Jan 04 2013

Responding to Commenters on Created History

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159 Responses to “Responding to Commenters on Created History”

  1. NotAnAtheiston 04 Jan 2013 at 9:21 am

    Yes. I agree that you did not say that nonfalsifiable -> untrue. You said basically that it means it is not science. You basically imply that science is the only way to truth (unless you are an ignorant religionist).

    Evidence can be explained in different ways.

    You see chimpanzees sharing DNA with humans as evidence of a common ancestor. I see evidence of a common creator.

    You see layers of rock and think each layer represents 10000 years. I say the layers could have come from a catostrophic event.

    You see a falsified history. I see humans using the tool of cause/effect where it does not apply.

    There is no evidence of evolution that cannot be explained by young earth creationism. If you start from a creationist point of view things like sharing genes, layers of rock and a mature system are not at all suprising. In fact they are exactly what you would expect to see.

    You say I can fix any inconsistencies with “Magic”. I say that Evolution has its magic too. Just increase the age of the earth. How many times has it been increased since Darwin. If the chances are calculated as 1 in 10 billion we give it 10 billion years to happen.(Yes I know this is not what people actually say but I believe it is what drives the actual dating.)

    Creationists do not want to throw up their hands and ignore any scientific inquiry. To the contrary, most of the great thinkers in history were theists. Genetics is a wonderful and exciting field of study. I think there will be much more to come from this field. It is simply not necessary to believe in evolution to do any type of scientific study. I think a scientific mind is greatly enriched by acknowledging the creator.

  2. SARAon 04 Jan 2013 at 9:31 am

    Steven, I would argue that religious views often help people with emotional and psychological issues. When faced with crisis there it is a bit of a balm to be able to invoke or beg a divine power for intervention. For example Alcoholic Anonymous.

    The fact that there is no great being who cares, but only a disinterested universe is not at all comforting in times of need.

    While I find the world endlessly more fascinating and manageable as a non-believer, it is nevertheless understandable to me why people would not be able to give up comfort of the illusion.

  3. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 10:06 am

    @SARA:

    Granted, but shooting up heroin every day can also be a balm to help numb and comfort in times of need and despair. Appeals to non-existent deities is a false sense of comfort, a delusion to run and hide in just like a drug induced fog.

    I personally find great comfort in the fact that the universe is cold and disinterested in us. When a dear family friend died of colon cancer a mere 6 weeks ago – himself a professor of neuroscience – leaving 3 children behind (the oldest of which turned 15 this year), the thought that some knowing consciousness not only allowed this to happen but deemed it necessary and “good” would have absolutely infuriated me. Instead, I knew that it was merely random bad luck – and so did he. He didn’t waste his time praying to some non existent deity, he wrapped up his earthly duties, traveled to see his dearest friends while he could, did everything within the power of medical science to avert the outcome (no wasted time and money on CAM), and said goodbye to his family. We were all deeply saddened by this, but whilst a theist would have to be asking “Why??” I already know the answer – bad luck in an otherwise disinterested universe. I am actually content with an answer, whereas the theist must live forever knowing (thinking) that his or her deity for some reason deemed it necessary to allow a good man with a young family to die a slow and painful death.

    So sure, I can also understand why someone would want to think that way and find comfort in a false belief. But I would argue that it comes from having been indoctrinated into thinking that is the way to do it – like the child of an addict is likelier to be an addict or the child of an abusive parent is more likely to be abusive. I would also argue that it is unnecessary in order to gain comfort in such times since at the very least I am the black swan to shatter that hypothesis.

    It has been argued to me (by a family member actually) that belief in a deity gives “more” options to comfort than my lack of belief. I also do not see this as valid – different options, sure, but not more. Because you cannot simultaneously take comfort in knowing there isn’t some sadistic universal power allowing good people to die and believe there is an all loving universal power with a “good” reason for allowing good people to die. You are replacing one for the other, and I find reality to be vastly more comforting than trying to reconcile understanding the un-understandable.

  4. Wayneon 04 Jan 2013 at 10:21 am

    Typo: “I would __way__ it heavily toward the negative” shouldn’t that be _weight_?

    Interesting post, but at its heart, you use the beliefs of kooks (the young earth creationists) to launch into a condemnation of all religion. Isn’t that a classic strawman argument?

    My opinion is that your attack on religion (and your argument above boils down to “religion is worse than useless”), is justified by pointing at the craziest, the least educated, and the misinformed. This is a common tactic used by atheists justify their non belief.

  5. CodexHammeron 04 Jan 2013 at 10:25 am

    @NotAnAthiest

    I would be interested to hear you explain (scientifically not philosophically) how cause and effect can not apply to something being created. How would this support your argument?

  6. Steven Novellaon 04 Jan 2013 at 10:34 am

    NotanAtheist:
    “Evidence can be explained in different ways.”

    True but irrelevant. I made this piont also – we can invent limitless ways to explain what we see, especially if we don’t follow any rules. The test of a theory is how well it makes predicts, not just explain what is already known.

    Creationism predits nothing, because you cannot know the mind of God and there are not rules or limits to miracles.

    It therefore informs nothing. Again – worse than wrong, it’s worthless.

    I will also just say that if you are interested in this question you should read more about the evidence base for evolution. Your characterization is completely wrong and obvisouly comes from secondary hostile sources. For example – genes between chimps and humans are not just similar. If you look at genes and proteins for primates and other animals you find an exquisitely evolutionary pattern of nestled hierarchies – not just similarities. The only reason for this pattern is common descent (again – unless you insert the idea that God created the pattern of genes and proteins to mimic evolution, which is unnecessary and unfalsifiable).

  7. Steven Novellaon 04 Jan 2013 at 10:40 am

    Wayne – I did not do that. I responded specifically to comments. A commenter said not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am asking the serious question – where is the baby? I am open to any argument, from the best examples of religiuos thought and the most thoughtful defenders. Give it to me.

