensive knowledge of computer science theory.
    Nonetheless you are holding a gun and have to make a choice to fire or not. Whatever makes the choice needs to be able to manipulate atoms, neurons, chemistry etc. in order for it to be carried out by the body.

  • http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com Sharp as a Marble

    Boonton, how do you lay out objective definitions? The rocks have no objectiveness. The circle (define it however you want) is only relevent to you and me.
    There cannot be a ‘sum’ in the naturalist context. The sum of anything requires observation and recognition, something inanimate objects cannot do.

  • Jack

    Another question. Traditional theology denies that animals possess immortal souls. Yet the characteristics that some might argue are incompatible with a naturalistic conception of the brain, such as belief, will, personality, love, etc., are present to some degree in certain animals. How then is it possible to explain animals behavior in naturalistic terms, without doing so for human behavior, without resorting to a “God of the gaps” type argument?
    I think the difficulty is knowing to what degree those characteristics are the result of anthropomorphic observations. We may say an ape has a personality; but the question is, do apes say that about each other; do they recognize a non-related ape as having a unique personality? There seem to be no histories among animals, and I think this is significant; we can recognize a personality, that is, the personage of an individual long after they are physically gone; their communications can extend beyond their immediate utterances because we recognize that those ideas spring from something universal and transcendent; there seem to be no corollaries among animals in this respect.

  • Rob Ryan

    Apparently, you think that causality precludes responses to subsequent causes. There is no contradiction between the two paragraphs you cited. Your lack of understanding with regard to naturalism is so profound, I hardly know where, or even if, to begin helping you.
    Perhaps I should approach this naturalistically. Are you incapable of understanding naturalism? Do you lack the cognitive strength and flexibility to grasp the concept? Or, perhaps, you ARE able, but uninclined due to your religious indoctrination and a deep-seated need to attack philosophies that you perceive as offering the greatest threats to it.
    I lean toward the second scenario. Unfortunately, this means that any effort to enhance your understanding of naturalism is likely to be doomed to failure. But what the hell! Let’s look at one of your statements:
    “The naturalist claims that humans cannot cause anything and yet in the very next breath implies that we have the ability to cause changes in our environment.”
    This misstatement of fact highlights the futility of my present effort. The naturalist does NOT claim that human beings “cannot cause anything”, only that the cause they produce has causes of its own. Speed can cause an accident and worsen its outcome, but the speed itself must be caused by something.
    Why do I bother? Do I hope to keep you from infecting others with your intransigence? Do I still hold out some hope for you? Do I simply enjoy the rhetorical exercise? I’m not sure, but I am sure that my present effort has a cause (if not many causes acting together in ways we can’t discern readily) AND that your tilting at philosophical windmills has a cause. Let’s look at another:
    “The obvious answer would be that you can

  • Jack

    Nonetheless you are holding a gun and have to make a choice to fire or not. Whatever makes the choice needs to be able to manipulate atoms, neurons, chemistry etc. in order for it to be carried out by the body.
    And what does make the choice; why does one person fire, and not another? Are you saying that mercy, forgiveness, altruism, or the ability to recognize the humanity of the person being fired upon is directly wired to ones ‘atoms, neurons, chemistry’?
    If one could measure those exact mechanisms, then I suppose it would be material and organic; the point of conjecturing that it is immaterial is that we can’t measure and quantify it.

  • Jack

    Just give me a glimmer of hope, and I’ll keep trying. ;-)
    Ha! You just got done saying that hope is an illusion. So to that end, “keep trying”; it is apparent you have no other choice.

  • http://sharpmarbles.stufftoread.com Sharp as a Marble

    But Rob, why bother trying? As naturalism states, I am only a wad of chemicals and materials. Your analogy of a car is apt. The car has no decision in the speeding / crashing process. It simply does what the forces of physics cause it to do. The driver does what the forces of physics cause it to do. A man who rapes a 3 year old girl has no responsibility for his actions any more than the car had control of the accident. There is no justification, there is no reason.
    So, you trying to change our train of thought shows me you don’t actually believe in what you say (not that you can actually ‘believe’ anything).
    And, I’ve found a better way to try to convince people of my point of view is to avoid being rude and condecending.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Boonton, how do you lay out objective definitions? The rocks have no objectiveness. The circle (define it however you want) is only relevent to you and me.
    Let’s keep it at the level Joe stepped up. Joe implied that emergent properties are like ‘magic’ that arise out of elements that have no such properties (such as the atoms inside brain cells). My point is simply that such properties can be studied as much as non-emergent properties.
    And what does make the choice; why does one person fire, and not another? Are you saying that mercy, forgiveness, altruism, or the ability to recognize the humanity of the person being fired upon is directly wired to ones ‘atoms, neurons, chemistry’?
    If one could measure those exact mechanisms, then I suppose it would be material and organic; the point of conjecturing that it is immaterial is that we can’t measure and quantify it.
    At least some of those emotions appear to be. Humans, like many other animals, do appear to be somewhat hardwired for both moral and immoral behavior (helping others close to you, hating the ‘stranger’ and so on). The question still returns to does anything happen in the brain that is supernatural?
    I think the difficulty is knowing to what degree those characteristics are the result of anthropomorphic observations. We may say an ape has a personality; but the question is, do apes say that about each other; do they recognize a non-related ape as having a unique personality? There seem to be no histories among animals, and I think this is significant; we can recognize a personality, that is, the personage of an individual long after they are physically gone;
    Elephants appear to mourne their dead. There’s been some progress with teaching apes sign language. If an ape signed something like “I remember Suzi used to play on the tree a lot” would that qualify as a history?

  • Rob Ryan

    Sharp asks,
    “But Rob, why bother trying?”
    That’s what I asked myself; did you miss that part?
    “As naturalism states, I am only a wad of chemicals and materials.”
    That may be, but my life still has great meaning to me. I don’t care if it has any objective meaning or not. I’m stunned by people who think meaning and naturalism are mutually exclusive. They occupy different spheres; the objective and the subjective. I happen to think one sphere is a subset of the other, but they can be distinguished.
    “A man who rapes a 3 year old girl has no responsibility for his actions any more than the car had control of the accident.”
    Hogwash! Responsibility is a subjective concept, and I’m glad we apply it to wrongdoers of all kinds. In that way, we can all be causes of positive outcomes. Why do people assume that naturalism means we should all throw up our hands and plead impotence? As I said, for all intents and purposes our will is free.
    “So, you trying to change our train of thought shows me you don’t actually believe in what you say (not that you can actually ‘believe’ anything).”
    You assert this, but you certainly haven’t shown it to be true. I can believe, of course. I believe my children love me, for example. I believe that for which I see convincing evidence or hear compelling argument. The fact that my belief is nothing more than chemical encoding in my brain cells does not lessen its significance to me.
    “And, I’ve found a better way to try to convince people of my point of view is to avoid being rude and condecending.”
    My tone is not dissimilar to the dismissive tone of Joe’s post, and what edge there is is largely in fun. Didn’t you see my smiley thing at the end?
    Jack exclaims,
    “Ha! You just got done saying that hope is an illusion.”
    No, Jack, I did not.
    “So to that end, “keep trying”; it is apparent you have no other choice.”
    No, I can’t say that is at all apparent to me.

  • Jack

    At least some of those emotions appear to be. Humans, like many other animals, do appear to be somewhat hardwired for both moral and immoral behavior (helping others close to you, hating the ‘stranger’ and so on). The question still returns to does anything happen in the brain that is supernatural?
    The problem of course is quantifying that which resists quantification. Are we hard wired to love? Or see beauty? Is that fact that we can observe those tendencies and yet be motivated by them indicative of something else going on beyond chemical impulses? Why is it you and I want there to be something more there than chemical impulses?
    I think of the recent incident with Brian Nichols; was he hardwired to kill? And if so, what happened in his interaction with Ashley Smith that caused him to renounce killing? Can such an immediate modification of desire and motivation be explained by ‘hardwiring’?
    Elephants appear to mourne their dead. There’s been some progress with teaching apes sign language. If an ape signed something like “I remember Suzi used to play on the tree a lot” would that qualify as a history?
    It’s a fascinating question; one which I don’t think is easily answered by faith or science. Does the ape call Suzi ‘Suzi’ because she has been taught that Suzi is a personality with whom it communes? Or is the ape using the sign ‘Suzi’ as a symbol which represents a creature with which it has naturally bonded as it might with any other ape? Could the ape describe Suzi’s personality to another ape? I would think there are still many outstanding questions. Again, I think it notable that animals do not record there exitence for posterity; for whatever reason, as humans we feel the need to let others know we existed; even if the others bear no direct relationship to us. It is, if you will accept the phraseology, a desire for eternal life.

  • Jack

    That may be, but my life still has great meaning to me. I don’t care if it has any objective meaning or not. I’m stunned by people who think meaning and naturalism are mutually exclusive. They occupy different spheres; the objective and the subjective. I happen to think one sphere is a subset of the other, but they can be distinguished.
    Yes, but you are essentially saying, “I like to believe my life has meaning”.  Subjectively, that may be the case, but no one else need be compelled to believe so based on your belief.
    Responsibility is a subjective concept, and I’m glad we apply it to wrongdoers of all kinds. In that way, we can all be causes of positive outcomes. Why do people assume that naturalism means we should all throw up our hands and plead impotence? As I said, for all intents and purposes our will is free.
    Again, by calling responsibility subjective you are saying, ” I like to believe people should be responsible”; there is no corollary reason for people to be so. And ‘positive outcomes’ are also relative; one man’s ‘positive outcome’ may be another’s demise.
    You assert this, but you certainly haven’t shown it to be true. I can believe, of course. I believe my children love me, for example. I believe that for which I see convincing evidence or hear compelling argument. The fact that my belief is nothing more than chemical encoding in my brain cells does not lessen its significance to me.
    Perhaps; but it is artifice. You may be satisfied with artifice, but it would not constrain another who pleaded his beliefs and actions, however horrendous, were also the result of those same chemical encoding.
    No, Jack, I did not.
    You beleive there is hope beyond your mere belief there is hope?
    No, I can’t say that is at all apparent to me.
    Apparent meaning; Readily understood; clear or obvious.; you may choose to ignore it, but it remains, apparent.

  • http://decorabilia.blogspot.com Jim Anderson

    Let’s not be so quick to reduce (there’s that word again) theories of mental experience to just physicalism (here called “naturalism”) and super-materialism; there are other ways of approaching the subject. The Center for Naturalism, impressive as the title sounds, isn’t the last word on human cognition.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton:
    Re:

  • Chris Lutz

    Responsibility is a subjective concept, and I’m glad we apply it to wrongdoers of all kinds. In that way, we can all be causes of positive outcomes.
    As Jack stated above, one person’s positive outcome is negative to someone else. If I believe (because of nature and genetics) that all blue-eyed people are evil and should be wiped off of the earth, should I be stopped from releasing a disease that will do just that? To me the removal of all blue-eyed people would be a positive outcome and bring utopia to the planet. From a naturalism perspective you can’t argue against it except as against your personal choice.

  • Rob Ryan

    “Yes, but you are essentially saying, “I like to believe my life has meaning”.”
    No, I’m not! I’m saying my life has meaning to me personally, regardless of what “I like to believe”.
    “Subjectively, that may be the case, but no one else need be compelled to believe so based on your belief.”
    Fine with me.
    “Again, by calling responsibility subjective you are saying, ” I like to believe people should be responsible”; there is no corollary reason for people to be so.”
    *sigh* Leave the damn “like to” out, and I’ll go along.
    “And ‘positive outcomes’ are also relative; one man’s ‘positive outcome’ may be another’s demise.”
    True! The pedophile may be upset that I wish to see his behavior thwarted or punished. I can live with that; can’t you?
    “You may be satisfied with artifice, but it would not constrain another who pleaded his beliefs and actions, however horrendous, were also the result of those same chemical encoding.”
    He can plead what he wishes, and we may be moved by his pleas or not.
    “You believe there is hope beyond your mere belief there is hope?”
    Oh dear. I’m not sure what you mean. I think hope exists as a concept. I hope my wife cooks something nice tonight. I have hope; therefore, hope exists.
    “Apparent meaning; Readily understood; clear or obvious.; you may choose to ignore it, but it remains, apparent.”
    Heh. Still not apparent until you explain it; maybe not even then. I can choose to keep trying or not. I don’t know which I will choose or all the reasons why. But I am confident that whatever my choice is, it will have causes.

  • Rob Ryan

    “To me the removal of all blue-eyed people would be a positive outcome and bring utopia to the planet.”
    How evil you are, Chris, from my point of view. I’m glad my eyes are brown. ;-)
    “From a naturalism perspective you can’t argue against it except as against your personal choice.”
    That’s true, Chris, and I don’t find it an impediment at all. Fortunately, most of us share that moral stance (regardless whence we derive it), and you are likely to encounter much opposition. Especially from the blue-eyed constituency.

  • Jack

    Thanks for the link Jim, it made for fascinating reading, whether I found the premise agreeable or not. This was an interesting thought from the article:
    Our pervasive experience of free will, he [John R. Searle, author of Mind: A Brief Introduction]acknowledges, may be an illusion. But if so, it is a strange illusion, one that requires vast biological resources to maintain yet somehow survived evolution

  • Larry Lord

    Yawn.
    Joe Carter, Jack, Lutz and others continue patting themselves on the back because they believe that only the existence of a deity (guess which one?) can provide people with a “moral foundation”.
    The fact is that Joe, Jack, Lutz and others spend 98% of their waking lives embodying “naturalist” philosophy.
    They spend 1% of the remaining time pretending that they have a different “worldview” and bragging about that worldview.
    And the other 1% they spend complaining about all the people who are going to experience “eternal torment” for not reciting the same “rules” that were “handed down” to “us” by their deity.

  • Jack

    No, I’m not! I’m saying my life has meaning to me personally, regardless of what “I like to believe”.
    Based on what? Your statement that it has meaning?
    The pedophile may be upset that I wish to see his behavior thwarted or punished. I can live with that; can’t you?
    Sure; but what if the pedophile happens to be Hitler or Stalin, and they are in the process of convincing others that what they are doing is acceptable, and others should go along; is my reply, “Fine, believe what you want to believe”?
    He can plead what he wishes, and we may be moved by his pleas or not.
    But it makes no objective difference either way.
    Oh dear. I’m not sure what you mean. I think hope exists as a concept. I hope my wife cooks something nice tonight. I have hope; therefore, hope exists.
    I didn’t mean hope as in ‘wish’ I meant hope as in ‘that which motivates us to act’. You are contending that which motivates us to act is determined by chemistry and physics.

  • Jack

    That’s true, Chris, and I don’t find it an impediment at all. Fortunately, most of us share that moral stance (regardless whence we derive it), and you are likely to encounter much opposition. Especially from the blue-eyed constituency.

    But “where we derive it” is the point of this discussion; your contention is that we don’t derive it; it is derived for us, whether we feel that way or not. So blue-eyed people live in safety not because of a moral stance, but because that happens to be the inclination of our naturally produced brains at this time; tommorrow, who knows?

  • Larry Lord

    “You are contending that which motivates us to act is determined by chemistry and physics.”
    Jack, if you are going to pretend to be Mr. High-falootin Metaphysician, try being very specific and clear.
    Otherwise your statement in quotes above sounds as if you are disputing a trivial observation: we are motivated to act by chemistry and physics.
    Vision is a physical and chemical process. We are motivated to act based on what we perceive.
    I assume you do not wish to dispute this basic fact, although I would not be surprised if you did. After all, you may be laboring under the impression that you have a convincing argument that only through worship of your deity can my life have the “meaning” that yours allegedly does.

  • Larry Lord

    “So blue-eyed people live in safety not because of a moral stance, but because that happens to be the inclination of our naturally produced brains at this time; tommorrow, who knows?”
    Blue-eyed people live in safety because most people believe that a nation of laws — particularly, our laws — is a good thing.
    Of course, a preacher funded by some rich conservatives could pop up tomorrow and start a propoganda business to spread the the belief among frightened rubes that blue-eyed people are “devils” and that the “bible predicted it” and “science proved it.” If more than 70% of the population accepted that without question, then they could amend the constitution and start discriminating against the blue-eyes who’d probably leave the country.
    Now, Jack, assuming you belong to the preacher’s religion and you believe that everything the preacher says is divinely inspired: is discrimination against the blue-eyes “moral”?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    2] Let

  • Jack

    Lar,
    I am tempted to going back to deconstructing your posts according to the numerous logicical fallacies contained therein; suffice it to say, that while I find this activity enjoyable I simply don’t have time keep up with the volume.
    I’ll be glad to reply to a point, as I have to others who are capable of a reasonable discussion, when you can construct a logically sound post. ‘Til then, I’ll just chuckle and move on.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Larry’s correct in that Joe and most of the ‘anti-naturalists’ on this list spend 99% of their waking lives living by naturalism in their everyday life and 1% of the time telling people they live by some other worldview.
    Joe would probably have been better off making this post an argument on the limits of naturalism rather than simply attacking naturalism as a whole. Also the attempts to pretend naturalism is the same as 20th century marxism are silly & tired.

  • Jack

    So is the brain more like the first computer or the second? If you believe that a soul exists outside of the material brain then it would have to be more like the second…if that’s the case then the naturalist hypothesis will fail and at some point we will find something that is ‘receiving’ signals rather than generating them.
    Actually, it would seem that the second computer comes closer to a belief in an immaterial aspect of humanity. And it could be that we have found ‘something that is ‘receiving’ signals rather than generating them.’; of course, like Clarke’s advanced alien civilization; it may seem like magic to us.
    The naturalist view of it, though, does not exclude the possibility of God or life after death. If you’re willing too, please entertain the analogy of a saved video game. The saved video game can be restarted provided the program and data are intact on the computer. Even if the computer was destroyed, you could still put the game back into play if you could rewrite the program and data on a new computer. But before the game was saved its ‘life’ was lived on the original computer which is just a collection of atoms & electricity.
    Again, as an analogy, this may be useful; but a Christian would contend that the ‘data’ of one’s life can be saved ‘offline’ someplace, indeed, it isn’t altogether running on the machine you see, but somewhere else we don’t have access to. You could destroy the terminal and cut off access to the data, but but it’s ultimate destiny isn’t in the computer itself.
    Another theory I read somewhere was a variation on deulism. Say you do have a soul but it has no control over your body. However your body just happens to be deterministically controlled by the laws of physics. Ironically, some higher intelligence set the universe up so that the body your soul ‘rides with’ just happens to make all the decisions your soul does. Hence your soul will have the impression it is controlling your body even though your body is really running yourself. Anyone whose seen the end of _Being John Malkovich_ will know what I mean about a soul that rides in a body without control over it.
    This reminds me a bit of libertine Gnostics; many of whom contended that what one did with the body was irrelevant to one’s spiritual condition.

  • Chris Lutz

    Larry Lord: Blue-eyed people live in safety because most people believe that a nation of laws — particularly, our laws — is a good thing.
    But why do we need laws if everyone is acting according to his or her nature?
    If more than 70% of the population accepted that without question, then they could amend the constitution and start discriminating against the blue-eyes who’d probably leave the country.
    So, there really isn’t a moral position for not killing blue-eyed people. It’s just a majority opinion at the moment that it is bad which leads right back to Jack’s position.
    99% of their waking lives living by naturalism in their everyday life
    I sense one of those statements that one’s actions are naturalistic because naturalism is all there is.

  • Jack

    most of the ‘anti-naturalists’ on this list spend 99% of their waking lives living by naturalism in their everyday life
    How would anyone here know how anyone else spends 99% of their waking lives? And how does a naturalist spend their waking lives that differentiate it from anyone else?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    This reminds me a bit of libertine Gnostics; many of whom contended that what one did with the body was irrelevant to one’s spiritual condition.
    I’m not familiar with them but what you ‘did’ would be quite relevent. It’s simply that what your soul chooses to do doesn’t really make your body do anything. Your body just happens to be ‘in sync’ with the decisions your soul makes. Sort of like a person walking behind you who times his footsteps to match yours so your ears think you’re the only person in the room.
    Again, as an analogy, this may be useful; but a Christian would contend that the ‘data’ of one’s life can be saved ‘offline’ someplace, indeed, it isn’t altogether running on the machine you see, but somewhere else we don’t have access to. You could destroy the terminal and cut off access to the data, but but it’s ultimate destiny isn’t in the computer itself.
    Why couldn’t a Christian believe that the ‘program and data’ is stored in the brain and only the brain? After the brain is destroyed by death a God of infinite knowledge can restore the ‘program and data in a new body.
    Actually, it would seem that the second computer comes closer to a belief in an immaterial aspect of humanity. And it could be that we have found ‘something that is ‘receiving’ signals rather than generating them.’; of course, like Clarke’s advanced alien civilization; it may seem like magic to us.
    To my knowledge we have neither found anything in the brain that appears to be receiving a signal or appears to be magic. If we did the naturalist hypothesis would be thrown for quite a loop.
    How would anyone here know how anyone else spends 99% of their waking lives? And how does a naturalist spend their waking lives that differentiate it from anyone else?
    A good question. We typically assume nearly everything that happens in our ‘normal lives’ (that’s the part of your life where you have to do things like earn money…not your ‘play life’ as an Internet Plato) happens due to natural laws. This includes not only undisputable stuff like your car running (or breaking) but also things like psychology of other people, relationships with your family etc.
    There are some people who have an excessively ‘spirity’ view of things. My sister-in-law, who has dabbled in just about every stupid religion except scientology (Wicca is her latest thing), for example is convinced that objects have feelings and can take action. For example, she believes her car hates her husband and only breaks when he drives it. This is probably the best I can do as an example of someone who does not live much of their life based on naturalistic assumptions.
    Naturalism is a bit like capitalism. It works so well and is so pervasive it is really hard to find someone living by a totally different system.

  • Rob Ryan

    “Based on what? Your statement that it has meaning?”
    I hope you’re kidding, Jack. If not, I haven’t a clue how to proceed.
    “Sure; but what if the pedophile happens to be Hitler or Stalin, and they are in the process of convincing others that what they are doing is acceptable, and others should go along; is my reply, “Fine, believe what you want to believe”?”
    Ummm…no. Haven’t I indicated my willingness to gang up on miscreants, along with others who share my moral stance to a sufficient degree, to impose such unthinkable restraints as No Killing and No Child-Raping? I think I have.
    “But it makes no objective difference either way.”
    Whew! You’ve just been playing dumb; you DO get it.
    “You are contending that which motivates us to act is determined by chemistry and physics.”
    And their interplay with environmental factors. Don’t oversimplify; I feel you are setting me up for a parody/distortion of my view. I’ve been down this road before.
    “But “where we derive it” is the point of this discussion; your contention is that we don’t derive it; it is derived for us, whether we feel that way or not. So blue-eyed people live in safety not because of a moral stance, but because that happens to be the inclination of our naturally produced brains at this time; tommorrow, who knows?”
    And there’s the parody; you depict human morals (without an objective base) as being buffeted by the winds of whim. You underestimate the solidity of my subjective moral undergirding. You imply objective morality is necessary for moral consistency. It is not, and that is a good thing; it doesn’t exist.
    We DO derive it, for all intents and purposes. I think you are pretending not to understand what I say in the hope of goading me to respond in exasperation.

  • Jack

    Why couldn’t a Christian believe that the ‘program and data’ is stored in the brain and only the brain? After the brain is destroyed by death a God of infinite knowledge can restore the ‘program and data in a new body.
    A Christian could of course believe that, but it wouldn’t follow that that is a Christian belief. Even if this were the case, I am not sure it would make a difference from our perspective. At the very least, I think most Christian belief holds that we have a soul and a body; one eventually ceases to exist, the other continues.
    To my knowledge we have neither found anything in the brain that appears to be receiving a signal or appears to be magic. If we did the naturalist hypothesis would be thrown for quite a loop.
    Magic in the sense that we don’t understand how it works naturally; to again reference the naturalist John Searle:
    Our pervasive experience of free will, he acknowledges, may be an illusion. But if so, it is a strange illusion, one that requires vast biological resources to maintain yet somehow survived evolution

  • Great White Wonder

    “How would anyone here know how anyone else spends 99% of their waking lives? ”
    Well, Jack, let’s start with what happens when you wake up in the morning.
    What do you do? Do you quake in fear that the room you fell asleep in is now the innards of some demon? Do you shout out for your mommy so she can tell you whether the earth’s gravity field has reversed itself overnight? Do you gingerly touch your blankets to make sure they are not the living skin of some creature you’ve never seen before? Do you carefully probe the floor to make sure it’s hard before you put your feet on it?
    If not, why not? Why “assume” that your previous observations about the world you lived in yesterday in still apply to the world today?
    That is what we sadly deceived naturalists do, after all.

  • Jack

    And there’s the parody; you depict human morals (without an objective base) as being buffeted by the winds of whim. You underestimate the solidity of my subjective moral undergirding. You imply objective morality is necessary for moral consistency. It is not, and that is a good thing; it doesn’t exist.
    I seriously don’t question your subjective moral undergirding, I believe you really believe in a standard of right and wrong; but in a circumstance where I might not share your beliefs (I’m not saying I don’t; it maybe they are the same), and was in a position to impose my morality on you, what argument would you make to convince me otherwise?
    We DO derive it, for all intents and purposes. I think you are pretending not to understand what I say in the hope of goading me to respond in exasperation.

    I really have no interest in your exasperation; I don’t see either of us ‘winning’ (how would that be defined anyway?), so I’m in it to respond to the OP and find out why others think differently. As a former naturalist, I didn’t consider it important to have a subjective moral undergirding, I did whatever i felt like doing at the time. Where do you derive yours from?

  • Larry Lord

    I ditto what GWW wrote and as for this
    “we are all constrained to live our daily lives in a physical world, and so we all eat, breath, do what is necessary to survive.”
    Jack, I’m so damn proud of you right now!

  • Larry Lord

    “As a former naturalist, … I did whatever i felt like doing at the time.”
    Sure you did, Jack. How much prison time did you serve?
    Seriously, the belief that moral codes can only be “consistently” derived from a belief in a deity is the core of fundamentalism.
    It’s rude.

  • Jack

    What do you do? Do you quake in fear that the room you fell asleep in is now the innards of some demon? Do you shout out for your mommy so she can tell you whether the earth’s gravity field has reversed itself overnight? Do you gingerly touch your blankets to make sure they are not the living skin of some creature you’ve never seen before? Do you carefully probe the floor to make sure it’s hard before you put your feet on it?
    Again, that isn’t naturalistic, that is natural. I’m not denying the natural world exists; I’m saying I’m saying my beliefs and motivations aren’t determined by the natural world in which I exist. For example; right and wrong choices matter.
    But you do bring up an interesting point; humans are capable of living in fear based on certain beliefs; in fact, those who actually live according to naturalism, i.e., believing I don’t really matter, right and wrong don’t exist, my behaviors are determined by forces beyond my control, do live the dysfunctional life you describe
    If not, why not? Why “assume” that your previous observations about the world you lived in yesterday in still apply to the world today?
    Our lives aren’t motivated soley by our observations; I don’t love, do what I believe to be good, or discuss what I believe to be true because I am an automaton programmed to do these things. But the fact that the physical world is consistent need not be ascribed to a belief in natuaralism.

  • Larry Lord

    “But the fact that the physical world is consistent need not be ascribed to a belief in natuaralism.”
    Again, you are playing mushmouth.
    The recognition of the fact that the physical world is consistent is naturalism. If the physical world was not consistent –> no naturalism.
    So how is it that it is a “fact” that the physical world is consistent and yet this Jesus guy was able to walk on water, turn water into wine, etc. What physical laws was he exploiting and how did he do it, Jack?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Our pervasive experience of free will, he acknowledges, may be an illusion. But if so, it is a strange illusion, one that requires vast biological resources to maintain yet somehow survived evolution

  • http://redstatealliance.blogspot.com Lex Rex

    “Seriously, the belief that moral codes can only be “consistently” derived from a belief in a deity is the core of fundamentalism.
    It’s rude.”
    What moral code did Stalin operate under with the exception of a deity from the core of his beliefs? In his case, he fully and accurately adhered to a core belief of secular humanism. And no, the inquisition is not a counter as they clearly did not adhere to the moral code contained in Scripture. Indeed, the Inquisition is further support for the proposition you think rude.

  • Chris Lutz

    What are the ‘vast biological resources’ required to maintain our experience of free will?
    I believe the author of that statement is referring to the time and energy spent by the body on a large brain that is capable of “believing” it has free will. Having a big brain that supports consciousness seems to be overkill from an evolutionary perspective. I believe the person making the statement was a naturalist.

  • http://cartagodelenda.blogspot.com/2005/04/impersonal-deterministic-laws-of.html Cartago Delenda Est

    The Impersonal Deterministic Laws Of Physics Have Constrained Me To Disbelieve In Philosophical Naturalism. My Bad.

    The Impersonal Deterministic Laws Of Physics Have Constrained Me To Disbelieve In Philosophical Naturalism. My Bad.
    Great post at Evangelical Outpost.

  • Rob Ryan

    “What moral code did Stalin operate under with the exception of a deity from the core of his beliefs? In his case, he fully and accurately adhered to a core belief of secular humanism.”
    This is so patently untrue as to be absurd.
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/intro/declaration.html#morals
    Check out Ideal#3; there goes your Stalin myth.

  • Rob Ryan

    “…in a circumstance where I might not share your beliefs (I’m not saying I don’t; it maybe they are the same), and was in a position to impose my morality on you, what argument would you make to convince me otherwise?”
    That, of course, would depend upon what aspect of your morality you sought to impose. How would you answer the same question? It’s unlikely I’d be any more impressed by your theistic argument than you would be by my atheistic one. I respond to logic, not scripture.

  • Jack

    That, of course, would depend upon what aspect of your morality you sought to impose. How would you answer the same question? It’s unlikely I’d be any more impressed by your theistic argument than you would be by my atheistic one. I respond to logic, not scripture.
    It would seem the point of the topic is exactly that; logical consistency.

  • http://alangrey.blogspot.com Alan Grey

    Great post joe.
    Mumon says “Now these guys have kind of morphed that into behavioral determinism, which, as anyone who’s read anything on the subject (say, Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique) knows is inherently indeterminate.”
    I think you miss the point Mumon. They argue that we are not first causes, that does not imply determinism, as random occurances (if you think they are possible) are not pre-determined. So, in a naturalistic world, Joe could have written this piece due to a solar flare randomly effecting the machinery of his brain, but this still means that he is not a first cause.
    Very simply…machines are not first causes, and if naturalism is true, then we are just machines. My computer does what it does because something else caused it to act that way, that is why we don’t throw computers in jail for hacking.

  • AndyS

    I find naturalism so refreshing as a way of describing and understanding the world without appeal to supernatural things like God and a soul. Yet many people, after a superficial introduction to the topic, quickly leap to the misconception that it must be a kind of hedonistic and/or amoral philosophy. That mistaken conceptual leap occurs I think for two primary reasons:
    First, an unwillingness to question your current belief system is a fundamental stumbling block. Sometimes I think evangelicals are almost required to NOT consider any other world view in an intellectually honest way as if to do so would constitute a major sin in and of itself. Being deeply religious, I’m sure you find it very difficult to open your mind to a way of thinking about the world without a God or souls or angels or heaven or hell, yet one where human action can be moral and ethical.
    A second reason for misunderstanding naturalism is a lack of good analogies and working models to aid your understanding, not because they don’t exist but rather you just haven’t been looking at them which is understandable when you already have a supernatural explanation for the world that you completely accept.
    Here are three areas I think are useful in developing rich analogies and models:
    1. computer science and artificial intelligence. Large scale computer networks, distributed computing, parallel computing and the programs that support their organization, operations, and decision making offer models for how the human mind might work without appeal to the supernatural. (Heck, 50 years ago Isaac Asimov offered an example of a world where robots were moral.)
    2. organizational behaior and development (i.e. the study of human organizations large and small like corporations, partnerships, and work groups). Looking at how groups of people organize, do work, and make decisions without appeal to the supernatural offers models for how the human mind might work without supernatural explanations. As distasteful as it may be to evangelicals, many corporations act effectively and ethically without appeal to any religious view.
    3. meditation practice, learning to watch, as an objective observer, your own mind and body noting how your own thoughts and feelings arise and pass away without “you” doing anything. I mention this because naturalism emphasizes the interconnectedness of people and their environment and meditation practice offers a way of experiencing that without appeal to any supernatural worldview. In particular, it sheds light on the nature of “free will.”

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Rob (and a few others):
    This post excerpt is a classic illustration of unjustified ad hominem by projection of base motive:

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    I see your analogy of a programmed computer. IT seems to me the case of Poland in 1979 is an interesting empirical test. What would move people raised on a diet of dialectic materialism to “suddenly” trust the very embodiment of the Marxists’ case study no 1 on socio-cultural manipulation?
    MOre recently, what was the driving force in Ms SMith that was able to suddenly turn around the desperate gunman who shot his way out of COurt and took her hostage? Why did he then meekly surrender?
    And, more generally, which do you believe: your lyin’ eyes, conscience/heart and mind, or the claim that all this is mere illusion caused by random and deterministic forces in concert over the ages? (Except, to do the latter, you have to make just one exception. By some natural miracle, the chain of thinking and behaving that leads to natruralism is an exception to the illusion. At least, that is what Crick, Freud, and Skinner seemed to think. In his more lucid moments, Darwin had his doubts.)
    THat is why I assert that Naturalism is self-referentially inconsistent, so if we are forced to rely on the capacity of our minfs to generate accurate perceptions and sound reasoning at least some of the time, we should reject it.
    $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    AndyS
    I see: Sometimes I think evangelicals are almost required to NOT consider any other world view in an intellectually honest way as if to do so would constitute a major sin in and of itself. Being deeply religious, I’m sure you find it very difficult to open your mind to a way of thinking about the world without a God or souls or angels or heaven or hell, yet one where human action can be moral and ethical.
    First, kindly refrain from unwarranted ad hominems, they simply degrade the discussion into quarrels as has too often happened in this blog.
    Second, on substance:
    1] I think it should be plain that the views being presented by the CFN have been fairly summarised by Joe and others, and that they are self-referentially inconsistent . . . notehow no-one is trying to defend the statements excerpted from CFN.
    2] More broadly, in worldview analysis one is looking at comparative difficulties of alternative explanations of the cosmos, given that there are no positions without serious difficulties over the past 2500 years of discourse in Western CUlture.
    3] In the case of naturalism, a major difficulty is its evolutionary materialsism as wholly being able to account for the world we experience, including our minds and consciences. For, that leads to the implication — through various proposed mechanisms — that thought and conscience are wholly caused by forces internal to a purposeless cosmos. THat is, it makes the subjective probability that these are illusory very high.
    4] But, Natutralism depends essentially and inescapably on the quality of at least one chain of these purposeless causes: the chain that leads to naturalism as an intellectual system. So, why should we accept such special pleading?
    DO you see why a lot of us prefer to respect our direct intuitions of consciousness, thought and conscience as being generally trustworthy? Then, whatever the difficulties, we can have a reasonably coherent basis for our lives as cognitive, conscience-lashed agents.
    Okay, nuff said
    $0.02
    Gordon

  • Ilkka Kokkarinen

    Rob Ryan: “The naturalist does NOT claim that human beings “cannot cause anything”, only that the cause they produce has causes of its own.”
    Christians share that belief with naturalists, at least those that like to use the First Cause argument for the existence of God. You know, the one that begins by asserting that everything has a cause.

  • Rob Ryan

    So, what are you saying, Ilkka? Should I reject the tenets of naturalism that comport with the Christian worldview? I am not opposed to all things Christian. ;-) When they explain why their first cause needs no cause and mine does, then I’ll feel a need to rethink my determinism.
    Gordon, you seem terribly concerned about the “unwarranted ad hominems” directed at poor Joe, but you forget he fired the first shot. Read the title of his post; do you not see a dig, a double-entendre? Joe likes to imply that naturalists are somehow pathetically blind to their “internal inconsistency”. Naturalists like to return fire. I don’t think you’ve carefully read the whole thread, or you might not have produced an insulting non sequitur like this: “DO you see why a lot of us prefer to respect our direct intuitions of consciousness, thought and conscience as being generally trustworthy? Then, whatever the difficulties, we can have a reasonably coherent basis for our lives as cognitive, conscience-lashed agents.”
    Guess what, Gordon? I DO exactly that; I merely acknowledge that every thought, every nuance of consciousness and conscience has causes. For me, that does not make them less trustworthy. I have great confidence in the evolutionary mechanisms that have produced me.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I believe the author of that statement is referring to the time and energy spent by the body on a large brain that is capable of “believing” it has free will. Having a big brain that supports consciousness seems to be overkill from an evolutionary perspective. I believe the person making the statement was a naturalist.
    Well let’s suppose there isn’t free will. What is the brain doing? Processing information in a deterministic manner to promote the survivial & reproduction of the individual. From an evolutionary perspective that is certainly a useful adaptation. Does having ‘beliefs’ as a side effect of this big brain require additional energy? Probably not.
    IT seems to me the case of Poland in 1979 is an interesting empirical test. What would move people raised on a diet of dialectic materialism to “suddenly” trust the very embodiment of the Marxists’ case study no 1 on socio-cultural manipulation?
    Are you discussing naturalism, dialetical materialism, Marxism or the gov’t of Polane in the late 70′s and early 80′s?
    And, more generally, which do you believe: your lyin’ eyes, conscience/heart and mind, or the claim that all this is mere illusion caused by random and deterministic forces in concert over the ages?
    Most deterministic forces are anything but random. For example, Earth’s gravity is hardly random.
    (Except, to do the latter, you have to make just one exception. By some natural miracle, the chain of thinking and behaving that leads to natruralism is an exception to the illusion. At least, that is what Crick, Freud, and Skinner seemed to think. In his more lucid moments, Darwin had his doubts.)
    I’m not really sure what you mean by illusion. Brains take in information from the outside world, process it and cause the body to take action. Naturalism doesn’t argue that the outside world is some type of illusion like in The Matrix. If a naturalist sees a cliff he assumes it is real and if he jumps off it he assumes he will likely die. Is it a miracle that natural selection could produce a brain that could make such true judgements about jumping off cliffs? Not really, any brains that couldn’t figure that out wouldn’t have made it very far & would have died out long ago.

  • Jack

    Guess what, Gordon? I DO exactly that; I merely acknowledge that every thought, every nuance of consciousness and conscience has causes. For me, that does not make them less trustworthy. I have great confidence in the evolutionary mechanisms that have produced me.
    How can you? There is nothing explicity or implicitly trustworthy about evolutionary forces other than they increase survivability; the same forces that produce your confidence would have produced the cockroach and HIV with equal aplomb; there is no reason to suspect human conscience produced under such circumstances is at all trustworthy.

  • http://www.naturalism.org Tom Clark

    Nancey Murphy, a Christian physicalist theologian, comes as close as you can get to naturalism without actually naturalizing god. She says we can, and should, dispense with the idea of any kind of categorically mental or spiritual soul, and conceive of ourselves as fully physical creatures. For a recent article on her views, see http://www.stnews.org/articles.php?issue_id=200504&category=research&article_id=198.
    She and Warren Brown, both of the Fuller Theological Seminary, are coming out with a book which explores in considerable detail how as strictly physical creatures we can nevertheless be rational, have veridical knowledge about the world, and be moral agents.
    Now, if she could only see her way to naturalizing god, that would seal the deal, and she

  • Ilkka Kokkarinen

    Rob Ryan: “So, what are you saying, Ilkka? Should I reject the tenets of naturalism that comport with the Christian worldview?”
    No, I merely pointed out one place where Christians cannot really criticize naturalism, since they tend to use the exact same assumption on their own.

  • Rob Ryan

    “…there is no reason to suspect human conscience produced under such circumstances is at all trustworthy.”
    I refer only to myself, Jack, and you are not obliged to concur. I have every reason, based on my track record, to trust my own judgement regardless of its source.
    Ilkka: Thanks. I realized that after I hit the POST button.

  • Jack

    I refer only to myself, Jack, and you are not obliged to concur. I have every reason, based on my track record, to trust my own judgement regardless of its source.
    Of course; but statements offerred in a public forum in a discussion regarding the the validity of a particular viewpoint hopefully carry more wieght than one’s own judgement. Quite obviously I see my own judgement as equally reliable; so the question becomes, to which objective source may we refer in order to communicate about the topic at hand? Or do we just conclude, that Joe’s judgement is sufficient for him, and he is free to make whatever statement’s he pleases?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    How can you? There is nothing explicity or implicitly trustworthy about evolutionary forces other than they increase survivability; the same forces that produce your confidence would have produced the cockroach and HIV with equal aplomb; there is no reason to suspect human conscience produced under such circumstances is at all trustworthy.
    Why not? To the degree that human consciousness aids in our survival it should be trustworthy if survival depends upon being able to make decisions based on the true state of our natural environment. Evolution is not a machine for making perfect designs, only ones that survive. Every time our backs hurt we are reminded that our bodies are certainly not perfect or even optimal. Human consciousness is no different, it too is flawed & we can even identify many of its flaws.
    What about HIV & the cockroach? They are not just random patterns in the naturalist scheme of things. They too have been designed to survive, they just employ a different strategy. HIV is lean & simple so it can hitch a ride in the cells of other animals (humans, monkeys etc.). The cockroach carries with it a brain but a simple one with a few hardwired rules.
    In a capitalist economy individuals succeed using different strategies. Some form large corporations, others small businesses and others are one man ‘contractors’. Success may be influenced by random events but that doesn’t make it entirely random.

  • Jack

    Why not? To the degree that human consciousness aids in our survival it should be trustworthy if survival depends upon being able to make decisions based on the true state of our natural environment. Evolution is not a machine for making perfect designs, only ones that survive. Every time our backs hurt we are reminded that our bodies are certainly not perfect or even optimal. Human consciousness is no different, it too is flawed & we can even identify many of its flaws.
    It’s not just human consciousness being considered; it’s human judgement; and individual judgement verses a commonly accepted standard for judging right behavior from wrong behavior. By an evolutionary standard, the only judgement that counts is that which allows me to survive and pass on my genes; of course, that might or might not entail subjugating other humans to my will, or desires, or to even have them killed; this behavior would not be ‘flawed’ by a purely naturalistic standard; in fact, it may even be prefferred.
    What about HIV & the cockroach? They are not just random patterns in the naturalist scheme of things. They too have been designed to survive, they just employ a different strategy. HIV is lean & simple so it can hitch a ride in the cells of other animals (humans, monkeys etc.). The cockroach carries with it a brain but a simple one with a few hardwired rules.
    Yes, but their is nothing inherent in either that informs our judgement as humans; if we are the product and are solely influenced by the same forces that produced them and influence them, there is no reason to expect our judgement about moral matters would be any more reliable than that of a virus or insect; we can apply more intelligence certainly, but in making moral choices we have no real advantage; we choose what we are.
    In a capitalist economy individuals succeed using different strategies. Some form large corporations, others small businesses and others are one man ‘contractors’. Success may be influenced by random events but that doesn’t make it entirely random.

    No, actually it’s not really random at all; it is the cumulation of inumerable intentional and (presumably) informed choices; additionally it operates within a system with rules and regulations which also is the product of intelligence.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    It’s not just human consciousness being considered; it’s human judgement; and individual judgement verses a commonly accepted standard for judging right behavior from wrong behavior. By an evolutionary standard, the only judgement that counts is that which allows me to survive and pass on my genes; of course, that might or might not entail subjugating other humans to my will, or desires, or to even have them killed; this behavior would not be ‘flawed’ by a purely naturalistic standard; in fact, it may even be prefferred.
    What is it that gets passed on with human judgement? The actual judgements or the system for making them? Unlike the HIV virus which makes no decisions at all or the cockroach which seems to only be able to make a limited set of predefined decisions human brains seem to be much more open ended. So instead of pre-defined judgements getting passed on in our genes (such as ‘the sun is a god’, ‘dancing a certain way makes rain’) we inherit a process that allows us to derive judgements. To the degree that making judgements that conform to our true environment helps us to survive we would expect to have a reasonably good (although not perfect) system for making judgements.
    Now as for moral judgements, if morality is part of nature then its quite possible for an evolved intelligence to make moral decisions just as it is possible for an intelligence to derive mathematics and uncover the laws of physics. In either case, most philosophers of ethics or morals that I’m aware of do not simply make pronouncements but attempt to derive their rules from logic. I think we can trust evolved intelligences to have the ability to apply and critique logic (imperfectly they might be).
    So if morality is logical we would expect a naturally evolved species to be able to understand it.

  • Jack

    What is it that gets passed on with human judgement? The actual judgements or the system for making them? Unlike the HIV virus which makes no decisions at all or the cockroach which seems to only be able to make a limited set of predefined decisions human brains seem to be much more open ended. So instead of pre-defined judgements getting passed on in our genes (such as ‘the sun is a god’, ‘dancing a certain way makes rain’) we inherit a process that allows us to derive judgements. To the degree that making judgements that conform to our true environment helps us to survive we would expect to have a reasonably good (although not perfect) system for making judgements.
    Sure, we can both agree that humans are capable of making judgements; and that those judgements can be based on observations; and that those judgements might help us behave in such a way that would enhance our own survivability; but none of that rises above animalistic instinct. The problem of course comes when the observable judgement which may increase our own survivability is morally questionable; as in, why help an old lady crosss the street? It’s less safe for myself, and her survival will do nothing to enhance my own; the correct judgement in this case is to let her make her own way across the street; that may not however be what we consider a moral judgement
    Now as for moral judgements, if morality is part of nature then its quite possible for an evolved intelligence to make moral decisions just as it is possible for an intelligence to derive mathematics and uncover the laws of physics. In either case, most philosophers of ethics or morals that I’m aware of do not simply make pronouncements but attempt to derive their rules from logic. I think we can trust evolved intelligences to have the ability to apply and critique logic (imperfectly they might be)… So if morality is logical we would expect a naturally evolved species to be able to understand it.

    But morality, or at least the human ideal of it is often contrary to logic. Loving someone who doesn’t personally benefit you in some way is illogical; preserving a work of art or literature at great cost to oneself is illogical; sacrificing one’s one life for an ideal is illogical; yet we hold these up as the penultimate in human morality. How are these behaviors, which are contrary not only to logic, but often to ones own survival, derived from chemistry and physics?

  • TJones

    Here’s a very telling excerpt from what the CFN’ers definition of naturalism.
    “… we still hold individuals responsible, … so that their behavior stays … within the range of what we deem acceptable … Naturalism doesn

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But morality, or at least the human ideal of it is often contrary to logic. Loving someone who doesn’t personally benefit you in some way is illogical; preserving a work of art or literature at great cost to oneself is illogical; sacrificing one’s one life for an ideal is illogical; yet we hold these up as the penultimate in human morality. How are these behaviors, which are contrary not only to logic, but often to ones own survival, derived from chemistry and physics?
    First not all traits directly contribute to survival. It is possible for traits that have nothing to do with survival to end up in an organism for a host of reason.
    Second some traits may not contribute to survival but may be side effects of traits that do. For example, a bird’s lightweight construction isn’t that great for survival but it is a side effect of its ability to fly. On balance the ability to fly have given birds a better net survivalibility despite the fact that they have to be light weight.
    It may very well be possible that it is impossible to have a sophisticated intelligence capable of making accurate judgements about the natural world without it also having an appreciation for things like art, music and even morality. Or it may be possible to construct such an intelligence (say with a computer) but evolution just didn’t happen to produce one. (Discovery Channel, a few weeks ago, had a really good documentary on how it would have been possible for actual fire breathing dragons to evolve…they didn’t in the real world as far as we know).
    Finally, don’t be so sure those traits are illogical. Like war, sometimes successful survivial strategies appear foolish in the short run but are quite sensible in the long run. While loving someone who doesn’t love you back may seem illogical I wouldn’t be so quick to claim there is no logic in it.
    The problem of course comes when the observable judgement which may increase our own survivability is morally questionable; as in, why help an old lady crosss the street? It’s less safe for myself, and her survival will do nothing to enhance my own; the correct judgement in this case is to let her make her own way across the street; that may not however be what we consider a moral judgement
    Except that what has to survive is not the individual (who dies at some point no matter how successful he happens to be) but the species…or rather the genes of that species. Many animals will exhibit just the same type of selfless behavior you depict. Why? Because mutual cooporation may sometimes hinder the super-successful individual who needs no one else’s help but it also helps the species as a whole ‘succeed’. There are other strategies, though, lobsters I understand are quite asocial and fight & kill each other all the time except when their mating. They would never help an old lobster accross the bay….

  • Jack

    First not all traits directly contribute to survival. It is possible for traits that have nothing to do with survival to end up in an organism for a host of reason.
    Yes, but over-arching traits that are expressed invariably affect survival in one way or another, especially one’s that are complex combinations of genetics.
    Second some traits may not contribute to survival but may be side effects of traits that do. For example, a bird’s lightweight construction isn’t that great for survival but it is a side effect of its ability to fly. On balance the ability to fly have given birds a better net survivalibility despite the fact that they have to be light weight.
    Well yes, but that’s because the traits are ineoxriably linked; a bird could not fly without hollow bones. It’s not just a side effect; Ostriches don’t have hollow bones.
    It may very well be possible that it is impossible to have a sophisticated intelligence capable of making accurate judgements about the natural world without it also having an appreciation for things like art, music and even morality. Or it may be possible to construct such an intelligence (say with a computer) but evolution just didn’t happen to produce one. (Discovery Channel, a few weeks ago, had a really good documentary on how it would have been possible for actual fire breathing dragons to evolve…they didn’t in the real world as far as we know).
    We could imagine such things; but it doesn’t answer the point that judgements are more than logical responses to our observations, which seemed to be your original contention.
    Finally, don’t be so sure those traits are illogical. Like war, sometimes successful survivial strategies appear foolish in the short run but are quite sensible in the long run. While loving someone who doesn’t love you back may seem illogical I wouldn’t be so quick to claim there is no logic in it.
    The problem is that their are almost an infinite number of reasonable scenarios that I could be demonstrated from human behavior; examples that simply don’t exist widely in the rest of nature. Take the example of having a child one doesn’t want, perhaps a significantly disabled one; the logical response would be to quickly end the life of the child, so as not to be a burden on the family and perpetuate deficient genes; such an organism would quickly succumb to natural forces left to itself in nature. And yet we laud people who sacrifice themselves to take care of such a child.
    And in cases where people do act ‘logically’; for example China where unwanted children are discarded of – we deride these choices as immoral. It could be could easily defended that acting contrary to what is ‘natural’ and ‘instinctual’ is a distinctive human trait. The reality is, we don’t do well in nature.

