Jun 03 2011

Creationist Politicians

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421 responses so far

421 Responses to “Creationist Politicians”

  1. Kawarthajonon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:57 am

    Steve,

    I have to object to you calling politicians “ideologues”. While I will concede that some, maybe even many, are, you cannot paint all of them with the same brush without committing some sort of logical fallacy yourself. There are policiticians who are defenders of science and there are others, who might fit into a more moderate range, who may hold beliefs but aren’t extreme enough to be referred to as ideologues.

    Anyway, I agree with the rest of your article and it is amazing how ideology can distort a person’s sense of reality.

  2. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 12:04 pm

    “Idealogue” is a rather loaded and ambiguous term. That said, in what sense are politicians “idealogues”? And did you mean to include all politicians or just some, like those who attempt to pass laws that challenge the scientific consensus (whether the issue be creationism, global warming, or something else)?

  3. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Sorry, I posted before seeing Kawarthajon’s comment, which is overlaps with mine.

  4. Nikolaon 03 Jun 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Maybe it was a bit of a broad generalization, but the point stands, imho.
    The language of the politician is obfuscation, while the language of the scientist is discovery and revelation.

  5. Karl Withakayon 03 Jun 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Micro time vs macro time:
    I can see the second hand move on my watch, so micro time of seconds is real, but I cannot perceive the movement of the hour had on my watch, so the macro time of hours does not exist.

    As to the distinction of species, I suggest the representative look up “ring species” in Wikipedia or Google.

    The word species is a term invented by humans, not nature. It is normally a very useful term and concept, but nature is not bound by our definitions of words or the labels we use, such as the words planet, sun, moon, or species.

    The nature of an object is not defined or controlled by our definition of that object. Pluto is what it is, regardless of how we label it.

  6. eeanon 03 Jun 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I still think this law is pointless.. we know science teachers across the country are terrorified of their creationist students and their parents. This law won’t change that.

    My great high school biology teacher taught evolution in the context of teaching about the scientific process in general. first we learned about some of the other origin theories (eg Lamark) and then Darwin, Mendel inheritance etc. so she would be fine with this law as well.

    so really I think if this is the best they got, then we can say we won defensively in the state capitols. The battles of this cultural war are now in the classroom, I’m not sure you can legislate on the problem of fearful teachers one way or another.

  7. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Nikola, “discovery and revelation” may be the ideal language of the scientist. Do all scientists live up to it? I doubt it, but I agree that they should.

    Similarly, I would say that the ideal language of the politician is (to borrow from linguist George Lakoff) that of a “moral mission” towards “protection and empowerment.” Promoting creationism in the classrooms does not (as far as I can tell) fit that mission, and any politician who pursues that goal is an embarrassment to the profession.

    Fortunately, not all politicians fit that description (particularly in my region of the country). And the share of them that do seems to be concentrated in the Bible Belt, where a different view of government’s mission is also dominant; namely, one that accords with a Strict Father model of morality, which emphasizes obedience to authority (e.g. the Lord, as interpreted by clergy and Scripture).

  8. Steven Novellaon 03 Jun 2011 at 1:42 pm

    While of course there is a spectrum, and some politicians manage to be quite pragmatic – politics is an inherently ideological game. Still – I should have added some qualifiers to that sentence so that it did not come off so absolute.

  9. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Steve, I now feel obliged to cite some definitions (using the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), starting with “ideological”:

    1: relating to or concerned with ideas
    2: of, relating to, or based on ideology

    According to the broad implications of 1, even science is “an inherently ideological game”, so I suppose that we should turn to “ideology”:

    1: visionary theorizing
    2a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

    Here again, 1 may characterize certain tasks in science (e.g. the hypothesis and interpretive stages); 2a may characterize the “systematic body of concepts” of specific fields, like evolutionary biology and “especially” the social sciences; and 2b the “manner or the content of thinking characteristic” of individual scientists or the scientific community, in general.

    That leaves 2c, about which I would agree that, in this sense (and only in this sense), it is fair to say that politics is “an inherently ideological game” in a way that science is not, or at least is not supposed to be, given the norms of the latter profession.

  10. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 2:56 pm

    @eean

    This law is far from pointless, since if it is passed school boards will be able to design curriculum with specific questions like “how could the eye have evolved if all it needs all its parts to work together?” or “why does nature work if its the product of random chance?”

    even if most teachers shy away from evolution, now they will be required to give anti-evolution arguments the appearance of credibility.

  11. jreon 03 Jun 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Within the context of this post, the “ideologue” comment seems perfectly reasonable to me. You are, after all, drawing a contrast between scientists (understood generally) and a group of people who are inalterably wedded to an ideology. Do scientists, being human, sometimes act or speak from ideological motivation? Sure. Do politicians, also being human, sometimes exceed our expectations and act or speak from evidence and reason? Absolutely. The fact that exceptions may be found in both camps does not make the broad conclusion invalid.

    Here’s another example from the bill:

    Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

    Well, I’m sure that some of us are relieved that administrators will now have to stop prohibiting teachers from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review. Others among us may consider this to be the best example of weasel-wording to come down the pike in several moons. Still others among us may object: “Hey! What’s wrong with weasel-words? Weasel-words are the only thing that separates us from the animals. Except, of course, the weasels.”

  12. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 3:08 pm

    PS: I suppose that one could broaden my interpretation of “sociopolitical program” to include any body of evidence- or science-based political issues/causes, such as those that drive the Union of Concerned Scientists). Granted, the “assertions” part of that same definition is particularly problematic for scientists, but only insofar as they claim to state facts. Insofar as they merely state their values (e.g. public health), they are on safe ground – as are politicians.

  13. Steven Novellaon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:18 pm

    mufi,

    The process of politics is dominated by ideology, in the sense politicians adhere to a certain philosophy or world view as the determining factor in their political choices. The number of legislative votes that are largely or completely down party lines is good evidence in support of this. There is an “ideological to pragmatic” spectrum among politicians, and I prefer the pragmatists, but this is within a spectrum already skewed largely to the ideological side.

    Whereas the very nature of science is anti-ideological – it is the use of observation and experiment to figure out how the world works, and to control for bias and ideology – even to break free from ideology.

    I don’t think a narrow reading of Webster is reflecting these nuances.

  14. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I never cease to be amazed by you atheist ‘skeptics’. You are inveterate censors, using professional destruction and legal force to prevent people from asking questions about your ideology that you (thinly) disguise as science.

    The academic freedom bills like the ones in Tenn and Louisiana mean just what they say. They protect teachers (from people like you) who help students:

    “understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”

    What, exactly, is wrong with that? Of course, you don’t like their ‘motives’, although you don’t seem to have a problem with the atheist motives of 99% of evolutionary biologists who proclaim their materialist creation myth a ‘scientific fact’. If motives, rather than evidence, is the problem, your motives are every bit as ‘unconstitutional’ as are the motives of the creationists.

    And if it’s facts, not motives, that matter, why do you have a problem with critical discussion of facts?

    Why not let people speak freely, in schools and everywhere, and you can make your best argument, and they’ll make theirs, and people can decide for themselves. That’s how a free society works.

    I am astonished and enraged by the censorship that has become the default tactic of the atheist ‘scientific’ community. No scientist should ever be opposed to an academic freedom bill. I don’t give a damn what the “motives” are. Academic freedom, especially for ideas you don’t like, is the indispensable foundation of science.

    And if the “creationists” (i.e. the taxpayers and the parents of the schoolchildren) try to teach “creationism”, you can always railroad them into federal court, get an injunction, and threaten them with financial ruin and jail to shut them up. You’ve done it many times; no reason to stop now.

    Why use such totalitarian tactics?

  15. Dianeon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:36 pm

    @robm

    I’m not convinced that addressing those kind of questions “gives anti-evolution arguments the appearance of credibility” as you say. In fact, I think it’s a good idea, especially for teachers in communities where most kids are hearing creationist propaganda outside the classroom. It is probably impossible to teach evolution to kids who have already been biased against it if you *don’t* explicitly address creationist arguments.

  16. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Steve, remember this gem from Lewis Carroll:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    That’s how your response came across to me (Webster’s be damned!).

    Anyway, I agree that science aspires to those goals (as it should). But I would also say that its mission is inherently different from that of politics, and that to judge one profession strictly by the standards of another seems like a categorical error.

    Better, I think, just to acknowledge that politics is more obviously influenced by the moral values and interests of those involved (as it should). And, ideally, the policies that follow will also reflect the best (scientific) information available. But, sadly, it seems like that’s too often not the case.

  17. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I agree with Diane.

    Censorship of critical discussion in science classes won’t work anyway, and will probably backfire on you in the long run. Kids have extraordinary access to information about this debate (parents, friends, churches, internet, etc). Your censorship of discussion in classrooms is largely irrelevant to the educational issues, which will be determined by forces that are way beyond your control.

    If I were an atheist and I were gullible (stupid) enough to believe that evolution was unguided, I would still support critical discussion in classrooms. My reasons:

    1) I’d want the kids to hear the issues in a science classroom where I (an atheist scientist) had at least a little bit of influence.

    2) I hate censorship.

  18. HHCon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Ideology can be a set of beliefs, or attitudes that form an individual’s social network, including political or economic theories. Politicians have a base of support, ( electability). If some politicians are pragmatists, then those prefer to negotiate their positions (reasoning towards a goal for their base of support.) Politicians are elected on their ideology unless they are running on their name for power/ glory.

    Scientists can be ideologues, for example, in social psychology I had two Catholic professors who presented their anti-abortion views in a manner as follows: 1. I was only allowed to do a meta-analysis of abortion studies which presented the females as mentally disturbed by the abortion experience or 2. I presented a research project on abortion with projected mathematical predictions of beliefs based on positive integers. The consensus of the professors felt the study had potential. The Catholic professor insisted on the use of negative integers. That style of research was not reasonable for me, I’m pro-choice.

  19. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 3:58 pm

    @Diane

    You make a good point, but the point of the law is to allow teachers to raise doubts, not to have teachers pose these questions and then give the answers that clearly refute them. If I had to design a highschool biology curriculum (which I am in no way qualified to do) I would have a section on evolution, and a section afterward debunking anti evolution arguments.

    The whole idea here is to change ID into ID? under the guise of critical thinking and just asking questions.