    I outlined quickly (acknowledging a much longer treatment is needed) the typical points:

    Facts about reality – not a valid method
    Morality and ethics – we have philosophy, which is unhampered by faith and authority
    Community – can be had with secular institutions
    Comfort – very subjective, also available from secular sources, and religion comes with legitimate concerns about the tradeoffs

    So – what is potentially valuable about religious institutions is not unique to religion, and what is unique to religion (faith in the unknowable) I would argue is of no value and in fact is a hindrance.

    If I am missing something, please enlighten me.

  8. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 10:42 am

    @notanatheist:

    You basically imply that science is the only way to truth (unless you are an ignorant religionist).

    I wrote this elsewhere just today, but would you care to provide evidence that anything but scientific inquiry is the way to know truths and describe reality? Can you tell me what human advances were directly a result of theology specifically and not philosophy? Can you tell me which religion has the correct truths and depictions of reality?

    Evidence can be explained in different ways.

    You see chimpanzees sharing DNA with humans as evidence of a common ancestor. I see evidence of a common creator.

    You see layers of rock and think each layer represents 10000 years. I say the layers could have come from a catostrophic event.

    Indeed, and in isolation specific factoids can be bent to suit the wants of the bender. That is how creationism works and how creation “science” operates.

    But when you take the totality of evidence, it converges on the answer. If all we had was that chimps and humans share common DNA then sure, in a vacuum we couldn’t decide whether that meant common descent or common creator.

    But when you look at the details of genetics, you find it does not even remotely mesh up with a common creator perspective. As a simple example, look at the different chromosome counts between humans and chimps, and the irrefutable evidence that 2 chimp chromosomes fused to become our chromosome #2. Or the accumulation of retroviral and other mutations in the genome. CDK007 has an excellent video to demonstrate clearly why common designer simply does not hold up when all the evidence is looked at.

    The same goes for your catastrophic event hypothesis. Except that one is even easier to refute. Just take a tank of some sort, fill it with rocks, dirt, leaves, twigs, bones, shells, etc and then “catastrophically” dump a bunch of water in it. Let it all settle and see what happens. Do this under varying conditions, with varying compositions, and then compare it to what we actually see. You will find that they do not match. In other words, while you claim that a catastrophic event could have caused the sediment layers, every empirical experiment demonstrates that this is not the way it would actually work. So you are left having to postulate Ceiling Cat’s intervention to settle the layers in a way not consistent with reality in order to fool us into thinking it could not have been a catastrophic event.

    For further edification on this point, read about Kurt Wise. He is YEC who actually studied paleontology and geology with the intent of interpreting the evidence exactly as you propose. But he actually got a legitimate degree from Harvard and at the end was forced to publicly admit that the evidence for an old earth was overwhelming but that:

    As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate

    You should also read his account of how he cut out all the parts of the bible inconsistent with the findings of science and it thence fell apart in his hands.

    There is no evidence of evolution that cannot be explained by young earth creationism.

    How about the convergence of literally hundreds of radiodating methods on a single age of the earth, coupled with convergence of the radiodating methods for each stratum, with a consistent progression of complexity as the earth ages, without a single fossil or stratum ever being out of place?

    The only YEC explanation for that is magical handwaving and the faked history we have been discussing.

    If you start from a creationist point of view things like sharing genes, layers of rock and a mature system are not at all suprising.

    If you start from any conclusion you can find whatever you like to torture into your preconcieved notion. For example the Institute for Creation Research explicitly states that any submissions for publication to them must conform to the literal word of the bible and that any experiment which demonstrates the bible false must have been done incorrectly. Does that sound reasonable to you?

    The problem is that there is a giant pile of repeatedly and independently verified data which absolutely and unequivocally contradicts YEC. So sure, while certain parts of the evidence in isolation can be made to fit the preconceived conclusion, it simply cannot account for all of the evidence.

    You say I can fix any inconsistencies with “Magic”. I say that Evolution has its magic too. Just increase the age of the earth. How many times has it been increased since Darwin.

    “Just increase the age of the earth.” We didn’t “just” do it. And the fact that the age of the earth increased a number of times since Darwin is evidence that it must be true. If we all, as a species, believed the earth to be young, why would we “just change the age of the earth?” Because there was evidence that simply couldn’t be reconciled with a young earth. As we became more sophisticated and used more and more methods to try and verify it, we became more accurate in the age of the earth.

    For your statement to have any validity as a criticism, the changes would have had to be willy nilly. One day it is 6,000 years old, then next 2 bilion, after that 1 billion, then 20 million, then 8 billion. That would indicate that the “changes” in the age of the earth are not legitimate. Instead, we find it kept progressing older and older and each change was smaller and smaller. It wasn’t a change in the age of the earth, it was a refinement of our understanding of how old the earth actually is. There was no magic there. And if every bit of evidence demonstrated to us that the earth really was 6,000 years old, yes that would be a pretty fatal flaw to evolutionary theory and we would be forced to throw it out. But that simply isn’t the case.

    Creationists do not want to throw up their hands and ignore any scientific inquiry. To the contrary, most of the great thinkers in history were theists.

    A common non-statement. Most people have been theists for most of time so far. But the advances made were done alongside and compartmentalized from the scientific work of the theists, not because of the theism.

    Look back again at Kurt Wise – his theology directly contradicted his scientific training and he rejected the science. He is a direct example that 100% refutes your statement.

    It is simply not necessary to believe in evolution to do any type of scientific study

    Now you are nearly quoting Wise. And of course an understanding of evolution (there is no need for belief – I certainly do not believe in evolution I understand it and know the evidence and application for it) is not necessary to do scientific study. Why would a particle physicist need to care about evolution to do his or her work? But if you want to do study in biology then yes, it is required to understand evolution since otherwise you are left with the laughable piffle coming out of the ICR and the DI.

    I think a scientific mind is greatly enriched by acknowledging the creator.

    A scientific mind operates on evidence. How can acknowledging something for which there is no evidence enrich a scientific mind? How can constraining yourself to a foregone conclusion, thus forcing your scientific inquiry to be shoehorned into your conclusion rather than the evidence forming it enrich a scientific mind? It simply doesn’t work that way.

  9. Karl Withakayon 04 Jan 2013 at 10:52 am

    “I see evidence of a common creator.”