  • George Maddox

    Natural? We spin through space (whatever that is) at thousands of miles per hour for thousands of years on a course no man controls, plastered to the face of this organic ship by gravity (whatever that is). Spheres of matter (planets and stars) joined by mysterious gravity give us light, balance and consistency. Life that we have all around us cannot be duplicated without the seed of life, and we live out our lives using a mind that no one understands. It all seems so natural!
    There is no such thing as

  • BCB

    The naturalist claims that humans cannot cause anything and yet in the very next breath implies that we have the ability to cause changes in our environment. Apparently, naturalists are exempt from obeying the law of non-contradiction. How else can we explain the fact that their pragmatic applications rest on this oxymoronic claim?
    It says first cause. Way to knock that straw person down Joe.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi again Rob:
    I see your revealing remark: Guess what, Gordon? I DO exactly that; I merely acknowledge that every thought, every nuance of consciousness and conscience has causes. For me, that does not make them less trustworthy. I have great confidence in the evolutionary mechanisms that have produced me.
    –> Thus, you effectively acknowledge the point made by CFN: the sense of decision and responsibility is simply an artefact of the chain of natural causes; it is merely subjective. (This reduces responsible thought to an epiphenomenon, or more bluntly: illusion. That is exactly what Joe and others have pointed out. And it has the direct implication that chains of reasoning in general are untrustworthy; including those that lead to naturalism. Thus the proper statement that there is a fallacy at work: self-referential inconsistency. And that is real bad news.)
    –> Perhaps another way to put it will clarify: you have in effect advocated that a major part of our consciousness is not reliable: that part of us that perceives that our sense of reasoning for ourselves and deciding for ourselves is “real”. Why then should you wish to trust the logical deliverances of so untrustworthy an entity?
    –> And again, if you wish to seek empirical support, the abductive reasoning involved in empirical testing relies on the legitimacy of the logic you have undermined. (INdeed, it seems to me that it is you who have not been reading carefully!)
    As to the tu quoquo argument, I will observe that there is a blatant assymetry in the tone of this blog as a whole, and not in favour of the skeptics/rationalists/naturalists . . . and indeed, in my observations over the years, such skeptics seem to be usually very andgry and hostile, just look again at Dawkins’ arrogant dismissal of those who dare differ with him: you must be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. (And I rather doubt that he was retaliating when he wrote that!)
    Really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And I suppose the Pope just laid to rest fits into one of these categories!
    For shame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    What I have pointed out is plain: the resort to heat is counterproductive to the production of light.
    A little calmer tone might therefore help to bring about a productive result.
    $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton:
    I observe: Are you discussing naturalism, dialetical materialism, Marxism or the gov’t of Polane in the late 70′s and early 80′s?
    Poland, circa 1979, had been under rule by Marxists since the late 1940′s. With the experience of the Soviet Union going back to the 1920′s behind that.
    As you know, Marxist Leninism embeds atheism as a core component, and it exerted every scientifically based effort [remember, Pavlovian conditioning was first investigated in the USSR] to discredit, make havoc of and destroy the Western spiritual tradition, asserting that for instance, Religion is the opiate of the masses.
    As I posted above, in the months leading up to the visit of JP II, they redoubled these efforts, seeking to discredit him as a clever, American politician-style manipulator and enemy of the people.
    He came, he simply preached and prayed, revival broke out, and the gig was up for communism: hundreds of millions were liberated, and indeed 800,000 Poles went to Blonie Field todayt to join in the funeral mass, as they remembered the breakthrough moment when JP II released the SPirit of God to the nation.
    What trillions of dollars, thousands of nukes and millions of men armmed to the teeth could not do over the course of thirty years, one inspired preacher did, in just one week.
    That looks to me like a very interesting recent test case on whether there is in fact an independent spiritual influence on the affairs of man.
    You may deny it if you please, but I give John Paul The Great the last word on the matter:
    Is it possible to dismiss Christ and everything which he brought into the annals of the human being? Of course it is possible. The human being is free. The human being can say to God, “No.” The human being can say to Christ, “No.” But the critical question is: Should he? And in the name of what “should” he? With what argument, what reasoning, what value held by the will or the heart does one bring oneself, one’s loved ones, one’s countrymen and nation to reject, to say “no” to Him with whom we [poles] have all lived for one thousand years? He who formed the basis of our identity and has Himself remained its basis ever since. . . .
    I speak for Christ himself: “Receive the Holy Spirit!”
    I speak too for St. Paul: “Do not quench the Spirit!”
    I speak again for St. Paul: “Do not grieve the Spirit of God!”
    All I can say, is I too — along with many millions over the past 20 centuries — have felt that powerful, inexplicable Wind from on high. [Cf. Jn 3:3 - 8]
    You can deny the source, but you cannot deny the effects! Just ask any Pole who stood in Blonie Field on June 10, 1979. Better yet, ask General Jaruzelski: today, he has had to acknowledge that the late Pope is one of the greatest Poles of all time.
    Karol’s explanation for this is simple: the SPirit of Christ. What is yours? WHich best meets the facts, is coherent, and powerfully explanatory?
    Why do you conclude as you do?
    Grace be to you
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Oh Yes Boonton
    I should add a couple of further points:
    1] On the issue of illusion, cf. post to Rob.
    2] I think you should note also that I spoke of random AND deterministic forces; i.e Gravity may be deterministic, but statistical thermodynamics is stochastic and based on random behaviour of microparticles. That is, I was pointing out that absent intelligent design of the cosmos and life and mind, you are left to ultimate random and deterministic forces.
    No-one has succeeded in showing how such non-purposive forces can give rise to intelligent structures as we see [assertions notwithstanding].
    IN particular, as just noted to Rob [and as Jack, Joe and others have pointed out too], the intelligence in thought, and the responsibility of persons, is on naturalistic grounds inexplicable. (That is what the CFN has publicly exposed and Joe is right to point it out.)
    $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • AndyS

    There is a lot of material on the naturalism.org site that discuss naturalism in a far more complete (dare I say “fair and balanced”) way than Joe has presented.
    For example, here is quote from the CFN site:

    Naturalism as a guiding philosophy can help create a better world by illuminating more precisely the conditions under which individuals and societies flourish, and by providing a tangible, real basis for connection and community. It holds that doctrines and policies which assume the existence of a freely willing agent, and which therefore ignore the actual causes of behavior, are unfounded and counter-productive. To the extent to which we suppose persons act out of their uncaused free will, to that extent will we be blind to those factors which produce criminality and other social pathologies, or, on the positive side, the factors which make for well-adjusted, productive individuals and societies

    Here is an excerpt from one paper on naturalism.org called Tenets of Naturalism:

    Responsibility and morality: From a naturalistic perspective, behavior arises out of the interaction between individuals with their environment, not from a freely willing self that produces behavior independently of causal connections …. Therefore individuals don

  • Jack

    It holds that doctrines and policies which assume the existence of a freely willing agent, and which therefore ignore the actual causes of behavior, are unfounded and counter-productive.
    Doctrines and policies which assume the existence of a freely willing agent? Like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution? I hope these guys don’t get control of the Bill of Rghts…

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton (& others):
    I think a few further points will be helpful, on why it is arguable that Naturalism/ Evolutionary Materialism is seriously logically incoherent, and thus falls, defeated, to the ground.
    1] The Plantinga point:
    In his opening words, Joe referenced Alvin Plantinga

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi AndyS
    I excerpt: From a naturalistic perspective, behavior arises out of the interaction between individuals with their environment, not from a freely willing self that produces behavior independently of causal connections …. Therefore individuals don

  • George Maddox

    Gordon,
    I think you have pointed out the root of the problem. You wrote: “WHY SHOULD WE TRUST THEM WHEN OUR BRAINS HAPPEN TO SECRETE THOUGHTS OF NATURALISM RATHER THAN THOUGHTS OF RESPONSIBILITY IN THE FREE-WILL SENSE?”
    The common thread of materialism, naturalism, and a bunch of other

  • http://www.naturalism.org Tom Clark

    Plantinga

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    You wrote: Don’t you see that you have conceded a telling point? …
    But I am not conceding anything because I’m trying not argue and debate. There’s nothing to concede. I rather hope we can exchange views and ideas so that we can both learn something.
    In your first comment to me you said, “I think it should be plain that the views being presented by the CFN have been fairly summarised by Joe and others, and that they are self-referentially inconsistent …”
    I have to respond with “No, it is not plain at all.” The ideas presented by CFN have been twisted into a strawman by Joe. He quotes a handful sentences taken from various part of the Center for Naturalism site and inserts his own commentary consisting mostly of ridicule. There is, to my mind, no real foundation presented in his post for debate or learning. Now that’s very typical of blogs. It’s a way of firing up like-minded people and pissing off the people who believe in the things which you are ridiculing. But I’ve come to expect more from Mr Carter. I had thought him to be more than a simple rabble-rouser.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Larry and Jack (with others):
    I think a few remarks are in order on the logic of morality:
    Larry: Seriously, the belief that moral codes can only be “consistently” derived from a belief in a deity is the core of fundamentalism. It’s rude.
    Lex: What moral code did Stalin [BTW: a former Seminarian!] operate under with the exception of a deity from the core of his beliefs? In his case, he fully and accurately adhered to a core belief of secular humanism. [BTW: there are two easily confused senses of this term: (a) the narrow one for a specific movement associated with the Humanist Manifestos I and II; and (b) a broader descriptive one which denotes secularist (as opposed to religious) naturalists/ evolutionary materialists in general, especially those who believe that human values and thriving can be established on that basis. Lex clearly refers to the latter, so the attempt to cite the former in dismissal is a Strawman fallacy.]
    Jack:: But morality, or at least the human ideal of it is often contrary to logic. Loving someone who doesn’t personally benefit you in some way is illogical; preserving a work of art or literature at great cost to oneself is illogical; sacrificing one’s one life for an ideal is illogical; yet we hold these up as the penultimate in human morality. How are these behaviors, which are contrary not only to logic, but often to ones own survival, derived from chemistry and physics?
    +++++++++
    1] There is in fact a logic of morality: ethics as a branch of philosophy studies it. [Cf http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/Ethics.htm for a sketchy overview]. In particular, Kant

  • Gordon Mullings

    Okay, several shorties:
    1] George:
    Thanks, I think this is in fact the heart of the matter. This thread is abundant support.
    2] Tom:
    THe problem with hyper-skepticism is that it has to be selective: if you doubt EVERYTHING, you can’t get started in reasoning; it is not a serious objection, Descartes notwithstanding. Plantinga’s argument is NOT an appeal to ignorance per se: he is pointing out that evolutionary materialism undermines trust in cognitive capacity as a logical implication (and this thread provides several cases in point, especially the CFN stuff). As to the concept that the cause of a belief is often connected to its truth, let us just say that when we show that a belief’s roots are in forces irrelevant to sound logic, we tend to discredit it.
    THAT is the challenge naturalism specifically has to answer: why shoulfd I believe a brain that on naturalistic grounds is illusory when it tells me I am thinking and deciding for myselfd, when I am in fact driven and controlled by random and deterministic forces in my genetics and environment? Plantinga, Lewis and agreat many other serious thinkers — not to mention the weight of history of C20 — cannot be so easily dismissed.
    AndyS:
    you cited with approval CFN when it dismissed responsibility and laid the foundation for tyrannical control, cf. above post on the foundation for ethics. Nor, do I find it persuasive that when the Joe quotes the CFN’s reiterated statements of commonly encountered natutralistic views, which are all too telling, that he is misrepresenting the case. {Note how Mumon distanced himself from CFN and dropped out of the thread.)
    John: Free minimacs! Oh boy, I want one!
    OKay
    All the best
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    John
    May God comfort you and grant you a speedy, complete recovery.
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    John
    May God comfort you and grant you a speedy, complete recovery.
    Gordon

  • http://www.naturalism.org Tom Clark

    Gordon wrote:
    “The problem with hyper-skepticism is that it has to be selective: if you doubt EVERYTHING, you can’t get started in reasoning; it is not a serious objection, Descartes notwithstanding. Plantinga’s argument is NOT an appeal to ignorance per se: he is pointing out that evolutionary materialism undermines trust in cognitive capacity as a logical implication (and this thread provides several cases in point, especially the CFN stuff). As to the concept that the cause of a belief is often connected to its truth, let us just say that when we show that a belief’s roots are in forces irrelevant to sound logic, we tend to discredit it.
    THAT is the challenge naturalism specifically has to answer: why should I believe a brain that, on naturalistic grounds, is illusory when it tells me I am thinking and deciding for myself, when I am in fact driven and controlled by random and deterministic forces in my genetics and environment? Plantinga, Lewis and a great many other serious thinkers — not to mention the weight of history of C20 — cannot be so easily dismissed.”
    As I tried to suggest earlier in citing some of the philosophical heavy lifting that has been done in critiques of Plantinga, no one is simply dismissing arguments against naturalism. No one thinks that naturalizing the mind, or ethics, or rationality is easily done, or that the anti-naturalists don

  • http://troblogdita.blogspot.com troblogdita

    I can assure you that I respect everything you say, but I have to ask you, what’s so strange about saying that Naturalism is [whatever]? What have you learnt about Art History or Contemporary Philosophy History? Impressionists refuted naturalists, romantics refuted the ones before them, modernists refuted almost everithing… This is called evolution. The humam thought “contains multitudes”. Even the Crhistian thougth. There are hundreds of different creeds. And, you know, it’s kind of funny that you are “afraid” of naturalism. The modernism is much more agressive an non-tollerant with religion. I sincerlly don’t understand what is the point. And another thing: someone who is allways sure is most likely to be a candidate for a despotic caracter. Dictators are allways sure. Have you read the salms? In more than half of them there is the doubt, and than comes the faith, and then doubt again. King David’s life had the good and the bad. Peter, after being a close friend and follower of Christ, denied Him three times, and then when Peter died, he said he was not worthy of being crucified the way Christ was. Up’s and downs, allways. Your problem is that you seem to think that to be a Christian all you have to do is know the Bible. Well that’s not enough. You have to listen to the voice of God, you have to look upon the world with a gentle heart. Only God is allways rigth. Men are still living the revelation. And naturally men contradict men. Otherwise, we would allready be in the end of times. Cristian best regards, nuno.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    We could imagine such things; but it doesn’t answer the point that judgements are more than logical responses to our observations, which seemed to be your original contention.
    But is logic simply a reaction to ‘observations’. The ability to reason logically, I think, is independent of observation yet an essential tool if your goal is to understand the natural world. If the ability to think logically is an evolved trait that aids in our survival (which it undoubtly is) then there’s no reason that we couldn’t apply logic to other areas that are not strictly survival related.
    The problem is that their are almost an infinite number of reasonable scenarios that I could be demonstrated from human behavior; examples that simply don’t exist widely in the rest of nature. Take the example of having a child one doesn’t want, perhaps a significantly disabled one; the logical response would be to quickly end the life of the child, so as not to be a burden on the family and perpetuate deficient genes; such an organism would quickly succumb to natural forces left to itself in nature. And yet we laud people who sacrifice themselves to take care of such a child.
    Look at it from a slightly different angle. Imagine a species that has an instinct towards helping others of its kind (within reasonable limits of course). Such an instinct, while it may be detrimental to any particular individual, would help the species as a whole. The instinct or rule is logical even if it results in an application that doesn’t particularly help.
    Gordon:
    As you know, Marxist Leninism embeds atheism as a core component, and it exerted every scientifically based effort [remember, Pavlovian conditioning was first investigated in the USSR] to discredit, make havoc of and destroy the Western spiritual tradition, asserting that for instance, Religion is the opiate of the masses.
    Indeed but what does this have to do with naturalism? This is fine if we want to discuss Marxism but really, just because Marxism had scientific pretensions doesn’t justify giving it such a prominent role in a discussion of Marxism. It’s like having a discussion about religion and giving scientology 70% of the air time.

  • George Maddox

    Does naturalism recognize information as part of reality? Information is transferred via matter but has no static form, moving from one form or construct of matter to another without losing its own identity. What does naturalism do with information? Information is not physical in any form even while it hitchhikes on physical matter.

  • http://www.afterprogress.blogspot.com J. Hawthorne

    Here is an excerpt from my post on http://www.afterprogress.blogspot.org that pertains to this post: “One other brief critique of Joe

  • Gordon Mullings

    AndyS
    You have accused Joe of misrepresenting the CFN

  • Gordon Mullings

    Several quickies:
    Tom:
    The objection of hyperskepticism actually concedes Plantinga’s point, by spewing doubt over all thinking. THis is not heavy lifting, it is abandoning the field of intelligent discourse. For, in effect you say I can doubt so I can dismiss. That leads to infinite regresses of doubt, and so one cannot get started in reasoning. Invariably, it is selectively applied to positions one wishes to attack, A fairer approach is comparative difficulties.
    Also, your remarks on thinking for yourself duck the direct implications of the assertion that we are secondary, entirely caused causes, with the deceptive intuition that we are thinking for ourselves. You cannot restate the problem as if that is the solution. {THat’s just the way it is does not cut it.]
    Trob:
    Welcome. Actually, “refuted” is overstated. What has happened is that plausible controlling assumptions have shifted and the balance of politics in the academy and popular discourse has distorted evaluation by factual adequacy, logical coherence and explanatory power.
    Boon:
    Natutalism undermines logic.
    Also, the point of the marxist issue is not a rabbit-trail discussion. Marx and his followers, beginning with the leading thinker Hegel and the thoughts of the militant atheist Fuerbach [who thought we literally are what we eat!] he constructed a naturalistic framework for SOCIAL evolution based on biological evolution — he wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, who declined the “honour.” THat is, the implications of the sort of assertions I just excerpted and remarked on have already failed the empirical test. Ask the Poles of 1979.
    George
    You live up to your practical name: farmer!
    You are right to ask what about information, which is stored in but not confined to matter. And those who imagine that for instance the mol;ecular energy conversion machines of the cell could emerge by chance, should consult the implications of Boltzmann’s equation, S = k ln w, and the Clausius expression, S = d’Q/T [i.e. dumping energy into a system INCREASES entropy] especially the issue of configurational entropy and what that implies for any plausible pre-biotic soup. In the case of DNA, the information IS ISOLATED FROM THE CHEMISTRY of the chain!
    JH
    You are raising isues that are worthy of exploration. Gary Zukav [sp?] and others have begun to walk down that path in light of the deep finetuning of the cosmos. That is, there4 is a mysticism of naturalism that is seeping in under the door.
    OKay,
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Tom
    Following up a bit on your excerpt by Fitelson and Sober, at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/fitelson/PLANT/PLANT.html :

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Also, the point of the marxist issue is not a rabbit-trail discussion. Marx and his followers, beginning with the leading thinker Hegel and the thoughts of the militant atheist Fuerbach [who thought we literally are what we eat!] he constructed a naturalistic framework for SOCIAL evolution based on biological evolution — he wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, who declined the “honour.” THat is, the implications of the sort of assertions I just excerpted and remarked on have already failed the empirical test. Ask the Poles of 1979.
    Like I said, this is like having a discussion about religion with a person who insists on focusing on scientologists only. Yes Marx was a naturalist in that he did not believe anything was caused by supernatural forces. He believed things were caused by nature. However that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s thousands of scientific theories that attempted to explain nature that have come and gone, to say nothing of economic theories of which Marx is just one. I don’t object to discussion Marx & where he was right and where he was very much wrong but I think it is overblown to try to equate naturalism with Marxism.

  • Larry Lord

    Gordon “Blowhard” Mullings
    “Do you see why I think it is simple common sense to refuse to accept the claims of the evolutionary materialist puppet masters in the recently reconditioned modernist cave?”
    Which “claims” of the “materialist” puppet masters do you refuse, Blowhard, and which do you accept? Be specific and include your reasons in each case. I would hate to see you be inconsistent Gordon — that would “real bad.”
    Or perhaps you can just sit wherever you are and pray 24 hours a day for food and water, you supernatural-lovin’ consistent joker — God luv ya!

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “But the fact that the physical world is consistent need not be ascribed to a belief in natuaralism.”
    The recognition of the fact that the physical world is consistent is naturalism. If the physical world was not consistent –> no naturalism.
    So how is it that it is a “fact” that the physical world is consistent and yet this Jesus guy was able to walk on water, turn water into wine, etc. What physical laws was Jesus exploiting and how did he do it, Jack?
    Or did the Jesus written about in your holy book not really exist?

  • George Maddox

    Larry,
    It can’t be true that nature is consistent. I have a college biology textbook that says scientists agree, and all experiments prove, that life does not come from nonliving matter (Pasteur). Then, the next paragraph says that billions of years ago life came from non living matter. Obviously nature is consistent now, but has not always been so.
    G.M.

  • Larry Lord

    George
    “I have a college biology textbook that says scientists agree, and all experiments prove, that life does not come from nonliving matter (Pasteur).”
    Well, you know the old saying about “proving a negative” …
    But seriously, which textbook is that? And what is the exact quote?
    Pasteur’s experiments addressed the theory of spontaneous generation whereby common microbes (e.g., bakers yeast) spontaneously arose from liquids nutrient broth and an oxygen supply.
    Pasteur never “proved” that a self-replicating molecule — or collection of molecules — could never spontaneously arise under any conditions on the planet that ever existed. And I doubt that’s what your college textbook says.
    My theory, which I’ve posted here a number of times and which this Paul Davies character recently described in the New York Times, is that new life is arising all of the time on earth. It’s just very difficult for scientists to discover it (as you can imagine, it’s sort of small and in many cases the replicating population or replication-capable individual is consumed by more familiar life forms before it ever finds an opportunity to be observed by that exceedingly rare life form that actually might care about it — i.e., a scientist working on prebiotic chemistry).
    Think about it.

  • George Maddox
  • Xiaoding

    Whew!
    Thanks to those who responded to my earlier post.
    I must say, there seems to be more than a hint of panic in the responses of the religiously inclined when it comes to this issue. As science advances, religion retreats, and no amount of reasoning will stay His progress. I get the feeling that some view this issue as the last bastion of religion, before science conquers all. They are right.
    But verily, I say unto you, that the God who gave Abraham the promises and Moses his staff, also gives the chemist his beakers and the physisist his particle collider! How can you presume to know the wonders of the mind, the wonders only God can know the mysterys thereof? If man has a soul, is it not natural? Amy angel will tell you that it is.
    And what is the special property of this soul, that it magically confers free will? I have a copy of Soul v.1.01, users manual, and see no mention of free will at all!
    Those of us, who are gifted by the Lord (yes! I said GIFTED! as in, others ARE NOT GIFTED! as in, not earned, but purely the result of luck!) with the ability to think, and think deeply, so that, as Tolstoy remarked, the ideas we conceive and ponder become real to us, and therfore, must be reconciled with the other ideas we hold, and with reality, or we become tormented, have a resonsibility to realize a few things. Such as, we have no idea what a “thought” even is. And if we cannot even know that, how can we proclaim before God that we have free will?
    One thing history has taught me, is that those who use reason exclusivly, to figure out the world, must bow to to those who use experiment and emperical data to figure out the world. Then, if there is a God, is it not clear who he favors? Those who use religion to argue with emperical data and experiment are doomed to lose, not by the failing spirit of man, but by the Lord himself!
    Please do not be so rash as to know what God thinks about free will and Naturalism. For while Naturalism is confused and hippy-dippy, it is because the world is confused and hippy-dippy, and that world was deseigned by God. All we can know, is that we don’t know. Science advances the realm of the known, it is religions job to give comfort in the face of the dark unknown. We can have both.
    Thank you :)

  • George Maddox

    Larry, Here is the passage from the textbook mentioned earlier.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Tom
    Following up on Post

  • Gordon Mullings

    Okay, time for a few shorties again:
    Boonton:
    There’s thousands of scientific theories that attempted to explain nature that have come and gone, to say nothing of economic theories of which Marx is just one. I don’t object to discussion Marx & where he was right and where he was very much wrong but I think it is overblown to try to equate naturalism with Marxism.
    –> Have you really read what I posted?
    (1) I have consistently given several exemplars of naturalistic thinking ranging from Darwin to Crick, and have pointed out that consistently, they are self-referentially inconsistent.
    (2) I have taken the time to excerpt the claims of the CFN, and have highlighted not only the inconsistencies but also THE CLEAR TREND TO PROVIDE IDEOLOGICAL UNDERPINNINGS THAT CAN ALL TOO EASILY SUPPORT MANIPULATIVE TYRANNIES.
    (3) Naturalists may not like it, but in fact the 70 year marxist experiment is, to date the biggest practical attempt to implement naturalistic thinking on the ground. So, when the CFN is putting forward arguments down the line of tyranny, we should remember. BTW, much of Nazi tyranny was rooted in the same thought; though there was also a mystical element rooted in Blavatsky’s Aryan Man myth — the most evolved form of man who had largely died out and was to be re-bred up.
    (4) Indeed, Marxism’s economics was the implication of its evolutionary materialist scheme. But equally, the collapse of Marxism came from a SPIRITUAL breakthrough. Recall: I first and foremost cited Poland 1979 as a cse in point where man’s spiritual nature has reasserted itself through a supernatural breakthrough, in response to the claim that all of human behaviour can be successfully accounted for on naturalistic grounds.
    Larry:
    Generally, I ignore trolls, and it is clear that that is what you are. But I will respond to:
    perhaps you can just sit wherever you are and pray 24 hours a day for food and water
    The recognition of the fact that the physical world is consistent is naturalism
    My theory, which I’ve posted here a number of times and which this Paul Davies character recently described in the New York Times, is that new life is arising all of the time on earth
    – > Let’s deal with no 3 first: Larry, you plainly do not understand the statistical thermodynamic informational hurdles that have to be surmountred to create the molecular heat engines necessary to life as we know it. For starters: What are the implications of Clausius’ dS >/= d’Q/T and Boltzmann’s S = k ln w [w is OMEGA] when applied to the creation of macromolecules in “plausible” [racemic!]pre-biotic soups, given that reducing atmospheres are now regarded as improbable? What about the Hoyle-Wickramasinge calculations that led them to panspermia?
    – > As has been repeatedly pointed out, there is a vast difference between claiming that we live in a natural, orderly world and claiming that this world is a naturalistic one.
    – > Indeed, it is the APostle Paul who observed that if one does not work, he should not eat, and the sixth commandment is direct: six days shalt thou work, and on the seventh, rest.
    – > On the broader point, the existence of a world in which moral choice is significant REQUIRES that there be a natural order that exhibits law-like regularity, i.e. it permits rational decision-making. Similarly, a world in which miracles — signs — are to stand out will have a general orderliness.
    – > More deeply, the implicit Humean assumption is question-begging as the abductive and inductive inferences that lie beneath science are incapable of giving us non-provisional, exceptionless generalisations. So, the epistemic circle that asserts that firm experience so discredits the miraculous that testimony to the contrary can be immediately discounted, is a philosophical snow job. That has been shown many times, all the way back to the late C18.
    – > That is, there is nothing illogical between studying and using the natural and social sciences in day to day work, and seeing that the God who created this general order can, for good reasons of his own, intervenee in that order from time to time. I have pointed to the events of Blonie field June 10 1979 ans a public case with consequences that yet shake our world.
    – > Just reflect: Why do you think 2 Mn Poles went across a continent to Rome last week, and another 800 k gathered in Blonie field? Why did Jaruzelski say that Karol was one of the greatest Poles in history?
    Hi Xiao
    As science advances, religion retreats
    Actually, where the philosophy of NATURALISM advances, by definition theism has retreated; however, last time I checked it seems that it was naturalism on the retreat: Poland, 1979 — “We want God!”
    More directly, we are discussing a clash of worldviews, not at all a clash between science on the one hand, and religion on the other. Science is simply incapable of the degree of proof required to establish naturalism, indeed the latter has already repeatedly disproved itself: it is self-referentially inconsistent at its core. (Cf above.)
    And, even in China, the Christian faith there has grown from ~ 5 mns fifty years ago to ~ 90 – 100 + mns today. At that rate, China will reach tipping point to become a fundamentally Christian society in the next half-century or so, if the pattern set by the similar culture, Korea, is any guide.
    In short, it is largely in the Capitalist, Modernist and Post-modernist West that Naturalism seems to be advancing or to have triumphed. (And if Bat Ye’or is right on Eurabia, the question is going to be whether it is CHristian or Islamic Theism which will take over Western Europe! Similarly, the panic over Red country in the USA is in good part driven by the realisation that a great many in the USA are simply not buying naturalism’s claims and the policies that stem from it.)
    GM
    You are right to highlight the empirical fact that spontaneous generation is simply not observed empirically. It has been inferred from naturalistic assumptions and in spite of the vast improbabilities, it is asserted as science as God has been ruled out of the game science has become, by question-begging definitional fiat: to wit, methodological naturalism.
    So, Larry et al, kindly provide the empirical data for the probabilistically plausible, spontaneous generation of life, starting with the evident fine-tuning of cosmic physics, moving to the pre-biotic soup in an earth of say 3.8 BYA [if you want panspermia, you have to show evidence for the planet and for the transmission of life to earth], then account for the molecular machinery of life and for the strange fact that we inevitably and unavoidably act as though we have minds of our own with free will.
    $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    OOps
    seductive alliterations!
    The FOURTH commandment
    GEM

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    3) Naturalists may not like it, but in fact the 70 year marxist experiment is, to date the biggest practical attempt to implement naturalistic thinking on the ground
    The larger experiment would be the modern developed capitalistic world.
    (4) Indeed, Marxism’s economics was the implication of its evolutionary materialist scheme
    The mechanisms of change in Marxism have little to do with the mechanisms of change in evolution. Change in the theory of evolution is caused by natural selection. Change in Marxist economics is caused by the clash of interests of large monolithic classes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marx was inspired by Darwin & wanted to paint his work in Darwin’s light. More than a few social theories tried to attach themselves to scientific theories. Call it physics envy.
    Anyway, capitalism is much closer associated with evolution than Marxism. If you had to peg Marxism to a scientific theory it would be Newton’s. In Marx’s theories social classes move along predetermined class in response to the forces that are shaping them…much like billard balls whose paths are determined by the collisions & forces imparted to them per Newton’s laws of motion.
    Capitalism, in contrast, is constantly adapting to a changine environment thru the process of the market which is quite similar to natual selection.

  • George Maddox

    Boonton,
    Evolution is unguided. “Natural” selection means selection outside an intelligent agent(explaining the need for “random” mutations in nature). Capitalism is guided by intelligence and has no relation to evolution as outlined by Darwin.
    G.M

  • Larry Lord

    Someone called me a troll and then wrote
    “Larry, you plainly do not understand the statistical thermodynamic informational hurdles that have to be surmountred to create the molecular heat engines necessary to life as we know it. For starters: What are the implications of Clausius’ dS >/= d’Q/T and Boltzmann’s S = k ln w [w is OMEGA] when applied to the creation of macromolecules in “plausible” [racemic!]pre-biotic soups, given that reducing atmospheres are now regarded as improbable? What about the Hoyle-Wickramasinge calculations that led them to panspermia?”
    That is absolutely hilarious, stuff, man. Are you suggesting (by reciting a script you surely dug from some creationist tract or web page) that the evolution of life on earth is thermodynamically impossible?
    Let me tell me something, my friend: horse hockey. Pure. Unadulterated. Horse hockey.
    “As has been repeatedly pointed out, there is a vast difference between claiming that we live in a natural, orderly world and claiming that this world is a naturalistic one.”
    Okay Humpty Dumpty. That doesn’t address my point at all, however, which is: smearing people as absurdly inconsistent and lacking a “moral foundation” simply because they trust their eyeballs more than an ancient “holy” book (and a small army of preachers) is nothing but a lame hypocritical propoganda tool. Strip down and move to a cold cave and I’ll have a bit more respect for you when you slag on scientists. It’s still trivial to show that you’re a hypocrite for doing so, but you’ll be less of a hypocrite.
    “That is, there is nothing illogical between studying and using the natural and social sciences in day to day work, and seeing that the God who created this general order can, for good reasons of his own, intervenee in that order from time to time.”
    If you say so, Spock. I might be more inclined to merely state what the vast majority of evolutionary biologists have been trying to tell creationist peddling charlatans for many years: a person can understand and appreciate scientific facts and still have faith in the existence of a deity. How do scientists know this is true? Because many of them do, in fact, believe in God and evolution.
    Now do the right thing and stop pretending that the thermodynamic garbage you posted has any bearing whatsoever on the evolution of life on earth. THanks.

  • Larry Lord

    Maddox
    “Evolution is unguided.”
    Really? Does that include poodles? The corn you buy in your grocery store?
    Organisms share this planet with intelligent actors, including human beings. Those actors are part of the organisms environment.
    Boonton’s analogy is spot on. And if you think dumb luck (e.g., bad weather) has no role in determining the success of a product in the marketplace, you’re over the cliff.

  • Jack

    Really? Does that include poodles? The corn you buy in your grocery store?
    Organisms share this planet with intelligent actors, including human beings. Those actors are part of the organisms environment.
    Lar,
    For the most part I ignore your posts but occasionally you say something so patently absurd that it requires at least a minimal reply. Poodles and corn were produced as a result of intensive breeding and cultivation (that is, human directed selection to achieve the pre-dominance of desired characteristics)this differs significantly from natural selection, which has no particular goal. Organisms in nature evolve unguided; organisms directed by human beings are being bred, not evolving.

  • George Maddox

    Larry,
    There can be absolutely no intelligent cause of any action if it is to be understood as Darwinian evolution.
    G.M.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “Poodles and corn were produced as a result of intensive breeding and cultivation”
    No kidding.
    “this differs significantly from natural selection, which has no particular goal.”
    News flash: the corn doesn’t care about any “goal” when it is crossed with another plant. The corn does not care whether it is a human or an insect destroying some fraction of its offspring, or why.
    The selection in one case may be more severe than in another, but it’s still merely selection (and selection is not the only means by which life evolve, of course).
    This is elementary stuff. This is why the vast majority of informed people understand that evolution is a fact. Life on earth evolved and it’s evolving right now. Show me a life form where every individual reproduces itself perfectly every time or doesn’t reproduce at all and I’ll show you a life form that has stopped evolving. It’s that simple.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Evolution is unguided. “Natural” selection means selection outside an intelligent agent(explaining the need for “random” mutations in nature). Capitalism is guided by intelligence and has no relation to evolution as outlined by Darwin.
    Capitalism is not guided. The ideal market is one in which each participant is a price taker. In other words, their willingness to buy or sell alone is not sufficient to alter the price. While intelligent agents may make up the market, the market itself is unguided. I suggest you read thru a good summary of Austrian economics to see what happens when an intelligent agent (such as the gov’t) attempts to ‘plan’ the economy. Such attempts usually fail because the market itself is assimilating more information than any one of its participants is able to do. In some respects, it might be assimilating more information than all of its participants put together!
    Poodles and corn were produced as a result of intensive breeding and cultivation (that is, human directed selection to achieve the pre-dominance of desired characteristics)this differs significantly from natural selection, which has no particular goal. Organisms in nature evolve unguided; organisms directed by human beings are being bred, not evolving.
    A good book is Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. In it he examines how some of the plants we love today got their start. Take strawberries. Their seeds are tiny and typically will pass out of our bodies. Some hunter gathers, at some point, would have eaten wild strawberries when they found them. They would defecate the seeds in their equilivant of latreens. Lol and behold, strawberries growing where they had gone to the bathroom! Since larger strawberries are more worth the time to pick & eat there’s a ‘natural selection’ process that would drive the cultivated strawberry towards larger and larger sizes.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Also, the market is usually modeled with unintelligent members. A simple model would assign each member a set budget and have them attempt to maximize their utility (defined simply as getting the most product for their $ if they are buyers or getting the most $ for their product if they are sellers).
    Human intelligence isn’t necessary, only the ability to recognize that one deal is better than another. Animals have been shown to be able to make decisions on this level.

  • Jack

    News flash: the corn doesn’t care about any “goal” when it is crossed with another plant. The corn does not care whether it is a human or an insect destroying some fraction of its offspring, or why.
    Lar, humans intentionally manipulate genetic traits for there own preferences; humans care about the outcome, nature doesn’t. Humans act with intelligence and forethought; nature doesn’t.
    The selection in one case may be more severe than in another, but it’s still merely selection (and selection is not the only means by which life evolve, of course).
    It’s not a matter of severity, it’s a matter of intention; there is no intention in nature.
    This is elementary stuff.
    Yes, it is.
    This is why the vast majority of informed people understand that evolution is a fact.
    And can seperate it from breeding.
    Life on earth evolved and it’s evolving right now. Show me a life form where every individual reproduces itself perfectly every time or doesn’t reproduce at all and I’ll show you a life form that has stopped evolving. It’s that simple.
    Which has nothing to do with breeding a poodle, unless you think nature is breeding creatures for some purpose.

  • Jack

    Capitalism is not guided. The ideal market is one in which each participant is a price taker. In other words, their willingness to buy or sell alone is not sufficient to alter the price. While intelligent agents may make up the market, the market itself is unguided. I suggest you read thru a good summary of Austrian economics to see what happens when an intelligent agent (such as the gov’t) attempts to ‘plan’ the economy. Such attempts usually fail because the market itself is assimilating more information than any one of its participants is able to do. In some respects, it might be assimilating more information than all of its participants put together!
    Not guided as in each choice is determined, but the system of markets are established by intelligent intent; laws and regulations govern the markets; overseeing bodies determine rates and prices, individuals respond to varying market conditions. It is just silly to suggest that this is the same as randomw mutation and natural selection.
    A good book is Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. In it he examines how some of the plants we love today got their start. Take strawberries. Their seeds are tiny and typically will pass out of our bodies. Some hunter gathers, at some point, would have eaten wild strawberries when they found them. They would defecate the seeds in their equilivant of latreens. Lol and behold, strawberries growing where they had gone to the bathroom! Since larger strawberries are more worth the time to pick & eat there’s a ‘natural selection’ process that would drive the cultivated strawberry towards larger and larger sizes.
    I appreciate the essay on strawberries, though I may skip putting strawberry jam on my sandwich at this point; but agriculture as a whole is the result of intensive effort and intelligence applied over long periods of time; food production may be one of the most intensive human activities known.

  • George Maddox

    Boonton,
    Could you give me an example of an unintelligent member of the market?
    G.M.

  • George Maddox

    Boonton,
    Please disregard my previous post because I found your meaning in this sentence: “Human intelligence isn’t necessary, only the ability to recognize that one deal is better than another.”
    Ability to recognize that one deal is better than another is intelligence.
    A book related to this topic is “Signs of Intelligence” edited by Dembski and Kushiner. It contains a collection of essays by doctors and scientists from various fields of study. They discuss how science detects intelligence. It makes interesting reading if you don’t mind reading the work of men who think Darwin was wrong about some aspects of origins.
    G.M.

  • Larrry Lord

    Jack, you just keep spinning and running, bro’!
    Let’s stay focused, shall we, Jack?
    Have dogs evolved over the past 10,000 years or have they stayed the same?
    Simple question. Answer? Yes.
    Yes, dogs have evolved.
    Was the evolution guided?
    Yes.
    Is it accurate to say that “evolution is unguided” as Maddox did?
    No, it’s not.
    Evolution of organisms may in some circumstances be guided by humans or it may be guided by so-called “natural” forces (which includes other animals, acting intelligently) or both. And there is always genetic drift.
    “Which has nothing to do with breeding a poodle”
    Only if you consider “nothing” to be the fundamental indisputable fact that poodles, like all living organisms, replicate themselves imperfectly and thus their offspring will have slightly different chances of reproducing.
    You see that this similarity is far more significant than the difference. We know for a fact that organisms evolve over time, whether humans are trying to make their hair curlier or not.
    You seem to have real difficulty grasping this fundamental concept Jack. Either that or you are engaging in a little bit o’ that dissemblin’ we’ve seen so often around here.

  • Jack

    Have dogs evolved over the past 10,000 years or have they stayed the same?
    Simple question. Answer? Yes.
    Yes, dogs have evolved.

    Actually no. Please Larry, if you don’t know the biology, don’t answer. A poodle is as insignificantly different from pit bull as you are from Micheal Jordan. Did you evolve from Micheal Jordan? All dogs constitute the same species; Canis Domesticus in this case
    Was the evolution guided?
    Yes.

    Well, we have already established there was no evolution; was the breeding guided? Yes.
    Is it accurate to say that “evolution is unguided” as Maddox did?
    No, it’s not.

    Your first two points are definitively wrong, so this doesn’t follow.
    Evolution of organisms may in some circumstances be guided by humans or it may be guided by so-called “natural” forces (which includes other animals, acting intelligently) or both. And there is always genetic drift.
    Dude, for the first 4 billion years of history, there were no humans to guide anything; it was completely random. In the last several thousand years humans have begun to intentionally select certain pre-existing genetic traits. Where did you learn biology?
    “Which has nothing to do with breeding a poodle”
    Only if you consider “nothing” to be the fundamental indisputable fact that poodles, like all living organisms, replicate themselves imperfectly and thus their offspring will have slightly different chances of reproducing.
    Breeding isn’t based on imperfect reproduction; in fact it is based on the opposite; you know the traits you want, you select for them, you expect them to appear in future generations. I can’t believe how misinformned you are on this.
    You see that this similarity is far more significant than the difference. We know for a fact that organisms evolve over time, whether humans are trying to make their hair curlier or not.
    We can discuss that if you want; but it has nothing to do with poodles and corn.
    You seem to have real difficulty grasping this fundamental concept Jack. Either that or you are engaging in a little bit o’ that dissemblin’ we’ve seen so often around here.
    Hah, you have demonstrated a significant deficiency in your knowledge of biology here, Lar. Even I am shocked by it.

  • Larry Lord

    Wow, so Jack thinks that dogs didn’t evolve. Look up “evolve” in the dictionary Jack. Then put the goalpost back, please.
    “Breeding isn’t based on imperfect reproduction; in fact it is based on the opposite”
    That is false. Perhaps you have a different meaning of “opposite” than the rest of us. Would that surprise me? No.
    “you know the traits you want, you select for them”
    Why would I need to select if breeding is based on perfect reproduction?
    “you expect them to appear in future generations”
    Really? Why would I expect new traits to appear in future generations if breeding is based on perfect reproduction?
    Perhaps you are confusing cloning with breeding.
    “I can’t believe how misinformned you are on this.”
    Hilarious!
    “Dude, for the first 4 billion years of history, there were no humans to guide anything; it was completely random.”
    Oh really? What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”? By all accounts, the earth seems like it’s been condusive to ribonucleotide-based life for much of that time — e.g., not terribly hot or terribly cold over the entire surface. Perhaps you have a different definition of the phrase, “completely random” too. Would that surprise me? No.

  • Jack

    Wow, so Jack thinks that dogs didn’t evolve. Look up “evolve” in the dictionary Jack. Then put the goalpost back, please.
    No, I just don’t think the difference between a poodle and a pit bull is ‘evolution’, anymore the the difference between an African and a Swede.
    That is false. Perhaps you have a different meaning of “opposite” than the rest of us. Would that surprise me? No.
    It’s based on already expressed traits within a population of organisms. If I convince two short people to have children, and they have short children, did I cause them to ‘evolve’?
    Why would I need to select if breeding is based on perfect reproduction?
    Because you prefer an expressed trait and you want to preserve it.
    Really? Why would I expect new traits to appear in future generations if breeding is based on perfect reproduction?
    Not new traits, currently existing traits. For example, if I wanted a smaller dog, I would select two currently existing small dogs and breed them together; I wouldn’t just keep throwing big dogs together and hope for an imperfection.
    Nobody breeds hoping for ‘new traits’; I could desire a dog with wings, but no amount of breeding would allow me to have one.
    Oh really? What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”? By all accounts, the earth seems like it’s been condusive to ribonucleotide-based life for much of that time — e.g., not terribly hot or terribly cold over the entire surface. Perhaps you have a different definition of the phrase, “completely random” too. Would that surprise me? No.
    So the earth was breeding life?

  • Great White Wonder

    Jack
    “No, I just don’t think the difference between a poodle and a pit bull is ‘evolution’”
    Screeeech. The goalpost moves again. What about the difference between a chihuahua and a Great Dane and the wild dog that was the ancestor of them both? Do you see any evolution there?
    “If I convince two short people to have children, and they have short children, did I cause them to ‘evolve’?”
    No, you caused two people to have sex and produce kids. Evolution will happen without your guidance, Jack. You keep missing this fundamental point.
    Do you suppose Jack that some guy way back when saw two mutant wild dogs that looked just like modern chihauhau’s and mated them and voila! more modern chihauahau’s? Is that how you think we got modern chihuahua’s Jack?
    You’re not that silly. You know that it was a slow gradual process that led from those wild dogs to the modern chihuahua Jack. But you seem loathe to say this in plain English. I wonder why.
    “I wouldn’t just keep throwing big dogs together and hope for an imperfection.”
    Probably not, because you have only a limited time on the planet.
    “Nobody breeds hoping for ‘new traits’; I could desire a dog with wings, but no amount of breeding would allow me to have one.”
    An awesome strawdog — wings!
    So today we have dogs with straight tails and super curvy tails. Where did the dogs with super curvy tails come from? Someone found two dogs with super curvy tails and mated them? Where did those dogs with super curvy tails come from? Were there always wild dogs with supercurvy tails running around? Perhaps they roamed the fields with the ancient dachsunds.
    Oh and Jack you failed to answer my question:
    What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”?
    You used those words “completely random” Jack. You said evolution on earth was “completely random”. What does that mean?

  • Jack

    Screeeech. The goalpost moves again. What about the difference between a chihuahua and a Great Dane and the wild dog that was the ancestor of them both? Do you see any evolution there?
    Lar, they are the same species. Why would the wild dog from which they were derived have to be a different species? Are Africans and Swedes different species? Are Swedes more evolved than Africans? Why not, they share a common ancestor and look different – answer: because they are still the same species.
    No, you caused two people to have sex and produce kids. Evolution will happen without your guidance, Jack. You keep missing this fundamental point.
    Well Lar, that’s exactly what happens when I breed two dogs together; so therefore I’m not causing dogs to evolve either.
    Do you suppose Jack that some guy way back when saw two mutant wild dogs that looked just like modern chihauhau’s and mated them and voila! more modern chihauahau’s? Is that how you think we got modern chihuahua’s Jack?
    No Lar. We know exactly how it happened; we could do it today in a few years. There were a bunch of domesticated dogs;some were small, some were large, just like people – the ‘guy’, wanting to hold one of the nice doggies in his lap and hear them yap, selcted dogs that tended to be that way; he isolated them, then allowed them to breed; viola! Small yappy dogs. No evolution required, just breeding.
    You’re not that silly. You know that it was a slow gradual process that led from those wild dogs to the modern chihuahua Jack. But you seem loathe to say this in plain English. I wonder why.
    Yes, sometimes it took several generations to get the traits to stick; at that point, there was a breed; not a new species mind you, but a breed, a creature perfectly capabable of breeding with it’s forebears, but with specific traits. In fact the opposite of evolution was occurring; more traits weren’t appearing, fewer were; that’s called in-breeding. It’s detrimental to a species. This is why they cross breed; they reintroduce a wider variety of traits into the gene pool; that’s called, hybrid vigor.
    I can’t believe I have to give this class on animal husbandry here.
    So today we have dogs with straight tails and super curvy tails. Where did the dogs with super curvy tails come from? Someone found two dogs with super curvy tails and mated them? Where did those dogs with super curvy tails come from? Were there always wild dogs with supercurvy tails running around? Perhaps they roamed the fields with the ancient dachsunds.
    Unless dogs with ‘super curvy tails’ existed naturally at some time, one could not breed them; because in order to breed something, you have to isolate a population that exhibits that trait, so yes, logically, someone found two dogs with super curvy tails and mated them. Maybe even a three or four of them.
    What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”?
    You used those words “completely random” Jack. You said evolution on earth was “completely random”. What does that mean?
    Well, unless there was an intention on the universe’s part to cause the earth to orbit the son, or tilt it on it’s axis, then the fact that it did would have been random, that is, happenstance, chance. Any evolution that occurred as a result of that random circumstance would then also be the result of random factors. The earth could have just as easily been another few million miles out and inhospitable to life, couldn’t it?

  • Jack

    Lar, who is ‘Great White Wonder’?

