May 23 2017

Graecopithecus – Possible Early Human Ancestor from Europe

graecopithecusFinding fossils is like finding pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, although we don’t know what the final picture is, or where the edges are, and the pieces themselves are damaged or partial and so it is not always clear if they fit. A piece may seem to fit in one location, but it actually goes somewhere else. Sometimes one section of the puzzle can come together, but you are still not sure where it fits into the greater puzzle. But eventually a clear picture can emerge.

For the last century paleontologists have been trying to piece together the puzzle of human evolution. It’s hard to say how close we are getting to having a reasonably complete picture, because again we don’t know how big the puzzle is or where the edges are. One way to get a sense of where we are is this – with each new fossil find is the puzzle getting bigger and more complex or are we filling in known gaps? It’s definitely some of both, but mainly the puzzle is still getting bigger. We don’t know yet how much we don’t know. We’re not just connecting the dots, we keep adding new dots.

A recent analysis of one potential hominin makes the picture more complex still. Graecopithecus is known from a lower jaw and an upper pre-molar. That is not much, which is why the papers on this fossil all describe is at a “possible” early human ancestor. If Graecopithecus turns out to be legit, then it would be the oldest human ancestor after the split with chimpanzees, and it would move the likely location for that split from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean.

First a little background. The recent paper of Graecopithecus takes the time to conveniently define the terms we use to define apes and human species:

“In the present study, we define ‘hominoid’ as ‘apes’; ‘hominid’ as ‘great apes and humans’; ‘hominine’ as ‘African apes and humans’; and ‘hominin’ as ‘humans and their non-ape ancestors’.”

Graecopithecus, therefore, would be a hominid, hominine, and a hominin. Hominins are what we are most interested in here – the split with chimps and the line from that common ancestor to modern humans. Here is a quick sketch of what we know about that lineage:

Sahelanthropus tchadensis from 7 million years ago is likely a close relative of the last common ancestor between hominins and Pan (chimps and bonobos). It may in fact be the last common ancestor but we don’t have enough evidence from that time period to know. Sahelanthropus is known only from a skull, so we cannot be sure if it was bipedal or not, but the skull suggests it may have been. We cannot rule out that Sahelanthropus is a species from after the split with Pan, but that would complicate our understanding of the relationship of Australopithecus with later humans.

Orrorin tugenensis from 6 million years ago is the first species more clearly from after the split with Pan, and so may be currently the oldest known hominin. Orrorin is known from 20 fossils including both cranial and limb bones. It was bipedal, and the shape of its femur may be more similar to the Homo genus than is the later Australopithecus afarensis. If this turns out to be true, then Australopithecus may not be in the direct line to humans but be a side branch.

Ardipithecus ramidis from 4.4 million years ago and A. kadabba from 5.6 million years ago are also likely early bipedal hominins. They also probably were arboreal some of the time. While they are likely hominins, they are also likely not in the direct line to humans, but are rather a side branch.

Australopithecines, most notably afarensis, lived from 3.9 to 2.9 million years ago. A. afarensis is considered a likely ancestor to the Homo genus, but it is still possible that the entire Australopithcus genus are cousins and not direct ancestors to Homo. They were the most widespread hominins in that time period in Africa, but it is possible that a smaller branch of hominins with yet undiscovered members (perhaps descended from Orrorin) eventually lead to Homo.

Kenyanthropus platyops lived from 3.5-3.3 million years ago, likely descended from Australopithecus, and may also be a direct ancestor to Homo.

The early Homo genus is also getting more complex. H. habilis is the best contender right now for the earliest member of the Homo genus. This is when a more sophisticated stone tool kit emerges. H. habilis likely evolved into H. ergaster and then H. erectus. However, the recent finds of H. naledi cast doubt on that simple lineage as well, showing a combination of primitive and derived features.

It is pretty clear, though, that H. erectus is a human ancestor. They evolved into H. antecessor, which is likely the common ancestor to H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens.

There are other species in there as well, all likely side branches, but that is the probable line to humans. As you can see, the hominin clade was a complex branching bush. It was not a straight line to modern humans. There are lots of different features that define different groups. Analysis may be complicated by homoplasy – when different groups independently evolve similar looking features. There was also likely lots of interbreeding going on. Species divisions are fuzzy and not always clear.

Graecopithecus

Into this picture now comes Graecopithecus. Analysis of the tooth shows that the roots are partially fused. Apes have separate roots, while hominins have fused roots. Therefore the partially fused roots of Graecopithecus may be transitional, placing it close to the split between hominins and chimps. Of course, the closer you get to this split the harder it is to tell if a specimen is on one side or the other. There was also probably a 1-2 million year period where chimp and human ancestors were interbreeding.

Genetic analysis also places the split between humans and chimps to about 7 million years ago, so that fits nicely with the fossil evidence.

Another interesting aspect of Graecopithecus is that it is from Europe, not Africa. Up until now it was assumed that hominins evolved in Africa. However, at this time, 7 million years ago, southern Europe was a savanna and likely had more continuity with northern Africa. There were giraffes, zebras, and rhinos in southern Europe, so why not hominids?

It is even possible that this geographic split is what caused the lineage split between humans and chimps. Perhaps human ancestors migrated to Europe while chimp ancestors stayed in Africa. As the climate further changed, those human ancestors may have then moved back to Africa.

As we try to draw the lines of what evolved into what, we may also have to figure out where. Hominin lines may have move around, splitting off, then interbreeding. It’s likely a mess, and will defy any attempt at drawing a nice, clean lineage.

Clearly we need more fossils, especially from the 8-4 million years ago time, which currently has a very sparse fossil record. We just don’t have any really good windows into this time period in Africa. Although if the implications of Graecopithecus turn out to be true, maybe we need to be looking more in the Mediterranean region.

The thing that is most clear at this point is that the puzzle is still expanding. The picture is getting more complex, and each new find seems to suggest that there is more that we don’t know. Given how evolution tends to proceed, however, that is expected. Evolution results in a complex branching bush of adaptive radiation, not single lines or ladders. That old image is long dead.

261 responses so far

261 Responses to “Graecopithecus – Possible Early Human Ancestor from Europe”

  1. michaelegnoron 23 May 2017 at 8:24 am

    [The thing that is most clear at this point is that the puzzle is still expanding. The picture is getting more complex, and each new find seems to suggest that there is more that we don’t know. Given how evolution tends to proceed, however, that is expected. Evolution results in a complex branching bush of adaptive radiation, not single lines or ladders. That old image is long dead.]

    I thought Darwinism had such predictive power… “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution…”… except it seems, nothing makes sense even with the theory of evolution.

    Maybe “the puzzle is expanding” because Darwinism is junk science.

  2. michaelegnoron 23 May 2017 at 8:47 am

    And I find the “bush” metaphor particularly amusing.

    Darwin of course predicted a branching tree, which is just what his ‘theory’ predicts, if you follow the logic.

    A bush is merely a jumble of ‘everything connected to everything, sort of, except when it’s not.’

    I can posit all sorts of pseudo-connections between things that aren’t really connected, and what I’ll get is a… bush. “My telephone evolved from my car, which evolved from flowers which are related to refrigerators, which are ancestors of planets…” If I draw this out, I get a bush.

    A bush means that your theory is garbage, and you haven’t the guts to admit it.

  3. bachfiendon 23 May 2017 at 8:57 am

    Neil Shubin, the discoverer of Tiktaalik rosea, noted that it almost certainly wasn’t the ancestor of land vertebrates, but that it was a good candidate species for a close relative of something that was.

    The lesson from Punctuated Equilibrium is that any species which is reasonably common and widespread enough to have left fossils (since fossilisation is so very rare) will not be the species that replaces it when it goes extinct and is replaced by something else.

    New species form in geographically and reproductively isolated populations, which are very unlikely to result in fossils able to be found.

    There are two certainties. Graecopithecus is certainly not a direct human ancestor, but it may be a good candidate for a species closely related to a species on the direct ancestral line (even Homo erectus may not be a direct human ancestor – as a consequence of the very bushy evolutionary tree with many ‘twigs’ that just went extinct without descendants).

    And secondly, Michael Egnor remains absolutely clueless regarding science. He remains proud of his complete ignorance, but that’s no surprise.

  4. edamameon 23 May 2017 at 9:03 am

    Egnorgasm as usual yields nothing relevant or insightful. Bless your heart.

  5. bachfiendon 23 May 2017 at 9:05 am

    Golly, Michael Egnor has managed to compound his first display of ignorance with something that demonstrates just how stupid he is.

    ‘”A bush is merely a jumble of ‘everything connected to everything, sort of, except when it’s not”‘. I take it that not only has Egnor never studied botany, but that he’s never looked at a bush? Has he ever seen a bush with twigs joining to other twigs on the same branch, let alone on other branches?

  6. bachfiendon 23 May 2017 at 9:16 am

    edamame,

    I don’t think that ‘Egnorgasm’ will catch on.

    I personally think Egnor displays schizophasia – word salad which is confused and repetitive, and often found in the manic phase of bipolar disorder.

    Perhaps that might explain why he trolls so persistently on a blog whose readers he’d be extremely unlikely to convert?

  7. Steve Crosson 23 May 2017 at 9:32 am

    bachfiend,

    Why not simple cognitive dissonance? Seems to me that “part” of Egnor must know that science is strongly against his preferred belief, and his incessant attempts to undermine science are really just an attempt to convince himself more so than anyone else. Like you said, this is hardly fertile ground for conversions.

  8. clauclauclaudiaon 23 May 2017 at 9:51 am

    Egnor is relying on tree vs. bush as some kind of “gotcha” moment?

    First, metaphors are useful, but tackling the metaphor is not a useful way of tackling the underlying argument. For the most part all you will do is point out that it’s an inappropriate metaphor–or that metaphors are limited in power. The map is not the territory, and the metaphor is not even the map.

    But anyhow, the difference between trees and bushes is whether there’s one main stem or several, or how high the main stem gets before branching. (I think these are topologically equivalent things, but I have not considered it deeply.) Growth of either can lead to tangles, but it is not characteristic of either to grow in joined loops. (I think either *can*, with unusual circumstances like a gardener stripping and binding shoots together.)

    This is my first direct experience of Egnor, and it is not impressive.

  9. Steven Novellaon 23 May 2017 at 9:53 am

    Michael – you are demonstrating that your learning curve is flat, because you never really engage or try to understand evolution. You have a fixed narrative that serves your ideology, nothing else.

    As bachfiend pointed out, bushes and trees have the same branching structure. Bushes are just generally more complex with more side branches. They are just different versions of the same metaphor, not fundamentally different.

    You also continue to commit common denialist strategies. Specifically you are confusing uncertainty over the details with uncertainty over the big picture. You further confuse the nature of the predictive power of the theory of evolution. It cannot predict how things will evolve, or the exact path of prior evolution in tiny detail. That is a strawman, no one claimed that, and it does not even make any sense.

    What evolutionary theory predicted was that humans must have evolved from something, and morphologically the great apes are closest to us. So, we should find species that fill in the morphological space between humans and great apes. Further, they should occur in a geological and temporal pattern that makes sense evolutionarily. Finally, when we date the last common ancestor by genetic analysis and fossil analysis they should roughly fit.

    All of these predictions are true. Evolutionary theory was fantastically successful in that regard – we are finding a whole host of hominid species that are part-way between apes and humans.

    The precise details, however, are complex and we are trying to infer them with a limited number of puzzle pieces.

    It is exactly as if I have a picture of a tree that is at a distance and a little out of focus. It is clearly a tree, and can’t be anything else – there is a trunk, there are branches, leaves, and the overall structure and size are correct. But I don’t have enough information from the picture to tell the species. It could be one of many deciduous trees, Maple, Oak, whatever. You are now saying that because I can’t tell what kind of tree it is, maybe it’s not a tree at all. Maybe it’s a giraffe.

    That is how transparently pathetic your logic is.

  10. Sarahon 23 May 2017 at 10:41 am

    This finding is very cool.

    However, at this time, 7 million years ago, southern Europe was a savanna and likely had more continuity with northern Africa. There were giraffes, zebras, and rhinos in southern Europe, so why not hominids?

    I sometimes try to imagine Europe and America with all its megafauna intact, and it’s always a really cool image.

  11. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 11:04 am

    “I thought Darwinism had such predictive power… ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution…’… except it seems, nothing makes sense even with the theory of evolution.”

    And…Dr. Egnor continues to proudly demonstrate his total lack of understanding about “Darwinism”. Gawd, how thick-skulled can one man (repeatedly) be?

  12. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 11:54 am

    About a year ago, in one of the Wall Street Journal threads on climate change, a thread heavily populated by the “it’s only 400 ppm” and “climate has always changed” crowd, a real climate scientist made a post mocking the deniers. He explained that after being very concerned about AGW early in his career, he had come to be more closely aligned with the “skeptic” crowd (Judith Curry et al) and he didn’t feel climate change was as immediately threatening as it is often portrayed in the media.

    He stated clearly; however, that virtually NO climate scientists doubt that humans influence climate through CO2 emissions and then concluded by noting the deniers (he used the term “Republicans”) were the worst allies he and his like-minded colleagues could possibly have because their sheer ignorance (Egnorance?) brought disrespect and scorn to his position.

    Dr. Egnor personifies this worst possible ally idea as regards both evolution and AGW, plus who knows what other fields. (Well, OK, it might not be possible to have a worst possible ally in the ID/creationism camp.) The next time a crack pot organization of any stripe publishes a list of “prominent scientists” supporting its tripe, ask yourself how many of those supporters are of the Michael Egnor variety. Think of it, Dr. Egnor is a prominent “star” in the Discovery Institute’s firmament.

  13. MosBenon 23 May 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I know that Egnor, like any troll, just comes in here because he thinks that he riles up the skeptics and oh what sport that is, but I think that he overestimates his effect. As Tupac said, “I ain’t mad at cha.” We just think that you’re kind of sad, Michael. No matter how many times concepts like evolution are explained to you, you never seem to understand them. The next time the topic comes up you’re right back to the same dumb and wrong ideas about how the theory works. But you keep at it champ. I’m sure you’ll get it one of these days.

  14. Dan Dionneon 23 May 2017 at 12:49 pm

    When I imagine the current landscape of human evolution, I envision it like dog breeds. Individual breeds look quite different, and as long as they’re (artificially) isolated from each other, maintain distinctive morphology. When two compatible breeds reproduce, their population of hybrid puppies can essentially create a new breed, like labradoodles.

    More and more it seems like it’s not so different for hominid species. Isolated populations branched off and established their own species. Rarely, two groups met again and interbred. And that’s how we see a messy and complicated bush where the lines between species are sometimes very fuzzy.

    I consider myself lucky to live in a time and place where the pieces are getting filled in so quickly. Where will the science will be in another 50 years? So exciting.

  15. edamameon 23 May 2017 at 12:58 pm

    MosBen: egnor will never get it, unfortunately. He has used that “tree vs bush” argument before. A six year old of average wits could see through it. Hopefully his motor skills aren’t as compromised as his critical thinking.

  16. edamameon 23 May 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Dan: it really is amazing. It is so different from the story from even as recently 20 years ago, which looked much more linear and neat, based on the early mitochondrial eve studies. The number of different hominid species that have been found is astonishing.

    The PBS series ‘Becoming Human’ does a really good job showing the fossil evidence (as of 2009), and interviewing the major players for some of these discoveries. It does a great job showing the excitement and complexity of the story that has emerged. If you have Amazon prime you can watch it for free.

  17. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Dr. Egnor: I am quite curious about what the “science” of ID predicts about the fossil record. My curiosity also leads me to wonder what theology says about the fact that many human-like species have existed and then died out. Perhaps Aquinas’ philosophy might be helpful here?

    C’mon, Doc, here’s your chance to shine instead of simply making snide, ignorant remarks. Educate us!

  18. MosBenon 23 May 2017 at 2:24 pm

    The point that Steve made that is consistently lost on science deniers like Egnor or AGW deniers, etc., is the different between the details and the big picture. No theory is perfectly predictive down to the smallest detail because no theory (or model) is based on perfect and complete information. Evolution predicts that we should see species adapting to meet their environment, which over time will lead to new species emerging to capitalize on some new niche. It doesn’t mean that we can wield the Power of Darwin to divine perfect knowledge of how that process shook out over hundreds of millions of years. It also doesn’t mean that our conception of history is immune from a titanic shift in understanding upon discovery of some new piece of the puzzle. But we do have a pretty good handle on the general forces in play.

  19. chikoppion 23 May 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I.D.? Nope…

    https://youtu.be/oeQsZupdMhU

  20. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Sometimes, when I read one of Dr. Egnor’s more flagrantly silly statements, I am reminded that several months ago he told us that, in his experience, the brighter med students tended toward careers as surgeons.

  21. BillyJoe7on 23 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

    This is from a guy who thinks this is a good argument:

    Imagine a being greater than any other.
    An even greater being is one that actually exists.
    Therefore god exists.

    And he bases his life on this crap.

  22. bachfiendon 23 May 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Willy,

    I had a physician tutor once who noted that surgeons were very good with their hands, but not very good thinkers.

    Michael Egnor and Ben Carson tend to confirm this opinion. I’d wondered whether neurosurgery training has the effect of making their practicants ‘silly’, but the two books by the retired British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh (‘Do No Harm’ and ‘Admissions’, both highly recommended) has convinced me that it’s religion that does it.

    The urge to proselytise makes them grab at very stupid arguments, because they don’t have any good arguments. If they had any good arguments, then they’d use them.

  23. Sarahon 23 May 2017 at 6:21 pm

    My ex’s father is a respected neurosurgeon, and I’ve heard him parrot nonsense with his own mouth.

  24. bachfiendon 23 May 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Sarah,

    Is your ex’s neurosurgeon father overly religious? If he is, then we have 4 data points. Henry Marsh states in his two books that he’s not religious and expects that when he dies he expects that will be it completely.

    It could also be due to being American. To the rest of the world, American exceptionalism just seems rather peculiar. Egnor has it rather badly.

  25. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Just to be clear, I do NOT blame studying neurosurgery for Dr. Egnor’s character or opinions. There are quacks in every field. I DO find it funny that Dr. Egnor seems to believe that his high level of education in one narrow field allows him to spout off about fields in which he clearly has no understanding. My pappy told me that those who don’t know can be dangerous, but to be especially careful of those who don’t know that they don’t know. Egnor and Trump are prime examples.

  26. Willyon 23 May 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Here are a couple of hints, Dr. Egnor:

    1) It doesn’t matter what Darwin predicted, just like our present understanding of physics doesn’t depend on what Newton predicted. Both men developed new branches of science and both were by and large right.

    2) Bushes are still “connected”, despite your idiotic statements above. The tree metaphor is a useful one—everything started with one “trunk” and branched out from there. The bush is a better metaphor in that “bushiness” implies a more accurate image of how evolution occurs and the lack of a tree top omits the implication of a purposeful progression. Surely you, who claimed climate scientists believe your SUV causes AGW, understand the value of a metaphor?

  27. Lightnotheaton 23 May 2017 at 7:43 pm

    The conflating of unclear details with unclear big picture is like a perverse version of the “can’t see the forest for the trees analogy. “Not sure what individual trees you’re seeing out there in the distance? Then how do you know it’s a forest?”

  28. Michael Woelkon 24 May 2017 at 1:48 am

    Huh. I just did an image-search for “Dr. Michael Egnor” and pictures of Steve turned up, not even that far down the list. Also, a picture of Hitler, Linda Blair in her “possessed Regan” make-up, and a burning cross. One of the Steves was linked to an 2014 blog post on the ironically named “evolutionnews.org”, where Egnor wrote the following in his closing statement:

    Dr. Steven Novella has denied for years that the universe has a cause, denied that living things manifest teleology, and denied that the mind may be something more than meat.

    Denying ideas that aren’t supported by evidence? How dare he!

  29. JoshPon 24 May 2017 at 6:01 am

    I’m sure it has been suggested before, but I will state it again anyhow: reading “Ignore” instead of “Egnor” will save a lot of useless pixels.

    BillyJoe7: The best reply I’ve encountered to that (old) argument is that *not* existing while still being able to create the universe is an even greater feat! I don’t remember the originator – maybe Dawkins.

  30. MikeBon 24 May 2017 at 6:51 am

    We do not know who my mother’s paternal grandfather was. We suspect a man with an Irish surname, but there is no evidence and my great grandmother never told anyone who was the father. This is a stem of our family bush that will forever remain uncertain.

    However, this does not disprove the theory that white Americans’ ancestors go back to Europe.

  31. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 6:56 am

    Wow. One simple observation about the uselessness of Darwinism on the question of human origins and I really got the monkey cages stirred up. Looks like I hit a nerve.

    So tell me, boys, if Darwinism can’t even get the continent from which man “evolved” right, why is it that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution”?

    Phillip Skell (a better scientist than anyone in the Darwinist blogsphere) described Darwinism as “a narrative gloss”, a useless narrative painted over the real science (which is anthropology, paleontology, molecular biology, anatomy, etc). Real scientists do the real work, and Darwinists come along and proclaim “Natural Selection did it! Another triumph for Darwin’s theory!”

    Jerry Fodor described natural selection as “empty” science. He got it right.

    And I surmise that your hysterical reaction to my little comment shows that on some level you know he’s right.

  32. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 7:49 am

    Michael,

    ‘Wow. One simple observation about the uselessness of Darwinism on the question of human origins…’

    You almost got that right – if you just replace ‘simple’ with ‘simple-minded’ you’d realise why we laugh at you so much.

    Just because you know a little, very little, about many topics, including biology, history, philosophy and logic, doesn’t mean you’re able to make a cogent argument.

    You don’t understand evolutionary biology. Your comic book summary of it being ‘random mutation + natural selection’ is just laughable.

    “if Darwinism can’t even get the continent from which man ‘evolved’ right, why is it that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution?”. The authors of the linked paper might be right in thinking that Graecopithecus is a hominin close to the split between ancestral chimps and humans around 7 million years ago (I doubt it), but you do realise that 7 million years ago there was no Africa or Europe? The Mediterranean had yet to form, and Africa, Europe and Asia were one contiguous land mass?

  33. Nitpickingon 24 May 2017 at 7:56 am

    Wow, Dr. Egnor still can’t tell the difference between science and religion. See, we don’t worship Darwin and don’t think every tentative conclusion he came to must be correct. He was brilliant and correct surprisingly often, but nobody sane ever claimed he was infallible. He isn’t our savior, he’s just someone we respect and admire (in most cases and in most aspects).

    Steve: I must argue with your metaphor of a side branch. It implies that evolution has a “main” branch, which in turn implies that evolution has a goal. As you yourself have written in the past, evolution appears instead to be undirected. There’s no way in advance to predict the end-result, which is highly contingent. Thus, “side branch” is a designation that can only be made in hindsight and is, I would argue, misleading.

  34. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 8:09 am

    [evolution appears instead to be undirected. There’s no way in advance to predict the end-result, which is highly contingent.]

    In other words, evolution is contingent on internal biological/genetic constraints and the vagaries of natural history. “Natural selection” is scientifically empty– a narrative gloss that contributes nothing to the real science. This is exactly what Jerry Fodor argued in “What Darwin Got Wrong”.

    Your theory can’t ” in advance… predict the end-result”, which is another way of saying that your theory–Darwinism– is worthless.