  20. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 4:10 pm

    @Mike12

    2+2=5 is not promoting critical thinking in math, giving Kennedy and 9/11 conspiracy arguments treatment in history class is not freedom of information its lending a superficial veneer of credibility to crackpots.

    Opposing creation arguments having a forum in public schools is not about censoring creationism because the kids couldn’t handle it, its ensuring good curriculum. I personally don’t have a problem with kids being exposed to an evolution faq where they see creationist questions are either answerable that yes evolution is true, or improper framing (has Darwin stopped beating his wife?).

  21. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 4:14 pm

    @robm:

    “I would have a section on evolution, and a section afterward debunking anti evolution arguments. The whole idea here is to change ID into ID? under the guise of critical thinking and just asking questions.”

    To debunk “anti-evolution” arguments in a classroom, you must concede that such arguments are constitutionally permissible in a classroom. You can’t debunk something that you’re not permitted to discuss.

    And I’m amused by your choice of the words “under the guise of critical thinking” to describe your approach to curriculum. Is ‘the “pro-evolution” viewpoint merely the “guise of critical thinking”? Do you mean it’s not really arrived at by critical thinking? What then could motivate it, pray tell?

    I admire your candor.

  22. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 4:27 pm

    @Mike12

    “Do you mean it’s not really arrived at by critical thinking?”

    Actually evolution arrived at by critical thinking and multiple lines of evidence, each of which requires more education to understand than can be covered in a single year of high school biology.

    “you must concede that such arguments are constitutionally permissible in a classroom”

    This depends on intent and context if they are presented in the same way as the flat earth or Aristotle’s physics i don’t see a problem, allowing a rebuttal from those theories and leaving it at that is bad policy.

    I admire your sophistry, wait no I dont

  23. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 4:28 pm

    @robm:

    @Mike12

    “2+2=5 is not promoting critical thinking in math, giving Kennedy and 9/11 conspiracy arguments treatment in history class is not freedom of information…”

    Actually, there’s a ton of leftist bullshit taught in public schools, especially in history and social studies, but that’s a matter for local people to decide for their own kids in their own schools. I don’t think that teaching that promotes Kennedy or 9-11 conspiracies (those exceptional leftist tropes that aren’t in the curriculum) is good education.

    On the other hand, a reasonable argument can be made for including discussion of such matters in social studies curriculum and pointing out the factual problems with such conspiracies. The kids are going to hear them anyway. You might as well discuss them in a rational forum.

    What is beyond dispute is that federal judges have no role in such curricular matters whatsoever.

    “Opposing creation arguments having a forum in public schools is not about censoring creationism because the kids couldn’t handle it, its ensuring good curriculum.”

    No. Teaching scientific theories without discussing the strenghs and weakness of those theories is bad educational practice. Science is about questioning and about skepticism. Period.

    “I personally don’t have a problem with kids being exposed to an evolution faq where they see creationist questions are either answerable that yes evolution is true, or improper framing (has Darwin stopped beating his wife?).”

    Again, you are admitting that creationist arguments can be introduced into science classes. Now you can drag yourself to federal court and sue yourself. Isn’t censorship a bitch?

  24. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 4:37 pm

    @robm:

    “This depends on intent and context if [creationist arguments] are presented in the same way as the flat earth or Aristotle’s physics i don’t see a problem, allowing a rebuttal from those theories and leaving it at that is bad policy.”

    Oh, now I get it. Presenting pro-religious arguments in science classes is constitutionally prohibited is the intent is to endorse them, but presenting pro-religious arguments in science classes is constitutionally permissible if the intent is to rebut them.

    The “separation of church and state” only applies to me, not the thee.

  25. sonicon 03 Jun 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Karl-
    Does it bother you that in each example of ring species the creatures at the ends of the rings can and do mate?
    It bothers me because this is not what is supposed to happen- this is not what Mayr was looking for at all.
    It seems these examples are equivocal and are being promoted as definitive.
    I find this bothersome.

  26. sonicon 03 Jun 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Perhaps there is more controversy than is generally known–

    Here (at about the 9 minute mark) we have Craig Ventor questioning common decent. He seems to be denying it.
    http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/the-great-debate-what-is-life/what-is-life-panel

    Carl Woese has questioned for some time whether there even is a tree of life.
    As I read it, the tree of life can’t be produced by the actual physical evidence.

    If well known, highly regarded scientists can question the ‘tree of life’ and ‘common decent’, then I would think it would be OK for a student to do so.
    Why not?

    If it is OK to teach that there are questions about a theory (including some of its foundational hypothesis), then it must be possible to do so without allowing pseudoscience to replace science- how else would science be able to advance?

  27. SARAon 03 Jun 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I imagine in most schools, this language will be of no interest to anyone. On the one hand, it is nice to have the debate, since it brings up all the scientific fallacies of creationist theory. It gives a good teacher the opportunity to teach kids scientific theory, critical thinking and decision making. Of course, those teachers already do that.
    However, the bill is probably designed to protect a small minority of teachers who would use their teaching position as a pulpit. And that is unfortunate.

  28. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I agree with sonic. Students get a much deeper understanding of a theory if they understand the conceptual issues at the core of the science.

    The issue of common descent is not closed, and there are arguments that can be made for both sides. Students will understand the science underlying the theory of common descent much better if they have a detailed and critical understanding of the evidence and logic that are used to address it.

    Good science, at all levels, is a discussion, not mere rote.

    Ideology, on the other hand, is perhaps best left undiscussed. That’s why you bastards are such censors.

  29. mufion 03 Jun 2011 at 5:11 pm

    It’s cherry-picking time, already? Let’s all mine the web for comments by lone individuals, which seem to cast doubt on the dominant ideas within evolutionary biology (or those of any other scientific field), and assign them more weight than the dominant (or near-consensus) views of that field.

    It’s one thing if a child raises the question. But if one of my children reported to me that her science teacher did likewise, I would object that the teacher is wasting valuable classroom time, and probably using his/her position to promote a personal agenda.

  30. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Wow Mike, I cant believe you admitted creationsim/ID is religious, in that case it is a separation of church and state does apply. I was going to point out that irreducable complexity, “it couldn’t have happened by chance”, something from nothing, no trasitional fossils etc. were criticisms that science has firmly refuted, and that the students are to be taught science in science class… but since you were kind enough to say it was all religion, and therefore teaching why its wrong violates the first amendment, fine then by the first amendment it cannot be promoted either.

    I was even going to put something in about being so open minded your brains fall out, and how pro vs con, strength and weaknesses, should be based on controversies in the respective field of study and not somebody somewhere who comes up with a new story about stuff with no evidence. But alas we must exclude both promotion and criticism of religion, and creationsim/ID must not be mentioned positively or negatively…

  31. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 6:11 pm

    @robm:

    “Wow Mike, I cant believe you admitted creationsim/ID is religious, in that case it is a separation of church and state does apply.”

    All theories of biological origins are religious, in the sense that all such theories presume either the teleological (theist) or non-teleological (atheist) nature of evolution. To assert that living things manifest evidence of intelligent design is obviously tending to theism, and to assert that living things lack evidence for intelligent design is tending to atheism. ID (teleology) is the denial of Darwinism (ateleology), and vice versa.

    It could quite plausibly be said that all scientific theories, and all worldviews, are closely intertwined with metaphysical assumptions, some theist, some not. You can’t escape religion. You can (and do) only lie about your own assumptions.

    “teaching why its wrong violates the first amendment, fine then by the first amendment it cannot be promoted either.”

    No. The first amendment is quite clear about the religious constraints on government. There are two religion clauses:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..”

    and

    “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    There is no constitutional doctrine of ‘separation of church and state’. That doctrine has been applied to the constitution, but it is not part of the constitution. The actual constitutional doctrine is quite specific: it prohibits an establishment of religion- a National Church, like the Church of England. An establishment of religion is a very specific entity: it entails coercive financial support, official government sanction, mandatory assent to doctrine, etc.

    Discussion of the strengths and weakness of evolutionary theory in a school classroom is not an Establishment of Religion. Every understanding of evolution (Darwinist, adaptationist, non-adaptationist, ID, Creationist) has religious implications and presumptions, but the discussion of the scientific issues does not Establish a National Religion in any way.

    An example of something that I believe would violate the establishment clause would be to teach students that God did/didn’t create species, and to require the ‘correct’ answer on an exam. That would entail teaching a religious doctrine and requiring assent, which I believe violates the establishment clause.

    The free exercise clause can be summed up succinctly: government should stay out of religious disputes.

    Teaching about the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory is not a violation of the establishment clause, nor is teaching about the strengths and weaknesses of ID. It’s still a free country (despite your best efforts), and it’s chilling when Federal Courts use legal force to silence discussion of scientific theories in schools.

    Why are you so afraid of debate that you are willing to censor people?

  32. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Odd that I haven’t heard from Dr. Novella.

    What do you think, good Dr.?

    Is it unconstitutional to critique creationism or ID in a public school classroom?

    If the (theist) motives of creationists or ID proponents preclude their discussion of their views in science classes, why don’t the (atheist) motives of evolutionary biologists preclude discussion of their views in science classes?

    And if it’s the facts, not the motives, that matter, what is wrong with critical discussion of those facts? After all, if those sneaky creationists sneak in something you don’t agree with, you can just censor them and drag them into court to shut them up. No reason to stop now.

    I’d love to hear more about why you oppose academic freedom.

  33. jreon 03 Jun 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Ideology, on the other hand, is perhaps best left undiscussed. That’s why you bastards are such censors.

    Hee, hee! This is why people who actually understand the science roll their eyes.
    I did a quick search on my local university library’s catalogue for “evolutionary biology.”
    I got 1027 hits for those exact keywords alone.
    Needless to say, there are many more books with “evolution”, “evolutionary processes”, etc.
    This is not a terribly important result in itself, but it serves to illustrate the size of the body of knowledge related to biological evolution, and how oblivious its ideological opponents are to what they’re up against.
    I use the word “ideological” consciously, because it seems to be a rallying point in this thread, and because these comments shed some light on what it means.

    No — whether they be bastards or not, advocates of science education are not in favor of censoring anything; just the opposite.