    A common creator who left very clear and compelling evidence of evolution in the fossil record: Transition fossils showing the progress of evolution through time, and a complete absence of fossils of modern species along side earlier species.
    ——————————————————————
    “You see layers of rock and think each layer represents 10000 years. I say the layers could have come from a catostrophic event.”

    Perhaps you’d care to explain the Oklo natural reactor that provides strong evidence of natural fission about 1.7 billion years ago, which has not been possible for the past 6000 years due to the half life of U235. A sustained fission chain reaction of uranium requires a concentration of around 3% U235 in the uranium source. Today, natural uranium has about a 1% concentration, and we need to enrich it before it can be used in a reactor. 2 billion years ago, U235 made up about 3.1 % of uranium on Earth, and under certain conditions, it was able to achieve criticality. This is just one piece of evidence among many in geology and physics that provides compelling evidence of an old Earth.
    ——————————————————————
    “You see a falsified history. I see humans using the tool of cause/effect where it does not apply.”

    Perhaps you’d care to provide the criteria we should use to determine when we should use the ” tool of cause/effect ” and when we should assume magic?
    ——————————————————————
    “There is no evidence of evolution that cannot be explained by young earth creationism. If you start from a creationist point of view things like sharing genes, layers of rock and a mature system are not at all surprising. In fact they are exactly what you would expect to see.”

    If you start with a conclusion and ignore all evidence that contradicts your conclusion, sure, things seem to make sense.
    ——————————————————————
    ” I say that Evolution has its magic too. Just increase the age of the earth. How many times has it been increased since Darwin. If the chances are calculated as 1 in 10 billion we give it 10 billion years to happen.”

    That’s not what evolutionary scientists do. Evolutionists aren’t the ones who determine the age of the Earth and the universe, that’s geologists, astronomers, and physicists. Those other fields of science don’t conspire to revise the age of things to support evolutionary theory.

  10. Karl Withakayon 04 Jan 2013 at 10:55 am

    Seriously, @notanatheist:

    Just read Jerry Coyne’s book “Why Evolution is True”, and report back to us when you’re done.

  11. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 10:57 am

    @Wayne:

    A good point, but misses the mark. When trying to teach a concept one looks at the easy and clear cut examples first; i.e. as I learn medicine I am taught the “classic” presentations and “typical” manifestions so I can understand the entity in question. As I refine my understanding I can transition to the more nuanced aspects.

    The same with the conversation about theism. The fundies and crazies (as you put it) make a clear cut example of the logical conclusion of theistic thinking. The fact that so-called moderates are less crazy and do not have such dire misinterpretations simply means they are different in degree but not substance. And furthermore they exemplify the reason why theistic thought makes no sense, because so much of it must be abandoned in order to not be considered “the craziest, the least educated, and the misinformed.” But they still hold crazy, uneducated, and misinformed ideas – they just hold fewer of them, less crazy ones, and it plays a much smaller part in their lives.

    I mean really, is it actually “crazier” to think that the earth is 6,000 years old or that it is 4.55 billion years old, but that roughly 2,000 years ago a talking snake tricked a rib woman into eating an apple that made her realize she was naked? Both sound equally crazy to me.

    This is a common tactic used by atheists justify their non belief.

    My non-belief is justifed on the exact same grounds that I do not believe there is an invisible dragon in your garage nor a teapot orbiting Venus. Why would I believe something that has zero evidence, no explanatory power, and by definition must violate the natural order of the universe as every single scientific experiment has demonstrated over and over again?

    The invisible dragon analogy is particularly apt. If I told you I had an invisible fire breathing dragon in my garage would you just believe me and accept it as true? What if I told you the dragon said I couldn’t eat bacon and neither could you, otherwise it will burn you with its fire after you die? Would you not reasonably ask me to provide you evidence to demonstrate this to be true? What if I told you that there is no possible way for humans to detect or understand the dragon, but we still must follow its rules and never eat bacon? What if I came to you with a petition signed by 10 friends who all claim they believe in the dragon and have “felt” the presence of it? Would that be enough to convince you? How about 100 people? 1,000? A million? Why would you still refuse to believe that I have an invisible dragon in my garage?

    Sathya Sai Baba had literally millions of people devoted to him who would swear on their lives that he was a deity and that they had witnessed him perform miracles with their own eyes. He died only last year. Why would you not believe that he actually was a deity if millions of people swore on their lives he was? How is that any different than any other theistic claim?

    So no, I do not need “the crazies” to justify my disbelief. My disbelief is the only default stance that actually makes sense. It is you that needs to justify your belief, much like I would need to justify the existence of my invisible dragon.

    Speaking of which, I need to go feed him. He gets cranky when I don’t give him his morning bacon. (Hmm…. maybe that is why he demands I not eat bacon on penalty of eternal fiery damnation).

  12. SARAon 04 Jan 2013 at 11:11 am

    @nybgrus
    I wouldn’t really call heroin a valid comparison to religion. One is a physically numbing experience and the other is an illusion. Also Heroin is reportedly pretty intense and only a very very small number of religious folks experience anything intense in their faith.

    Also, your experience of comfort does not necessarily correlate with someone else’s. You resent a being who was sadistic enough to allow suffering. But flip the coin and it is comforting to think that, however unknown, there is some purpose in the suffering of yourself or a loved one. It’s basically reframing your experience to make it more tolerable.

    It may be an unnecessary delusion but it is a comforting one for many people. If you have never experienced the comfort of that delusion it probably seems empty, but the illusion is persistent because it does work to comfort.

    Some people don’t want the red pill.

  13. JMoon 04 Jan 2013 at 11:17 am

    @Wayne

    The irony of accusing someone of invoking a logical fallacy by invoking one yourself is really something.

    My mother-in-law uses this one all the time…I think it’s special pleading but someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Anyway, just like you my mother-in-law subscribes to the ‘correct’ version of Christianity, and she’ll tear any hapless Jehovah’s Witness (insert branch/sect/denomination here) a new one should they darken her door.

    This is a common tactic used by theists to justify their belief.