  35. Michael Woelkon 24 May 2017 at 8:23 am

    Our “hysterical reaction” stems from pure astonishment over the fact that an otherwise functioning member of society such as yourself can be so comically ignorant when it comes to science. As it’s been pointed out numerous times already: you very obviously don’t understand Evolution as is evident from the countless nonsensical arguments you keep making, most recently

    if Darwinism can’t even get the continent from which man “evolved” right (…)

    Dude. Seriously. And just FYI, it’s perfectly possible to be an expert in one field (like Dr. Skell in chemistry) and a misguided hobbyist in another (like Dr. Skell in Evolutionary biology). That doesn’t make him a bad scientist per se, but his opinion on “Darwinism” is basically worthless. Same goes for Fodor (a philosopher and cognitive scientist of all things!), in case you were wondering. And why are you so reluctant to call it “Evolution” anyway?

  36. mumadaddon 24 May 2017 at 8:51 am

    Michael,

    “Your theory can’t ” in advance… predict the end-result”, which is another way of saying that your theory–Darwinism– is worthless.”

    Yeah, scientific theories have to make testable predictions, otherwise they are unfalsifiable and not scientific. But those predictions don’t have to be about future events.

    Anyhoo, you’ve been corrected on this point before, yet here you are trotting it out again.

    Somebody said a while back (I think it was Willy) that you seem to be incapable of feeling embarrassment. I’d agree with that assessment. Not sure what you can get out of repeating obviously wrong and previously corrected claims.

  37. Michael Woelkon 24 May 2017 at 8:54 am

    Your theory can’t ” in advance… predict the end-result”, which is another way of saying that your theory–Darwinism– is worthless.

    Your God can’t create a stone, so heavy, that he couldn’t lift it, which is another way of saying that your God is worthless. Ha! Check and mate!

  38. RickKon 24 May 2017 at 8:55 am

    Having fun, Michael?

    It must be frustrating to watch a worldview (scientific, naturalistic) educate our middle school kids on more real truths about human origins than were known by all the ancient prophets and theologians combined. So I understand why it might give you satisfaction to troll the discussions of people who prefer difficult or uncertain truths to comforting fables.

    As has been said before… how sad it is for you to look at Graecopithecus or Homo naledi and see only negatives. It is indicative of the intellectual bankruptcy of your world view that response to such amazing discoveries is derision and scorn.

    But rest assured – your discomfiture only increases the joy the rest of us get from discovering new pieces to the sparsely-populated puzzle of human origins, pieces notably and spectacularly missing from the medieval stories from which you draw your comforting fables.

  39. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 9:13 am

    Michael:

    [And just FYI, it’s perfectly possible to be an expert in one field (like Dr. Skell in chemistry) and a misguided hobbyist in another (like Dr. Skell in Evolutionary biology). That doesn’t make him a bad scientist per se, but his opinion on “Darwinism” is basically worthless.]

    Credentialism cuts both ways. Since no one on this blog is an expert on theology, then their denials of God’s existence is merely the ramblings of “misguided hobbyists”.

    When you defer to the theologians, I’ll defer to the evolutinary biologists.

  40. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 9:15 am

    [But rest assured – your discomfiture only increases the joy the rest of us get from discovering new pieces to the sparsely-populated puzzle of human origins…]

    Yep. You just can’t wait for the next tooth…

  41. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 9:20 am

    [Same goes for Fodor (a philosopher and cognitive scientist of all things!)]

    Fodor isn’t a cognitive scientist. His co-author on WDGW, Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, is.

    [And why are you so reluctant to call it “Evolution” anyway?]

    Evolution is the fact that populations change with time. It is an observation, not a theory.

    There are several theories of evolution– theistic evolution, intelligent design, thomistic evolution, Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Modern Synthesis, etc.

    Darwinian theories have no predictive power, as you admit, and are worthless, except as a place-holder for atheist-materialist metaphysics, which is what you’re pushing anyway.

  42. SteveAon 24 May 2017 at 9:34 am

    michaelegnor: “Your theory can’t ” in advance… predict the end-result”, which is another way of saying that your theory–Darwinism– is worthless.”

    To clarify, if an island ecosystem was exposed to progressively drier weather, we would expect natural selection to favour those individuals that could better survive those conditions. Over time, we would expect to see gradual speciation that improved on that ability.

    Is that the kind of predictive power you’re talking about?

  43. Steven Novellaon 24 May 2017 at 9:49 am

    Michael – you continue to be the very model of a troll.

    You say demonstrably absurd things. When people call you out on your nonsense you say, “Oh, really hit a nerve, must be onto something.” This is trolling 101, so predictable.

    You further fail to address the criticisms of your position, and just double down on your initial assertions.

    Your position is also incoherent (here is another point you will just ignore). You say you accept evolution, just not natural selection. But – this article is about the pattern of evolutionary change. It’s not really about natural selection.

    This is only about finding fossils as puzzle pieces to reconstruct the pattern that evolutionary change took over time. Are you now saying that evolution did not happen? What does any of this have to do with natural selection as the mechanism for evolution?

    You are incoherent, like most deniers. Just keep throwing up confusion and nonsense, create chaos of thought, then proclaim victory because people are annoyed at you.

  44. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 10:01 am

    SteveA:

    [To clarify, if an island ecosystem was exposed to progressively drier weather, we would expect natural selection to favour those individuals that could better survive those conditions. Over time, we would expect to see gradual speciation that improved on that ability.]

    No need to “clarify”: Individuals better able to survive, survive, because “better able to survive” means “survive”. Tautologies are damn clear.

    You call this junk science a “theory”?

  45. mumadaddon 24 May 2017 at 10:13 am

    Michael,

    “Credentialism cuts both ways. Since no one on this blog is an expert on theology, then their denials of God’s existence is merely the ramblings of “misguided hobbyists”.

    When you defer to the theologians, I’ll defer to the evolutinary biologists.”

    This is like drawing an equivalence between a magician and an expert on Harry Potter lore in explaining how magic tricks work. The two explanations are in zero sum conflict but that doesn’t mean they are equally credible; the magician does not need to be an expert on Harry Potter in order to dismiss that explanation.

  46. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 10:18 am

    Steven:

    [Your position is also incoherent (here is another point you will just ignore). You say you accept evolution, just not natural selection.]

    Of course I accept “evolution”. Populations change.

    Natural selection isn’t an explanation for evolutionary change. As Foder showed quite clearly and elegantly, natural selection is empty. It’s a narrative gloss on the real processes driving evolutionary change, which are the interaction of the biological/genetic capabilities and constraints of the organism, and the natural history. “Natural selection” does no lifting. It explains nothing.

    [But – this article is about the pattern of evolutionary change. It’s not really about natural selection.]

    If you mean that natural selection has nothing to do with human evolution, I agree. If you think that natural selection is a meaningful concept in human evolution, then you need to explain how it is that such a central evolutionary concept as NS has no predictive power whatsoever when it comes to predicting the pattern of human origins.

    [This is only about finding fossils as puzzle pieces to reconstruct the pattern that evolutionary change took over time.]

    This is just about natural history. You agree with Fodor. Natural selection, applied here, is empty. Which is what you find wherever you apply “natural selection”.

    [Are you now saying that evolution did not happen? What does any of this have to do with natural selection as the mechanism for evolution?]

    Of course evolution happened. Populations long ago differ from populations today. That’s evolution and it happened and is still happening.

    The scientific question is: what are the principles by which evolution happens?

    As Fodor (and many others) has pointed out, natural selection is not one of those principles, because it’s not a principle at all. It’s essentially a tautology, an empty phrase, and it does no real scientific work.

  47. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 10:48 am

    Sez Dr. Egnor: “Your theory can’t ” in advance… predict the end-result”, which is another way of saying that your theory–Darwinism– is worthless.”

    Aside from the utter foolishness and deep lack of understanding shown in your statement, doesn’t your conclusion then also apply to ID?

    Here’s another thought from Dr. Egnor that makes me laugh: “Unlike Dr. Novella, I draw inferences that are supported by data, and I avoid pronouncements that my ideology is proven until the battle is over.”

  48. Steven Novellaon 24 May 2017 at 11:04 am

    Michael. You continue to be incoherent, and you have clarified nothing. Let’s try this – there are several aspects to evolutionary theory: common descent, the specific history of evolutionary change, and the mechanisms that drive evolutionary change. You keep confusing these, and it never seems possible to understand what your position actually is except for your knee-jerk denial of “evolution.”

    So, do you accept common descent? You say that populations change, but does that mean you accept the conclusion that extant species were all related through common descent?

    Do you accept that humans and chimps have a common ancestor about 7-8 million years ago, and that fossil hominins represent our connection to that common ancestor?

    These questions are independent from the question of mechanism. This is not the same thing as saying that natural selection is not true, as you slyly tried to imply. It’s just a separate question. The fact that NS doesn’t predict specific changes in a non-sequitur, that is not what NS is meant to explain.

    Further, the tautology argument is bogus and has been demolished decades ago. The fittest is defined by specific adaptions to a niche. Saying that the stronger animal has a greater chance to survive is not a tautology.

  49. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 11:04 am

    “Credentialism cuts both ways. Since no one on this blog is an expert on theology, then their denials of God’s existence is merely the ramblings of “misguided hobbyists”.

    When the world’s theologians come to a consensus, maybe they’ll be worth listening to. Meantime, they’re just a group of folk fighting about whose version of Santa Claus is the correct one. Let’s not forget that some theologians have concluded that Jesus was not divine and that the Gospels are mostly fiction.

  50. SteveAon 24 May 2017 at 11:08 am

    michaelegnor: “No need to “clarify”: Individuals better able to survive, survive, because “better able to survive” means “survive”. Tautologies are damn clear.”

    Re: tautology. Well, I’m sure you’ve found your way to the following Wikipedia page at some point in the past, but just in case you haven’t:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest#Tautology.3F

    And as far as relying on Fodor for your arguments…

  51. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 11:25 am

    michaelegnor:

    When you defer to the theologians, I’ll defer to the evolutinary biologists.

    Come back when the vast majority of theologians can reach agreement on all of the fundamentals of the Theory of Religion. Since hardly any of your “experts” can manage to agree on the same god; or which scriptures are correct; or how to interpret them; or even agree on a single version of the afterlife with the same punishments, rewards, and entry requirements; or on practically any other aspect of religion; then you don’t have a coherent argument.

    When legitimate experts look at the same evidence (for evolution and science in general) and independently reach very similar conclusions, that is a pretty good indication that they are mostly correct, perhaps with some fine-tuning still occurring, but essentially accurate in the main points. Especially when the theory has genuine predictive capability as opposed to your childish, straw man version of prediction.

    Contrast that with the many millennia of various, incompatible mythologies espoused by assorted “religious experts”. Instead of coalescing into one, generally agreed upon world view, the complete lack of any evidence whatsoever has lead to the exact opposite condition — ever increasing divergence of opinion, i.e. “wishful thinking”.

  52. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 11:29 am

    SteveCross:

    So I take it that you have no intention of deferring to theologians.

    I have no intention of deferring to evolutionary biologists.

  53. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 11:31 am

    egnor is trotting out Gish’s old tautology argument (Fodor’s argument is very different from the tautology argument, and is also weak: I’d like to see egnor reproduce Fodor’s argument in a form you think is valid and sound–if he believes he, he should be able to re-state it).

    If you think “Natural selection is a tautology” you are actually saying you find Darwin’s theory so compelling you have trouble thinking of an alternative. You should know, though, that no modern evolutionary biologist thinks that natural selection is the sole mechanism of evolution. Pick up any general book on the topic written in the past five years.

    But contrary to the creationists, natural selection is no mere tautology. Is not a tautology that organisms look like their parents, that living things struggle to survive, that only a limited subset of offspring pass on their traits in a population, that traits are not equally distributed in a population, that mating is non-random. These are all contingent biological facts that are part of Darwin’s theory. Yes, the biological facts are so basic a child can understand them, but that is typical of a fundamental theory.

    It was the 1850s before Darwin discovered the principle of natural selection, after your Church had force-fed Creationism on the masses for almost 2000 years. For a “tautology” have you ever wondered why it took so long to discover, why the Church fought it so hard, and why it revolutionized modern biology?

    It is incredibly ironic that someone would say it explains nothing, when it explains exactly what the Church used God to explain: fit between organism and local environment (e.g., study the finch, the emergence and fixation of antiobiotic-resistant strains of bacteria). Wherever you are tempted to say “design”, you are seeing the godless provenance of natural selection. But other than removing the need for God to explain the giraffe’s neck, it had repercussions more generally that reverberated throughout all of biology from molecules to humans.

    Natural selection replaced God as the guiding design principle in biological reality. That’s why the Church fought him so heavily. That’s why egnor fights it so hard. The giraffe’s neck needs no God. The finch’s beak needs no divine intervention.

    If natural selection explains nothing, then God explains nothing.

  54. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 11:34 am

    Which theologians should Steve Cross defer to, Dr. Egnor?

  55. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 11:41 am

    Steven:

    [Michael. You continue to be incoherent, and you have clarified nothing. Let’s try this – there are several aspects to evolutionary theory: common descent, the specific history of evolutionary change, and the mechanisms that drive evolutionary change. You keep confusing these, and it never seems possible to understand what your position actually is except for your knee-jerk denial of “evolution.” ]

    I couldn’t be more clear. I don’t “deny” evolution. Of course populations evolve.

    I think that natural selection is an empty concept, and because Darwinism is predicated on NS, I think Darwin’s theory is an empty theory.

    [So, do you accept common descent?]

    It’s possible, but not demonstrated. We don’t know how life began, so we don’t know if it began more than once. The similarities in the genetic code may be due to common descent, or common design.

    [You say that populations change, but does that mean you accept the conclusion that extant species were all related through common descent?]

    Common descent, or common design.

    [Do you accept that humans and chimps have a common ancestor about 7-8 million years ago, and that fossil hominins represent our connection to that common ancestor?]

    I see little reason to accept such a radical hypothesis, based on vanishingly little physical evidence and an empty scientific theory. I have no problem with it, metaphysically, if it is true, but the evidence for it is very thin.

    [These questions are independent from the question of mechanism. This is not the same thing as saying that natural selection is not true, as you slyly tried to imply.]

    Natural selection isn’t a scientific hypothesis, so it isn’t true or false. It’s meaningless.

    [The fact that NS doesn’t predict specific changes in a non-sequitur, that is not what NS is meant to explain.]

    Of course NS is meant to explain specific changes. That’s exactly what it’s meant to explain. And it explains nothing.

    [Further, the tautology argument is bogus and has been demolished decades ago. The fittest is defined by specific adaptions to a niche. Saying that the stronger animal has a greater chance to survive is not a tautology.]

    The adaptation to the niche is the definition of fitness. Adapatation is defined by survival in the niche. Those who adapt are the survivors. Survivors survive. Tautology.

  56. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 11:59 am

    Egnor wrote:
    >The adaptation to the niche is the definition of fitness. Adapatation is defined by survival in the niche. Those who adapt are the survivors. Survivors survive. Tautology.

    You are wrong.

    You can have survival without natural selection.

    You get selection only if there is differential reproductive success due to environmental pressure, different genes in the population, and offspring resemble parents. None of these things are tautologies. They are contingent biological facts.

    See my argument from above:

    Is not a tautology that organisms look like their parents, that living things struggle to survive, that only a limited subset of offspring pass on their traits in a population, that traits are not equally distributed in a population, that mating is non-random. These are all contingent biological facts that are part of Darwin’s theory. Yes, the biological facts are so basic a child can understand them, but that is typical of a fundamental theory.

    Natural selection is not mere survival. It is environmentally-induced differential reproduction of heritable traits. It depends on specific sets of contingent circumstances. There is a reason it took until the 19th century for Darwin to discover this theory.

  57. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 11:59 am

    Willy:

    [Which theologians should Steve Cross defer to, Dr. Egnor?]

    Which evolutionary biologist should I defer to?

  58. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Let me put it in a way egnor might understand: if you have a population of clones with zero genetic variability, and no mutation, there will be no natural selection even if there is lots of death and survival.

    Do you understand yet? It is not a tautology. It depends on contingent biological facts.

    This is stuff I literally learned when I was a freshman in Biology 101.

  59. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Dr. Egnor: Nice duck (not), but in general you can defer to any of them as they all agree on the basics.

    Which specific group of theologians should I defer to?

  60. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 12:11 pm

    ed:

    [Natural selection is not mere survival. It is environmentally-induced differential reproduction of heritable traits. It depends on specific sets of contingent circumstances. There is a reason it took until the 19th century for Darwin to discover this theory.]

    Darwinism is a set of circumlocutions that cover the fact that NS is a tautology. Differential reproduction of heritable traits isn’t a “discovery”: the most ignorant illiterate peasant from millenia ago knew that traits passed through generations and that some individuals survived and some didn’t. This bullsh*t observation isn’t a ‘theory’.

    What Darwin did was pass off this insipid observation as a novel scientific “theory” by dressing it up as “natural selection”. Ordinarily such a insipid observation would be laughed away, but Darwin’s idiot idea meshed nicely with 19th century atheism and materialism, and provided atheists with a sciency-sounding creation myth.

    As Dawkins famously observed, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

    That metaphysical project was and is Darwin’s one accomplishment, witless though it is.

  61. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 12:15 pm

    michaelegnor,

    Kind of missing the critical point aren’t you?

    I would happily defer to a legitimate Concensus Theory of religion if one existed. None does.

    Sure, I (like I suspect, most people) would definitely prefer to believe in one of the warm and fuzzy religions where I could be confident of being reunited with my loved ones, etc. But just picking one without any evidence to support it is kind of crazy.

    I assume that you base your medical decisions on generally accepted best practices — which only become generally accepted in the first place because the majority of experts believe there is good evidence to believe that certain courses of treatment are most likely to achieve the best results.

    That same criteria has never been applied to any religion in history.

  62. MosBenon 24 May 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Ugh, I can’t believe that I’m about to give Egnor argumentative ammunition, but I think that the people arguing with him about the consensus between theologians are on the wrong track. Yes, there are theologians who have concluded that no god really exists and that religious texts are just fiction, but while I don’t have actual stats I’m pretty sure that it would be easy to show that there’s a consensus among the vast majority of theologians that some type of God-type being exists. The comparison to biology or climate science is misguided because it’s not about simply taking credentialed people’s argument at face value. Theology isn’t a science. There’s no experimental data. Theological ideas COULD be correct, but there’s less power in the consensus because the basis isn’t scientific study.

    Egnor still hasn’t addressed the point that a scientific theory needs to make predictions, but those predictions need not be extrapolated into the future. Evolutionary theory provides predictions of what we should find when we look into the past, and as we’ve learned more about the past the evidence lined up with what we would expect to find based on evolutionary theory. The evidence supports the theory that the environment guides the development of species, not an intelligent designer, for which there is no evidence. It’s not impossible that life began in multiple locations and a multiple times, but as life developed on Earth it was through interaction with environment and speciation to take advantage of niches, not guided by an intelligence towards some pre-determined result.

  63. Pete Aon 24 May 2017 at 12:40 pm

    “Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.” — H.L. Mencken.

  64. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 12:41 pm

    So now, according to egnor, Darwin was pushing an obvious idea that every peasant had. Nobody cared. The world shrugged.

    That must be why Darwin sat on the idea for 20 years, scared to publish because he knew what a bombshell it would be. But yeah, it was nothing new, no big deal. On the Origin of Species was just a minor ripple. The Catholic Church was fine with it. It also must be why he didn’t publish until Wallace independently came up with the idea and was going to publish it ahead of him.

    Because people worry about priority with truisms like ‘Survivors survive.’

    Do you just make up history to fit your ideology? Do you think Jesus discovered America?

    Tell us again how good the Inquisition was.

  65. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 12:41 pm

    MosBen,

    I agree that probably most theologians (and probably most of humanity including past generations) believe that some type of god-type being exists. But that is only a legitimate argument for a deistic god.

    Until there is general agreement on the specific type of deity, necessarily including such specific information as the type of behavior it expects from humanity (if at all), the type of worship it demands from humanity (if at all), an unambiguous “moral code”, and countless other “rules” that theists insist humanity must follow, then Egnor’s argument that we must accept the judgement of “theologians” is invalid.

  66. Dan Dionneon 24 May 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Mr. Egnor: “Darwinism is a set of circumlocutions that cover the fact that NS is a tautology. Differential reproduction of heritable traits isn’t a ‘discovery’: the most ignorant illiterate peasant from millenia [sic] ago knew that traits passed through generations and that some individuals survived and some didn’t. This bullsh*t observation isn’t a ‘theory’.

    What Darwin did was pass off this insipid observation as a novel scientific ‘theory by dressing it up as ‘natural selection’.”

    Editorializing aside, these facts are essentially true. However, Mr. Egnor, you’ve described less than half of what Darwin proposed with natural selection. It isn’t JUST that organisms have heritable characteristics that influence their survival, but ALSO that the population’s environment can affect the incidence of heritable characteristics over multiple generations. Peasants practiced selective breeding, but Darwin extended this basic idea to animals living in the wild — he demonstrated that unguided interactions between organisms and their environment could exert a similar selection effect over larger timescales. Hence “natural” selection (as opposed to artificial selection).

  67. MosBenon 24 May 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Steve Cross: Two things: Except that even when there is a consensus skeptics would correctly object because it almost certainly be based on compelling evidence or a scientific process. If Scientology takes off over the next 100 years and eventually 98% of theologians agree that we should all be very concerned with clearing ourselves of Thetans it won’t make the argument any more compelling than today. The reason that the consensus argument for evolutionary theory or AGW is powerful is that both theories rely on a community of experts who study different lines of evidence that all converge on and agree with a common theory. The “I’ll rely on your experts when you rely on mine” gambit with Egnor is bound to fail because his experts are not using the same methods of inquiry, and in the mean time if just gives him access to the same “missing the forest for the trees” argument that has been appropriately directed at him.

  68. MosBenon 24 May 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Or one thing. By the time I finished the first part of the comment I forgot what the second part was supposed to be.

  69. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 1:11 pm

    MosBen,

    I was referring to your statement “The comparison to biology or climate science is misguided because it’s not about simply taking credentialed people’s argument at face value.”

    But that is exactly the implication that Egnor is making. It doesn’t matter if theology is not science. Theologians (and Egnor) are explicitly making the case that they do indeed have good “reasons” for their specific beliefs. The fact that those reasons are not remotely similar to good scientific evidence is not relevant to Egnor’s claim.

    What is relevant is that those “reasons” (whether inductive logic or miracles or anything else) are not generally accepted by the majority of “other” theologians means that they are in no way as persuasive as the consensus opinion of experts in any field at all — not just the scientific fields.

    In general, I think we are in complete agreement. In other words, Egnor’s “experts” will never be as good as real experts, but in this instance, it is even more laughable because his experts can’t even agree among themselves thus losing them even more credibility.

  70. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I will accept what someone says if there is good evidence and reason to back it up. Science is better than other ways of knowing partly because it puts this maxim into practice: authority is given back-seat status to evidence and reason. Evidence is given the steering wheel. If you theories conflict with evidence, then your theory must be modified. No matter what the Pope says about the movement of the Earth, even if 100% of theologians agree with him. “And yet, it moves.”

    I’m not saying science is the only way of knowing, but it kicks the ass of revelation, religious canon, and philosophical reflection. And I’ve got evidence to back that up! 😛

  71. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 1:20 pm

    MosBen: I did consider the thoughts you posted before I responded to Dr. Egnor and I rejected that concern as irrelevant. It would be relevant if evolutionary biologists agreed on nothing except that life had changed over time, but disagreed on the how, the length of time, the degree of change, the idea of common descent, etc. Different theological schools agree on nothing beyond some vague idea of god and even there the Buddhists and the Hindus aren’t really in agreement.