    Pace Mike12, the issue of common descent is closed, at least in the sense he intends it. It is closed because over the course of two hundred years, within the fields of geology, paleontology, population genetics, molecular and developmental biology (among others), multiple independent lines of evidence have arisen lending overwhelming support to the proposition that the living things of the earth are related by descent. It is not “proven”, simply because in science (outside mathematics) nothing is ever proven. Rather, a scientific proposition is considered to be well-established when the evidence supporting it is so strong that it would be unreasonable, understanding that evidence, to withhold assent. That’s where we are at today with regard to evolution. That mountain of evidence is so large, and so compelling, that anyone with no ideological axe to grind is going to be convinced by it.

    Presenting all the evidence, censoring nothing, is to make a powerful case for the reality of evolution. That, and precisely that, is the reason advocates of this cockamamie Tennessee bill are properly described as “ideologues.”

  34. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 7:01 pm

    @jre:

    “Presenting all the evidence, censoring nothing, is to make a powerful case for the reality of evolution.”

    So do it. Present it. In every classroom you can find. Make your case, with abandon. The Academic Freedom legislation protects you.

    You say that you have no fear of open critical discussion, because genuine critical discussion makes a “powerful case for the reality of evolution”. Yet you sneer that the Tennessee Academic Freedom bill is “cockamamie”. What is it about legislation that protects academic freedom that so frightens you?

    Is it that the legislation protects everyone’s freedom, not just yours’?

  35. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 7:07 pm

    @jre:

    “No — whether they be bastards or not, advocates of science education are not in favor of censoring anything; just the opposite.”

    Oh, so you’re asserting that the NCSE and most evolutionary biologists believe that Federal Courts should not impose restraints on discussion of evolutionary theory in classrooms?

  36. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Mike isn’t it odd that you stated

    “The “separation of church and state” only applies to me, not the thee.”

    Shouldn’t that be “‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;’ applies to me and not to thee” then?

    Or is that not just the definition of irony? :)

    The establishment clause has a broader meaning, much like freedom of speech and the press applies to more forms of communication than speaking with ones voice and printing with a printing press. It’s there to keep the government from promoting religious policies on citizens of differing views, by the 14th amendment it is applied to the states.

    To address your post-modern outlook, just because one or several religions claim to be theories of everything does not imply all beliefs outside of those worldviews are religious in nature, believe it or not evolution just means that the diversity of life on earth is the product of random mutation and natural selection.

    Because this conflicts with a scriptural literalist view you assert it must be the work of atheism when infact it was the result observations such as the fossil record, selective breeding, differences among finch beaks based on the source of food, etc.

    The facts are that there is a natural world, it behaves in certain ways, thats science, it is fact. The questions of “why”, and is this all there is are open for subjective interpretation. Mine is that the natural world is all there is, this doesn’t change what it is.

    This “dispute” is religion versus everything not in that religion, which in this case includes multiple independent lines of evidence. If you wish to say that this evidence is satan burying dinosaur bones feel free to do so in your home, your church, on the street, in your workplace, or just off school grounds but don’t try to peddle “it’s all subjective truth” and “everything is a religion” when both are not the case.

  37. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 7:31 pm

    @robm:

    “The establishment clause has a broader meaning, much like freedom of speech and the press applies to more forms of communication than speaking with ones voice and printing with a printing press. It’s there to keep the government from promoting religious policies on citizens of differing views, by the 14th amendment it is applied to the states.”

    When the government prohibits critical discussion of only one scientific theory (evolution), and no other, and it does so in such a way that it shelters the atheist presumptions and implications of an ateleological understanding of biology from scrutiny, then it is promoting atheism on citizens of differing views.

  38. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 7:35 pm

    @robm:

    “…it’s all subjective truth” and “everything is a religion” when both are not the case.”

    I asserted neither. I most definitely believe in objective Truth, and it is not true that everything is “religion”.

    I did state the obvious: all claims about reality have a metaphysical context, and all metaphysical contexts have religious presuppositions and religious implications.

    I do not assert this. It is obviously true, and I merely point it out.

  39. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 7:50 pm

    All sciences have an “ateleological” understanding of reality sodium does not bond with chlorine to make the ocean salty, they bind because of chemistry.

    The notion that god made sodium and chlorine want to bond so the ocean would have salt would be unconstitutional if you had thousands of people trying to put their religious views into chemistry curriculum.

    Of course chemistry doesn’t present the vexing problems to a handful of religions the way evolution does, so that is not a widespread problem. If such people were beating down the door to try and have it taught chemistry would also have protection from creationists.

    Of course sodium bonding with chlorine is a scientific fact as opposed to the notion that is the Earth element in saltwater, along with air, water, fire, and aether which are just as scientific as ID.

  40. neverknowon 03 Jun 2011 at 7:55 pm

    If, as some believe, the universe is made out of information, rather than “matter,” then it would not be far-fetched to say that intelligence is what nature is made of. And if nature is made of intelligence, then the origin and evolution of life would not be a haphazard unguided process. It would be an expression of the evolving creative intelligence of the universe.

    The controversy between Intelligent Design and “evolution” is really a controversy over whether evolution is guided or unguided. Intelligent Design says it is, and the currently accepted neo-Darwinist theory of evolution says it is not.

    Biblical creationism is really not on the table. Anyone who has read more than one book or taken at least one high school science course knows that the bible cannot be taken literally.

    As physics and biology continue to evolve, the support for the idea that the universe is made of information, not little pieces of “matter.” We also have an ever-increasing sense that things are infinitely more complicated and strange than scientists ever imagined a hundred years ago.

  41. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 7:57 pm

    @robm:

    Teleology merely means directedness in natural change. Whether the directedness presupposes God is a matter of debate that goes back 2300 years. Aristotle thought it didn’t; Aquinas thought it did.

    Darwinists have asserted that their theory eliminates the need for teleology, which it doesn’t. They also generally assert that teleology necessarily implies God, which is a matter of debate.

    You understand none of this, of course. That’s (in part) because you were educated in a system in which such important matters were censored from school curricula, leaving you ignorant. Which seems ok with you.

  42. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 8:03 pm

    “All theories of biological origins are religious, in the sense that all such theories presume either the teleological (theist) or non-teleological (atheist) nature of evolution.”

    False. Dichotomy. Period.
    The teleology (or lack thereof) of life or gravity or whatever has no bearing on observation about what it is they are or how they behave. Weather or not facts have meaning they are what they are.

    “It could quite plausibly be said that all scientific theories, and all worldviews, are closely intertwined with metaphysical assumptions, some theist, some not. You can’t escape religion. You can (and do) only lie about your own assumptions.”

    Sorry if I missed the nuance there, but if answers to religious questions are inescapable, what is excluded from having religious implications?

  43. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 8:10 pm

    “They also generally assert that teleology necessarily implies God, which is a matter of debate.They also generally assert that teleology necessarily implies God, which is a matter of debate.”

    “teleological (theist) or non-teleological (atheist)”

    interesting since this distinction only appears when it suits you, kind of like separation of church and state, and I can understand that with my censored education.

  44. Mlemaon 03 Jun 2011 at 9:15 pm

    When I was in high school, we were taught evolution as fact. Do you know what the kids took away from that? That: people used to be monkeys. That’s it.
    Then, in religious ed, which I attended by crossing the street from the public school to the catholic church once a week, I experienced: a nun trying to get the attention of a fidgety boy by abruptly asking him: “what’s the difference between you and a dog?” When the boy said “I don’t know” the nun said “OK Lassie” and everybody laughed.

    The more information we can give to kids, the better. Tell them EVERYTHING. Facts, theories (be careful to label them properly – kids trust teachers) and then trust the kids.

  45. nybgruson 03 Jun 2011 at 9:24 pm

    haha… good ol’ Mike12:

    Science is about questioning and about skepticism. Period.

    Damn shame you don’t actually even have the faintest whisper of a vapor of the shadow of an electron as to what that actually means.

    I’d jump in more on this, but is seems robm is handling things quite nicely. But reading Mike’s absolutely inane babble and obvious to the point of pain religious motivation and ideology behind his babble – I had to speak up.

    No it, isn’t odd that Novella hasn’t spoken up. He is actually a busy neurologist and I’d be shocked if he took the time to try and refute the… well, there isn’t a word that adequately describes how incredibly asinine and duplicitous your “arguments” are.

    Suffice it to say, there is no controversy or question on the concept of common decent. PERIOD Anything said otherwise is the product of uniformed, unintelligent, religiously driven piffle.

    Robm – keep up the solid work. I spent all of last year “debating” creationists and IDiots and am pretty spent from doing so. I say “debating” because it is like explaining to a 6 year old why they can’t eat chocolate instead of dinner.

  46. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 9:40 pm

    @robm:

    “The teleology (or lack thereof) of life or gravity or whatever has no bearing on observation about what it is they are or how they behave. Weather or not facts have meaning they are what they are.”

    Teleology in nature is simply a matter of fact. Natural change is generally directional, which is teleological. You can do quite a bit of science without explicit reference to teleology, just as you can do quite a bit of science without reference to quantum mechanics. Yet teleology and QM are how nature works. Period.

    Newtonian mechanics seemed (to poorly educated scientists) to minimize the importance of teleology, because a mechanical model of nature emphasizes efficient causation and de-emphasizes final causation. That is somewhat useful for the manipulation of nature, although it hampers understanding of nature.

    Einstein and the founders of quantum mechanics reintroduced teleological concepts in physics. The motion of a body along a world-line determined by the curvature of space is a teleological concept (the motion of the body in space-time has a directedness imposed on it). Quantum entanglement is another concept that is unintelligible without explicit recourse to teleology.

    Your education has been stunted by materialism and atheism. Censorship hasn’t served you well.

    You need to get out more.

  47. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Actually my education was “stunted” by a minimal interest in philosophy. Care to give any examples as to how teleology is a fact and how teleology is as necessary as quantum mechanics?

    Hint, you might not want to try and shift directedness to mean direction, where something is headed in space is not the same as purpose, end, final cause, or finality, thats kinamatics.

    oh btw if what you are now referring to as “teleology” is part of science and not inherently religious, then I have no problem with your current theism-optional, necessity to science teleology being taught in school.

  48. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 10:12 pm

    @nybgrus

    “…But reading Mike’s absolutely inane babble and obvious to the point of pain religious motivation and ideology behind his babble – I had to speak up.”