  14. Kawarthajonon 04 Jan 2013 at 11:19 am

    I am impressed with your efforts, Steve, but it is kind of difficult to have a reasonable debate with a group who respond to your scientific evidence by saying “God made it look that way”. That is a really simple way to explain away any scientific evidence.

    On another note, I think that I kind of have to have faith in what scientists say about evolution and the evolution of the universe. I’m not a total idiot, but I am certainly not clever in the Math/Sciences area, even though I find it really interesting and enjoy learning about it. When scientists publish a paper on dark energy/expansion of the universe or about harvesting DNA from a Neaderthal to prove our evolutionary connection to them, I kind of have to take their word for it because I do not have the Math/Science intelligence or education to know what they are talking about in their research papers. I have repeadtedly tried to read and understand scientific papers (especially about astronomy), but I just don’t speak the language I need to get it. Nor do I have the ability to be critical of their claims, since I don’t really understand the sciences they used to come up with their conclusions in the first place. I wouldn’t be able to spot a dubious scientific claim, even if I read the paper thoroughly. Does this not mean that I have a belief in science or faith in their research?

  15. JJ Borgmanon 04 Jan 2013 at 11:27 am

    Color me impressed with the knowledge (and citations) rolled out by several of the posters here. I have the uncomfortable admission to make that I am one of those who must necessarily defer to the experts.

    The crux of the thrust-and-parry going on here is whom does one trust for the truth surrounding an issue? Having spent far too much time “surrendering to ignorance”, my confidence is placed in those who ask the right questions and explore them to their proper conclusions. While “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer to many questions, I think it is far less a complete answer than some writers suggest.

    Can ignorance be bliss? No doubt in my mind, but bliss isn’t very helpful in achieving many useful and progressive endeavors. So I’ll pass on the bliss and settle for some cheer, satisfaction or a little discomfort upon learning the truth.

  16. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 11:28 am

    @SARA:

    I think it is a perfectly valid comparison. Many people claim profound experiences with religion, to the point of speaking in tongues and handling snakes. Yes, heroin is usually more profound and certainly much more reliably induced. Someone is more likely to have a crisis of faith rather than a crisis of heroin.

    But the principle is the same – both are a way to force your neurochemistry to create certain feelings and distance others without reflecting reality. But if you don’t like how intense heroin is for my analogy substitute any other substance – alcohol, valium, marijuana. The fact that the experience is more moderate does not mean it is fundamentally different. And people go through withdrawals of religion, just like heroin. Take someone truly devout who prays daily and attends church weekly and then prevent them from doing so and see what happens. It is a “fix” just like a junkie wanting their heroin. It is simply administered in a different way and more socially acceptable.

    The fact that someone can reframe an experience to make it more tolerable doesn’t grant validity to the experience. Should we not prosecute kidnappers whose victims exhibit Stockholm syndrome? Of course not.

    I disagree that it is persistent because it it does work to comfort. It is persistent because it was indoctrinated into someone from an early age. They take a false reality that is demanded of them to be considered true, and then twist that into finding a way to make it comforting by ignoring the very apparent disquieting aspects of it. It is exactly like a heroin addict claiming that heroin is the only way to achieve comfort and focusing narrowly on the positive aspects whilst ignoring the glaring negatives.

    My experience may not necessarily correlate to others – I know it doesn’t. But mine doesn’t require reframing my understanding of the universe to prestidigitate a positive from such a bleakly negative “reality.”

    I know some people don’t want to take the red pill. But if they were never born into the matrix in the first place, it wouldn’t be an issue of wanting it or not, would it? To close with my heroin analogy, some people don’t ever want to get off the heroin (take the red pill) but if they never started (indoctrination into religion) the discussion wouldn’t even happen, would it?

  17. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 11:45 am

    Does this not mean that I have a belief in science or faith in their research?

    You could go that route. Or you could have a fundamental basis for understanding the methodology and rationale of science and then couple that with the knowledge that you could, at least in principle, verify it yourself. It is possible for you to put in the time and effort to dissect and refute those scientific papers despite the fact that you cannot yet do so.

    I can do so with claims about evolution, biology (not all of it), and medicine because that is where my training and expertise lay. I cannot do the same for the papers coming out of CERN or even my own fiance’s work in rocket propulsion. But does that mean I have to have faith in science or research in order to trust that the Higgs boson was actually verified as existing? To a degree – but it is not blind faith. I have tangible reasons based in evidence to trust the work coming out of CERN. I know some basics about physics because it was a required part of my education. But there is no way I could point out a flaw in a paper from CERN. So I also understand the notion of peer review, independent verification, etc which allows me to trust (not have faith) that the results are in line with reality and that mistakes will be caught and rectified at some point.

    At any point in time you or I could delve a little deeper and see if the claims hold up to a bit more scrutiny. How far you go is up to you. For example, I became interested in the global warming “debate” last year. The relevant science is far removed from my expertise and experience. I cannot even begin to critique the papers and data coming from climatologists and to think otherwise would be incredible hubris. But what I did do was look at the arguments from both sides, look at what the actual consensus was, how much dissent and of what kind, and whether the arguments held water. What I discovered was that the consensus for AGW is broad, that it comes from many different fields, and that those who deny it follow the same tactics as creationists and were refuted by actual scientists and caught using quote mining techniques in a sensationalist rather than scientific manner. I could have just trusted the consensus of climatologists and left it at that. It was important enough to me that I spent some extra time and randomly picked a few examples to verify from both sides. After just a few months of very casual research into it, I became convinced that my trust was well placed in the consensus of climatologists.

    For other things very far removed from my expertise, yes I rely on trust. I trust that engineering standards for cars, industrial boilers, and earthquake safe buildings are based in legitimate science. I could be wrong, but I have good reason to trust this and I know I could do the same thing and verify as deeply as I want or need to satisfy myself. This also speaks to the necessity for education and regulation about CAM. I trust in engineering standards because I know laws and regulations for them came about rationally with the public interest in mind (since it was the public that enacted the laws in the first place). And so people for whom medicine is so far removed from their expertise must rely on advertising, licensing, and regulation to inform their opinions as to what is legitimate. If homeopathic medicine is in a pharmacy, it must be both safe and effective, right? So we see there are always exceptions and it is hard to avoid being duped by those trying to dupe you if it is not your field of expertise. But I also know that just like there are people working for the integrity of my field of medicine, so there are people working for the integrity of their fields I am not an expert in. When it really matters I will delve more deeply, but until then I maintain a rational and evidence based trust in legitimate sources of information and application. In other words, the Socratic method.