    I asked Dr. Egnor which theologians (PLURAL) should be deferred to and he responded by asking which (singular) evolutionary biologist he should defer to—well, it wasn’t even an honest response. I think Dr. Egnor is so certain that he is correct and so confident in his cleverness that he long since stopped asking himself questions. The fact that he stated (not too far above): “Wow. One simple observation about the uselessness of Darwinism on the question of human origins and I really got the monkey cages stirred up. Looks like I hit a nerve.” speaks deeply to his arrogance. I think he really believes that, deep down, most of us actually suspect the evolution is false.

  72. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 1:24 pm

    edamame,

    “And I’ve got evidence to back that up”

    Let me guess … you’re typing on some of it as we speak 😉

  73. RickKon 24 May 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Egnor posed: “Common descent, or common design.”

    You’d better hope that the driving force was unguided natural selection – organisms, through reproductive fitness, adapting or failing to adapt to ever changing environments, leading to the changes in species we see over time.

    Because if this was “by design”, was “on purpose”, then that means there’s a superintelligence somewhere that loves death, relishes extinction, and purposely created a universe guaranteed to be lethal to every living thing.

    So your choices are (1) we learn what we can about the mechanisms that cause life to evolve (which you admit it does) over time into new species, of which one is natural selection; or (2) attribute the fossil record and every lost life in the past and in the future to the plan of a sadistic divine designer.

    Egnor said: “Yep. You just can’t wait for the next tooth…”

    And you meet this with fear and derision instead of thrill and wonder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_naledi#Excavation

    That’s why you resort to reducing paleoanthropology to “waiting for the next tooth” – you’re trying to make the science of human origins seem as small and arbitrary as your pre-scientific superstitions. How pathetic and transparent.

  74. edamameon 24 May 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Egnor : doctor of sophistry.

  75. MosBenon 24 May 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Willy, less than that, I think. I think Egnor, like all trolls and infants, just delights in provoking a reaction. He comes into a thread, makes a face, we react to the face, and he giggles and claps. That the reaction he’s provoking is, “Uh, you don’t understand the words you are writing” is beside the point. Egnor is not interested in learning or changing his mind. He has his world view, and to the extent that he can find evidence (of any quality) to support his beliefs he will use it, but when evidence disagrees with his beliefs it is not necessary and easily discarded.

  76. chikoppion 24 May 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Which homeopathy expert should I defer to?

    Which Santeria expert should I defer to?

    Good luck with that.

  77. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Dan:

    [It isn’t JUST that organisms have heritable characteristics that influence their survival, but ALSO that the population’s environment can affect the incidence of heritable characteristics over multiple generations. Peasants practiced selective breeding, but Darwin extended this basic idea to animals living in the wild — he demonstrated that unguided interactions between organisms and their environment could exert a similar selection effect over larger timescales. Hence “natural” selection (as opposed to artificial selection).]

    You’re right. Darwin’s one meaningful insight that changed biology for the better was his observation that differential survival in nature is analogous to differential survival in breeding. Generations of breeders had amassed considerable knowledge about husbandry, and Darwin saw that nature carried out its own kind of husbandry. Now that’s no ‘great discovery’–remember that Darwin was co-temporaneous with Pasteur, Mendel and Ehrlich, who, unlike Darwin, were genuinely great scientists who made genuinely great discoveries. But Darwin’s insight that one could view differential survival in nature as an analog of differential survival in captivity (breeding) did provide a perspective on population biology that produced good science.

    Darwin’s error–his massive error–was to endow “natural selection” with agency. He posited a ‘force’ (more or less) in nature that continuously pruned and refined living things, and he posited this natural selection as the driver of evolutionary change.

    But natural selection is an empty concept. It is a place-holder for the interaction of internal biological capabilities/constraints and natural history, which are the real and important factors in evolution, not the non-existent agency of NS.

    For the atheists and materialists of the 19th century, this NS was thrilling, because it seemed (to their dull minds) to replace Divine agency in the evolution of life. But of course, NS isn’t a force, isn’t an agency, and is a meaningless bit of jargon.

    But it served it’s ideological purpose (whether intended or unintended by Darwin), which was to provide 19th century atheists with a creation myth.

  78. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Darwinian evolution consists of:

    1. Common ancestry. All species had a common ancestor at a far distant point in time, and similar species shared a common ancestor more recently. Egnor claims any similarity between disparate species, such as bananas and humans in the DNA code and genes, is common design not common ancestry.

    2. Descent with modification due to differential reproductive success to a changing environment (including climate change and changes in competitors, predators and prey). Egnor agrees that (2) happens, but it’s just ‘adaptation’, and really wants it to be teleological. ‘God’ wanted humans to exist, so just took 3.8 billion years to create them, the long way.

    (2) results from both:

    3. Natural variation within reproductively isolated populations (which may be an entire species or just part of a species) which may be increased by beneficial mutations of various types.

    4. Mechanisms affecting the frequency of the various natural variants within the population in response to the changing environment, which includes natural selection, sexual selection and neutral drift. Darwin in ‘On the Origin of Species’ described all three, not just natural selection, so natural selection wasn’t his only big idea as a mechanism of evolution.

    Egnor has the fallacious idea that according to evolutionary biology, natural selection is the ’cause’ of evolution. It isn’t. We’ve had this argument with hardnose often enough, with his similar claim that evolutionary biologists regard natural selection as a ‘driving force’ (a cause), whereas it’s regarded as a ‘guiding force’ or ‘directing force’ (a mechanism).

    The cause of evolution is in almost all cases (and probably in all cases) is a change in the environment of reproducing populations (including changes in climate, predators, prey and competitors). Even the fusion events between eubacteria and Archaea around 2 billion years ago to produce the eukaryotes leading to the first plants and animals had to occur when the Earth’s conditions allowed it instead of any time in the preceding 1.8 billion years.

    Graecopithecus might be a hominin and on one of the twigs on a branch of the bush which also includes the twig which has humans. And the branch which includes Graecopithecus and humans might have branched very close to it to give a branch contain chimpanzees including two twigs with common chimps and bonobos).

    I’m not convinced. What was the changed environment that led to the split in the population resulting eventually in chimps and humans 7 million years in part of the land mass that eventually became Southern Europe after the formation of the Mediterranean separated it from Africa?

    7 million years ago the Earth wasn’t in the current Ice Age. At least the theory that human evolution occurred in East Africa has the advantage that it explains why humans and chimps went their separate ways. The Great Rift Valley resulted in different climates on the two sides, with wetter bushland and eventual chimps on one side and drier plains and open savannah and eventual humans on the other side.

    Darwinian evolution does have predictive power. It predicts that environmental change will cause new speciation, the evidence for which includes the formation of 13 new species of finches on the Galápagos Islands after a very few finches reached the islands from the South American mainland 1,000 km to the east.

    Egnor’s teleological evolution has no predictive power. Whatever species results was just an idea in God’s mind. Egnor commits the sharpshooter fallacy.

  79. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I see that while I was typing my comment Egnor has typed another one of his nonsenses.

    No evolutionary biologist regards natural selection as having ‘agency’. It’s a mechanism, not a cause of evolution. It’s a guiding force, not a driving force. Darwin recognised it clearly. Biogeography was one of his strongest lines of evidence, and the scientific evidence in many more fields of science since then has only immeasurably strengthened the support for Darwinian evolution.

    How can someone get so much detail about changing populations in response to change conditions right, and then still insist that it’s teleological evolution?

  80. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:30 pm

    [Egnor’s teleological evolution has no predictive power.]

    Teleology is a metaphysical concept, not a scientific theory per se, but teleological evolution as a theory does make predictions, including:

    1) Convergent evolution–common forms to which geographically disparate evolve over time. Non-teleological evolution (Darwinism) does not predict this, and in fact, predicts that the evolutionary tape, if rerun many times, would produce different results each time (Gould).

    2) Front-loading of genes

    3) Lack of significant junk DNA

    4) High information content in genomes, with little change in genetic code over time.

  81. RickKon 24 May 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Egnor said: “But natural selection is an empty concept. It is a place-holder for the interaction of internal biological capabilities/constraints and natural history, which are the real and important factors in evolution, not the non-existent agency of NS.”

    No, natural selection is the MECHANISM of interaction of a population with its environment. You’re waving your hands and blowing smoke in an attempt to hide the reality that species branching and change due to differential reproductive success is in fact natural selection. There is no need to introduce a deity to shift the weather or move a continent or drop an asteroid or diddle with he hair on a germ’s bum. The resulting changes in species that follow these events have historically been significant and have been driven by differential reproductive success. Populations evolve through natural selection.

    And you’re once again trying to reduce evolutionary theory to “Darwin” just as you reduce paleoanthroplogy to “the next tooth”. Sorry, but these are big truths that no amount of hand-waving will shrink to your size.

    I notice you didn’t answer Steve’s question – do you believe all life on Earth has a common ancestor? Does the evidence of genetics and the fossil record indicate that you, Michael Egnor, share ancestry with apes and akitas and alligators?

  82. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:35 pm

    [No evolutionary biologist regards natural selection as having ‘agency’. It’s a mechanism, not a cause of evolution. It’s a guiding force, not a driving force]

    NS isn’t a ‘force’ of any kind, neither guiding nor driving. And if you regard NS as a “guiding force” or a “mechanism”, then you regard it as having agency. Which it does not have.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t deny that NS has agency, and then call it any kind of force or mechanism.

    And since NS is neither a force nor a mechanism, nor an agent, what is it?

    It is empty. NS is meaningless jargon, fabricated to make atheism’s creation myth sound sciencey.

  83. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Even when I was in high school, when I was an atheist/agnostic and believed in Darwinian explanations, I had this unshakable sense that NS and Darwinian jargon in general were just neologisms made to dress up a pretty mundane idea and make it look sciencey.

    All of the other sciences–chemistry, physics, biology (other than evolution) seemed to me to be serious undertakings in which jargon was used only when necessary.

    Darwinism struck me as jargon for the sake of jargon. Like pretend science.

    Still does.

  84. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:43 pm

    [No, natural selection is the MECHANISM of interaction of a population with its environment.]

    No.

    NS is not a mechanism. It is not a force. It has no agency. It is not a thing.

    Evolution is the interaction of internal capacities/constraints of organisms with the environment. Nothing more or less.

    There is nothing else. NS is not a thing.

  85. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

    NS is like luminiferous aether . To the naive, it seems necessary to describe nature, but as you learn how things actually work, you see that it is irrelevant and in fact doesn’t exist.

    You can do physics without luminiferous ether. You can do biology without NS. You can do biology better without NS, because you don’t make the mistake of assigning mechanism or force or agency to something that doesn’t actually exist.

    Instead you look for real causes, such as internal capacities/constraints and environment.

  86. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:50 pm

    [I notice you didn’t answer Steve’s question – do you believe all life on Earth has a common ancestor? Does the evidence of genetics and the fossil record indicate that you, Michael Egnor, share ancestry with apes and akitas and alligators?]

    I did answer his question. I don’t know if all life has a common ancestor. The evidence is spotty and confusing.

    We don’t know how life began, so we don’t know how many times it began.

    Similarities in the genetic code can be the result of UCA or common design.

  87. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 5:56 pm

    [Do you, Michael Egnor, share ancestry with apes and akitas and alligators?]

    I don’ know. I certainly share traits. Whether those traits are caused by UCA, or by common design, or both, I don’t know. We don’t have the evidence needed for a conclusive answer. I’m not sure we ever will.

    UCA is a presupposition of Darwinists, not a conclusion reached by evidence.

    Now, I have no religious objection to descent from apes and bacteria. I’m an animal–a rational (spiritual) animal–and I don’t know for sure how the animal part evolved. Perhaps by UCA from apes, perhaps by special creation by design. Neither is a problem for me, from a metaphysical perspective.

    Our souls are created by God at conception. That is what matters, from a religious perspective.

  88. chikoppion 24 May 2017 at 6:14 pm

    [michaelegnor] Evolution is the interaction of internal capacities/constraints of organisms with the environment. Nothing more or less.

    Yeah, dummies.

    See, evolution happens when environmental pressures impact the heritability of genes within a population. There’s no role for natural selection, which is when environmental pressures impact the heritability of…

    Oh, wait a minute.

  89. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Michael,

    Teleological evolution and its ‘predictions’:

    1. Convergent evolution. The sharpshooter fallacy again.

    2. Front-loading of genes. Doesn’t happen.

    3. Lack of significant junk DNA. There’s plenty of junk DNA in all genomes, save bacteria. ENCODE was just wrong in calling any DNA which is transcribed to RNA at least once as being ‘functional’ was just wrong. At most in the human genome only 10% of the DNA has a useful function.

    4. High information content in genomes, with little change in genetic code over time. Again confusion of the meaning of ‘information’. Most of the DNA in the human genome is junk, and can change freely allowing scientists to determine where a person originates geographically. The minority of the DNA encoding genes change very little. And changes in the genetic code are punished harshly by natural selection. The change in one triplet codon from encoding one amino acid to another would have disastrous effects, causing an immediate effect in all gene products.

    ‘Agency’ means that there’s a conscious cause. Natural selection isn’t an agency. It’s not a conscious cause. It’s a mindless force, a guiding force not a driving force, not a cause, in the same way that gravity is a force, not an agency (although, we still don’t have a good handle on what gravity actually is).

    Anyway. How do you know that ‘our souls are created by God at conception’? Aquinas didn’t believe that. He thought they were implanted much later at the quickening. And what evidence do you have that souls actually exist?

  90. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 6:22 pm

    chi:

    You’re right. Evolution is the interaction of internal capacities/constraints and the environment.

    If NS is just the shorthand, then it is not a force, nor a mechanism, nor an agent.

    So why invoke it?

    The analogy to luminiferous aether is very close. It seemed that wavelike properties of light required aether, but when electromagnetic radiation was understood in detail, the “luminiferous aether” was seen to be superfluous, a narrative gloss with no existence or agency. It could be dispensed with, and the science was better for it.

    Evolution can be understood and studied as the interaction of internal capacities/constraints and environment, without invocation of NS as a ‘guiding force’ or ‘mechanism’ or ‘agent’ or whatever.

    Fodor put it best: evolution is just constraints and “one damn thing after another” (natural history). Nothing else.

  91. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 6:26 pm

    So why do Darwinists hang on to NS, when all of evolution is understandable without the invocation of NS?

    The reason is that living things give the appearance of being designed, and in order to explain away design, it is necessary (in atheist metaphysics) to posit a force/mechanism that accomplishes the appearance of design without intelligent agency.

    Hence NS, in the atheist creation myth, takes the place of Divine Agency.

  92. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 6:36 pm

    [‘Agency’ means that there’s a conscious cause.]

    No.

    Agent has a very specific metaphysical definition: it is a substance that is a cause. It need not be conscious nor alive. A rock that rolls down a hill and hits another rock is an agent. A plant that grows and pushes soil up is a living agent. A farmer that tills a field is a conscious agent.

    An agent is something that causes a change.

  93. michaelegnoron 24 May 2017 at 6:38 pm

    [1. Convergent evolution. The sharpshooter fallacy again.]

    Convergent evolution is obvious evidence for teleological evolution. Evolution acts to ends, even if the evolutionary processes are separated in time and place.

    No honest scientist would deny that convergent evolution is evidence for teleological evolution and against undirected Darwinian evolution.

  94. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 6:40 pm

    michaelegnor,

    It seems as if it is literally impossible for you to conceive of a “force” as anything other than teleological.

    Please try to understand that Natural Selection is not a “thing” at all. It has no intrinsic properties at all.

    NS is merely a descriptive term that refers to the actual “forces” (or perhaps more accurately, constraints) that are advantageous, disadvantageous, or neutral with regard to any individual species. Among these are climate, food supply, predators, etc.

    You seem to be upset because you believe that we are usurping all of your God’s wondrous capabilities and assigning them to something else. It is obvious that you have literally zero understanding of the concept.

    If your god does indeed exist, then he is using (or at least allowing) exactly the same mechanism to influence the world. You can make the claim that it is only one of his tools, but it is indisputably true. Species either adapt to survive and hopefully thrive — or else they go extinct.

    You are railing against a chimera. You should really focus your efforts on the much bigger problem for your world view, i.e. there is no evidence at all that anything more than NS is needed to describe what we see around us.

  95. chikoppion 24 May 2017 at 6:41 pm

    [michaelegnor] You’re right. Evolution is the interaction of internal capacities/constraints and the environment.

    If NS is just the shorthand, then it is not a force, nor a mechanism, nor an agent.

    So why invoke it?

    “Internal capacities/constraints” = phenotype.

    When environment pressures influence the frequency of genes being replicated in a population, based on the phenotypical traits of individual organisms operating within that environment, that is natural selection.

    You are in effect saying, “look, we all know that natural selection is an essential element of the evolutionary process, so why talk about natural selection when discussing evolution?”

  96. MosBenon 24 May 2017 at 6:50 pm

    That’s the thing that I don’t get. Egnor’s descriptions of how the environment puts pressures on species which cause them to change over time to better suit their environment, and thus increase the chances of survival of the species, take way more time to say than “natural selection” or “evolution by natural selection”. The reason we give labels to things is so that we don’t need to explain them in detail every time they’re discussed.

  97. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Michael,

    ‘Evolution acts to ends’. No it doesn’t. The sharpshooter fallacy again. Evolution can only deal with the here and now. It has no foresight. The pigeons which came to Mauritius lost the power of flight, because flight is expensive and there weren’t any predators making it useful, and evolved into the flightless dodo which weren’t able to show foresight of ends and re-evolve flight in the 17th century, useful though it might have been in avoiding being killed off by bored Dutch and English sailors.

    ‘Evolution acts to ends’ is only true if ‘ends’ refers to extinction of 99.9% of all species.

    You’re wrong regarding (1). And the other ‘predictions’?

  98. Steve Crosson 24 May 2017 at 6:53 pm

    michaelegnor,

    Convergent evolution is obvious evidence for teleological evolution. Evolution acts to ends, even if the evolutionary processes are separated in time and place.

    You know this is silly right?

    Why does your supposed teleological evolution insist on “solving” the same problems in so many different ways?

    Our eyes vs. an octopus’ eyes for example — their’s are arguably better and certainly different.

    For that matter, your “directed” evolution is doing a terrible job. Why else have literally millions of species gone extinct because they did not adapt to changing conditions.

  99. chikoppion 24 May 2017 at 7:03 pm

    [michaelegnor] No honest scientist would deny that convergent evolution is evidence for teleological evolution and against undirected Darwinian evolution.

    “Undirected” is not “random.”

    Birds and insects (or at least some of each) developed the capacity for flight independently. That is an example of convergent evolution.

    Similar selective pressures existed for each, meaning that flight represented an exploitable niche for those organisms capable of seizing some advantage from it (let’s not forget bats, flying squirrels, plants and fungi with seeds and spores specially adapted to be spread by the wind, etc.).

    Convergent evolution is perfectly consistent with modern synthesis.

  100. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 7:59 pm

    It seems to me that the “mechanism” of evolution is gene change. Humans act on these genetic changes–they are the “force” or “agent”–when they “artificially select”; the environment acts, as the “force”, on these changes when “natural selection” occurs. NS and AS, are descriptions. There is no tautology here at all, only Dr. Egnor trying to find an excuse to justify his beliefs, er, faith.

  101. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Willy,

    I don’t think you’ve quite got it right. Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution. Its effect is gene change within populations – changes in the relative frequency of gene variants – alleles – and the particular combinations in which specific alleles are linked together for fairly long periods on chromosomes. The result is the accumulation of gene changes in response to a changing environment which eventually leads to a new species, one which is so different to the species before the environment began to change, that it would be incapable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring (assuming one had the hypothetical time machine and were able to do the ‘experiment’).

  102. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 8:58 pm

    bachfiend–NS can’t “act”, or “prefer” one organism over another organism of the same “kind” (not in the YEC sense–lol) until there is a gene change. I may be using words or terms in a layman sense, but it seems to me that NS is better thought of as a description of the process than as a mechanism.

  103. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 9:01 pm

    To continue, if I am botching something important, please tell me what you think. I feel comfortable with my idea, but I am certainly willing to adjust.

  104. bachfiendon 24 May 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Willy,

    Natural selection just has its influence on the natural variants present in any population. The natural variants may be new, owing to random mutations or to novel combinations of alleles (gene variants) including the introduction of new alleles as a result of migration of new individuals into the population.

    Without natural variants within a population, there’s nothing for natural selection to work on.

    Giving gene change the role of the mechanism of evolution is committing the teleological fallacy. It’s the effect of natural selection. Natural variants with the right genetic makeup for the population’s environment in order to survive long enough to have a greater number of surviving fertile offspring eventually come to dominate the population, and their ‘gene change’ comes to dominate too.

    Natural selection isn’t agency. It doesn’t consciously act on individuals in populations favouring some over others.

    I don’t have any problems with you describing natural selection as the ‘process’ of evolution. I regard it as a synonym for ‘mechanism’ in this case.

  105. Willyon 24 May 2017 at 9:56 pm

    bachfiend: I didn’t say nor imply that NS has “agency”nor do I think that gene change implies teleology. Quite the opposite. Gene replication isn’t perfect, hence changes in genes result in the environment being more favorable to one set of genes than another set.

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement: “Without natural variants within a population…”. That is precisely my point. I suspect we are just differing over terminology.

  106. Steven Novellaon 25 May 2017 at 6:32 am

    ME – “[So, do you accept common descent?]
    It’s possible, but not demonstrated. We don’t know how life began, so we don’t know if it began more than once. The similarities in the genetic code may be due to common descent, or common design.”

    This is simply wrong. Common descent is a slam dunk. The similarities in the genetic code cannot be due to common design (unless the designer wanted life to look like it resulted from common descent, which is unfalsifiable). The molecular evidence for evolution is overwhelming, including the pattern of base pairs, the pattern of amino acids in proteins, and the pattern of viral inclusions and other anomalies. These all follow a pattern of nestled hierarchies predicted by common descent, and not by common design.

    And we don’t have to know how life began. Until we find an organism that is outside this pattern of nestled hierarchies there is no reason to suspect a separate origin. Even if there is another branch of life out there, that does not take away from the fact that all the species we have examined to date fit into the same evolutionary tree.

  107. RickKon 25 May 2017 at 7:00 am

    Re common design, the idea is laughable. Nature’s collection of Rube Goldberg adaptations – from the panda’s thumb to a moth with a 12 inch proboscis – is precisely what we’d expect from unguided evolution and not from any forethought. A universe that is overwhelmingly lethal to life and a natural history full of mass extinctions is either unguided, or guided by malevolence or incompetence.

    Oh evidence, schmevidence.

    Evolution must be guided by divine purpose because the alternative is morally unthinkable and leads to voting for liberals. So sayeth the argument from egnorance.

  108. BillyJoe7on 25 May 2017 at 7:56 am

    The elephant in the room.

    Michael Egnor is not really against “natural selection”.
    What he is really against is “random mutation”.
    If mutation is DIRECTED, you don’t need no damn “natural selection”.

    And his god is The Director. 😉

  109. edamameon 25 May 2017 at 11:15 am

    egnor wrote:
    >when I was in high school…Darwinism struck me as jargon for the sake of jargon…Still does.

    Thanks for that.

    Even without your confession, it is clear your knowledge of evolutionary biology hasn’t progressed beyond the level of a petulant American high school student.

  110. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Steven:

    [Common descent is a slam dunk. The similarities… These all follow a pattern of nestled hierarchies predicted by common descent, and not by common design.]

    Nested hierarchies in biology date back to Aristotle and Linneaus, both of whom constructed NH’s on the basis of inference to design. We still use Linneaus’ design-based NH today.