    And I’m glad you did.

    “No it, isn’t odd that Novella hasn’t spoken up. He is actually a busy neurologist and I’d be shocked if he took the time to try and refute the… well, there isn’t a word that adequately describes how incredibly asinine and duplicitous your “arguments” are.

    I guess if I were just a teeny bit smarter, Dr. Novella would deign to point out my errors.

    “Suffice it to say, there is no controversy or question on the concept of common decent. PERIOD Anything said otherwise is the product of uniformed, unintelligent, religiously driven piffle.”

    The Scientific Method, circa 2011. So would you agree that all funding of research on common descent should end, now that it is proven?

    “I spent all of last year “debating” creationists and IDiots and am pretty spent from doing so. ”

    These right-wing creationist-IDiots are sooo frustrating… I can see how angry you are. How about this, Nybgrus: boycott their money. Refuse to accept research grants etc from creationist-IDiot taxpayers, which means pretty much all taxpayers. It’s a matter of principle, appropriate for an elite scientist like you.

    Show them how angry you are.

  49. jreon 03 Jun 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Well, these discussions do tend to descend into food fights, don’t they?
    Which is fine by me, so PASS THE DINNER ROLLS!

    So do it. Present it. In every classroom you can find. Make your case, with abandon. The Academic Freedom legislation protects you.

    Thanks. Science teachers do it every day, protected fairly adequately by the US Constitution. What’s your point?

    Yet you sneer that the Tennessee Academic Freedom bill is “cockamamie”.

    Perhaps I was too kind. The Tennessee Academic Freedom bill is, on the one hand, silly and transparently dishonest — cockamamie, if you will — because it attempts once again to slide public teaching of religion under the Constitutional tent with a pretense administrators are likely to “prohibit [teachers] from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” Do you have any idea how silly-assed that sounds? No; I guess not. We’ve got one of those two-cultures things going on here. But this bill is far worse than that. It presumes that each of us among we, the public, cares most about his or her most cherished personal beliefs, and is willing to see the freedoms of everyone else sacrificed in their service. Pass this bill and you’ll be swindled by the next demagogue, and the next one after that, who sees political advantage in exploiting religious division. Bills like this one are a recipe for a pig-ignorant public. So I’m sorry that I only called the bill “cockamamie.”

    Oh, so you’re asserting that the NCSE and most evolutionary biologists believe that Federal Courts should not impose restraints on discussion of evolutionary theory in classrooms?

    Yes, I’m asserting it.
    And you would be asserting … what, exactly?

    You see, Mike12, the problem you need to overcome here is that the entire history of creationism is one of shameless dishonesty. The claim that this bill protects “academic freedom” is a towering pile of steaming hooey. You know, and I know, and the dogs, the rocks and the trees know, that this bill is about teaching students in science class that God created everything. Period. You are within your rights to teach that in your church (the Constitution protects that, after all) but not in science class (sorry, it doesn’t).

  50. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 10:37 pm

    @nybgrus

    I’m actually fairly new to skepticism, so I enjoy it, hopefully I wont get tired of debating these cranks. But then again I’m under no illusion I will convince mike12 of anything, except that he must retreat to ever more nebulous fallback positions, and insult my education (it’s in progress) to try to score points.

  51. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 10:40 pm

    @jre:

    “… the entire history of creationism is one of shameless dishonesty.”

    Right. Those creationists are shameless. Haekel’s fake embryos, Piltdown Man, Kettlewell’s moths, Archaeoraptor… At long last, sir, have creationists no shame?

    “The claim that this bill protects “academic freedom” is a towering pile of steaming hooey. You know, and I know, and the dogs, the rocks and the trees know, that this bill is about teaching students in science class that God created everything. Period. ”

    If criticism of evolution demonstrates that “God created everything”, what was it that evolution demonstrated?

    “You are within your rights to teach that in your church (the Constitution protects that, after all) but not in science class (sorry, it doesn’t).”

    I propose only this: to teach children in science class that evolutionary theory is a theory, and that it has strengths and weaknesses. Thats precisely what the law protects.

    What about that makes you so spitting mad?

  52. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Mike,

    “If criticism of evolution demonstrates that “God created everything”, what was it that evolution demonstrated?”

    it demonstrated that the diversity of life is explained by natural selection on random variation within a population.

    I hate to disappoint you but science is not a grand ideology handing down pronouncements on the ultimate questions of life and human existence, it understanding the natural world, but that appears to mundane for you.

  53. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 10:58 pm

    @robm:

    “Care to give any examples as to how teleology is a fact and how teleology is as necessary as quantum mechanics?”

    Teleology obvious in nature. It simply means that natural change tends to an end- acorns become oaks, not flowers; struck matches burn, not freeze; the earth turns on one direction, not another. Classical philosophers observed that this seemingly commonplace characteristic of nature was quite remarkable. It is from these concepts of ‘directedness’ in nature that the concept of ‘laws of nature’ emerged.

    Aristotle, although he was a theist, do not believe that teleology implied the existence of God. Aquinas did (his Fifth Way). The debate continues. I agree with Aquinas.

    Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon in which one of a pair of entangled particles assumes a final state in accordance with the final state of it’s paired particle, even if the paired particle is not in proximity to it. Traditional ‘mechanical’ science is unable to account for this ‘retrocausation’. In the traditional Aristotelian view, this is simply final causation (teleology), and makes perfect sense. Many of the founders of quantum mechanics were not philosophically illiterate, and they wrote quite a bit on these issues (Heisenberg explicitly noted that quantum mechanics was a vindication of Aristotle).

    “you are now referring to as “teleology” is part of science and not inherently religious, then I have no problem with your current theism-optional, necessity to science teleology being taught in school.”

    Yes, it now seems that you will let me speak. How open-minded of you.

  54. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 11:06 pm

    @robm:

    “[evolution] demonstrated that the diversity of life is explained by natural selection on random variation within a population.’

    “Natural selection” is a tautology (survivors survive), so it’s a banal observation, not an “explanation”.

    The hinge of the matter is “random” variation. What do you mean by “random”?

    If you mean without teleology (directedness), you’re wrong. All natural change is ‘to’ something.

    If you mean without intelligent purpose, then you are making a religious (atheist) assertion, which, in a classroom, is a violation of the establishment clause, according to you.

    Get a lawyer.

  55. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Mike, nice quote mining, the fact is you said

    “To assert that living things manifest evidence of intelligent design is obviously tending to theism, and to assert that living things lack evidence for intelligent design is tending to atheism. ID (teleology) is the denial of Darwinism (ateleology), and vice versa.”

    (surprise its a full sentence) contradicts what you later said:

    “Teleology merely means directedness in natural change. Whether the directedness presupposes God is a matter of debate that goes back 2300 years. Aristotle thought it didn’t; Aquinas thought it did.”

    You contradicted yourself, that sucks, learn to argue better with all your supposed education. Either teleology is religion or its not, no creator(or director, prime mover, purposer, final cause maker etc), no problem.

    Your argument that teleoolgy is science is that aristole was a quantum physicist? or are you just shoehorning 2300 year old philosophy into modern physics hoping to win by appeal to quantum mechanics?

  56. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:32 pm

    More of your “Darwin is not aristotle, aristotle is arisotle, therefore aristotle wins” arguments.

    Selection and variation are what makes evolution explanitory, individuals possessing benficial traits survive more that those without them, benefit is specific to the cricumstances of population.

    “Survivors surviving” changes the traits of a population. Just because some species survive and change over time doesn’t mean that they were destined toward what they became.

  57. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 11:33 pm

    @robm:

    Teleology is understood by most philosophers and theologians and educated laypeople to imply theism, but there are many who take the Aristotelian view that it doesn’t imply theism (Aristotle believed that God exists and that His existence can be demonstrated by the Prime Mover argument, not by the argument from teleology).

    “Your argument that teleoolgy is science is that aristole was a quantum physicist? or are you just shoehorning 2300 year old philosophy into modern physics hoping to win by appeal to quantum mechanics?”

    The only metaphysical understanding of nature that is consistent with quantum entanglement is Aristotelian teleology. Heisenberg also noted that Aristotle’s concept of potency and act was the best paradigm to understand quantum states (potency) and the collapse of the wavefunction.

    That’s not ‘shoehorning’ anything. It’s pointing out that the philosophical view that is the underpinning of modern science continues to have astonishing relevance.

    It’s a view of which you are utterly ignorant. But you’re an atheist, so one shouldn’t expect much except bluster and censorship.

  58. Mike12on 03 Jun 2011 at 11:49 pm

    @robm:

    “Selection and variation are what makes evolution explanitory,”

    Selection “explains” nothing, because ‘survivors survive’ is a tautology. “A is A” explains nothing about A or about anything else. It’s a trivial logical assertion, not an empirical observation.

    “individuals possessing benficial traits survive more that those without them”

    Of course they do. Because ‘beneficial traits’ are defined as those traits that actuate survival. Tautologies are powerful things.

    “benefit is specific to the cricumstances of population.”

    As opposed to, say, the circumstances of other populations? Evolutionary science never ceases to inform.

    “Survivors surviving” changes the traits of a population.”

    Tautologies don’t change anything. Preditation, disease, mating patterns, luck, etc change the traits of a population.

    Darwinian evolutionary “science” is a pretentious amalgam of tautology and banality and non-sequitur. It explains nothing.

  59. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:52 pm

    No one has censored your trolling to my knowledge. You change what you mean and what is discussed to suit your creationist world view. teleology only came into the discussion when you promoted it as a theism then change to aristotles non-theistic understanding when that didn’t fly.

    “It’s pointing out that the philosophical view that is the underpinning of modern science continues to have astonishing relevance.”

    You claim that Aristotle is the underpinnig of modern science is just plain wrong in almost any sense, except that aristotle made huge contributions to philosophy 2300 years ago, and other philosopher came later. The enlightenment empiricists are the underpinning of modern science, since modern science is based on empiricism (a tautology, but it had to be said.)

  60. Jeremiahon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Mike, I like what neverknow commented on earlier to the effect that:
    >Biblical creationism is really not on the table. Anyone who has read more than one book or taken at least one high school science course knows that the bible cannot be taken literally.
    As physics and biology continue to evolve, the support for the idea that the universe is made of information, not little pieces of “matter.” We also have an ever-increasing sense that things are infinitely more complicated and strange than scientists ever imagined a hundred years ago.<

    Add the teleological views of such as A N Whitehead and your more simplistic versions of "directedness" will be rendered harmless.