  18. Joctrelon 04 Jan 2013 at 12:03 pm

    One of the benefits of creationism is that it allows science to get into the door of the church. I might have come around to evolution eventually, but what first got me started reading about scientific topics was Answers in Genesis articles. If it weren’t for AiG’s engagement with Richard Dawkins and Scientific American (among many others) I might never have developed that interest.

    I realize this is like the Simpsons praising Ralph as a genius for having the idea to ask Lisa for the answer in season 9′s “This Little Wiggy”. But credit where credit is due.

  19. gr8googlymooglyon 04 Jan 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Excellent post, as usual, Dr. Novella.

    I see that the apologists, rather than engaging in intelligent argument, play semantic games to try and ‘trap’ their opponent. Tip – Creating and then arguing against straw men is only worthwhile if you want to win arguments against yourself.

    I’ll ask all of the apologists this question – The only factual item you can present in support of your god’s existence is that he cannot be proven to not exist. Since when did the fact that a thing cannot be proven to not exist become a good reason to believe that it does?

  20. tyroon 04 Jan 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Two things were really important to me when I discussed these subjects with friends.

    First, is just how detailed the fictitious history would have to be and what that says about God. If God was creating light, organisms, sedimentary layers, genes, fossils, isotope ratios and other physical features of our world to create the false impression of an old world then this God would be a colossal liar. It’s one thing to deceive with words or misdirection, but to say that the entire earth and the universe around us are all a gigantic lie intended to mislead us…? And for what reason, to fool us into disbelief to avoid a relationship with us? That’s not merely deceitful but cruel. A long-term, calculated cruelty. Frankly, if you believe that God would deceive us so thoroughly and for such a long time, I think you must seriously question whether anything in the bible or revelation can be trusted.

    Second is the difference between “design” and what we actually see in organisms. We have many examples of things that are designed by humans and it’s reasonable to think that some or all would be shared by other designers. We see innovations spread laterally, we see mixing and matching, we see the same solution appear in different lines based on requirements, we see a focus on function and requirements. Take cars for example. When seatbelts, crash bags, ABS, power steering and other innovations arose, they quickly appeared in all lines of cars regardless of the brand. Cars that have to deal with rugged conditions will all have 4 wheel drive and it will be implemented in similar ways that have little do do with the brand or lineage. Organisms on the other hand are nothing like this. There are examples of convergent evolution where different branches will achieve similar solutions but they’re often done in very different ways. Solutions do not span branches. We contain many extraneous – sometimes harmful – elements which make absolutely no sense if we were designed.

    The “common designer” or “common creator” sounds plausible but the more I looked into this, the less sense it made. The more I looked into hallmarks of design, the less I could find them in organisms. It’s no co-incidence that the Intelligent Design advocates focus on a tiny handful of examples, all invisible to the naked eye.

    As Steve said, once we discovered genetics there were many ways that it could disprove evolution and show evidence for a design. Instead we see none of the traits which would indicate a design and everything points to evolution. (Barring a deceitful, liar God who “designed” all life as a gigantic lie, making it look like everything evolved when they were actually designed.)

  21. tmac57on 04 Jan 2013 at 12:26 pm

    The Steven Wright quip made me reflect about a recurring incident that happened when my mother,who had dementia,was still living on her own.She would phone me up and say “I don’t know how you will find me next time you come to visit.They have moved me to another apartment”.
    Under questioning by me she claimed that everything looked the same,her cat was there,her piano and all of her heavy furniture had been miraculously moved in apparently a day,with no help or notice from me or anyone else”. This happened several times,and while disturbing,was also a bit funny.
    Now,around this time,this woman (my mother) who had been a formidable intellect,and a life long agnostic/humanist/atheist,started watching Benny Hinn and other televanglists (much to my horror).I will leave it to the reader to connect the dots.

  22. tmac57on 04 Jan 2013 at 12:31 pm

    The existence of things requires a creator
    God exists
    God requires a creator
    Repeat

  23. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 12:39 pm

    oh but tmac! Don’t you know that god stops the infinite regression?

    The existence of things requires a creator
    God exists
    God has always existed
    God needed no creator
    QED

    now why is it that something as fantastically complex as a god needs no creator, but something as fantastically complex as a universe does?

    Actually never mind that guy behind the curtain there. Lets just stop at QED and we will all be happy.

  24. ccbowerson 04 Jan 2013 at 12:55 pm

    nybgrus-

    Its called special pleading

  25. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 1:05 pm

    ccbowers -

    shhhhh! you’ll reveal my secret and my power will disappear!

    Besides, I say it is special pleading that YOU demand the regression stop with the universe and not my god.

    In fact, in my religion, MY god (which is the only god that needed no creator) created YOUR god and THAT is how the infinite regression stopped. See? Obviously my religion is not only better (my god is more powerful than yours) but must be correct because it is the only god that can stop the problem of infinite regress.

    And of course, that god is teh all powerfulz Ceiling Cat and Ceiling Cat sez I can haz chzburger.

  26. Steven Novellaon 04 Jan 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Note – I added an addendum

  27. ccbowerson 04 Jan 2013 at 1:51 pm

    This has become a broader discussion about religion, which is problematic, I think, when the original discussion was more specifically about creationists arguments about the history of the earth and universe. That is not to say that the broader discussion is not a good one, but it makes progress in discussion more difficult when multiple topics are conflated.

  28. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Fair enough ccbowers. And I admittedly am contributing to the problem since I am home alone, with no school duties and no fiancé with my fingers flying in procrastination. I will do my best to resist temptation. ;-)

  29. tmac57on 04 Jan 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Man dressed as Superman- “Yesterday I discovered that I could fly unaided!”