  • George Maddox

    Larry,
    You are confusing evolution with Evolution. The reason is simple; the word evolution is overused.
    The evolution you are talking about is adaptation and variation. Yes these things happen and we have seen evidence.
    But, we are not talking about the same thing. Origin of life evolution demands a system that developed without guidance; no intelligent cause. If we removed natural (lack of an intelligent cause) selection, we would have to understand life from the point of intelligent design, or creation.
    G.M.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi again, Tom
    I see from Joe

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    1] Capitalism has developed in a judaeo-christian framework, imperfect as that has been; a simple matter of history. While social darwinists and their intellectual descendants wish to rewrite that history, it is an easily established fact. Try for starters, through say Blackstone: whence cometh the historical justification for property rights, other than thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not covet . . . anything that is thy neighbour’s? [That is, two of the ten commandments are explicitly economic in focus. Similarly Dt 8:17 ff speaks of the ability to create wealth as a blessing from God, while warning of the destructive social implications of forgetting and disobeying him.]
    2] By contrast, Marx’s analysis of the evolution of society was on a specifically naturalistic and evolutionary basis, driven by dialectic materialism and associated economic interests. The revolutions that played so big a part in practice were driven by this framework of thought, which in part served to legitimise envy and led to the situation deplored by Orwell in his Animal Farm — a parody on Stalin’s USSR.
    3] Also, all economies are planned. In market-oriented systems, the planning is decentralised in small units [apart from the Government], generally households and firms coupled through markets; which — last time I checked my MBA profs — are themselves recognised as intelligently designed and regulated institutions. Thus, the debate between capitalist and socialist planning approaches is one over the architecture of the planning — evidence favours decentralised planning.
    Larry
    1] You have simply failed to address the issue of the attempt to make information out of noise in the teeth of Boltzmann’s and Clausius’ formulations of thermodynamics, but instead simply seek to attack the man, just as a typical Troll would.
    (BTW, FYI I sweated — literally — through the relevant classical and statistical thermodynamics under the *now* fondly remebered profs Wagh and Dixit, both from India. I found Sears and Salinger, Kittel and Mandl especially helpful; also some Russian texts in english translation. Yep, I used to regularly visit the local Communist party’s bookshop, since I learned that russians are good teachers of physics, mathematics and engineering! [The books seem to have mainly been prepared for the Indian market . . . the source of something like 20% of Silicon Valley's startups as of the late 90's I believe, esp. IIT.])
    2] On morality, trollish mockery does not substitute for sound argument: does or does not the CFN’s argument lend itself to totalitarian manipulation? What are the implied challenges? TO see my public lecture on this kindly cf http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Ethics_and_Development.pps . Check before sounding off next time.
    3] On your sound-bite that many scientists believe in God, while rank and file scientists are often theistic or deistic, the elites who dominate the institutions and the microphones are predominantly anti-theistic. Dawkins is a capital example: those who reject naturalistic evolutionary materialism “must” be in effect ignorant or stupid or insane or wicked. Did Dawkins intend that to include dismissing a wide cross section of scientists as ignoramuses or worse; or was he telling them the party line they were expected to toe?
    Jack and Larry:
    FYI in his Origin of the Species, Darwin discussed the breeding of animals etc, under the concept of Artificial Selection. For, the differential success in reproduction was controlled by human — thus, intelligent — agents, the breeders. And, much of the variety in dogs was created by elimination of genetic variability in the more unusual breeds, so they are LESS robust in a natural world. [Ever wondered why weeds are so much hardier than useful crops?]
    That is, Larry, you are in effect arguing that evolution can be a proces of intelligent design. Are you SURE you want to go down that road?
    $ 0.02
    Gordon

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Not guided as in each choice is determined, but the system of markets are established by intelligent intent; laws and regulations govern the markets; overseeing bodies determine rates and prices, individuals respond to varying market conditions. It is just silly to suggest that this is the same as randomw mutation and natural selection.
    I didn’t, real science is messy. Darwin got on his hands and knees to study worms, bugs and all types of slimy things to see how life worked in the real world. We sit in comfortable chairs & pontificate on how natural selection supposedly implies Marxism.
    It’s very grating to try to translate theories of biology to sociology & usually the results are not useful at all. I was pointing out, though, if you must do it then capitalism looks more like natural selection & evolution than Marxism does. Marxism looks more like Newtonian mechanics where society is shaped by various ‘forces’ that push along predetermined paths.
    BTW, you don’t really understand markets. Markets develop organically & spontaneously. There is no need for ‘overseeing bodies’ to determine prices & when there are such bodies they tend to do more to harm the market than promote it.
    Could you give me an example of an unintelligent member of the market?
    As I pointed out every model of the market uses what we might call ‘unintelligent’ members. Choosing the ‘best deal’ in a simple market model can be done by algorithm & nothing more. You can program a computer to do it or you can even have monkeys in cages do it!
    Ability to recognize that one deal is better than another is intelligence.
    True but it isn’t human intelligence. It is only intelligence in its most basic form…even a single celled organism needs some type of ‘intelligence’ to know when to eat, when to move, and so on.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Breeding isn’t based on imperfect reproduction; in fact it is based on the opposite; you know the traits you want, you select for them, you expect them to appear in future generations. I can’t believe how misinformned you are on this.
    Larry gets this, you are talking past one another. Breeders do select the traits they want but breeding remains imperfect. Sometimes a breeder will be disappointed and other times surprised…even though he preselected the traits he wanted.
    No, I just don’t think the difference between a poodle and a pit bull is ‘evolution’, anymore the the difference between an African and a Swede.
    Of course the difference between pit bulls, poodles and the original wolf are quite dramatic. Keeping them all lumped in as the same species is somewhat arbitrary but more importantly these large differences took place in only a few thousand years of time. Given that is hardly even measurable on the geological timescale, how dramatic the differences will be if you did a million years of ‘selected breeding’.
    BTW, let’s think about this carefully. The breeder is certainly applying a great deal of intelligence but what he is doing is not intelligent. He’s just having two animals mate! Suppose I wanted a little stream to run thru my yard. It would take intelligence to figure out how to grade the land just so the stream will run as I want it. That doesn’t mean a stream we stumble upon in nature was designed with intelligence. We recognize the nature of water & melting snow from mountains will create streams.
    The engineer is simply using artifical forces to guide nature to create a stream that it would not have created otherwise. The breeder is simply artifically creating selection pressures to cause evolutions’ path to bend to his will. BTW, humans are not the only animals that do this. Ants, for example, have ‘domisticated’ aphids.
    Nobody breeds hoping for ‘new traits’; I could desire a dog with wings, but no amount of breeding would allow me to have one.
    Why not? Let’s think about this for a few moments. Our written language is done with an alphabet. If you have a program that simulates evolution using an alphabet you can use ‘natural selection’ to generate any work written in English. But wait! Can we use it to create a work in German? Yes we can but the only limit we will run into is German has one or two letters that English doesn’t so there is a bit of a barrier.
    Our genes are written with a much simpler alphabet of DNA. So is just about every living thing we have studied on earth. Since there’s plenty of things with wings we know the ‘alphabet’ contains the correct letters to make wings. So for your statement to be true the following must hold:
    1. There’s some law of physics that would prevent a winged dog.
    2. There’s some other mechanism that would stop dog genes from getting ‘too far’ away from the original source.
    We know #1 is false since there have been animals with wings large enough to accomodate a dog. So you have to tell us what mechanism would prevent a breeder with enough time from eventually breeding a ‘winged dog’. Other can correct my science a bit but as far as I know there is no such ‘barrier’ that would stop a breeder with enough time.

  • George Maddox

    Larry,
    So much of personal world view is rooted in an understanding of origins of life. It is an important topic that affects the way people use their lives.
    Thank you for the conversation. I learned a great deal about your approach to evolution and your reasons for believing things that you do. You have a gift of skepticism. If you question evolution with the same intensity that you question religion you will find the truth.
    My own understanding is that we can no more understand God than a baby inside the womb can understand its mother. I believe God is a mystery beyond human comprehension.
    Many religious people work hard to make God comprehendible, or ignore the importance of creation in their (important) focus on Jesus

  • George Maddox

    Boonton,
    You wrote:”. . . as far as I know there is no such ‘barrier’ that would stop a breeder with enough time

  • Larry Lord

    Gordon Mullings
    “You have simply failed to address the issue of the attempt to make information out of noise in the teeth of Boltzmann’s and Clausius’ formulations of thermodynamics, but instead simply seek to attack the man, just as a typical Troll would.”
    Gordon, we may be posting here on an evangelical blog but the burden is not on me to prove that your “calculations” are meaningful because — get ready for this — we also happen to be living on planet earth in the year 2005.
    The simple plain fact is that the vast vast vast majority of people who understand thermodynamics do not agree with you that the evolution of life on earth is thermodynamically impossible.
    That is YOUR problem because until you manage to convince the experts, you’re just another crank creationist reciting from a tired script … oddly enough, on a computer which exists only because certain people were able to distinguish bogus mathematical wankery from algorithms with genuine utility in the real world.

  • Larry Lord

    George
    “My own understanding is that we can no more understand God than a baby inside the womb can understand its mother. I believe God is a mystery beyond human comprehension.”
    This is indisputable.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The barrier is one of information. The gene pool in dogs is limited. Information is not a physical property that nature can create.
    The alphabet analogy is flawed because the system was designed. You understand this system as devoid of design? Could it be that you mistake life forms as

  • Jack


    Larry gets this, you are talking past one another. Breeders do select the traits they want but breeding remains imperfect. Sometimes a breeder will be disappointed and other times surprised…even though he preselected the traits he wanted.

    Yes, but that is neither the goal nor the purpose of breeding; breeding is accomplished by intentionally selecting traits and then continuing to isolate and breed animals with those traits; that imperfections happen is a given, but breeders don’t desire those imperfections, nature does.
    Of course the difference between pit bulls, poodles and the original wolf are quite dramatic. Keeping them all lumped in as the same species is somewhat arbitrary but more importantly these large differences took place in only a few thousand years of time. Given that is hardly even measurable on the geological timescale, how dramatic the differences will be if you did a million years of ‘selected breeding’.
    But the differences are completely superficial; all these are capabable of interbreeding, that is, no speciation has occurred, thus nothing has ‘evolved’.
    BTW, let’s think about this carefully. The breeder is certainly applying a great deal of intelligence but what he is doing is not intelligent. He’s just having two animals mate! Suppose I wanted a little stream to run thru my yard. It would take intelligence to figure out how to grade the land just so the stream will run as I want it. That doesn’t mean a stream we stumble upon in nature was designed with intelligence. We recognize the nature of water & melting snow from mountains will create streams.
    Actually, no one would get what they wanted by just ‘having two animals mate’, it’s actually a very specific process that consists of isolation, artificial selection, and inbreeding. So yes, it does require intelligence which is why it is a multi-million dollar industry.
    The engineer is simply using artifical forces to guide nature to create a stream that it would not have created otherwise. The breeder is simply artifically creating selection pressures to cause evolutions’ path to bend to his will. BTW, humans are not the only animals that do this. Ants, for example, have ‘domisticated’ aphids.
    The engineer is by definition not a mindless force; he has intention and a goal; so do ants, incidentally, though their goals are driven by instinct, not forethought.
    Why not? Let’s think about this for a few moments. Our written language is done with an alphabet. If you have a program that simulates evolution using an alphabet you can use ‘natural selection’ to generate any work written in English. But wait! Can we use it to create a work in German? Yes we can but the only limit we will run into is German has one or two letters that English doesn’t so there is a bit of a barrier.
    Our genes are written with a much simpler alphabet of DNA. So is just about every living thing we have studied on earth. Since there’s plenty of things with wings we know the ‘alphabet’ contains the correct letters to make wings. So for your statement to be true the following must hold:
    A correction; First, traits aren’t composed of an ‘alphabet’ they are composed of organizations of the proteins into multi-million strand codes. A dog’s genetic code doesn’t ‘contain’ the ability to make wings anymore than a superman comic ‘contains’ the ability to make War and Peace; you can’t select War and Peace from the comic book, you have to add significant information and rearrange the currently existing ‘alphabet’ to achieve this.
    1. There’s some law of physics that would prevent a winged dog.
    2. There’s some other mechanism that would stop dog genes from getting ‘too far’ away from the original source.
    We know #1 is false since there have been animals with wings large enough to accomodate a dog. So you have to tell us what mechanism would prevent a breeder with enough time from eventually breeding a ‘winged dog’. Other can correct my science a bit but as far as I know there is no such ‘barrier’ that would stop a breeder with enough time.
    It’s not a matter of ‘enough time’; any creature with wings is dependent on variety of genetic, morphological and neurological changes in order to grow and utilize wings. A breeder doesn’t sit around waiting for any mutations to occur much less encourage new ones; they take pre-existing traits and select for them.
    Pre-existing; that means whatever population of organisms exist, that is your stock for breeding. No future imaginary animals will develop. One could bombard a creature with mutagenic substances in hopes that one would survive long enough to produce a desired change, but that would introduce randomness, and that is the last thing a breeder would want. Breeders look for optimum traits and select them; the only connection to evolution is the term ‘select’, everything else is completely different.

  • Jack

    I think you have to be a bit more clear about this. You tell us that information cannot be created by nature. Why? Every day, for example, the wind speed is checked in Central Park, NY at noon. Is that not information? Is not new information created every day as there is a unique wind speed for that day?
    The wind blows; we measure it’s speed, we come up with this information, it’s not ‘information created by nature’; if that were true, then by just existing nature could be said to be ‘producing information’. It’s as if I measure the width of my computer screen and said, “Look, my screen produced 19 inches!”
    Anyway, your thinking seems to be that all the various types of dogs already exist in the dogs genes & breeders are just bringing out some genes and pushing back other ones. A dog with wings would be impossible since no ‘wing genes’ exist in dogs today so there would be nothing for a very time rich breeder to bring out. I wonder how we measure this sort of thing? Exactly how do we know where the barrier is between the craziest dog that can possibly be produced by breeding & an animal that is not a dog? Forgive me if I have to say that it appears the lines you draw are very arbitrary.
    Actually, there is one thing we can measure, and one we can’t; we can probably determine the genes that control the growth of wings in other organisms that have wings, that might give us some idea about the amount of information required to produce wings for that organism; what we cannot know is the amount of infomation required for an existing organism without wings (ie, dogs) to produce a completely different morphology, because the genetic information for that organism would be unique to that organism.
    Yet we return to the fact that genes are made out of DNA which has a very simple alphabet of 4 letters. We know that this alphabet can be used to ‘spell wings’. Hence there’s no barrier to a dog with wings…just a long breeding period. If I have a bag of scrabble letters then I have all the information needed to get the word “Evangelical” to come out of the bag. True both the alphabet and word was ‘designed’ but that’s neither here nor there. We know that DNA’s alphabet spells ‘wings’ as well as dog & there’s no natural barrier between the two.
    We don’t have a ‘bag of scrabble letters’ we have a book (or organism in this case); a very precisely written book that is organized to convey a specific thing. If you want to add to that book, or rearrange it, you have to do it in such a way so as not to destroy the continuity of the existing book to produce a new one, you can’t just blow up the book and start over.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    A correction; First, traits aren’t composed of an ‘alphabet’ they are composed of organizations of the proteins into multi-million strand codes. A dog’s genetic code doesn’t ‘contain’ the ability to make wings anymore than a superman comic ‘contains’ the ability to make War and Peace; you can’t select War and Peace from the comic book, you have to add significant information and rearrange the currently existing ‘alphabet’ to achieve this.
    True but proteins are created by DNA & DNA consists of a very limited alphabet that can alter thru mutation as well as other means (such as unsuccessful attacks by viruses). I could indeed take the text of a Superman comic book & allow it to ‘evolve’ into War & Peace assuming I devised a program that would simulate descent with mutation as well as an artifical natural selection for texts closer to War & Peace.
    It’s not a matter of ‘enough time’; any creature with wings is dependent on variety of genetic, morphological and neurological changes in order to grow and utilize wings. A breeder doesn’t sit around waiting for any mutations to occur much less encourage new ones; they take pre-existing traits and select for them.
    Which just begs the question, why couldn’t a breeder aim for these changes assuming he had hundreds of thousands of years to selectively breed his dogs?
    The wind blows; we measure it’s speed, we come up with this information, it’s not ‘information created by nature’; if that were true, then by just existing nature could be said to be ‘producing information’. It’s as if I measure the width of my computer screen and said, “Look, my screen produced 19 inches!”
    so what does this have to do with whether or not dogs can evolve wings? Are you saying dogs can evolve curly tails but can only evolve wings if humans are not looking? Does the cat who gets pounced on by the flying dog enough ‘measuring’ to create the information or does it have to be a human? I think you need to clarify exactly what you mean by information and how it applies to the question of limiting the power of natural selection.
    We know the wind is blowing in Central Park at a certain speed every day. If the measuring equipment was broke on April 1st that certainly doesn’t mean there was no wind speed that day…only one that was never recorded. If ‘information’ is only something humans can measure then how does it limit the amount of variation in dog breeding? If the dog breeding is happening in an environment not controlled by humans do the limits lift? Could dogs along on an isoloated island with no humans around evolve into a flying form?
    We don’t have a ‘bag of scrabble letters’ we have a book (or organism in this case); a very precisely written book that is organized to convey a specific thing. If you want to add to that book, or rearrange it, you have to do it in such a way so as not to destroy the continuity of the existing book to produce a new one, you can’t just blow up the book and start over.
    Yes we have a book but every time it is copied (i.e. bred) there are random changes. The copy looks like the original for the most part. If we select which book copies are permitted to copy again we can transform the Superman Book into War & Peace provided we have enough time.
    It’s true breeding a winged dog would be a massive undertaking. So would creating the Missippii River or the Great Lakes from scratch. But we started this hypothetical by stating the breeder had all the time he needed to accomplish the goal.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “One could bombard a creature with mutagenic substances in hopes that one would survive long enough to produce a desired change, but that would introduce randomness, and that is the last thing a breeder would want.”
    Actually such ‘bombardments’ are routinely carried out by scientists looking for interesting mutations which confer novel traits on organisms.
    “Breeders look for optimum traits and select them; the only connection to evolution is the term ‘select’, everything else is completely different.”
    That is utterly false, but we’ve already been through that.
    Jack believes that the original wild dog population included a few mutants with dalmation spots, a few with really curly tails like pugs, a few with long elongated bodies like dachsunds, a few that were tiny like chihuahua’s, a few that looked like st. bernards, a few with wrinkles like sharpei’s, and a few that looked like greyhounds.
    And then, according to Jack, breeders just found those traits and “optimized” them. Therefore, Jack claims, dogs have not evolved.
    The term “unsophisticated” was invented to describe such conjectures. Genetics and biology are more complicated than Jack is willing to admit or able to understand. New unexpected traits can and do arise all the time when gene sequences (i.e., “mutations”) appear in previously untested combinations, as a result of mating or some other process related to the metabolism of an organisms genome.
    You can read about such findings here
    http://www.pubmed.gov
    Warning: it will take many years for you to get through it all.

  • Larry Lord

    Boonton
    “It’s true breeding a winged dog would be a massive undertaking. So would creating the Missippii River or the Great Lakes from scratch. But we started this hypothetical by stating the breeder had all the time he needed to accomplish the goal.”
    I’d start with a dog with webbed feet and hope to end up with a barking bat-like creature, or maybe I could get something like a flying squirrel if I started with a loose-skinned dog like a shar pei. Would that count?

  • Jack

    True but proteins are created by DNA & DNA consists of a very limited alphabet that can alter thru mutation as well as other means (such as unsuccessful attacks by viruses). I could indeed take the text of a Superman comic book & allow it to ‘evolve’ into War & Peace assuming I devised a program that would simulate descent with mutation as well as an artifical natural selection for texts closer to War & Peace.
    Which just begs the question, why couldn’t a breeder aim for these changes assuming he had hundreds of thousands of years to selectively breed his dogs?
    What changes would the breeder select? Would the breeder select for already existing appendages that look more like wings, or hope something ‘sprouts’ off the dog’s vertebrae? Would he select for a enlarged sternum, an unusually efficient cardiovascular system, or streamlined body structure? The dog would need hollow bones; but if he had them and tried to run like a dog, he would break his bones, so somehow the breeder would have to get this trait to ‘hold off’ until the dog had all the other structures in place. The problem isn’t the ‘alphabet’ the problem is the alphabet is inexoriably linked to an already extant organisms morphology.
    And as far as your comic book idea, your program assumes an outcome; War and Peace. Nature doesn’t direct the outcome of an organisms mutatations; organisms mutate,if that mutation happens to be beneficial at that particular time, in that particular place, it stays; it doesn’t move the organism toward ‘wingedness’ or ‘War and Peaceness’
    so what does this have to do with whether or not dogs can evolve wings? Are you saying dogs can evolve curly tails but can only evolve wings if humans are not looking? Does the cat who gets pounced on by the flying dog enough ‘measuring’ to create the information or does it have to be a human? I think you need to clarify exactly what you mean by information and how it applies to the question of limiting the power of natural selection.
    I doesn’t have anything to do with winged dogs; I was just pointing out that your example has nothing to do with information; velocity is merely a property of the air in question.
    And I didn’t make the ‘information’ contention anyway; I was just saying speed of the air wasn’t an example of information being ‘produced’.
    Also, I didn’t say dogs ‘evolved’ curly tails’ I said breeds of dogs with tails were developed from curly tailed dogs already extant in the dog population available to breeders. Their are no winged dogs available to breeders; none are forth coming.
    We know the wind is blowing in Central Park at a certain speed every day. If the measuring equipment was broke on April 1st that certainly doesn’t mean there was no wind speed that day…only one that was never recorded. If ‘information’ is only something humans can measure then how does it limit the amount of variation in dog breeding? If the dog breeding is happening in an environment not controlled by humans do the limits lift? Could dogs along on an isoloated island with no humans around evolve into a flying form?
    No, it means we weren’t able to measure the property of velocity of the air for that day.
    But information has different meanings in different contexts; in the context of genetics, it means a pattern which influences the creation or transformation of other patterns; it’s a coded signal (in this case, a protien based one), which has transmitter and a recipient. In that sense, the air is not transmitting information about it’s velocity to the measuring equipment, the equipment is merely measuring that property of the air. Is that clear?
    Yes we have a book but every time it is copied (i.e. bred) there are random changes. The copy looks like the original for the most part. If we select which book copies are permitted to copy again we can transform the Superman Book into War & Peace provided we have enough time.

    This confuses breeding, which is selecting already existing trait to reach a particular biological goal, and evolution, which includes the selection of traits, but may or may not begin with extant traits. And the only ‘goal’ if you will is for the organism to survive today, in whatever habitat the organism finds itself.
    There is no long term goal; evolution doesn’t select a lizard to become a bird; evolution selects a lizard that has traits which cause it to survive long enough in it’s environment to produce offspring; if those traits happen to be more ‘birdlike’ then the previous generation, then they are; but evolution doesn’t care about eventualities.
    It’s true breeding a winged dog would be a massive undertaking. So would creating the Missippii River or the Great Lakes from scratch. But we started this hypothetical by stating the breeder had all the time he needed to accomplish the goal.
    Well, no, those are really bad comparisons; rivers and lakes aren’t ‘evolved’ or ‘bred’ to be rivers and lakes; the property of liquid water is to conform in certain ways to whatever land mass where it happens to exist; rivers and lakes are a expected formation given the properties of water. Winged dogs on the other hand are not an expected property of genetics.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “The problem isn’t the ‘alphabet’ the problem is the alphabet is inexoriably linked to an already extant organisms morphology.”
    You should visit the Walter Reed pathology museum in Bethesda so you have a better idea about what sorts of variations are possible.
    Boonton has picked probably an admittedly extreme example to make his point. But claiming that dogs will never fly is like claiming that fish will never fly or lizards will never fly or squirrels will never fly or shrews will never fly or walking sticks will never fly.
    Never is a long time — longer than a few billlion years, which is clearly long enough for a whole heck of a lot of incredible animals to evolve.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    What changes would the breeder select? Would the breeder select for already existing appendages that look more like wings, or hope something ‘sprouts’ off the dog’s vertebrae? Would he select for a enlarged sternum, an unusually efficient cardiovascular system, or streamlined body structure? The dog would need hollow bones; but if he had them and tried to run like a dog, he would break his bones, so somehow the breeder would have to get this trait to ‘hold off’ until the dog had all the other structures in place. The problem isn’t the ‘alphabet’ the problem is the alphabet is inexoriably linked to an already extant organisms morphology.
    Indeed but so what? If a path exists it will no doubt be quite complicated probably with some set backs along the way. If it would require a million generations there’s no point in even trying to map it out here on a blog comment list. The question, though, is what mechanism produces a ‘barrier’ that will not let a dog breeder produce a dog that is sufficiently far away from the dogs we know today to be called a different species. The only test someone mentioned was whether the ‘new dog’ could breed with old ones. This ties in to my question of how do we know what traits are just a variation on dogs and which would belong to a species that isn’t a dog. What is the craziest possible dog producible by breeding & what would make the next step (something we would call “not a dog”) impossible to produce thru selective breeding?
    And as far as your comic book idea, your program assumes an outcome; War and Peace. Nature doesn’t direct the outcome of an organisms mutatations; organisms mutate,if that mutation happens to be beneficial at that particular time, in that particular place, it stays; it doesn’t move the organism toward ‘wingedness’ or ‘War and Peaceness’
    True. What you are saying it is very difficult to produce a predetermined outcome. For example, we know a glacier will slowly move every year and carve channels and grooves into the ground beneth it. When the glacier melts these channels and grooves will remain in the landscape as hills, valleys and so forth. It would be pretty difficult to ‘build a glacier’ that would leave behind the geography of New England when it melted. To achieve such a predetermined geography we would have to account for numerous variables such as the rate of ice accumulation, melting, distribution of weight and so on. Yet such a glacier did form & left its imprint on New England’s geography.
    Like a specially bred dog, the War and Peace ‘evolving text’ program has a predetermined goal (but it is still evolution, not design, that gets the organism to that goal…the breeder may select big dogs for breeding but he isn’t ‘designing’ a large dog…rather he is directing evolution to design one).
    We could, if we wanted to, produce a program that simulated natural evolution in an environment of text. Such a program would give texts that produced English words a survival advantage over ones that didn’t, an even greater advantages to grammatical sentences…even greater to coherent ideas of great length. There’s no reason, in theory, such a program couldn’t eventually produce marketable novels starting with nothing more than the text of some pulp comic book. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone tries something along these lines in the next ten to twenty years!

  • Larry Lord

    Here’s the script, by the way.
    http://www.ridgenet.net/~do_while/sage/v1i4f.htm

  • Larry Lord

    Boonton
    “What is the craziest possible dog producible by breeding & what would make the next step (something we would call “not a dog”) impossible to produce thru selective breeding?”
    A chihuahua with a penis bigger than an Irish wolfhound’s.

  • Jack

    Actually such ‘bombardments’ are routinely carried out by scientists looking for interesting mutations which confer novel traits on organisms.
    For testing purposes, but not to breed a desirable organism; no domesticated animal breeder would consider this option.
    Jack believes that the original wild dog population included a few mutants with dalmation spots, a few with really curly tails like pugs, a few with long elongated bodies like dachsunds, a few that were tiny like chihuahua’s, a few that looked like st. bernards, a few with wrinkles like sharpei’s, and a few that looked like greyhounds.
    All these dogs exist to some degree in nature now; this is hardly a stretch.
    And then, according to Jack, breeders just found those traits and “optimized” them. Therefore, Jack claims, dogs have not evolved.
    If by evolution you mean the creation of a new species, then no, dogs are not evolved. You might say dogs evolved from something else that was not a dog, but since chows, pugs, irish wolfhounds, etc are genetically basically the same animal, they cannot be said to to have evolved in respect to each other. You are not an African; you have significantly different external features than an African. Your ancestor was an African; are you ‘evolved’ from Africans?
    The term “unsophisticated” was invented to describe such conjectures. Genetics and biology are more complicated than Jack is willing to admit or able to understand. New unexpected traits can and do arise all the time when gene sequences (i.e., “mutations”) appear in previously untested combinations, as a result of mating or some other process related to the metabolism of an organisms genome.
    I have no problem with the complexities of biology; it’s your lack of knowledge about animal science that I have a problem with.

  • Jack

    You should visit the Walter Reed pathology museum in Bethesda so you have a better idea about what sorts of variations are possible.
    Pathologies aren’t exactly what we’re looking for in a breed, Lar.
    Boonton has picked probably an admittedly extreme example to make his point. But claiming that dogs will never fly is like claiming that fish will never fly or lizards will never fly or squirrels will never fly or shrews will never fly or walking sticks will never fly.
    Yes, enough time and we’ll all fly, I’m sure. Indeed, I’m sure some of us already do.
    Never is a long time — longer than a few billlion years, which is clearly long enough for a whole heck of a lot of incredible animals to evolve.

    The magic of eons.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But information has different meanings in different contexts; in the context of genetics, it means a pattern which influences the creation or transformation of other patterns; it’s a coded signal (in this case, a protien based one), which has transmitter and a recipient. In that sense, the air is not transmitting information about it’s velocity to the measuring equipment, the equipment is merely measuring that property of the air. Is that clear?
    OK, so why wouldn’t a chance mutation produce a protein that did not exist in the original animal? (Yes I know one single protein is not enough for anything as dramatic as producing a flying dog). If it did that would seem to be sufficient to break this so-called ‘information barrier’ preventing dogs from someday evolving into something we would call ‘not-dogs’.
    There is no long term goal; evolution doesn’t select a lizard to become a bird; evolution selects a lizard that has traits which cause it to survive long enough in it’s environment to produce offspring; if those traits happen to be more ‘birdlike’ then the previous generation, then they are; but evolution doesn’t care about eventualities.
    I agree that evolution does not have a long term goal. When it went out the door in the morning, so to speak, it didn’t plan on turning dinosaurs into birds. When you meander for millions of years you will go exploring in many different directions. Directing evolution through selective breeding, though, is indeed much more complicated.
    I’d start with a dog with webbed feet and hope to end up with a barking bat-like creature, or maybe I could get something like a flying squirrel if I started with a loose-skinned dog like a shar pei. Would that count?
    Larry, perhaps the most logical place to start would be to reverse the process that produced dogs in the first place. If you ‘bred backwards’ to the last common ancestor of dogs and birds (or bats) you could then breed the species down the path to produce birds (or bats) and then validly claim you used breeding to give dogs wings. I don’t believe there is any mechanism that would prevent natural selection being reversed (getting wolves out of today’s diverse array of dog species for example).
    Jack may be correct in the sense that once you start down a certain evolutionary path (such as dogs) the paths to certain traits (such as wings, gills, chloroform) are blocked. I agree with him if this is what he means, although how we could tell which paths are blocked considering the amazingly huge amount of possible variation has to be explained.

  • Jack

    Indeed but so what? If a path exists it will no doubt be quite complicated probably with some set backs along the way. If it would require a million generations there’s no point in even trying to map it out here on a blog comment list. The question, though, is what mechanism produces a ‘barrier’ that will not let a dog breeder produce a dog that is sufficiently far away from the dogs we know today to be called a different species. The only test someone mentioned was whether the ‘new dog’ could breed with old ones. This ties in to my question of how do we know what traits are just a variation on dogs and which would belong to a species that isn’t a dog. What is the craziest possible dog producible by breeding & what would make the next step (something we would call “not a dog”) impossible to produce thru selective breeding?
    We could imagine anything we want; the hurdles have already been explainged; multiple, radical systemic and morphological changes would be required to cause this to happen; breeding doesn’t do this; intentional genetic manipulation, possibly, but you are talking wayyy in the future.
    True. What you are saying it is very difficult to produce a predetermined outcome. For example, we know a glacier will slowly move every year and carve channels and grooves into the ground beneth it. When the glacier melts these channels and grooves will remain in the landscape as hills, valleys and so forth. It would be pretty difficult to ‘build a glacier’ that would leave behind the geography of New England when it melted. To achieve such a predetermined geography we would have to account for numerous variables such as the rate of ice accumulation, melting, distribution of weight and so on. Yet such a glacier did form & left its imprint on New England’s geography.
    Certainly; if the conditions are right for glaciers to exist, they have the effects described on whatever landscape where they exist. But the mere existence of a particular genetic code gives us no indication of how that code might be modified in different circumstances, because mutations don’t happen in response to the environment, they just happen. If they happen to be beneficial then they are selected for.
    Like a specially bred dog, the War and Peace ‘evolving text’ program has a predetermined goal (but it is still evolution, not design, that gets the organism to that goal…the breeder may select big dogs for breeding but he isn’t ‘designing’ a large dog…rather he is directing evolution to design one).
    Actually, breeding is more like having a library full of books and then selecting the ones you want to read and dumping the rest. After awhile your library takes on a particular charactr based on your choices; you aren’t ‘making’ new books.
    We could, if we wanted to, produce a program that simulated natural evolution in an environment of text. Such a program would give texts that produced English words a survival advantage over ones that didn’t, an even greater advantages to grammatical sentences…even greater to coherent ideas of great length. There’s no reason, in theory, such a program couldn’t eventually produce marketable novels starting with nothing more than the text of some pulp comic book. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone tries something along these lines in the next ten to twenty years!
    It would have to do more than just select for words and correct grammer; in fact, what you would probably end up with is a series of grammatically correct sentences that made absolutely no sense to the reader as whole. But even if you could produce such a program, what would that say? It takes intelligence and engineering to evolve something.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    We could imagine anything we want; the hurdles have already been explainged; multiple, radical systemic and morphological changes would be required to cause this to happen; breeding doesn’t do this; intentional genetic manipulation, possibly, but you are talking wayyy in the future.
    Wait a second, you dodged the question! What is a ‘radical systemic’ change? What is a ‘morphological change’? How many of these are possible? I didn’t ask for an example of a change that could not be produced by breeding (such as trying to produce a Commodore 64 from dog breeding) but asked what the limits of breeding are & how do we know them. Would the limit be breeding a dog that could not mate with the ‘original’ dog from many generations ago?
    It would have to do more than just select for words and correct grammer; in fact, what you would probably end up with is a series of grammatically correct sentences that made absolutely no sense to the reader as whole. But even if you could produce such a program, what would that say? It takes intelligence and engineering to evolve something.
    So now we uncover the crux of the debate. It takes intelligence and engineering to direct nature’s forces. This is why I used the example of the glacier. We understand the glaciers effect on New England was not designed but we could, if we had plenty of resources, try to reproduce New England by building a giant glacier. To get results that look exactly like New England would take a great deal of intelligence. That doesn’t mean, however, that New England was ‘designed’ by some intelligent beign that used a glacier as his tool.
    When we discussed rivers and streams you noted that it wasn’t design but simply the fact that water behaves in a certain fashion when confronted by gravity and a given landscape. Certainly the river is not designed but simply natural laws in motion…but a simulated model of a river on a computer would require intelligence and design.

  • Jack

    OK, so why wouldn’t a chance mutation produce a protein that did not exist in the original animal? (Yes I know one single protein is not enough for anything as dramatic as producing a flying dog). If it did that would seem to be sufficient to break this so-called ‘information barrier’ preventing dogs from someday evolving into something we would call ‘not-dogs’.
    Mutations act on the arrangements of base pairs in the DNA; the DNA then defines a protein. It is concievable (even likely) that changing the arrangement of base pairs would produce new proteins; but you would still have along way to go to get an expressed morphological trait, particularly once you get to vertebrates.
    Jack may be correct in the sense that once you start down a certain evolutionary path (such as dogs) the paths to certain traits (such as wings, gills, chloroform) are blocked. I agree with him if this is what he means, although how we could tell which paths are blocked considering the amazingly huge amount of possible variation has to be explained.
    Actually, this is pretty much it; and why breeding differs from what we commonly refer to as evolution; breeding limits genetic information, evolution, presumably, would add to the the extant amount of genetic information. This is why at the extremes (Large sizes, small sizes, contorted nasal cavities) dogs have a lot of problems with hip displasia, back issues, and breathing (not to mention pugs havs a tendency to get their eyes poked out by sharp objects…verrry bad in nature).

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Aye but for pugs as a species their natural environment consists of the whims of those who love their breed. For them, at least, the increased danger of hurting their eyes when young is more than made up for by the benefit conferred by being ‘cute’ in the eyes of dog owners. Is this really different from the fish or bat whose eyes no longer function after many generations of cave dwelling?
    Let me ask you do you believe a determined breeder could produce a new species if he had unlimited time to conduct his operations?

  • Jack

    Let me ask you do you believe a determined breeder could produce a new species if he had unlimited time to conduct his operations?
    Time? No, I don’t think time has anything to do with it. Technology and intelligence? Certainly, within physical limits.
    But, this also depends on what you mean by ‘species’; physically (as Larry so indelicately pointed out) you could produce a creature that was physically incapable of breeding with others like it (this actually happens with cattle stock; and it ain’t pretty). But I don’t think it neccesarily follows that you have created a new species.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack beats up on the English language:
    “Actually, breeding is more like having a library full of books and then selecting the ones you want to read and dumping the rest. After awhile your library takes on a particular charactr based on your choices; you aren’t ‘making’ new books.”
    But your library is evolving.
    And let’s say that by chance a fire (caused by lightning) knocks out the half of the library on the west wall where the taller books were (because the shelves were taller on that wall, an accident caused by a mentally disturbed carpenter you employed).
    Now all the books in your library are less than 11 inches tall.
    If a person was shipped your entire library after the fire with no other information, would it be reasonable for them to conclude that the uniformity of every book in your library must have resulted from a conscious decision by you to collect only books less than 11 inches tall?
    “It takes intelligence and engineering to evolve something.”
    Wrong. Things on this planet evolve without intelligence or engineering.
    Again, Jack: look it up in the dictionary. If you want to play Mr. Scientist, then start being precise and start defining your terms. I’d like to see you define the term “trait” since you seem to believe — based on no evidence that I am aware of — that all “traits” of all living things that ever existed were encoded for in the first living organism. What is your evidence for that Jack? If I’m misunderstanding you, then please explain — keeping in mind your earlier statements on this subject, of course.

  • Jack

    But your library is evolving.
    And let’s say that by chance a fire (caused by lightning) knocks out the half of the library on the west wall where the taller books were (because the shelves were taller on that wall, an accident caused by a mentally disturbed carpenter you employed).
    Now all the books in your library are less than 11 inches tall.
    If a person was shipped your entire library after the fire with no other information, would it be reasonable for them to conclude that the uniformity of every book in your library must have resulted from a conscious decision by you to collect only books less than 11 inches tall?
    Lar, my example concerned breeding. We didn’t produce chuhuahaus by taking a flamethrower to any dog bigger than a rat. Bad analogy.
    Wrong. Things on this planet evolve without intelligence or engineering.
    Actually, you missed the point; I wasn’t referring to evolution ‘on this planet’; I was referring to Boontoons theoretical evolutionary computer program.
    Again, Jack: look it up in the dictionary. If you want to play Mr. Scientist, then start being precise and start defining your terms. I’d like to see you define the term “trait” since you seem to believe — based on no evidence that I am aware of — that all “traits” of all living things that ever existed were encoded for in the first living organism. What is your evidence for that Jack? If I’m misunderstanding you, then please explain — keeping in mind your earlier statements on this subject, of course.
    Yes, again, when I talk about about ‘traits’ I’m talking about the physical expression of the gene (or genes) which control that trait. I don’t think those genes existed in ‘the first living organism’ (indeed, I’m not sure how that is possible) but I do believe the traits we see now in living domestic animals were extant in the original genetic population of their ancestors.

  • MaxCat

    Man evolved, get over it.
    Why not spend your time applying any % of the ridicules amount of time you have spend on trying to dis-evolution and try to prove that there is a God? Oh and make sure your proof of God passes the same criteria that you have insisted on scientific proof of evolution passes.
    This should be good.
    Science has been at it for 100′s of years and there is volume after volume of written evidence, all you got is a book written a long time ago by men just like you and a few questionable testimonials.
    I believe there is a God, but that is faith and I would never ever try to prove that He existed to anyone. Just the act of trying to prove His existence would in all reality lessen the belief that He did exist. It’s a foolish venture for man to try and prove what cannot be proven or to hold his faith up against what has been proven by science in an ill fated attempt to disprove that science. Foolish is the key word.

  • Jack

    I believe there is a God, but that is faith and I would never ever try to prove that He existed to anyone. Just the act of trying to prove His existence would in all reality lessen the belief that He did exist. It’s a foolish venture for man to try and prove what cannot be proven or to hold his faith up against what has been proven by science in an ill fated attempt to disprove that science. Foolish is the key word.
    Actually, just to catch you up here, the discussion isn’t about whether evolution occurred per se, but it’s on going discussion regarding the similarities/differences between the guided breeding of domesticated animals and cultivated crops and natural selection. this may be too subtle a conversation for the average person, but feel free to join in.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “Actually, just to catch you up here, the discussion isn’t about whether evolution occurred per se, but it’s on going discussion regarding the similarities/differences between the guided breeding of domesticated animals and cultivated crops and natural selection.”
    But you are arguing, Jack, that natural selection can’t account for all of the life forms that ever lived on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention) … aren’t you?

  • Jack

    But you are arguing, Jack, that natural selection can’t account for all of the life forms that ever lived on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention) … aren’t you?
    I’m not arguing that because I don’t know anyone fool enough to argue that natural selection can account for all the life forms that ever lived on earth. Nobody with an ounce of biological knowledge would argue that.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But, this also depends on what you mean by ‘species’; physically (as Larry so indelicately pointed out) you could produce a creature that was physically incapable of breeding with others like it (this actually happens with cattle stock; and it ain’t pretty). But I don’t think it neccesarily follows that you have created a new species.
    I guess I would respond by asking what you mean by species? The definition that was tossed out here appeared to be something that could only breed with its own kind. So since poodles and pugs can breed with each other they would presumably not be different species.
    Given a sufficient number of generations, could selective breeding or natural selection produce an animal capable of breeding with its own kind but unable to breed with the original stock it descended from? I do not see any mechanism that would prevent such a thing from happening.
    If my definition of species is inadaquate then feel free to propose your own. The jist of my point is that there is no ‘information barrier’ or other mechanism that would prevent new species from arising from old ones (aka common descent).

  • Jack

    I guess I would respond by asking what you mean by species? The definition that was tossed out here appeared to be something that could only breed with its own kind. So since poodles and pugs can breed with each other they would presumably not be different species.
    That is the generally accepted definition of species, though it has been extended to include populations of animals that could interbreed, but don’t. (For example, wolves and coyotes) this is more behavorial than anything.
    Given a sufficient number of generations, could selective breeding or natural selection produce an animal capable of breeding with its own kind but unable to breed with the original stock it descended from? I do not see any mechanism that would prevent such a thing from happening.
    Sure, this certainly happens.
    If my definition of species is inadaquate then feel free to propose your own. The jist of my point is that there is no ‘information barrier’ or other mechanism that would prevent new species from arising from old ones (aka common descent).
    Well, the juncture at which this doesn’t seem to operate well is when significant morphological changes are considered (for example, the development of wings); imagining the parts developing from their analogs is easy enough (for exmple wings bones = arm bones); knowing how it is entire interdependent systems came into existence is problematic.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Perhaps but over the course of a million years you have hundreds of thousands of generations if not more. Trying to map the path taken would certainly be quite difficult. On the other hand, it would be difficult to believe that over such a long period significant changes didn’t happen unless there was some mechanism to prevent change.

  • windbag

    Larry says:
    But you are arguing, Jack, that natural selection can’t account for all of the life forms that ever lived on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention) … aren’t you?
    and then Jack responds:
    I’m not arguing that because I don’t know anyone fool enough to argue that natural selection can account for all the life forms that ever lived on earth. Nobody with an ounce of biological knowledge would argue that.
    WHAT? Let me get this straight, Jack, “Nobody with an ounce of biological knowledge” would argue that natural selection can account for all of the life forms that ever existed on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention)?
    Have you queried, say, a random sampling of biologists sitting on the National Academy of Sciences, or any biology Nobel Laureates, or for that matter any freaking (non-creationist) educated biologist about this question?
    This is a *completely* outrageous mis-statement, Jack, made all the more outrageous by your hyperbolic assertiveness when you made it. I realize that deception works a lot better when an audience is convinced that you believe what you’re saying is unquestionably true, but this is ridiculous.
    The statement should correctly read, “ANYBODY with an ounce of biological knowledge WOULD UNDERSTAND that natural selection CAN account for all of the life forms that ever lived on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention).

  • Jack

    Perhaps but over the course of a million years you have hundreds of thousands of generations if not more. Trying to map the path taken would certainly be quite difficult. On the other hand, it would be difficult to believe that over such a long period significant changes didn’t happen unless there was some mechanism to prevent change.
    Sure, significant changes happened. But it doesn’t require just ‘change’; in the case of significant morphological change it requires massive change to one thing, while preserving another, or modifying portions of a system while preserving other portions. And this is said to have occurred randomly.
    Also interesting is recent findings concerning the ‘Ultra-conserved’ regions of the genome. Basically, the very region where one would expect significant change (the supposed ‘junk DNA’) appears to be extremely stable, protected even, in vertebrates.
    How it is the remainder of the genome would have undergone the massive changes required to develop various vertebrates, and certain portions would have remained untouched by those same forces is one of the current mysteries that complicates the whole mess.
    Based on truly random mutation, one would expect change to be consitent throughout the genome; it appears not to be so.
    I’m going out to eat with my lovely wife. Have a great night.

  • Jack

    The statement should correctly read, “ANYBODY with an ounce of biological knowledge WOULD UNDERSTAND that natural selection CAN account for all of the life forms that ever lived on earth (other than the life forms that clearly resulted from human intervention).
    Really? No mutation to the the the genome is neccesary? No isolation of populations, no physical expression of genetic traits? Just natural selection?
    Buzzzzzz! Go back to school.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “I’m not arguing that because I don’t know anyone fool enough to argue that natural selection can account for all the life forms that ever lived on earth.”
    Well, let’s put it this way then: do you believe, Jack, that the evidence shows that for all “un-breeded” life on this planet to have evolved from a single-celled microbial organism, some mysterious alien being MUST have been intervened between the time that this organism arose and the present?

  • Larry Lord

    Jack on windbag’s comment re natural selection
    “Really? No mutation to the the the genome is neccesary? No isolation of populations, no physical expression of genetic traits? Just natural selection?”
    windbag, you also forgot to mention consumption of fuel and the ability to reproduce. Did you actually think biologists just assume these things when they talk about natural selection? ;)
    Yes, I too neglected genetic drift and other mechanisms of evolution because I didn’t want to needlessly complicate matters.
    We just can’t keep up Runnin’ Jack, especially with all these goalposts strewn about.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Sure, significant changes happened. But it doesn’t require just ‘change’; in the case of significant morphological change it requires massive change to one thing, while preserving another, or modifying portions of a system while preserving other portions. And this is said to have occurred randomly.
    Randomly only in the sense that the impact of the glacier on New England was random. Changes along the way would confer a survival advantage so the change proceeds in a stepwise manner not aimed at the eventual ‘goal’ but only at local advantage. Humanity did not originate in Africa and then disperse to all corners of the globe intentionally. Each year they moved a little bit more in all directions seeking food and resources. Only looking at the span of thousands of years does it appear as if they moved with the goal of filling every available large landmass on Earth. Likewise the dinosaurs did not evolve into birds but adapted along the way until they reached birds (assuming that theory is correct, either way I’m probably grossly simplifing the whole thing).
    Based on truly random mutation, one would expect change to be consitent throughout the genome; it appears not to be so.
    Why? If only a beneficial mutation or variation confers an advantage then a random mutation in the ‘junk’ area of DNA would be unlikely to survive. Why would a species with a ‘junk mutation’ be likely to mate with others who have the same mutation? If the mutation improved survival then you have an increased probability of the two meeting up and mating but if it doesn’t do anything then they are more likely to mate with the larger pool that doesn’t have the ‘junk mutation’.

  • windbag

    semantics-before-honest-debate Jack says:
    “Really? No mutation to the the the genome is neccesary? No isolation of populations, no physical expression of genetic traits? Just natural selection?
    Buzzzzzz! Go back to school.”
    MAN…. what a bunch of nit-picking crap-OLA! You clearly know damn well that genetic isolation, mutations that provide variation, and the disconnect between genes and their actual expression are all part and parcel of the stew that natural selection acts within, and upon. But you do your diligent, unflapping best not to acknowledge the obvious spirit of the argument made, and instead ignore it with constant semantic distraction.
    Had you pointed out what I’d omitted…. and THEN gone on to address the implications of my overall argument for your response about natural selection to Larry Lord, then we’d be getting somewhere. But it seems increasingly clear that you haven’t any interest in getting anywhere, ever, on this subject. Progessive discussion is seemingly not on your agenda.
    I mean, isn’t it TIRING not ever engaging in a *genuine* conversation with anyone, ever, on this list? Never actually promoting the advancement of hard-won scientific knowledge or understanding, but rather doing your diligent, slimy best to try to *undermine* it with half-truths and semantic obfuscations of the larger arugment at hand? These are rhetorical questions, Jack, since I predict that your answers to them would spin faster than I or anyone else could ever possibly read them.
    I understand Jesus wasn’t much for lying. Wonder how he felt about dissembling and disingenuiness, two traits that regularly define your contributions to this list.
    Sad and despicable. You nauseate me.

  • Larry Lord

    “Sad and despicable. You nauseate me.”
    Sometimes listening to some good music with a beer in hand helps ease the pain, windbag.

  • Jack

    Lar,
    What’s with the multiple personality “Great White Hope’ ‘Larry Lord’ ‘windbag’ thing? I mean pretending to create your own posse and then having a conversation with imaginary characters is a little scary, man. They all sound mysteriously the same.

  • Gordon Mullings

    To Larry (and others):
    A Note: On Thermodynamics, entropy and the spontaneous origin of life
    Earlier, I asked about the significance of two thermodynamic relationships for the supposed spontaneous origin of life. To wit, (1) dS >/= d

  • Larry Lord

    Jack, believe me, I find the resemblance disconcerting as well. Maybe it’s viral.