    Designed things (eg cars) can be grouped into NH’s–there is nothing specific about NH’s that requires linear descent by NS from a single common ancestor. Artifacts or even ideas related to types can be organized just fine in NH’s.

    And by your own admission, Darwin’s tree is a bush, and a messy bush, so NH’s are a very rough system of classification anyway.

    The evidence for UCA is by no means a “slam dunk”. A true skeptic would acknowledge that.

  111. edamameon 25 May 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Put it this way: there is no viable alternative scientific hypothesis to common descent, and all of the available scientific evidence we have supports common descent. Using any reasonable definition of ‘slam dunk’ we have in science, it is a slam dunk.

    But people who look at biology through the distorting lens of intelligent design, things are indeed different.

    For these petulant high school students of biology, every feather is a creativity-killing invitation to stop thinking. ‘Science’ becomes a hand-waving cauldron of special pleading and cherry picking between theology, science, and philosophical speculation. Every gap in our scientific knowledge is an ingenuity-stunting invitation to take out the can of God spackle and try to fill the gap with it. An invitation to turn off the critical faculties, shut off that light bulb, and invoke…a designer.

    Origins…by Calvin Klein.

    But that’s not science, it is pretty much definitional of magical childlike thinking of the tooth fairy variety. That’s intelligent design. It’s your six your old child leaving his tooth under his pillow and hoping the tooth fairy comes.

    Yeah, I’d pretty much say that common descent is a slam dunk, if you are being at all serious.

  112. MosBenon 25 May 2017 at 12:58 pm

    It feel like Egnor just wants to say “God did it”, but he keeps harping on whether life began multiple times, common descent, etc. Can someone explain to me how having life emerge billions of years ago and then a similar event happening in another location on the planet a few hundred thousand years later would change evolutionary theory? From what we know it seems like if there were two starting points for life they were either compatible with each other and merged, becoming life that we see today, or one of those lines died out and the other became the life we see today. Or maybe it happened 3+ times. None of that seems to suggest an intelligent designer to me. Other claims for ID are weak, but this one doesn’t even seem on point to me.

  113. RickKon 25 May 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Egnor said: “And by your own admission, Darwin’s tree is a bush, and a messy bush, so NH’s are a very rough system of classification anyway.”

    What kind of weird bushes do you have that don’t branch?

    As for messy – you’re saying the chaotic riot of species we have today is argument for a designer?

    Do you really there’s a ghost actively diddling the genetic machine? Do you really think that the only explanation for the bacterial flagellum is direct intervention by the creator of the universe? Do you really think that a 100% lethal universe guaranteed to kill all life on Earth in a few hundred million years is the result of purposeful design?

  114. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 2:17 pm

    [Do you really there’s a ghost actively diddling the genetic machine?]

    I’m a Thomist, so this is what I think:

    God acts in nature through primary and secondary causes. Primary causes are essentially miracles–creation ex-nihilo, Lazarus, the Resurrection, etc. Aside from the creation of the universe, miracles are rare, and there’s no reason (necessarily) to think that any aspect of evolution is miraculous.

    Secondary causes are caused by God (all good is caused by God, ultimately), but they are caused through agency of created things–through physical and chemical and biological processes.

    So I doubt that God “diddles the genetic machine”. He created the genetic machine, but it works according to natural processes (secondary causes) that He holds in existence but causes to operate according to laws of nature.

    My questions about UCA are scientific, not religious. I don’t think the evidence is strong enough to say one way or another whether UCA is true. Nested hierarchies can be drawn for designed or “undesigned” things. Commonality of things like the genetic code can be the result of common descent or common design.

    There evidence, objectively considered, doesn’t rise to proof of either of UCA or not-UCA.

  115. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 2:25 pm

    [Do you really think that the only explanation for the bacterial flagellum is direct intervention by the creator of the universe?]

    Secondary causation. See above. I’m not a fundamentalist, or a young-earth creationist, or a Paleyan. I see ID as a useful analogy to formal and final cause in nature, which I think is a much better description of reality.

    [Do you really think that a 100% lethal universe guaranteed to kill all life on Earth in a few hundred million years is the result of purposeful design?]

    Whether our future is long or short is not in itself an argument for or against purpose or design. It raises interesting questions of theodicy, but theodicy presupposes God and design.

  116. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 2:49 pm

    [It feel like Egnor just wants to say “God did it”, but he keeps harping on whether life began multiple times, common descent, etc. Can someone explain to me how having life emerge billions of years ago and then a similar event happening in another location on the planet a few hundred thousand years later would change evolutionary theory? From what we know it seems like if there were two starting points for life they were either compatible with each other and merged, becoming life that we see today, or one of those lines died out and the other became the life we see today. Or maybe it happened 3+ times. None of that seems to suggest an intelligent designer to me. Other claims for ID are weak, but this one doesn’t even seem on point to me.]

    My argument is merely that the evidence for UCA is not as strong as is generally believed. If one denies design, then the similarity of the genetic code would tend to argue for descent from a common ancestor. However if one accepts the possibility of design, one need not propose a single common ancestor.

    Proponents of UCA exaggerate the evidence because only design would provide a coherent explanation for similarity in the genetic code if there were multiple different lineages from different ancestors.

    Exaggeration of the evidence for UCA is driven by a materialist bias. It’s not driven by the evidence itself.

  117. edamameon 25 May 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Egnor you ID hacks aren’t even good Thomists:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/04/dembski-rolls-snake-eyes.html

    Listen to your Pope and stay in your lane. :O

  118. Willyon 25 May 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Seriously, what’s the hangup with bushes vs. trees about?

  119. edamameon 25 May 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Willy it is a truly bizarre perseveration on an imbecilic point.

  120. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Michael,

    ‘God acts in nature through primary and secondary causes. Primary causes are essentially miracles – creation ex-nihilism, Lazarus, the Resurrection, etc. Aside from the creation of the universe, miracles are rare, and there’s no reason (necessarily) to think that any aspect of evolution is miraculous.

    Yet, you think that miracles aren’t rare. You accept the so-called 69 miracles at Loudres as miracles, including the last one – a person with a phaeochromocytoma (a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system which causes episodic hypertension), which disappeared after bathing at Loudres (spontaneous remission with avascular necrosis is well recognised with this tumour). You accept the so-called two miracles necessary for the canonisation of saints, including the 2 for Pope John Paul II, one of which was the so-called miraculous remission of a fusiform aneurysm of a cerebral artery (in actual fact, the patient had migraine, she had aneurysmal dilatation of the cerebral artery causing the headache, and she was overinvestigated).

    Even the resurrection of Lazarus is suspect. It was mentioned only in John, not in the synoptic gospels. John was interested in miracles to ‘prove’ the divinity of Jesus, the same way you use miracles.

    You still haven’t justified your claimed 4 predictions of teleological evolution. Time for your Egnor Evasion again.

  121. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 4:22 pm

    [Egnor you ID hacks aren’t even good Thomists:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/04/dembski-rolls-snake-eyes.html%5D

    There’s a long-standing antipathy between ID and Thomism. The Thomists are basically right on the facts, but I have a lot of sympathy for the ID folks, and there are some Thomists (me, Jay Richards, and a few others) who view ID positively. Feser is particularly hard on ID, because he thinks ID is mechanistic in it’s metaphysical predicates. He’s right, mostly, but if the mechanistic predicates of ID are understood to be an analogy to nature, not a rigorous metaphysical theory of nature, than ID can be embraced from a Thomist perspective. Biological structures are not machines, but analogy to machines (bacterial flagellum to a rotor, genetic code to computer code, ribosomes to assembly lines, etc), does make sense and does contribute to the science–a lot of biology research is reverse-engineering, the process of finding and taking apart the structure to see what it does. “Design”, despite its mechanistic predicate, is a useful way to look at biology.

    Design, from a metaphysical perspective, is a horrendous error, if taken seriously. It began with Descartes, and has plagued science and philosophy ever since. It, along with nominalism, is the root error of the modern world, from a metaphysical perspective.

    But as long as design is understood an an analogy, it works and Thomists like me can accept it. Besides, I know many of the ID guys personally (Wells, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, Luskin), and they’re the nicest and smartest people I know. They also have a lot of guts, and have paid a high price professionally and personally for their contrarian views. I know a few “go along to get along” scientists who have pro-ID/Thomist views but keep their mouths shut, and I don’t have a lot of respect for that.

  122. arnieon 25 May 2017 at 4:35 pm

    ME: “I’m a Thomist, so this is what I think:”

    Your “so” in this case is a conjunction meaning ‘and for this reason’ or ‘therefore’.

    That’s very different from “I think this so I guess I could be labeled a Thomist”. That rings very true to me as I’ve always been struck by how little independent thinking you seem to do. Your thinking seems totally ideologically bound to this or that theologian/philosopher/etc. rather than accumulating evidence over time and critical thinking. I think it sets you up for getting trapped into some pretty embarrassing assertions to which you seem totally oblivious.

    However, your straightforward comments explaining why you think as you do (“I’m a Thomist”) was a refreshing departure from your all too frequent reliance on extremely insulting, demeaning, attacks on your fellow commenters here.

  123. RickKon 25 May 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Egnor said: “However if one accepts the possibility of design, one need not propose a single common ancestor.”

    So…. If life didn’t evolve from a common ancestor, then potentially multiple ancestors were “designed” into place along the way, with genetics made to look (down to the molecular level) like they evolved from a common ancestor.

    So that introduces two aspects to the “Designer”: 1) The Designer makes things look almost exactly the same, but different in just the right ways to be explained by unguided evolution; and more interestingly, (2) The Designer periodically magically pops new, unevolvable species into the biosphere.

    Therefore (for example) we can be evolved from an ancestor that had no relation to modern chimps because The Designer popped ancestral humans into existence, with all the right retro-viral insertions and protein handedness to make it look like we evolved from a common ancestor to chimps.

    Got it. How parsimonious and rational.

    Arnie – you hit the nail on the head. We see in Michael and Steve the distinction between two epidemiological approaches:

    – Steve: conclusions are drawn from a review of the evidence;
    – Michael: conclusions are drawn from the conventions of the tribe;

  124. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Michael,

    Behe hasn’t paid a high price professionally. He’s a tenured professor who can’t be sacked, but is not allowed to misinform students.

    Luskin is a lawyer who probably would have difficulty finding a job anywhere else other that the Dishonesty Institute, with America’s ridiculous oversupply of lawyers.

    Dembski is (or was? Has he been sacked for casting doubt on the literal truth of the bible?) employed at a religious university aligned with Southern Baptists.

    Meyer and Dembski don’t show ‘a lot of guts’. Both refused to appear as witnesses for the defence in the Dover ID trial. Dembski partly because he was asking double the witness fees the other witnesses were gouging, sorry getting.

    ID proponents are hacks, relying on getting money from the gullible who pay to have their delusions confirmed by pseudoscience.

  125. Willyon 25 May 2017 at 5:26 pm

    And Wells is a Moonie.

  126. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Michael,

    “Design, from a metaphysical perspective, is a horrendous error, if taken seriously. It began with Descartes, and has plagued science and philosophy ever since. It, along with nominalism, is the root error of the modern world, from a metaphysical perspective. ”

    1. Can you define ‘design’?
    2. How do you distinguish design from non design?

  127. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 5:46 pm

    arnie:

    [That’s very different from “I think this so I guess I could be labeled a Thomist”. That rings very true to me as I’ve always been struck by how little independent thinking you seem to do. Your thinking seems totally ideologically bound to this or that theologian/philosopher/etc. rather than accumulating evidence over time and critical thinking. I think it sets you up for getting trapped into some pretty embarrassing assertions to which you seem totally oblivious.]

    I like rigor, coherence and consistency. There are rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspectives, and Thomism is the one that I think is closest to the truth. So I come at things from a Thomist perspective. I have some views that are not explicitly Thomist, but for the most part I see things from that perspective. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    99% of the commenters here have no rigorous, coherent or consistent metaphysical perspective, other than a reflexive unexamined materialism. That’s nothing to brag about.

    [However, your straightforward comments explaining why you think as you do (“I’m a Thomist”) was a refreshing departure from your all too frequent reliance on extremely insulting, demeaning, attacks on your fellow commenters here.]

    I give, as I receive. Discussing these topics with Darwin Youth gets a bit rough. Cover your eyes if it upsets you.

  128. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

    [1. Can you define ‘design’?
    2. How do you distinguish design from non design?]

    Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.

  129. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Michael,

    “Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.”

    And how do you distinguish design from non design?

  130. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Michael,

    “Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.”

    It seems you answered both my questions and I didn’t notice.

    So can we have it on record that you reject the fine-tuning argument?

  131. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 6:05 pm

    “Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.”

    We are designed (we have a purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine).

    Is nature designed? (does it purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine)?

    Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make life?

    Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make (human) life?

    Or is there no possible way to distinguish the designed from the non designed?

  132. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:08 pm

    [So can we have it on record that you reject the fine-tuning argument?]

    I’m not a big fan of the FTA. I think that argument is perfectly valid–the universe is fine-tuned, and positing the weak anthropic principle (we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t, so the tuning may well be a fluke) is a philosophical error.

    The way I see it, fine-tuning is just one example of teleology. It is teleology that manifests God’s action in nature, and final cause is “the cause of causes” (Aristotle). There are, to my mind, more interesting examples of teleology than fine-tuning, and examples that are less prone to misguided attempts at refutation.

  133. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Michael,

    Is the universe designed?

    No bullshit.

  134. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:13 pm

    [“Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.”
    We are designed (we have a purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine).
    Is nature designed? (does it purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine)?
    Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make life?
    Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make (human) life?
    Or is there no possible way to distinguish the designed from the non designed?]

    From the Thomist perspective, questions like that are the core problem with the design inference. Design is a difficult metaphysical concept to defend rigorously. The reason is that design applies rigorously only to artifacts–machines–not to things in nature, which are not artifacts, and thus not machines and not designed. Design is a fine analogy to apply to nature, but it is just an analogy, nothing more.

    I and many other Thomists are hoping that the ID movement moves away from Paleyean design inferences to a hylomorphic–teleological approach to natural philosophy.

  135. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 6:16 pm

    [michaelegnor] Design in nature means purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine.

    Are you sure you don’t want to rethink that?

    What would a “purposeless arrangement of parts” look like? How would it survive or propagate?

  136. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Regarding the individual questions,

    [Is nature designed? (does it purposeful arrangement of parts, akin to a machine)?]

    Nature is not a machine, so it is not designed. Nature is created, and held in existence by God (primary cause), and nature acts according to physical laws (secondary cause).

    [Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make life?]

    Don’t know. It might have been a miracle (primary cause), or a natural process (secondary cause). Both are from God.

    [Did god intervene on an already existing creation to make (human) life?]

    Don’t know, except that the human soul is directly created by God at conception. Otherwise, the body develops according to secondary causes. As to the origin of man, I don’t know. I suspect we evolved from apes, and were ensouled at a specific moment in history.

    [Or is there no possible way to distinguish the designed from the non designed?]

    It’s certainly possible to distinguish machines (artifacts) from natural things. My computer is an artifact. A tree is natural.

    While both a computer and a tree have purposeful arrangement of parts, a tree has a substantial form and a computer has an accidental form. The parts of a tree naturally and spontaneously work together. The parts of a computer don’t–that’s what makes it a machine.

  137. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:24 pm

    [Michael,
    Is the universe designed?
    No bullshit.]

    The universe is created and held in existence by God. Natural processes in the universe work as secondary causes, best described as the four causes of Aristotle (material, efficient, formal and final cause).

    The universe is not designed, because only artifacts are designed, and the universe is not an artifact.

    There are some senses in which it is appropriate to compare the universe to a machine/artifact (that’s the basis for Newtonian physics), but it is just an analogy and it breaks down when you look closely (quantum mechanics).

  138. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Michael,

    ‘I give, as I receive. Discussing these topics with Darwin Youth gets a bit rough. Cover your eyes if it upsets you’.

    Charming. Godwin’s law finally rears its head.

    You don’t ‘discuss’. You just assert that you agree with a 13th century theologian who based his work on Aristotle, who managed to be wrong on many things. You’re not interested with discussion and evidence. You just want to assert over and over again your worldview, wasting your and our time. The Egnor Evasion again.

    You’re a waste of space on this blog. You’re a typical Troll. Do you actually think you’re capable of converting anyone with your stupid assertions?

    You’re just laughable.

  139. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:27 pm

    chi:

    [What would a “purposeless arrangement of parts” look like? How would it survive or propagate?]

    A rock is a purposeless arrangement of parts. An animal is a purposeful arrangement of parts.

    All living things manifest purpose (anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, etc). It is analogous to design in some ways.

    The real manifestation of purpose in living things in in teleology.

  140. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:29 pm

    bach:

    [You don’t ‘discuss’. You just assert that you agree with a 13th century theologian who based his work on Aristotle, who managed to be wrong on many things. You’re not interested with discussion and evidence. You just want to assert over and over again your worldview, wasting your and our time. The Egnor Evasion again.You’re a waste of space on this blog. You’re a typical Troll. Do you actually think you’re capable of converting anyone with your stupid assertions? You’re just laughable.]

    There’s an off switch on your computer. That should solve your problem.

  141. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Michael,

    So god didn’t design nature but created it (as a purposeless arrangement of parts) .

    Chimps arose naturally.

    Then god “ensouled” people?

    So your god is at best a demiurge, yes?

  142. mumadaddon 25 May 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Basically god is perfection but needed to change something. So he created reality but without purpose. Then it just so happened that, unintentionally, chimps arose, so he ensouled them. And now life has a teleological purpose: eternal bliss or eternal torture. But god loves all of us equally. So how does god distinguish between hell bound and heaven bound? Ah, he just makes em that way.

  143. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Michael,

    ‘There’s an offswitch on your computer. That should solve your problem’.

    I’m fascinated by the train wreck of your ‘contributions’. I’m amazed that someone who purportedly is so intelligent could come up with such unconvincing and stupid arguments.

    I look in at the end of each chapter in the book I’m currently reading on my iPad just to amuse myself. You’re actually very good value at convincing me that theology has nothing to offer. And also very funny.

    Congratulations.

  144. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:50 pm

    [So god didn’t design nature but created it (as a purposeless arrangement of parts) .]

    God created everything but Himself. Nature is not ‘an arrangement of parts’. Nature is the realm of change, a composite of potency and act. God created nature, and holds His creation in existence at every moment. Nature works according to secondary causes (laws of nature), which are part of God’s creation.

    [Chimps arose naturally.]

    Probably. I have no reason to think they arose by miracle.

    [Then god “ensouled” people?]

    The human soul is (in part) spiritual (immaterial), so it cannot arise from nature, which is material. The human soul is created by God (primary causation) at conception. It is the only thing in nature that is directly created by God (in the sense of primary cause) ordinarily.

    [So your god is at best a demiurge, yes?]

    No. The demiurge was an effort to evade the problem of a pure act (the classical greek concept of god) interacting with a world of act and potency. There is no demiurge in Christianity. St. Thomas pointed out that God creates nature (potency and act) in such a way that is consistent with its essence, and does not actualize potency in Himself by doing so. It’s a tricky point (one that has always bothered me), but Aquinas felt it could be surmounted. He used the same approach to squaring human free will with an omniscient omnipotent God.

  145. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 6:58 pm

    [Basically god is perfection but needed to change something.]

    God is perfection, which is Pure Act. He needs nothing. He choose to create out of love.

    [So he created reality but without purpose.]

    The purpose for creation, and for creation of man, is love.

    [Then it just so happened that, unintentionally, chimps arose, so he ensouled them.]

    There’s no reason to think that evolution is unintentional. Man is ensouled, because his soul has immaterial aspects (intellect and will) that are spiritual (in God’s image) and cannot evolved in a material sense

    [And now life has a teleological purpose: eternal bliss or eternal torture. But god loves all of us equally. So how does god distinguish between hell bound and heaven bound? Ah, he just makes em that way.]

    The purpose of man is to know and love God eternally, as He knows and loves us. Salvation or damnation is our choice–whether we choose God or ourselves as the object of our love.

    The door to hell closes from the inside.

  146. RickKon 25 May 2017 at 6:59 pm

    *wistful sigh*

    Oh to have a rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspective. How I long for such a useful toolkit for rationalization. With such a perspective I could, guilt-free and with smug sanctimony:
    – condemn entire races of people as culturally inferior;
    – justify and even promote religious war and the genocide of those whose beliefs I deplore;
    – dismiss any fact no matter how plain or obvious if it doesn’t fit my preconceptions;
    – cut and run whenever I’m caught in an error; and best of all
    – disparage any scientific discovery or idea no matter how fascinating.

    I really gotta go get myself a rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspective and forever end all this questioning and investigation and mind-changing. To be off this follow-the-evidence treadmill – how wonderful that would be.

  147. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 7:02 pm

    [michaelegnor] A rock is a purposeless arrangement of parts. An animal is a purposeful arrangement of parts.

    Why?

    A “rock” isn’t just a random accumulation of atoms*. What about crystals, which follow a patterned structure? What about chemical reactions, which impose restrictions on how molecules combine and under what conditions? Or proteins, which constrain how macromolecules formed of polypeptides can interact based on shape and composition?

    At what point does purposeless become purposeful? How about a virus? Not “alive” by any common definition, yet it follows what I assume you would deem a “purposeful” course within a narrow evolutionary niche.

    It seems you label anything sufficiently (or arbitrarily) complex that persists well enough to replicate within its environment as having “purpose.”

    * Technically, a rock is a state of matter defined by the heat capacity of the constituent atoms. Make water, nitrogen, or even a human being cold enough and you have a rock.

  148. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Time to take the dog for a walk. I wonder what word salad Egnor will have come up with when I get back?

    This is so much fun…

  149. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 7:16 pm

    chi:

    [A “rock” isn’t just a random accumulation of atoms*. What about crystals… At what point does purposeless become purposeful? How about a virus?… It seems you label anything sufficiently (or arbitrarily) complex that persists well enough to replicate within its environment as having “purpose.”]

    Good questions. That’s why “design” is a problematic metaphysical perspective. It is only an analogy, not the real thing.

    The real thing, in nature, is teleology, which is the tendency for natural change to point to an end of some sort. By end, I just mean a (semi-)final state. Atoms forming a crystal act teleologically, in the sense that the crystal is the end state. Viruses act teleologically, in the sense that their parts act to an end, and the virus itself acts to an end (replication). Most things in nature, at most scales, manifest teleology. There are some things that aren’t teleological (coincidences, chaos, and the like), but most natural processes manifest teleology.

    What is the relationship between teleology and “purpose”? They’re not the same thing-purpose implies conscious intent, whereas teleology only means consistency in action.

    Aquinas, in his Fifth Way, demonstrates God’s existence by arguing that teleology in nature implies supernatural purpose. I find it a convincing argument.

  150. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 7:19 pm

    rick:

    [Oh to have a rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspective. How I long for such a useful toolkit for rationalization. With such a perspective I could, guilt-free and with smug sanctimony:
    – condemn entire races of people as culturally inferior… I really gotta go get myself a rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspective and forever end all this questioning and investigation and mind-changing. To be off this follow-the-evidence treadmill – how wonderful that would be.]

    People like you and me do bad things. Original sin and all that.

    The assertion that religious people do worse things than irreligious people is dubious at best. Atheism at the state level has had a pretty bloody run.