    Me-(skeptically) “Oh really? Can you show me?”

    Man dressed as Superman- “Well,sadly,no,because I think it was a temporary change in the laws of physics.”

    Me-”Why wasn’t anyone else flying yesterday then?”

    Man dressed as Superman-”I surmised that it only applied to me.”

    Me-”Well,forgive me,but without further evidence,then I just can’t accept your tale.”

    Man dressed as Superman-”We each have our own truths my friend.”

  30. Kawarthajonon 04 Jan 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Steve wrote:
    “Uniformitarianism is neither assumed, unprovable, or necessary to science. What we can say is that, so far, the laws of the universe appear to be stable over time. Using the assumption of stable physical laws is also working quite well – it is not producing any anomalies. Further, assuming that physical laws change over time is unwarranted by anything else we know about the universe, and there is no evidence for it. Further, rather than solving any problems it creates a host of challenging problems that are simply unnecessary.”

    I recall that there have been a number of studies to find out if the laws of the universe have changed over time and some credible scientists have done research to challenge this assumption, although the consensus is still that the laws are stable. This is certainly not an assumed quality of the universe if people are actively looking into the question. The faster than light speed neutrinos at CERN are a good example of this, although they actually turned out not to be going faster than light.

  31. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 2:54 pm

    @kawarthajon:

    Indeed. And while we cannot be absolutely certain that all the laws of the universe have remained and will remain absolutely stable for all of eternity, we have absolutely no evidence to lead us to believe they are changing now. At least, not in such a way as to accomodate a young universe. And considering that most physical laws are demonstrated accurate to at least 5-sigma (that is 5 standard deviations from the mean, which would mean the likelihood of error and variation is 1 in 3.5 million, and many are demonstrated to 7-sigma which is around 1 in 1 billion) that leaves very little room for variation at all. And this is done over hundreds of millions of replications.

    The only possibility would be that there is something yet to be discovered which can alter these physical constants and simply hasn’t happened. A once-per-billion-years or more event if you will. Maybe it is on a smaller time scale but still larger than our current scientific horizon. In either event it would make no sense to operate as if that were the case until there was actually evidence that this were the case, especially since acting as if it were not the case is so consistently correct, useful, and amazingly accurate. Every advance in technology merely re-affirms and refines this knowledge.

    That is why when FTL neutrinos were thought to exist, the most rational response was to look for errors in the system… and obviously they were found. To argue like Zach does would mean that the moment the FTL neutrinos were detected we should have thrown up our hands and scrapped the whole lot.

    But even moreso, if there is some possibility for variability in the laws there is very good reason to believe that would be predictable in some way as well and generally explainable by natural causes rather than divine intervention.

    Lastly, as the model of cosmology becomes more and more well understood, defined, and empirically verified less and less room for such special pleading remains. Sure you can hold out for that 1 in a billion chance we were wrong (which would be more like 1 in quadrillions since the probabilities are additive as you integrate the findings to fill in the models) but that sure does seem silly to me.

  32. Kawarthajonon 04 Jan 2013 at 3:07 pm

    @ nybgrus:

    Unless, of course, God made the universe to look as though the laws of physics were unchangeable, when they really are quite changeable. Just to mess with scientists, of course. Just like he made it seem like the universe is 13.75 billion years old, when it really is 6000 years old.

  33. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 3:29 pm

    @kawarthajon:

    Of course, that would be the exception. But I just don’t believe that Ceiling Cat would be so cruel and deceptive.

  34. Zachon 04 Jan 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Steven, thanks for the response.
    Also, I stand corrected on the ad hominems, I misunderstood you there. My apologies.

    In response, the scientific method is confined to naturalism, I agree with you here, but the point remains that much of what get’s labeled as “science” couldn’t be farther from the case.
    But before I move on, lets keep the distinction clear.
    There is a major difference between the claim that the scientific method can only find truth claims via naturalistic explanations and the popular error (and the one I believe you are making) that the only form of ascertaining any truth is with naturalistic explanations via the scientific method; more on this later.

    In reference to my rejection of uniformitarianism you state,
    “Further, rather than solving any problems it creates a host of challenging problems that are simply unnecessary.”
    However, you then explain away the problem of of horizon by appealing to the inflationary universe theory… maybe you can explain how that is not a form of rejecting uniformitarianism.

    Again, I’m not sure what creationists you are referring to, but why do you claim they claim to think they can change the laws of physics whenever they feel necessary? What proof do you have for this? Again, your first post on this subject did not deal with any creationists arguments I am aware of. AIG in fact would agree with you that creationists should not use the argument you attacked.

    If history is science, please use only the scientific method to prove that George Washington was the president of the United States.
    Also, creationists don’t exclude history in our search for truth, our basis for truth is rooted in history, we just put it in its proper category and not smudge everything under the umbrella of science and only selectively chose who and what gets in.

    You said, “Science is not about “truth” – it is exactly about what we can know with scientific methods of investigation – where the light is. This is not a choice, because we have no choice. The arrogance is in assuming that you can know truth or have some other method of knowledge – that you can see even where there is no light.”

    I want to camp out on this point as I submit that you are making a major logical fallacy. I interpret this as you saying that science is the only means we have to determine truth. This is a self-defeating statement. Is this statement itself scientific? No. So by your own standards it cannot be relied upon as true. And any of your appeals to ethics, or intellectual integrity should not even be taken seriously. The weighing of truth claims is not solely a scientific endeavor, i.e. look at a jury in a court case.

    Also, please clarify the difference you are making between between truth and knowledge.

    As for one piece of evidence? For starters, see the link below.
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2005/06/01/evidence-for-young-world

    As far as the disproving AIG’s ideas of possible explanations, do you have any non-pontificating evidence that you can provide?

    Respectfully,
    Zach

  35. daedalus2uon 04 Jan 2013 at 3:38 pm

    There are very serious problems with a variable speed of light idea to rescue a 10k year old Earth.

    We can see galaxies that are more than tens of thousands of light years in diameter. These galaxies are more than billions of light years away, yet the stars in those galaxy seem to be in a local group, that is stars that are 1,000,010,000 light years distant seem to be ~10,000 light years closer than stars that are 1,000,000,000 light years distant.