  61. robmon 03 Jun 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Actually it explains genetics, anatomy, physiology, biology, ecology, selective breeding in agriculure (unless that too is a tautology since survivors survive maters mate and desireable traits are desirable). All these fields have benefited and gained understanding, and can make sense of the crazy stuff they discover because of evolution.

  62. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:04 am

    @robm:

    “You claim that Aristotle is the underpinnig of modern science is just plain wrong in almost any sense…the enlightenment empiricists are the underpinning of modern science, since modern science is based on empiricism.”

    Empiricism is indeed important to modern science. Roger Bacon and Albert Magnus, working in the High Middle Ages, are the fathers of Enlightenment empiricism.

    Magnus was one of the earliest Christian Aristotelians, and was the teacher who introduced Aquinas to Aristotelian metaphysics. Bacon was a lecturer on Aristotle at Oxford. Both were Aristotelian to the core, and both were the pillars of empiricism that would give rise to enlightenment science.

    You’re ignorant of science, philosophy, and now history. A combox hat trick.

  63. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:09 am

    ““Survivors surviving” changes the traits of a population.”
    Tautologies don’t change anything. Preditation, disease, mating patterns, luck, etc change the traits of a population.”

    And surprise surprise they are the survivors that survive.

    ““benefit is specific to the cricumstances of population.”
    As opposed to, say, the circumstances of other populations? Evolutionary science never ceases to inform.”

    If it is so obvious why don’t you accept evolution. Other population won’t have the same traits selected for over time these changes accrue. See its not so hard.

    “Selection “explains” nothing, because ‘survivors survive’ is a tautology. “A is A” explains nothing about A or about anything else. It’s a trivial logical assertion, not an empirical observation.”

    But the fossil record is, and it shows that at different times there were different species, whats more some recent fossils look like different versions of modern mammals, these are followed by fossils that look more like the modern version. And that is damning, hard to refute, empirical observation predict only by evolution and the devil burying dinosaur bones.

  64. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:13 am

    @robm:

    Actually [evolutionary theory] explains genetics, anatomy, physiology, biology, ecology, selective breeding in agriculure (unless that too is a tautology since survivors survive maters mate and desireable traits are desirable).

    Modern genetics began with Mendel, who worked independently of Darwin and who ignored him. Watson and Crick used molecular biology, biochemistry, and crystallography, not evolution, to unravel DNA.

    Anatomy dates to at least Galen. Biology was made a science by Aristotle. Ecology dates to pre-history, as does animal breeding.

    Darwin used some of these disciplines to formulate his theory. He depends on them; they, not much on him.

    The ‘success’ of Darwin’s theory was summed up nicely by Dawkins a couple of decades ago: it allows one to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.

    A low standard to meet, it seems.

  65. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:16 am

    Lets not forget Hume, and is saying aristotle had remote and indirect influence really disproven because you can name 1 empiricist who was an Aristotelian, and another who taught a class where he was to recite Aristotle (its how they taught philosophy back then).

    Why are all my zingers ignorant? And further more why do you need inform me of that whenever I point out that your assertion is flawed or incorrect?

  66. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:20 am

    @Jeremiah:

    “Add the teleological views of such as A N Whitehead and your more simplistic versions of “directedness” will be rendered harmless.”

    Teleology merely means directedness to change in nature. It does not address the complexity or simplicity of that directedness.

    We are finding that a deep understanding of nature is remarkably complex and is best described by elegant mathematics.

    Teleology is not being rendered harmless; it’s being understood as beautiful, in a mathematical sense.

  67. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:28 am

    Inherited traits are necessary for Darwin theory, and guess what they are fact.

    Common descent predicts animals will share genes and have similar genes that are different, guess what, Fact!

    Animals have similar structures, vestigial structures, and the development of structures in an embryo looks similar at first then differentiates. What might best explain that, organs have purpose so they assembled animals?

    Further more these structures are far from elegant the eye flips things upside down and the brain flips them rightside up. Ducks grow webbed feet, lose their webbing and then grow it again. the list goes on and on.

  68. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:30 am

    @robm:

    “Why are all my zingers ignorant?”

    Because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “And further more why do you need inform me of that whenever I point out that your assertion is flawed or incorrect?”

    Most of the viewpoints you have expressed are unworthy of a high school student. New atheism is a remarkably ignorant ideology, and regrettably you are in thrall to it. I regret the personal allusions, but the public square has been polluted by this crap for several decades now, and Christians and informed non-theists are fighting back.

    I also insist that people who censor the viewpoints of others deserve to be called out, without the gentleness that one might accord to non-totalitarians.If you think that your viewpoints are so well established as to be the basis for the legal silencing of teachers and other educators, be prepared for a fight.

    You bastards ticked us off.

  69. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:43 am

    Fighting back against a fraction of >2% of the population? I think thats called shouting down gnu athiests. Perhaps my inferior education has prevented me from understanding how the topic changed from history of philosophy of science to the terror of new atheism?

    All I want is the current consensus of the field of biology taught in the public schools without religious viewpoints or unscientific assertions that agree with religious viewpoints, or false doubts about the current scientific consensus encumbering the educational process. The plus side is that would leave time for aristotle. What about that is the cruel censorship of the totalitarian gnu atheists elite?

  70. jreon 04 Jun 2011 at 12:46 am

    I also insist that people who censor the viewpoints of others deserve to be called out, without the gentleness that one might accord to non-totalitarians.

    Again, to state the simple truth, no one’s viewpoints have been, are being, or will be censored. This relentless whining about an imaginary injustice wears thin after a while. It is unfortunate, and unfair, that Tennessee is likely to be humiliated and caricatured yet again in the public mind as a province of the self-righteous ignorant, but hey — it’s your choice. Have at it.

  71. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 1:00 am

    @jre:

    “Again, to state the simple truth, no one’s viewpoints have been, are being, or will be censored.”

    Bullshit. If you copy this comment thread and give it to any one of several school districts in the US that are under federal court injunction, those educators will be in violation of federal law and will face fine/imprisonment if they showed our discussion to students in their schools.

    Succinctly, this comment thread may not be shown to students in any public school, under threat (or actuality) of federal litigation.

    School districts across the US have been threatened and intimidated by you bastards with litigation and financial ruin if they critically assess evolutionary theory or mention ID. The Dover school district alone was wrecked financially. Here’s the ‘lesson’ from you brownshirts:

    “Richard Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United, said of the trial’s cost, “Any board thinking of trying to do what the Dover board did is going to have to look for a bill in excess of $2 million,” and “I think $2 million is a lot to explain to taxpayers for a lawsuit that should never be fought.”"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    I despise totalitarian thugs who silence people and destroy them financially.

  72. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 1:13 am

    Mike, you say that “We are finding that a deep understanding of nature is remarkably complex and is best described by elegant mathematics.”

    That’s a big part of the problem. Mathematics describes dimensions, but has no explanation for the rise of functions and the purposes they serve.

    “Teleology is not being rendered harmless; it’s being understood as beautiful, in a mathematical sense.”
    I didn’t say that it’s being rendered harmless, just your versions.
    Whitehead’s versions were much better and that was four score and more ago – and both his mathematics and philosophy were better then than yours are now.

    “The ‘success’ of Darwin’s theory was summed up nicely by Dawkins a couple of decades ago: it allows one to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.”
    That was then when Dawkins and the like were easy targets.
    This is the new now.

  73. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 1:19 am

    Mike

    You missed the part of the case where it was proven that the Discovery Institute and several dover school board members intended ID as a way of legally teaching creationism and promoting the christian faith.

    btw calling people who believe in science “brownshirts” is goebbels-esque propaganda.

  74. nybgruson 04 Jun 2011 at 2:17 am

    Perhaps my inferior education has prevented me from understanding how the topic changed from history of philosophy of science to the terror of new atheism?

    No robm, it is the fact that it is pure an unadulterated ideology and religious fanaticism that completely ignores science and bends the history of philosophy to its depraved religious means. It is discussed quite nicely in Liars for Jesus which is exactly what the likes of mike do. He unintelligently parrots the abdolute drivel issuing forth from his mentor William Lane Craig with an obvious lack of any clue as to what evolutionary theory or the history of it is all about. This sort of blatant lying is exactly what Dr. Novella was writing about and what makes the likes of the “cdesign proponentists” like mike a lying sack of pond scum intentionally using obfuscatory language to make the average American confused and think there actually is a controversy (hint: there isn’t) and the religious IDiots cheer and applaud thinking they have someone intelligent speaking on their behalf.

    Anyone who can cite the Dover vs Kitzmiller case as anything but a pure and simple example of religious lying and decption to censor scientific consensus and try and wedge religious creationist doctrine into schools as a “science” is clearly either incredibly misguided or lying through their teeth.

    Your blatant lies and intentionally erroneous and obfuscatory intent sicken me mike. And no amount of down-talk about “atheist science” is going to negate the fact that my 7 year old nephew knows more about evolution than you do.

  75. L. Tayloron 04 Jun 2011 at 6:29 am

    @Mike12,

    Why do you say that Dr. Novella is in favor of censoring academic freedom? He clearly stated that the reason he’s against this bill is because students should already be being taught to think critically, so there’s no reason to pass the law in the first place.

    It’s not academic censorship to be against passing a law that would protect the teaching of something that is not science in the science classroom. This isn’t about silencing someone one disagrees with, it’s just a matter of keeping science in the science classrooms, and religion and philosophy in their respective classrooms.

  76. BillyJoe7on 04 Jun 2011 at 6:44 am

    Mike,

    “Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon in which one of a pair of entangled particles assumes a final state in accordance with the final state of it’s paired particle, even if the paired particle is not in proximity to it. Traditional ‘mechanical’ science is unable to account for this ‘retrocausation’. In the traditional Aristotelian view, this is simply final causation (teleology), and makes perfect sense.”

    How exactly does teleology make any more sense than entanglement.
    At least those who use the term entanglement are honest in the sense of just putting a label on the phenomenon and not pretending that doing so solves any problem, real or imaginary.