  151. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 7:40 pm

    [michaelegnor] The real thing, in nature, is teleology, which is the tendency for natural change to point to an end of some sort. By end, I just mean a (semi-)final state. Atoms forming a crystal act teleologically, in the sense that the crystal is the end state. Viruses act teleologically, in the sense that their parts act to an end, and the virus itself acts to an end (replication). Most things in nature, at most scales, manifest teleology. There are some things that aren’t teleological (coincidences, chaos, and the like), but most natural processes manifest teleology.

    Uh huh. So processes that are constrained are “teleological.” In other words, any process or relationship that isn’t completely random and arbitrary.

    A crystal in the process of forming is atoms moving in relationship to degrees of freedom imposed by the current amount of energy, pressure, and heat capacity. It is because they are constrained in a sufficiently deterministic manner that they don’t randomly dissipate or turn into a turnip.

    So would you say “teleology” is analogous to “determinism?” Would a non-deterministic process be non-teleological?

  152. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 8:00 pm

    chi:

    [Uh huh. So processes that are constrained are “teleological.” In other words, any process or relationship that isn’t completely random and arbitrary.]

    Yes. Precisely. Teleology can be defined as constraint in natural outcomes.

    [A crystal in the process of forming is atoms moving in relationship to degrees of freedom imposed by the current amount of energy, pressure, and heat capacity. It is because they are constrained in a sufficiently deterministic manner that they don’t randomly dissipate or turn into a turnip.

    Yes.

    [So would you say “teleology” is analogous to “determinism?” Would a non-deterministic process be non-teleological?]

    No. Teleology and determinism aren’t the same. All deterministic processes are teleological, but not all teleological processes are deterministic. Teleology–and Aquinas emphasized this–is a tendency to go to an end. But it need only be a tendency, not an inevitability. If a natural process shows any tendency at all to an end, it is teleological, even if the tendency is slight.

  153. arnieon 25 May 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you, Rick. Just now saw your very succinct summary above of what I was trying to say.

  154. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 8:09 pm

    In the classical Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of change in nature, there are four causes–material, formal, efficient, and final. Interestingly, the causes work together in a specific pattern. Material and formal cause work together–matter is in-formed, to produce the result of the change. And efficient and final (teleological) cause work together–efficient cause ‘pushes’ the change, and final cause ‘pulls’ the change, and they work in unison. Efficient cause needs final cause to direct change, and final cause needs efficient cause to start change. All four causes work together to produce the change.

    Aristotle emphasized that final cause (teleology) is the “cause of causes”–that is, teleology is the governing principle of natural change. Teleology directs change, and is in that sense the most important of the four causes.

    With Descartes, Newton and especially Bacon, causation in nature was reduced to truncated efficient cause. Material and formal cause were ignored, and final cause was explicitly rejected. So nature became a big machine–which is what you get if you just invoke efficient causation and ignore the other three.

    This metaphysical revolution came to be called Mechanical Philosophy in the 19th century. We are brought up in it, and it is the reason that quantum mechanics seems so strange to us, because nature, at its most basic level, is not mechanical and is not a machine.

    Aristotle and St.Thomas wouldn’t have thought quantum mechanics was strange at all.

  155. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 8:19 pm

    A useful way to look at the difference between causation in nature in the Aristotelian-Thomistic way and in the Mechanical way is that in the AT way change is “pulled” by teleology, whereas in the Mechanical way nature is ‘pushed’ by efficient cause, which is the only cause admitted as real in Mechanical Philosophy.

    I think that the AT view–that nature is inherently teleological–is closer to the truth. Efficient causes exist, of course, but teleology is the dominant cause, and nature cannot be understood without it.

    Of course, evolutionary change can be understood as teleological, and many Thomists are just fine with Darwinian explanations for some aspects of evolutionary change. I have my own issues with natural selection, but my view is not shared by many Thomists.

    Another interesting perspective (and one noted by St. Thomas) is that teleology in nature has an analog in the mind–intentionality. Both teleology and intentionality “point” to an end–to the outcome of natural change (teleology) or to the object of a thought (intentionality).

    In this sense, teleology is a ‘mind’ in nature, and intentionality is a kind of teleology of the mind.

  156. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 8:42 pm

    [michaelegnor] No. Teleology and determinism aren’t the same. All deterministic processes are teleological, but not all teleological processes are deterministic. Teleology–and Aquinas emphasized this–is a tendency to go to an end. But it need only be a tendency, not an inevitability. If a natural process shows any tendency at all to an end, it is teleological, even if the tendency is slight.

    No…I think you’re holding out.

    This definition is next to useless. Anything short of arbitrary chaos could be labeled “teleological.” So what? It’s “the tendency to go to an end” bit that I think you’re trying to slip in.

    A very limited set of constraints will produce increasingly complex results as the scope of systems and the variance between them increase. The exact same physics and forces that produce black holes also produce chemical reactions, stromatolites, and daffodils. Those are very different “ends” produced by the same set of constraints.

    So far, “teleology” offers no distinction from evolution as determined by physics and natural selection.

  157. RickKon 25 May 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Michael said: “The assertion that religious people do worse things than irreligious people is dubious at best.”

    Don’t try to duck and run again. I wasn’t referring to religious people Michael. Just you, based purely on what you show us.

  158. Willyon 25 May 2017 at 9:00 pm

    I sincerely appreciate your calm and reasoned responses, Dr. Egnor. I always like getting opinions from people who think differently than I do.

  159. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 9:04 pm

    [This definition is next to useless.]

    It wasn’t intended to have a use. It’s just true.

    [Anything short of arbitrary chaos could be labeled “teleological.”]

    Yes, basically. Aristotle distinguished chance from teleology by pointing out that two teleological chains of events can intersect accidentally. Everything in each chain is teleological, but the intersection is chance. The example he gave is of a farmer who plows his field and accidentally uncovers buried treasure. The person who buried the treasure was acting teleologically, and the farmer plowing his field was acting teleologically, but the intersection of the two teleological processes was chance.

    [So what? It’s “the tendency to go to an end” bit that I think you’re trying to slip in.]

    Teleology is real. What it means, for example from a theological standpoint, is another question.

    [A very limited set of constraints will produce increasingly complex results as the scope of systems and the variance between them increase. The exact same physics and forces that produce black holes also produce chemical reactions, stromatolites, and daffodils. Those are very different “ends” produced by the same set of constraints.]

    Teleology isn’t simply the basic laws of physics, although it includes them (one might say that the laws expressed mathematically are the formal cause, and the tendency for change to accord with them is the final cause). Teleology is all and each constraint, at any level.

    [So far, “teleology” offers no distinction from evolution as determined by physics and natural selection.]

    In a sense that’s true. Teleology is the total constraint on populations, produced by internal constraints/capacities in the organisms as well as the constraints imposed by the environment. The whole process is teleological. That’s why many Thomists actually incline to Darwinian explanations–Darwinian processes can be framed rather nicely in a teleological framework.

    Whether this adds to evolutionary theory is another matter. I very much think it does, because it connects evolution to the basic laws of nature–it’s all teleological.

    It does raise the real question of purpose–does teleology necessarily imply purpose, and is there purpose in evolution and in biology?

    That’s a deeper question– a metaphysical and theological question, more than a scientific question.

  160. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Willy:

    Thanks.

  161. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 9:08 pm

    RickK,

    I’m not surprised that Egnor failed to see that your comment was actually referring to Egnor himself.

    He’s a very good illustration of how religion makes its adherents stupid – or at least some of them. Confirmation bias, motivated reason, appeals to authority… are all strong in him.

  162. chikoppion 25 May 2017 at 9:41 pm

    [michaelegnor] [So far, “teleology” offers no distinction from evolution as determined by physics and natural selection.]

    In a sense that’s true. Teleology is the total constraint on populations, produced by internal constraints/capacities in the organisms as well as the constraints imposed by the environment. The whole process is teleological. That’s why many Thomists actually incline to Darwinian explanations–Darwinian processes can be framed rather nicely in a teleological framework.

    Whether this adds to evolutionary theory is another matter. I very much think it does, because it connects evolution to the basic laws of nature–it’s all teleological.

    Because evolutionary theory wasn’t “connected to the basic laws of nature,” i.e. constrained through physics?

    It does raise the real question of purpose–does teleology necessarily imply purpose, and is there purpose in evolution and in biology?

    So the only contribution of “teleology” is to insert the question of whether the absence of abject chaos implies “purpose” (which you defined above as “conscious intent” as distinct from merely “consistency in action”).

    OK. Though I think everything else being equal, as it apparently is, one could simply ask the question without the excessive baggage of the terminology.

    Given that humanity does not seem to have been (and will likely yet prove not to be) a necessary conclusion, I’d come down against an anthropomorphic/anthropocentric interpretation of the universe.

  163. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 9:52 pm

    chi:

    [Because evolutionary theory wasn’t “connected to the basic laws of nature,” i.e. constrained through physics?]

    Teleology, to me, has broader explanatory power than mere laws of physics. Teleology means that the whole evolutionary process, not just components of it, is constrained to ends.

    [Given that humanity does not seem to have been (and will likely yet prove not to be) a necessary conclusion, I’d come down against an anthropomorphic/anthropocentric interpretation of the universe.]

    Perhaps humanity arose by chance–in the Aristotelean sense of the non-teleological intersection of teleological processes.

    Or perhaps humanity arose teleologically, but without purpose in the sense of conscious (Divine) will.

    Or perhaps humanity arose teleologically, on purpose, by Divine will.

    I favor the last, as you might imagine.

  164. michaelegnoron 25 May 2017 at 9:57 pm

    It’s worth noting that the analogy between teleology in nature and intentionality in mind is what led Aquinas to his Fifth Way. He argued that directedness to ends in non-thinking processes in nature presupposes a source of the directedness, which was the intentionality (the mind) of God.

    Aquinas argued that constraint presupposes mind.

    “The aimed arrow presupposes the archer” was his phrase.

  165. bachfiendon 25 May 2017 at 10:06 pm

    “‘The aimed arrow presupposes the archer’ was his phrase'”.

    The sharpshooter fallacy yet again.

    The analogy I like is that Egnor is like Douglas Adams’ puddle of water in the hole in the road which thinks that since the hole fits itself so well, then the hole must have been designed for it. A thought it clings to desperately, right up to the moment it evaporates.

    It’s not a very good analogy. The puddle’s more intelligent.

  166. mumadaddon 26 May 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Me: “No bullshit.”

    ME: BULLSHIT

    BS summarised:

    – A perfect, changeless being decides that it needs to change; feels creative
    – Perfect, changeless being doesn’t want to be perfect any longer
    – Perfect, changeless being deliberately creates the universe but includes no “purposeful arrangement of parts”
    (Universe has no purpose)
    – Surprise: chimps!
    – Perfect, changeless being thinks, “Hah! What are these? I must ensoul them!”
    – Life obviously has a purpose (teleology)
    – Life’s preconditions had no purpose (no purposeful arrangement of parts)
    – Some waffle about how agency doesn’t need to involve any capacity to act, but god can deliberately create something from nothing, knowing exactly what will happen at every moment in that something’s existence, without having any purpose for it up until god decides it has a purpose for every homosapien: to experience eternal bliss or eternal agony

  167. bachfiendon 26 May 2017 at 10:11 pm

    mumadadd,

    The concept of God as the ‘ground of being’ who maintains the existence of every particle in the universe throughout all time might have been feasible in the time of Aquinas when the universe was thought to consist of just 7 planets (the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), a few thousand stars and the Earth) existing for less than 10,000 years.

    The problem of imagining God being the ‘ground of being’ in a visible universe with 10^11 galaxies and 10^22 stars (and the Universe possibly being infinitely larger), and an age of 13.82 billion years, is correspondingly infinitely larger.

    Theists should have retired the ‘ground of being’ concept years ago, no later than the 1920s when it was realised that the Universe consists of much more than the Milky Way Galaxy.

    But theists are greedy. They want both the ‘ground of being’ and teleology, asserting that the current state of the universe was the intended aim all along. They ask, what is the chance that the universe would be in its present makeup (including humans)? The answer obviously is astronomically extremely slight.

    But the current state of the universe is only just one of an astronomically large number of possibilities. Egnor’s ‘the aimed arrow presupposes the archer’ is actually ‘the unaimed arrow will with certainty hit something’. That the universe at this point of time will have any possible state, each individual possible state being extremely improbable, is a certainty.

    Theists have extreme hubris. They want to believe that their god created an infinitely large universe just for the benefit of a single species on a tiny rock orbiting an average star in the outskirts of an average galaxy, one of more than 10^11.

    Believers like to accuse atheists as being arrogant for thinking that science will eventually have a complete, or almost complete, understanding of the universe. It’s believers who are arrogant for thinking that they have a special place in the universe.

  168. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 3:08 am

    ME,

    “change is “pulled” by teleology”

    This force seems to have eluded physicists.
    But then you have “pulled” in scare quotes, so you probably don’t mean pulled.
    But, then, whatever could you mean.

    Later you liken it to a bow and arrow.
    But an arrow is pushed by the bowstring.
    In no sense is it pulled by the target.

    Of course, the arrow is directed towards the target by the archer.
    So perhaps that’s actually what you mean.
    Evolution is directed towards a pre-determined end.

    God the director.

  169. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 7:34 am

    [Later you liken it to a bow and arrow.
    But an arrow is pushed by the bowstring.
    In no sense is it pulled by the target.
    Of course, the arrow is directed towards the target by the archer.
    So perhaps that’s actually what you mean.
    Evolution is directed towards a pre-determined end.
    God the director.]

    Yep.

  170. bachfiendon 27 May 2017 at 8:12 am

    Michael,

    The sharpshooter fallacy yet again.

    With a human archer and a target, we know that there’s an archer and a target. If the arrow hits the bullseye of the target, we know that the archer has skilfully managed to reach his goal in hitting the centre of the target.

    With your god as the ‘archer’, we don’t know that he exists. If he exists, we don’t know what he was aiming at, what his target was. It’s logically incorrect to claim that the present state of the universe is the target your god was aiming at.

    It would be equivalent to claiming that a human archer managed to hit all his targets after he’s shot all his arrows, saying that he really was aiming at the ground 5 metres in front of the target, the tree 10 metres to the left of the target, the barn behind the target, an innocent passerby behind the barn…

    It’s arrogant and shows considerable hubris to claim that the existence of humans was the goal of the universe.

  171. mumadaddon 27 May 2017 at 9:46 am

    ME,

    “Evolution is directed towards a pre-determined end.
    God the director.]

    Yep.”

    Lucky for god that the undesigned universe happened to be capable of supporting life even though it has no purpose.

    Imagine what he could’ve done with a designed universe! Perhaps no kids with cancer…

  172. mumadaddon 27 May 2017 at 10:08 am

    …actually, this is a weird version of the anthropic principle: god had to design life that was compatible with the undesigned universe. He was constrained by nature.

  173. RickKon 27 May 2017 at 10:24 am

    “Evolution is directed towards a pre-determined end.
    God the director.”

    Yes, in a 13th Century Geocentric universe.

    In our universe, with the guaranteed eventual extinction of all life on Earth, not so much.

    Bach’s right – this teleological thinking is very popular with people who can look at the universe and believe they are the reason for its existence.

    If life were a rare and improbable accident in a very large, otherwise dead universe, how would it look different than the life we see today (assuming a non-Egnorcentric universe)?

  174. mumadaddon 27 May 2017 at 11:16 am

    Bachfiend,

    “The concept of God as the ‘ground of being’ who maintains the existence of every particle in the universe throughout all time might have been feasible in the time of Aquinas when the universe was thought to consist of just 7 planets (the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), a few thousand stars and the Earth) existing for less than 10,000 years.”

    My main problem with the ground of all existence argument is this:

    Aristotle proposed 4 causes:

    1. Material cause
    2. Formal cause
    3. Efficient cause
    4. Final cause

    As we now understand reality, only material and efficient causes apply. You have stuff and a temporal sequence of events; stuff interacts in time. The ‘ground of all existence’ posits an efficient cause that never stops happening — it isn’t transient like an event (e.g. the big bang).

  175. goldmund52on 27 May 2017 at 11:59 am

    Bachfiend says: “[Michael Egnor] is a very good illustration of how religion makes its adherents stupid – or at least some of them.”

    This reminds me of a quote from Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. “Only skeptics tend to see belief as a form of mental negligence.”

    The problem is that whatever point of view one defends in these back and forth discussions about seemingly profound and enduring philosophical questions — god, atheism, idealism, dualism, teleology– the arguments are all of the same species. They are an artifact of the self-referential quality of human language. They stem from the unfounded premise that meaningful entities exist separate from the linguistic structure of the arguments.

    Consciousness is the first order reality. The rest is putative. Because language is simply a mental heuristic that imposes limited categories onto an otherwise unlimited nominalistic world, language categories (universals) are necessarily only a semblance of a presumed extant reality that is external to human consciousness. We see through a glass darkly.

    One can get a sense of how philosophy is at its core a language problem by considering the classic paradox: “This sentence is false”. The paradox arises from the ability of language to be self-referential. The same self-referential, paradoxical quality inheres at some level in statements such as:

    “Universals don’t exist.”
    “There are no true doctrines.”
    “Nothing could exist without a prime mover.”
    “To positively deny the existence of God, requires the implicit acknowledgement of that which you deny.”
    “The human soul is the form of the living human body.”
    “Atheism is as much a belief system as is Christianity.”
    “I think, therefore I am.”
    “Consciousness is not itself a thing, it is a process of the brain.”

    The upshot of this is that for atheists arguments for the existence of God are obviously just tautologies based in concatenated language universals. Take this example from Michael Egnor: “Or perhaps humanity arose teleologically, but without purpose in the sense of conscious (Divine) will.” That verbiage has no correspondence to anything anterior to human language.

    But belief in unseen powerful agency comes naturally to the human mind. Which is why a lot of very smart people believe in God. The point being, if your main complaint as a skeptic is that people embrace and organize socially around false beliefs, you are perilously close to objecting to human nature. There is no general antidote to religious belief, or even grounds to believe that there ought to be.

    It’s possible to be too pessimistic about this. One fascinating feature of the believing brain is that it can comfortably hold entirely contradictory beliefs. There are lots of people who believe in evolution and God at the same time. And happily, these people are more or less susceptible to empirical evidence. Religion (gradually) recedes from domains where empirical evidence has practical consequences.

  176. edamameon 27 May 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I can’t believe I’m doing this, but most skeptics will run into this damned argument at one point in their lives, so here we go.

    Even in deterministic classical physics if you squint just right you can have teleology baked in if you really are insistent: see Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics and principles of least action. E.g., http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Principle_of_least_action.

    Unlike Newton’s formulations of classical mechanics, Hamilton’s formulation (which is arguably more teleological in nature — again if you squint and cock your head just right) extend gracefully to quantum and relativistic domains.

    Note I’m not actually endorsing this teleological approach, but the physics of the Hamiltonian (and Lagrangian) are amazing and extend Newton in fairly mind-blowing ways that they never teach you in physics 101. And skeptics should know about it. That said, they should also know the teleological interpretation is not taken seriously.

    Michael Stöltzner’s Action Principles and Teleology discusses this, and the decisive hammer on this view is often regarded as coming down in the technical treatise Variational Principles in Dynamics and Quantum Theory, Chapter 14 ‘Significance of Variational Principles in Natural Philosophy’.

    The basic consensus is that teleological interpretations of least action principles amount to anthropomorphic projections onto nature. They are holdovers from Aristotelian religious worldviews, and such principles are just useful mathematical devices that turn out to be equivalent to alternative, differential equation, representations of the dynamics of a system, which typically more transparently represent the underlying dynamics.

    Whether one or the other formulation is used is a matter purely of convenience.

    The belief in a purposive power functioning throughout the universe, antiquated and naive as this faith may appear, is the inevitable consequence of the opinion that minimum principles with their distinctive properties are signposts toward a deeper understanding of nature and not simply alternative formulations of differential equations in mechanics.

    (p 174 of Variational Principles in Dynamics and Quantum Theory, Yourgrau and Mandelstam, 1979).

    Again I hate to bring this up, but as skeptics you either have seen it, or will see it: be on the lookout for Hamiltonian/Lagrangian mechanics and teleology. Bookmark this discussion. 🙂

    And here we are–googled it and of course the uncommon descent people have done this already:
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/teleology-and-id-in-physics-id-inspired-least-action-principles/

    So…there you are. To be fair, the people who designed these laws probably thought nature was evolving teleologically. I am pretty sure that Hamilton did.

  177. edamameon 27 May 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Feynman on principle of least action is amazing:
    http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_19.html

  178. mumadaddon 27 May 2017 at 12:33 pm

    goldmund52,

    ” The point being, if your main complaint as a skeptic is that people embrace and organize socially around false beliefs, you are perilously close to objecting to human nature.”

    I find it shocking and abhorrent that people would watch public executions for entertainment, as they did in the past (and as they do now in some places). We haven’t changed that much genetically since then… However, what about environmental affordances? What the average person now has available to them is vastly different to what people back then had available.

    It is totally possible to eliminate religion from available affordances and replace it with rational affordances. In fact, it seems to have happened already in some places in northern Europe.

  179. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 6:29 pm

    [It is totally possible to eliminate religion from available affordances and replace it with rational affordances. In fact, it seems to have happened already in some places in northern Europe.]

    Eliminating religion isn’t “rational”. Asserting that everything came from nothing for no reason is the antithesis of rationality.

    And the eclipse of religion in Northern Europe is certainly happening, but is only temporary.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/5994047/Muslim-Europe-the-demographic-time-bomb-transforming-our-continent.html

    Secularism contains the seeds of its own demise. Or, rather, it doesn’t contain seeds, which is the problem. I remain convinced that the most important cultural transformation of the West has been the birth control pill.

    It is a human insecticide, and it will, in rather short order, eliminate any society that exposed to it.

  180. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 6:37 pm

    mum:

    [As we now understand reality, only material and efficient causes apply. You have stuff and a temporal sequence of events; stuff interacts in time. The ‘ground of all existence’ posits an efficient cause that never stops happening — it isn’t transient like an event (e.g. the big bang).]

    The focus on efficient causation (with a dollop of material causation) and the denial of formal and final causation is a consequence of the Mechanical Philosophy revolution of the 17th century. The goal (as stated candidly by Bacon) was to develop science that allowed the manipulation of nature, and concentration on understanding efficient causes, rather than formal and final causes, advanced that project.

    But the stipulation that efficient causes are the most useful for manipulation of nature, and that elucidation of formal and final cause is not as useful, does not mean that formal and final cause don’t exist. Much of the metaphysical morass we find ourselves in today (the “strangeness” of quantum mechanics, the mind-body problem, etc) are artifacts of the denial of formal and final cause and the abandonment of hylomorphism.

    It is quite possible to focus scientific inquiry on efficient cause (a la Newton) for the purpose of applied science, and at the same time to recognize the reality of formal and final cause.

  181. edamameon 27 May 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I’m fine with teleology, Aristotle was smart AF. Final “causes” just aren’t causes in any modern sense of the term and Aristotelians should get with the times and use different jargon. They had a very different notion of cause back then and we don’t use it any more.

    ‘He went to the store and he bought cheese’ is very different from ‘He went to the store in order to buy cheese.’ Also: ‘That plant moved its leaves toward the sun, and its photosynthetic production was optimized’ versus ‘That plant moved toward the sun in order to optimize photosynthetic output.’

    There is no implied backward causation in time when using such perfectly legitimate, and perfectly teleological, language.

    Formal causes are also ok, but also not causes. They are more just satisfaction conditions for group membership. It ties in with his weird old essentialist philosophy, but we can update it to be more in line with more modern conceptualist/nominalist/conventionalist thinking.