  • Larry Lord

    And maybe Kevin T. Keith converted and changed his name to Gordon Mullings. ;)

  • Gordon Mullings

    Shorties:
    Jack, Larry et al:
    I think the back-forth on artificial selection has been telling. If a breeder selects animals (or plants) that are allowed to reproduce and so drives out genetic variety, ending up with breeds, then obviously s/he has used intelligence to develop that breed.
    The notion that intentional, goal-directed human interventions are not intelligent is an oxymoron.
    But then, if one is sufficiently determined to reject unwelcome conclusions, one can always reject the otherwise unobjectionable assumptions and facts. And rhetoric is the art of making the worse appear to be the better case.
    (That BTW is why this is so much more than an issue of mere failure to communicate. We are dealing with the human will here — itself a demonstration that we are not wholly determined by random and deterministic natural forces embedded in our genetics and environment. JP 2 had a better answer: some kinds come out only by prayer and fasting.)
    Larry:
    I see you have continued the attempt to dismiss a key issue through sadly irrelevant considerations.
    (Are you doing your own step by step analysis, especially on the spontaneous emergence of life, which you seem to think is so probable it is occurring today, just not observed? Similarly I think you need to do a bit more research on the subject of husbandry.)
    On the balance of opinions, have you considered that if one has embraced naturalistic philosophical assumptions, and set methodological natrualism as the datum line on analysis, then one’s dismissal of what the thermodynamics is trying to say is most likely driven by begging the question? [E.g. Back in the late 70's in the Caribbean, my thinking on the naturalistic scheme of marxism would have been outvoted hands down; but in the end the majority were dead wrong.]
    Certainly, such closed-minded question-begging has driven the way in which the possibility of miracles is assessed by much of the intelligentsia not to mention the academy. For good reason, and on track record of repeatedly seeing political correctness in action, I do not trust their majority vote to give a fair answer when basic presuppositions are at issue.
    In any case, I have supplied an outline calculation; hopefully that will suffice to help those who are open to really think about the issue. [And, you will note that I am NOT using the thought of Dr Henry Morris et al in so doing, but rather Clausius, Boltzmann, Brillouin, Thaxton [a theistic evolutionist] and even Hoyle [an atheist], Wickramasinghe, and Flew [a former atheist turned deist]; kindly avoid putting words in my mouth.]
    Boonton:
    I have noted just why the marxist system classifies as the largest explicit attempt to recreate society and man in the image of naturalism, how it was self-referentially inconsistent, and how it failed: spiritually, not in the first instance politically or economically.
    For, in response to the Marxist thesis, JP 2 showed up, and prayed, calling down the SPirit of God — the ultimate antithesis. The Poland of 1989 on is the result: synthesis.
    Seems to me, this is a pretty good exemplar and case study of how random and deterministic natural forces do not account for all of human behaviour and thinking.
    $0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Well Larry
    It’s a surprise to see someone else up at this hour, 4:15 am EC time. I hope it is not because of insomnia.
    May grace be granted to you
    Gordon

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The notion that intentional, goal-directed human interventions are not intelligent is an oxymoron.
    Of course, but human intervention can also be non-intelligent. Take the story of wild strawberries. Early humans ate them and then their seeds spouted where they went to the bathroom. Since only large strawberries are worth the effort to look for their seeds were ‘selected’ more than not to end up growing near human settlements. Intelligent intervention hasn’t taken place (yet).
    I have noted just why the marxist system classifies as the largest explicit attempt to recreate society and man in the image of naturalism, how it was self-referentially inconsistent, and how it failed: spiritually, not in the first instance politically or economically.
    Actually the modern world is the largest attempt to recreate society in the ‘image of naturalism’, whatever that means.
    For, in response to the Marxist thesis, JP 2 showed up, and prayed, calling down the SPirit of God — the ultimate antithesis. The Poland of 1989 on is the result: synthesis.
    Or Marxism’s internal problems finally began to catch up with it. Back in the late 70′s, when many people were talking about rising power in the Soviet Union, Daniel Monniyhan predicted it would collapse in less than a generation. He made his prediction based on the fact that he observed no one believed in communism anymore. He didn’t mean the ‘revolutionary’ areas where communism was still a New Thing(tm), but in places that had been communist a long time. People there had ceased to believe in it but still went along with things because they couldn’t think of anything else to do instead. He predicted it was only a matter of time before the system collapsed from the center out.
    That’s more or less what happened, the core communist nations of East Germany & the USSR collapsed. The fringe of N. Korea, Cuba, Vietnam still remain but for the most part they are either falling apart or are trying to change towards a market economy (like China).
    Still I have to say it is silly to focus on Marxism in a discussion of naturalism. It is like focusing on scientology in a discussion of religion. Neither fair nor accurate.

  • windbag

    got news for you Jack: more than one person reading this list finds your tactics sad, despicable, and pathetic. not just larry and some guy named the great white wonder. any similarity in their approach to dealing with you arises at the source of their disgust.
    but with the sweep of your dismissive wand, you once again walk away from a debate. ta-da! back to perform your dissembling b.s. argument-disappearing magic another day. hurray for jack!
    like i said, nauseating.

  • Jack

    Jack, believe me, I find the resemblance disconcerting as well. Maybe it’s viral.
    Yeah, Lar, funny how the alter egos answer for you at times, and speak as you:
    By ‘Larry Lord’
    Oh really? What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”? By all accounts, the earth seems like it’s been condusive to ribonucleotide-based life for much of that time — e.g., not terribly hot or terribly cold over the entire surface. Perhaps you have a different definition of the phrase, “completely random” too. Would that surprise me? No.
    by ‘Great White Wonder’
    Oh and Jack you failed to answer my question:
    What about the earth’s atmosphere or rotation or orbit around the sun or axis tilt over the last 4 billion years strikes you as “completely random”?
    You used those words “completely random” Jack. You said evolution on earth was “completely random”. What does that mean?

    Lar, you have gone completely off your rocker and lost what semblance of credibility you might have had.

  • windbag

    I have an idea, Jack. Why don’t you try synthesizing all the arguments from people that you’ve ever ignored or spun/run away from, into one giant bogey-man, who you can then dismiss as having lost “any semblance of credibility.” That’d be convenient for you.
    “Hey, Look at this shiny object over HERE!!”

  • Jack

    “Hey, Look at this shiny object over HERE!!”
    Whatever, Larry – the Emperor has no clothes. Your charade has been exposed. Give it up. There is no wizard; just a man behind the curtain.
    It’s one thing not to come up with a logical argument; it’s another sad, pathetic thing to try to create the impression of popular support by making up imaginary characters.

  • windbag

    Perhaps into your conspiracy theory you can now incorporate Boonton’s more incisive arguments shreeding yours? Mumon’s next? Me, I’m usually just a lurker here… Larry and the two above are the ones who do the regular public service of unravelling your tireless b.s.
    Confused Jack? Yes, INDEED you are. But good luck with your distractive delusions man. All par for your dissembling, wobbly course.
    that word gets used here frequently, dissembling: “To disguise or conceal one’s real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance.”
    it is a perfect description of Jack’s approach.
    marinate on that for a moment, friends.
    of course, Jack will retort, “who is really appearing falsely, blah blah blah.” spare us all this cheeky crap, and get back to your other, more regularly employed forms of spinning and running. they suit you better than the conspiracy route, which only makes you look like an even bigger wingnut.

  • Jack

    Me, I’m usually just a lurker here… Larry and the two above are the ones who do the regular public service of unravelling your tireless b.s.
    Larry,
    The only contention proved thus far is “I have a multiple personality disorder”

  • windbag

    Keep it up, Jack. Denying and avoiding reality is your strongest suit. Dismissing the existence of people who see through your crap is a good fit for you. An old comfy shoe.
    It’s quite entertaining actually, watching you keep your conspiracy alive. I’m rooting for you amigo. Keep the hits coming!

  • Jack

    Dismissing the existence of people who see through your crap is a good fit for you.
    Larry,
    It has already proved that you have at least one other incarnation here; that is, “Great White Wonder”; in creating windbag you could have at least varied your tenor a bit so as to at least give the appearance of being a separate person.
    I do leave open the possibility that you have a psycho stalker/imitator; but you will have to deal with him, he’s your problem, not mine.

  • Jack

    Randomly only in the sense that the impact of the glacier on New England was random. Changes along the way would confer a survival advantage so the change proceeds in a stepwise manner not aimed at the eventual ‘goal’ but only at local advantage. Humanity did not originate in Africa and then disperse to all corners of the globe intentionally. Each year they moved a little bit more in all directions seeking food and resources. Only looking at the span of thousands of years does it appear as if they moved with the goal of filling every available large landmass on Earth. Likewise the dinosaurs did not evolve into birds but adapted along the way until they reached birds (assuming that theory is correct, either way I’m probably grossly simplifing the whole thing).
    It is true we have a ‘snapshot’ of what went before biologically, and therefore we infer progressiveness to evolutionary processes. In reality, natural selection isn’t required to be progressive; if some steller event radically altered earth’s atmosphere (a la Mars) and made it so that the only creatures ‘fit’ for survival were simple bacteria, then natural selection would have acted, and the most fit organism would have survived; and it wouldn’t be the most ‘advanced’ by our estimation.
    Why? If only a beneficial mutation or variation confers an advantage then a random mutation in the ‘junk’ area of DNA would be unlikely to survive. Why would a species with a ‘junk mutation’ be likely to mate with others who have the same mutation? If the mutation improved survival then you have an increased probability of the two meeting up and mating but if it doesn’t do anything then they are more likely to mate with the larger pool that doesn’t have the ‘junk mutation’.
    But that’s the point; the supposed ‘junk’ DNA isn’t expressed; it doesn’t effect survival at all to our knowledge. You could mutate it all you want and there would be no detriment to the survival of the creature because it’s not expressed. And yet, junk DNA appears to have ‘survived’ unchanged for eons, though no discernible advantage is conferred by it; if the process is truly random, why would an uneccesary portion of the genome be unchanged across a wide variety of vertebrates?

  • windbag

    Congratulation Jack!…. for that wide open mind of yours, considering the possibility that I’m Larry Lord’s “psycho stalker/imitator.” Your intellectual magnaminity is staggering.
    Harkening back to an earlier thread: Making national news, here in AZ, our governor just yesterday vetoed legislation that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to administer birth control prescriptions. It was framed by the bill’s supporters as “civil rights legislation for health care professionals and institutions” providing yet another exemplary contortion of both the english language, and american history, in the service of fundamentalism. Sorry folks, try again.
    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0414pharmacists14.html

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But that’s the point; the supposed ‘junk’ DNA isn’t expressed; it doesn’t effect survival at all to our knowledge. You could mutate it all you want and there would be no detriment to the survival of the creature because it’s not expressed. And yet, junk DNA appears to have ‘survived’ unchanged for eons, though no discernible advantage is conferred by it; if the process is truly random, why would an uneccesary portion of the genome be unchanged across a wide variety of vertebrates?
    You could mutate it all you want but how would that happen? If an individual organism suffered a mutation in their ‘junk DNA’ that offered no change in its ‘fitness’ then it is unlikely to meet up with a mate who hapens to have the same mutation. Changes are its slighly different junk DNA will just get diluted away in the larger portion of population those junk DNA hasn’t change.
    Changes in ‘non-junk DNA’ however are quite different. They will either hurt the animal, in which case they will not get pased down. Or they will help it in which case they will become more dominante. I suspect this would account for relative stability in junk-DNA when compared to the ‘essential DNA’.
    Wikipedia, however, notes that it is far from clear that junk DNA is really expendible junk. It may carry uses we are not aware of yet so the jury is still out.

  • Jack

    You could mutate it all you want but how would that happen? If an individual organism suffered a mutation in their ‘junk DNA’ that offered no change in its ‘fitness’ then it is unlikely to meet up with a mate who hapens to have the same mutation. Changes are its slighly different junk DNA will just get diluted away in the larger portion of population those junk DNA hasn’t change.
    But this argument applies to the entirety of the genome; individual organisms have go through mutations to evolve; presumably they still are able to mate, aren’t they? it is unlikely they would meet a mate with the same mutation; why would those mutations endure, whilce others are ‘watered down’? The whole idea of evolution (as it stands) is that small mutations accumulate; changes to morphology would be impossible otherwise, because a significant structural change reguires a multitude of incrmental changes, none of which is particularly beneficial by itself. One would expect these mutations to accumulate throughout the entirety of the genome.
    Changes in ‘non-junk DNA’ however are quite different. They will either hurt the animal, in which case they will not get pased down. Or they will help it in which case they will become more dominante. I suspect this would account for relative stability in junk-DNA when compared to the ‘essential DNA’.
    Well no, because the entire genome should be subject to the same mutagenic forces; nothing distinguishes junk DNA from other parts of the genome other than it’s function is unclear. It would be expected to ‘evolve’ at the same rate as the rest of the genome, unless of course it was truely functionless, in which case mutations to it shouldn’t matter at all; they would just accumulate without consequence.
    Wikipedia, however, notes that it is far from clear that junk DNA is really expendible junk. It may carry uses we are not aware of yet so the jury is still out.
    I’m not contending it’s expendable junk; actually I think it probably has a very important function, albeit unknown, because it would make no sense for it to be ‘ultra-conserved’ otherwise. But if it is a part of the organism’s survival, one would still expect the same, random mutagenic forces to effect it throughout.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    But this argument applies to the entirety of the genome; individual organisms have go through mutations to evolve; presumably they still are able to mate, aren’t they? it is unlikely they would meet a mate with the same mutation; why would those mutations endure, whilce others are ‘watered down’?
    As I’m sure you know, individual organisms do not evolve. Species do. The individual will go thru life with its mutations & possibly pass them onto its offspring if they are not fatal. If the individual has an advantage then it is more likely to pass those mutations on. If the mutation confers an advantage then there’s not only a greater chance for one mutant to pass on the mutation but also for it to meet & mate with another member who shares the same mutation…thereby making the change even more likely in the offspring.
    What would happen to a mutant whose mutation neither helps or hurts (we both probably agree on what happens to those with harmful mutation)? It has no advantage over its non-mutated fellow organisms so no increased chance for more offspring. It is highly unlikely to mate with fellow mutants.
    What happens to the majority that do not have the impotent mutation? They are more likely to mate with those who lack the mutation thereby increasing the odds that offspring will not have the mutation. Ironically this would appear to preserve ‘junk DNA’ while keeping beneficial changes to ‘active DNA’.

  • Jack

    As I’m sure you know, individual organisms do not evolve. Species do.
    Or more properly, life evolves as a result of the accumulation of mutations which benefitted the survival of the individual organisms.
    The individual will go thru life with its mutations & possibly pass them onto its offspring if they are not fatal. If the individual has an advantage then it is more likely to pass those mutations on. If the mutation confers an advantage then there’s not only a greater chance for one mutant to pass on the mutation but also for it to meet & mate with another member who shares the same mutation…thereby making the change even more likely in the offspring.
    This, again would depend on the mutation; for a mutation to confer an advantage, it has to be expressed as some sort of advantageous trait; of course, when considering complete morphologies, it hard to imagine how each individual mutation would be beneficial without the additional adaptions that actually make the mutation useful For example consider a pterosaur; the wing is based on a greatly elongated fourth digit. By itself a fourth digit like that is uselus; even detrimental if some creature has to drag it around. It confer no advantage. Stretching skin over may help, but the cumulative system requires anatomy changes, bone structure changes, organ placement changes, behavior changes, neural changes, none of which is beneficial in and of itself. It is hard to imagine how genetic drift brought about this sort of modification.
    What would happen to a mutant whose mutation neither helps or hurts (we both probably agree on what happens to those with harmful mutation)? It has no advantage over its non-mutated fellow organisms so no increased chance for more offspring. It is highly unlikely to mate with fellow mutants.
    What happens to the majority that do not have the impotent mutation? They are more likely to mate with those who lack the mutation thereby increasing the odds that offspring will not have the mutation. Ironically this would appear to preserve ‘junk DNA’ while keeping beneficial changes to ‘active DNA’.

    What are you missing here is this; current evolution presumes all DNA comes from accumulated mutations (which for these purposes, includes transcription errors); this includes junk DNA. What we call ‘ultra-conserved’ junk DNA is primarily a vertebrate phenomena; which means presumably mutagenic forces acted on that DNA up to a certin point (in this case, up until about 500 million years ago, or whenever the first vertebrates appeared) and then stopped.
    That means the structure has been extremely stable (immutable) for the entire evolution of vertebrate life. This is at odds with the idea of the accumulation of genetic mutation over time, especially when you consider that mutations would have had to act on that portion of the genome previous to that to get it there in the first place.
    None the less, I will concede the ‘jury is still out’ on the real function of this portion of the DNA.

  • Xiaoding

    Hi Gordon:
    As science advances, religion retreats
    Actually, where the philosophy of NATURALISM advances, by definition theism has retreated; however, last time I checked it seems that it was naturalism on the retreat: Poland, 1979 — “We want God!”
    More directly, we are discussing a clash of worldviews, not at all a clash between science on the one hand, and religion on the other. Science is simply incapable of the degree of proof required to establish naturalism, indeed the latter has already repeatedly disproved itself: it is self-referentially inconsistent at its core. (Cf above.)
    I don’t understand that argument…I suspect the fault does not lie with me. :)
    And, even in China, the Christian faith there has grown from ~ 5 mns fifty years ago to ~ 90 – 100 + mns today. At that rate, China will reach tipping point to become a fundamentally Christian society in the next half-century or so, if the pattern set by the similar culture, Korea, is any guide.
    In short, it is largely in the Capitalist, Modernist and Post-modernist West that Naturalism seems to be advancing or to have triumphed. (And if Bat Ye’or is right on Eurabia, the question is going to be whether it is CHristian or Islamic Theism which will take over Western Europe! Similarly, the panic over Red country in the USA is in good part driven by the realisation that a great many in the USA are simply not buying naturalism’s claims and the policies that stem from it.)
    That is all true. However, the conclusions you draw are wrong. Of course the more primitive areas of our planet are more religious and superstitious, one could hardly expect otherwise.
    The fact that many reject naturism, or at least that way of looking at the world, should not suprise us either. They cry for God, science offers TRUTH. Most people can’t handle the truth.
    Most people stick with what they got, no matter what the cost. Few search for truth, even fewer can handle it when they get it. Religion offers many advantages to societies, especially from an evolutionay standpoint, whereas science is still young.
    I give it another two or three hundred years before science develops the tools neccessary to properly educate the majority of people out of the mental swamp in which they exist. (I speak mainly of brain augmentation here). This should not be taken to mean that science is out to destroy religion, rather, it is religions goal to deal with a much more stable and informed human being. As mankind comes out of the swamp, so must religion. Religion exists so long as it is useful, that is Gods law.
    Xiaoding

  • Jack

    The fact that many reject naturism, or at least that way of looking at the world, should not suprise us either. They cry for God, science offers TRUTH. Most people can’t handle the truth.
    The problem with this statement is that the truth science offers if fairly limited. Science can offer us atomic bombs, science can offer us medicines; science does not inform us about the moral consequences of the use of either.
    Science cannot cause us to love more, or be more creative, or more faithful, or to feel real joy. So on the whole science can only offer partial answers.

  • MaxCat

    Regardless of what you say jack old boy, creationism/intelligent design is at the core of your argument. It would appear that you feel that if you are able to establish that evolution was not responsible for everything that has occurred on earth then you will have successfully opened the door to intelligent design and all that follows in that direction.
    “This may be too deep of a conversation for the average person, but feel free to join in”.
    Oh and feel free to bite me anytime you wish.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Jack,
    I think I see your point about the question of morphogenic changes. Do you think genetic drift might be part of the solution to the problem?

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “nothing distinguishes junk DNA from other parts of the genome other than it’s function is unclear.”
    Part of the reason the function of so-called “junk” DNA is unclear, Jack, because it does not encode for any known proteins or transcripts. It’s just long strings of short repeated sequences without any ORFs (open reading frame).
    That is why scientists originally called it “junk DNA” as well as observations that the sequences could, in some instances, be deleted without any noticeable effects on the organism.
    And also the fact that unlike most sequences, the “junk” dna sequences were variable (possibly because it is difficult to replicate and or repair accurately due to the repetitive nature of the sequences which causes secondary structures to appear in the DNA.
    Bottom line: the statement that the *only difference* between “junk” DNA sequences and the rest of the genome is that less is known about the junk sequences is a totally bogus statement.
    Again, this whole junk dna business is just a stupid creationist talking point, an example of selective quote mining and fixation on semantics that totally occludes the fact that everything that we know about DNA — including so-called junk DNA — was discovered by CREDIBLE SCIENTISTS who understand that the evolution of life is a scientific fact like gravity is a scientific fact. Creationist wankers have contributed ZILCHO to our understanding of the structure and function of nucleic acid.

  • Jack

    I think I see your point about the question of morphogenic changes. Do you think genetic drift might be part of the solution to the problem?

    Well, quite obviously my inclination is to see intelligence being required at some point in the process; however, I will say that having observed the progress in this area for some twenty years, the science has suprised everyone who is familiar with it; and been pleasing and disappointing in turns depending on your perspective.
    Genetics is turning out like astrophysics somewhat in this respect; at one time scientists say, well this seems to be the case, and then ten years down the road it turns out that something else completely different seems to be true.
    I do know a lot of work is being done on the ‘Junk DNA/Ultra-Conserved/gene desert’ regions of the genome (the proof that they’re clueless at this point may be in the terminology); I do know an experiment was done removing certain portions of this region of the genome, to no ill effect to the mouse (though one wonders how they define that) I am willing to make a rather ill-informed prediction that it will turn out to be important, but to some other aspect of of the health and survival of the organism other than it’s direct physicality.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “Science cannot cause us to love more, or be more creative, or more faithful, or to feel real joy.”
    Hmmm. Scientists have created some very interesting and popular drugs that do seem to have inspiring effects and effects on mood that are as real as anything else we perceive.
    “So on the whole science can only offer partial answers.”
    No one has claimed otherwise that I am aware of.

  • Larry Lord

    Mullings
    “Well Larry
    It’s a surprise to see someone else up at this hour, 4:15 am EC time. I hope it is not because of insomnia.”
    Sadly, no. Deadline at work. And my damn computer crashed at 2 a.m.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “Genetics is turning out like astrophysics somewhat in this respect; at one time scientists say, well this seems to be the case, and then ten years down the road it turns out that something else completely different seems to be true.”
    Surely you have many examples to cite … right?

  • Jack

    Regardless of what you say jack old boy, creationism/intelligent design is at the core of your argument. It would appear that you feel that if you are able to establish that evolution was not responsible for everything that has occurred on earth then you will have successfully opened the door to intelligent design and all that follows in that direction.
    Actually, animal science was at the heart of my argument when you jumped in and jumped out, which really doesn’t touch on the issue of ‘creationism’ per se (though does require intelligence, usually a guy in cover-alls with an artificial inseminator) none the less, I appreciate the input, but will pass on the invitation.

  • Jack

    Hmmm. Scientists have created some very interesting and popular drugs that do seem to have inspiring effects and effects on mood that are as real as anything else we perceive.
    Haven’t tried those; I’ll trust you on this though.
    No one has claimed otherwise that I am aware of.
    Actually, the claim was that science can offer truth (actually, I believe it was TRUTH), in contrast to other sources; obviously there is truth to be had elsewhere.

  • Jack

    Part of the reason the function of so-called “junk” DNA is unclear, Jack, because it does not encode for any known proteins or transcripts. It’s just long strings of short repeated sequences without any ORFs (open reading frame).
    Yeah, like I said.
    That is why scientists originally called it “junk DNA” as well as observations that the sequences could, in some instances, be deleted without any noticeable effects on the organism.
    Yeah, like I said.
    And also the fact that unlike most sequences, the “junk” dna sequences were variable (possibly because it is difficult to replicate and or repair accurately due to the repetitive nature of the sequences which causes secondary structures to appear in the DNA.
    Actually, the latest theories seem to indicate that they may serve a ‘back-up’ purpose for the rest of the genome; which is why they are ‘ultra-conserved’ but I’m honest enough to say the the science is still out on this.
    Bottom line: the statement that the *only difference* between “junk” DNA sequences and the rest of the genome is that less is known about the junk sequences is a totally bogus statement.
    I didn’t say the ‘total difference’; you inferred that; in terms of the what makes up these portions of the genome, they are composed of the same ‘alphabet’ as the remainder of the genome; and there is no reason mutagenic agents shouldn’t have effect this portion as well.

    Again, this whole junk dna business is just a stupid creationist talking point, an example of selective quote mining and fixation on semantics that totally occludes the fact that everything that we know about DNA — including so-called junk DNA — was discovered by CREDIBLE SCIENTISTS who understand that the evolution of life is a scientific fact like gravity is a scientific fact. Creationist wankers have contributed ZILCHO to our understanding of the structure and function of nucleic acid.

    Actually, if I were launching into a defense of creationism, I certainly wouldn’t start here.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton
    A few follow up points, expanding my earlier shortie comments, in response to your:
    We sit in comfortable chairs & pontificate on how natural selection supposedly implies Marxism . . . . I was pointing out, though, if you must do it then capitalism looks more like natural selection & evolution than Marxism does. Marxism looks more like Newtonian mechanics where society is shaped by various ‘forces’ that push along predetermined paths.
    BTW, you don’t really understand markets. Markets develop organically & spontaneously. There is no need for ‘overseeing bodies’ to determine prices & when there are such bodies they tend to do more to harm the market than promote it.
    As I pointed out every model of the market uses what we might call ‘unintelligent’ members. Choosing the ‘best deal’ in a simple market model can be done by algorithm & nothing more . . . . but it isn’t human intelligence. It is only intelligence in its most basic form…even a single celled organism needs some type of ‘intelligence’ to know when to eat, when to move, and so on.

  • Gordon Mullings

    The daily shorties file:
    Jack, Larry/GWW etc:
    1] Verbal identity through a key slip is really telling. Jack wins that round.
    2] Also, the back-forth on biological evolution is all too replete with talking past each other and missing nuances. Kindly refrain from ad hominems as they undermine ability to have a productive dialogue. Heat in debate drives out light.
    Xiao:
    1] NATURALISM is a philosophical world view. THEISM is an opposed view, so if people switch to one, they automatically leave the other. In W Eurpoe and N AMerica over the past 100 years of so, a lot of people have gone T – > N. Poland is a capital example of the eventual outcome: when people get sick enough, they go N – > T.
    2] They cry for God, science offers TRUTH. Most people can’t handle the truth.
    In fact, science exactly does not offer truth. Scientific methods infer explanations [laws, models, theories] in an attempt to explain observed facts [which may themselves be inaccurate or misconceived . . .]. Then, predictions are inferred to test empirically, and if the results pass peer review, the explanation may pass into the body of generally accepted thought:
    –> The basic logic affirms the consequent: E IMPLIES O; O, so T is invalid. For instance, If Tom is a cat, then he is an animal; but it does NOT follow that since Tom is an animal, he must be a cat! (Science tries to minimise the impact of this by multiplying predictions and tests. But, as Newtonian Dynamics so clearly shows, even theories that have stood the test for centuries can suddenly start to fail in predictive power.)
    – > Second, science is a celebrity-oriented, prestige based, tradition-driven social system. That means that the power structures in the various institutions and the personalities at work can and do subvert the process of science through their biases and agendas. Have a read of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Popper’s COnjectures and Refutations, as well as more current Phil of Sci work, to see how this plays out in the real world.
    – > Failure to face the truth is a two way street. Here is Jesus on that subject: Jn 3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
    –> After 30 years of indoctrination in a naturalistic approach to the sciences, including mandatory exposure to many atheistic arguments that attempt to refutethe concept that God is, the Poles of 1979 saw through the system and cried out to GOd. Liberation followed. [BTW is there still a requirement of PhD programmes in the remaining COmmunist countries, that, like in the old USSR, a paper in defence of atheism must be presented to demonstrate one's "Correct" scientific attitude?]
    Larry, on a point of fact:
    CREDIBLE SCIENTISTS who understand that the evolution of life is a scientific fact like gravity is a scientific fact. Creationist wankers have contributed ZILCHO to our understanding of the structure and function of nucleic acid.
    –> Gregor Mendel, who set the genetics ball rolling, was in fact: a Monk.
    –> Linnaeus, father of cladistics, was: a Christian
    –> And, though they know well enough to keep their mouths shut or the thought police will come on the run, a large number of working scientists — including in areas relevant to the DNA story — follow one (or, sometimes more) of the major religious traditions.
    –> But then, wasn’t it you who commented that a lot of working scientists believe in God: so which is it: (1) a lot of working scientists are theists, or (2) in a major scientific enterprise engaging large numbers across a fairly large number of disciplines, there are NO theists at work in any significant way. If we take both as true, that has serious, even totalitarian implications.
    –> But in fact the solution is simple: many working scientists do believe in God, but they know that in evil days like these the prudent man keeps his mouth shut about things that offend the power players like Dawkins et al. Otherwise, you get tagged as a fundy creationist wacko and your career suffers accordingly. (FRom the recent survey on ideology of college profs, this seems to be a part of a far broader pattern of emerging tyranny by the naturalists in the academy . . .They used to call it PC thought.)
    Larry again:
    On Working with PCs
    H’mm:
    Deadlines are a bear, and balanced job loading is both an inexact science and one more honouredin the breach than the observance . . .
    PCs are notorious for crashes. If the data is that valuable, run a live backup in a removable hard drive. That way you have data redundancy, live.
    Once a week, do a save to a pair of CDs or DVDs, and store one copy off-site. Increment each week, recycling Grandfather copies when they are superseded by a new Grandfather [assuming you use rewritable media; otherwise have fun at the skeet range every six months or so].
    There are two kinds of people who work with PCs: those who have lost data and those who will lose data.
    Back tot he current situation. Buy a cheap desktop or better yet, notebook, even a reliable reconfditioned 2nd hand. Keep it carefully, and check its condition regularly, at least once per month. But, store it where no-one else will interfere.
    WHEN you have a crash, you will be able to use the hot backup drive on the backup PC. If this goes down too, you at least have up to last week’s data set on removable media.
    And if you are on a mission-critical project, make full backups regularly. (A cheap USB flash drive or disk would work for that.)
    Just a few thoughts from a “dummy” theist
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Larry and Jack again:
    Forgot. In adition to the standard dominant and recessive traits shown by genes, there is a sort of sub-dominance effect where characteristics get blended. In the Caribbean we see this all the time, with the many people of very mixed racial ancestry we have.
    Notoriously, with skin shade — I was just the other day observing that there is a subtle coppery tint in Santo Domingo people that probably reflects the survey result that 40% of their population carry Arawak genes.
    But also with many other characteristics. Thus, there is no need for there to originally be dogs with extra curly tails or Dalmatian spots to create these breeds. But,as a particular breed standard is pursued, there iwll come a point where the variability in the original population is driven out of the artificially selected breed. [Anfd then too displacia etc turn up . . .]
    But a price is paid: loss of the hardiness of the wild population. That is why crops are invariably less hardy than weeds. Also it explains — as Jack noted — hybrid vigour — as some of the variability comes back into the population.
    Okay, trust that bit of poaching over on biological topics helps a bit.
    $0.02
    GOrdon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Update:
    I think I needed to sleep in a bit more this AM. Scrambled neurons?
    PLANCK’s Constant is in Action units: 6.625 * 10E-34 Js. [THis too, is a better way to express Sci notation without sub/superscripts. Pulling Yavorsky and Detlaf when memory, finally awake, said: NO! Reached across and puled this old favourite: Handbook of Physics, a sort of super pocketbook from Mir Publishers.]
    BOLTZMANN’s is in energy per microparticle/degree of freedom units: Sears & Sal: k = 1.381 *10E-23 J/K. I should remember that from my kinetic theory calc on the average energy per moolecule in an ideal gas.
    My former students are probably tut tutting!
    Okay
    Pardon
    Gordon
    PS I see that Windbag and GWW have rather odd looking, evidently contrived email addresses. That tends to corroborate Jack’s argument.

  • windbag

    FYI: I don’t want to facilitate spam (or any private stalking), thus the fictitious email address, since one is required to submit contributions on this site. Occam’s razor, Gordon?
    But ‘corroborate’ Jack’s “gotcha!” dismissal of people’s individual existences, along with their contributions, with it as you please. Anything in the service of discrediting counterarguments rather than honestly considering them and their real implications for one’s own position, especially if that position happens to be rooted somewhere in ‘faith.’

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Gordan, thank you for a very good discussion of marxism that was quite a bit more detailed than I expected. I still have to take issue with you:
    All of this is a distraction. The real issue is this: historically, Marxism has been the largest deliberately constructed social system that has been based on naturalistic philosophy.
    This should read “based on A naturalistic philosphy”.
    Do you think that genetic and environmental determinism in the hands of men who have seared consciences coupled to a lot of power will have any better result this time around, simply because they are recognising the value of markets for economic progress?
    There is a notable fact that while determinism may be true it remains a fact that we are practically indeterministic within boundaries. In other words, it is physically impossible to calculate all deterministic behavior and events. To be fair to Marx, his determinism was focused on society. He believed the individual was largely shaped by his society (which is not really disputed) & he believed that history was driven by the forces inside society. I believe this was more a matter of focus than assumption. Marx didn’t believe society was made by ‘Great Men’ but he did believe individuals have limited free will & choice. It’s just that in the big scheme of things such individual uniqueness tends to cancel itself out.
    Capitalism assumes more or less the same thing. The economy isn’t driven by ‘great men’ like Ford or Gates but by thousands of ‘little men’ making mundane decisions about what store to shop at, what job to apply for, whether to pay the phone bill late or put it on a credit card and so on.
    First, let me disabuse you of the notion that markets have finally won: the underlying watermelon thesis of many environmentalists is that heavy state and international interventions and regulations are required if we are not to self-destruct.
    I’m not an extreme enviro-skeptic but the fact is that many environmentalist ‘theories’ have been either overblown or have suffered from not understanding economics. I’ll agree that generally markets will require some regulation ‘from above’ to keep things from getting out of line but markets:
    1. Grow organically from the interactions of human beigns without concscious direction or control.
    2. Often are perfectly find and self sustaining without a ‘governing body’ or some ‘higher intelligence’ directing things. Often when you find such regulating bodies they tend to be supporting private interests of either the regulator or his supporters rather than the ‘public interest’.
    But, most directly, we are back to the issue of 1979. Marxism-Leninism was on a geopolitical roll, until John Paul II showed up and prayed and called down the Holy Spirit. TO the astonishment of the Communist overlords, the people of Poland walked away from 30 years of the most scientific indoctrination money could buy, and cried out, 1 million strong: WE WANT GOD!
    Or did they really cry WE WANT PORN, DRUGS, ROCK MUSIC AND JEANS! ? Looking at the fall of the Eastern Bloc it would appear Communisms failure was rooted very deeply in materialistic concerns. Communism being ‘on a roll’ in 1979 was purely an optical illusion. Yes on the out fringes of their empire they appeared to be making gains. Gains in backwards, impoverished states like Nicarguara, Afghanistan & elsewhere. These places offered communism no long term benefits & added more to their welfare bills. At home the empire was already crumbling.
    1] NATURALISM is a philosophical world view. THEISM is an opposed view, so if people switch to one, they automatically leave the other. In W Eurpoe and N AMerica over the past 100 years of so, a lot of people have gone T – > N. Poland is a capital example of the eventual outcome: when people get sick enough, they go N – > T.
    Aside from telling the Pope when he visited ‘we want God’ how did Poland go to a Theistic world view? After gaining freedom, one of the first things Poland did was liberalize abortion laws…to the Pope’s dismay and anger. By Theistic do you simply mean respecting religious freedom? An odd position since that’s a naturalistic idea anyway (see Tom Paine and his relationship with the religious).
    It would appear a more accurate thing to say would be that Poland went from N – > N
    But, as Newtonian Dynamics so clearly shows, even theories that have stood the test for centuries can suddenly start to fail in predictive power
    A quibble, Newton’s theories did not ‘start to fail’. They always failed in predictive power. In most cases, though, that failure was too trivial to be of concern when it could even be measured.
    –> And, though they know well enough to keep their mouths shut or the thought police will come on the run, a large number of working scientists — including in areas relevant to the DNA story — follow one (or, sometimes more) of the major religious traditions.
    Larry didn’t say that religious people have contributed nothing to science, he said ‘creationist wankers’ have contributed nothing to science. There is a difference.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Since we were discussing how to define species and speculating on whether species should be defined by inability to cross-breed….it turns out that a whale and a dolphin, despite being different species (but the same family) can mate!
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/15/wholphin.birth.ap/index.html

  • Xiaoding

    Jack:
    “The fact that many reject naturism, or at least that way of looking at the world, should not suprise us either. They cry for God, science offers TRUTH. Most people can’t handle the truth.
    The problem with this statement is that the truth science offers if fairly limited. Science can offer us atomic bombs, science can offer us medicines; science does not inform us about the moral consequences of the use of either.
    Science cannot cause us to love more, or be more creative, or more faithful, or to feel real joy. So on the whole science can only offer partial answers.”
    Indeed, true. More precisley, science offers known truth, and a means to discover more truths. Religion will always be needed to comfort us, in the face of the mystery.
    Xiaoding

  • Jack

    Since we were discussing how to define species and speculating on whether species should be defined by inability to cross-breed….it turns out that a whale and a dolphin, despite being different species (but the same family) can mate!
    Doesn’t suprise me; lions, tigers, leopards all interbred. Horses, donkeys, zebras. Sheep and goats. Wolves, dogs, coyotes.
    I think ‘species’ is a human approximation. In fact, it partially calls into question the notion of ‘endangered species’ and ‘extinction’.
    But the ‘whale’ in question isn’t what we commonly think of when we say whale of the baleen variety; it’s a small toothed whale, rather like a large, blunt-nosed dolphin.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I agree that species certainly seems to be a human approximation but creationists tend to argue that ‘micro-evolution’ is possible but not ‘macro-evolution’. It is logical, then, that there should be some objective barrier between how far a species can change from ‘micro-evolution’ (say wolves to dogs) but beyond which would be impossible.

  • Jack

    Well, there is obviously a barrier; it just extends farther than many expect. I think one place where creationist’s falter is when they try to imbue the word ‘kind’ with a particular scientific meaning.

  • Larry Lord

    Jack
    “Doesn’t suprise me; lions, tigers, leopards all interbred.”
    Speaking of which
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/23/Liger_hobbsatrest.jpg
    Have a great weekend.

  • Larry Lord

    Boonton
    “Larry didn’t say that religious people have contributed nothing to science, he said ‘creationist wankers’ have contributed nothing to science. There is a difference.”
    Thanks Boonton.
    There is indeed a gigantic difference, so huge in fact that one cannot account for ignorance of the difference by invoking carelessness.
    Back in the good ol’ grad school days, nearly all of my molecular and cell biology classmates were church-going and/or Christian types and/or observant Jews, including my best friends among the bunch — some of whom are now fantastic scientists. None of them ever doubted that evolution occurred, of course. People who don’t understand the basics typically aren’t admitted to good biology grad school programs.
    Maybe Fallwell will start a bogus science university to accompany his bogus law school.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Max Cat:
    I think your Apr 13 post is worth a few comments:
    I cannot resist starting with a quickie personal note: as I type, there is a roaring noise that rises and falls in the background. For, over the past several hours, Montserrat

  • Gordon Mullings

    Max Cat:
    I think your Apr 13 post is worth a few comments:
    I cannot resist starting with a quickie personal note: as I type, there is a roaring noise that rises and falls in the background. For, over the past several hours, Montserrat

  • Gordon Mullings

    Shorties:
    Joe:
    Seems something went wrong with the post mechanism, so I had error message and ended up with a double post — without correction of the error message: I expected to see a fail. Is it possible to delete the second copy?
    Larry/Windbag:
    Kindly refrain from unjustified accusations of possible violence. And, my email is real but has not led to an evident increment in spam: Yahoo’s spam filter works.
    As of now, given the pattern of posts across LL, GWW and W, it is you who have a burden of proof to meet. (Even LL’s email address is funny-looking.) And, if we wished to play hyperskeptical games, we could then begin to challenge criteria of claimed proof.
    As to the notion that I am playing gotcha games and dismissing rather than responding to arguments , the thread is sufficient to show who has credibility and who does not. {I will shortly go on to Boonton’s response to my notes on the Marxist form of naturalistic determinism. You — I hold W and GWW as alter egos of LL till good evidence shows otherwise — apart from a dismissive ad hominem and hiding behind the circle of those who beg the thermodynamics question, have yet to respond on a technical challenge.]
    Boonton:
    I first showed how Marx developed his thought within the general stream of naturalistic thought as it emerged in mid C19. Thus, the lack of the indefinite article is appropriate. Marx developed his own variety of self-referentially inconsistent naturalism, and unfortunately Ulyanov/Lenin et al imposed it on millions as a practical reality. If only Kerenski had prevailed in 1917 . . .
    On determinism vs predictability, not even Newtonian dynamics is fully predictable once we factor in error in metrics of boundary conditions. Thus, with positive feedback and sensitive dependence to initial conditions, we get seriously unpredictable outcomes — as is so notoriously with our friend in the SOuth who seems to be having fun again.
    But the point I made is a moral one: Nietzschean Supermen who hold the reins of power use the ideology of determinism to impose their will on others. (FOr instance, that is one way of reading how the in fact poorly grounded claim that homosexual tendencies are grounded in genetics has been used to shift judicial decisions AKA legislating from the bench, Canada’s Legislature, the media and now to intimidate priests who object to the elevation of a man who abandoned wife and child to take up a homosexual adulterous relationship. Back in the 30′s similar thinking led to Hitler’s policies. And of course, in the 20′s, Lenin’s then Stalin’s.)
    That is, the issue is not that in fact people decide in their own minds, but the rhetoric that power centres use. SO, first, I have shown that the rhetoric rests on self-referential inconsistencies in the underlying worldview, in general; and in specific varieties across the past 150 years.
    I have clarified the wide range of possible manifestations of the regulatory and oversight environments for markets: the fear of tribal feuds can be enough to keep the custom sufficiently in place to secure a market. But without property rights and decision makers who choose to supply and demand products in the markets, no markets exoist. Such decision-makers are: intelligent. Thus, markets and market based economies are planned, albeit not on the whole, centrally.
    The point on the watermelon advocacy is that socialist schemes have been repackaged. In fact, a balanced environmentalism that respects the biophysical facts and concerns is possible. That is in part what I have argued in my 2002 JTS-CGST public ethics lecture as linked earlier, and my notes at http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/SD_concept.htm
    THe history of 1979 speaks for itself, and the 2 million Poles who went to Rome and another 800k to Blonie field, plus plus plus . . . is abundant current documentation of just what a great many Poles wanted in 1979. (Indeed, all across the region of the former Iron Curtain, there was a wave of turning to God from the 1980′s on. Sure there was and is a lot of decadence and chaos, but the basic point stands. The even more spectacular case of China’s 20-fold rise in the number of Christians, many of them in the intelligentsia, is even more telling.)
    As to the Abortion law as evidence to the contrary: is the US’s own state of Abortion and Euthanasia law evidence that the country as a whole has chosen naturalism? Or, is it evidence that AMONG THE SECULARISED ELITES AND TEIR MEDIA AND ACADEMIC HANDMAIDS, these notions seem popular and reasonable? That is, I am using a Marxian analysis of ideology and legitimisation of elites and their agendas . . . Marx didn’t see that Marxist state elites would follow the same scheme; ultimately, it failed: WE WANT GOD!
    Up until the 1880′s or so, the extended Newtonian system of thought was the most successful theory in Physics. The failure I reference is not a matter of tiny errors or anomalies no-one could resolve but confidence in the track record would lead the way. No, I mean absolutely and intractably wrong predictions: the Michelson-Morely dilemma, the UV catastrophe on cavity radiation, the freezing out of degrees of freedom in heat capacities etc. From these came Quantum and Relativity Physics in the period 1900 – 1930 or so.
    As to “creationist” I note that LL et al — including the ilk of Dawkins — conflate theism, ID and young earth theism under their rubric “Creationism.” I am basing my remarks on their use. And, even young earth creationists are sufficiently common on the ground that they have played a role in the emergence of the current trends in science and technology. My basic point is that we are seeing a rise in PC-based tranny in the academy and the sciences that makes it wise to keep one’s spiritual convictions to oneself. Those who don’t get targetted.
    Also, the definition of “species” is fairly arbitrary. But, there is a clear limit in breeding: e.g. with very rare [female? Jack, you are the expert . . . ]exceptions, horse-donkey crosses are infertile.
    Xiao
    Science offers a means to provisional, hopefully useful knowledge. Because of its links with pragmatism, scientific realists have a hard time when it comes to justifying their claims given the track record that almost all theories have eventually failed.
    Larry:
    I have already pointed out how, when it suits you, you conflate a range of theistic opinions. This thread contains examples.
    My remarks to Boonton, who is at least serious, provide enough amplification: theists, including young earth creationists, are to be found all across the sciences and technologies based on sciences.
    They know that prudent people keep quiet in days like these where militant secularist thought police are on the prowl, and careers are easily broken if one is not PC.
    The case of Forrest Mims and Scientific American MAgazine is a capital illustration in point. But it seems his daughter has provided some measure of revenge through a notable achievement in her very young days.
    Indeed, even if one ACTUALLY ACCEPTS that evolution was the mechanism of creation, but argues that the evidence points to intelligence, one’s career can be broken by the thought police; as recent events and cases show all too clearly.
    Worse still, I can cite Milton’s Shattering the Myths of Darwin, on outright censorship of material scientific factual evidence.
    For, Milton reports that biologists and medical men who have made discoveries bearing on evolutionary biology

  • Gordon Mullings

    Larry
    I observe your revealingly intemperate, poorly founded, ill-judged, contempt-filled

  • Gordon Mullings

    Larry
    FYSYFI:
    On Accreditation through TRACS:
    http://www.tracs.org/accredited.htm

  • Gordon Mullings

    Larry
    I thought ypu might find the ICR’s Biology programme interesting:
    http://www.icr.edu/biology/index.html
    I excerpt:
    Prerequisites
    A Bachelor’s degree in Biology, or one of the other natural sciences or its course equivalent, is ordinarily prerequisite for admission to the M.S. degree program in Biology. In particular, students entering this course of study would be expected to have completed, during their undergraduate education, a majority of the following: biology-two semesters of general biology (or one semester each of zoology and botany), one semester course in genetics, cell biology (or physiology), developmental biology, environmental biology (ecology), and principles of biological classification; chemistry-two semesters of general chemistry, two semesters of organic chemistry, and one semester of qualitative and quantitative analysis; mathematics-through introductory calculus, probability and statistics; physics-two semesters of general physics.
    Requirements
    Thirty-three (33) semester hours of work beyond the Bachelor’s degree are required for the M.S. degree. These are the standard 30 hours for the M.S. and the supplementary three (3) hours for ICR’s additional studies:

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    As to the Abortion law as evidence to the contrary: is the US’s own state of Abortion and Euthanasia law evidence that the country as a whole has chosen naturalism? Or, is it evidence that AMONG THE SECULARISED ELITES AND TEIR MEDIA AND ACADEMIC HANDMAIDS, these notions seem popular and reasonable? That is, I am using a Marxian analysis of ideology and legitimisation of elites and their agendas . . . Marx didn’t see that Marxist state elites would follow the same scheme; ultimately, it failed: WE WANT GOD!
    I suppose, although you have to wonder if the masses wanted a Theistic society why they would choose to make secularists their elites. I suppose you could say they had no choice, they were fooled or tricked but then this isn’t very consistent with the view that these people boldly used their theism to toss off Communist oppression. If MTV is more powerful than the Warsaw Pact then you have to rest some of the blame on the actual people.
    Also, the definition of “species” is fairly arbitrary. But, there is a clear limit in breeding: e.g. with very rare [female? Jack, you are the expert . . . ]exceptions, horse-donkey crosses are infertile.
    Yea but this doesn’t tell me much besides horse-donkey breeding goes no where. This doesn’t tell me that horses can’t become zebras (or maybe zebras became horses?). If there is some limit then there is an objective boundary where we can draw the line between ‘species’ (broadly defined) & state that micro-evolution cannot move an organism beyond this line.
    My remarks to Boonton, who is at least serious, provide enough amplification: theists, including young earth creationists, are to be found all across the sciences and technologies based on sciences.
    Perhaps but I see little evidence that young earth creationists are to be found in serious numbers among those sciences that take the age of the earth seriously (such as geologists). Nor do I see their lack of respresentation to be due to a campaign of ‘academic tyranny’ that unfairly attacks their views.