    Time dilation, space contraction, and the constancy of the speed of light don’t make sense either. They are just observed realities of the world of the super quick. Just like entanglement and uncertainty are just observed realities of the super small.

    There’s no reason why the super quick and super small should behave anything like the objects of our everyday experience.

  77. BillyJoe7on 04 Jun 2011 at 6:56 am

    neverknow

    “If, as some believe, the universe is made out of information, rather than “matter,” then it would not be far-fetched to say that intelligence is what nature is made of.”

    Depends on what you mean by intelligent.
    Are computers intelligent because they contain information?
    Are libraries intelligent because they contain information?

    “And if nature is made of intelligence, then the origin and evolution of life would not be a haphazard unguided process. It would be an expression of the evolving creative intelligence of the universe.”

    A first order far-fetched begets a second order far-fetched begets a third order far-fetched.

  78. BillyJoe7on 04 Jun 2011 at 7:00 am

    mufi

    Let’s all mine the web for comments by lone individuals, which seem to cast doubt on the dominant ideas within evolutionary biology (or those of any other scientific field), and assign them more weight than the dominant (or near-consensus) views of that field.

    Nail on the head. :)

  79. tmac57on 04 Jun 2011 at 8:51 am

    Mike12-Churches in the US probably outnumber schools by 10 to 1 at least,and are dedicated entirely to teaching only a religious point of view.Religious channels are numerous on our airwaves/cable TV (not so atheist only channels),so your crocoduck tears about how the big bad atheist bastards are preventing your message from getting out is pure nonsense.Your real agenda is to keep the science of evolution from being taught,and you and your Godwin shirt friends are knowingly using this as a wedge issue to undermine the teaching of evolution,and you know this to be true.

  80. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 10:59 am

    Wow, this thread quickly took off. I might have known.

    I like when BillyJoe said: There’s no reason why the super quick and super small should behave anything like the objects of our everyday experience.

    Ah, but there’s good (evidence-based) reason to believe that reason itself is partly a product of everyday (concrete sensory-motor) experience (and partly a product of our biological and cultural heritage). This cognitive tool helps to get us through the night (so to speak), but there is no good reason to believe that reason (or any other human faculty) can connect us to metaphysical or transcendent truths (which, assuming they exist, are probably even weirder than the super quick and super small). It’s only our hubris that leads us to believe otherwise, and that comes in different varieties: both religious and secular.

  81. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:14 am

    @mufi:

    “but there is no good reason to believe that reason (or any other human faculty) can connect us to metaphysical or transcendent truths…”

    But your conclusion that reason is unreliable was reached by… reason.

    If reason is unreliable, then the reasoning you used to arrive at that conclusion is unreliable, and then there’s no reason to assert that reason is unreliable.

    The denial of reason presupposes the reliability of reason, at least to the extent that it can ground the denial.

    What you’re proposing is a variant of positivism, which is self-refuting gibberish.

  82. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:16 am

    @ all commenters who support censorship:

    Is the use of Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” in a public school biology class/library unconstitutional?

  83. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:18 am

    @ all commenters who support censorship:

    Is the mention of creationism or ID in a public school science class for the purpose of refuting it unconstitutional?

  84. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 11:31 am

    >BillyJoe7 on 04 Jun 2011 at 6:56 am
    neverknow
    “If, as some believe, the universe is made out of information, rather than “matter,” then it would not be far-fetched to say that intelligence is what nature is made of.”
    Depends on what you mean by intelligent.
    Are computers intelligent because they contain information?
    Are libraries intelligent because they contain information?<

    Computers are "made of" and intelligence, they contain intelligence and they impart intelligence. Libraries are "made of" and intelligence, contain intelligence and provide intelligence.
    Is it making good use of intelligence to argue otherwise?

  85. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 11:32 am

    Reason works well enough as a tool in everyday life, but it is far from flawless and is by no means reliable enough to be trusted as a lighting rod to “metaphysical or transcendent truths.”

    Even in the knowledge-garnering professions of science and engineering, (a priori) reason alone (e.g. definitions and intuition) is not deemed trustworthy, which is why a hypothesis must pass a battery of tests before it is deemed worthy of provisional acceptance.

  86. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 11:40 am

    >Mike12 on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:18 am
    @ all commenters who support censorship:
    Is the mention of creationism or ID in a public school science class for the purpose of refuting it unconstitutional?<

    I'm not one who supports censorship, but as to allowing creationism or ID to be mentioned for a purpose that includes refuting it, be careful what you wish for.

  87. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:51 am

    @Jeremiah:

    “I’m not one who supports censorship, but as to allowing creationism or ID to be mentioned for a purpose that includes refuting it, be careful what you wish for.”

    I only insist on unfettered discussion. Let the chips fall where they may.

    I welcome efforts to refute ID, Thomism, Christianity, whatever. If they can be refuted, then I won’t believe them. I have no fear of truth.

    Censors fear open debate, because they fear truth.

  88. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 11:56 am

    @mufi:

    “Reason works well enough as a tool in everyday life, but it is far from flawless and is by no means reliable enough to be trusted as a lighting rod to “metaphysical or transcendent truths.””

    Your assertion that reason’s reliability is limited is itself a metaphysical assertion. You can’t coherently make a metaphysical assertion that metaphysical assertions lack truth value.

    There’s no way around positivism’s self-refutation.

    It is certainly true that reason has its limitations, but it is a tool that can help ascertain metaphysical truth. If it wasn’t, then there’s no way that you could know that it wasn’t.

  89. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 12:10 pm

    The problem is an epistemic one: I have no way of knowing whether a metaphysical assertion is true or false. It’s just that: an assertion, and a highly speculative one at that.

    I don’t even claim to know that scientific “discoveries” are true or false in the strict sense. I’ve simply come to trust that the various research communities have arrived at certain evidence-based conclusions, which could change in the future, depending on various factors (not the least of which is more evidence).

    IOW, scientific “truths” are at best provisional truths, which is a far cry from the eternal, transcendent claims of arm-chair philosophers, both religious and secular.

  90. Traveleron 04 Jun 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Do the bill’s sponsors realize that it would also protect teachers who want to present effective sex ed?

  91. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:21 pm

    @mufi:

    “The problem is an epistemic one: I have no way of knowing whether a metaphysical assertion is true or false. It’s just that: an assertion, and a highly speculative one at that.”

    Your epistemic problem is.. a metaphysical assertion. In fact, it’s an ‘ eternal, transcendent claim’, just like the [theist] claims you dislike.

    You can’t coherently deny the value of the application of reason to metaphysics, because reason and its denial are synchronously plausible/implausible.

    If reason isn’t reliable, neither is the assertion that it’s unreliable.

    There’s an old adage about philosophy that applies: there is no such thing as not using philosophy. There’s only good philosophy and bad philosophy.

    Philosophy/reason is the fabric of thought. You can’t do anything without it, and that includes denying it.

  92. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:28 pm

    @Traveler:

    “Do the bill’s sponsors realize that it would also protect teachers who want to present effective sex ed?:

    If “present effective sex ed” takes the form of critical analysis of a scientific theory, the bill does (and should) support it.

    I have no problem with open discussion of scientific theories in schools, and that includes the expression of viewpoints with which I disagree.

    That’s what “critical analysis” means.

  93. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 12:51 pm

    @Jeremiah:

    “Mathematics describes dimensions, but has no explanation for the rise of functions and the purposes they serve.”

    True. That is why some who support teleology don’t believe that it can be used as an argument for theism Teleology means directedness; it doesn’t necessarily mean purpose, in the sense of being guided by a Mind.

    I think that Aquinas’ Fifth Way (the Teleological Proof) is valid. It’s based on the hylemorphic concept that the final cause is a form, and that forms that do not exist in a substance can only exist in a mind.

    There are some very thoughtful people who wouldn’t agree, though.

    “Whitehead’s versions were much better (than Mike 12′s and Aristotle’s) and that was four score and more ago – and both his mathematics and philosophy were better then than yours are now.”

    I don’t know Whitehead’s views well, but I don’t doubt that much of what he wrote is much better than mine. I merely assert that teleology is true, and that Aristotle provided a strong framework for understanding nature and metaphysics. Many have surpassed and will surpass him.

    “That was then when Dawkins and the like were easy targets.
    This is the new now.”

    Darwinist remain very easy targets, as you may have noticed.

  94. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I trust reason enough to look both ways before crossing the street (e.g. based on the experience of witnessing and visualizing the potential consequences of not doing so), and I also trust it insofar as it’s proven itself useful in other applications (e.g. in designing new technologies).

    That said, if you feel it’s appropriate to characterize this limited trust as a “metaphysical” position (even though I think “epistemological” is more apt), then go right ahead – so long as you’re clear on what I actually mean by it, which is that I do not put much trust in claims that cannot be empirically tested (e.g. gods, immortal souls, karma, platonic forms, etc.).

  95. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 1:05 pm

    PS: That limited trust (or limited skepticism, depending on how you look at it) extends to teleological claims (i.e. regarding final causes in nature), which seem to be beyond anyone’s ability to test empirically.

  96. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @ mufi:

    “I do not put much trust in claims that cannot be empirically tested (e.g. gods, immortal souls, karma, platonic forms, etc.).”

    How do you empirically test your distrust of claims of immortality?

  97. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Hume said:

    “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

    This is the archetype of mufi’s distrust of metaphysics and reason. But think of the absurdity of Hume’s assertion; Humes assertion itself didn’t contain quantitative abstract reasoning nor experimental reasoning.

    Hume’s assertion was unbelievably stupid self-refuting gibberish. Of course, although Hume was a fool and a swine, he wasn’t the least bit stupid. I prefer Elisabeth Anscombe’s characterization of Hume as a “mere-brilliant-sophist.

    I despise Hume.

  98. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 1:16 pm

    no evidence for immorality = distrust of immortality

  99. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Good thing science doesn’t depend on Hume (or any other dead philosopher, for that matter). :-)

  100. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 1:23 pm

    @mufi:

    But you have asserted that such metaphysical claims intrinsically cannot be adjudicated. Why then is distrust more plausible than trust?

    May I suggest that your actual view is better summarized:

    distrust of immortality=no evidence for immorality

  101. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 1:25 pm

    @mufi:

    “Good thing science doesn’t depend on Hume (or any other dead philosopher, for that matter).”