    The only way to “rescue” a 10k year old Earth is with light being created in transit, which has all the problems that Dr Novella mentions. I would like to add another problem. Creating the light in transit is a much more complicated task than creating a universe and letting it age naturally. Light from distant objects doesn’t just stream toward the Earth, it streams in all directions and then reflects off of things. The reflected light from supernova can be gathered and analyzed. Doing so for “fake” supernova requires that the distributions of matter be determined when the light is “supposed” to have been reflected. This requires the modeling of the Universe in complete detail so that photons from supernova X hit piece of matter y and are reflected at the “right” time and in the right direction. That type of creation event requires extreme complexity, and compresses the instantiation of that complexity into just a few days.

    The question is, for what possible reason? If God is not constrained by energy, space or time, why not simply start stuff off 13.7 billion years ago and let it age “naturally”? If God has to model the 13.7 billion years of “fake” history so as to append the 10k years of “real” history to, why is the “fake” history considered “fake” and not “real”? Even if the only “reality” of the “fake” history is (only) in the Mind of God, why isn’t that “real” enough for the YECs?

    We know that Biblical records are incomplete and have errors in them. Early written versions were transcribed by hand, some of those scribes made errors which later scribes copied. Before there were written versions, there were oral versions, which presumably had the same problem (except worse because human memory is less stable than written words). Why are oral and written records produced by men considered more reliable than natural phenomena not produced by men? Why are books said by the authors to have been dictated by God considered more reliable than physical phenomena that we know were not created by humans?

  36. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 4:29 pm

    popular error (and the one I believe you are making) that the only form of ascertaining any truth is with naturalistic explanations via the scientific method

    What other method would ascertain truth, can you give examples, and how would you demonstrate it to be correct?

    However, you then explain away the problem of of horizon by appealing to the inflationary universe theory… maybe you can explain how that is not a form of rejecting uniformitarianism.

    Inflationary theory posits that the universe expanded extremely (to put it mildly) rapidly and mostly uniformly. While anything within the universe cannot travel faster than the speed of light, the universe itself can. Furthermore, as was demonstrated by Hubble and then later refined, the rate at which the universe is expanding is increasing not holding steady. This means that as the initially uniform energy density of the universe expanded and cooled into the mostly uniform empty universe with the rare lumpiness we call “galaxies” the initial radiation of electromagnetic radiation was within the horizon of earth, and has since become beyond the horizon due to the accelerating nature of the universe itself itself.

    To explain by analogy – supposing you have two points on a rubber balloon that are 1cm apart. Initially light from each point can go back and forth. Then the balloon begins to expand at sub-light speeds. Light can only travel within the balloon and at first can do so since the balloon itself is expanding at sublight speed. However, the rate at which the balloon is is expanding is increasing constantly (which is postulated though not confirmed to be a factor of dark matter/energy) and eventually becomes faster than the speed of light. At this point new light emitted from a point on the balloon can no longer reach the other point, but old light is still streaming between the two. Since they are now separated by millions of light years prior to the expansion of the balloon exceeding the speed of light, it will be millions of years before no light reaches each dot, despite the fact that horizon has been reached.

    All with no need to change the laws of physics nor the immutable speed of light.

    Again, I’m not sure what creationists you are referring to, but why do you claim they claim to think they can change the laws of physics whenever they feel necessary?

    To claim uniformitarianism is false means to posit that the laws of the universe can change. This is by definition no? So at which point did they change? There is no scientific evidence or explanation to determine that, so to posit non-uniformitarianism means to insert the change wherever you need in order to maintain your preconceived conclusion (in this case of a young universe).

    Again, your first post on this subject did not deal with any creationists arguments I am aware of.

    Because you are not aware of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And to come and argue a post on a point you disagree with and then use that as a straw man seems quite disingenuous.

    If history is science, please use only the scientific method to prove that George Washington was the president of the United States.

    History, like any other science, relies on empirical evidence and probability to determine what is an accurate reflection of reality.

    For example, in science the Higgs boson was “discovered” by doing enough experiments over and over again that a 7-sigma certainty was obtained. That still means there is roughly 1 in a billion chance there actually is no Higgs boson. For most people – and indeed all rational applications – that is sufficiently accurate. But nothing is absolutely 100% – just close enough that it would be perverse to think otherwise.

    As for proving GW was prez, we employ the same statistical methodology and use the same methodology of converging evidence to agree it would be perverse to refute the claim that GW was prez.

    Let’s say a document was found that stated GW was not the first president, but that it was JS. Would you just make a tally chart and say “27 documents in favor of GW and 1 in favor of JS, ergo GW was prez”? No, you would investigate the veracity of the document, the authenticity of it, and how that would best be fit into the rest of the evidence we have at hand.

    Let’s say we carbon date it and find out it is only 10 years old. Well, we can now discount it entirely, right?

    What if the dating demonstrated it did actually come from the time when GW was supposed to be prez? Then we would investigate further. Perhaps the ink could only have come from a specific location in England and this gives us evidence that the monarchy was trying to deceive the colonists by propagandizing during the war.

    What if this leads us to find a cache of documents that demonstrate there was in fact a proto-government that existed briefly before GW became first president and in fact JS was the prez of this proto-gov’t. We would then seek to determine – scientifically – the authenticity of these documents and look at the rest of our evidence to see if this fits into a possible explanation of the early history of the US. If it does, and sufficient robust evidence comes to light we can demonstrate that, in fact, technically GW was not the first prez. But if it doesn’t, and the existing evidence continues to stand up to investigative scrutiny then we have succesfully proven the provisional conclusion that GW was first prez.

    History is very akin to forensics in this way and most certainly forensics is a science, is it not? And everything I have just described (in brief and ommitting numerous critical details of course) is precisely the scientific method – a hypothesis, gathering evidence to support it, demonstrating the veracity and reproducibility of that evidence (what if the aforementioned letter was dated by only one person and nobody else was allowed to independently verify it – would you trust it?). And of course prior probability comes into play to – if the document was otherwise authentic but stated GW was actually an alien from Mars we would be right to think the author was mentally disturbed or joking rather than making a truthful claim.