  182. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Bachfiend,

    “With your god as the ‘archer’, we don’t know that he exists. If he exists, we don’t know what he was aiming at, what his target”

    ME has a logical proof that God exists.
    Many posters have provided reasons how his logic fails but, be that as it may…
    …if God does exist according to ME’s logical proof, then everything that has happened could be his target – the Multiverse (if a multiverse does indeed exist), the Big Bang, Inflation, intelligent life, Homo sapiens, the Heat Death of this universe.
    And he does this all via the Laws of Physics.
    God directs the evolution of the universe and life within it via the Laws of Physics

    Mumadadd,

    “god had to design life that was compatible with the undesigned universe. He was constrained by nature”

    If God directed the evolution of the universe and life within it via the Laws of Physics, then the directed/designed universe would necessarily be consistent with an undirected/undesigned universe

  183. edamameon 27 May 2017 at 8:05 pm

    For formal causation, think of when a 3 year old points at a shape and says ‘why is that a square?’ There is no explanation in terms of efficient/final/material cause. What is left? It’s a square because by definition a square is a four-sided polygon. That’s what a square is. If some particular instance conforms to that form, then it is a square. By definition.

    So there is no traditional “causality” involved, but there is an explanatory purchase there. Modern people would just talk about concepts/ideas being instantiated, not causes. Nothing “caused” that instance of a square to be an instance of a square: it is a square because it satisfies the conditions of squareness (this is what I meant above when I said: Formal causes are also ok, but also not causes. They are more just satisfaction conditions for group membership.)

    again, people should be wary of dismissing Aristotle because he used old language and people today still cling to it. Think of what he was trying to explain, and spend some time around some kids for a day, and you will see yourself using these categories all the time.

    I have literally had kids ask why a square was a square. That’s when it clicked what Aristotle was talking about.

  184. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 8:41 pm

    ed:

    [I’m fine with teleology, Aristotle was smart AF. Final “causes” just aren’t causes in any modern sense of the term and Aristotelians should get with the times and use different jargon. They had a very different notion of cause back then and we don’t use it any more.]

    It is the modern sense of cause–bare efficient cause–that is mistaken. Stripping cause to just efficient cause was originally intended to streamline scientific work. It has become a metaphysical system, and as a metaphysical system, bare efficient cause is just a mistake.

    To go into a bit more detail, the 4 causes have an internal structure. Material and formal cause always go together. Matter always has form–there is no matter without form. Aristotelian form is something very specific–it is not merely shape, but intelligibility. Whatever is intelligible–knowable–about an object is its form. Matter without form is literally unknowable.

    Efficient cause is always accompanied–simultaneously–by final cause. They are linked–it’s useful (albeit imprecise) to think of efficient and final cause as yoked and acting in tandem. Efficient cause pushes and final cause pulls. To speak of efficient cause without final cause is like speaking of “leaving the house” but denying going anywhere. “I left the house (efficient cause) but didn’t go anywhere (final cause) is nonsense. If you leave the house, it’s always to go to somewhere (whether planned or unplanned). “From” always implies “to”.

    No system of causation that does not include material, formal. efficient, and final cause is possible or even comprehensible. We may choose to focus on efficient causes for the purposes of scientific research, but that does not mean that the other three don’t exist. Them must exist, logically.

  185. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 8:52 pm

    ed:

    [For formal causation, think of when a 3 year old points at a shape and says ‘why is that a square?’ There is no explanation in terms of efficient/final/material cause. What is left? It’s a square because by definition a square is a four-sided polygon. That’s what a square is. If some particular instance conforms to that form, then it is a square. By definition.
    So there is no traditional “causality” involved, but there is an explanatory purchase there. Modern people would just talk about concepts/ideas being instantiated, not causes. Nothing “caused” that instance of a square to be an instance of a square: it is a square because it satisfies the conditions of squareness (this is what I meant above when I said: Formal causes are also ok, but also not causes. They are more just satisfaction conditions for group membership.)
    again, people should be wary of dismissing Aristotle because he used old language and people today still cling to it. Think of what he was trying to explain, and spend some time around some kids for a day, and you will see yourself using these categories all the time.
    I have literally had kids ask why a square was a square. That’s when it clicked what Aristotle was talking about.

    Very good example. What Aristotle had in mind by “cause” is a bit different than what we mean by “cause” today. We mean “cause” in the sense of making something change–basically, whatever got the change started. But that’s efficient cause, and Aristotle meant by “cause” something more comprehensive.

    By “cause” he meant “what you must know about a thing to know what it is”. Material cause tells you what it is made of. Efficient cause tells you how it got made. Formal cause tells you what you can know about it, in the sense of intelligibility. Final cause tells you, more or less, the role it plays in nature.

    For artifacts made by man, each cause is distinct, generally. For example, formal cause of an artifact is its structure, color, weight, etc. Final cause is it’s purpose, in the craftsman’s mind.

    It’s interesting to note that for natural things, formal and final cause are generally the same. The form of a natural thing is the final cause of it, in the sense that the role it plays (as a tree, a rock, etc) is just what we can know about it (form).

  186. michaelegnoron 27 May 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Another important distinction between the classical and modern notions of cause is that we moderns think of causes as events, and of causes (events) preceding effects.

    Classically, substances, not events, are causes. A cause is a thing, not an occurance. Furthermore, causes don’t precede effects: causes and effects classically are understood as simultaneous.

    An example is the breaking of a window by a baseball.

    In the modern sense, the event (the baseball flying through the air) causes the window to break. The cause and the effect are events (flying baseball and breaking window), and cause precedes effect.

    Classically, the cause of the broken window is the baseball, and the effect of the baseball is the broken window. Things, not events, are causes and effects. And the cause and the effect happen simultaneously–the instant the baseball hits the window.

    One advantage of the classical understanding of causation is that it is immune to Hume’s famous problem of causation–Hume noted that, when you look at causes and effects closely, they seem “loose and separate”. It’s now clear just how it is that a cause that precedes an effect in time is connected to the effect.

    In the classical sense of causation, causes and effects are things, not events, and they are simultaneous, and not the least bit “loose and separate”.

    Mechanical Philosophy caused (pun) a host of problems.

  187. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Goldmund,

    “Consciousness is the first order reality. The rest is putative.”

    But, if “the rest” means “the scientifically derived or evidence based facts about the nature of reality”, then “the rest” informs us about the nature of consciousness. “The rest” informs us that the universe exists regardless of whether or not there are conscious entities within it to bear testament to this fact.

    “[arguments for a particular point of view] are an artifact of the self-referential quality of human language. They stem from the unfounded premise that meaningful entities exist separate from the linguistic structure of the arguments”

    But “meaningful entities” do exist separate from “the linguistic structure of the arguments”. It’s just that “the linguistic structure of the arguments” is indequate to the task of preventing misinterpretation by at least one segment of the population.

    “We see through a glass darkly”

    And science is like a “candle in the dark” illuminating reality communicated via language that is inadequate to the task.

    “This sentence is false”

    I first came across this sentence in GEB by Douglas Hofstadter. I’ve never really been impressed. The sentence is actually not about anything. It’s like opening a book with no title and finding all the pages blank.

    “There is no general antidote to religious belief, or even grounds to believe that there ought to be.”

    I would have to agree with mumadadd that there is already evidence that neither of your above statements – that “there is no general antidote to religious belief” and no “grounds to believe that there out to be” – is true.

  188. bachfiendon 27 May 2017 at 9:21 pm

    edamame,

    Aristotle had his four ’causes’. There were also four elements, out of which all matter was composed, and four humours, imbalances of which accounted for all diseases.

    It took a long time to get rid of the four elements and the four humours in medicine and science, something not achieved until the 17th century. And it became necessary to do so because not only did it clash with reality, it wasn’t useful conceptually.

    Why bother with the four causes? Formal cause and final cause don’t add anything to the fact that objects consist of matter (the material cause) and are shaped by forces, sometimes by animate agents, (the efficient cause). Final cause might have slight value as a shorthand description that objects of biological origin have function, which Egnor persistently confuses with ‘purpose’. Hearts have the function of pumping blood in all animals, but the purpose to which an animal’s heart is applied is highly variable, depending on the particular animal.

    BillyJoe,

    The trouble with Egnor’s reasoning is that it’s circular. He attempts to prove the existence of God in part by using final cause (he has other so-called proofs such as miracles). And then he turns around and asserts that final cause exists because of God.

    If any state of the universe is regarded as an intended goal, then nothing will ever be able to refute it. If it’s not capable of being refuted, then it’s also not capable of being confirmed. It’s a barren concept.

    It would be like a lottery winner thinking that his win was an intended goal of the universe, that there was some purpose in his winning, whereas in actual fact someone had to win the lottery. It was just chance that he won.

    Michael,

    ‘I remain convinced the most important cultural transformation of the West has been the birth control pill. It is a human insecticide, and it will, in rather short order, eliminate any society that (sic) exposed to it’. LOL. Egnor writing as a ‘good’ Catholic. He regards women using OCs as ‘insects’. Charming.

  189. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Edamame,

    The Principal of Least Action.

    “Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics and principles of least action:
    http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Principle_of_least_action.”

    “Feynman on principle of least action is amazing:
    http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_19.html

    You’ve got to be kidding! 😀
    This is a medical blog, not a physics blog!
    The following video is definitely far more appropriate for the general readership of this blog:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2nrncgGzOAQ

    It is also far more pleasing to the eye and ear.
    (If you can forgive the slight New Zealand influence on her basically Australian accent)

  190. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 9:29 pm

    If you do want a bit more on the principle of least action, you could expand on the above with this short 10 minute video

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xz7jLnWcxMs

  191. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 9:35 pm

    As for the connection between The Principle of Least Action and teleology, this about summarizes the opinion of actual physicists:

    “It is…a common opinion that the philosophical notions mentioned in connection with the principle, teleology and final causes, should be kept out of physics…the teleological approach in exact science can no longer be a controversial issue; it is not only contrary to the whole orientation of theoretical physics, but presupposes that the variational principles themselves have mathematical characteristics which they de facto do not possess…variational principles are a mere reformulation of the equations of motion, which is physically equivalent to them”

    Michael Stlotzner

  192. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 9:53 pm

    …just a note regarding “variational principles” in the above quote:
    This refers to the Calculus of Variations which is about paths in space (and which is used in the explanations of the principle of least action in the two videos linked to above) rather than points in space as with ordinary calculus.

  193. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Bachfiend,

    I understand the objections to ME’s logical argument for God.
    I was just trying to clarify how, given his logical argument, the rest follows.
    If God logically necessarily exists, then “the rest” (in Goldmund’s language) must be explained in terms of that God that logically necessarily exists.
    I understand that he has built his argument on quicksand.

  194. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 11:10 pm

    ME,

    “Eliminating religion isn’t “rational””

    I don’t think we need to bother.
    Religion is likely to continue to decrease in importance as it has been doing for centuries.
    And Scandanavia is doing pretty well compared to America where religion still predominates.
    But there will always be a die-hard fringe that clings on.

    “Asserting that everything came from nothing for no reason is the antithesis of rationality”

    It’s not an assertion.
    It’s part of the outworkings of physical theory that was formulated to explain observations of our universe. They probably don’t rise above the level of hypotheses at present, but they do provide a view forwards towards a physics based explanation of something from nothing.
    As for “reasons”, they can only be pure speculation based on internal needs, and no more rational than the idea that there is no reason at all. There could just be no reason.
    And, setting aside the logical argument for God which is clearly flawed in my opinion, God becomes just a label for “still a mystery/not yet explained by science”.

    “And the eclipse of religion in Northern Europe is certainly happening, but is only temporary.”

    Now that is an assertion.
    Or perhaps something you wish to be true.

    “the birth control pill…is a human insecticide, and it will, in rather short order, eliminate any society that exposed to it”

    Firstly, a blastocyst is not a human being. Certainly the blastocyst does not have personhood.
    Secondly, how exactly will birth control eliminate society?
    Thirdly, how exactly is uncontrolled population growth rational in a world with limited resources?
    (Please don’t reference past failed predictions – they have no bearing on what the future holds)

  195. BillyJoe7on 27 May 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Edamame,

    “I’m fine with teleology…there is no implied backward causation in time when using such perfectly legitimate, and perfectly teleological, language”

    Language is also dualistic.
    I agree it is fine to use language that is dualistic and teleological in everyday speech.
    But, when we are dissecting the meaning of dualism and teleology we need to be more precise.
    In those discussions I am not fine with either teleology or dualism.
    But that is probably what you meant.

  196. edamameon 28 May 2017 at 8:19 am

    Bach yes clearly Aristotle got a lot wrong. But his stuff on causes is not that bad if you translate to more modern jargon.

  197. edamameon 28 May 2017 at 9:03 am

    I should clarify that I described more what I meant above about the “causes”: in modern language most aren’t really causes and they are not ubiquitous. E.g., not every event has a “final” cause.

    Which brings me to bj7’s point on teleology. I think it is largely restricted to the two cases I mentioned: actions where the goal is explicitly represented by an agent (he went to the store in order to buy cheese), and cases where there is biological function (the plant moved in order to receive more light for photosynthesis). In the latter case the “goal” is implicit, either specified in evolutionary terms or in terms of the “needs” of the system.

    There is a huge debate in the (philosophy) literature between evolutionary (Wright/Millikan) notions of function and causal role (Cummins) notions of function (there are others out there too, that are frankly better, but this is there starting point in the debates). They aren’t mutually exclusive. My point above that the semantic content of ‘He went to the store, and he bought cheese’ and ‘He went to the store in order to buy cheese’ is taken from Wright.

    The classic papers:
    Cummins, R. (1975). “Functional Analysis.” Journal of Philosophy 72: 741.765.
    Wright, L. (1973). “Functions.” Philosophical Review 82: 139-168.

  198. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 10:20 am

    Billy:

    [Firstly, a blastocyst is not a human being. Certainly the blastocyst does not have personhood.]

    A human being is a member of the species homo sapiens. Of course a blastocyst is a human being. Whether he/she is a person is a moral question. But there is no biological question. A human being begins at fertilization and ends at death. There is no (rational) debate.

    [Secondly, how exactly will birth control eliminate society?]

    If population is below replacement (about 2.2/woman), population will decline. Once replacement goes below a certain point, the population is destined to disappear, because the population becomes so overwhelmed by the elderly that the young people cannot afford to reproduce at the very high rates to maintain population. Demographers call this “the point of no return:it’s generally estimated at about 1.0/woman. Several European countries are below that level.

    What disappears, of course, is the culture that contracepts. It is replaced by a culture that does not contracept. In Europe, that replacement culture is already in place, praise Allah.

    [Thirdly, how exactly is uncontrolled population growth rational in a world with limited resources?]

    Malthusianism is a very specific scientific theory about population and resources. It is without doubt the most completely disproven modern theory in science that is still held by large numbers of people. For 200 years, each and every Malthusian doomsday prediction has failed, miserably. All of Malthus’ predicates are wrong: resources increase exponentially, not arithmetically. Population tends to level off with higher standards of living, without need for “control”.

    [(Please don’t reference past failed predictions – they have no bearing on what the future holds)]

    What you are saying is that your Malthusian theory ought to be held without any consideration of the evidence. Failed past predictions matter enormously, of course, and there is 200 years of evidence that Malthus (and you) are wrong.

    Furthermore, there is no idea in human history–I stress this– that has killed more people than Malthusianism. Not communism, not nazism, not racism, not religion. Malthusianism is largely responsible for famine deaths in Ireland in the 1840′, famine deaths in India in the 1880’s and into the 20th century (the British just let Irish and Indians starve because they believed it was inevitable because of Malthusian theory). In the last half of the 20th century, there have been 100 million ‘missing’ women in Asia. 100 million fewer women than men, nearly all of whom were exterminated by selective abortion and female infanticide in China and India because of Malthusian one-child policies. This of course does not even count the several hundred million boys and girls murdered in Asia (through abortion and infanticide) in order to “control” population.

    And there is the moral aspect to this: the right to found a family, and to decide within a family how many children to have, is among the most personal fundamental human rights. “Population control” is a totalitarian crime against humanity.

    It is none of your f*cking business how many children people have.

  199. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 12:06 pm

    [mchaelegnor] human being is a member of the species homo sapiens. Of course a blastocyst is a human being. Whether he/she is a person is a moral question. But there is no biological question. A human being begins at fertilization and ends at death. There is no (rational) debate.

    But you should decide the “moral question” for others concerning the termination of a pregnancy?

    It is none of your f*cking business how many children people have.

    I agree. It’s also none of your f*cking business how poeple manage their reproductive health. Eliminating barriers to health services and contraception allows people to do so.

    This is especially troubling…

    What disappears, of course, is the culture that contracepts. It is replaced by a culture that does not contracept. In Europe, that replacement culture is already in place, praise Allah.

    What is the implication here? Reproductive warfare?

    Middle East consists of as Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. According to this definition, Middle East has a population of 218 million in 2013, i.e. 3.05% of the total world population (7.2 billion) in 2013.

    The population of North Africa is roughly the same, about 220 million.

    As education and economic stability rises population growth declines. The Middle East and North Africa have a growth rate of about 3% compared to the global average of 2%. The surest way to bring that in line is to advocate and work toward increased women’s rights and economic stability…which means replacing theocratic dominance with secular civic institutions.

  200. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 12:45 pm

    chi:

    [But you should decide the “moral question” for others concerning the termination of a pregnancy?]

    All pregnancies “terminate”.

    There are three ways they terminate: miscarriage, abortion, or birth.

    Miscarriage is a tragic natural event. Birth is a joyous natural event. Neither is properly regulated by legislation.

    Abortion is termination of pregnancy by killing the baby. It is homicide, by definition. There are different kinds of homicide: accidental, justified, manslaughter, murder, etc.

    Homicide is always–always–the object of legislation. In our society, and in any civilized society, human life is the ultimate good, and is protected by law.

    Some kinds of homicide–self-defense, pure account without negligence, etc are not considered crimes under law.

    Other kinds of homicide–manslaughter, murder–are considered crimes.

    Abortion is by definition deliberate homicide. It is obviously deliberate, and it is obviously homicide (if the baby doesn’t die, the abortion is unsuccessful. The whole point of abortion is to commit homicide successfully.)

    The question–the only question legally–is this: is abortion justified homicide? Do the mother’s (limited) rights to privacy and autonomy supersede the baby’s right to life?

    That is where we disagree. I believe that the right to life supersedes the mother’s (woman, actually, not mother, which is exactly what she’s trying not to be) right to autonomy.

    Autonomy is a limited right, as is the right to life.

    The abortion question, as a matter of legislation, turns on the balance between the woman’s right to autonomy and the baby’s right to life.

    In my view, life is the more fundamental right.

  201. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 12:52 pm

    [The surest way to bring that in line is to advocate and work toward increased women’s rights and economic stability…which means replacing theocratic dominance with secular civic institutions.]

    I basically agree. Personally, I’d most like to live in a Catholic theocracy, but I live in the US, and I support the Constitution and our system of government. It’s not perfect, but it works reasonably well. Living in a secular democratic constitutional republic has worked pretty well for me, and for most of my fellow citizens.

    That said, I’d personally choose a Catholic theocracy, but I don’t want to impose that on my neighbors.

    Regarding “theocratic dominance”, that’s an odd term. Theocracy is by definition dominance (it’s formal and absolute rule by religious doctrine), and of course the US is about as far from theocracy and “theocratic dominance” as you can get. We can’t put a bible verse on a plaque on a school wall, let alone establish a theocracy.

    I think that by “theocratic dominance” you mean that the religious beliefs of citizens should be discounted as a matter of government policy. I strongly disagree with that. In our democracy, people have the right to vote their beliefs, as long as they do not violate the Constitution.

    I will continue to vote according to my conscience, which is formed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  202. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I meant to say:

    I think that by your opposition to “theocratic dominance” you mean that the religious beliefs of citizens should be discounted as a matter of government policy.

  203. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 1:46 pm

    [michaelegnor] Abortion is termination of pregnancy by killing the baby. It is homicide, by definition. There are different kinds of homicide: accidental, justified, manslaughter, murder, etc.

    It isn’t. By definition. Settled law. Which is how words with legal implication are defined in civilized societies.

    The hypocrisy of professing moral outrage against state imposed reproductive limits while willfully advocating for the imposition of your personal religious views on others is outrageous.

    I think that by “theocratic dominance” you mean that the religious beliefs of citizens should be discounted as a matter of government policy. I strongly disagree with that. In our democracy, people have the right to vote their beliefs, as long as they do not violate the Constitution.

    No. That’s not what I mean.

    A secular society is one in which every citizen has inalienable civil rights that protect them from the tyranny of the majority. In nations where civil rights are weak the ideologists, religious or otherwise, subvert the political process to impose that ideology.

    The Wahhabi nations, for example, are de facto theocracies because the state does not recognize the right of the individual to be free from religious coercion. Sound familiar?

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/9/kentuckys-last-abortion-clinic-could-close-after-c/

    I will continue to vote according to my conscience, which is formed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Live your life however you choose. Advocate for whatever you choose. Your religious beliefs should not be imposed on anyone else any more than someone else’s religious beliefs should be imposed on you.

    By the way, I’m all for lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions, as are all pro-choice supporters I personally know. If the pro-life crowd could get past their desire to impose sexual and reproductive tyranny there’s real, demonstrable progress that could be made through comprehensive education and access to contraception. Limiting choice will only ever have the opposite effect.

  204. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Also, for the “be careful what you wish for” file of obviousness…

    Protestants outnumber Catholics in this country more than 2 to 1. If there’s going to be a theocracy, one of the first acts of the new government will be to throw out the Papacy and seize the Catholic institutions.

    Religious freedom means you are free to practice and profess your beliefs while also being free from coercion or the imposition of the religious beliefs of others.

  205. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 3:39 pm

    [It isn’t [homicide]. By definition. Settled law. Which is how words with legal implication are defined in civilized societies.]

    Homicide means ‘killing a human being’. Abortion is obviously homicide. The question is: is homicide by abortion moral and should it be legal?

    Some kinds of homicide (self-defense, just war) are moral and legal.

    Other kinds of homicide are not.

    [The hypocrisy of professing moral outrage against state imposed reproductive limits while willfully advocating for the imposition of your personal religious views on others is outrageous.]

    The decision to give life (have children) is personal and sacrosanct.

    The decision to kill life (homicide) not personal (because it involves the deprivation of another’s life) and obviously should be regulated by law.

    “Pro-life” means just that. Support for the right to give life and the right not to be unjustly deprived of life. We support life.

    [A secular society is one in which every citizen has inalienable civil rights that protect them from the tyranny of the majority.]

    A secular society is simply a society that is not theocratic.

    A constitutional republic is a society governed by representative democracy with constitutional protections for certain inalienable rights.

    Where do inalienable civil rights come from?

    As John Adams said:

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
    Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnadams391045.html

    [In nations where civil rights are weak the ideologists, religious or otherwise, subvert the political process to impose that ideology.]

    Do you mean like judges who impose abortion and homosexual marriage without democratic process, based on non-existent constitutional rights?

    [The Wahhabi nations, for example, are de facto theocracies because the state does not recognize the right of the individual to be free from religious coercion. Sound familiar?]

    Wahhabism nations are theocracies, for sure, as are Shia nations like Iran.

    [Your religious beliefs should not be imposed on anyone else any more than someone else’s religious beliefs should be imposed on you.]

    I would not impose Catholicism on anyone, meaning that I would not require Mass attendance by law nor make veneration of Mary legally mandatory.

    [I also believe that God’s Law prohibits murder, rape and abortion. Am I prohibited from voting for candidates who agree, just because those are my religious beliefs?]