    Science depends critically on countless presuppositions that we have gathered from countless dead philosophers.

    You just don’t know where your biases came from.

  102. PhysiPhileon 04 Jun 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Hey Mike12,

    I enjoy the controversy you bring the the forum, and would like clarification on a couple of your arguments.

    “They also generally assert that teleology necessarily implies God, which is a matter of debate.”

    Can you explain how they start with the (self-evident) premise that the universe is changing (or a better word would be ‘rearranging’) and deduce a God. If this deduction if free of logical errors, I am curious what such a deduction could say about the nature of God.

    While listening to a philosophy lecture by Peter Millican at Oxford about Aristotelian ideas about properties of matter, it seemed analogous to what you think about teleology. According to Millican, Aristotelian’s believed earth fell towards the center of the universe and objects in the heavens made perfect circles because it was the nature and desire of earth to fall towards the center of the universe and it was the nature and desire of heavenly objects to make circular orbits. Millican pointed out that this doesn’t provide a deeper understanding of matter which is why Galileo and Newton’s contributions to the understanding of matter is superior to Aristotle.

    Just as Aristotle anthropomorphized matter (e.g. matter ‘desired’ to be in a certain state), it appears to me you are anthropomorphizing teleology (e.g. configuration of matter desires change). Can you tell me if this is a valid criticism of your argument?

  103. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 2:12 pm

    “Darwinist remain very easy targets, as you may have noticed.”

    Mike, Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been augmented over time by auxiliary theories, some of which, a la Weismann’s, Dawkins’ and the like, diminished it, but the new adaptive mutation theories and their theorists have resurrected it to steal any thunder left in your version of the teleological cosmosphere.

    By the way, according to my dictionary, teleology doesn’t mean directedness, or directed for a purpose, as you suggest it does.

    teleology |ˌtelēˈäləjē; ˌtēlē-|
    noun ( pl. -gies) Philosophy
    the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes.

    Purposes served need not have been in any sense directed to have served them.

  104. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Mike,

    I am aware of where my biases come from, it called reality, my assumption is that the external natural world is real and thoughts I think about it are not, even the thoughts I think concerning my thoughts. How to determine what is true or not is to look to the surest measurements and observations and draw the most bare minimum of necessary conclusions then test the implications of that. If a greater overarching theory is devised than it should be tested and believed until it is contradicted.

    That is an approach that seems antithetical to your of arguments (when your not name calling), you seem to view philosophy as more real than observable reality, then get angry when others dont buy that.

  105. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Jeremiah,

    just a heads up but mike shifts his meanings when he doesn’t feel he’s winning, he switches from purpose by God to purpose of the acorn to become a tree, to “directedness”, to direction, and if you believe in direction all his previous definitions win.

  106. SkeptimusPrimeon 04 Jun 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Mike, you accuse the non-religious of censorship in the area of science.

    The problem I notice here is that you have a basic misunderstanding of how science works.

    Science, unlike politics is not egalitarian, all people and ideas are not equal in science, furthermore, the high-school classroom is not the place to have scientific debates. The science being taught in a high-school classroom is typically years behind what researchers are currently working on because it can take decades for a new theory or or idea to build consensus and make its way to pre-undergrad text books.

    If you believe that Intelligent design or whatever it is you believe in has scientific promise then by all means people may get involved in the scientific process, do the research and prove their case to the scientific community.

    If your evidence is strong then you will get there eventually, when Eisenstein first published relativity physicists thought he was nuts, but over several decades his theories one out through use of the scientific method. Relativity is now in high-school textbooks, but it wasn’t in the 1950′s

    The problem we all have is that creationists want to skip the scientific process and have their ideas taught without being tested properly. There is no censorship involved, you have freedom to preach or teach you’re ideas in a wide variety of venues, but to teach it as science you must be able to make testable predictions consistently for a long period of time.

    Evolutionary biologists have done this for well over 100 years, while a few minor changes have happened to the theory, by and large the lines of evidence, genetics, taxonomy, paleontology, etc. have all supported the predictions made in evolution.

    Why are you too good for that process? Why do you feel that you have the right to call ID science while refusing to follow the process that every modern scientific theory has managed to follow and prove itself using?

    The real problem here is not even about evolution, ID’ers and creationists want to change the entire scientific method to allow for metaphysical and/or supernatural causes to be considered. Oddly enough, scientists do not claim these do not exist but simply to not consider them because one cannot test for them.

  107. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 2:47 pm

    robm, my purposes are served when Mike sees the necessity to shift his meanings, since if these meanings have been used as links in his chain of reason, changing them will make any goal they hope to be tied to unreachable by that method of argument.

  108. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Mike: I’m aware that Hume plays a role in the development of a kind of skepticism. But neither he nor any other dead philosopher is the main source of strength for scientific skepticism (which I’ll use interchangeably with the “limited trust” that I described earlier). Rather, its strength comes from its usefulness (a.k.a. utility or pragmatic value, relative to human goals and purposes). And far be it from me to argue that usefulness equates with truth (in any eternal, transcendent, or objective sense of the word).

    BTW, if you know of evidence for immortality, then by all means put it up. I’m interested in seeing what qualifies in your mind as “evidence.”

  109. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 3:29 pm

    @Jeremiah:

    “Mike, Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been augmented over time by auxiliary theories, some of which, a la Weismann’s, Dawkins’ and the like, diminished it, but the new adaptive mutation theories and their theorists have resurrected it to steal any thunder left in your version of the teleological cosmosphere”

    Evolution is a fascinating and important science, but the traditional Darwinist trope about ‘natural selection’ is banal. The real question is about how ‘heritable change’ occurs, and in what sense (if any) it is ‘random’. The issue is best summarized by observation that it is “the arrival of the fittest, not the survival of the fittest” that is the fundamental question in evolution.

    How the fittest “arrive” is of course a question about the nature of change in the world, and thus evolutionary theory, properly understood, is heavily informed by the metaphysics of philosophers like Aristotle, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Hume, Kant, Quine and many others who have investigated what we can say and understand about change in nature.

    The scandal of evolutionary biology is that it’s scientific practitioners are almost to a man utterly ignorant of the real questions at the core of their science. It’s like recruiting deaf men to study music.

  110. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 3:32 pm

    “It’s like recruiting deaf men to study music.”

    Ever hear of Beethoven?

  111. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 3:44 pm

    @mufi:

    “BTW, if you know of evidence for immortality, then by all means put it up. I’m interested in seeing what qualifies in your mind as “evidence.””

    There are several lines of evidence for immortality, of varying rigor:

    1) Millions of people have had experiences with life after death (near-death experiences, ghosts, revelations, etc). These experiences are obviously of varying and highly disputable credibility, but they are evidence nonetheless. And there are very many of them. Make of it what you will.

    2) Christians believe in eternal life because of revelation. We believe in revelation because we believe in the Christian worldview based on many different lines of evidence and reasoning. We accept the doctrine of life after death because we accept the credibility of the system of beliefs from which that doctrine emerged. It’s not all that different than accepting belief in multiple universes based on acceptance of cosmological science and trust in the cosmologists who formulate the doctrine. Alternate universes and eternal life are both notoriously difficult to test empirically. Keep in mind that you’ll almost certainly know the truth of the latter before you know the truth of the former.

    3) Philosophers have defended the eternal nature of the soul by pointing out that aspects of the soul (such as the intellect and the will) are intrinsically immaterial, and that the soul is metaphysically simple and not composed of parts, as a material substance is. Material things composed of parts ‘cease to exist’ because they lose their substantial form and the parts assume new substantial forms (wood rots, stones break up, etc). But the immaterial soul is metaphysically simple, so it cannot break up into parts, and it is not material, so it cannot lose it’s substantial form.

    I doubt that you will accept any of these lines of evidence, but there are lines of evidence, of debatable quality.

  112. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 3:49 pm

    @Mike
    at survival>The issue is best summarized by observation that it is “the arrival of the fittest, not the survival of the fittest” that is the fundamental question in evolution.<

    If the new breed of scientific practitioners were as utterly ignorant of that question as you claim, they wouldn't have had it finally dawn on them that the fittest arrive at survival by their own calculative efforts rather than by the precalculated efforts of your gods to propel them to unthinkingly survive to fit.

  113. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Mike, I’m familiar with (although by no means expert in) all of those lines of argument for immortality, and you are correct to surmise that I’ve thus far found all of them wanting (to put it mildly).

    Mind you: I’m describing myself as of the past 12 years or so; that is, the period since I abandoned my own faith and drifted towards the outlook that I’ve presented here. Prior to this period, I was as fervent to prove (rationally) that my religion is true as you are now (in Internet forums like this one, too, although back then they were “news groups” rather than blog comments). And, as you might have already guessed, that mission backfired, although (unlike some other secular types), I still see some value in religion. It’s just not for me.

    More to the point, if any force were to draw me back to religion, my guess is that it would be more emotional than rational in character – not that there’s anything wrong with that (!)

  114. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 4:59 pm

    “arrival of the fittest”

    wow, just wow…

    looking backwards has led to thinking backwards. The outcome of natural selection is in no way determined in advance without a gene pool and selective pressure, to claim otherwise is simply an act of faith not fact.

  115. mdcatonon 04 Jun 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Why does it never occur to people to confront these legislators with the awesome science education statistics from East Asia where (correct me if I’m wrong) there’s never been an atom of creationism taught? Maybe we need a good media stunt. Every time one of these bills gets proposed, I think maybe someone should propose an amendment that says, “Let’s go one better. In the State of Tennesee, teaching creation is mandatory, and evolution is outlawed, and the State will pay to resettle families outside the State where there are real education systems.”

  116. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 5:29 pm

    @mufi:

    “More to the point, if any force were to draw me back to religion, my guess is that it would be more emotional than rational in character – not that there’s anything wrong with that (!)”

    My own faith has been emotional as much as rational, as it is I think for most people. I became a Christian about 7 years ago; before that I was an atheist, or perhaps an agnostic, depending on my mood. I have worked in science all of my life, and took it to be the most reliable source of truth.

    I had always found a deep attraction to Christ, but I had always believed that I would have to leave my brain at the church door if I went in. I was (and still am) repulsed by televangelists, and I thought that Christianity was for gullible people. (Of course, I knew a lot of Christians, and they didn’t seem gullible at all- in fact, I rather admired many of them).