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/some_links_2.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    Some links

    These are from yesterday, but I was having Blogger issues and was unable to post. There may be links from today at some point later on. Joe Carter has a rather fascinating post on naturalism. I’d like to write more…

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/some_links_2.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    Some links

    These are from yesterday, but I was having Blogger issues and was unable to post. There may be links from today at some point later on. Joe Carter has a rather fascinating post on naturalism. I’d like to write more…

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/a_couple_links_1.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    A couple links for today

    Joe Carter has a rather fascinating post on naturalism. I’d like to write more about this, but again, I may not find the time in the immediate future. Interestingly, his post reminds me in many respects of several sections…

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/a_couple_links_1.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    A couple links for today

    Joe Carter has a rather fascinating post on naturalism. I’d like to write more about this, but again, I may not find the time in the immediate future. Interestingly, his post reminds me in many respects of several sections…

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    Quick points:
    “I suppose, although you have to wonder if the masses wanted a Theistic society why they would choose to make secularists their elites.”
    –> Like in the US? Seems to me that the Iron Law of Oligarchy lends an explanation: to rise to ultimate power, one has to be a credible alternative — and so elites often dominate power systems even if their views and some of their behaviours are less than desirable or desired by broad cross-sections of the masses.
    “If there is some limit then there is an objective boundary where we can draw the line between ‘species’ (broadly defined) & state that micro-evolution cannot move an organism beyond this line.”
    –> Speculatrive claims aside, it is those who would extend micro-evolution into macro-evolution who have a proof to make, which they have not. (As to arbitrariness of species lines, I gather some of the various Darwins’ Finches species are showuing themselves fully interfertile; but that’s just a bit of memory, check.]
    –> INstead, since Naturalistic thinking dominates in the academy, largely for history of ideas reasons, the range of alternative positions is artificially constrained, e g through methodological naturalism.
    “I see little evidence that young earth creationists are to be found in serious numbers among those sciences that take the age of the earth seriously (such as geologists). Nor do I see their lack of respresentation to be due to a campaign of ‘academic tyranny’ that unfairly attacks their views.”
    –> I am not so sure that the age of the earth is being “taken seriously” so much as projected into a purported, distant and unobserved past. That, we had best do with some due measure of humility regarding the limitations of our scientific methods.
    –> Second, I have not claimed that young earth creationists are present in overwhelmingly vast numbers in the current population of practitioners in any given field of science. Given the predominant paradigm and the power structures that lie behind it, that is only to be expected.
    –> However, it is fair observation to note that YECs and other theists are present in significant numbers and have made their mark in the development of the fields. And, it is very plain from the power of the PC movement in academia, the media and the intelligentsia, that prudent people keep their mouths shut in evil days — Amos 5:11 – 13.
    –> THird, remember, tyranny works best when it is invisible to most: it is precisely the exposure of the tyranny that leads to its collapse as it has to resort to naked force rather than claims of legitimacy. In the nature of the case, such resort is in the long run unsustainable. {Oddly, yet another bit of Marxian analysis — he was surprisingly good on points but fatally flawed at systems level.]
    –> I suspect some of this may well be ebginning to happen in the case of the ID movement. Notice how there is an attempt to conflate them with YECs, so they can be dismissed without serious consideration.
    –> However, current and recent cases are making it plain the evolutionary materialists’ case is fatally flawed from within. So, the resort to the sort of rhetoric, rage and frankly tyrannical measures that I have summarised as “thought police.”
    [Read the case of Forrest Mims, a theist [not sure just now if YEC] who was fired from Sci Am, not because his technical contributions were substandard, but because he did not toe the party line. His column was “discontinued” then after he was gone, a similar one was opened up, and now there is a regular skeptics’ cheering section in Sci Am. There are more other cases than you probably are aware of: they are for obvious reasons, hushed up in the public. I think the underlying issue is called the PC movement.]
    Okay
    $0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton:
    I think I should add a few further thoughts . . . this is between trying to find interesting uses for pumice
    [now in all too abundant fresh supply here in Montserrat . . . BTW, the rates at which deposits and geological changes happened here over the past decade make me wonder sometimes about the confidently projected rates for ancient strata. I gather John Morris of ICR, a PhD Geologist, has been making some interesting and similar analyses of Mt St Helens, a fairly similar volcano to ours. UPDATE: Just listened to the Director of the Observatory, on ZJB radio: she is saying the stuff this weekend was phreatic = ground water plus heat sources, and they are sending off ash samples for analysis to see if fresh magma is involved. She cannot rule out the "unlikely" possibility that such magma could rise quietly, i.e. no earthquake signatures.]
    Okay, points . . .
    1] Controlling power of Worldviews:
    –> Once one confines oneself to naturalistic philosophical frameworks, some form of evolutionary scheme of the world is all but inevitable; purposive development of the cosmos, life, mind are ruled out a priori. (And those who ask questions about it are made to jump through ever higher hoops if they try to prove anything could be wrong with the scheme.]
    –> However, once one recognises that it is not wise to beg questions and foreclose scientific conclusions by considerations that are strictly irrelevant to truth, things look very different.
    –> In this light, a more traditional view of science, that it seeks provisional knowledge of the world through observation, abductive and inductive theorising, experiment and open-ended dialogue, is valuable.
    –> For instance, if one sees that chance, lawlike natural forces and intelligent intervention all play a part in the world of causes and consequences we experience every day, there is no reason to bias the case by begging the question against any one class of cause.
    –> Thus, the basic questions of Design Theory are material: is there a way to discern the random and the purposeless from the intentional? In certain interesting cases: the cosmos, the cell, etc, can we fairly conclude on either side of the question?
    2] A relevant case in point is the molecular machinery of the cell
    –> Cells work as self-replicating, self-maintaining, automata; a class of machine I don’t think we even know how to design yet.
    –> As you can see in an earlier post, I looked at the implications from a statistical thermodynamics perspective, on the random plus purposeless forces hypothesis. The entropy numbers are interesting, very interesting.
    –> For, in isolated systems, interactions at most preserve entropy. When they are opened up, simply dumping in energy tends to make entropy rise even further: it is only where coupling mechanisms convert the energy into work that order emnerges, and of course, waste heat and materials have to be exhausted.
    –> In simple cases, e.g. convection cells, the presence of hot and cold regions and fluids between is enough of a boundary condition for spontaneous order to emerge.
    –> However, in highly complex cases, the complexity of the information makes it highly implausible to me that this emerged out of noise by chance. (I gave a summary of the numerical considerations above. The odds of the molecules of life, or of any plausible precursor emerging by chance are vanishingly small. This is VERY consistent with the observation that noise does not by itself turn into signals of any complexity, much less self-assemble complex, highly specified information- and energy- processing systems from available monomers and materials: tornadoes in junkyards do not create even so much as a golf cart, much less an Antonov Giant AN27 Transport jet!]
    –> That strongly suggests to me: intelligence is the most likely explanation of the cell, which is a far more amazing achievement, considered as a bit of technology. (And, the mind too . . .)
    3] Once we cross that barrier . . .
    –> We can then listen with an open mind to the philosophical note that naturalism is in fact self-referentially inconsistent, thus irrational/absurd.
    –> Further, if life shows signs of design, then it is plausible that the most complex creatures we meet might indeed have encounters with the Designer: our fellow humans.
    –> In that light, the issue of religious experiences, testimony and records takes on a whole different slant; including incidents such as Poland, 1979. For, the “moral evidence” then is not likely to be dismissed without serious consideration as mere delusion.
    –> And, too, there would be a lot of rethinking that needs to be done in the cosmological, planetary sciences and life sciences disciplines, much less the behavioural and social sciences.
    SO, we come back to the question of the comparative difficulties of alternative worldviews . . .
    Perhaps, we could walk that road together . . . ?
    Gordon

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/lifes_top_10_in.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    Life’s top 10 inventions

    A reader recently sent me a link to this article in New Scientist on Life’s Top 10 Greatest Inventions. In case the title doesn’t make sense to you, the basic idea is that these are the top 10 greatest things…

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/04/lifes_top_10_in.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    Life’s top 10 inventions

    A reader recently sent me a link to this article in New Scientist on Life’s Top 10 Greatest Inventions. In case the title doesn’t make sense to you, the basic idea is that these are the top 10 greatest things…

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    –> Like in the US? Seems to me that the Iron Law of Oligarchy lends an explanation: to rise to ultimate power, one has to be a credible alternative — and so elites often dominate power systems even if their views and some of their behaviours are less than desirable or desired by broad cross-sections of the masses.
    Iron Law of Oligarchy? Take the election of George Bush, the success of the Left Behind Series, the rise of talk radio and the success of Fox. If the population wants a theistic worldview I don’t see any signficant barriers to them getting what they want. You’re thesis is that Poland’s population was able to stand up against a naturalistic communist elite but was immediately swamped the day after victory by naturalistic elitists who made them pass an abortion liberalization law against their will?
    –> Speculatrive claims aside, it is those who would extend micro-evolution into macro-evolution who have a proof to make, which they have not. (As to arbitrariness of species lines, I gather some of the various Darwins’ Finches species are showuing themselves fully interfertile; but that’s just a bit of memory, check.]
    I’ll let others handle the details about whether there is proof evolution has happened on the macro as well as micro level. The fact remains that if you want to argue that evolution will work on some arbitrary ‘micro’ level but doesn’t happen on the ‘macro’ level you should present some reasons why. What causes such a barrier to exist? More to the point, if such a barrier exists it would seem more logical to use it as the definition of the boundary between species.
    –> However, it is fair observation to note that YECs and other theists are present in significant numbers and have made their mark in the development of the fields. And, it is very plain from the power of the PC movement in academia, the media and the intelligentsia, that prudent people keep their mouths shut in evil days — Amos 5:11 – 13.
    You contradict yourself, you claim that YEC are probably rare in science because the ‘power structure’ screens out their ideas. Next you claim there’s plenty of them yet they are silent. Is it possible that YEC’s have made contributions in fields that do not focus on the true age of the earth? Yes, just as it is possible that someone who believes astrology may really work to write an entertaining novel or create a useful computer program.
    As far as the age of the earth is concerned the ideas of YEC have been disproven. Yes we should all recognize that the word ‘proof’ needs to be tempered in the sciences with the recognition that we have a limited number of observations & there are still things we dont understand etc. etc. Yet the fact remains if you are willing to consider any question settled in science then the question of whether YEC is correct or not has been settled long ago.
    I notice you seem to lerch towards relativism easily for a critic of naturalism. Rather than recognize a consensus as the best objective evaluation of the existing evidence you are eager to revert to Marxist tools of analysis by ‘power structures’ and such…
    –> THird, remember, tyranny works best when it is invisible to most: it is precisely the exposure of the tyranny that leads to its collapse as it has to resort to naked force rather than claims of legitimacy. In the nature of the case, such resort is in the long run unsustainable. {Oddly, yet another bit of Marxian analysis — he was surprisingly good on points but fatally flawed at systems level.]
    I wonder why those who tried to model their gov’ts on Marxism didn’t utilize the idea of ‘invisible tyranny’? I mean you can hardly call the tyrannies of China, Eastern Europe and the USSR ‘invisible’ to those inside of them. Even those who were never interested in politics or the state recognized their gov’t's tyranny. Perhaps the reason they did not use ‘invisible tyranny’ is because such a thing is impossible to pull off.
    –> I suspect some of this may well be ebginning to happen in the case of the ID movement. Notice how there is an attempt to conflate them with YECs, so they can be dismissed without serious consideration.
    The conflating is of their own making. IDers enjoy the support of YEC & other fundamentalists. If ID committed itself to an actual theory (such as an old earth with evolution being directed by an intelligent designer) they risk alienating their supporters who want to insist on their literal version of Genesis. Yet what is good for success in politics isn’t for science. Theories have to stake their ground. What good is a theory of the origin of life that refuses to say if the process took just 20,000 years or 4 billion? In other words, if IDers want serious consideration then they should act seriously.
    I searched on Forrest Mims, from http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:IV2Vz7avN98J:www.investigatemagazine.com/_IDdisc2/00000531.htm+%22Forrest+Mims%22+ID&hl=en I found that while he does seem to have been denied a column at Scientific American he later went on to publish in Nature…hardly outside the mainstream of ‘respectable science’. From the brief bit provided, though, it appears his expertise is in engineering & computers. Hardly a field where erronous beliefs about biology will cause you a substantial handicap. Is this really your best example of ‘invisible tyranny’? A person who gets fired (probably a bit unfairly but that’s hardly uncommon in the world of journalism) yet goes on to publish successfully elsewhere?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    –> Thus, the basic questions of Design Theory are material: is there a way to discern the random and the purposeless from the intentional? In certain interesting cases: the cosmos, the cell, etc, can we fairly conclude on either side of the question?
    This is the sort of question I’ve asked advocates of ID. Here are some examples:
    1. How can design be detected in a system in an objective manner?
    2. Can we tell if there was more than one designer like we can tell if there was more than one writer in a large amount of handwritten material? If there was competiting designs perhaps?
    3. What historical period(s) did design take place? Was design done at the beginning (ambiogenesis) or was the process ‘tweaked’ along the way by regular intervention?
    4. What is the role of evolution? Are some species the result of evolution and others designed? Can we tell which ones ones?
    Yet ID advocates never even begin to answer these questions while even amateur science supporters try to take on ID criticisms all the time.
    –> However, in highly complex cases, the complexity of the information makes it highly implausible to me that this emerged out of noise by chance. (I gave a summary of the numerical considerations above. The odds of the molecules of life, or of any plausible precursor emerging by chance are vanishingly small. This is VERY consistent with the observation that noise does not by itself turn into signals of any complexity, much less self-assemble complex, highly specified information- and energy- processing systems from available monomers and materials: tornadoes in junkyards do not create even so much as a golf cart, much less an Antonov Giant AN27 Transport jet!]
    The problem here is that to accurately assess probability one must be able to sketch out all possible sceneros. Roll a die and there possible outcomes range from 1-6. Evolutionary theory did not originally address ambiogensis (the origin of the first living thing(s)) & the subject is just beginning to be opened up today. It’s very difficult to make such calculations when you have to consider that it is very difficult to sketch out all possible chemical reactions for a complicated system (otherwise many chemists would no longer have work discovering new compounds & molecules).

    –> Further, if life shows signs of design, then it is plausible that the most complex creatures we meet might indeed have encounters with the Designer: our fellow humans.
    –> In that light, the issue of religious experiences, testimony and records takes on a whole different slant; including incidents such as Poland, 1979. For, the “moral evidence” then is not likely to be dismissed without serious consideration as mere delusion.
    –> And, too, there would be a lot of rethinking that needs to be done in the cosmological, planetary sciences and life sciences disciplines, much less the behavioural and social sciences.

    How we went from the origin of the first cells to Poland 1979 is beyond me. This is why science works best when it is grounded to working in the real world rather than trying to extropolate it into more metaphysical dimensions. The support Poles had for the Pope in 1979 says nothing about the theory of ambiogensis and vice versa.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    I am real tired now, will take up in more detail on the morrow DV.
    However: If the population wants a theistic worldview I don’t see any signficant barriers to them getting what they want.
    –> The population of the US, overwhelmingly, has at least significant aspects of a theistic worldview — there is at least some significant syncretism at work leading to quite a bit of incoherence in thought and life but that’s a secondary point.
    –> An excellent example of how powerful minorities can act in defiance of the will of a majority and get away with it for a long time is the functioning of your Supreme COurt. [It is not at all defensible on any objective meaning ofd the founding documents that there should be a 9-person super-legislature not accessible to recall by the public. That is called oligarchic tyranny!)
    I will read and respond later, I need to get some sleep after writing three very diverse project proposals in one week. [Each of them really needs a month to do right, but as per usual, the month just isn't there. So, back to the old evolutionary spiral development model: good enough for loop one, then develop further on loop 2, 3, . . . BTW, yet again, evolution by design!]
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    1] Fox news etc:
    If Fox news has prevailed in popular opinion over ABCNNBCBS NYT, LAT Wa Po etc, could it be because they have been repeatedly caught with their hands in the cookie jar? For instance, last year, I heard the BBC & CBS radio news reports on the TANG letter and wondered. Then, I had a look at the Charles Johnson Blog, which prominently displayed a superposition of the alleged letters and a default setting version typed on a modern version of Word. I instantly saw what was going on, and it was no surprise to see the outcome of the back-forth over the next little while; including the eventual point that in fact NONE of the four experts consulted had actually assessed the LETTERS as genuine.
    2] Poland

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton
    I think the Jill Stanek article at http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43929 is a little sharpishly written for my tastes, but the issues it raises on the merits are worth reflecting on.
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton
    You asked a slate of questions. Now, I am not exactly a leading ID advocate, but some brief comments are in order:
    1. How can design be detected in a system in an objective manner?
    – > Objective carries at least two relevant meanings: (1) soft: reasonably shown beyond mere idyosyncratic perception (and open to correction in light of new findings), (2) hard: an approximation to absolute — 100%, undiluted — truth. Scientific work, philosophical thought and day to day common sense are capable of 1; 2 is at best a statement of hopeful faith, given the undeniable truth that error exists. I can only speak to 1.
    – > The essential feature of design is that designed systems and patterns of behaviour pursue an objective and/or solve problems, using means that are otherwise unlikely, and which exploit the available forces of nature.
    –> In this case, the primary examples cited by ID are: (1) the fine-tuned cosmos, and (2) the molecular mechanisms of life.
    –> #1 is adapted to life, in so many ways that the alternative, an effectively infinite ensemble of universes, defies common sense; and has NO EMPIRICAL DATA, i.e. it is an ad hoc assertion to save the phenomena for the naturalistic worldview/ paradigm.
    –> 2, as discussed above, uses molecular machines and technologies to effect a self-replicating, self-sustaining automaton using sophisticated data compression techniques that overlap data in the DNA chain. As I summed up above, by targetting key steps in the system and asking how such could have been randomly synthesised under reasonable pre-biotic conditions, we see that the naturalistic, chance and blind forces model runs into an insuperable challenge: making the most complex signals we have in hand out of molecular noise.
    –> More generally, as the Design Theory research programme people observe, the detection of design is a common issue in many important scientific fields of study: codes and ciphers [is it code or noise?], criminology [accident, suicide or murder?], archaeology [is this a natural or accidental feature or an artifact, and if the latter, what is its purpose and how did it work?], statistics [the exercise of rejecting a null hypothesis that a pattern is chance, in favour of one that it was intent, e.g. racial discrimination, etc], and my favourite: TRIZ, the theory of inventive problem solving, as pioneered by Russian scientists over the past 50+ years.
    –> It seems to me that since in our commonsense world we have to routinely distinguish random effects, consequences of natural law and intelligent intent, and confidently do so this is really a non-problem. THe common sense solution is plain: we cannot demonstrate beyond the possibility of error, so we keep an open mind, but in general, if a system or pattern or process shows typical characteristics of design rather than chance and/or blind natural forces then that is the default assumption unless there is reason to rejet it.
    –> Of course, this brings up the issue of the “failed” design argument to God. That is another rabbit trail: if one is selectively hyperskeptical about design in a case of the most sophisticated automata we know, but in ordinary life one routinely identifies cases of design, then one is simply playing the intellectual hypocrite on a case where it is convenient to one’s worldview to do so.
    – > Indeed, in light of the evidence of molecular biology, WIlliam Paley looks very vindicated to me: his error if anything was that he could only imagine something as sophisticated as a mere watch! We are looking at molecular nanotechnologies used to implement self-replicating, self-maintaining automata!
    (Note on this how, after reviewing the main ID issues and the naturalistic counter-arguments, through parallel correspondences with Dawkins and Habermas, the formerly leading philosophical atheist in the anglophone world, Antony Flew, has become a Deist and is exploring the claims of theism.)
    2. Can we tell if there was more than one designer like we can tell if there was more than one writer in a large amount of handwritten material? If there was competiting designs perhaps?
    – > Answered previously: the fact that the DNA-RNA-Ribosome-Enzyme system is so common across the various kingdoms of life from bacteria and yeasts to plants, animals and man, is strong evidence of unity of design.
    – > The largely common data storage programming language is further evidence: shall we call it DNAOL? [Pronounce: denial! Sorry, I found the pun irresistable.]
    3. What historical period(s) did design take place? Was design done at the beginning (ambiogenesis) or was the process ‘tweaked’ along the way by regular intervention?
    – > Commented on in brief: strictly irrelevant to the fact of detecting a unified design at the cellular level of life. Once we get first things first, we can then revisit the reconstruction of earth and cosmic history, with all the material evidence on the table.
    4. What is the role of evolution? Are some species the result of evolution and others designed? Can we tell which ones ones?
    –> Micro-evolution has been shown empirically, amoeba to man macroevolution is still a highly speculative, worldview-driven assertion.
    –> IT should be noted that in some cases of micro-E, what has been going on is essentially the breeding out of variability in the parent population, often in small, isolated sub-populations.
    (NB: in addition to the typical summary that genes are dominant and recessive, there appears to be a sub-dominance pattern in inheritance, where characteristics are blended. This is very evident in Caribbean populations, which are derived from ancestor stocks from all across the world, and often show fine-tuned blended features. There are even people who profess to be able to read the precise blends in the ancestry of a given person from subtle facial, body-shape, dental and skin tone cues. At least smetimes, they can be amazingly accurate: I recall a dentist who rattled off various strains in my ancestry on first looking at my teeth!)
    –> Also, to my present knowledge, there are no cases of cumulative beneficial mutations; indeed, as can be expected from the implications of DNAOL, experiments that artificially raise the mutation rate as a rule have damaging consequences.
    MY OWN REQUESTS:
    –> Kindly provide evidence based on empirical cases of such mutations that show how random genetic mutations and nautural selection have the power to transform an ameoba into a man or something similar over the course of 600 million years or so.
    –> Similarly, provide evidence that demonstrates how, on reasonable early eareth conditions, chemical evolution was capable of synthesising a palusible early cell working with a DNAOL m4echanism
    –> FInally, show how a brain emerging under genetic and encironmentallly determined behaviour at molecular, systemic and organism scales, is capable of trustworthy reasoning and decision-making.
    Okay, maybe we can take this dialogue forward from these brief responses.
    $ 0.02
    GOrdon
    PS Joe, thanks for keeping the thread open
    PPS: Kindly pardon my typos in the thread . . .

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi yet again Boonton
    On the roots and effects of antisupernaturalistic bias in the institutions of science, kindly look at the “dialogue” at http://christianmind.blogspot.com/2005/04/i-believe-in-matter-almighty.html
    An interesting slice-out (read the whole Socratic dialogue-style exchange):
    SM: If you make supernatural assumptions about things, your work won’t go very far in modern science. What a person believes in their private, personal life is irrelevant to their science so long as it conforms to the standards of their field. If it does not, then their work will need to be good enough to overthrow the dominant paradigms or they will not get far.
    KP: No doubt about that. If one adheres to a supernatural worldview, he/she won’t go far in modern science because of the naturalistic bias. Those who are vocal about their religious convictions are ostracized as pseudo-scientists. There is an “in-house” pressure to conform to scientific materialism but this says nothing about the truth of that position. You see, what you’re saying? You’re saying that religion is to be privatized but has no bearing on anything beyond the subjective experience of the one who holds to a particular faith.
    Unfortunately, as Mims exemplifies, as Johnson and Milton documented, and as more recent cases show, this is all too accurate a concern, up to and including thought police tactics.
    Thanks
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Boonton & Larry
    Fact follow ups:
    ICR — and remember I am here speaking of the YECs — has a listing of YEC scientists and accomplishments:
    Biological: http://www.icr.org/creationscientists/biologicalscientists.html
    Physical: http://www.icr.org/creationscientists/physicalscientists.html
    ++++++++
    A sample from a microbiologist, Dr Fliermans, will be helpful in assessing whether we are dealing with credible scientists:
    http://www.icr.org/creationscientists/fliermans.html
    Professional Experience:
    Microbial Ecologist Advisory Scientist, Westinghouse Savannah River Company, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 29808. 1999-Present
    Microbial Ecologist Senior Fellow Scientist, Westinghouse Savannah River Company, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 29808. 1996-1999
    Microbial Ecologist Fellow Scientist, Westinghouse Savannah River Company, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 29808. 1990-1996
    Senior Vice President, Chief Scientist, Environment America, Inc., Aiken, South Carolina 1989 – 1990
    Research Staff Microbial Ecologist, Savannah River Laboratory, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 1986-1989
    Adjunct Research Professor, Department Biology, University South Carolina at Aiken, SC. 1980 – present
    Staff Microbial Ecologist, Savannah River Laboratory, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 1979-1986
    Research Microbial Ecologist, Savannah River Laboratory, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 1976-1979
    Microbial Ecologist, Savannah River Laboratory, E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Aiken, South Carolina 1974-1976
    Post Doctoral Fellow, National Institutes of Health, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 1972-1974
    Memberships:
    American Society for the Advancement of Science
    American Institute for the Biological Sciences
    American Society for Microbiology
    American Society for Limnology and Oceanography
    Current Microbiology
    Ecological Society of America
    Microbial Ecological Society
    American Scientist
    Adjunct Professorships
    University of Georgia, Department of Microbiology
    Wake Forest University, Department of Biology
    University of Puerto Rico, Department of Biology
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Biology
    University of South Carolina, Department of Biology
    University of South Carolina, Department of Public Health
    University of Toledo, Department of Biology
    Indiana University, Department of Biology
    Asbury College, Department of Biology
    Wheaton College, Department of Biology
    +++++++++
    Many more can be linked. But just one will suffice to show that technically credible scientists making contributions in the relevant fields can be YECs to the point of being willing to be listed publicly by ICR.
    $0.02
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Boonton
    Pending further dialogue, this will be my last post, and I will simply respond to an earlier post that brings out one of the key issues:
    ON THE LIMITS OF RANDOM SEARCH STRATEGIES
    On April 13 you posted:

  • Gordon Mullings

    PPS Using a trick for handling numbers over the direct range of pocket calculatore, we may give a value for 26 exp 100, used in the last post. Using 100 lg 26, then splitting the resulting 141.4973 . . ., we get ~ 3.1429 * 10E141. At 70 words per minute “typical” speaking rate, or 2.63*10E6 words that could be spoken per year, 24/7, it would “typically” take more time than the universe has existed to speak ONE coherent sentence at random, by chance. Nor would using a very fast computer make a material difference tot he result. This is of course the same answer as the problem of molecular shuffling to get an informational polypeptide addressed above. THis should be unsurprising to those who know that Stat Mech shows just how unlikely it is for all the O2 molecules in a room to line up on one side of it, even though it is not strictly forbidden by the principles of random molecular shuffling. That is, a “soft” statistical impossibility is just as effective as a “hard” directly forbidden one. Or, again: you cannot make a complex signal out of random noise.

  • http://www.secretcanyons.com/ lake powell

    lake powell

  • J Rod

    Forgive my ignorance, but is not a theist’s morality the one the theist prefers and claims is backed up by the preference of his god in the same way an atheist’s morality is the one the atheist prefers but for which he happens not to invoke supernatural back-up? It’s still one personal preference versus another, except one person claims to have sponsorship by an undetectable supernatural benevolence that spends a lot of its time raping unsuspecting souls of their blissful absolute ignorance and then threatening them with maximally terrible punishment if they don’t do as it commands with the “gift” (which they most surely would not have accepted, had they the uncaused choice between consciousness and never being born in the first place) that was forced upon them, while the other one does not…right?

  • Goedon Mullings

    JR
    I observe:
    one person claims to have sponsorship by an undetectable supernatural benevolence that spends a lot of its time raping unsuspecting souls of their blissful absolute ignorance and then threatening them with maximally terrible punishment . . .
    A few remarks are clearly in order. First, though, tone.
    For, while in fact there are individuals and movements that have indeed abused what is called “Divine Command Ethics,” it is equally fair to note that your remarks reek with dismissive contempt for millions over many centuries who have in fact led highly exemplary and often self-sacrificing lives that have made a big positive difference for the world. Consider William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and the recently passed pope . . .
    Now, on points:
    –> Your post unfortunately betrays a key underlying gap in reasoning: you have followed the selective hyperskepticism of the C17 rationalists and their successors down to today: beliefs are guilty until proven otherwise, save those that are incorrigible [I seem to see a red car . . .], directly evident to the senses [I see], or self-evident [2 + 3 = 5, error exists, knowledge exists].
    –> Cutting to the chase, this is evidentialism, and it is self-refuting: it turns out that this claim refers to itself, but is neither incorrigible, nor evident to the senses nor self-evident. In short, it cuts its own throat from ear to ear and falls bleeding to the ground.
    –> So, while it sounds good to say “amazing claims demand amazing evidence” you need to reckon with the fact that this, too, is an amazing claim — and one that cannot pass its own test.
    –> Further, “undetectability” begs a big question: there is none so blind as s/he who REFUSES to see.
    –> In assessing the evidence that points to God, have you fairly faced the limitations of your critical thinking abilities, and applied to evidence on matters of fact the same standard you apply to other similar issues? E.g. we generally trust our senses and memories, even though they are not 100% provably reliable, we accept that other people have minds of their own [no-one has come up with a proof for this, so we CHOOSE to accept this without proof], we respond to loved ones with trust far beyond the evidence in hand; we trust credible sources as the basis for much of our knowledge, starting with parents and teachers . . .
    –> For instance, in this thread, I have argued that given the identified and accepted science on the molecular mechanisms of cell-level life, we are looking at the claim of spontaneous origin of life as a claim that the most complex signal we know originated strictly by chance and purposeless forces: the lord noise made us all.
    –> In light of the implications of s = k ln w and Brillouin Information, as discussed above in summary, is that the standard you use when you look at other complex signals? [Or, are you pretending that since the arguments fall short of 100% demonstrative proof to any rational being, they have no probative force? Is that how you operate in general life, or in science, where we not only see chance and natural law but also human intent at work on a routine basis, and equally routinely identify and distinguish the three?]
    –> Moreover, have you taken time to reflect on what historical force would have been required to get the Christian church going up against the most powerful empire and thinkers of its day? How is it that, starting right in the centres of these powers [Jerusalem AD 30+, Athens AD 50, Rome AD 40s] and at a terrible price in the blood of many martyrs preaching a message of the risen Lord and Saviour — one that was a scandal to the religious Jews, folly to the sophisticated, secularised Greeks and rebellion to the ever-suspicious power-oriented Romans — they won?
    –> In short, you are free to propose an alternative to Jesus was crucified for our sins, was beuried and rose with over 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom were yet alive when the official testimony was recorded in a document that we can trace in good chain of custody down to today, but your explanation has to pass certain comparative difficulties tests: explanatory scope, coherence and power relative to the Christian one.
    –>Let’s just say that the fact that this challenge is routinely question-beggingly ducked [e.g. cf. the games played by the Jesus Seminar and Dan Brown and their ilk] rather than faced by skeptics is itself telling.
    –> Next, let us look at the specific ethical system in view: the judaeochristian: this is based on the teachings of the two greatest moral teachers in history, Jesus and Moses, who agreed that the core of morality is to love and to treat others as one would wish to be treated, for we are all equally made in the image of God.
    –> Indeed, historically, this core Creator-creature-creature relationship principle is the foundation stone for the claim that we have unalienable rights that no state or powerful person can arbitrarily alienate. (As a black man descended from slaves, this equality before God is especially relevant to me.)
    –> And, whether reformulated as Kant’s Categorical Imperative or as today’s Sustainable Development principle, the wisdom of the Golden Rule yet resonates.
    –> At a more down to earth level, when we quarrel, we invariably claim that we were treated unfairly; and the claim is seldom if ever batted aside as a lion disregards the pleas of a gazelle. That sounds a lot more like the conscience being the Lord’s candle than some alleged blissful ignorance of moral principle rudely interrupted and violated by a divine moralist. [Take time to get and read a copy of Don Richardson's Eternity in their Hearts, then come back on the subject of the assumed blissful state of primitives.]
    –> By sharp contrast, too, a look at the claims of the CFN will rapidly show what happens when the underlying premise of equality under God is rejected: “rights” evaporate, our minds and freedom vanish into skeptical and self-refuting mists, and the ideological foundation for tyranny is laid. Nor is this exactly a new result: over the past 100 years, people died at the rate of 1 Mn people per year under such naturalistically motivated utopian tyrannies. C20 was the time of the worst tyrannies on record, and precisely because its dominant civilisation was turning its back on God.
    –> By sharp contrast, as John Paul II showed on his 1979 trip to Poland [one that was so effective he took four bullets from a KGB assassin for it], the true Christian message — and I am very aware of distortions that have led to massive oppression — yet liberates when we dare to stand up and be sounted.
    –> In short, the WISDOM of the Creator-based moral message of Moshe and Jeshua yet resonates. That is why 2 mn Poles travelled across a continent just to pay respects a couple of weeks ago. That is why Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and even Communist Dictators found it in them to pay last respects. (Fidel Castro declared a day of mourning, and found himself in church for the first time since his siter’s wedding in 1959.)
    ++++++++
    Why then do you show such ill-judged, rage-filled contempt? (Please, consider: could it be that you find the concept of accountability before your Creator to be a chafing restraint on your passions and on your imagination that the world is as you wish it to be? If and when you stand before him in judgement — and Paul’s central point in Athens is that the resurrection of Jesus is evidence to all men that we will stand before our Creator to account for what we did with the gifts he gave us — will THAT wash as a good argument?)
    Okay, long enough for now . . .
    $0.02
    Gordon

  • J Rod

    First of all, let me say that I mean not to come off as combative but am somewhat excitable when it comes to issues such as this. If I have any contempt for religion, it is not (deny my sincerity as you might) for the reasons you suggest nor is it aimed at Christianity in particular. (If my contempt for Christianity is somehow evidence of that religion’s credibility, does my contempt for Islam, which is equal if not greater, also legitimize it?)
    When I mentioned absolute blissful ignorance, I was not referring to primitives, but rather the unborn (or unconceived). If to the best of your recollection your pre-life experience was that of anything but absolute blissful ignorance, please let me know. Perhaps you could produce an argument of a different focus, armed as you are now with my actual contention.
    A quick anecdote about evidence: Often I hear from Christians that, although no single bit of evidence can confirm Christianity by itself, “it all adds up” to confirm Christianity. I may be setting myself up for a blow here (it 3:15 am local time), but I’ve always heard that zero plus zero equals zero.
    How irrational is it to think, as long as religions rest upon logical absurdities such as free will (having a choice as to the nature of one’s choice-making faculty OR of just judgement despite a lack of free will) and omnipotence (the inability to possess an inability) and the problems of the soul (its character apart from nature and nurture) and evil (Epicurus), that the probability of a possibility such as evolution (or of the church’s flourishing, etc.) is, frankly, irrelevant in the face of such impossibility?
    I look forward to your response and apologize if I’m wasting your time. Again, my original reference to the “raping of unsuspecting souls of their absolute blissful ignorance” was concerning our having life forced upon (“given to”) us, or the tyranny of breeding.

  • AndyS

    I’m amazed that this thread is still going.
    I notice that on several occassions one or more have said that since Marxism is bad/failed/evil then naturalism must be so. That’s no different that someone trying to make the argument that since the Christian preacher Jim Jones made 900 people drink poison then Christianity is bad. It’s not a valid argument.
    In the original post, Joe says,

    “The naturalist claims that humans cannot cause anything and yet in the very next breath implies that we have the ability to cause changes in our environment. Apparently, naturalists are exempt from obeying the law of non-contradiction. How else can we explain the fact that their pragmatic applications rest on this oxymoronic claim?”

    And others have echoed similar thoughts including that somehow naturalism is self-refuting (I can only guess they must mean something like Joe’s comments). This looks like classic blog-speak, set up a strawman and knock it down as it that is any sort of argument.
    What naturalism says, as Joes quotes in the post, is

    …Naturalism, therefore, denies that persons have traditional, contra-causal free will – that something within them is capable of acting as a first cause….

    I think people, Joe included, stumble over the term contra-causal free will and don’t consider the explanation of that term that immediately follows: capable of acting as a first cause. Naturalism doesn’t say a person doesn’t cause things to happen; it says there is a chain of causation.
    If I throw a bucket of water on a fire you can say many reasonable things about why the fire went out: The water starved the combustion of oxygen thereby causing the the fire to go out. I caused the fire to go out by throwing the water. Perhaps Joe caused the fire to go by yelling at me, “Hey! Andy, throw water on that fire!”
    Naturalism takes the stance that it is more useful to look into chain of causation rather than to simply say “God put the fire out.”
    Do you really think that you are the “first cause” of your thoughts and beliefs? Didn’t your parents, teachers, books, TV, etc. have something to do with it? Doesn’t most everything we do appear to be part of a chain of causation? Really, just intuitively?

  • Gordon Mullings

    Okay a few shorties:
    JR:
    1] “If I have any contempt for religion, it is not . . . for the reasons you suggest nor is it aimed at Christianity in particular.”
    –> Kindly look at your post; it is only fair comment to observe that it drips with acid contempt, not exactly the best tone to think straight with.
    –> Second, you may have a generic contempt, but you are operating in a judaeochristian cultural matrix. It would behoove you to seek a more balanced understanding of that context and its historical contribution to the liberty, relative justice and learning you enjoy. (That is why I have highlighted the flaws in the implicit, enlightenment-derived evidentialism behind your thinking.)
    2] When I mentioned absolute blissful ignorance, I was not referring to primitives, but rather the unborn (or unconceived).
    –> The unborn are ignorant, by definition. However, this is strictly irrelevant to the easily observed fact that the born, from early toddlerhood at the latest, are inescapably moral in focus: watch toddlers quarrel over toys to see my point.
    –> As to “having life forced on us” this is simple empty rhetoric. The vast majority of humans across history, despite challenges and miseries, show that they value and appreciate the fact, possibilities and pleasures of life. Human culture is testimony to this.
    3] I’ve always heard that zero plus zero equals zero.
    –> This is again a reflection of your evidentialism. Think carefully: a cotton fibre is short and quite weak. Twist them together and you gain both length and strength. Counter-twist several of these long strands, and you have a thread. Keep going, and you have a rope.
    –> That is, in the real world, inductively based arguments — and these are the only arguments we have that tough the gritty, sweaty world of real life — often interact and mutually reinforce until they have the strength that Simon Greenleaf [father of the Jusrisprudential theory of evidence] aptly called MORAL (as opposed to logically demonstrative) certaintly.
    –> SO now, look at the logic of proof: why accept A? Because of B, C . . . But then, that is an infinite regress (or a circular argument . . . just as bad), so proof cannot get started unless one truncates at first plausibles; and such are always open to uncertaintly or challenge — are your memories, senses and reasoning ability infallible?
    –> Why then do you practically live as though they are trustworthy? [I do not know you but I know the human predicament, so this is a safe inference.]
    –> Similarly, most of what you know about major matters is based on trusting the credibility of witnesses and authorities, and their underlying often debatable assumptions. In particular, this is true of historical matters — including notr only C1 Mediterranean history but the history of ideas including scientific ones.
    –> In the case of the multiplied millions who have had experiences and perceptions of God, including many of the pivotal figures of human and intellectual history, why then, do you wish to selectively dismiss entire classes of testimony and experience? (In short: Are you applying a consistent principle of critical thought, relative to how you operate in the rest of your life?)
    3] How irrational is it to think, as long as religions rest upon logical absurdities such as free will (having a choice as to the nature of one’s choice-making faculty OR of just judgement despite a lack of free will) and omnipotence (the inability to possess an inability) and the problems of the soul (its character apart from nature and nurture) and evil (Epicurus), that the probability of a possibility such as evolution (or of the church’s flourishing, etc.) is, frankly, irrelevant in the face of such impossibility?
    –> THis is several arguments in an intended avalanche.
    –> First, on free will: you (just like the rest of us) are in practice forced to act on the intuition that human choice and responsibility are real. For instsance, you are ARGUING with me, i.e. you assume that the evidence and logic can be appropriately responded to by myself as a morally responsible thinker. Thus, you implicitly contradict your theory by your actions.
    –> Omnipotence has long been discussed among logicians, and it is in fact a coherent concept: God has maximally great making properties that are internally consistent, including the power to effect his will. Cf the literature on the idea of God.
    –> The problem of the existence of the soul is a case of the rejection of our plain common sense intuitions in favour of a theory [evidently naturalism] that denies our day to day experience. Cf. above on the plain fact that you are arguing with me as a responsible person, i.e. you implicitly assume I am a living, thinking, responsible soul. It is not manifestly less difficult to accept the intuitions and reject speculative theories that contradict them? [Cf.http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/toolkit.htm ]
    –> The problem of evil? Technical, but please cf. discussion here: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/God.htm Here, you will see that Plantinga has decisively shifted the terms of the discussion, precisely by exploiting the possibilities of the free will that you are so eager to deny.
    –> The church’s flourishing in the face of naturally impossible odds is a well-established fact of history, C1 and C20. Any sensible worldview must account for it as a FACT, or it shows itself incompetent on explanatoruy scope and power.
    –> evolution exists at two distinct levels: micro [Galapagos Finches] and macro [amoeba to man]. The former is well established, though ususally the distinction between selecting out variability [well documented] and cumulative beneficial mutations [another "missing link" story] is too often fudged. The latter, on naturalistic assumptions, is often asserted as proved on the basis of the former, through equivocation that relies on the fudge just mentioned. In fact as I raised earlier, the first gap is to the spontaneous origin of the cellular mechanisms of life, of which I am deeply skeptical on Brillouin Information grounds. So, if macroevolution is an observed “fact” [and here, the fossil record is notoriously one of unfilled ugly ditches starting with the Cambrian explosion of body-plans at Phyla level] there is no compelling case that it is darwinian as opposed to say, an intelligently directed creative process.
    In short, a pause and a rethink are indicated.
    AlanS
    I see you came back. Indeed, I am still here, and willing to engage.
    1] I notice that on several occassions one or more have said that since Marxism is bad/failed/evil then naturalism must be so.
    –> Since I am the one who has repeatedly highlighteds that Marxism is the largest public demonstration of the self-referential inconsistencies and tyrannical tendencies in deterministic naturalistic thinking, I first point out that I have repeatedly cited cases in point about the consistent absurdity of naturalistic thought over the past 150 years:
    –> from Fuerbach [Marx's immediate intellectual predecessor and his source for the thought that in Germany the criticism of religion was essentially finished as at 1844] to Freud, to Crick and Skinner et al, right up to Tom Clark et al at CFN, the consistent result is: naturalistic thinking is self-referentially inconsistent. (Just cf. above.)
    –> THus, you have committed a strawman. Indeed, it continues: Jim Jones was in fact a MARXIST fraud, who tried to set up a socialist utopia in Guyana, then when it failed massacred his followers [poisoned purple Koolaid at gunpoint]and willed his fortune to the USSR and its agenda. GO beyond the headlines and spin to the established facts!
    2 others have echoed similar thoughts including that somehow naturalism is self-refuting . . . This looks like classic blog-speak, set up a strawman and knock it down as it that is any sort of argument.
    –> Again, kindly compare the blog post and thread above: we have highlighted a well-attested fact, one abundantly exhibited by the various naturalistic systems over 150 years. Kindly point out whre for instance my brief summary of Fuerbach, Marx, Freud, Ayer, Crick, Skinner and CFN as stating points that are self-referential and implicitly contradictory is false. For instance:
    (a) if Marx dismissed critics based on the “inevitable” impact of their class conditioning, does not that sharp knife cut Karl’s origins as son of a Jewish man forced to “convert” in order to practice his profession, and his understandably resentful wife?
    (b) Is not Crick’s reduction of thought and decision to neuronal networks and electrochemistry not referential to himself as well, so if he dismisses the one as illusory, then has he not implicated himself, and his own thought?
    (c) If Skinner’s claim that operant conditioning is deterministic of behaviour not logically referenced to himself and his own conditioning as determinative of his behaviour including speech and writing?
    3] people . . . stumble over the term contra-causal free will and don’t consider the explanation of that term that immediately follows: capable of acting as a first cause. Naturalism doesn’t say a person doesn’t cause things to happen; it says there is a chain of causation.
    –> It seems trather that Joe et al HAVE accurately reported this claim, and have highlighted its direect implication — even cited CFN on it: our thoughts, reasoning and behaviour are wholly caused and controlled by our genetic conditioning and our environmental conditioning. [Cf my point by point summary from CFN and my comments to Tom.]
    –> THus, CFN’s argument reduces to thought and decision are in effect illusory: they are merely epiphenomena of the underlying material processes; of no more significance than a sneeze. And, when we see for instance Searle’s discussion on the point etc, it seems to be a serious issue, not one to be brushed aside with a contemptuous backhand.
    –> In short, we are not “stumbl[ing]” we are pointing out direct implications of self-referential absurdity.
    3] Do you really think that you are the “first cause” of your thoughts and beliefs? Didn’t your parents, teachers, books, TV, etc. have something to do with it? Doesn’t most everything we do appear to be part of a chain of causation? Really, just intuitively?
    –> There we gfo again: while our teachers influence us, we sometimes come to very different conclusions . . . just ask a long string of my teachers!
    –> THat is, we must distinguish influence and wholly determinative causation.
    –> And, since I know my own case directly, I will discuss that one. As a matter of fact, it was asking questions on the logic of proof [A requres B requires C . . .] that led me to realise that we have first plausibles that are inherently a matter of plausibility rather than proof. Later, having passed my notes over to a prof in another Faculty for review, I learned that I was following the pattern of thought of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle et al at 2400 years remove.
    –> On this one, my thinking is my own, the hard way. And, while I have further developed my thought by interacting with others, I have done so independently, rather than simply following the conditioning in family, church, community or school. [Inter alia, that is why I am neither a marxist nor a watermelon agenda environmentalist.]
    –> Thus, as I have discussed, when I see theories that would reduce thought to illusion and decision to secondary, wholly determined cause, I respond directly:
    THEORY => NOT-FREE,
    But in fact, FREE by direct observation and experience
    Therefore, NOT-THEORY
    And that, sir, is perfectly logical!
    So, if naturalism wishes to reduce me to wholly determinative chance initial conditions and blind natural forces, that is all the more reason to reject it.
    Otherwise, I undermine the very mind that naturalists expect me to have and use in reading their arguments.
    This is getting long again . . .
    Gordon

  • AndyS

    Gordon, I think you would be a delight to chat with in person. In a blog comment your avalanche of words seems more like you are trying to win an argument, or a host of arguments, with sheer bulk rather than individual well-considered argument.
    Let me focus on one point from your previous comment:

    CFN’s argument reduces to thought and decision are in effect illusory: they are merely epiphenomena of the underlying material processes; of no more significance than a sneeze.

    I think that is quite unfair. CFN does not say that thought and decision are illusory nor even in effect illusory. It says that the thoughts and decisions we make are caused — by training, learning, evironmental conditioning, etc. To say otherwise is to say what … that they appear without cause.
    I experienced a hailstorm recently. A myriad of hailstones bounced off the deck of the house much like a myriad of thoughts bouncing around in my head. Can I determine or experience all the things that caused all those hailstones to arrive with their particular trajectories and land precisely where they did? Of course not. But I’m sure the hailstones where formed and fell by natural causes — so too my thoughts and decisions.
    One of the thoughts I have from time to time is that I have contra-causal free will — the ability to act completely free of the past. Then I realize that is incorrect. I just don’t have the ability to know all the causes behind all those thousands of hailstones bouncing around on the deck. And this is liberating. For all the important decisions I have to make I am delighted I bring my past learning and experience to bear including the judgment I’ve acquired.
    Here’s an experiment: stop thinking for a moment. Try to sit quietly and not think about anything. Try to notice the beginning and end of each thought and the space between them. Do it for 20 to 40 minutes once a day for a few days. I’m rather sure you will at least begin to doubt that your will is really so free.
    I don’t understand the emotional reaction many people have to the idea that we might not have contra-causal free will. Human beings are marvelous creatures full of wonder and complexity and often full of compassion.

  • Gordon Mullings

    AndyS
    First of all, I am happy to see the constructive tone that has emerged in this thread at length. I appreciate your contribution to it.
    I will also respond on points. But first, note that it is far easier to raise a flood of challenges in a rush than to answer them, as response requires that several points, as a rule, be reckoned with. (EG Cf. JR’s avalanche paragraph, and the required step by step response; including links to entire sessions in an intro to phil course, on the thinker’s toolkit and on the balance of forces in arguments about God, 8 pp each, condensing 100′s of pages of thinking and references.)
    On your points:
    1] CFN . . . says that the thoughts and decisions we make are caused — by training, learning, evironmental conditioning, etc. To say otherwise is to say what … that they appear without cause.
    –> In fact, as can be shown, I have in essence simply brought out the direct, self-refuting implications of what CFN has said.
    –> E.g., If ALL of our behaviour (thus, including reasoning and decision-making) is wholly accounted for by genetic and environmental conditioning, then it is controlled by factors that are irrelevant to validity and soundness.
    –> And, that leads somewhere: for, naturalism is of course a system of human thought, so on its own assertions it is whoiolly determined by factors that have nothing to do with soundness. It may, by happy accident still be true, but then, it has undermined the confidence in our reasoning that would be required to test that!
    –> As C S Lewis long ago pointed out: a proof that there are no proofs is nonsense.
    –> This self-referential absurdity is a consistent pattern with naturalist reasoning over the past 150 years; as I have repeatedly pointed out, citing not only Marx but a range of such thinkers from Fuerbach to Crick and the CFN.
    2] One of the thoughts I have from time to time is that I have contra-causal free will — the ability to act completely free of the past. Then I realize that is incorrect.
    –> It IS incorrect, but not as you have argued: this is a question-begging definition that equivocates: to have a freedom of choice is NOT to have freedom from influences and even constraints on the options in that choice.
    –> For instance, I would love to be able to spend US$ 10 mn on a home just now, and put aside a further 100MN or so for a comfy retirement. But I do not have the resources to do that: that’s a hard constraint.
    –> Similarly, even if I did have the sum, how I spent it would be open to many influences and considerations that do nor invalidate the fact that I can spend what I have as I wish, but raise the issue of what is the wise way to handle it. (Consult your friendly neighbourhood MBA programme for the terror-fitted details on the uncertainties and factors to be reckoned with. Then, you will see why prayer for wisdom is the first step to consistently sound decisions!)
    3] For all the important decisions I have to make I am delighted I bring my past learning and experience to bear including the judgment I’ve acquired.
    –> You again move the goal-posts. Experience, learning and judgement do not amount to CONTROL, but rather contribute to decision-making that is free of deterministic control — WISDOM is not control. The CFN’s argument is that such considerations are in effect illusory: your path is predetermined by accident of genetics and environmental factors.
    –> The further point of such determinism is not whether one may unravel the precise cause-effect chain, nor whether one may predict the future trajectory with an arbitrary degree of precision, but rather that the assumption of genetic and environmental control on behaviour vitiates human responsibility, thus paving the way for “concerned” super-parents to take over control of society.
    –> Also, if such determinism were true, it would imply that our thinking embeds illusions at the core: even you confess to intuitions of freedom of choice, thought and action. But if these are illusory, have you not undermined the basis for trusting any of our thinking and deciding?
    –> And, of course, that includes the thinking and deciding we call: naturalism. In short, here is a case of self-referential absurdity, a pattern of thought that undermines itself.
    –> I find it far more sensible to conclude that naturalism implies an absurdity, so by reductio ad absurdum, it is false since it entails plain counter-factuals of real-world human life: falsification by denial of the consequent.
    4] I don’t understand the emotional reaction many people have to the idea that we might not have contra-causal free will. Human beings are marvelous creatures full of wonder and complexity and often full of compassion.
    –> Now, do you wish to imply that it is an EMOTIONAL reaction that drives those who disagree? (I.e. we disagree because our flight/fight hormones are controlling?)
    –> Kindly, take time to observe: my objection, as just noted, is first of all based on the illogic in the CFN’s case, which is logically prior to the associated fact that I am, for excellent historical reasons, CONCERNED that across time similar thinking has often supported tyranny.
    A BETTER PATH: We are marvellously made CREATURES; and our cognitive and volitional faculties, operating properly in the environment they were DESIGNED for, tell us we are morally and intellectually responsible agents. Indeed, in the real world of day to day life, we cannot act otherwise.
    So, I — and a great many others — choose to trust that common-sense intuition, rather than the self-stultifying arguments of naturalism.
    Trust that helps.
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    AlanS
    I think some further data is required to help clarify just why Joe, others and I have understood CFN [and several other naturalistic philosophies over the past 150 years] to be implying that our thinking and behaviour are programmed by our genetics and environment, i.e. we are wholly endogenous to the causal system in the natural world and so are not properly speaking responsible agents.
    Inter alia, that implies that we need to be taken under the care of “super-parents” — with all sorts of tyrannical implications not unrelated to the current fuss and fuming over the appointment of judges in the USA.
    SO, let’s go back to a cluster of excerpts taken in sequence from the CFN site and commented on earlier [ http://www.naturalism.org/center_for_naturalism.htm ] — a target-rich environment:
    1] CFN seeks to foster the understanding that HUMAN BEINGS AND THEIR BEHAVIOR ARE FULLY CAUSED, ENTIRELY NATURAL PHENOMENA, and that human flourishing is best achieved in the light of such understanding.
    – > Translation: having implicitly assumed atheism, CFN confidently asserts that people are robots, programmed by their genes and environment; and in particular the decisions of the power elites who manipulate them. Ask the Poles of 1979 where that leads; http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110006523 — or, cf. Plato

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  • AndyS

    Gordon,
    I think I’ve found something that might shed some light on why we seem to be talking past one another.