    [By the way, I’m all for lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions, as are all pro-choice supporters I personally know. If the pro-life crowd could get past their desire to impose sexual and reproductive tyranny there’s real, demonstrable progress that could be made through comprehensive education and access to contraception. Limiting choice will only ever have the opposite effect.]

    We all agree that lowering the rate of abortion is good (unless you are the CFO of Planned Parenthood). But the issue is more fundamental and moral: is killing a human being in the womb morally permissible?

    You say yes. I say no.

  206. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 3:42 pm

    I also believe that God’s Law prohibits murder, rape and abortion. Am I prohibited from voting for candidates who agree, just because those are my religious beliefs?

    …is my post and should be without brackets.

  207. bachfiendon 28 May 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Michael,

    You keep on confusing ‘human’ and ‘human being’.

    A blastocyst within the uterus of a woman is ‘human’. It’s a biological concept. The blastocyst has human chromosomes, with specific genes determining ‘humanness’. It’s not a ‘human being’, which is a legal concept. It’s not a person. As such, it doesn’t have legal rights.

    There have been attempts to give fertilised human ova from conception the right of personhood, giving them the legal right of human beings, such as in the referendum in Mississippi, but it was rejected by the electors.

    There was also the famous case in Colorado in which a woman bearing 7 month gestation twins suffered a major pulmonary embolus, was taken to a Catholic hospital and died an hour later. The woman’s husband and twins’ father sued the hospital for malpractice claiming that an emergency Caesarean section to save at least the twins’ life.

    The hospital’s lawyers won the case by arguing that Colorado law wives no rights to the foetus, even at 7 months gestation.

    We discussed this extensively on your blog ‘Egnorance’. Well, actually I discussed it. You just engaged in the Egnor Evasion and declared that it was good that the Catholic hospital didn’t have to pay enormous malpractice damages to the husband, and could use the money for other better ends.

    My arguments were:

    1. The hospital had a perfectly good defence against malpractice. The doctors were trying to save the woman’s life. Doing an emergency Caesarean section certainly would have killed the woman.
    2. A foetus of 7 months gestation should definitely have legal rights. The state has the authority of making laws, giving rights and responsibilities. I agree that parents ought to be able to sue on behalf of unborn children, and it’s up to the state to legislate when this right starts.

    Three Catholic bishops in Colorado disagreed with the hospital’s lawyers. They thought that the lawyers should not have used the law, that a 7 month gestation foetus under Colorado law, doesn’t have the legal rights of personhood (isn’t a person, a human being), as a defence.

    And I agree with them. It’s a case that demonstrates that the law ought to be changed.

  208. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 4:45 pm

    [michaelegnor] The decision to give life (have children) is personal and sacrosanct.
    The decision to kill life (homicide) not personal (because it involves the deprivation of another’s life) and obviously should be regulated by law.

    You don’t get to decide at what point a fertilized egg assumes ‘personhood’ for anyone other than yourself.

    Where do inalienable civil rights come from?

    From the same place they came from at the outset, the people acting through a constitutional system.

    Do you mean like judges who impose abortion and homosexual marriage without democratic process, based on non-existent constitutional rights?

    Yeah…all those people forced into gay marriages and abortions against their will. Puh-leez.

    We all agree that lowering the rate of abortion is good (unless you are the CFO of Planned Parenthood). But the issue is more fundamental and moral: is killing a human being in the womb morally permissible? You say yes. I say no.

    Bunk.

    The “issue” is at what point during the gestative process does a non-person aquire personhood.

    I say that I can’t impose my beliefs on others with respect to a metaphysical question. A mass of undifferentiated cells is clearly not equivalent to a human being. I can’t identify the point of distinction without invoking some philosophical or religious argument and each person should have the right to make that decision for themselves.

    I also believe that God’s Law prohibits murder, rape and abortion. Am I prohibited from voting for candidates who agree, just because those are my religious beliefs?

    Just how many strawmen does your argument require?

  209. bachfiendon 28 May 2017 at 5:30 pm

    BillyJoe,

    I wonder if one of the reasons Egnor doesn’t like Malthus so much was because both Darwin and Wallace used Malthus to explain how natural selection guides evolution. Natural variants within populations better able to survive with the given conditions produce more offspring.

    Malthus was definitely a warning what could happen to humans. And humans proceeded to take heed and delay a Malthusian crisis. By mining natural fertilisers from oceanic islands in the 19th century. By developing the Haber process before World War I to synthesise industrial quantities of ammonia, a key component of nitrogen fertilisers (and which was perverted during World War I to make high explosives).

    Paul Offit in ‘Pandora’s Lab’ noted that without synthetic fertilisers, the Earth would be unable to support more than 3 billion people. We currently have more than 7 billion, and it will probably reach 9 billion by 2050.

    The Green Revolution definitely staved off a Malthusian crisis. GMO foods may do the same. It’s difficult to predict what technological breakthroughs may be made to increase the global food supply, particularly since global warming will lead to unpredictable droughts and famines.

    I suspect the age of affluence is coming to an end. People won’t be able to eat anywhere as much animal protein as they want. It takes 10 times as much resources to grow a cow as it does to grow a crop. The oceans are already being overfished to the point of collapse.

    It’s important that we ought to be taking note of Malthus and to take action in order to prevent his predictions occurring. Egnor is far too optimistic that his predictions will continue to be staved off.

  210. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 5:36 pm

    chi:

    [You don’t get to decide at what point a fertilized egg assumes ‘personhood’ for anyone other than yourself.]

    The point at which a human being (who begins at conception) becomes a person with legal rights is properly a matter of law. In a democracy, voters (like me) decide what the law is.

    [Inalienable civil rights come] from the same place they came from at the outset, the people acting through a constitutional system.]

    Tyranny of the majority. Where do they get them from?

    [Yeah…all those people forced into gay marriages and abortions against their will. Puh-leez.]

    Every abortion includes one person forced into it against his will.

    Gay “marriage” entails a redefinition of marriage. It is the right of the voters of our nation, and only the voters of our nation, to decide on such a definition. That right was taken from our voters, by five criminals (I stress: criminals) on the supreme court.

    [The “issue” is at what point during the gestative process does a non-person aquire personhood.]

    Right. I believe that all human beings are persons, in the sense that they have a right to life. You disagree: you believe that human beings have to achieve certain standards to be considered persons.

    [I say that I can’t impose my beliefs on others with respect to a metaphysical question. A mass of undifferentiated cells is clearly not equivalent to a human being.]

    A zygote is not equivalent to a human being.

    A zygote is a human being.

    Just as much a human being as you are. A human being is a member of the species homo sapiens. (being=exists, human=homo sapiens).

    The ontological status of a zygote-blastocyst-embryo-fetus-baby-toddler-child-adolescent-adult-elderly person is perfectly straightforward, scientifically and metaphysically.

    The science of human reproduction has been established for two centuries. Get up to speed.

    [I can’t identify the point of distinction without invoking some philosophical or religious argument and each person should have the right to make that decision for themselves.]

    The ‘point of distinction’ between not-human-being and human-being is fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Basic biology. No debate.

    No one has the right to “make the decision for themselves” to kill another human being.

    [I also believe that God’s Law prohibits murder, rape and abortion. Am I prohibited from voting for candidates who agree, just because those are my religious beliefs?” Just how many strawmen does your argument require?]

    You made the argument that religious beliefs cannot licitly be the basis for public policy. I made the point that it is only matters of religious practice (worship, etc) that are constitutionally and properly excluded from public enactment.

    People can most certainly licitly vote according to their conscience, even if that conscience is informed by religious morals.

  211. bachfiendon 28 May 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Michael,

    You’re still engaging in the Egnor Evasion. ‘Human’ and ‘human being’ aren’t synonyms. ‘Human’ is a biological concept. No one doubts that a zygote within a woman’s uterus is human, in the same way that a liver cell in a person’s abdomen is human.

    ‘Human being’ is a legal concept. If you think that a fertilised ovum should have the rights of ‘personhood’ (be considered a human being) from the point of conception, then agitate to change the law. Agitate to have the law changed so that 7 month gestation foetuses in Colorado have legal rights, including the right of their parents to sue on their behalf.

    Don’t continue to troll this blog with assertions based on your profound confusion and ignorance concerning the meaning of simple concepts.

  212. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 6:36 pm

    [michaelegnor] The point at which a human being (who begins at conception) becomes a person with legal rights is properly a matter of law. In a democracy, voters (like me) decide what the law is.

    As of 2016, public support for legal abortion is as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 57% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. [Pew Research]

    First, not all voters are “like you” (in this case, not even a majority). Second, not all laws are subject to popular vote (that’s the “constitutional” part of a constitutional democracy). Third, the laws concerning abortion were arrived at as a negotiated balance of implicit individual rights.

    You can continue to advocate for your position all you like. The more fundamental you become the more fundamental the people on the other side will become. You’ll have more success in actually reducing abortions if you acknowledge their rights and work to minimize the need, but whatever. You do you.

    Tyranny of the majority. Where do they get them from?

    People don’t need to appeal to a space ghost to write a social contract. Having inherent protection from others requires affording to others the same protections one would claim for themselves. It’s really not that complicated a principle.

    Rights are reasoned and negotiated, as is evident by the discussion and bargaining engaged in during the writing of the constitution and in amendment processes in years to follow.

    Every abortion includes one person forced into it against his will.

    According to your personal definition.

    The science of human reproduction has been established for two centuries. Get up to speed.

    The ‘point of distinction’ between not-human-being and human-being is fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Basic biology. No debate. No one has the right to “make the decision for themselves” to kill another human being.

    Keep pretending you have authority to adjudicate the matter of personhood and bodily autonomy for others. See how that plays out.

    People can most certainly licitly vote according to their conscience, even if that conscience is informed by religious morals.

    I never said otherwise.

  213. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Here are the facts about the abortion debate, and the one real point of contention.

    Facts:

    Human beings begin at conception and end at death. This is biology, not opinion.

    Every human being has a limited right to autonomy, and every human being has a limited right to life. Autonomy is limited by such things as harm done to others, etc. Right to life is limited in situations as self-defense, etc.

    This is the one actual point of contention:

    Does the right to life of the human being in the womb take precedence over the right to autonomy of the human being with the womb?

    That is a genuine question, and that is what the debate is really about.

    All of this lying about the ontological status of the human being in the womb (“it isn’t a human being, it’s just a blob of tissue, it doesn’t become human until the 20th week”, etc) is b.s., intended to dodge the actual moral question.

  214. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I point out that the argument that the human being you intend to kill is “subhuman”, and therefore killing him/her is no big deal, is an old argument with an odious pedigree– slavery, holocaust, genocide…

  215. chikoppion 28 May 2017 at 8:53 pm

    [michaelegnor] Human beings begin at conception and end at death. This is biology, not opinion.

    All of this lying about the ontological status of the human being in the womb (“it isn’t a human being, it’s just a blob of tissue, it doesn’t become human until the 20th week”, etc) is b.s., intended to dodge the actual moral question.

    I understand that, given your religious beliefs, it is reasonable for you to say “human beings” begin at conception. But other people (even other Christians) do not hold those beliefs. For them, conception is the beginning of a biological process that has the potential to result in a human being.

    I understand that you don’t interpret personhood or the reproductive process in that way, but you should recognize that others do and that they do so sincerely following intense consideration. You calling them “liars” is neither honest nor productive.

    This is the one actual point of contention: Does the right to life of the human being in the womb take precedence over the right to autonomy of the human being with the womb?

    Personal autonomy is not the “only” point of contention, but I agree it is central to the debate. The woman deserves some latitude with respect to how she interprets the reproductive process and granting of personhood. It is, after all, her autonomy in question.

  216. bachfiendon 28 May 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Michael,

    You’re still engaging in the Egnor Evasion.

    No one denies that a human zygote is human. The question is; is a human zygote a human being, a person?

    It’s a legal definition. The law states that a human zygote isn’t a human being, isn’t a person. The electors of Mississippi had the opportunity to change the law in a referendum and to declare that personhood begins at conception, but they didn’t.

    You’re inconsistent in your reasoning. You thought it was right that the Colorado Catholic hospital defended itself against a charge of malpractice because the state doesn’t acknowledge that foetuses have rights, that they are persons.

    A foetus without legal rights, who legally isn’t regarded as being a person or a human being, can’t be be dismissed as a ‘subhuman’ being, because it (?he ?she) was never legally regarded to be a human being.

    If you think that the law ought to be changed, then agitate for it to be done. Run for political office. But don’t troll this blog with your repetitive demonstrations of your confused thinking.

  217. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 10:44 pm

    chi:

    [But other people (even other Christians) do not hold those beliefs. For them, conception is the beginning of a biological process that has the potential to result in a human being.]

    That human life begins at fertilization is a biological fact established by the mid-19th century. It is not debatable.

    The fact that the life of the individual begins at fertilization is a a cornerstone of biology. Consider (I don’t know why I’m wasting my time with this sh*t) the following:

    If human life does NOT begin at fertilization, then what (scientifically) is the embryo/fetus?

    The choices are:

    1) It is part of the mother (like a maternal organ or tissue). This would mean that half of pregnant women have male (XY) tissue, which makes half of all pregnant women mosaic hermaphrodites.

    2) When this “part of the mother” does become a human being (at say 20 weeks), it is the transformation of an maternal organ or tissue into a new individual. Thus, human beings reproduce, not by sexual reproduction, but by budding (like Athena from the Head of Zeus). This is New Biology: human beings reproduce by budding from transient female mosaic hermaphrodites.

    3) Perhaps the embryo is not part of the mother, but is a non-human species. In which case, pregnancy needs to be re-classified as a parasitic infection, and we’ve discovered a new (and very common!) parasite. Oddly, this parasite has the exact genetic complement of an ordinary human being. New Biology is so strange…

    4) What’s even more remarkable is that this new non-human parasitic species evolves into a human being in less than 9 months! Finally we have real evidence of Origin of Species–in every maternity ward!

    5) Perhaps the “tissue” isn’t really either a part of the mother or a new species, but actually something completely unclassified and outside of taxonomy! And, even more remarkable, this outside-of-taxonomy thing transforms into a human being at 20 weeks (or whenever the Supreme Court says!). Lets call this mysterious unclassified tissue homo abortus.

    6) Maybe the embryo is really a photo-human being. Either it is a human photo-human being, in which case it is a human being at a very young age, or it is a non-human photo-human being, in which case it is either part of a transient mosaic maternal hermaphrodite, or a newly classified parasite, or a fascinating new example of that strangely common extra-taxonomical homo abortus.

    You may have surmised by now, chi, that anyone with even an elementary knowledge biology (and of logic) who says that an embryo is not a human being is a moron, or a f*cking lying a**hole.

    I presume you’re not a moron, chi.

  218. edamameon 28 May 2017 at 10:54 pm

    This settled it long ago, without any need to fiddle around with debates about personhood:
    Thomson, JJ (1971) A defense of abortion. Philosophy and public affairs 1: 47-66.

  219. michaelegnoron 28 May 2017 at 11:09 pm

    ed:

    Ahh, Thompson’s famous violinist analogy. You wake up one morning attached to someone you didn’t choose, and death is the only way out.

    Ironically, the analogy works much better if you are the baby, and the violinist is the mother. Suddenly you find yourself attached to another person, and your life depends on it. If the violinist doesn’t want you, she cuts you off and kills you. You didn’t choose this attachment. You are completely innocent in this. Yet your life depends on the violinist’s decision.

    If the violinist respects your life, even if she doesn’t want to spend her entire life with you, she has the option of mercifully keeping you alive for 9 months, then giving you to another violinist who loves you and will give you a good life.

    Or she can kill you now, because your attachment to her–something you never chose and bear no responsibility for–is interfering with her music, or her recreation, or she just feels that 9 months of keeping you alive is too much of an inconvenience to her.

    That’s the real analogy–the analogy that Thompson (and her pro-abortion fan club) was too stupid and narcissistic to see.

    Let’s hope the violinist lets you live, ed.

  220. bachfiendon 28 May 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Michael,

    Will you stop already with the Egnor Evasion? No one denies that a human embryo is human. The question is; when is a human embryo regarded by the law to be a human being? A person?

    The law as it stands doesn’t regard a human embryo to be a human being, a person. It’s got nothing to do with biology. The law is often an ass. If you don’t like the law, then get it changed.

    You have objections to abortion? Fine, then come up with some good arguments why your opinion regarding abortion should become law, instead of your very bad arguments. A fertilised ovum, no matter how many times you repeat it, isn’t a human being.

  221. edamameon 28 May 2017 at 11:56 pm

    egnor yes I agree Thomson settled that it should be legal.

    Morality is a separate question, and I agree that is more tricky. You can spin it as narcissistic to not want to risk your life and spend months with nausea, risk gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, etc. because someone attached themselves to you uninvited. But my point is that you should not be legally obligated to let them stay attached.

    Too personal a decision for me to say what a woman should do. Unless she wants an abortion just so she can look good for prom. But that kind of thing is incredibly rare.

  222. bachfiendon 29 May 2017 at 12:08 am

    edamame,

    JJ Thomson’s essay at 15 pages was just too long for Egnor’s short attention span. He’s often unable to get past the headline.

    He’s obviously missed the last two sentences of the essay:

    ‘At this place, however, it should be remembered that we have only been pretending throughout that the foetus is a human being from the moment of conception. A very early abortion is surely not the killing of a person, and so is not dealt with anything I have said here’.

    Which is exactly what we’ve been saying all the time.

  223. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 12:43 am

    [michaelegnor] That human life begins at fertilization is a biological fact established by the mid-19th century. It is not debatable.

    No one is debating biology. The question is personhood. But sure, let’s play pretend.

    If human life does NOT begin at fertilization, then what (scientifically) is the embryo/fetus?
    The choices are:

    1) It is part of the mother (like a maternal organ or tissue). This would mean that half of pregnant women have male (XY) tissue, which makes half of all pregnant women mosaic hermaphrodites.

    I reject your false dichotomy. It need not be either biologically indistinguishable from the mother or a separate human being. It is a reproductive cell in the process of cell division and development.

    2 and 3, see 1.

    4) What’s even more remarkable is that this new non-human parasitic species evolves into a human being in less than 9 months! Finally we have real evidence of Origin of Species–in every maternity ward!

    Who said it was non-human?

    5) Perhaps the “tissue” isn’t really either a part of the mother or a new species, but actually something completely unclassified and outside of taxonomy! And, even more remarkable, this outside-of-taxonomy thing transforms into a human being at 20 weeks (or whenever the Supreme Court says!). Lets call this mysterious unclassified tissue homo abortus.

    Or, “a reproductive cell in the process of cell division and development.” Which is what it is.

    And no, that’s not what the court ruled.

    Abortion is protected by the due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment (which restricts the federal government) and the 14th Amendment (which was added to the Constitution to restrict the states). As Casey explained, “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.

    6) Maybe the embryo is really a photo-human being. Either it is a human photo-human being, in which case it is a human being at a very young age, or it is a non-human photo-human being, in which case it is either part of a transient mosaic maternal hermaphrodite, or a newly classified parasite, or a fascinating new example of that strangely common extra-taxonomical homo abortus.

    No one is struggling to understand the biology. Your struggle is apparently the need to square it with “ensoulment.” Not everyone is so burdened or even solves for it in the same manner if they are. Everyone else simply accepts the biology for what it is, a reproductive process.

    You may have surmised by now, chi, that anyone with even an elementary knowledge biology (and of logic) who says that an embryo is not a human being is a moron, or a f*cking lying a**hole.

    I presume you’re not a moron, chi.

    Yeah, we’re done here Don Quixote.

  224. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2017 at 7:54 am

    chikoppi.

    “Your struggle is apparently the need to square it with “ensoulment.” ”

    And I think that IS the elephant in the room.

    The zygote definitely doesn’t care what happens to it; the blastocyst doesn’t care; and the foetus doesn’t care what happens to it until at least 20 weeks (when nerve fibres begin to be laid down) and probably as late as 30 weeks (when these nerve fibres become active and the brain starts functioning).

    So the wishes of the pregnant woman is uncontested by the foetus certainly until 20 weeks, and probably up to 30 weeks. Thereafter, her wishes must take precedence over that of the foetus, though with diminishing emphasis, for a few obvious reasons.

    But, if ensoulment occurs at fertilisation?

    Well, let’s just say that those who have this non evidence-based burden of belief have a problem with abortion at any stage of development. The rest of us don’t have this problem and are free to make rational logical arguments regarding abortion.

  225. RickKon 29 May 2017 at 8:20 am

    This conversation strikes me as essentially absurd. You are debating the morality of killing a non-conscious collection of cells with a guy who thinks it’s perfectly moral to commit genocide of adult humans if they are guilty of heretical beliefs.

    Michael’s “rigorous, coherent and consistent metaphysical perspective” is at bottom nothing but opportunistic and morally fluid myths providing post-hoc rationalizations for his tribe’s behavior. Fetal ensoulment rationalizes controls over women. Inquisitions and crusades are justified by “maintaining civic peace”. It’s all boils down to whatever is most favorable to white, male Catholics who wish they’d never left the 13th Century.

  226. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 9:17 am

    chi:

    [It is a reproductive cell in the process of cell division and development.]

    Sperm and ova are reproductive cells. Reproductive cells (in humans) have 23 chromosomes.

    A zygote is a human being, with 46 chromosomes. It is not a reproductive cell.

    Reproductive biology ends with fertilization. Human development begins with fertilization. Developmental biology, which is the study of biology from the zygote onward, is the study of human beings, not of reproductive cells.

    ed:

    [because someone attached themselves to you uninvited. But my point is that you should not be legally obligated to let them stay attached.]

    Charming way to describe the relationship between mother and child. What a degenerate culture we have–a culture in which the most publicly discussed aspect of maternal-child relationship is indistinguishable from the relationship between a host and a parasite. God help us.

    Billy:

    [The zygote definitely doesn’t care what happens to it; the blastocyst doesn’t care; and the foetus doesn’t care what happens to it until at least 20 weeks (when nerve fibres begin to be laid down) and probably as late as 30 weeks]

    What an inversion of morality. In Christian morality, vulnerability is reason to provide greater love and protection–“What you have done for the least of these…”

    In our secular world, vulnerability becomes a mark of destruction: if you are too weak or too young or too unaware, you’re disposable.

    It’s a re-paganization of our civilization. I choose the Christian way.

  227. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 9:26 am

    Rick:

    [It’s all boils down to whatever is most favorable to white, male Catholics who wish they’d never left the 13th Century.]

    1) Support for abortion is higher among men than women, for obvious reasons.

    2) Non-white babies in the US are aborted at three times the rate of white babies, and planned parenthood intentionally sites its clinics in minority neighborhoods. As “Justice” Ruth Bader Ginsberg said about Roe: “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

    3) In the world, females are aborted at much higher rates than males. Abortion is by far the most widespread mechanism of female genocide. In Asia, there are 100 million missing women, nearly all of whom were selectively aborted because of their sex.

    So, Rick, you’re wrong on all that “white male” nonsense.

    In fact, the pro-life movement is unique in that it is a civil rights movement in which people try very hard to protect other people, not themselves. And the people most in need of protection from abortion are minorities and girls.

  228. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 9:59 am

    [michaelegnor] Sperm and ova are reproductive cells. Reproductive cells (in humans) have 23 chromosomes. A zygote is a human being, with 46 chromosomes. It is not a reproductive cell.

    Again, false dichotomy. The presence of a full set of chromosomes does not personhood confer. The development of the zygote, blastocyst, embryo, etc, is a biological process that begins with gametes and (usually, but not always) results in a viable human being (which doesn’t always possess exactly 46 chromosomes).