    For a variety of reasons (an illness in the family, a sense of emptiness, a sense that there was something important about life that I was missing), I began going to churches. I had a rather profound religious experience during prayer one night, and entered the Catholic Church and was baptized.

    Part of my decision to take God more seriously was my awareness through much reading that many of the tropes that I had been taught and believed– that Darwin had explained life without God, that cosmology and quantum mechanics had explained that the universe came from nothing, etc– were utter nonsense. I came see that atheism was rank bullshit– a pitiful intellectual construct that was the antithesis of genuine thoughtful inquiry.

    The real rigor and insight was in the theist and Christian arguments– the great philosophers and theologians. For a while I was afraid to read debates between Christian theologians and atheists (the debate between JP Moreland and Kai Neilson comes to mind) because I feared that the atheist arguments would destroy my faith.

    I found the opposite. For example, Moreland (the Christian philosopher) destroyed Neilson (atheist philosopher). The only argument Neilson could make was that ‘God’ was incapable of definition. Moreland pointed out that this has been the Christian argument for 2000 years, and then Morland destroyed Nielson on every other point.

    The more I read the less respect I had for atheism. It’s central claims are sophmorish drivel that no thoughtful person would take seriously (the universe just happened, things like right and wrong, or truth, or beauty are just evolved superstitions, etc.) What crap.

    But my primary commitment to God is my love for Him. The logical arguments are permissive for me, meaning that I can bring my brain into church with me now, and it feels right at home.

  117. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 5:44 pm

    @mdcaton:

    “Why does it never occur to people to confront these legislators with the awesome science education statistics from East Asia where (correct me if I’m wrong) there’s never been an atom of creationism taught?”

    The most ‘creationist’ Western country is the United States, by far.

    The United States is also the world’s leader in science, by far.

    The rise of modern science and excellence in science correlates very closely with Judeo-Christian culture. Science education is quite good in many Asian countries. But it’s science from our ‘creationist’ country that their kids are learning. Other cultures borrow our science.

    And, hey, since we’re talking about religion and science, let’s look at the scientific output from atheist countries, like North Korea, or Cuba, or Vietnam. Lots of great science coming out of atheist culture, like new ways to dispose of human corpses, concentration camp construction, nuclear weapon physics, etc.

    It’s amusing to hear atheists whine about the damage that ‘creationism’ does to science, when the most creationist county in the Western world is the world’s unparalleled leader in science.

    You’re an asshole, mdcaton.

  118. PhysiPhileon 04 Jun 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Mike12,

    “cosmology and quantum mechanics had explained that the universe came from nothing, etc– were utter nonsense.”

    Let us assume the universe did not come from nothing. How do you go from not knowing were the universe comes from to knowing where the universe comes from and that is a God. The only way I can rationalize that deduction is if you define God as anything unknown – but I don’t think that’s how you define God.

    “The logical arguments are permissive for me, meaning that I can bring my brain into church with me now, and it feels right at home.”

    Can you please use those logical arguments to show me how you started from the above premise and reached the conclusion of a God created universe and likewise with my previous post regarding teleology implying God.

  119. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Mike

    Ever thought that whichever culture develops and utilizes the scientific method will be the one to correlate with science, basically up until the 1400′s science and technology correlated with non-christians, and between 1400 and 1940 scientific progress correlated with Britain, France, and Germany, all of which got blown up between 1939 and 1945, followed by the cold war where science correlated with both christianity and atheism, communisim and capitalism, and totalitarianism and freedom. Not to mention atheist china has maglev trains and the worlds most powerful super computer.

    scientific benefit goes to those who practice science the most, yet another tautology that must be pointed out to you. your assertion seems to be based on cherry picking, but hey thats where blind faith gets you. I admire the fact you think science is so self evidently good that you try to shoehorn it into your religion that ask you to take everything it says on faith.

  120. mufion 04 Jun 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Mike: I’m sorry to hear that hold such a negative view of atheism, but thanks for sharing your story.

    I’ve long entertained the view (which I think is loosely attributable to Bertrand Russel) that, technically speaking, we’re all agnostics on the God question – it’s just that some of us (for whatever reason) are more uncomfortable with that condition than others, which leads them to take a more confident (or “gnostic”) stance.

    Dawkins has mocked this view as “Tooth-Fairy Agnosticism”: in other words, even he (despite his usually strong-atheist stance) admits that he is an agnostic on the God question, but only in the same sense that he is agnostic on the Tooth Fairy question. Of course, the joke derives from the common understanding that the Tooth Fairy is a human invention and we would not take seriously any group or individual who argues otherwise.

    Sorry to say: I believe the analogy to theism holds merit. It’s just that theism is old and entrenched enough in our culture that it garners more respect in civic life than toothfairyism likely would, were it to suddenly emerge on the scene.

  121. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 6:27 pm

    @PhysiPhile:

    “I enjoy the controversy you bring the the forum…”

    Thanks. It does liven things up a bit.

    “Can you explain how they start with the (self-evident) premise that the universe is changing (or a better word would be ‘rearranging’) and deduce a God.”

    The best argument from natural change to God is Aristotle’s Prime Mover argument, which Aquinas developed as his First Way. The argument has a long genealogy of pagan, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic philosophers, and it has much purchase today with theist philosophers.

    The Prime Mover/First Way argument is this, succinctly:

    Nature is always undergoing change, with things changing from one state to another. Acorns become oak trees, green leaves turn brown, rocks crumble, etc. Each thing has potential for change (its potencies) and each thing has that which it actually is (its act).

    A potency of a thing is something that it does not have (an acorn does not have a real oak tree in it), but that it can have, under the proper conditions. Everything in nature is a composite of potencies (what it might be) and act (what it is).

    When a potency is actualized, it must (by definition) be actualized by something other than itself. Potency is non-existence; only act exists, and therefore potencies are actualized by other things (acorns need sunlight, water, nutritive soil, etc to grow into oak trees).

    The classical adage is ‘everything that is moved (changed) is moved (changed) by another.’

    In nature, causes typically come in a series: one thing causes another, which causes another, which causes another, etc. In a causal series, a potency in each cause is raised to act by the raising to act of a potency in the preceding cause, which is raised to act by a potency that is raised to act in the preceding cause, etc. The series is like dominoes: in each cause, potency is raised to act, which causes a potency in the next thing in the series to be raised to act, and so on.

    There are two different types of causal natural series- accidental and essential. Accidental causal series don’t require the continuing existence of each preceding cause to be effective. The causal series of a father begetting a son who begets a son who begets a son etc is a classical accidental series. The grandfather could die, and the chain still goes on.

    Some causal series in nature are essential, which means that the components of the causal series all must continue to exist for the casual chain to work. Hitting a nail with a hammer is an essential series of causes: hitting the nail requires the impact of the hammer, which requires the movement of the hand holding the hammer, which requires the contraction of the muscles in the arm, which requires an action potential in the nerve in the arm, which requires the activation of the neurons in the brain, which requires ATP, etc. In an essential series, all components of the causal chain must be active together for the series to work. If the nerve is cut, or the hand slips, the nail is not hit.

    Aristotle asked this question: can an essential series of causes that raise potency to act in nature be infinite backwards, without origin? He observed that it can’t, because if all of the preceding causes are in potency, they could never get started. There must be a beginning in an essential causal series that is itself in pure act, and is not raised to potency.

    Aristotle called this pure act at the origin of natural change (essential series of natural changes) the Prime Mover.

    Aquinas adapted Aristotle’s logic, and observed that this Prime Mover-Pure Act at the ground of nature “is what all men call God.”

    “If this deduction if free of logical errors, I am curious what such a deduction could say about the nature of God.”

    Aquinas spent a lot of time on this (a couple of hundred pages of Summa), and developed the concept of the inter-convertibility of transcendentials. He observed that we can only speak of God by analogy. We cannot understand that which is outside of nature as He really is, but merely by comparing His attributes to things with which we are familiar. Aquinas showed that a close look at what we mean by Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Power, Love really seems to boil down to one and the same thing in God (Pure Act), and that our sense that these things are distinct is an artifact of our natural limitations. Aquinas asserted that God was simple, not composite, and that His Truth is His Beauty is His Goodness is His Power is His Love.

    More to follow.

  122. robmon 04 Jun 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The notion that change is not a default and necessary part of nature has been refuted by scientific discoveries going back to Newton.

    Long argument destroyed.

  123. Jeremiahon 04 Jun 2011 at 6:54 pm

    “There are two different types of causal natural series- accidental and essential. Accidental causal series don’t require the continuing existence of each preceding cause to be effective. The causal series of a father begetting a son who begets a son who begets a son etc is a classical accidental series. The grandfather could die, and the chain still goes on.”

    Mike, I can’t help but interrupt and suggest that your reconsider this notion of the difference between what would appear accidental to an observer, and what would be an accident from the point of view of nature (if it had one) or the point of view of the God that would have existed (in your view) while at the same time having some affect on those events.

    In any case there are no causal series that are sequentially accidental, either from the view of any credible philosopher or creditable scientist.

  124. Mike12on 04 Jun 2011 at 6:59 pm

    @mufi:

    “I’ve long entertained the view (which I think is loosely attributable to Bertrand Russel) that, technically speaking, we’re all agnostics on the God question – it’s just that some of us (for whatever reason) are more uncomfortable with that condition than others”

    I agree. We as creatures of nature cannot be ‘gnostic’ about ultimate reality in this life. Absolute certainty about anything is probably not in our grasp (except perhaps the Cartesian “I Exist”).

    So we’re all agnostics, in the sense that we all live with uncertainty. Yet we must act in many aspects of our lives as if we had at least modest certainty: we love our spouse and kids, we work to earn a living, we don’t step in front of speeding trucks, we try to take care of our health, etc. We all have near-certainties that ground us. Heck, for all any of our know, we could be brains in a vat, the only existing thing, etc. Who can really be certain that we don’t live in the Matrix?

    But we plug on, because not to seems crazy. And we do so because of faith. Faith that the world is real, faith the we really love our families, faith that speeding cars will hurt us if we step in front of them. Scientists live with faith that atomic theory is true, that relativity is true,