    If ALL of our behaviour (thus, including reasoning and decision-making) is wholly accounted for by genetic and environmental conditioning, then it is controlled by factors that are irrelevant to validity and soundness.

    It took me a moment to figure out why this statement of yours put me off so dramatically, then an idea came to me: You appear to think that in some technical sense the term environment may only refer to one’s external environment, which is not the case for the naturalist. In naturalism, your thoughts and feelings are also part of your environment, your inner environment. When I read the word environment I assume it means both external and internal, or outer and inner if you prefer.
    I can perceive a chair in my room as well as perceive the thoughts that occur about using the chair or moving it. I can perceive the desire I have sometimes to sit in the chair or to have a better chair. I perceive thoughts about what defines a chair. That these thoughts may be far more transitory that the chair itself does not make them illusory (I’m not sure where you get the notion that naturalism sees the inner world as illusory. The thought of a chair is not a real chair; I assume we all agree on that.) However, I do have thoughts of things that have no physical correspondent — a unicorn or a conservative that wishes to raise taxes.
    I perceive concepts like validity and soundness and rules and tests related to them — all part of my inner environment — so to with reasoning and judgment. These environmental “features” are part of being a healthy human being, and I’m sure parts of them are genetically hard-wired while other parts are clearly learned.
    I also perceive my inner environment to be rich with linquistic constructs like a lexicon and grammar rules as well as social norms about when to speak and what forms and tone of address to use.
    This inner environment we all have has been crudely modeled in computer software. (This is something I’ve done in academia and business over the last 25 years.) The models are becoming less crude and far more powerful as one would expect.
    So, on the one hand, I’m saying that the environmental conditioning that you mention in the quote above includes one’s inner environment and thus validity and soundness in reasoning and decision making are not irrelevant.
    On the other hand, I’m also saying that the richness of human behavior we observe (physical and intellectual) can be accounted for naturalistically. I don’t think it is fair to say this makes us “simply robots” — that would likely insult the robot makers of the future, perhaps even the present. After all, a computer program has beaten the world chess champion and that was years ago.
    Before you assume that the naturalistically defined human is somehow more open to manipulation of tyrants than the supernaturally empowered person, think about all those freedom and liberty “subroutines” or “algorithms” or rule-based subsystems everyone on the planet (or nearly so) has incorporated.

  • Gordon Mullings

    AndyS
    Something is not working this morning: I have accidentally erased comments directly typed into the window twice! So, I am going to cut-paste from Word.
    On points:
    1] . In naturalism, your thoughts and feelings are also part of your environment, your inner environment. When I read the word environment I assume it means both external and internal, or outer and inner if you prefer.
    – > You have stopped the analysis before the self-referential loop closes: in naturalism, the internal world is wholly produced and controlled by the outer one across time through mutations and natural selection that

  • AndyS

    Gordon,
    Above you referred to the paper Naturalism Defeated, Alvin Plantinga 1994 — as did Joe in his post. I finally had time to have a look. While I’ll admit to having an undergraduate degree in philosophy I’ve not stayed in close touch with much of it beyond the philosophy of language in the last 20 years. Still, it was interesting to have a look at Plantinga’s paper and then read a review of a book that contains a collection of essays rebutting this particular aspect of his work.
    I agree with your comment above that Planting as a professor of philosophy at Nortre Dame and former president of the American Philosophical Asso. is a serious scholar. But so are Dennet and Leiter. All of them, I am certain, are far better scholars than me. I found one passage in the book review especially enlightening.
    In REVIEW of Beilby, James, ed., Naturalism Defeated? for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2002) John Post, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University writes:

    Thus, after the dust has settled, Plantinga’s underlying strategy proves to be very old: point to a stubborn, strategic explanatory gap, argue that (probably) they’ll never be able to close it, then suggest a theistic explanation that does a better job (say by closing it without landing in self-referential incoherence, among other things). Not that Plantinga is invoking a God-of-the-gaps. Rather, he is advancing an anti-naturalism-of-the-gaps. Like all such explanatory-gap arguments, this one is vulnerable to, among other things, a kind of meta-inductive argument: in the past when the science on which naturalism draws was criticized for failing to explain this or that, the gap was eventually closed (or shown to be bogus); what was regarded as an impossibility, or at least an improbability, proved instead to be a lack of imagination or knowledge. Why not here, especially since naturalism continues to be a robustly progressing research program?

    I won’t pretend that I have in anyway rebutted your position by pasting in this quote, only that it shows there is hardly any consensus that Plantinga is correct.
    Hmmm, now going back over the comments I see that Tom Clark has covered this ground. Sorry for the repitition. Tom makes his points very well indeed.

  • Gordon Mullings

    HI AndyS
    Great to hear that you did Phil! (I hope it didn’t hurt your resume!)
    On points:
    I am very aware that there is not a consensus that Plantinga is correct; as you know, in Phil, one hardly ever sees that! “Next Philosopher please” is a classic quip.
    Indeed, even decades after Mackie et al had to run up the surrender flag on Plantinga’s Free Will Defense re the logical form of the problem of evil, I have seen Phil profs who want to push the idea that because to them the logically possible states of affairs Plantinga uses are implausible relative to their naturalistic assumptions, his defense fails.
    But in fact, P. has exploited the stringency of the claim “contradiction” to show that, irrespective of plausibility relative to a given worldview, the augmentation strategy for the theistic set overturns the problem of evil by demonstrating that there is at least one logically possible state of affairs in which the propositions in the are all true and consistent.
    Unfortunately, a similar situation is happening with Plaintinga’s observation that Naturalism is self-defeating, in the attempted rebuttal by review that you cite.
    My remarks to TC on why this review fails are posted above in the thread (BTW, it would help, Joe if the comments had a running number!); I excerpt:
    +++++++++++
    1]

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    You wrote:

    Great to hear that you did Phil! (I hope it didn’t hurt your resume!)

    No, it didn’t hurt the resume since I knew I’d never be a professional philosopher (found too much of the work tedius) and found that employers in other fields appreciated the skills required in philosophy. I ended up with an MS in computer science specializing in artificial intelligence (which some also find tedious). Now with that cat out of the bag you can see where I’m coming from and even perhaps agree with me that we do not share enough basic assumptions to ever come to an agreement on this thread about naturalism vs supernaturalism. A few words on that point:
    Within AI my interest was in natural language processing, getting computers to understand written natural language and respond in a natural language — English, for example. Alan Turing’s “test” fascinated me. To recast it into comtemporary terms, his test for a successful demonstration of artificial intelligence would be if you could not distinguish the human from the AI blog commentators. I believe that day is not far off; some people believe simpler versions of the Turing Test, including Turing’s original version, have already passed; and, of course, some people including one of my CS professors in grad school believe the whole AI program is hogwash. So I come from a point of view that assumes that it is possible to create, in software, all the parts necessary to assemble an intelligent machine: systems for input and output of natural language, knowledge representation, knowledge filtering (the term data mining is used today), decision making, goal seeking, goal formation, concept formation, learning, etc. — even moral reasoning, humor, and poetry.
    All of this has been accomplished in narrow application domains but, to my knowledge, no one has built anything that comes even remotely close to a general purpose AI. Yet, if it was built, you would still claim that does nothing to support the claims of naturalism since intelligent humans built it (you say so above in this thread) and something supernatural is required to create intelligent humans.
    You wrote:

    More to the point, Naturalism, certainly in the CFN flavour, implies that our cognitive functions embed deep delusional tendencies: our intuitions that we are thinking for ourselves, that we are deciding for ourselves, etc.

    It should come as no suprise that I don’t see it that way. I think your argument takes advantage of how slippery language can be. The intuition (or, as I would say, perception) that we are thinking for ourselves is not delusional. It’s an appropriate use of language just as “The car ran a red light and caused the accidenet” is a normal way of speaking. It’s not meant that the car acted out of contral-causal free will and caused the accident. It is, however, not a highly refined, technically useful way of speaking. This confusion of mundane and technial language is the cause, I think, of much of the frustration in debates. When intentional, it’s similar to, and the moral equivalent of, the classic bait-and-switch of the salesperson (and, no, I don’t think you are taking advantage of it that way).
    So, using mundane language, I know I think and decide; I can choose to think about certain things; I can will myself to go for a walk and not eat another cookie. That’s not a delusion. I really do it. However, using techinical language, I see no reason to posit a contra-causal free will or assume that my thoughts occur to me in a supernatural way. I find it much simpler and more consistent to assume that my thoughts and decisions are generated by systems in my brain similar in function to the systems in the AI described previously and, applying Occam’s Razor, I choose to go with the simpler more consistent assumption.
    I use that same approach with the other point on which I bet we will never come to agreement: the formation of the first unicellular organisms. I don’t see any necessity to assume it happened in a supernatural way. That it cannot yet be replicated in a lab only means we don’t yet understand the mechanisms required.
    Let me close with a comment on this point you made:

    …when we show that a belief’s roots are in forces irrelevant to sound logic, we tend to discredit it. THAT is the challenge naturalism specifically has to answer: why should I believe a brain that on naturalistic grounds is illusory when it tells me I am thinking and deciding for myself, when I am in fact driven and controlled by random and deterministic forces in my genetics and environment?

    As to “illusory” and “deciding for myself” my comments above apply: to me that is a confusion of mundane and technical language. As to what to do when a belief defies sound logic, I suspect we do the same thing: change the belief or examine the assumptions on which the logic is applied. The fundamental conflict in our approach to this lies in those assumptions. In particular I believe it lies in our use of language. Luckily, all those random and deterministic forces have built very sophisticated systems in our brains so that we can make assumptions, apply logic, form hyphotheses, and test them.
    Gordon, it has been a pleasure discussing this with you. Since we are the only two left here on this thread, I’d be happy to chat through email. If you’d like to have the last word here, please feel free.

  • Gordon Mullings

    HI AlanS
    Glad to hear the phil did not hurt your career prospects; though MS Comp Sci probably did not hurt. [If you want to know: MSc Physics [Applied], MBA [focus: change].]
    (BTW, on a soapbox issue: I am not at all sure the Turing Test accurately captures what we mean by intelligence, esp. when we deal with a poorly defined context — i.e. the common sense, fuzzy issue gap: people are deemed intelligent when they walk into de novo situations and use common sense to respond to only fuzzily defined challenges. When we already define the situation and slice-dice it with algorithms and knowledge bases, it is probably fairer to say we have analogously captured some of the intelligent processes people use and so can exploit them on a routinised basis in what has now become a fairly well defined area of problem solving — thanks to a lot of intelligent effort.)
    Now on points:
    1] [AI achievements have] been accomplished in narrow application domains but, to my knowledge, no one has built anything that comes even remotely close to a general purpose AI. Yet, if it was built, you would still claim that does nothing to support the claims of naturalism since intelligent humans built it.
    –> You just summed up my point about narrow vs general intelligence.
    –> On ID: if very intelligent and expensive research and engineering eventually succeed in creating an I, Robot Daneel Olivaw [sp? I do not have my Asimov collection to hand], then what would have been demonstrated is: that intelligent design works.
    –> The problem with the evolutionary materialist picture on this is scope: it has yet to account for the cosmos, for spontaneous origin of life, for the transmutation mechanism, for the gappy, but “almost unmanageably rich” fossil record [the major evidence!], and of course for the origin of mind and morals.
    –> THat is, the darwinian world picture gains its credibility not from having really solved the problems it has faced with evidence, since 1859, but rather from the assumption of naturalism. But that is philosphy, not science, and is properly open to phil objections and the test of comparative difficulties on explanatory scope, coherence and power. I believe it is fair, abundantly justified and true comment that naturalism fails relative to theism on all three.
    2] The intuition (or, as I would say, perception) that we are thinking for ourselves is not delusional. It’s an appropriate use of language just as “The car ran a red light and caused the accidenet” is a normal way of speaking. It’s not meant that the car acted out of contral-causal free will and caused the accident.
    –> You have simply tried to deny rather than refute my point, but have made a damaging concession. FOr, cars are not intelligent decision makers, and no-one argues that they think for themselves. So, in an accident, the issue is usually human or mechanical failure. And the mechanical system is of course the product of ~ US$ 500 mn worth of intelligent design constrained by requisites on maintenance and the underlying problems with materials, e.g. fatigue failure.
    –> So, by talking of human reasoning, dialogue, and decision-making as if we were cars, in effect you have conceded my point!
    –> For, your analogy implies we are being run by something else — blind natural forces, with chance boundary conditions. A car [BTW, a product of intelligent design -- tornadoes in junkyards do not assemble LTDs!] THAT out of control would be a real menace, I would say!
    3] Equivocation?
    confusion of mundane and technial language is the cause, I think, of much of the frustration in debates. When intentional, it’s similar to, and the moral equivalent of, the classic bait-and-switch of the salesperson (and, no, I don’t think you are taking advantage of it that way).
    –> The issue has little or nothing to do with confusion of language. If we are wholly caused, secondary causes, as CFN argues, that means that we are endogenous to the global naturalistic process over the past 13.7 BY.
    –> In particular, it means that our reasoning and deciding are driven and controlled causally by forces that are in the end physical and are irrelevant to truth, logic and soundness.
    –> Echoing Crick, neuronal activity has to do with firing potentials and ion concentration gradients, not truth or right; resulting in behaviour that is either pragmatically [Jamesean sense] adaptive or maladaptive — ie tends/not to promote more offspring.
    –> On this, note how TC fudged the definition of veridicality towards what he should have known, as an American philospher ~ 100 years after Wm James, is a fatally flawed theory of truth!
    –> Also, judging by the relevant reproduction rates in W. Europe, where naturalism has dominated, it seems even the Jamesian/Darwinian test is being failed by naturalism. (Given the force of Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia thesis, it seems that 1683 is being revisited, with a very different probable result, as a direct consequence. But, that’s another discussion.)
    –> Now, by happy accident the result of such a pragmatic process may sometimes be true or right, but in fact philosophers have known for ~ 100 years that pragmatic success is strictly irrelevant to truth or right: it is not a reliable truth-finding process. That is exactly where Plantinga’s case draws its force!
    –> ANd, as I cited, the very “delusion” that we are thinking for our selves and deciding for ourselves underscores the point. FOr, we cannot seriously debate or think or decide except we in practice accept at face value this intuition; so if the intuition is a delusion, it fundamentally undermines our whole cognitive function.
    –> Thus, any theory that does this, must be self-stultifying, for it was reached through a process it then proceeds to dismiss as a delusion!
    4] So, using mundane language, I know I think and decide; I can choose to think about certain things; I can will myself to go for a walk and not eat another cookie. That’s not a delusion. I really do it. However, using techinical language, I see no reason to posit a contra-causal free will or assume that my thoughts occur to me in a supernatural way.
    –> You just underscored my point! You acknowledge that you are thinking for yourself, but implicitly concede that you cannot account for it on naturalistic grounds — or, you would have given them.
    –> In short, it is plain that the CFN-style thought reduces itself to the absurdity of not being able to address the reliability of the very cognitive process that gave it birth.
    5] I find it much simpler and more consistent to assume that my thoughts and decisions are generated by systems in my brain similar in function to the systems in the AI described previously and, applying Occam’s Razor, I choose to go with the simpler more consistent assumption.
    –> Not exactly a gracious concession, but a concession. For, AI systems are . . . INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED. (Even the hoped for general AI, if it ever arrives.)
    –> Next, Occam is based on accounting for the full scope of material facts in the simplest way: I just highlighted a material fact: ID of intelligent systems, so please account for it.
    –> And, I — following many other far more august figures than you or I — have repeatedly summarised evidence in this thread that shows how naturalistic systems of thought specifically and in general, are self-referentially inconsistent.
    –> That we are the product of an intelligent, moral Creator, adapted to function in a cosmos that he made is exceptionally coherent and powerfully explanatory, not to mention simple; by sharp contrast.
    THus, so far I think the issue is that we disagree, but it seems to me that in your arguments you are beginning to concede key points of the theistic case that naturalism is self-referentially inconsistent.
    ++++++++
    If you wish to continue by email, I have no problem with that; my email, as noted earlier is real. (Though, I do think that a public discussion open to injection by lurkers, and on the record is important, not least as a thinking through in the sunlight of how the thinking plays out on the two major philosophical assumptions current in Western Culture.)
    SO, I would prefer to continue in public but would entertain an email exchange.
    Thanks for the constructive tone.
    Grace be to you
    Gordon

  • AndyS

    Gordon,
    You are certainly an atypical blog commentator! I’m impressed with your breadth of knowledge. So, as long as Joe let’s us continue here in this public forum of his on the tail end of an old thread and there is some tangible value in this for both of us, I’m still game.

    On ID: if very intelligent and expensive research and engineering eventually succeed in creating an I, Robot Daneel Olivaw [sp? I do not have my Asimov collection to hand], then what would have been demonstrated is: that intelligent design works.

    Yes, very good! For me, however, it is also true that human beings represent proof that purely naturalistic evolution works, i.e. has produced intelligent beings. Again, I don’t think either of us will change our viewpoints.

    The problem with the evolutionary materialist picture on this is scope: it has yet to account for the cosmos, for spontaneous origin of life, for the transmutation mechanism, for the gappy, but “almost unmanageably rich” fossil record [the major evidence!], and of course for the origin of mind and morals.

    Hmm, this is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? And rather an extension of the canonical

  • Gordon Mullings

    HI Andy
    OKay, let’s continue: I think Joe probably sees at least some value in this thread; thanks!
    ON points:
    1] For me, however, it is also true that human beings represent proof that purely naturalistic evolution works, i.e. has produced intelligent beings. . . . . [a further clip from GEM] is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? And rather an extension of the canonical

  • AndyS

    Greetings once again, Gordon,
    Reflecting on what we’ve accomplished in this dialog, I am both delighted and frustrated. Delighted because I am clarifying (and, I dare say, strengthing) my own thinking and beliefs as well as coming to a better understanding yours. Frustrated because on so many points we are running in circles with neither of us contributing anything fundamentally new to the debate. Everything we’ve discussed is likely done more completely and readably on the TalkOrigins and TrueOrigins websites.
    Still, perhaps there is some small value to someone reading this in seeing how our ideas unfold. Let Joe be the judge.

    There is frequently a further implicit assumption that only naturalistic

  • AndyS

    My cut and paste from editor to browser failed to get the links right. Here is another attemp with just the links:
    TalkOrigins and TrueOrigins websites.
    Nic McPhee
    Michael Shermer

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Let us continue in this pocket of civility, maybe that is part of why Joe tolerates an open, nearly month-old thread!
    1] each time I take a plane flight I am hoping that the theories of gravity, aerodynmaics, and material science are pretty close to

  • Gordon Mullings

    Alan
    Continuing, after several duties and one freshly-picked guava . . .
    7] Agency as a Scientific concept
    – > Above, I briefly pointed out that springs and climate studies both routinely address agency and its consequences. Before in the thread, I gave the case of using statistical studies to detect say racially biased hiring [note the implications of the breadth of the descriptive definition I gave for what science aims to do, addresses and sometimes achieves].
    – > Pharmacology, though, may be a more useful tool for showing how agency with intent, i.e. design, can be a legitimate and even non-controversial scientific study:
    a] Pharmacology is the scientific study of poisons in small doses, where beneficial outcomes hopefuly outweigh adverse ones.
    b] The drugs being investigated are partly extracted from natural sources and are partly synthesised by applications of organic chemistry. Thus, design = agency + intent, is involved.
    c] drugs are tested for performance, generally using statistical techniques for detecting a non-random [and non-placebo] outcome, and in many cases have been accepted as effective even when the precise mechanism is unknown. Aspirin is of course a major case in point.
    – > Clearly then, we know how to scientifically detect the effects of design vs chance and disturbance inputs, on a probability basis. (And, in the real world, probability — or even relative plausibility — are what we have.)
    8] Implications:
    – > Now, of course, I selected pharmacology for a reason: we are here essentially studying how a perturbing input from intentionally created and applied bioactive chemicals affects the molecular mechanisms of life. And we literally routinely trust our lives to the outcomes, probabilistic though they inevitably are. Drugs are POISONS, taken in small doses, after all.
    – > THus, we see that molecules can be designed and effects of the design can be detected independent of the specific mechanisms at work, though it is nice to have a detailed picture of the mechanisms. Nice, but not necessary.
    – > Synthesis is also a big sub-field and we know how hard and expensive it is to develop and manufacture effective drugs, given the complexities of the molecular machinery of life. It took a lot of intelligence to design the so-called miracle drugs.
    – > But that is just the point: we already see highly sophisticated molecules at work in the cell, which is a self-replicating, largely self-maintaining automaton. Why then are we afraid to draw the inference that the best scientific explanation to date is that these machines are the product of agency with intent?
    9] THe worldview level issue:
    – > Seems to me, that such an inference is plausible and open-ended: if at a future date we can come up with evidence that shows that this inference is now improbable on empirical grounds, it can be revised. Lots of scientific theories and inferences have been later revised. SO, that’s not “giving up on science” as those who advocate methodological naturalism are often heard to say — especially before boards of education.
    – > But, as just noted, there is strong resistance to the level of resort to thought-police tactics [aka Dawkins's tactics, see Joe's most recent post: http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/001305.html#more ] at work.
    – > Why? (Could it be that the reasonable inference cuts across how many of us WANT the world to be, i.e. we are dealing with worldview-level preferences and commitments, i.e. philosophy, not science as such?)
    +++++++++
    If it is indeed philosophy, not science that is at stake, and that is plain from the Dawkins Salon interview just noted [infinite regress arguments, but of course, COMPARATIVE difficulties is suppressed, as Joe properly notes], then it seems to me that a level playing field is well warranted!
    Okay, maybe that is a good enough point of departure for further dialogue:
    Which combination of [1] chance, [2]undirected natural forces and [3] agency with/without intent, most adequately explains the phenomena: [a]existence of a cosmos suited to life; [b]life at molecular and cell level; [c] diversification to make up the biodiversity we observe; [d] mind and morals?
    Grace to you
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi ANDY
    See I slipped up on a memory issue again; sorry.
    Also, had a poke around on newer posts and threads, not impressed; I will continue to concentrate on this thread, where there is at least a seriousness. Your wise advice to Jackson and sensible comments in several threads are noted and appreciated.
    Having a look at the sites you linked, will briefly comment:
    1] TalkOrigins:
    –> Seems to be somewhat condescending and fundamentally unserious, even propagandistic. For instance, you can imagine my reaction to this FAQ response on the “fact” of evolution:
    Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution — genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc. — is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution.
    –> A circular definition relating to micro-evolution [not in dispute] papers over a conspicuous lack of a mechanism for origin and transmutation of life, and the persistently gappy fossil record; and this is to be swallowed whole without challenge?
    2] Letter to Strib:
    –> First, I follow Powerline, so I am well aware of the challenges on balance and accuracy in this paper.
    –> Then, the opening words: I

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy
    Clarifying an obscurity:
    The Kyoto process aims — whether with adequate warrant or not [I am a skyptical environmentalist!] — to intervene intelligently to adjust the trend-lines estimated for global temperature.
    THus, in this process, intentional agency, i.e. design, enters at scientific, policy and economics levels, among others.
    Detecting reliably the effects [if present]of existing agency is of course a common scientific and especially applied scientific pursuit. Intentionality of the agency is a contextual question, e.g. in detecting bias in hiring policies of firms.
    OKay
    Gordon
    PS The article I linked to is quite interesting, and worth a read to see some of the details on the issues I have raised, beyond the level of simple origin of the signals of life by chance.

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    I see you commended Andy seemingly for his telling me that perhaps I should not attempt to debase beliefs from which many derive comfort. I’m sorry to say that I don’t see how this applies to someone who posits hell and helpless susceptibility to metaphysical punishment in the minds of children (or anyone for that matter, but especially the ignorant). If you don’t engage in such activities, then that sentence doesn’t apply to you. If you’re all about showing both sides of a controversy and allowing a fair chance for one of either beliefs to take hold, why don’t you advocate A) waiting until a person is “no longer impressionable” to introduce them to the controversy and B) (assuming you understand from the Free Will thread what they are) explicating the problems inherent in the proposition of free will?
    Now onto my main reason for posting here: Owen Flanagan in effect says that one can ask a proponent of free will if moral instruction and deterrents play a necessary causal role in the behavior of those subjected to them, backing the proponent into a corner, where “if he’s honest, he’ll abandon his ill-fated belief in free will.” I note that rather than conceding either that they play no necessary causal role or that the events of human behavior are no exception to cause and effect, you have become a lion of free will that vanishes when called upon. Given the consistency that runs through my past experience of your behavior (a fancy way of saying “your history”), I expect you to repeat rhetoric irrelevant to the topic at hand (determinism), but I thought I would ask you once more to address the question. Also, if you refuse yet again, I ask that it be shown in the record.
    Many thanks

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    You are not the first to shuffle between calling me Alan and Andy. It must be something about four letter names that begin with ‘A’. Thanks for noticing.

    Pragmatism was sliced and diced at least 13 ways by one count, and shown to be utterly untenable — similar to the later fate of logical positivism: self-referentialy inconsistent.

    Every philosophy has its detractors. I’m happy to grant that pragmatism and logical positivism (and every other significant philosophical system) may have some “utterly untenable” aspects, but I’m unwilling to throw out the baby with the bath water. As to “self-referentialy inconsistent,” I’ll comment on that below.

    Agency as a Scientific concept [and following]

    In your points 7] and 8] I think you are reprising the watchmaker analogy. I’ll agree right up front that agency is a useful concept, say, for example in forensic science. But the idea there is to discover human causes of course, not just generally human but traced to a specific human. Contrast this to the general notion of agency and design. Can you imagine the courtroom where the defense is putting credible scientists on the stand in order to prove some supernatural agent (God, angel, demon, ghost) and not the defendant actually caused the crime?
    For me (and I probably Dawkins, a crusty old guy with a caustic and often insulting manner) the use of terms like God, designer, and agent is equivalent to saying “we don’t yet know the cause.” Perhaps there is a class of problems of which it is impossible to know the answers. What caused the big bang and why are the cosmological constants the way they are may be such problems. How is saying they are the work of an intelligent designer any kind of scientific answer? It is no different than saying we don’t know. If for you, it is a satisfying religious, philosophical, and/or psychological solution, that’s fine; it’s just not science.
    The theory of gravity, like the theory of evolution, is a scientic concept because it makes testable predictions and can be refuted. The theory of ID does neither.

    Which combination of [1] chance, [2]undirected natural forces and [3] agency with/without intent, most adequately explains the phenomena: [a]existence of a cosmos suited to life; [b]life at molecular and cell level; [c] diversification to make up the biodiversity we observe; [d] mind and morals?

    You know well my answer, after all I am very open about being naturalist. As for explanation of [b] and [c] I refer you to resources like these: National Center for Science Education (“defends the teaching of evolution in public schools”), Scientific American’s answers to 15 creationist/ID questions, and The Panda’s Thumb (a group blog by biologists, other scientists, and non-scientists focused on supporting evolution and how it is taught). You will find responses there to the thermodynamic issues, the gap arguments, and other things you see as difficulties.
    Explaining [a], “the existence of a cosmos suited to life,” is a good challenge for religion, philosophy, and, when necessary, for psychology. I have no expectation that science will do that (other than in the psychological sense), nor do I see any need for it. I am quite content with my own view that it is something that is unknowable in the naturalistic sense. To repeat my comments above in another way, saying “it must be due to God or some other intelligent designer” doesn

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Some further digging through the links you provided has turned up some useful links, happily including some equations and associated discussion, esp. by Thaxton et al:
    1] Recent significant [YEC . . . AiG] responses to Sci Am 2002, and N Geog 2004:
    Sci am July 2002 http://www.answersingenesis.org/news/scientific_american.asp
    Ngeog Nov 04 http://www.trueorigins.org/ng_ap01.asp
    – > These discussions are at a serious level, and ae worth the read.
    2] The Thaxton discussion:
    Cover page, Mystery of Life’s Origins: http://www.ldolphin.org/mystery/
    Ch 7, on thermodynamics of living systems: http://www.ldolphin.org/mystery/chapt7.html
    Ch 8, on rhewrmo-d and origin of life: http://www.ldolphin.org/mystery/chapt8.html
    Ch 9, on specifying how work is to be done: http://www.ldolphin.org/mystery/chapt9.html
    –> These are a really worthwhile find and read, thanks for the link which led me to them!
    –> Indeed the summary I cited above on thermodynamics was excerpted from this same book, but with some of my own calcs added. Nice thing is the calcs are shown in really nice mathematical style. [NB: Being raised on SI units, I do not like the CGS-style units used, but that is a personal point.]
    –> If you are to understand what ID and YEC thinkers who are serious are thinking about, you will have to engage this stuff. ( A basic course in thermodynamics will be of help, and note that Thaxton et al use delta notation that can be converted into the more serious increment/differential notation fairly easily. ANyone know of a clear and simple but adequately mathematical online course on thermodynamics 101, including Stat Mech? I would grab the link with both hands and feet!)
    3] Sarfati’s stuff:
    –> Sarfati of AiG is again doing some good basic level work:
    polymerisation problem, in more comfortable, i.e. SI units: http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v12/i3/polymerization.asp
    the chirality challenge http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v12/i3/chirality.asp
    Replicator world problems: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3974.asp
    – > Accessible YEC work is now at serious technical level, whether or not you wish to agree with their paradigm. [I guess that shows that I am willing to listen to arguments, but not necessarily convinced that YEC is correct in its overall framework, scientifically and theologically. ]
    – > I never knew of these materials online, thanks!
    +++++++++
    Four weeks back, when I began my foray into EO, partly to give a bit of help to Joe, partly to find out how the secularist-neopagan pattern of thought is articulated, I thought the exercise would be useful. Didn’t know just how useful!
    And, Andy, I think we may even be able to be friends across the smoke of battle, as I sense a kindred free spirit.
    Thanks
    Gordon
    PS To Mumon, Tgirsch, Boonton, Larry [and I saw a GOOD version of the alter-ego game on another thread: the Lord's Advocate! ;->) ] et al, I think the substance in the above and their onward links is the level that really needs to be engaged if we are to address the ISSUE as opposed to playing debater’s points games. Certainly unless the evolutionary materialist framework can reasonably answer to the above, I will continue to take it as fundamentally flawed and implausible.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Jackson
    I see you have come over to this thread, proving that there is at least one lurker!
    Actually, the thrust of my comment to Andy was that he has made some sensible comments including in his remarks to you. I specifically had in mind, that dialogue — as opposed to debate games and tactics — with a friend is more productive intellectually and relationally. That is a lesson I learned the hard way, and I hope you don’t have to learmn it the hard way, too. (Cf. below, where you force me to correct you.)
    Now on points you raise:
    1] I’m sorry to say that I don’t see how this applies to someone who posits hell and helpless susceptibility to metaphysical punishment in the minds of children (or anyone for that matter, but especially the ignorant).
    –> THis reflects that a poor understanding of the biblical message has unfortunately been communicated to you: for, God judges us, not by our ignorance, but by our light, specifically:

    JN 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” . . . . 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” . . . . 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

    –> Here we see God as being motivated by a loving desire to SAVE the lost, through his Eternal Son, so he sends Him as light, so that those who receive him will have a right and proper relationship with God.
    – > It is those who actively choose darkness rather than light, because they love evil deeds more than living by the truth, who condemn themselves thereby.
    –> FRom my take, that implies that the basis for restoration to right relationship with God is turning from darkness to Light,i.e. responding to Him who is the light that lights EVERY man who comes into the world.
    –> THis leads to: but what of those who never heard of Jesus? As with Job, Abraham, Melchisedek and David, such have light by conscience, by personal encounter with GOd, and in some cases by records of such: do they respond to the light they have, if so, they will find out His Name! [The book, Eternity in Their Hearts, by Don Richardson, is well worth a read here.]
    –> ANd, the irresponsible, e.g infants and the mentally incompetent? Again, these have not actively resisted light — how could they? For, God judges by the light we do have!
    –> The big problem here is, that frankly, we are not really honestly mistaken: we actively resist that horrible stuff that exposes our deeds of the night, so the key issue is to turn from loving and living in darkness to the light that we do have.
    –> And, a clear sign of that process of repentance is our response if and when we learn of Jesus, the outraying of God’s glory and the express image of his being! [Cf Ac 17:16 - 34]
    –> Hope that helps.
    2] “Waiting”
    –> How long do you wait to teach kids about 2 + 2 = 4? To read? To be clean, straight and trustworthy? To respect parents? TO love others as they love themselves? To reach out to and love God, their Creator and loving Father?
    – > Underlying the point may be a concept that the Christian Faith is at best dubious. Cf my introductory discussion at http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Mars_Hill_Web/apologetics.htm , and the somewhat higher level discussion in this course: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/What_is_Phil.htm
    3] Owen Flanagan in effect says that one can ask a proponent of free will if moral instruction and deterrents play a necessary causal role in the behavior of those subjected to them, backing the proponent into a corner, where “if he’s honest, he’ll abandon his ill-fated belief in free will.”
    –> This conflates two effects: CAUSE-EFFECT, and INFLUENCE-DECISION.
    –> Moral agents are constrained by some cause-effect bonds [e.g. I could not flap my hands and fly, so I could not fly over to someone in need and rescue them], but more importantly, they DECIDE in light of constraints AND influences, which are not at all deterministic.
    –> Ironically, in practice, Mr Flanagan is trying to influence his audience to accept an argument and change their minds about a core belief: that we are responsible moral agents, however constrained and challenged we may be in that process!
    4] I expect you to repeat rhetoric irrelevant to the topic at hand (determinism), but I thought I would ask you once more to address the question.
    –> In its context in your post above, this is a rude, utterly uncalled for descent into personal abuse, and is unwarranted by the record.
    –> For I have long since pointed out and shown that determinism [especially in naturalistic forms] is inherently as well as specifically self-referentially inconsistent thus strictly irrational. Indeed, I am not at all alone in such a conclusion. That is absolutely relevant to the question as to whether one should be a determinist or not, isn’t it!
    –> Second, I have repeatedly pointed out — and you have acknowledged — that even determinists have an intuition of their free will in thinking, deciding and acting; an intuition they are forced to follow in practice if not in theory, as I just showed that Mr Flanagan has done. Again, this is extremely relevant: if you cannot live by a principle, it needs to be fixed — that is paret of the factual adequacy test for a worldview.
    –> THird, I have also shown that it is perfectly logical to deny the consequent in logic. That is:
    a] [Naturalistic] determinism => Intuition of free will is delusion
    b] But, if that be so, then cognition in genral becomes suspect: and, I cannot — and do not — in practice live that way.
    c] This is reductio ad absurdum
    d] So instead I assert: I accept my intuition that my will and mind are free — of course within the constraints of finitude etc. as noted. (THis, I will hold until and unless I have clear and convincing demonstration that I am living in the equivalent of Plato’s Cave: http://www.bulldognews.net/cave-parable.html )
    e] So, I am free, and determinism is false.
    – > a – e are perfectly relevant to the issue, and you owe me an apology. DISAGREEMENT IS NOT IERRELEVANCE OR EVASIVENESS.
    I repeat: you need to be accountable on tone and on making unjust, unwarranted accusations. You owe me an apology.
    (Please observe, Jefferson justly observed that debate is that wicked art that makes the worst appear to tbe the better case. In this, it is aided and abetted by the dark arts of rhetoric, the study of persuasion rather than proof. This should be helpful as a corrective: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Straight_Thinking.pps as is this: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/straight_or_spin.htm )
    Then, maybe we can return from trollish behaviour to the civility that has latterly characterised this thread!
    Okay
    $ 0.02
    GEM

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Actually, the key problem is I have a six year old son named: Allen. That imposes quite a bias on the old neurons!
    Now you have posted quite a long note in the time while I was responding to the unfortunate post by Jackson. Please get some sleep, as intend to shortly.
    On points, very briefly:
    1] Agency
    In your points 7] and 8] I think you are reprising the watchmaker analogy. I’ll agree right up front that agency is a useful concept, say, for example in forensic science. But the idea there is to discover human causes of course, not just generally human but traced to a specific human. Contrast this to the general notion of agency and design.
    – > My basic point is that agency is routinely studied in a scientific context, without and with intent. The latter is design, and the identity of such designers is strictly not relevant to the fact or otherwise of design.
    – > the implication is plain: if we routinely detect and investigate design on a common sense and scientific basis, why then is it suddently a priori ruled out of court and classroom when we look at the most complex class of systems we commonly encounter: the molecular machinery of the cell?
    2] For me (and I probably Dawkins, a crusty old guy with a caustic and often insulting manner) the use of terms like God, designer, and agent is equivalent to saying “we don’t yet know the cause.”
    –> But agency IS a cause, with or without intent. And, where serious signs of intelligence in the design exist, in a context where we cannot reasonably argue that complex signals spontaneously arise from noise and create the most sophisticated nanotech heat engines we have yet seen, then design is the best current explanation.
    3] Oh yes on Philosophers
    –> Pragmatism and Logical positivism belong to the history of phil rather than its current praxis, as they have been shown to have failed the test, their own test.
    4] The theory of gravity, like the theory of evolution, is a scientic concept because it makes testable predictions and can be refuted. The theory of ID does neither.
    –> I am not at all so sure of that claim: the prediction from C18 that living systems would show evidence of design rather than spontaneous origin was a major claim in a world where spontaneous generation was still reasonable.
    –> Further, Science does not only deal with prediction: it describes, explains, predicts and seeks to influence or control. Prediction [or retrodiction in some cases] is just one component, a part of the provisional testing process.
    –> ID is, similar to NDT, st the research programme level, and therefore has in it a significant philosophical aspect [as does NDT]. At this level, the logic of abduction, aka inference to best explanation, is relevant, and the appropriate tests are: (1) factual adequacy, (2) logical coherence, (3) explanatory power: elegance vs ad hocness.
    –> NDT notoriously can “explain” just about any feature, factual or counter-factual of life forms, once one accepts the underlying naturalism. It is also logically incoherent, as the embedded naturalism is logically incoherent. It has yet to deliver on the promise of an elegtant explanation starting with life origins.
    –> ID seeks to keep the possibility of design in the loop, i.e. it does not a priori rule out a class of causes. SO far as I know, there is no fundamental logical flaw in it. [And recall, ID is not at all the same as theism: directed panspermia may be the conclusion it eventually makes, as Crick has argued. Niven et al exploit this in their Kzin novels, and Star Trek, NG does too in the episode where the intelligent races learn they are really brothers.] The concept that we should explain in terms of the available sources of causation is powerful rather than ad hoc.
    5]You will find responses there to the thermodynamic issues, the gap arguments, and other things you see as difficulties.
    –> I have long since seen these arguments, and I am distinctly not impressed.
    –> For instance, dS >/= d’Q/T directly applies to open systems, and the classic demonstration ot the second law is that if open sub systems A and B within an isolated system exchange heat, the lower temp one receives and the higher gives up d’Q, so the sum ot the two entropy changes is net positive.
    –> But, the basic point still remains: dumping energy into a system tends to disorder it, as it adds random kinetic and potential energy at molecular levels. Systems with increased random energy move towards an averaged out distribution of that energy, with a massive relative sytatistical weight on that, what w in s = k ln w relates to. Thence Brillouin information — negentropy — shows us that high information states are those where w is small.
    –> TO get energy to do work requires a heat engine, and apart from simple low information states such as say a hurricane, such engines are not observed to assemble themselves spontaneously (again, as we would expect): in the case at hand, the cellular machinery is the most sophisticated we have seen and operates under the control of a highly complex stored program, in DNA.
    –> NDT requires that this engine self-assembles by turning molecular noise into that complex signal, and that is clearly statistically so near impossible as makes no difference. The rhetorical games I have seen on this from NDT advocates simply evade the force of the point.
    –> Kindly ask them to provide a clear demonstration on paper or web, or better yet in the lab. You will see rhetoric aplenty, but no demonstration that would pass serious scrutiny.
    6] Cosmology:
    –> The problem here is that the physics of the cosmos is so fine-tuned that the only real alternative to design proposed to date is a near infinite array of slightly different universes. No empirical evidence, just an ad hoc assetion to save the phenomena.
    7] Strokes plus:
    -> Sorry to see the case in view may God comfort your fayther and family in this trying time.
    –> THat there is a mind-brain connexion is a commonplace: knocking on the head is a classic though crude demonstration. The problem is, is the brain equivalent to the mind, or is it the mind’s interface tot he physical world as this PC is my interface to the internet? That cannot be so easily decided by a priori monistic assumptions!
    –> Faith and works are partners, and the force of James 2:14 ff is that if one’s faith does not lead to a change in how you act, it is dead. But of course, behaviour expectations must be fitted to the capacity existing, including: physical, mental and informational.
    –> The self-refuting character of naturalism is not hostage to the status of a debate: it is a demonstrated actuality. But of course, on track record, it takes decades for such a demonstration to be accepted by those whose worldview has been thus challenged. (Cf the case of logical positivism!)
    +++++++++++
    My body tells me its time to get back to bed.
    I will do so . . .
    Gordon

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    Sorry for the tone. Please understand my frustration and (I assume) relative impoverishment of years. I am ecstatic that you are still willing to engage.
    “This conflates two effects: CAUSE-EFFECT, and INFLUENCE-DECISION. Moral agents are constrained by some cause-effect bonds [e.g. I could not flap my hands and fly, so I could not fly over to someone in need and rescue them], but more importantly, they DECIDE in light of constraints AND INFLUENCES, WHICH ARE NOT AT ALL DETERMINISTIC.” (latter emphasis mine)
    I addressed this on the other thread and should have known that omitting it here would be troublesome. If you could please humor me and answer either “yes” or “no” to the following (elaboration is appreciated only when following a “yes” or a “no” answer), as it has the necessary parenthetical inserted:
    1A) Do moral instruction and deterrents (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) play a necessary causal role in the behavior of those subjected to them (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”)? Yes or no?
    1B) If no, are they (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) a futile waste of time, money, and effort? Yes or no?
    1C) If no, then are you actually suggesting that they (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) play an UNNECESSARY, NON-CAUSAL ROLE that is NECESSARY in EFFECTING civil behavior in the masses? Yes or no?
    Apologies again and preemptive appreciation of your kind answering

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Up again, here is a useful PDF download:
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/pdf_notice.asp?pdf=/home/area/magazines/TJ/docs/tjv10n3_origin_life.pdf
    It sums up the stayte of the back-forth in very interesting terms, in brief. Read it with the thaxton chapters.
    GEM

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Jackson
    I appreciate the willingness to address tone; but recall an explanation is not a justification: kindly moderate your behaviour.
    Now on your questions. First, they are ill-formed (as I will show) so the Y/N constraint you seek to impose is inappropriate.
    I will start with Q1:
    1] Do moral instruction and deterrents (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) play a necessary causal role in the behavior of those subjected to them
    –> NECESSARY CAUSAL ROLE implies a necessary as opposed to sufficient condition. To shift from P => Q to Q => P is to affirm the consequent.
    – > Moral instruction, intuitive [i.e. the conscience is the Lord's candle within . . .], parental, social, experiential is an enabling condition for proper moral function, but it is not a sufficient one. [Removing a necessary condition can block a state, but its presence is not enough to cause the state. For instance the fire triangle requires fuel, oxidiser and heat to cause a fire: each necessary, jointly sufficient. Remove one, no fire, but none is deterministic of the fire!]
    –> Also, you have asked such a broad question that it confuses the outcome: a certain minumum of moral instruction and deterrence is necessary, much of it is merely helpful in a catalytic/accelerating or augmenting sense: not strictly necessary but they make life easier and better.
    – > Thus again, influence here plays a useful and even in some aspects necessary — but not a deterministic — role. Oddly, in logic, the proper answer is therefore “Yes” in that context — and on experience, I request that you respect that specific context: I have too often seen chains of YES/NO answers draggged out of their proper context to infer what they do not properly imply.
    –> In short, again, the tactic communicates itself as arrogant and manipulative. You would be well advised to avoid it in future, by asking open-ended questions in complex contexts.
    2] If no, are they (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) a futile waste of time, money, and effort? Yes or no?
    –> Technically, the Yes at 1 above collapses the chain; but I will respond.
    –> If something is a useful or necessary enabler, and the benefits outweigh the costs, it is not a waste of money or of effort: NO. Again, kindly respect the context.
    3] If no, then are you actually suggesting that they (WHETHER THEY REPRESENT “INFLUENCE” OR “CONTROL”) play an UNNECESSARY, NON-CAUSAL ROLE that is NECESSARY in EFFECTING civil behavior in the masses? Yes or no?
    –> Striclty I should complain of a fallacy of the complex question.
    –> Here, the conceptual flaw in the chain shows up: a partially causally necessary influence is NOT sufficient to be deterministic of the outcome. Its absence is a blocker, but its presence is not adequate to force an outcome.
    –> Similarly, had the influence been merely a catalytical/accelerating or augmenting one [and MOST moral instruction is of this variety], its presence would not have been enough to force the outcome, but would have been helpful.
    –> Had it been a strictly necessary one, the presence would not have been sufficient to force the outcome.
    –> So, again, the question is misconceived as noted. In context of my analysis, my proper answer is: NO. For, the influences are a blend of necessary conditions and useful ones, both of which are worthwhile in the community.
    Overall, in each case you see that influence is not control, but can be partially necessary to proper moral function. Strictly, that partly necessary aspect is causative, but not in a deterministic sense.
    You may wish to see my notes at http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Straight_Thinking.pps to help on the logic involved.
    Grace be to you
    Gordon

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    I don’t have much time right now, however I am in no way implying that I’m not about to make this thread a hobby.
    “Thus again, influence here plays a useful and even in some aspects necessary — but not a deterministic — role.”
    So something can be necessary in determining an outcome while not being deterministic?
    “that partly necessary aspect is causative, but not in a deterministic sense.”
    Determinism says that all events are produced by causation. If something is causative, it is in the deterministic sense, by definition.
    Here’s the problem, I think. It seems you view deterrents and moral instruction as a desirable part of an individual’s circumstances, but since a person’s will is not subject to their circumstances, they are not deterministic, though at the same time you say they are sometimes and somewhat necessary and causative. Not meaning to be malicious, but this smacks of intellectual dishonesty. If these “influences” were not an absolutely necessary component of a chain of causation producing the outcome of civil behavior in the masses, removing these “influences” would have absolutely no effect on the behavior of the masses. “Influence” and “sufficient” are all words used to describe cause and effect while attempting to deny it. It cannot be done. I repeat: IF THESE “INFLUENCES” WERE NOT AN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY COMPONENT OF A CHAIN OF CAUSATION PRODUCING THE OUTCOME OF CIVIL BEHAVIOR IN THE MASSES, REMOVING THESE “INFLUENCES” WOULD HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT ON THE BEHAVIOR OF THE MASSES. (If you could please attend to the capitalized sentence…) Here the dictionary definition of “influence” is utterly applicable: “causation through intangible means,” yet causation (determinism) nonetheless. If you’re asserting that removing them would have absolutely no effect, then kindly put this belief into practice.
    A few side notes:
    You speak often of determinism and naturalism undermining their own credibility. At the same time, I’m fairly certain that you have at times reminded some that they are possessed of a fallible mind and not omniscient. This is just as “self-referentially inconsistent” and self-undermining as you accuse naturalism of being. Saying we are fallible and could always be wrong is the same as saying it is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths. The point is, such accusations are irrelevant when both parties concede fallibility. Could you please save us all time by refraining from making them in the future?
    That said, the biggest problem for you seems to be an inability to abstractly consider your own physical and mental behavior. (I think Andy might agree with me on that.) I have repeated endlessly that naturalism doesn’t posit an inability to choose courses of action, while you have repeated endlessly that naturalism is obviously false because we all make choices as to our courses of action. (Almost like saying that naturalism is obviously false because naturalism is true.) It merely says that physical behavior is the expression of mental behavior (including deliberation), which is the product of circumstantial forces beyond one’s control. Kindly refrain from pointing to the phenomenon of deliberation as evidence that the phenomenon of deliberation is not subject to causation.
    Also, if given infinite time and infinite space all things are possible, then is not the low probability of evolution completely irrelevant?
    Also, I see that in your exchange with my brother, you wrote:
    “As to “having life forced on us” this is simple empty rhetoric. The vast majority of humans across history, despite challenges and miseries, show that they value and appreciate the fact, possibilities and pleasures of life. Human culture is testimony to this.”
    What does the vast majority’s not comprehending that life is a gift relative only to the ending of a life, not to never having life in the first place have to do with anything? Why won’t you concede that this is the case–that life is forced upon us, and we’re “raped of our absolute blissful ignorance.” This is a FACT, yet you dismiss it as irrelevant to a discussion of a loving creator. I assume this is because you sense that the “raping of unsuspecting souls of their absolute blissful ignorance” contrasts with the idea of a “loving creator” who “gives the gift of life.” But, of course, rather than concede the contrast, you dismiss the fact of the raping as irrelevant to a discussion of the rapist.
    More at another time. (Again, please note the lack of an insinuation of disinterest.)