  229. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 10:19 am

    [michaelegnor] In fact, the pro-life movement is unique in that it is a civil rights movement in which people try very hard to protect other people, not themselves. And the people most in need of protection from abortion are minorities and girls.

    Bull. Supporting at-risk women does not require depriving them of the ability to think and choose for themselves.

    Supporting at-risk women means providing education, access to contraception, affordable reproductive care, and social support for those who choose to carry a pregnancy to term even though they may be financially unprepared or face the crippling costs of a child born with chronic disease or disability.

  230. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 10:24 am

    Dr Egnor wrote:

    What a degenerate culture we have–a culture in which the most publicly discussed aspect of maternal-child relationship is indistinguishable from the relationship between a host and a parasite. God help us.

    Something tells me you have never suffered a pregnancy because of rape. I would never presume to tell a woman how she should react to the seed growing inside her after such an event.

    Also I agree we should fight to protect the most vulnerable. It is funny seeing that from a vigorous Trump supporter. The Pope provides a much better moral compass for caring for vulnerable people and species and ecosystems. Remember the rainbow.

    chikoppi I think you guys are talking past each other for the most part. Obviously in the life cycle of an organism there is no discrete moment when you aren’t a member of that species. E.g., a caterpillar of the species Danaus plexippus that looks nothing like a monarch butterfly is still a member of the species. This is what Egnor is saying, but pretending it wasn’t obvious you were talking about something else: the emergence of a person and concomitant Constitutional rights.

  231. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 10:46 am

    Chi:

    The women in the womb are the women most at risk. I support all women at risk, especially those most at risk.

  232. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 12:02 pm

    ed:

    [Obviously in the life cycle of an organism there is no discrete moment when you aren’t a member of that species. E.g., a caterpillar of the species Danaus plexippus that looks nothing like a monarch butterfly is still a member of the species. This is what Egnor is saying, but pretending it wasn’t obvious you were talking about something else: the emergence of a person and concomitant Constitutional rights.]

    Yes, you’re right. The biology of the zygote/embryo/fetus/baby has been settled for 200 years. At each stage the individual is a human being.

    The abortion debate is about personhood and morality and law, not about biology. The salient questions are: what is a person? Is a human being at the beginning of life (conception) a person? What rights do persons have? How do we sort out rights when they conflict? Does the Constitution guarantee the right to an abortion?

    The biology “debate” is a diversion, because there really is no scientific debate. The obvious reason that abortion supporters deny the biology is that it makes them uncomfortable to support killing defenseless human beings, as it should. But rather than come to grips with that moral quandary, they fabricate pseudoscience (“it’s just tissue!”) rather than face the reality of what abortion is.

    So what is abortion? It’s a simple matter, actually. Abortion is an exercise of power of the strong over the weak. The ultimate justification for abortion is: “because I can.”

  233. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 12:11 pm

    [michaelegnor] The women in the womb are the women most at risk. I support all women at risk, especially those most at risk.

    Nope. Because sometimes it’s a zero sum game. You would deny the actual woman the ability to make her own decisions, despite the risks and her assessments of them, in order to impose your dogmatic vision on her. That isn’t supporting her. That’s prizing your dogma above her autonomy and well-being.

    The great irony is that making abortion illegal does very little to actually change the number of abortions that occur. The yearly average in the past decade has been about 800k. That’s roughly the same number as estimated illegal abortions performed per year during the period between 1955 and 1967, prior to RvW and when the total US population was only 200M.

    The choice (and commensurate evaluation of personhood) belongs to the pregnant woman. That is black letter constitutional law. The only practical path forward is to 1) work to reduce the frequency of unwanted pregnancies, 2) provide support to at-risk women to minimize the real and perceived risks associated with pregnancy, 3) support social services that provide access to reproductive care, long-term childcare, and health insurance. In other words, to influence her choice by actually supporting her.

  234. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 12:28 pm

    chi:

    [Because sometimes it’s a zero sum game. You would deny the actual woman the ability to make her own decisions, despite the risks and her assessments of them, in order to impose your dogmatic vision on her.]

    Law is always an imposition, and neither men nor women are exempt from it. Killing a human being is obviously a proper matter for legal intervention. No one has “autonomy”. If you think we do, try buying cocaine or downloading child porn. Killing you child is no less a proper matter for law enforcement.

    [That isn’t supporting her. That’s prizing your dogma above her autonomy and well-being.]

    Radical autonomy, in the sense that we may kill other human beings without legal sanction, is a myth. And regarding “dogma”, well I’ve got mine, and you’ve got yours. Mine is much less lethal.

    [The great irony is that making abortion illegal does very little to actually change the number of abortions that occur…]

    No one knows how many abortions there were before RvW. The numbers you quote are from the Guttmacher Institute, an advocacy group founded by an abortionist and president of PP. No one actually believes the GI’s numbers, for good reason.

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/12/guttmacher-erases-data-to-protect-planned-parenthood-iuds/

    [The choice (and commensurate evaluation of personhood) belongs to the pregnant woman. That is black letter constitutional law.]

    Ironically, it isn’t law of any kind, black letter or otherwise. There is no right to abortion in the Constitution, obviously. The authors of RvW didn’t even make a pretense of basing the decision on Constitutional law. RvW was a political act. It had nothing to do with law or the Constitution. It was, as Justice White noted, a “raw exercise of judicial power”. It wasn’t “black letter law”. It was “invisible law”.

    [The only practical path forward is to 1) work to reduce the frequency of unwanted pregnancies, 2) provide support to at-risk women to minimize the real and perceived risks associated with pregnancy, 3) support social services that provide access to reproductive care, long-term childcare, and health insurance. In other words, to influence her choice by actually supporting her.]

    All of which would take quite a chunk out of Planned Parenthood’s profits, not to mention the money they’ll lose when the baby-parts market crashes.

    So I ask this: if the fetus isn’t a human being, and abortion is the woman’s decision, why work to make it rare?

  235. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 12:30 pm

    [michaelegnor] The abortion debate is about personhood and morality and law, not about biology. The salient questions are: what is a person? Is a human being at the beginning of life (conception) a person? What rights do persons have? How do we sort out rights when they conflict? Does the Constitution guarantee the right to an abortion?

    The biology “debate” is a diversion, because there really is no scientific debate. The obvious reason that abortion supporters deny the biology is that it makes them uncomfortable to support killing defenseless human beings, as it should. But rather than come to grips with that moral quandary, they fabricate pseudoscience (“it’s just tissue!”) rather than face the reality of what abortion is.

    There is no scientific debate because it isn’t a scientific question. “Human” is not equivalent to “a human being.” A body without a brain is “human.” It is not “a human being.”

    But as long as you continue to strawman, vilify, and marginalize others you are doing all the heavy lifting for them, so carry on.

  236. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 12:40 pm

    chi:

    [There is no scientific debate because it isn’t a scientific question. “Human” is not equivalent to “a human being.” A body without a brain is “human.” It is not “a human being.”]

    The terminology is simple.

    “Human” is an adjective, referring to some aspect of a human being.

    “Human being” is a noun, referring to a member of the species homo sapiens.

    “Person” is a human being with certain moral standing and legal rights.

    All of the abortion debate, properly understood, is about the “person” question.

  237. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 12:45 pm

    And you can properly ask whether a zygote or an embryo or a fetus is a person.

    My view is this: personhood is a moral and legal standing that includes the right to life. After all, if a person has no right to life, the person really has no rights at all (eg:”you have the right to vote, but I can kill you any time I want” is essentially to say “you have no rights”.)

    Other rights, such as the right to vote, to drive, to speak freely, can be dependent on circumstances the person is in. But the right to life is fundamental to what it is to be a person.

    Are all human beings (zygote and up) persons? We can debate that. I say yes. I think it should be a fundamental moral and legal principle that all human beings are persons.

    That is what the debate is about.

  238. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 1:39 pm

    [michaelegnor] And you can properly ask whether a zygote or an embryo or a fetus is a person.

    My view is this: personhood is a moral and legal standing that includes the right to life. After all, if a person has no right to life, the person really has no rights at all (eg:”you have the right to vote, but I can kill you any time I want” is essentially to say “you have no rights”.)

    Other rights, such as the right to vote, to drive, to speak freely, can be dependent on circumstances the person is in. But the right to life is fundamental to what it is to be a person.

    Are all human beings (zygote and up) persons? We can debate that. I say yes. I think it should be a fundamental moral and legal principle that all human beings are persons.

    Thank you for acknowledging these distinctions (in part because it spares me from having to write long-winded responses to your previous posts). My views are actually not as far removed as you might think. However, I recognize that people of good conscious can honestly disagree about the nature of personhood (in these circumstances, “a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter”).

    An abortion is never the preferred outcome for any individual. Preferable would be to not become pregnant in the first place, to have no complications that threaten the life of the mother or viability of the child, assurance that a child could be adequately provided for, etc. To the extent these outcomes can be promoted fewer women will face mortal or moral uncertainty and be confronted by the hard choice.

    Surely that can be a common goal.

  239. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 2:07 pm

    [An abortion is never the preferred outcome for any individual.]

    You are evading the moral issue. Why is it that abortion isn’t a preferred outcome? Is it because it is expensive, or it hurts, or it takes time that could be spent watching TV, or it is dangerous to the mother, or because it kills a human being?

    I answer that all of these are reasons why abortion is not good, but that the last reason–that it kills–is the essential reason it’s not good, and is the reason it is immoral and should be illegal.

    If you don’t agree it kills a human being, then you are mistaken about biology.

    If you don’t agree that killing a human being is wrong, then we have a fundamental disagreement between us.

    The truth is that most people who support abortion implicitly know that it is killing a human being, and rather than face that unpleasant fact, they obfuscate and hand-wave and deny science and pretend that the overriding issue is autonomy, etc.

  240. chikoppion 29 May 2017 at 2:42 pm

    We were so close to peace in our time.

    [michaelegnor] You are evading the moral issue. Why is it that abortion isn’t a preferred outcome? Is it because it is expensive, or it hurts, or it takes time that could be spent watching TV, or it is dangerous to the mother, or because it kills a human being?

    The answer depends on who you ask and the circumstances in which they find themselves. Not being in a situation that demands anxiety-provoking and life-altering decisions together with weighing the options of medical procedures would be preferable.

    The truth is that most people who support abortion implicitly know that it is killing a human being, and rather than face that unpleasant fact, they obfuscate and hand-wave and deny science and pretend that the overriding issue is autonomy, etc.

    The truth is most theists know there is no God. Rather than face that unpleasant fact they make up elaborate constructs of untenable metaphysical and theological gobbledygook to obfuscate the obvious which they substantiate by pretending to have an invisible friend who whispers secrets to them.

    You’re right. This is much easier when I can tell other people what they really think. Thanks for the tip.

  241. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 2:54 pm

    egnor wrote:

    If you don’t agree that killing a human being is wrong, then we have a fundamental disagreement between us.

    TIL egnor is against the death penalty.

  242. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Egnor you haven’t addressed whether you think abortion should be legal in cases of rape.

  243. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Abortion should not be legal in the case of rape. Its a tragic situation but killing the baby doesnt rectify it.

  244. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I dont support the death penalty, although i understand the sentiments of supporters. I dont think killing a defenseless person is moral, even if they deserve it, which many on death row do.

  245. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Before I disagree, let’s see if we can agree that the morning after pill is a great option for rape victims. I assume Dr Egnor would prefer this to abortion, if he had to choose (because they prevent fertilization rather than terminate pregnancy).

    I strongly disagree that abortion should be illegal for rape victims. If someone is assaulted and effectively forcefully attached to this being that she never voluntarily attached herself to, subjecting herself to months of sickness and all sorts of additional risks, social and career and other repercussions. It is sickeningly immoral to demand that she take all that on, on top of dealing with the rape.

    Plus, calling it a baby is as inaccurate and tendentious as anything you’ve been criticizing, Dr Egnor. Especially during embryogenesis, but even during early fetal development, it isn’t a baby. For goodness’ sake.

    As mentioned above, even if someone sneaks in and attaches a full-grown adult to you against your will, and you have the same degree of risks for 9+ months as you would during pregnancy, you should have the right to say “Nope, sorry, you did this against my will and I’m gonna have to unplug you.” Sure, it would be sad, and suck for the person. But legally speaking, that should absolutely be the law that people can’t hook themselves up to you against your will, and thereby force you to keep them alive.

    Assuming you have children, Dr Egnor, you would understand at a personal level that having a kid is hard. Not raising it. Just the experience of pregnancy. It’s many months of drastic hormonal, emotional, career, and medical consequences for the woman, that will be etched into her psyche for the rest of her life. It is beautiful for many people, but also can suck in many ways, even for those that want a child. To push that on someone who is raped? Nope.

    Any moral system with that as a consequence has made a wrong turn somewhere and forgotten how to properly balance different moral principles against one another.

  246. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 4:45 pm

    I apologize as this was actually pretty callous of me:
    >the morning after pill is a great option for rape victims.

    That came off as superficial and insensitive, like offering my favorite brunch options for after a tough night drinking. There is no “great option” for rape victims, I realize. I apologize.

  247. bachfiendon 29 May 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Michael,

    ‘In Asia, there are 100 million missing women, nearly all of whom were selectively aborted because of their sex’.

    In many societies daughters are less desired than sons. Offspring are needed to support their parents in their old age. Sons tend to stay near their parental home and support their parents. Daughters tend to marry, move away and support their parents-in-law in their old age. In undeveloped farming communities with little or no social security, the expense of rearing a daughter doesn’t pay.

    I challenge you that the reason for the ‘100 million missing women’ is that ‘nearly all were selectively aborted’. For that to happen, there’d need to be widespread antenatal sex determination, either with amniocentesis and cell culture to eventually do a karyotype, or high definition ultrasound, both of which would require a rather highly developed society. Followed by selective abortion of female foetuses.

    There are easier, low technology ways of accounting for the missing 100 million women, such as infanticide of female babies at birth or relative neglect of daughters compared to sons, either not providing enough food or not giving them access to expensive medical treatment, both of which having nothing to do with abortion.

    Where is your evidence that the ‘nearly all were selectively aborted’ explanation is true?

  248. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2017 at 5:39 pm

    The argument here regarding personhood is between:
    – A dogmatic religious based view
    – A rational logical approach.

    Michael Egnor dogmatically states that personhood begins at fertilisation.
    This is based on the religious dogma that ensoulment occurs at fertilisation.
    In other words, Michael Egnor’s opinion is constrained by religious dogma.

    Those of us not constrained by religious dogma, are free to take a rational logical approach.
    It is not logical or rational to talk about personhood before nerve tissue starts developing at 20 weeks. And there is a reasonable argument that personhood commences at about 30 weeks when this nerve tissue starts becoming active.

    If abortion is banned in Michael Egnor’s wished for catholic theocracy, we will all be constrained by this religious dogma. That is a situation that should not prevail. My freedom should not be constrained by someone else’s religious convictions.

  249. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 5:50 pm

    ed:

    ed:

    [Before I disagree, let’s see if we can agree that the morning after pill is a great option for rape victims. I assume Dr Egnor would prefer this to abortion, if he had to choose (because they prevent fertilization rather than terminate pregnancy).]

    I don’t oppose the morning after pill for rape. I oppose contraception, but I don’t think contraception is an absolute evil, whereas killing innocent human beings is absolute evil. It seems to me that in the balance the morning after pill for rape is the lesser of two evils.

    [I strongly disagree that abortion should be illegal for rape victims.]

    My view is the minority, even in the pro-life movement.

    [It is sickeningly immoral to demand that she take all that on, on top of dealing with the rape.]

    It is sickening to assert that killing an innocent human being makes rape more bearable.

    [Plus, calling it a baby is as inaccurate and tendentious as anything you’ve been criticizing, Dr Egnor. Especially during embryogenesis, but even during early fetal development, it isn’t a baby. For goodness’ sake.]

    “Baby” is admittedly an imprecise term, although it is used all the time in very early pregnancy (“How’s the baby doing?”, etc” It is a lot more honest and decent than calling a young human being “tissue”.

    [Assuming you have children, Dr Egnor, you would understand at a personal level that having a kid is hard. Not raising it. Just the experience of pregnancy. It’s many months of drastic hormonal, emotional, career, and medical consequences for the woman, that will be etched into her psyche for the rest of her life.]

    My wife and I have four children, and we know these issues well. Down the right thing isn’t easy. That does not make it any less the right thing.

    [Any moral system with that as a consequence has made a wrong turn somewhere and forgotten how to properly balance different moral principles against one another.]

    Abortion after rape is supported by many pro-lifers, and for all of us it is a painful issue, to say the least.

    But the question is: should our morals be based on sentiment or on principle? Of course both are inevitably involved, but to allow abortion in rape is to violate the most basic principle of the pro-life movement: it is never moral to take innocent human life. If we approve of abortion in rape, but not for lifestyle, we are merely saying that it is ok to kill innocent human beings, if we feel strongly enough about it.

    The deeper problem with allowing abortion after rape is that it sets up a two-tiered system of humanity. One tier is innocent human beings that deserve protection, and the other is innocent human beings who, owing to circumstances outside of their control, can licitly be killed.That’s just wrong on principle, and it is dangerous as a matter of policy. I point out that the great atrocities of human history (the Holocaust jumps to mind, but all manner of genocide, etc) depended critically on the conviction that some human lives were of lesser value and were expendable.

    The pro-life movement stands for this: all innocent human beings have a right to life. No qualifiers, no exceptions.

  250. michaelegnoron 29 May 2017 at 6:10 pm

    To abortion-supporting friends:

    1) Is abortion for sex selection morally wrong?

    2) Should it be legal?

  251. bachfiendon 29 May 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Michael,

    The common definition of a ‘human being’ is that it’s a man, woman or child of the species Homo sapiens.

    You want to extend the definition to include fertilised unimplanted ova? Fine. But it’s a definition that’s not recognised in law. If you want to extend the definition in law then get the law changed.

    The voters in Mississippi had the opportunity in a referendum to extend personhood to the moment of conception, and it was rejected.

    I’m quite happy for the unborn to have rights. For people assaulting pregnant women and causing miscarriage of the unborn to run the risk of being charged and convicted of homicide of the unborn, instead of just assault of the woman.

    As I’ve noted many times, and you’ve refused to respond, engaging in your Egnor Evasion, you’re quite happy that 7 month gestation twins in Colorado had no rights under the law, and that the lawyers for a Catholic hospital were justified in using the law in order to get rid of a malpractice suit (despite 3 Catholic bishops disagreeing with the tactic – and I agree with them too).

  252. bachfiendon 29 May 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Michael,

    ‘To abortion-supporting friends:

    1. Is abortion for sex selection morally wrong?

    2. Should it be legal?’

    I’m not actually an abortion-supporting friend. I don’t think that it ought to be encouraged. It should be a last resort, not a first one. It shouldn’t be regarded as a form of contraception. I’m not really entitled to answer your questions, but I’ll answer them anyway.

    1. Yes, although I prefer to use the formulation ‘ethically wrong’. Females should have equal rights to males.

    2. Yes, in limited cases. Suppose the mother is a carrier of an X-linked disorder such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy? And the parents decide to go for ‘natural’ pregnancies and decide to selectively abort male embryos (IVF would be a better option)? It’s still sex selective abortion.

    It shouldn’t be permitted for social reasons. Many parents-to-be when given the opportunity of learning the sex of their prospective offspring as a result of a screening ultrasound decline, preferring to be pleasantly surprised.

  253. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Egnor principles are great when wielded intelligently. When wielded unintelligently they become vehicles of injustice like forcing a rape victim to carry a baby to term. It’s madness.

    Blind devotion to a single principle will do things like obscure your ability to see obvious differences between “good” and “bad” reasons for terminating a pregnancy. E.g., being a rape victim, on one hand; and wanting to look good for prom, on the other. Wanting to choose a child of a different gender. Once you have decided to have a child, there are certain obligations you have incurred. Like, don’t kill it because it has blue eyes, or is a boy. E.g., if I agree to let you get attached to me for life support, and then change my mind and unplug you, that is morally very different from you plugging yourself into me against my will and then me unplugging you.

    As a legal matter, because it so clearly unethical to not allow it in cases of rape, it must be allowed, period. Because it would be absolutely barbaric to force women to prove they were raped before allowing them to have an abortion.

  254. Sylakon 29 May 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Wow, talk about people steering a comment sections right off the road and hard hitting a tree. Fully pro choice, procreation is a choice not obligation. so Im a baby killer, oh yeah: (disclaimer offensive and hilarious material ahead) , https://youtu.be/k3MKSqUTr-A

    Oh Yeah right thr topic was a interesting fossil find. I love science, but if there’s one area I suck Ar understanding and memorizing stuff is biology. Especially classifications. Hominid, hominoid, hominhominhomind. Family, glad, species. I know the order of Some ( like. Species and family) but I get lost. My wife is a biologist, plant biologist, she’s rock at this. I prefer learning class of stars, celestial objects and particules. Anyway, Thank for writing about this Steve, alway interesting the way you put thing in perspective.

  255. edamameon 29 May 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Sylak if there are more than 100 comments in a thread at this blog, lay money that it has devolved into an irrelevant philosophical or political tangent. If egnor is involved, that probability is 1.0.

  256. bachfiendon 29 May 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Sylak,

    Kings play chess on fine golden sets. Kingdom phylum class order family genus species.

    I have difficulty remembering the stellar classification, but now after just looking at it again I’m reminded that it’s – oh be a fine girl kiss me (O B A F G K M) with L and T added at the end.

    My greatest difficulty is remembering the difference between a hadron, lepton and boson.

    There are some things it’s not worth cluttering your brain with.

  257. bachfiendon 30 May 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Anyway, there’s a new book out which might interest Steven Novella. ‘The Evolution of Beauty. How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – And Us’ by Richard Prum.

    Richard Prum is an evolutionary biologist, and also a very keen birder.

    I’m thinking about buying it, but I’ve already got too many books to read.

    I don’t think that it is a forgotten theory. And anyway, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The wallpaper on my iPad is a photo I took of a jewel spider on her orb web in bushland at a local suburban park. She’s just exquisitely beautiful with amazing colours. I don’t know what the evolutionary theory would be to explain her colours (and I can’t remember ever seeing the male of the species – in spiders it’s the males which go looking for mates).

  258. Pete Aon 30 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

    bachfiend,

    “My greatest difficulty is remembering the difference between a hadron, lepton and boson.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle

    See especially the diagram:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle#/media/File:Standard_Model_of_Elementary_Particles.svg

  259. BillyJoe7on 31 May 2017 at 12:31 am

    Pete,

    You won’t believe this, but I was going to post those exact same two links yesterday but they didn’t actually mention “hadron” which bachfiend specifically mentioned, so I didn’t bother.

    [ Hadrons are composites of quarks – three quarks for a baryon (proton, neutron), two quarks for a meson]

  260. Pete Aon 31 May 2017 at 6:16 am

    BillyJoe7,

    My first link mentions hadrons twice within the subsection Quarks. However, I think it should mention them in the opening paragraph, which already mentions composite particles; and the article goes on to mention the Large Hadron Collider before mentioning hadrons.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle#Quarks

  261. bachfiendon 31 May 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Oh, well, I visited the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva last year, and I took part in one of the public tours.

    I noted to one of the other participants that although I understood every single word the guide was using, I was having extreme difficulty in understanding the sentences (and she agreed that she was having exactly the same problem).

    I still have difficulty in understanding how helium-4 is a boson (or rather it has the properties of a boson). Well, I sort of understand. There’s no need to refer me to Wikipedia again.

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