  • Ed

    From Naturalism.org:
    Freedom of the Gaps
    Given the fear that explanatory science does away with libertarian free will (true) and with it the basis for moral judgments (false), it

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    Needless to say I’m surprised at the number of new comments on this thread. (And, welcome, Jackson. Nice to have your input.) There is no way I’ll ever, in the near term, catch up on all the reading on the links you and I have refered to. This morning I did read the 3 chapters on thermodynamics and the origin of life by Thaxton, et al. I studied physics in college and have written a heat-transfer design system as a software professional, so I am not a completely na

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    Could you please attend to the following, as it may help you.
    As to influences:
    No necessary causal role? Then no effect produced
    An effect is produced? Then a necessary causal role is played
    As to human behavior:
    Contra-causal? Then nature does not differ as influence differs
    Differs as influence differs? Then not contra-causal

  • Gordon Mullings

    HI Jackson
    I will try to clarify an evident and persistent confusion:
    1] So something can be necessary in determining an outcome while not being deterministic?
    –> Yes. For necessity and sufficiency are not at all the same: as noted earlier, confusing the two is the root of the unfortunately common fallacy, affirming the consequent.
    –> In more detail: I earlier pointed to the vital distinction between CONTROL and INFLUENCE. A controlling input forces an outcome, i.e. its presence is sufficient to have the outcome. But, an influencing factor does not carry such force.
    –> You then advanced the question as to whether something was a NECESSARY CAUSE, which properly means that you asked if it was a necessary conditon in a causal context, i.e. a particular variety of implication.
    –> To that, I pointed out that this is a form of a NECESSARY CONDITION in logic, and should not be confused with a SUFFICIENT CAUSE, which is deterministic in force. But, a necessary condition is not. SO, it may influence but does not control an outcome.
    –> Specifically, and as shown by the fire triangle example, the ABSENCE of such an influence would block the target outcome, but its mere presence will not trigger the outcome. For further instance, some moral instruction is necessary and its absence will frustrate thriving, but the mere presence of the instruction [even when backed by sanctions] will not force people to be consistently moral in their behaviour.
    –> I also pointed out that other forms of influence may accelerate or boost an outcome, e.g. a catalyst in a chemical reaction; but such are not necessary conditions — e.g. the equilibrium outcome will eventually happen, but much slower.
    2] Determinism says that all events are produced by causation. If something is causative, it is in the deterministic sense, by definition.
    –> THe proffered definition is simply wrong, for it fails to distinguish two logical senses of “cause”:
    (1)sufficient conditions [which will force an outcome if present],
    (2) necessary conditions [which will block an outcome if absent but do not by themselves force the outcome if present].
    (3) Until heat, oxidiser and fuel are brought together in combination, no fire: the COMBINATION is the sufficient cause, the factors are necessary ones.
    –> There are also other types of influence that are neither sufficient nor necessary, as noted.
    Until this basic distinction is understood, further discussion is futile. For, we will be simply talking at cross-purposes.
    SO, kindly come back to me on the fire example as I have used now twice, then I will comment on it. Once that is clear, we can profitably address more complex matters.
    Grace to you
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    I have only time for quickies this AM:
    Ed:
    You are highlighting the determinism and the confidence that the naturalistic determinists have that they will soon be able to account for human behaviour on deterministic premises.
    I and others have pointed out where that leads once you factor in evolutionary materialism: undermining of cognitive function, thence self-refutation: the thoughts of naturalism are themselves locked up in those 0.9+ [81+% explanation] correlations, especially as they expect them to move to 1.
    Therefore, it seems to me that the naturalistic project reduces itself, yet once more, to absurdity.
    Andy:
    There were several lurkers, plainly!
    1] On the anticipated death of outrage: including outrage at those who dare to expose the self-referential absurdity?
    2] TC: A naturalistic understanding of human behavior would shift the assignment of responsibility from a single source, the person, and distribute it to those factors participating in the shaping of that person.
    –> That is, we are endogenous to the system of naturalistic causes, and are inherently irresponsible. DO you want to go there?
    3] Even though the empirical evidence is overwhelming that we indeed consist of nothing over and above our bodies and brains, most adults (even the best educated) will usually find some stratagem to wriggle free of what is widely perceived as a mortal threat to our self-worth.
    –> There we have an assuption being re-presnted as proof of itself: begging the question. FOr, on the premises alluded to the brain states are endogenous to accidental and blind forces traceable to the big bang, without reference to the actual validity of the thoughts. That is what the determinism implies.
    –> So, why should we trust TC’s brain states over Plantinga’s, say?
    4] Buddhist motral premises:
    –> similar to the statements from many other sources, as the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, illuminating from within despite our premises and inferences. Cf. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
    ALl the best for now, friend. And, may God comfort you and your family and your father.
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson,
    an afterthought:
    TO help you clarify the concept, cause, I should briefly note on the classical four senses of “cause” within the world of active agents; with adjusted, hopefully clearer, terminology:
    1] Logistical ["Material"]: without the materials and other tangible factors required, nothing can happen. E.g. No bricks etc., no house. (This acts as a necessary cause.)
    2] Purpose["formal"]: this is the goal targetted, and has a shaping function on activity, as House’s Path-Goal theory in mangement so aptly discusses.
    3] Actuating ["efficient"]: to make something happen, we have to act on the materials and factors in hand to transform the situation towards the goal. Eg The machines, etc. used to beuild a house are in this sense a cause.
    4] Agent ["Final", if memory serves]: An intelligence forms the goal and engages the equipment to act on the materials to achieve the desired result. Eg for a house, this would be compound: involving the owner, architect and contractor.
    All four act together in combination to lead to the result. If any one is missing, no result. But only when combined will there be a result. Thus again, the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions emerges.
    In the case of life at molecular level, we need atoms and the goal of life, and we see in action the cellular machines. The debate is over whether the intelligence came from an agent as is well demonstrated in cases we do know, or if the most complex material systems we know came about because against the strong trends of thermodynamics, molecular noise spontaneously organised the systems.
    You can work out the case for morals: why do they exist, what do they require, how are they effected, where do they come from, originally rather than operationally?
    Grace
    Gordon

  • AndyS

    Hey, Gordon, good morning (my time not blog time) to you.
    Tom Clark wrote: A naturalistic understanding of human behavior would shift the assignment of responsibility from a single source, the person, and distribute it to those factors participating in the shaping of that person.
    you replied: That is, we are endogenous to the system of naturalistic causes, and are inherently irresponsible. DO you want to go there?
    And I say, most certainly I wanat to go there. This is the essence of our disagreement. You don’t comment on the rest of Clark’s paragraph:

    … But would this reconfiguring of responsibility be such a bad thing? The outrage that, for instance, often drives the demand for capital punishment might be transmuted into concern for modifying those conditions which produce criminal personalities and motives in the first place. Such a change in priorities would not lessen our desire and determination to protect ourselves from killers, or to deter them by appropriate sanctions. (Obviously, the time is far off when social and family conditions will no longer produce murderers.) The diffusion of retributive rage that comes from scientific understanding is not, therefore, a reason to block that understanding by clinging to a dubious conception of free will. Indeed, the sciences – social, psychological, cognitive, and biological – are essential tools in the quest for a culture in which serious violations of our values become rare.

    Best regards,
    Andy

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Good afternoon, Montserrat clock-time: a quite warm afternoon [and past few weeks], hopefully not a sign of a bumper crop hurricane season — Dr Gray has warned, above average, and I believe him on track record.
    First, I read the article on math complexity, interesting. Godel, of course, was an eye opener when I first heard of him: not even Mathematics is certain given the incompleteness theorems: mathematicians live by faith too.
    On points raised:
    1] That is, we are endogenous to the system of naturalistic causes, and are inherently irresponsible. DO you want to go there? And I say, most certainly I wanat to go there.
    – > THis is a rollup on your thought: if our thoughts are endogenous to the natural, non-purposive order, i.e. they are wholly expliacble in terms of genetics and environment, then serious implications follow.
    – > THis is more or less how I put it some 14 years ago, when I first saw the force of this:

    while macro-evolution may well fit into an atheistic view of the world, it is itself open to significant challenge and simply cannot prove materialism to be true. Philosophical materialism, however, has deeper problems. It argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all
    phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.
    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be
    partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)
    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence

  • Ed

    I thought everybody knew this, but Gordo doesn’t seem to know that corruption and greed are products of SCARCITY, not “sinful human nature!”
    If everybody could have whatever they wanted, there’d be no sin or crime; the reason we can’t all get what we want is…SCARCITY!

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    On 1] you say (as we return to one of our well-worn disagreements):

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. … And,if our materialist friends then say:

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    I won’t have time to respond tonight (I have tests in the morning). I am going to reply in detail, but I think what we might have here is a dead shark.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Folks
    H’mm, more lurkers than I thought! Did a ferry-let trip [60 mi round trip, 5 - 6 ft seas, glad for the slice of ginger in my mouth . . . still just slightly queasy] to Antigua Y’day, so catching up with a few quickies:
    ED
    Sure, and too often those with a bigger slice of the pie just want more . . . and more . . . and more . . .
    Ever wondered why?
    Jackson:
    I observe your need to study.
    However, this is not a matter of disagreement over disputable matters at this point: If you doubt me on the logic of causation and its link to that of implication, kindly consult the latest edition of say Copi’s Logic. Should be in the COllege Library as it is maybe THE standard serious intro-level general logic text.
    Brief review: look at the fire example and see how two different senses of cause apply: necessary [three factors] and sufficient [their combination]. The point is that cause-effect is tied to the logic of implication:
    P => Q means:
    1] P is SUFFICIENT for Q, i.e. we cannot have P true and Q false if the implication holds.
    2] Q is NECESSARY for P, i.e. if the implication holds and Q is false, P will be false too. (TRy a case: P = Tom is a cat, Q = Tom is an animal. If Tom is NOT an animal, he cannot be a cat.)
    Once you see this, you will see what I have responded to in your chain of questions: you cited something as a NECESSARY CAUSE, which would mean it fits the Q role in the above. The fire triangle illustrates.
    Andy:
    Kindly compare what I wrote with TC’s cites; you will see that 14 y back, I wrote down essentially what TC is saying today. The point at stake is not that materialists are capable of logical reasoning, but that they cannot account for its origin withoutr self-referential inconsistency. I have cited numerous cases in point. Also, cars are produced by: intelligent designers; can you really account for the vastly more complex machinery of the cell as the product of random molecular noise, in the teeth of the implications of s = k ln w? For mind and its powers, as the results of natural selection acting to promote reproductive success-linked behaviour [given Plantinga's example]?
    That is, I again point out that the naturalistic system of thought is irrational, but of course, as responsible thinkers made by GOd and operating in GOd’s environment for such thinking, naturalists are capable of correct thinking on points. But of course, I have long since argued that error is possible and knowledge is possible are both undeniable claims; so we need to be hopeful and humble in our thinking.
    The SS example is not at all inconsistent: it is specifically a case where we are given examples and precepts of virtue, and are invited to fill our imagination with the patters of virtue. Those who do so, receive a good equipment in the art of DECIDING to do the right under pressure, but this is influence and equipment to think and decide aright, not thought control. (I HAVE had to expose the ICC in the Caribbean, from 1987 on, a destructive thought control sect; and I do know the difference! You may want to look at a few threads over in the ICC forum under Delphi.)
    Indeed, people of all classes and worldviews do resort to corruption and criminality; the gap usually being that the rich are typically powerful enough and clever enough not to get exposed or caught and punished.
    But the point still stands: people who go through a basic orientation in virtue and make it their aim — i.e. they make a decision — are as a POPULATION far less likely to be involved in the crooked life. That is, responsible human agency [that is, actual real choice not programmed by genetics or environment] is a critical factor, and I also argue that heroic virtue under the GR is dependent on surrender to God and empowerment by his Spirit: it is a miracle, period.
    JS is, sadly, a case in point: he knew better than he acted, but was in bondage to his sins, as Rom 7:14 – 8:5 all too aptly illustrates: to know and to habitually do the right are very different, and in the case of our particular weakness, it requies opening oneself tot he power of God. Of course, since he was from a relatively weak power centre in the US culture, his sins were plastered all over the media and he was crushed with no-one daring to publicly defend him. BC, by sharp contrast, though just as guilty, would have got clean away had it not been for the preservation of a certain stained blue dress, and he had all too many who were willing to make light of his sins and crimes — don’t forget, the Arkansas Bar stripped him, for good reason. Even more tellingly, the US is now forever stained with the blood of 44 million unborn innocents, and counting at 3,000+ per day; just to name one case — and it is those who oppose the slaughter who are routinely villified in the dominant media and institutions. Cf. the run-up to 1861!
    Now, also, fairness is not dependent on being externally instructed!
    Toddlers instinctively demand fair play, without earlier instruction; indeed, selfishness is the fairplay principle carried to excess: not thinking about the fair-play needs of the other kid! What moral instruction does in this case is to help the kid hopefully see that fair play needs to be reciprocal: GR!
    I was amazed when I saw that with my own kids.
    And, the prior history of a situation is in fact not a CAUSE [in the sufficient, i.e. determinative, sense], but rather it may provide motivation and even provocation: resentment in the case supplied. That is humans are acting out of their interior world.
    The proper task of moral instruction in such a case is to help the child understand that vengeance is not justice — not just that it tends to spiral out of control.
    Hope that helps illustrate the difference between explanation in naturalistic, deterministic terms, and that in terms of responsible agency and moral enlightenment — not to mention, spiritual empowerment to overcome our tendency to fall.
    However, I am convinced that what is at root in this thread is that we are looking at two sharply divergent worldviews. Concepts tend to be incommensurate, and perceptions are going to be filtered through one’s own view. That is why I think that the first issue to be resolved is the point that NAturalism cannot claim for itself the robes of science, and dismiss the issues of its underlying evolutionary materialism.
    THus, look again at the issue that the claimed origin of life by spontaneous processes is incredible based on what we do know about how complex signals arise. Why is it that naturalists argue that perhaps the most complex signal we know arose by chance?
    Does that make sense?
    Does it make sense that processes that are blind can give rise to the molecular machines of life to minds and to morals? HOW? [Evidence, not assertions. S = k ln w, the issue of the inscrutibility of intent to natural selection, etc. need to be faced.]
    Grace to you all
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy
    An afterthought, since you have a phil background:
    kindly show why naturalism does not fall afoul of the problems that overhelmed pragmatism as a theory of truth: e.g. rewarding successful behaviour with reproductive success does not necessarily penetrate to the accuracy of underlying thinking and deciding.
    Okay
    GOrdon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson
    A further point: If Tom is an animal, then he may or may not be a cat; as there are other ways to be an animal than to be a cat.
    The point is, a necessary condition is not a sufficient one. It is the sufficient condition that forces the consequent to be so, providing the implication is valid. (The causal dynamics at stsake are one way for an implication to be valid.)
    I cite this because it goes to the heart of the issue, and because I know from long experience, that affirming the consequent is one of the most pernisious of all logical fallacies. I have literally seen someone accept a simpe case like the Tom the cat case discussed here and in my PPS etc, then when the case that is at stake is shown to be parallel, the reply was: But that’s different. No, it is not.
    Grace
    Gordon

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    When I think of causation, I think in terms of moments, or units of time. Your analogy does not apply to my assertion, which is that the nature of every unit of time is determined by the nature of the unit of time that precedes it. Here is an illustration of this: the nature of time-unit B is in part comprised of a human attempt at actualizing a desired future outcome. The nature of the next unit of time, time-unit C, is in part comprised of the consequences of the human action that occurred in time-unit B. The nature of time-unit C is absolutely the consequence of (determined by) the nature of time-unit B. Now, applying this concept, we shift our focus back one notch on the timeline and realize that the nature of time-unit B, in part comprised of the human action, was absolutely the consequence of (determined by) the nature of time-unit A. In other words, if one unit of time’s nature (in part comprised of a human action) determines the nature (in part comprised of the consequences of the action taken in the antecedent time-unit) of that which it antecedes, it must be that the nature of the human-action-containing unit of time in question was determined by ITS antecedent and its nature.
    If B, then C. We cannot have B true and C false. Similarly, if A, then B. We cannot have A true and B false.
    This completely meshes with the idea that the will is not and cannot be self-determining, which you cannot deny on any logical level.
    Also, could you please attend to the following, as I didn’t catch your response:
    You speak often of determinism and naturalism undermining their own credibility. At the same time, I’m fairly certain that you have at times reminded some that they are possessed of a fallible mind and not omniscient. Is this not just as “self-referentially inconsistent” and self-undermining as you accuse naturalism of being? Saying we are fallible and could always be wrong is the same as saying it is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths. The point is, I find that such accusations are irrelevant when both parties concede fallibility.
    Also, I see that in your exchange with my brother, you wrote:
    “As to “having life forced on us” this is simple empty rhetoric. The vast majority of humans across history, despite challenges and miseries, show that they value and appreciate the fact, possibilities and pleasures of life. Human culture is testimony to this.”
    What does the vast majority’s not comprehending that life is a gift relative only to the ending of a life, not to never having life in the first place have to do with anything? Why won’t you concede that this is the case–that life is forced upon us, and we’re “raped of our absolute blissful ignorance.” THIS IS A FACT, yet you dismiss it as irrelevant to a discussion of a loving creator. I assume this is because you sense that the “raping of unsuspecting souls of their absolute blissful ignorance” contrasts with the idea of a “loving creator” who “offers the gift of life.” (It also seems much more in keeping with impartial evolution.) But, of course, rather than concede the contrast, you dismiss the fact of the raping as irrelevant to a discussion of the rapist.

  • AndyS

    My new friend, Gordon, greetings!
    I must say this is the longest I’ve ever stayed engaged in a conversation like this. Thank you for hanging in there. While I can’t say you have convinced me to change any of my views, I feel that, by directly particpating in the exchange I’ve learned much about theistic criticism of naturalism.
    Here are the basic conflicts in our views that I see.
    (1) your claim that naturalism is somehow self-referencially inconsistent.

    The point at stake is not that materialists are capable of logical reasoning, but that they cannot account for its origin without self-referential inconsistency.
    …once you accept that a major component of cognitive function is produced and controlled by forces that generate illusion, then you have fundamentally undermined the trustworthiness of ALL your major cognitive processes.

    Have you read Nancey Murphy, the Christian physicalist theologian, that Tom Clark referenced? Tom pointed to this article about her thinking in Science and Theology News. I found her own talks very enlightening: Getting Mind Out of Meat: A Non-Reductive Physicalist Account of Human Nature and Neuroscience & the Soul: Topic Index (medium length read, also available in RealPlayer video if you play with the URL or Google). Her notion of non-reductive physicalism is a more formal and articulate version of some of the things I’ve been struggling to communicate. You, I think, have been taking issue with reductive physicalism so I’m interested in what problems you may see with the non-reductive kind.
    (2) your claim that the naturalism’s failure to today fully explain the complexity of the cosmos, unicellular organisms, and the human mind is reason enough to reject naturalism in favor of some combination of theism, intelligent design, and some form of science.
    (3) your claim that morality is dependent on contra-causal freewill

    …responsible human agency (that is, actual real choice not programmed by genetics or environment) is a critical factor, and I also argue that heroic virtue under the GR [golden rule] is dependent on surrender to God and empowerment by his Spirit: it is a miracle, period.

    Summary of major criticisms of naturalism:
    (1) Naturalism is somehow self-referencially inconsistent.
    (2) Naturalism’s failure to today fully explain the complexity of the cosmos, unicellular organisms, and the human mind is reason enough to reject naturalism in favor of some combination of theism, intelligent design, and some form of science.
    (3) Morality is dependent on contra-causal freewill.
    I’m looking for a way we can stop going in circles or agree on what it is we disagree about and why. To that end I’d like to create a short, pointed, and accurate list of the conflicts in a form we mutually agree on, just the conflicts not all the supporting material. I’d appreciate it if you would review my draft presented in here to see if it accurately reflect your views. Editing on your part of the words I used or replacing them with your own is not just welcome but desired.
    To be clear, I’m not looking for further argument in support of the claims until we can come to agreement on what they are.
    For your Sunday: may you be safe, happy, healthy, and at ease in the world.
    Andy

  • AndyS

    Gordon, you wrote:

    An afterthought, since you have a phil background:
    kindly show why naturalism does not fall afoul of the problems that overhelmed pragmatism as a theory of truth: e.g. rewarding successful behaviour with reproductive success does not necessarily penetrate to the accuracy of underlying thinking and deciding.

    I think you are misreading what pragmatism is all about (at least given my understanding of Wm James’ pragmatism). How about saying some more and/or providing some pointers? I wouldn’t want to answer a question you are not asking.
    Andy

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson
    Trust your test went well.
    I comment:
    1] When I think of causation, I think in terms of moments, or units of time. Your analogy does not apply to my assertion, which is that the nature of every unit of time is determined by the nature of the unit of time that precedes it.
    –> This is a confusion of causation with the timeline that flows from a dynamical [changing under forces and inertias, as generalised from Newtonian Dynamics, the paradigm case] process; cf. the fire example as I requested you examine.
    –> Nor is what “I” think relevant: the issue is, what is the sound way to understand cause-effect bonds.
    –> As the fire example shows, unless the three necessary causal factors are present in combination: the NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITION, the fire process cannot be created or sustained: that is the basis of how you fight a fire — take out one or more of the three legs on which it stands [and , that is another case: a three-legged stool or tripod shows necessary conditions in action in the present]. Causes and effects often have to be simultaneously present: cause-effect is not a temporal sequence.
    (In phil, this is the point in the inference from contingent beings to necessary ones: the cosmos we observe contains the former, this calls up the question of the latter; no infinite dynamical chain of contingent beings can duck the point, pace Russell et al. And, even with that “escape” there is the challenge that an actual infinity gets us into all the paradoxes of Hilbert’s Hotel. That is, even the Kalaam Cosmological argument is not without probative force: to reject it commits oneself to a position with — generously estimated — at least as much difficulty.)
    –> Recall, you asked about a NECESSARY CAUSE, and I responded to that.
    –> The next part of your cite is simply the statement of determinism, which is inherently self-refuting: are your opinions simply the inevitrable product of your genetic composition and your psycho-social conditioning and history to date? IF so, why should — or even, can — anyone take them seriously realtive to truth in the sense of saying of what is, that it is?
    –> I ALSO OBSERVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT ENGAGED THE CASE ON CAUSE THAT I REQUESTED. ON LONG EXPERIENCE, UNLESS THE LOGIC OF CAUSE IS SORTED OUT, NO REAL PROGRESS CAN BE MADE. And, sans real interaction, a dialogue deteriorates into a collection of closed-minded monologues; I therefore only continue as a matter of record.
    2]The nature of the next unit of time, time-unit C, is in part comprised of the consequences of the human action that occurred in time-unit B. The nature of time-unit C is absolutely the consequence of (determined by) the nature of time-unit B.
    –> This begs the question of what constitutes human action; on deterministic assumptions, this is just a place marker for the cluster of blind forces to date that happen to come together in an entirely endogenous entity labelled a human, so there is no truly responsible human mind or action.
    –> That is, you have simply reiterated the deterministic premise, and loop again through the self-referential inconsistency: if you and your thoughts and behaviours have no responsible, creative, thoughtful independent existence, then why should your opinions have to me any more force than a random letter string: nfkhjusivnjsghfenfbn?
    3] THe monologue continues: If B, then C. We cannot have B true and C false. Similarly, if A, then B. We cannot have A true and B false. This completely meshes with the idea that the will is not and cannot be self-determining, which you cannot deny on any logical level.
    –> Since A, B, C refer to a timeline, and are in a deterministic context, the implication of your argument is this: A => B => C, i.e. this is a chain of sufficient conditions.
    –> Apart from the determinism again, you fail to address the point that the fire example empirically and commonly illustrates: there are also necessary causal conditions, which have no deterministic force.
    –> The determinism again lends to self-referential inconsistency: your opinions are such because of the chain of forces and chance events that set the boundary conditions at each proor moment in time, ultimately to the chance configuration of the singularity at 13.7 BYA: they cannot be otherwise, so they carry no weight. SImilarly my opinions are of no weight, so why is there any desire for conversation?
    –> Because we believe in the illusion of thought and reasoning? But, your pattern of thought then leads to the inference that patterns of thought reduce to random noise ande blind forces: hjnwjdfhugfnxcbvbs. Why shoiuld I take them seriously?
    –> Because some thoughts and associated behaviours promote survival, power, pleasure and comfort? But, of what — “who” has now vanished into a cluster of atoms driven by molecular noise in the alleged pre-biotic soup of 3.8 BYA — is it not just a random bit of cosmic rubbish of no inherent value?
    –> Why should I then care about YOUR survival and prosperity, rather than mine? Only if you have power to threaten mine? [That is, morality and community are now disintegrating, dissolved by the detrministic acid.]
    –> And, if MY survival and prosperity are what counts, I have no duty to truth or right. So, why should I even listen to what you have to say — recall, you came over to this thread, because you wanted me to pay attemntion to what you have to say?
    –> Can you, on deterministic premises, justify the conclusion that your words carry more meaning than a string of random letters: shjfojshajbvosah?
    4] You speak often of determinism and naturalism undermining their own credibility. At the same time, I’m fairly certain that you have at times reminded some that they are possessed of a fallible mind and not omniscient. Is this not just as “self-referentially inconsistent” and self-undermining as you accuse naturalism of being?
    –> Notice the chain of logic: as Josiab Royce pointed out, “error exists” is an undeniably true statement, due to its virtuous self-reference. That is, if you try to deny, you self-tefer and affirm it. Thus, a knowable TRUTH exists. This is just the opposite of relativism.
    –> However, the import of this truth is that we may know the truth but are prone to error: so, our epistemic stance should be that of humble, open-minded, soft-form objectivity: we believe, with good reason, that such and so is true, but we are open to correction and clarification.
    –> This is entirely coherent, not self-referential absurdity. [And, if your thoughts and mine are predetermined by the great chain of randomly conditionsed events since the singularity, why should self-referential inconsitency be a concern to you, or me? For, an allegedly logical chain of thoughts is itself simply determined by priot events having nothing in principle to do with its validity or soundness or goodness of inductive force.]
    5] Why won’t you concede that this is the case–that life is forced upon us, and we’re “raped of our absolute blissful ignorance.” THIS IS A FACT, yet you dismiss it as irrelevant to a discussion of a loving creator.
    –> I note reference to a brother: literal?
    On points:
    –> Rape is a moral and emotional term, speaking of violation of will. On naturalistic deterministic grounds, what moral base have you to assert such a moral claim? Does not the simple chain of events as constrained by blind forces and the random character of the singularity not determine at 13.7 BYA whatever follows till the heat death of the cosmos?
    –> Secondly, I simply pointed out that, despite the miseries we have in life, the vast majority of humankind across time and culture show that they APPRECIATE the gift of life, as the story and artifacts of human culture and life around us abundantly testify: life is sweet, so we cling to it — why else does medicine exist?
    –> In turn, that joy in life is an implicit testimony to the goodness of the real source of life: our Creator, the Father of Lights, who is the ultimate source of every good thing.
    –> CONCLUSION: Insistently calling God a rapist for giving us life — which by and large we enjoy, is simply a cheap and all too revealing, adolescent rhetorical shot.
    +++++++++
    If progress is to be made, you need to address the fire example. Kindly do so, or this will just disintegrate into a closed-minded monologue; already, signs of that are evident.
    Grace be to you
    GEM

  • Gordon Mullings

    HI Andy
    I am a bit better this am, having had a full day to get that sea trip out of my system.
    Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there,esp. blestwithsons.
    On your points: you have a more or less workable summary of the issues.
    On points:
    1] Murphy
    –> General point: she confuses her reconstructed perception of C1 Hebraic thinkers with the issue of what does the biblical data properly imply: that there is an inner life separable from the life of the body, and that one can profitably discuss it as heart, mind, sould, conscience, spirit etc.
    –> Next, she assumes physicalism: that controls her further conclusions, and in my opinion embeds a self-referential absurdity, i.e. a necessarily false claim, which destabilises her ability to discern truth from falsehood: ex falso, quod libet.
    2] NM: You go to physics class and you study the smallest particles making up the physical universe. You go from there to chemistry class and there you study how those smallest particles combine to make atoms and how atoms combine to make molecules. You go then to biology class and there you study how biological processes depend on the behavior of very large complex molecules just as we saw in Cynthia Fitch’s lecture before the break.
    –> Here comes the physicalism and the implicit reductionism: at each stage, the higher level of organisation reduces to the lower, the very definition at stake; she just rolls it out lowest-highest, which may make us miss the reduction.
    –> She is also ducking a key point: the injection of highly ordered irreducible complexity is required to move from lower to higher levels of organisation, once we come to the molecular machinery of the cell and above. Thermodynamics blocks the proposed emergence from molecular noise,as I have repeatedly pointed out.
    3] NM: And I don’t know if you could find a biologist these days who thinks that you do have to add some additional substance to non-living matter in order to get a living being. Rather, what’s needed in order to get life is new structure. You restructure the materials that were already available into a more complex organization.
    –> Straw man. Vitalism is not the issue, irreducible complexity is.
    –> ANd, as a philosopher, she should know that “substance” is not confined to material, atom-based entities: bits, i.e. strings of elements of information will do nicely at cellular level, thank you. And, complex information is in all cases we observe, the product of: intelligence.
    –> “organisation” of course, ducks the force of this point, even when she says God may have done it: that is exactly the point at stake: intelligent action.
    4] NM: So we reject vitalism. All you need for life is matter, properly organized, so it can perform these functions.
    –> See my point?
    5] MN:The reductionist says, in effect, all causation is bottom up; that is, the laws of physics down here determine everything that happens and the causation percolates upward, determining what happens all the way up to the top. The non-reductionist, on the other hand, says no, there are new causal factors and laws at these higher levels of organization that also have to be taken into account in order to understand what goes on in our universe.
    –> What laws, how empirically justified, how credible other as than a very roundabout way of saying that the organisation of life, starting from the cell is inexplicable on purely material terms?
    6] NM: The answer, of course, is natural selection. Though it has been, in the past, random production of lots and lots of variants, and only the useful ones have survived to reproduce. So we have a bottom-up cause in terms of the macromolecules. But we also have to have a top-down cause in terms of the ecosystem in which the little bugs live and the way that that has had a differential effect on the survival and reproduction of the termites as whole organisms.
    –> THis ducks the issue that complex specified information cannot on thermodynamic principles be extracted from molecular noise, as previously shown, and this is what would have to be the SOURCE on materialistic assumptions.
    –> Unless we have the complex, organised organic entity and its organelles [or organs at the multicellular level] already, natural selection is simply irrelevant.
    –> IN short, by begging the information question, NM is playing to the prejudices of her naturalistic audience, not really engaging the critical issues.
    7] NM: There’s a perfect analogy between what the non-reductive physicalist wants to say about the mental and what the biologist wants to say about life. Life does not require a new kind of entity, that is, complex bodies have the quality of being alive if they interact with the environment in a special way. Similarly, mind is not a new kind of entity, rather complex living beings have mental qualities if they interact with the environment in a special way.
    –> The same, again: where does this new level of organisation come from, how; given the challenges to:
    (1) the creation of the cellular molecular machinery by chance-driven processes,
    (2) the problem that specified, irreducibly complex strongly coupled entities cannot be cumulatively further complexified by random changes [or autodestruction ensues] — in short, macro-evolution requires cumulative creative mutations that are both information-systems implausible and unobserved
    (3) The Plantinga barrier: truth-reference of mentality is not directly coupled to behavioural success, so if the brain secretes thoughts as the liver secretes bile, then we have no basis for trusting it.
    –> In short, yes, there IS an analogy, but it works opposite to how NM imagines.
    8] NM: So the mental, as information processing at least, is clearly a biological function. It depends on the organization of certain kinds of cells, the neurons . . . from that central processing organism to the muscles, etcetera . . . . consciousness . . . seems to result from the synchronised firing of lots of neurons–and I should say lots and lots and lots of neurons. And we know a lot about how to get rid of it–a bonk on the head, enough alcohol–whatever.
    –> Here we see the reductionistic implications brought out with great force: consciousness is an epiphenomenon of neuronal network processing, in turn the product of macro-evolution; “all” that makes the difference is how the stuff gets organised.But that is exactly the core problem!
    –> And, that one’s body can be put out of action by physical actions has nothing to do with whether one’s bain is all there is to the mind, soul and spirit!
    –> What would have been really interesting is if NM had engaged the central Christian evidence and contention: Jesus, crucified, risen, glorified and yet active in miracle-working, life- and culture- transforming power. 500+ eyewitnesses of the historical event. Millions who have the resurrection power manifest in their lives down to today. Thus, cessation of brain function at death is not cessation of life!
    –> Let us hear Morison on the import of the fact that the church survived C1 in the teeth of the power of the Judaean and Roman officials and their agendas:

  • Gordon Mullings

    All:
    Here is an illustration gf the problem, from a clipping:

    The Watson-Harrison report “opens a window on the previously completely unknown evolution of our planet in the first 600 million years after its formation,” said Gustaf Arrhenius at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who leads a laboratory team creating model experiments to explore geophysical and geochemical pathways leading toward life on Earth and possibly Mars . . . .
    The age of the oldest evidence for life on Earth is still in doubt and ranges from 3.5 billion years for microscopic cells discovered in the Apex chert of Western Australia to 3.8 billion years for other fossil cells found in the Ishua Super Group in Greenland.
    But as Arrhenius said of the report from Watson and Harrison: “A fascinating aspect of the early hydrosphere is of course the prospect of the emergence of life as soon as the watery medium makes this possible.”
    The new report appears to make it possible many millions of years earlier than anyone has thought.
    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/05/07/MNGGSCLJDN1.DTL

    The problem with the scenario? Only this:
    1] 1.2 Bn Y is nowhere near enough for the molecules of the simplest plauysible cell to organise themselves spontaneously, on open system thermodynamics grounds, as shown above. Indeed, 13.7 +/- 0.2 BY, current inferred time from singularity, is not enough! Nor are the 10 E80 atoms in the cosmos enough. That is, mere 1.2 Bn y time and a planet full of matter do not answer the question.
    2] Then, too, there is the problem that no evidence to date supports a pre-biotic soup needed for the organic molecules to form: the Miller-Urey type experiements assume an implausible early atmosphere [no oxygen], and the same processes that form the initial monomers would rapidly destroy them, absent their removal so Le Chetalier’s leads to generation of more and more even though equilibria would be at extremely low conc. Indeed, the UV that lack of O3 shield would lead to is a destructive process . . .
    3] Then, how can one account for the chirality of life: even if monomers form, since there is no Gibbs free eneregy preference for one over the other, racemic forms would result: the probability of monochiral life based on L-amino acids and R-nucleotides is vanishingly small. [And, that is an integral; part of the chemistry of life, which requires precise folding of proteins.]
    4] Then, assuming that life does self-assemble, the complexity and tight coupling of its molecular machinery leads to the implication that random genetic changes are DAMAGING and DESTRUCTIVE not creative. Rhus, there is no non-question-begging evidence of cumulative creative beneficial mutations that complexify and diversify life beyond the unicellular stage.
    5] Then, skipping along, we have to account for the origin of a mind that can credibly think about these things, if the mind is basically an epiphenomenon of the natural selection of organisms that happen to carry out survival and reproduction-enhancing behaviours.
    Notice how not even one of these caveats appears in the article! (And, note that not one of the five points I have raised depends on my theistic views; they are specifically SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN UNANSWERED AFTER UP TO ~ 150 YEARS.)
    So, who is playing bias and spin games with outr minds?
    GEM

  • Gordon Mullings

    All:
    Silly me!
    I forgot: how do you credibly get to absolute dates as required to trust the scenarios?
    That is, I am adverting to:
    1] The circularity between dating rocks by fossils and fossils by rocks, based on the further assumptions of macro-evolution and sedimentation rates: index fossils etc, taking us out to maybe 500 MYA, inferred. (NB: I am living on a mountain that shows just how those rates can vary!]
    2] The assumptions embedded in injecting radiodates for say volcanic tuffs into the process. KNM-ER 1470, as discussed by say Lubenow is a telling case in point: the radio-dates were finalised based on fossil data assumptions to fit the claimed evolutionary tree. [Back when I was a high school sixt form student, this stuff was trotted out as an irrfutible evidence of human evolution, not a word on the dating game behind the scenes!]
    3] The very poor track record of the dates due to radioisotope methods when rocks of KNOWN age are dated. SImilarly, there are serious challenges to the reliability of isochron methods. So, why trust them on cases where we do not know?
    [And, C14 is NOT a relevant dating method, as even a generous 10 - t1/2 application leads to ~ 56kYA as upper limit. And, there is the little factor that the evidence is that the atmospheric C14 conc is not at equilibrium, suggesting questions on the whole method. My rule of thumb on dates is that any date that goes much beyond 1,000 - 1,500 BC, I take with a grain of salt or two.]
    Just another set of quickie notes. In short, there are a lot of quesrtions that are being skiped over in the stories we are being told.
    Okay
    GEM

  • AndyS

    Hi, Gordon,
    Regarding Pragmatism & Natrualism
    You wrote:

    kindly show why naturalism does not fall afoul of the problems that overhelmed pragmatism as a theory of truth: e.g. rewarding successful behaviour with reproductive success does not necessarily penetrate to the accuracy of underlying thinking and deciding.

    and, responding to my request for more information, added

    I am in effect observing that his summary that truth is judged relative to how well an idea works failed as a philosophy of truth, as it was hopelessly: (1) ambiguous [cf A O Lovejoy's The thirteen pragmatisms], (2) wrong-headed (Russell’s rebuttal: are we to conflate the useful and the true, and self-referentially inconsistent through its implicit relativism [WJ: truth is what works/ anything it pays to believe/ happens to an idea -- becomes/is made true by events; all of which relativise and lead to "true for you-not for me" thence the question: so why should I accept YOUR truth rather than mine? Thence, disintegration of reasoned discourse . . .]

    I thank you for expanding your thought but don’t think we are getting anywhere. I’ll try to say why.
    In the first quote above (beginning “kindly show why naturalism does not fall afoul of the problems…”) you present a smugged version of pragmatism at best and a request for a demonstration of a claim that, to my knowledge, does not appear anywhere in the literature. In the second quote you attempt to clairify by making the claim that pragmatism (which you seem to identify with only Wm James) “failed” because it is hopelessly flawed and wrong-headed. For support you mention a book and two philosophers.
    Let’s look at your two points. In (1) you cite a book written in 1908 about which a contemporary philosopher refering to exactly that book says:

    However, Lovejoy

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy
    A few remarks are in order:
    1] you present a smugged version of pragmatism at best and a request for a demonstration of a claim that, to my knowledge, does not appear anywhere in the literature. In the second quote you attempt to clairify by making the claim that pragmatism (which you seem to identify with only Wm James) “failed” because it is hopelessly flawed and wrong-headed.
    –> First, kindly compare above and you will see that in fact TC is a material part of why I have drawn out the link to pragmatism. He redefines veridicality in pragmatist terms in his posts above; as I commented on and I believe reposted to you. THe issue is not “the literature,” but the very live post of TC above. [And, in simple logic: truth is what "works" has a very plausible link indeed to "promoting of relative reproductive success', i.e. likely success at natural selection.]
    –> Secondly, I am well aware that there has been a further attempted evolution of pragmatism thereafter, through say Dewey et al [e.g. the concept warranted assertability], but you should also note that the very person who originated the term, due to how the movement evolved, dissociated himself from it: C S Peirce.
    –> THird, as noted above, TC’s post ties to Jamesian expressions, not later ones.
    2] Cite re Lovejoy: it is, of course, mistaken to look for doctrinal unity within any broad philosophical tendency.
    –> This is a classic case of acknowledging a point while seeming to reject it: Lovejoy’s point was that there was a school with identifiable leading members, and that school had a problem with pinning down the term — similar to the problem post 60′s with “Paradigm” as used by Kuhn.
    –> BTW: If Rorty is a [pomo] pragmatist, that almost makes my point for me! (THough I have an interesting snippet from a colleague — Daniel Dennet of all people — that he in fact in the end has a concept of objective truth, to; similar to James who oscillated in his statements: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=13
    –> Having noted that, I am perfectly willing to accept that there is such a thing as a broad trend, diverse from a school and which may in our time have a diverse focus. But also, in so noting, kindly observe the context: TC’s redefinition of veridicality, which looks very classically pragmatist to me.
    –> That is, there is a current context, in which the underlying question of a shift from reference to success as the definition of truth is material. (And the gratuitous reference to the DIscovery Institute is a case of trying to tar people with a broad brush; I think that is most inappropriate and even improper, given the chain of posts above in which I made it clear just why I raised the point. I could also demand cases in point on the DI’s alleged crime, but that would take the discussion even further down a rabbit trail.)
    3] Enc Phil: In the American pragmatist tradition there is a wide spectrum of views, of course. But it is an outstanding example of a significant, modern, and still evolving tradition with significant naturalistic currents running in it. Peirce and other American pragmatists have influenced a great deal of recent philosophy of many types. As a result, they are beginning to be more thoroughly studied, after having been widely neglected for several decades.
    –> “with significant naturalistic currents” underscores my context, given my cite of TC above.
    –> I therefore find it interesting that pragmatism is being resurrected as a pomo approach with naturalistic currents in it. Thus, it seems my remarks on TC’s reference were in fact quite accurate.
    4] Rorty Cites
    –> As ever, Rorty is clever and complex, but of course fundamentally vulnerable to the challenges of his exuberance on relativism. That is, the issue of incoherence seems to always lurk when he is near.
    –> However, I must first challenge the comment he summarises: “consider the theist who is told that the term

  • Gordon Mullings

    PS
    I left Russell out of the specifics above; since you acknowledge that his work includes a specific rebuttal of the Jamesian claims, the implicit points above should be adequate.
    GEM

  • Gordon Mullings

    Oh Yes Andy
    I observe from EOPh: Peirce and other American pragmatists have influenced a great deal of recent philosophy of many types. As a result, they are beginning to be more thoroughly studied, after having been widely neglected for several decades.
    –> That suggests that pragmatism had an abeyance on thre scale of at least the length of a career: why?
    –> ANS: because it ran into a lot of trouble, along precisely the grounds identified above!
    –> Note from IEP (Stanfords enc is harder to track]

    although Peirce

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy
    Further following up
    1] Process Phil:
    Rescher:

    turning from substance to methodology, it might be observed that some processists (e.g., Whitehead) articulated their position in terms that root in physics, while others (especially Bergson) relied more on biological considerations. And then too, of course, there are socio-cultural processists like John Dewey But such differences not withstanding, there are family-resemblance commonalties of theme and emphasis that nevertheless leave the teachings of process theorists in the position of variations on a common approach. So in the end it is — or should be — clear that the unity of process philosophy is not doctrinal but thematic; it is not a consensus or a thesis but rather a mere diffuse matter of type and approach. All this is something to which a Lovejoy-style complaint about doctrinal diversity would do serious injustice.

    –> Family resemblance is of course a metaphorical way of saying that there are recognisable similarities across a diverse collection; and, thematic vs doctrinal concedes implcitly that there were in fact sharp disagreements.
    –> Lovejoy’s remarks that the resemblances also embed mutual contradictions is therefore a material observation, and indeed the fact that thereafter pragmatism faded from the scene for “several decades” is a telling observation that despite the dismissive tone in Rescher’s remarks, Lovejoy’s point carried considerable force.
    2] Rorty:
    –> here, he is responding to a paper from Fine, and his own view is in part: [Fine says] we should be neither realists nor anti-realists, that the entire realism-antirealism issue should be set aside . . . I see the increasing consensus on this thesis as marking a breakthrough into a new philosophical world. In this new world, we shall no longer think of either thought or language as containing representations of reality. We shall be freed both from the subject-object problematic that has dominated philosophy since Descartes, and from the appearance-reality problematic that has been with us since the Greeks. We shall no longer be tempted to practice either epistemology or ontology.
    –> In short, we are hearing one side of a debate; and I am not at all sure that those on the other side will agree with several of the contentions advanced! [The appearance-reality problem of Plato's Cave on is a particularly striking case in point!]
    -> Similarly, Philosophical progress is thus not a matter of problems being solved, but of descriptions being improved is not exactly the whole story.
    –> CIting Fine with approval and a proviso: I have long felt that belief in realism involves a profound leap of faith, not at all dissimilar from the faith that animates deep religious convictions

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    Allow me to open with a response to your fire analogy:
    “Until heat, oxidiser and fuel are brought together in combination, no fire: the COMBINATION is the sufficient cause, the factors are necessary ones.”
    Need I point out that the various components of history (the “heat, oxidiser and fuel”) in COMBINATION (the whole unit of time known as the past) are the sufficient cause of the present (the fire). We cannot have our past true and our present false.
    “–> Since A, B, C refer to a timeline, and are in a deterministic context, the implication of your argument is this: A => B => C, i.e. this is a chain of sufficient conditions.
    –> Apart from the determinism again, you fail to address the point that the fire example empirically and commonly illustrates: there are also necessary causal conditions, which have no deterministic force.”
    Time is all encompassing. The distinctions you are drawing between necessary vs sufficient conditions within a given unit of time do no apply. A given time-unit will be comprised of the entirety of events occurring within it. As illustrated above, the fire example asserts my point for me.
    “if you and your thoughts and behaviours have no responsible, creative, thoughtful independent existence, then why should your opinions have to me any more force than a random letter string: nfkhjusivnjsghfenfbn?”
    Do syntax and semantics have a “responsible, creative, thoughtful independent existence,” or are they perhaps simply a “gentlemen’s agreement?” If you and I wanted to make a deal stipulating that “nfkhjusivnjsghfenfbn” carried some meaning, it would for us. (Ever read any Inuktitut?) If we could agree that naturalism is the logically sound world-view, and also that a logically sound world-view is needed in order to most skillfully manipulate our surroundings, and that maximizing our skill in manipulating our surroundings is needed to maximize the satisfaction of our desires, then the completely arbitrary letter combinations that comprise the sentence “naturalism is sound” would be valuable to us.
    “Because we believe in the illusion of thought and reasoning? But, your pattern of thought then leads to the inference that patterns of thought reduce to random noise ande blind forces: hjnwjdfhugfnxcbvbs. Why shoiuld I take them seriously?”
    Why do you take seriously the arbitrary order imposed on the sentence, “Why should I take them seriously?” See above.
    “But, of what — “who” has now vanished into a cluster of atoms driven by molecular noise in the alleged pre-biotic soup of 3.8 BYA — is it not just a random bit of cosmic rubbish of no inherent value? Why should I then care about YOUR survival and prosperity, rather than mine? Only if you have power to threaten mine? [That is, morality and community are now disintegrating, dissolved by the detrministic acid.] And, if MY survival and prosperity are what counts, I have no duty to truth or right. So, why should I even listen to what you have to say — recall, you came over to this thread, because you wanted me to pay attemntion to what you have to say?”
    “Who” is a collection of relatively consistent experiences (including behaviors) that includes biologically and environmentally instilled “displeasure” upon having its will trumped. This applies to you and I both. We’re both equally devoid of a right to trump anyone else. Yet, if none of us has the right to get what we want over anyone else, then we all have the right to be unencroached upon to the extent that we ourselves encroach upon no one else. Hence, equal rights and the pursuit of happiness for all.
    Value is relative and arbitrary, no matter how you cut it. If we have God-given inherent value, it is only an arbitrary distinction made by a god who is only a god relative to a non-god. Speaking of which, the only reason we’re non-gods is because the non-non-God arbitrated that it be so, which raises the question, “Why should a lesser being worship a higher being for being a higher being, when the only reason the lesser being is less than the higher being is because the higher being made it that way?”
    You seem to be saying that if you didn’t fear punishment at the hand of the Arbiter who holds His position merely as a matter of divine luck, you would revert to a “state of nature.” “If a non-human doesn’t arbitrate rights, then there’s no such thing.” Again, we encounter the question of the gentlemen’s agreement. Some of the gentlemen in question say that civilized behavior is valuable for the security it offers, while other gentlemen say that civilized behavior is valuable because they think their god arbitrates that it be so. (I think we know to which camp you belong.) Those who value civilization (including yourself) will always have to enforce their value upon those who do not. This is an (arbitrarily so) unfortunate reality. (It is part of why I am so against breeding.)
    Why should you pay attention to the naturalist case? See the syntax/semantics example above.
    “However, the import of this truth is that we may know the truth but are prone to error: so, our epistemic stance should be that of humble, open-minded, soft-form objectivity: we believe, with good reason, that such and so is true, but we are open to correction and clarification.”
    Precisely! Human history appears to be the story of the general refinement of human understanding. Because it began “having nothing in principle to do with its validity or soundness or goodness of inductive force,” it was often incredibly out of step with reality. As far as we can tell, our current perception is more accurate and more encompassing than when human perception began. Perhaps we shouldn’t value soundness. Ignorance is bliss, after all. I wish I could value stupidity. (I advocate the cessation of human breeding largely for this reason.) The problem is, I get sort of a pain in my brain when I find my perception doesn’t mesh with reality. I get something of the same pain when I encounter someone else who spews non-sense. I don’t know exactly why it is. Lucky is he who does not share my affliction.
    “Rape is a moral and emotional term, speaking of violation of will. On naturalistic deterministic grounds, what moral base have you to assert such a moral claim?”
    The moral force of the word does not apply to impartial evolution. It would, however, apply to a loving creator whose gift of life is an offer one can’t refuse.
    “Secondly, I simply pointed out that, despite the miseries we have in life, the vast majority of humankind across time and culture show that they APPRECIATE the gift of life, as the story and artifacts of human culture and life around us abundantly testify: life is sweet, so we cling to it — why else does medicine exist?”
    Don’t know about you, but I’m clinging to life because the process of dying is somewhat frightful (when one is sober, anyway). That’s it. Life cannot be sweet compared to not-life; however, not-dying seems to be sweet compared to dying. This is why I appreciate medicine: not to put off the ending of consciousness, but to put off the process by which it is ended. There is a difference.
    “In turn, that joy in life is an implicit testimony to the goodness of the real source of life”
    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that was not a literal assertion and not BS conjecturing of the highest order.
    “CONCLUSION: Insistently calling God a rapist for giving us life — which by and large we enjoy, is simply a cheap and all too revealing, adolescent rhetorical shot.”
    Would you prefer the alternative coinage (I believe of Schopenhauer) of breeding being “in cold blood?” Either way, there is a questionability to be shown about a benevolent creator who in cold blood forces life upon his helpless subjects. Referring to this process as “rape” is the most illuminating manner of illustrating the concept. Do you deny that the “offer” of life is one that we can’t refuse and that, once received, is difficult and painful to give back? Calling this rhetorical is the same as saying, “That you never asked to be born is no excuse;” there is no way to attribute the process of cold-blooded “raping of unsuspecting souls of their absolute, blissful ignorance” to an entity whose nature is “goodness,” so instead of addressing the conflict you dismiss it as “no excuse” or, as of late, “a cheap and all too revealing, adolescent rhetorical shot.” Being that you find it to be such, are you suggesting that the cold-blooded “offer one can’t refuse” is perfectly compatible with your view of God and not much more in keeping with impartial evolution?
    “one should accept something as true because it is credibly shown so, whether or not it it is advantageous or positively hazardous to life and limb”
    I do not know how many times I made this point in response to your constantly pairing (whether accurately or not) naturalism with tyranny, communism, and Nazis. Nice to see you’ve come around.

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    I only have time tonight for a quick note.
    You wrote:

    And the gratuitous reference to the DIscovery Institute is a case of trying to tar people with a broad brush; I think that is most inappropriate and even improper, given the chain of posts above in which I made it clear just why I raised the point. I could also demand cases in point on the DI’s alleged crime, but that would take the discussion even further down a rabbit trail.

    I admit to editorializing in my comment about the DI people. Panda’s Thumb and Myers’ Pharingula 9links above somewhere in this thread) contain and point to specific instances of such unscrupulous behavior. I’m sorry if you find this offensive, but I stand by the claim as it speaks exactly to the point I was making: there is a style of argumentation, often used by IDers, characterized by making disputed claims as if they are facts and citing old information, that is in some sense “scholastically abusive.” That is, it’s presented as if well supported when it is not and when its authors are aware it is not. I felt in this instance you were doing that, or should have known you were doing that.
    Thanks for the pointer to Postmodernism and truth, by Daniel Dennett, 1998. As he states there with regard to his 25+ years of discussion with Rorty:

    Each of us has taught the other a great deal, I believe, in the reciprocal process of chipping away at our residual points of disagreement.

    May you and I be so fortunate.
    I also found his concluding paragraph very relevant to our discussion:

    The methods of science aren’t foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered. The methods of science, like everything else under the sun, are themselves objects of scientific scrutiny, as method becomes methodology, the analysis of methods. Methodology in turn falls under the gaze of epistemology, the investigation of investigation itself–nothing is off limits to scientific questioning. The irony is that these fruits of scientific reflection, showing us the ineliminable smudges of imperfection, are sometimes used by those who are suspicious of science as their grounds for denying it a privileged status in the truth-seeking department–as if the institutions and practices they see competing with it were no worse off in these regards. But where are the examples of religious orthodoxy being simply abandoned in the face of irresistible evidence? Again and again in science, yesterday’s heresies have become today’s new orthodoxies. No religion exhibits that pattern in its history. [emphasis mine]

    I find it ironic that you use a quote from this paper to counter Rorty when the paper’s conclusion does not support your world view in any way.
    More to come.
    Best regards,
    Andy

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Jackson
    I observe your response on the fire example. I will comment:
    1] Need I point out that the various components of history (the “heat, oxidiser and fuel”) in COMBINATION (the whole unit of time known as the past) are the sufficient cause of the present (the fire). We cannot have our past true and our present false.
    –> THis is true enough as to the sufficient cause to originate the fire.
    –> However, it fails to address the further distinction: the material factors, oxidiser, fuel and heat are NECESSARY causes, and indeed, their presence is required to have the fire not only at its start but in its existence at each moment in time. Recall, this sub-discussion began when you addressed moral training as a NECESSARY cause for moral behaviour, then suggested that this is deterministic. I pointed out that the logic involved in a necessary causal factor — note the singular — is exactly NOT deterministic.
    –> That is, there is a clear distinction: (1) sufficient and (2) necessary cause, as an application of implication logic. The latter is not deterministic in effect.
    2] Time is all encompassing. The distinctions you are drawing between necessary vs sufficient conditions within a given unit of time do no apply.
    –> On the contrary, the three necessary causal factors in a fire are the basis for identifying how to start and sustain it: for each, their presence is necessary, but not sufficient; it is their combination that becomes suffcient — and that may in at least some cases be by intentional agency, i.e. design. [That is, there are cases at this level of simplicity, where spontaneous origin is possible; we are not describing the issue of specified, irreducible complexity, as in the molecular machinery of life, here.]
    –> Resistance at the point may be evidence that one is being blinded by one’s worldview’s core assumptions; blinded to what is a well-established, otherwise uncontroversial, highly material principle; cf. e.g. Copi, cited below. [Did you pull a copy in your College Library and look up "cause"? Or a similar standard work?]
    –> Here, pardon my violating the sound educational principle that one should not spoonfeed those who can fend for themselves. Copi, my personal copy:

    It is a fundamental axiom in the study of natura that events do not just happen, but occur only under certain conditions. It is customary to distinguish between necessary and sufficient conditions for the occurence of an event. A necessary condition for the occurrence of a specified event is a circumstance in whose absence the specified event cannot occur. For example, the presence of oxygen is a necessary condition for combustion to occur . . . . [but] the presence of oxygen is not a sufficient condition . . . A sufficient condition for the occurrence of and event is a circumstance in whose presence the event must occur . . . |for almost any substance there is some range of temperature such that being in that range of temperature in the presence of oxygen is a sufficient condition for combustion of the that substance. It is obvious that there may be several necessary conditions for the occurence of an event, and that they must all be included in the sufficient condition. The word “cause” is sometimes used in the sense of necessary condition and sometimes in the sense of sufficient condition. . . . [It is used in the first sense] when the problem at hand is the elimination of some undesirable condition . . . . [and in the second sense] when we are interested . . . in the production of something desirable. [Copi and Cohen, Intro to Logic, Prentice Hall, 8th Edn, 1990, pp. 377 - 378, i.e. the opening for Ch 12 on "Causal Connections: Mill's Methods of Experimental Inquiry"; emphases in original.]

    –> I had actually forgotten that Copi uses the same example, fire [the first example that was in my mind was the use of blocking inputs with NAND gates, as I have done in digital designs many times; then I fished in my mind for a more simple case]; and I note that oxygen is not the only oxidiser capable of sustaining a fire, as in rocketry.
    –> WIth these caveats, the point should still be quite clear: I am not introducing some novel concept, nor am I citing a “dubious” source [Copi is not exactly friendly to the Christian faith, indeed, his logic slips on a few points whre he speaks to that; e.g. in an earlier edition, where he cites some KJV quotes from Rev. to illustrate a fallacy, forgetting the issue of translation, and that of context!].
    –> All that I further comment is that again, the dynamical history of a system or a process is strictly to be distinguished from cause-effect bonds, as noted.
    3]Do syntax and semantics have a “responsible, creative, thoughtful independent existence,” or are they perhaps simply a “gentlemen’s agreement?” If you and I wanted to make a deal stipulating that “nfkhjusivnjsghfenfbn” carried some meaning, it would for us.
    –> That is exactly my point: we have to agree, explicitly or implicitly [e.g. through participating in the community of English speakers], for symbols to carry mutual meaning: i.e. you have assumed the responsible, willing mind in ordere to dispute it.
    –> And, syntax — agreed structure of meaningful symbols — is fed into e.g. a programming language’s compiler, thus programs written in it, by: Intelligent Designers, not by random actions (one of the points where the Dawkins-style program begs the question of ID]
    –> Semantics — actual meaning — is worse: it embeds intelligence that is in general unreachable by random processes such as random keyboard strikes: szbnfsahfwabnfesuiagfeajbviqhe is not at all like: habla usted el espanol, which is recognisable even when it does not fully conform to the syntax of Spanish.
    4] If we could agree that naturalism is the logically sound world-view, and also that a logically sound world-view is needed . . . the completely arbitrary letter combinations that comprise the sentence “naturalism is sound” would be valuable to us.
    –> And, before there was naturalism, there was not language? How, then did it arise? Indeed, how did the minds that have the semanics originate, on sound principles of explanation backed up by credible evidence that accounts for the material facts?
    –> But more to the point; again, the issue of mind and will comes up: AGREE.
    5] Yet, if none of us has the right to get what we want over anyone else, then we all have the right to be unencroached upon to the extent that we ourselves encroach upon no one else. Hence, equal rights and the pursuit of happiness for all.
    –> Random bits of rubbish cast up by a chaos can have no moral claims — you slipped that in question-beggingly with the words “right” and “encroach” — they can only exert demands by force or fraud. Thus, “value” evaporates into perception and emotion, thence delusion.
    6] I wish I could value stupidity. (I advocate the cessation of human breeding largely for this reason.)
    –> Thus, you show that the system you advocate will “naturally” select itself out of the future . . . [and Andy, this aptly illustrates my point that naturalistic thought tends to be self- and socially- destructive; as I made in notinghow europeans have now slipped far below replacement levels, i.e. even the flawed pragmatist criterion for falsification is being met!]
    –> Jackson: you live in what is arguably the most materially prosperous society in human history, and by virtue of the fact that you are a College student, you are on the escalator to at least a comfortable lifestyle — yet your worldview cannot give you happiness; similarly, the Western Europeans. WHy not reconsider the pattern of thought that has so disquieted you?
    7] Don’t know about you, but I’m clinging to life because the process of dying is somewhat frightful (when one is sober, anyway). That’s it. Life cannot be sweet compared to not-life; however, not-dying seems to be sweet compared to dying. This is why I appreciate medicine: not to put off the ending of consciousness, but to put off the process by which it is ended. There is a difference.
    –> This is ever so sad, not just self-contradictory. Kindly, look around you: LOOK! Why do you think art exists? Music? Love? Love-making? [As opposed to mutual mechanical sexual stimulation.] A baby’s smile, rooted in a thousand acts of love? Acts of deep charity? Poetry? Sunsets? Sunrises? The starry sky above? That deep wonder that is the root of true philosophy?
    –> I could go in, circling back over the evident fact that across space and time, the general testimony of mankind is that life is sweet, and a gift that is enjoyed; but the above are enough to show the point.
    May Grace open your eyes
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    1] I observe: there is a style of argumentation, often used by IDers, characterized by making disputed claims as if they are facts and citing old information, that is in some sense “scholastically abusive.” That is, it’s presented as if well supported when it is not and when its authors are aware it is not. I felt in this instance you were doing that, or should have known you were doing that.
    –> First, even if there are cases in point, the SAME can be said of all too many naturalists, with abundant vindication, adding in selective self-serving hyperskepticism, editing out of material evidence etc.
    –> Those, such as Dawkins and his ilk, who live in glass houses are ill-advised to throw stones; especially when a frank and fair exchange is a reasonable and available alternative.
    –> But also, in too many cases of alleged scholastic malpractice on the part of IDers, in fact the issue is that the interlocutors disagree with the conclusion, so they must find some excuse to attack the evidence.
    –> For instance, in Behe’s recent editorial, the president of the Scientists association cited objected to the citation of a journal issue on cell biology with a discussion of cellular molecular machinery. But in fact Behe was strictly correct in citation and scrupulously did not indicate that the cited source agrees with the ID argument: he just brought out implications that are there to be read: why was there a need for a journal special issue on the MACHINERY in the cell, including even springs!
    –> In short, a FACT: “something known to be true or to have occurred” is not hostage to agreement/disagreement: it is an objective existing truth. Disagreement and contention may speak more to closed-mindedness, than to the integrity of those who bring forward a material but unwelcome fact.
    –> The common further fact that those who disagree with a given fact’s implications or inferred best explanation are often tempted to challenge its veridicality — especially where the challenge is not likely to be rebutted and exposed — has no material bearing on the substantive point that a fact is a fact.
    –> For instance: we routinely identify agency and even intent in our explanations in day to day life and in science, but suddenly the stars of science with to a priori rule them out in the case of the most complex systems we commonly encounter. Why is that? WHO is playing games with scholarship?
    –> In my case, I observe that you have not pulled back your earlier accusation: I believe I have adequately shown that my point is at minimum arguable, and so the implicit sustaining of an unjustified accusation is improper.
    2] I find it ironic that you use a quote from this paper to counter Rorty when the paper’s conclusion does not support your world view in any way.
    –> REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    –> Andy, I AM NOT SUSPICIOUS OF SCIENCE; I have dedicated a large chunk of my life to its study, out of love for it: Physics, specifically.
    –> Rather, I am aware of its limitations: after all, Classical/Modern Physics is the great gulf in my discipline, forcing the study of why scientific theories fall apart! [It is no accident that Kuhn was a Physicist.]
    –> What I AM suspicious of, is the claims of the philosophy of naturalism; which I find, for good reason, to be self-referentially absurd and self-servingly circular, not to mention selectively hyperskeptical [i.e. it used criteria of suspicion to discredit what it challenges, while dropping the same criteria on points it wishes to advance], as I have shown repeatedly.
    –> I further hold, that it is self-servingly question-begging, and historically unjustifiable, to redefine science as naturalism and its embedded evolutionary materialism.
    –> So, I beg to differ with your interpretation. [For, I am no post-modern relativist, as Dennett was addressing in his remarks.]
    –> ALso, Dennett is wrong on the claim that Science is privileged in truth-seeking: scientific an philosophical methods pervade almost all fields of expert praxis, so those disciplines we label sciences are not privileged in the methods they use, nor are these methods capable of guaranteed access to truth.
    –> But that claim by Dennett in turn reflects his naturalism, which of course question-beggingly asserts a privileged status for science and Scientism, i.e. itself.
    Finally, a bit of frank, friendly advice: kindly watch tone and implications: I do not take well to repeated insinuations that I am a dishonest thinker. Disagreement is not dishonesty, as I have repeatedly demonstrated in this thread. (You and I may differ, say on the evaluation of the implications of the molecular machinery of the cell and s = k ln w without descending into disagreeableness. We are unfortunately back at that threshold.)
    Grace be to you
    Gordon

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    First of all:
    “you have assumed the responsible, willing mind in ordere to dispute it.”
    I have assumed the malleable mind in order to manipulate it. If you’re open to correction, then you are assuming I could possibly type a certain combination of characters sufficient to cause your beliefs to change.
    Now:
    “Recall, this sub-discussion began when you addressed moral training as a NECESSARY cause for moral behaviour”
    Perhaps my vague acquaintance with the technical language pertaining to sufficient and necessary circumstances within a given unit of time has led to your thinking there was an out here. The question of moral instruction was intended to point out that human behavior is not contra-causal if it differs as influence differs. I think we agree that it does differ as influence differs, but you (seemingly irrationally) hold that it is nevertheless contra-causal, despite even a lack of ability of the will to partake in the activity of determining itself (CAN YOU PLEASE RELATE HOW THE WILL’S DETERMINING OF ITSELF CAN EVEN THEORETICALLY BE POSSIBLE?).
    If one’s vantage point is broadened to units of time, the ONLY CIRCUMSTANCES APPLICABLE ARE THE INDIVIDUAL UNITS OF TIME. Your own example illustrates the relationship. You said that a sufficient relationship is when if P is true, Q cannot be false. I see not how this fails to apply to time: if the past is true, the present cannot be false. (Can you relate how the alternative could even theoretically be possible?)
    “And, syntax — agreed structure of meaningful symbols — is fed into e.g. a programming language’s compiler, thus programs written in it, by: Intelligent Designers, not by random actions”
    A computer doesn’t agree to use the syntax we want it to. However, initially random (perhaps even unwittingly imposed) structural rules applied with any degree of consistency can eventually evolve into a set of rules AGREED UPON by those who perceive the benefits of using such a tool.
    “Semantics — actual meaning — is worse: it embeds intelligence that is in general unreachable by random processes such as random keyboard strikes: szbnfsahfwabnfesuiagfeajbviqhe is not at all like: habla usted el espanol”
    If you produced a random string of letters in an attempt to identify some aspect of reality, I would initially have no clue to what you were referring. However, if you persisted and repeated the same (or even a similar) INITIALLY random sequence of letters while, say, pointing to an object, I would eventually get your gist. A random utterance repeated with a consistent intention eventually evolves into a mutually understood term. What is so hard to grasp about that?
    “Indeed, how did the minds that have the semanics originate, on sound principles of explanation backed up by credible evidence that accounts for the material facts?”
    I’m sure you’ll jump all over me for this one, but I must here betray an ignorance of the minutia of evolution. (I plan on taking Physical Anthropology this summer.) I assume the theoretical possibility of it has been illustrated throughout this very thread, followed by the assertion that infinite time and space render its probability irrelevant, which I’m sure was dismissed for no reason other than to cling to the alternative.
    “But more to the point; again, THE ISSUE OF MIND AND WILL comes up: AGREE.” [first capitalization mine]
    I agree. See the above pertaining to the mind. As to the will, CAN YOU PLEASE RELATE HOW THE WILL’S DETERMINING OF ITSELF CAN EVEN THEORETICALLY BE POSSIBLE?
    “Random bits of rubbish cast up by a chaos can have no moral claims — you slipped that in question-beggingly with the words “right” and “encroach” — they can only exert demands by force or fraud. Thus, “value” evaporates into perception and emotion, thence delusion.”
    Pertaining to enforcing perceived “rights,” you say that atheists “can only exert demands by force or fraud,” as though this doesn’t equally apply to the theist. A joke on your part?
    “Thus, you show that the system you advocate will “naturally” select itself out of the future”
    One can hope… (Not simply that naturalists are selected out, but human consciousness itself)
    “this aptly illustrates my point that naturalistic thought tends to be… socially- destructive”
    If utilized to address the causes of violence, it will be precisely the opposite; unless, that is, one deems anything but rampant spawning to be socially-destructive.
    Also, a wise man once said, “One should accept something as true because it is credibly shown so, whether or not it it is advantageous or positively hazardous to life and limb.”
    “yet your worldview cannot give you happiness”
    Again, a wise man once said, “One should accept something as true because it is credibly shown so, whether or not it it is advantageous or positively hazardous to life and limb.”
    You seem to say that truth either has no value or no existence if God does not exist. It seems your philosophy is, “One should strive to discern truth only if what is true is that God exists.” (Similar to encouraging people to question their faith on the condition that they don’t question themselves out of it.)
    “WHy not reconsider the pattern of thought that has so disquieted you? ”
    I reiterate my propensity to experience migraines when perceiving non-sense. I find it to be theoretically baseless (ESPECIALLY PERTAINING TO THE WILL) and inconsistent, pertaining to, say, the tyrannical process of force that is the “giving of life,” SPEAKING OF WHICH…
    “This is… self-contradictory.”
    EXACTLY how so?
    “Why do you think art exists? Music? Love? Love-making? [As opposed to mutual mechanical sexual stimulation.] … Acts of deep charity? Poetry? … That deep wonder that is the root of true philosophy?”
    Recreational activities undertaken in death’s waiting room, no?
    “A baby’s smile, rooted in a thousand acts of love? … Sunsets? Sunrises? The starry sky above?”
    Your Honor, while I enjoy marveling at such things as much as the next guy, I must object on the grounds of relevance. Sustained?
    “I could go in, circling back over the evident fact that across space and time, the general testimony of mankind is that life is sweet, and a gift that is enjoyed”
    Funny coming from someone whose doctrine I understand to have pioneered the use of the terms “world” and “life” as pejoratives.
    Could you please attend to the following:
    There is no way to attribute the process of cold-blooded “raping of unsuspecting souls of their absolute, blissful ignorance” to an entity whose nature is “goodness,” so instead of addressing the conflict you dismiss it as “no excuse” or, as of late, “a cheap and all too revealing, adolescent rhetorical shot.” BEING THAT YOU FIND IT TO BE SUCH, ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT THE COLD-BLOODED “OFFER ONE CAN’T REFUSE” IS PERFECTLY COMPATIBLE WITH YOUR VIEW OF GOD AND NOT MUCH MORE IN KEEPING WITH IMPARTIAL EVOLUTION???

  • Jackson

    Gordon,
    Some elaboration on the time issue:
    Let’s say that in time-unit A, you are: forced into being alive complete with pain receptors (necessary condition), unmedicated (necessary condition), and slapped in the face by someone (necessary condition); time-unit A is sufficient in determining the time-unit B in which your face is in pain. The three conditions in question are still present in time-unit B, for in it you are still alive and possessed of pain receptors, still unmedicated, and still have been slapped in the face.

  • Jackson

    Clarification:
    “I reiterate my propensity to experience migraines when perceiving non-sense. I find it to be theoretically baseless…” refers to Christianity.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson
    Just accidentally lost a post responding on 7 points. [This happened earlier, but I thought I had learned to avoid the fatal keystroke!] I will be brief; maybe I will be able to do more later.
    Kindly re-examine the thread above. You will see that again, you actually assume that I am responsible — often through directly asserting or implying that I am acting irresponsibly — that implies that to assert your claim, you implicitly deny it. THis rolls up your entire argument. THink again.
    On the substantive point at stake, I think sufficient has been said for you to distinguish cause-effect bonds, which can be concurrent, from the naturalistic view that the present is wholly determined by the past in principle back to the accidental boundary conditions of the singularity at 13.7 BYA. So, take on board the point that necessary causes are not deterministic in force, but may be part of an overall cause that is sufficient. On theistic grounds, such a sufficient cause includes our exercise of cognition and will.
    INdeed, the fact that this is our inner intuition, you yourself cannot excape as pointed out. Therefore, I am well justified to reject a position that cannot even account for the reliance we have on our inner lives.
    Beyong that, I suggest you have a look on http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/toolkit.htm as it will help you to think more clearly.
    Also, kindly think about the implications of a worldview agenda that looks forward tot he extinction of humanity. That is intellectual suicide with a vengeance.
    Grace to you
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Some days, trouble. Back to old reliable Word!
    Here are a couple of excerpts:
    1] Paul Nelson:
    He in effect argues he has been taken way out of context in how the excerpt you cited has been used. Here is his somewhat facetious response in part:

    Suppose we define “theory” as follows:
    A body of propositions, organized systematically and accepted as canonical by a particular science, where the foundational propositions and their corollaries are ordinarily taught to students in textbook form.
    Does such a biological theory exist for intelligent design? No. . . . .
    Scientific theories do not come into the world like Athena springing from the head of Zeus, perfectly formed. “The transition from data to theory,” argued the philosopher of science Carl Hempel (1966, p. 15), “requires creative imagination….and great ingenuity, especially if the [new ideas] involve a radical departure from current modes of scientific thinking, as did, for example, the theory of relativity and quantum theory.” Hempel might have added that a lot of hard work is also needed, mainly in hypothesis generation and testing — to start the difficult cycle of reasoning Karl Popper (1962) called “conjectures and refutations.” If we date the emergence of the present-day design community to the mid-1980s, the first conjectures were largely critical, or destructive, directed at the sufficiency of natural mechanisms to explain the origin of biological information. (See, for instance, Thaxton et al.’s classic The Mystery of Life’s Origin [1984], which antedated Phil Johnson’s bestselling Darwin on Trial [1991] — another largely critical book — by several years.) Only with the publication of books such as Darwin’s Black Box (1996) or The Design Inference (1998) do hints of a positive theory of design begin to emerge.
    At the moment, we — that’s all the people who care, both design theorists and anti-design theorists — are in the midst of the first major cycle of proposed refutations. Two design hypotheses, namely, irreducible complexity and specified complexity, are undergoing critical evaluation. Heck, you the reader may have attempted some of those refutations yourself. Don’t get hung up on whether what you’re doing is “science” or not. Leave the naming for historians. The dialectical activity of proposing and weighing new ideas is underway. Either a theory of biological design will emerge from all this work or it won’t. I say it will, but I worry enough about laziness (my own included) that I’ve tried to scare the design community into making the next round of design conjectures.

    http://www.idthefuture.com/index.php?title=gimme_a_hit_off_that_orb_abusing_the_no&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1
    That is a bit of clarification; and it raises the issue of out of context citation for rhetorical advantage.
    2] Lovejoy
    He was a founder of the History of Ideas movement, and thus it is appropriate to extract from the Dict of the Hist of Ideas:
    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv3-70

    When Arthur O. Lovejoy (in 1908) discriminated thir-teen meanings of pragmatism and showed that some
    of them were in contradiction with one another, he raised the problem of whether there was any coherent core of ideas that could define the doctrine or move-ment that was so widely discussed by American and
    European thinkers in various disciplines. Certainly Charles S. Peirce and William James (who credited
    Peirce in 1897 with inventing the doctrine) had divergent ideas in their

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy
    Here is where TC’s pragmatism emerges:

    on a naturalistic account to think is for the person

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Jackson
    Once more unto the breach, courtesy Word:
    1] I have assumed the malleable mind in order to manipulate it.
    – > Quite a confession!
    2] Perhaps my vague acquaintance with the technical language pertaining to sufficient and necessary circumstances within a given unit of time has led to your thinking there was an out here. The question of moral instruction was intended to point out that human behavior is not contra-causal if it differs as influence differs.
    – >

  • Jackson

    Gordon, you make me laugh. And I really say that without even the least bit of malice. I have a smile on my face. I have sincerely appreciated the discourse, as I crave it in person but know no one willing or able to engage therein. That said, I stand by my assertion that the great majority of what you proffer is utterly irrelevant or (I suspect possibly unwittingly) question-dodging–perhaps you sincerely don’t see why it matters that life is forced upon us and we cannot will at will. You have not even given me a glimmer of hope that determinism is unsound (I find your appealing to an intuition of willing at will that I don’t even have and cannot actually be had to be “strong evidence of loss of an argument on merits” and equivalent to saying, “It doesn’t have to make sense!”). I’ll be phoning the shark coroner now…
    I am happy for you that you have the psychological make-up you do. It’s unfortunate for me and probably mankind as a whole, but I suspect it’s pleasant for you.
    Thanks
    Jackson

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson
    I see you wish to take your exit.
    Perhaps, indeed, this thread has come to an end of its possibilities, and certainly it is now approaching 1 MB, so it loads slowly, at least for me and my dialup.
    However, there are two points I will take up, one current, the other from yesterday, both linked:
    1] J: I stand by my assertion that the great majority of what you proffer is utterly irrelevant or (I suspect possibly unwittingly) question-dodging–perhaps you sincerely don’t see why it matters that life is forced upon us and we cannot will at will.
    – > Of you cannot see the materiality of the distinction between controlling and influencing, even after a considerable discussion on the specifics of causation in logic [sufficient vs necessary] and in the wider sense [the classic four causes, which you NEVER TOOK UP], then perhaps it is because you have unfortunately closed your mind.
    –> on the points you advert to:
    (1) I can see why it would matter that one BELIEVES that life is an unwelcome burden, as I will comment on briefly next;
    (2) I see the implications of thinking one is naturalistically predetermined equally all too clearly — it is the foundation of my — and more importantly, Plantinga’s — point that the system of thought is therefore self-stultifying. (And, dismissal with a contemptuous wave is not at all the same as refutation.)
    –> The problem is, in short, that you cannot bring yourself to think critically outside the naturalistic box. I again invite you to the table of critical thinking about worldviews through the techniques of comparative difficulties, as that breaks us out of circularity: http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Intro_phil/toolkit.htm
    –> NB: Andy, if you are lurking, this also brings out where I have taken on board, a long time ago, the key points in pragmatist thinking that I think are wise. Note especially how Peirce’s logic of abduction provides a bridge between scientific and philosophical thought, and naturally gives rise to the point that scientific knowledge claims are PROVISIONAL — without abandoning the robust sense of truth as that which says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. Of course, Peirce was a scientist-philosopher; I hope he would not be too ashamed to see me say I aspire to such a state of grace.
    –> Unfortunately, the above points are not just academic concerns:

    JACKSON, THE INTENSITY OF DESPAIR IN YOUR REMARKS LEADS ME TO ADVISE YOU, AS AN EXPERIENCED COUNSELLOR WHO HAS SEEN CLINICAL DEPRESSION BEFORE, TO SEEK PERSONAL SUPPORT IMMEDIATELY; ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE HAVING DEATH IDEATION.

    2] Contempt
    –> Yesterday you revealed both profound ignorance of and contempt towards the Christian worldview, again.
    –> To that, I must remark: Contempt backed by a caricatured picture of what one scorns is not exactly a sensible way to make major worldview decisions. Instead, it smacks of a denizen of Plato’s cave, protesting that the manipulated shadow world is the real one.
    –> Why not have a read of my remarks in http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Mars_Hill_Web/apologetics.htm , and email me at kairosfocus@yahoo.co.uk ?
    –> Perhaps, too, you should reckon with the implications of the testimony of the millions who have met God in the face of Jesus, myself included. After all, God is not a concept, he is a Person!
    Jesus, as ever, was ever so wise on the point:
    MT 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
    And with that, I conclude. Save, for the prayer I have been making on your behalf:
    May God in his wonderful grace, open your eyes.
    Gordon

  • Gordon Mullings

    Andy and Jackson
    I think the post I just made [and the linked article] are sufficiently important to do this as a PS.
    Recall, unless we can get TO a viable lifeform, all other subsequent debates are futile.
    Grace
    GEM
    ++++++++++
    Joe and Boon:
    Thanks for the link to http://mic.sgmjournals.org/cgi/content/full/148/1/21 .
    A few quickies on excerpts from the article:
    1] In the absence of ozone, the surface of Earth was probably bathed in lethal UV radiation for more than 2 gigayears of its existence, a problem that would not apply to the hydrothermal habitat
    –> THis of course shows the dilemma: no O2, no O3, UV kills off the proposed reactions; O2, poisons Miller-Urey type reactions — and there is the debate over early atmospheric composition to be addressed.
    2] The sequence of evolution leading to the DNA world may have begun with prebiotic chemistry in the interstellar medium, or may have been accomplished on mineral (Ferris et al. ; Trevors, 1997a , 1996 ) or metal surfaces entirely in habitats aquatic (particularly hydrothermal)
    –> Panspermia or hydrothermal vents, in short.
    3] We have made little advance on the chirality problem of why natural sugars are right handed and natural amino acids are left handed, although the discovery that vortex forces can lead to chiral selection (Rib

  • Gordon Mullings

    Jackson
    I think on second thought I owe you an apology: I went too far in my post advising you as above, even though I think it is something to be at least considered and even though you are in effect anonymous (and have a plainly fake email).
    Pardon my going too far on that point.
    GEM

  • AndyS

    Hi Gordon,
    I haven’t said much here lately due to being engaged with other things, but I have given a lot of thought to our discussion and scanned yours and Jackson’s continuing dialog. Now I’d like to make a small contribution, if for no other reason, just in attempt to explain my views in terms that will be acceptable to both of us.
    The news media, blogs, talking heads on TV, and columnists use terms like culture war, competing worldviews, Christian right, liberal left, cultural elite and so on as if those concepts are useful. They are useful to incite people but I think add very little in the way of contributing to meaningful dialog that promotes understanding of anything of significance. You and I and now Jackson as well have been attempting to the latter on this thread — at least in our better moments. Since I gernerally start looking at a problem statement, be it technical or interpersonal, by looking at the language people use to describe it, I’ll do that here.
    Naturalism, Pragmatism, and Christianity
    These are all labels for big concepts that include complex human (and supernatural in the latter case if you are okay with applying that term to God) behaviors and large bodies of belief reflected in the volumes of literature of various sorts written on each topic. I think it is more than reasonable to say that we aren’t going to add significantly to the world’s knowledge of these topics in a blog-based discussion. Speaking for myself, I don’t entertain the idea that I will do so in any sort of discussion.
    What we can do here — and I think we’ve accomplished it — is give our opinions, cite the authorites that we find compelling, and point out the problems (and hopefully the strengths) we see in each other’s positions.
    Philosophy of Science
    This is what I believe our discussion has ironically narrowed to. Ironically because that’s one heck of a big subject.
    I agree with Larry Laudan, a respected philosopher of science, when he says,

    Feminists, religious apologists (including “creation scientists”), counterculturalists, neoconservatives, and a host of other curious fellow-travelers have claimed to find crucial grist for their mills in, for instance, the avowed incommensurability and underdetermination of scientific theories. The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is — second only to American political campaigns — the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.
    – [Larry Laudan, Science and Relativism: Dialogues on the Philosophy of Science (1990), p. x., quoted from Alan D. Sokal, "What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Prove" (April 8, 1997), slated to appear in Noretta Koertge, ed., A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science (1998)]

    I think you agree with this too (the point about subject interests and perspectives) and would object to being called “anti-intellectual.” This is exactly what causes me confusion when you discount naturalism as “self-refuting” and promote “teaching the controversy” by listing intelligent design’s talking points. I’m not trying to piss you off by say this; my confusion is very real and your positions really do seemed to me to be anti-intellectual. Allow me to say some more….
    Intelligent Design
    For me, even if I were to agree with Laudan that intelligent design could properly be called science, I’d have to call it extremely bad science or, to but it in a better light, science in its most infantile stage. On the one hand it’s work being backed only by a privately funded institute as opposed to another theory of about the same age that also cannot show how it can be disproved like string theory which is funded from a variety of sources. Of course, there is the peer review publication problem as well — string theory has a rather astonishing amount, ID one or two to be generous.
    Why would we want to teach a kind of science that’s only promoted by a handful of scientists (and preciously few biologists) none of whom have any particular stature in the scientific community?
    On the other hand, there is intelligent design’s explanatory power which, it seems to me, amounts to saying “any complex thing that cannot be replicated in the lab must be due to an intelligent designer.” Again, thinking of you as someone with a graduate degree in physics, I’m a confused. I’d expect you to consider, in the merits of any theory, what good it would do if it turned out to be accurate. Even if ID is proper science and true, what have we gained?
    Why would we teach our children a theory that, if true, motivates no further scientific investigation? Or, to put it differently, if true, how would the world’s scientists go about their work any differently?
    These are heartfelt questions.
    Naturalism
    To me, naturalism offers us hope because, for example, it does not lead to statements like “AIDs is God’s answer to homosexual behavior” (or however Fawell put it) but rather to a research and treatment program for the disease. It’s useful in precisely the way that intelligent design is not. It says look for the natural causes instead of supernatural ones. When faced with complexity — which, after all, is the nature of all difficult problems — it investigates rather than concluding a supernatural intelligence is at work.
    Naturalism does not say that God does not exist but rather that when your car breaks down look first to see if there is gas in the tank.
    Naturalism does not say that people do not have personal experiences of God, nor does pragmatism, at least in the Jamesian version as testified to by The Varieties of Religious Experience.
    When it comes to the origin of unicellular life, naturalism doesn’t say it wasn’t designed. Rather, it says let’s try and figure out how it came to be. It takes the pragmatic approach that the design assumption, in terms of adding scientific knowledge, is not fruitful.
    No where does it say that the design assumption is not useful in religious thinking.
    Pragmatism
    Personally I’m far more interested in the body of knowledge that is useful than that which is true. We can construct an infinitely large number of statements that are true, most of which will be trivial and/or useless, hence paragmatism’s focus on utility. Of the knowledge that is useful how do we know if it is true? Kurt Godel has shown us there exist true statements in mathematics that can not be proven, so it is fair to expect a similar result outside of math. Even those of us who are not Godel-level master logicians understand that any advocate of an idea must base her or his argument on some set of assumptions, the rules of logic, and a chain of evidence, and seasoned advocates know to make their case in language their audience understands. This last point about language may seem trivial but lies at the heart of pragmatism and its approach to the notions of truth and utility.
    understanding
    Beliefs are expressed in language which brings a host of difficulties to any serious discussion. When you express your reasons for a belief and I say “I know what you mean,” how do either of us know we now have an understanding of the same thing? In general you could ask me a lot of questions and see if you are satisfied with my answers. Or you could have me ask you questions and judge whether or not they are pertinent and insightful with respect to your belief. I could go find the work of others who share your belief thus demonstrating my understanding or, by locating objections to your belief I could in perhaps a more profound way show I know what you mean. In all these activities you are the final arbiter of the quality of my understanding with respect to your belief. After all, it is your belief I am claiming to understand so you should be the judge.
    The flip side is that I’m the one claiming to understand it. How do I ensure I really do understand what you mean? Let’s assume all this is above-board with the best of intentions on both sides. We could go through the preceding kind of exercises. I could ask you to identify works that agree with your beliefs and others that disagree, and perhaps ask you to extrapolate from your belief statement to show me what you think follows from it. At the end of this, if I think I could play your role in expressing and explaining your belief to another person, I’d say I actually did understand your belief.
    It’s worth noting that this is a significant undertaking for many mundane beliefs. Even the claim that a particular recipe makes good bread might entail ideas of health, nutrition, how wheat is farmed and grain milled to say nothing of yeast, kneading, oven technology, rising times, the nature of crust and crumb, etc. How much more involved is understanding the nature of science, philosophy, religion, and education?
    And none of this is yet about truth or utility, only about mutual understanding. My point is simply: understanding entails the social behavior of communication and all the bagage that comes with that.
    truth
    So, given understanding, what of truth? Once we get to the point where we both agree that I understand your belief, we can begin to discuss whether or not it is true. While I may be able to represent your belief to your satisfaction — say, as your proxy in a debate — I may disagree with your reasoning. Perhaps I find one of your assumptions ill-considered or your evidence weak. Where does that leave truth? Is it purely subjective?
    Consider the claim about the recipe for making good bread. In the baking and tasting of it we can judge the subjective aspects of its goodness. But if we look at the idea of good nutrition I think you would agree this entails more objective criteria; however, even then we would be looking at competing ideas of what nutritionists think about what good nutrition is as well as how we judge the efficacy of a certain recipe in achieving a particular nutritional quality.
    How much more involved is judging the goodness of people and the claims about the truth of moral positions?
    language
    We are all like Alice in Through the Looking Glass:

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

    If after tasting your bread I say, “Now that’s good bread!” I’m sure you would understand that I like it’s taste. When I say, “That’s a good recipe,” however, I might mean I like the taste of the bread it makes or maybe that I like its simplity or any of a variety of other things. When I say, “Pragmatism offers a good theory of truth,” what am I claiming?
    utility
    Understanding, truth, and language are all complex things. Libraries are full of books about them and even a discussion about baking bread can involve all three in a myriad of ways. Amid the vast number of words and claims on any given subject, the pragmatic approach tells us to focus of what’s useful. It says to search for utility. How do we judge that? When is knowledge or, more humbly, a belief useful?
    First, the pragmatist asks that in be stated in comprehensible way. Unlike Humpty Dumpty you must do the hard work of articulating it for your audience using the often cumbersome tool of language in a manner that makes it not just acceptable to the grammarian but having a high degree of probablity that it can be understood. It’s worth noting here that one’s choice of audience determines the kind of language used. If you are telling me about bread and I’m a professional baker you’ll use different language than if I’m a novice.
    Next, we’d all like our beliefs to be true for an appropriate sense of the word true. That is, the two statements, “I believe the bread is in the oven” and “the bread is in the oven,” are verified in different ways only one of which is mutually assessible. Another example: “the theory of evolution is true” and “the sum of the interior angles of a right triangle is 180 degrees” lend themselves to entirely different approaches to verification. The second one is interesting for two reasons: first, it is underspecified since its truth relies on Euclidean geometry and, second, by including the term ‘right’ it is overspecified.
    So the pragmatist looks to language, context, and purpose among other things when discussing what is true — and does not fall into a mindless pit of chaotic relativism in doing so. By acknowledging that language, context and purpose have everything to do with understanding and truth, we offer an important and necessary way to achieve understanding and establish truth in a meaningful way.
    It’s useful to ask why a problem in posed in a particular form, in what context, and with what purpose. The answers to those question determine a number of important things: is it worth the time and energy to solve this problem, the sort of language the required in which to discuss it, the verification procedures to be used in the solution, what evidence may be relevant to the domain to name but a few.
    So to the claim that intelligent design is a useful scientifc theory, I respond as above: show me just how it is useful. What does it offer scientists in their work that they don’t have now? How would we go about verifying it?
    Morality
    Is it really so difficult to imagine that a smart, sincere person can reflect on her or his life and experience and construct a set of sensible pragmatic rules to guide their conduct?
    One of my hot buttons is hearing people claim that only through religion one can know about morality. How does that work? As a young man it was the hypocrisy I saw among my fellow Christians that caused me to question religion as a necessary and sufficient means to a moral life. Later of course I learned that hypocrisy doesn’t respect religious and philosophical boundaries. In the meantime, I found that pragmatism offered a way to build an ethical system that I believe is well-supported and open to inspection by others as opposed to referencing sacred texts and religious authorities.
    Sometimes problems in secular Europe or the darkness of the former Soviet Union are cited to imply that somehow secularism is responsible for many or all of their moral woes.
    I live in what some call the richest country in the world and in some sense of the word one of the most Christian, yet a large minority (many millions) have no health insurance. Most pragmatists would, I think, claim that is a moral wrong and make the case that we have the money and ability to find a way to make health care available to all as do many more secular nations; yet is the conservative and loudly Christian right that opposes the use of public funds to provide healthcare for all. My work has taken me all over secular Europe; by comparison it is American cities where homelessness is epidemic. This same Christian country has nearly one percent of its citizens in prisons (1 out of 136 is the lastest figure I’ve seen) ; most prisoners are Christians as well.
    Some Thoughts on This Blog Thread
    We began with Joe Carter’s orginal post mocking naturalism in general and the Center for Naturalism (CFN) in particular. (In a later post, Joe gave a half-hearted, but nevertheless welcome, apology for his tone.) Amid the typical blog shouting match and barb-trading, some of us have carried on a more-or-less civil discussion of the issues around naturalism and its sibling pragmatism. What have we gained?
    (This other evangelic blog has a discussion of Plantinga’s EAAN idea. Note the quality of the discussion as opposed to that here.)
    I’m glad we could agree on the summary of your main points:
    (1) Naturalism is self-referencially inconsistent. (via Plantinga)
    (2) Naturalism’s failure to today fully explain the complexity of the cosmos, unicellular organisms, and the human mind is reason enough to reject naturalism in favor of some combination of theism, intelligent design, and some form of science. (intelligent design)
    (3) Morality is dependent on contra-causal freewill. (?)
    But I can’t say that I’ve seen any compelling argument for these claims. Also, sadly, I can’t say that I’ve seen much understanding of what naturalism and pragmatism are actually all about, or much common ground to serve as a basis for further discussion. I must say, though, Gordon, I remain convinced that having a chat with you over a cup of coffee would be a great deal of fun.
    I’ll keep a watch on this thread to see what you think of my ramble here (and I grant you it is a ramble). I wonder if I’ve said anything that’s particularly useful to you in understanding my approach.
    Best regards,
    Andy

  • http://www.josephlied.com/ idiot

    i am an idiot and i am lead by richard simmons

  • Gordon Mullings

    Hi Andy
    Came back, and saw a quite thoughtful contribution. I will add a few points:
    1] Worldviews
    –> Given the force of the Russell 5-minute universe argument, we all have to admit that our worldviews are under-determined by the empirical data and associated arguments. (I think that actual encounter with God and the shifted balance of credibility on records/testimony of others who have had such encounters does offer a resolution; but then one is “free” to infer that all who report such encounters are delusional or worse — save for the implicit metaphysical and ethical commitments that flow from that.)
    –> Within that predicament, there is a kulturekampf; globally between the waning postmodern secularists of NA and Europe, the radical islamists and the southern Christian reformation [now about 100 years old]. I think Aikman’s observations n China’s trends indicate that over the next 40 – 60 years, the balance will tip: towards the Christianity of the South.
    –> What you are seeing is a small cross section, largely between remanants of the Northern Reformation and infusions from the S one on one hand, and the culturally dominant but distinctly minority secularists of NA on the other. The secularists are gradually losing out [e.g. the rising impact of ID], and this has led to an increased shrillness and venomous rage: historically, very few have yielded power gracefully.
    –> Against that backdrop, our discussion is helpful at the personal level and as a reflection of the trends and issues. Persuasion and decision one way or another is driven by a host of factors, environmental and personal; but the lurkers are able to see for themselves who has the better of the case — and as with Paul who was laughed out of court in Athens, my thesis is that the future belongs to the Apostle, not to the philosophers or the politicians: Jerusalem wins over Athens and Rome, by creating a Christian synthesis.
    2] Specifics
    a]The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is — second only to American political campaigns — the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.
    –> I agree, but with a few twists. There is enough merit in the point that our theories are provisional and perspectival that the credible form of objectivity is soft: error exists, so truth exists, but we can be mistaken about it; hopefully by recognising error can make progress.
    b] if I were to agree with Laudan that intelligent design could properly be called science, I’d have to call it extremely bad science or, to but it in a better light, science in its most infantile stage.
    –> Infants are very noisy, messy and frustrating; but that is where the future lies. It is therefore unwise to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    –> In this case, naturalistic attempts to capture science in thralldom to a self-referentially absurd system need to be challenged, and one step is to first see that philosophy is inseparable from science, and to recognise that agent causation [intentional or unintentional] is inescapably part of science content and process.
    –> I consider that the inference to design of the cosmos, life [starting at molecular level], major [macro-level] biodiversity, mind and morality is the best of our live options in a comparative difficulties sense. I think I have seen good cumulative evidence for that; philosophical and scientific — and demarkation and privileging of “science” at methodological level is a dead phil issue, though often resorted to by clever rhetors.
    c] To me, naturalism offers us hope because, for example, it does not lead to statements like “AIDs is God’s answer to homosexual behavior” (or however Fawell put it) but rather to a research and treatment program for the disease.
    –> Classic strawman: that homosexual promiscuity — cf patient zero’s story — has had a major role in AIDS and there is a resulting massive over-representation of homosexuals in the epidemiological statistics reflects the consequences of taking sexuality out of God’s design as addressed by Jesus in Mt 19:3 – 6.
    –> In fact, the ONLY global success story is Uganda, where application of religiously motivated principles of abstinence and fidelity over 20 years moved prevalence from 15 to 5 percent,as Ed Green [not at all sympathetic to Christian faith] documents.
    –> The suppression of truth on this one is reflective of the breakdown of morality that naturalism has significantly contributed to.
    d]Naturalism does not say that God does not exist but rather that when your car breaks down look first to see if there is gas in the tank.
    –> Strawman again, this one with a halo. Naturalism, as a worldview, is anchored by the principle that nature in a physicalist sence, circumscribes credible reality. Thus, God is at best a myth and at worst a tool of ideological manipulation.
    –> That natural forces and chance processes and boundary conditions act is NOT reducible to the philosophy of naturalism. (And, I and other theists use these factors routinely in troubleshooting and design.) But when one then insists on rejecting the experience that agency also acts, human and divine, then one is a philosophical naturalist — and self-stultifies through undermining cognition.
    e] Personally I’m far more interested in the body of knowledge that is useful than that which is true.
    –> And, therein lie monstrous logical and practical consequences. Lies for instance can be very useful indeed in the hands of tyrants.
    –> I am interested in true, the just, the right, the beautiful, and more.
    –> And, KNOWLEDGE is inherently linked to truth: justification [in a post-Gettier sense, e.g. warrant], truth and belief converge to form knowledge, however provisional it is.
    –> Knowledge, also is not to be confused with proof; which is inevitably relative to starting assumptions and is therefore limited in a Godel sense as wel as by the need to truncate the implicit infinite regress. Most often we know because we, quite properly, trust credible testimony: our senses, our memories, our parents, our teachers, experts and witnesses. And that brings us tothe central importance of trust, trustworthiness and relationships; thence, relationship with GOd and trusting what he has to say to us.
    –> When truth is surrendered to utility, serious and destructive consequences follow; not least because the manipulation that follows leads to mutual suspicion and mistrust thence disintegration of the community of learning and the wider community. [And yes I am applying Kant's CI here.]
    f]implications
    –> Language is part of the testimony to our creation; staring with the astounding fact of its acquisition by all normally intelligent people within the first half dozen years of life; given its inherent deep complexity as Chomsky et al have shown and as we have learned from developing computer languages and expert systems. As such, it is a vehicle of communication, relationship, trust and truth-speaking.
    –> Indeed, neither you nor I can survive without assuming the reliability of language; whatever we may profess in our philosophies. Naturalism struggles to account for that, as an aspect of: the origin of mind . . . surprise, surprise.
    –> Morality in turn is deeply embedded: without a community of trust and mutual respect, language and relationship break down.
    –> Indeed, this is the end of the clever pragmatist rhetor/liar: eventually, no-one will believe him, even when in desperation he speaks the truth or gives sound counsel. Just ask Alcibiades about what his clever rhetoric eventually achieved after he betrayed Athens, Sparta and Persia in turn, then tried to help the Athenians. THEY PREFERRED TO LOSE THE BATTLE ON THEIR OWN TO THE PROSPECT OF WINNING IT BY TRUSTING ALCIBIADES’ PLAINLY DUBIOUS THOUGH ALWAYS CLEVER ADVICE.
    –> Finally, given the principle that one may elect to deny the consequent, no arguments can be universally compelling: P => Q, but I reject Q, so I can deny P. THe only prolem with that is that THE COMPARATIVE DIFFICULTIES OF THE LIVE ALTERNATIVES MAY BE EVEN MORE UNDESIRABLE. You have chosen to live with those of Naturalism, which I insist is plainly and evidently multiply self-referentially inconsistent as can be abundantly documented and explored.
    –> Similarly, I should note that I do not actually like the term contra-causal free will: we have constrained options due to acting necessities of finitude in corporeal beings living in a physical world, but that does not mean that we are not significantly and meaningfully free in our thinking, deciding, valuing and acting. That is the abundant testimony of humankind across history, and the very fact that you implicitly assume that a responsible dialogue is possible and desirable tells me that you implicitly assume this, whatever your formal commitmants to naturalism may say.
    Enough for now.
    Grace be to you
    Gordon