    I interpret this as you saying that science is the only means we have to determine truth. This is a self-defeating statement. Is this statement itself scientific?

    Your interpretation is false. What I would say – and I venture Dr. Novella as well – would be that science is the best and most consistent way to determine the accuracy (truth) of claims. If you can demonstrate another, then let me buy you a beer at your Nobel prize party.

    The weighing of truth claims is not solely a scientific endeavor, i.e. look at a jury in a court case.

    Are you saying that jurors don’t use scientific inquiry to determine the outcome of a case? Do you realize that implies that jurors can simply make up whatever they like as an answer? What is the point of evidence being presented, expert witness being called, and the science of the evidence being explained?

    When a jury convicts a killer based on DNA evidence, that is a scientific question. They would be absolutely out of line to contradict such evidence. It is the role of the defense to explain why the evidence does not reasonably convict the client (or present evidence that mitigates his culpability) and the role of the prosecution to explain why the evidence does indict the defendant. Once again, it becomes an issue of probability and the jury’s job is to take the evidence and weigh it to determine how convinced they are of the claim being made – that the defendent is guilty. Just as in any scientific claim, if the evidence presented does not sway the jury, then they deem the probability too great that the claim of guilt is false and reject it. This is exactly analagous to the process of peer review where a scientific claim is accepted or rejected based on the quality of the evidence provided.

    How else can a jury determine the verdict of a case?

    Also, please clarify the difference you are making between between truth and knowledge.

    I can’t speak for Dr. Novella, but I don’t think I would be too far off from what he would say here. Truth is implied to be unequivocal fact. Knowledge is the evidence we use to ascertain what we accept as true. Note, that doesn’t establish it as true – merely that we have enough knowledge (based in evidence) to accept it as true. How much knowledge and evidence dictates how fully we accept the claim as true and how much evidence it would take to overturn our acceptance and reject the claim.

    For me to reject an old earth and evolution would take such a huge amount of contradictory evidence that it becomes perverse not to accept those claims as “true.” But in each case I can think of evidence which would do so.

    For me to reject dark matter as the driving force behind cosmological expansion would take significantly less evidence since we have significantly less evidence to support that as the correct explanation for the finding of increasing cosmological expansion.

    In all cases it boils down to probability – the only difference between history and physics is how certain we can be of claims (we are not certan to 7-sigma that GW was first prez) and also how much certainty we would need to accept a claim (we do not need a certainty of 7-sigma that GW was first prez in order to accept the claim as true).

  37. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 4:41 pm

    As for your AIG link, check out:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

    It contains all the explanations you wish. For example, the first claim on your AIG link, “1. Galaxies wind themselves up too fast.” is answered in CE380.

    I did a quick check and just about all of the specific claims made by AIG in your link are addressed, with references, at TalkOrigins.

    I’ll try and head off the inevitable anomaly hunting that will go on – yes, there are certain questions that remain unanswered and do not seem to jive 100% with what we know. An example of this is the solar neutrino problem Dr. Novella referenced. But if you focus only on anomalies and unanswered questions you will talk yourself into anything. Just look at Bigfoot believers and 9/11 truthers. Looking at the evidence we do have rather than the evidence we don’t (which is primarily what AIG does) is the only way to actually come to any reasonable conclusion.

  38. Rayon 04 Jan 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the two great posts!

  39. daedalus2uon 04 Jan 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Juries don’t determine guilt or innocence as a matter of fact, they determine guilt or innocence as a matter of law.

    They don’t determine “truth”, they determine “truthy”. The US justice system doesn’t want to determine “truth”. That is why they don’t want people like Neil deGrasse Tyson on juries.

    https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/276475969655685120

  40. Steven Novellaon 04 Jan 2013 at 5:19 pm

    zach – we are getting confused on the definition of “truth.” What I am referring to (just wondering if you read my article on methodological naturalism) is empirical claims about the factual state of the universe. Is the universe 13.75 billion years old or 10,000 year old? The only way that we humans can have any empirical knowledge about this question is through scientific methods.

    Can you name another method?

    Now – philosophy is different (including the philosophy of science). This deals more with logic than empiricism (although there is overlap). Logic is an internal system, so I can say that 2+2=4. This is not an empirical statement about the universe but a logical imperative.

    Everything else is subjective, and needs to be distinguished from empirical knowledge or logic.

    Regarding history, you are simply wrong here, and I think it comes from a too narrow view of what science is (because you are relying on creationists sources, which have an agenda). For example, I can state the hypothesis that a man named George Washington was the first president of the US. I can test this hypothesis by examining historical records. I can compare accounts of historical events. I can look at official documents. I can examine his alleged signature to see if one person is likely responsible for them. I can test the age of ink used to pen letters signed by him. I can examine his grave, perhaps even get physical evidence of his remains, and examine DNA. This is all science, dude.

    Science is about testing hypotheses through observation and/or experimentation. Historical sciences are real science.

    The inflationary universe is not a rejection of uniformitarianism. In different extreme conditions – black holes and close to the big bang – the laws we have break down, because they are really a special case of deeper more universal laws we haven’t worked out yet. The same may be true of the speed of light – but we simply have no reason to suspect so and many reasons to doubt it.

    The fact remains, some creationists simply assume, without any reason, that the speed of light was faster in the past as a special pleading strategy to rescue a young universe. It is not logically or scientifically valid.

    I am not sure what your last statement is a reference to. Here’s the thing – the answers in genesis points have all been long discredited. They are mostly anomaly hunting and pointing to current unknowns as if they call into question more fundamental knowledge. Most of them have already been solved or have sound hypotheses to can explain them. If you were really curious about the answers, you can easily find them. I am not going to write a book debunking anew all this AIG nonsense. It’s already been done.

    But I will give you an example – I’ll take the very first point in the AIG link you provided – the spiral galaxy winding problem. This assumes stars are stable – but they are not. They die out and new ones form. There are two solid hypotheses that both relate to star formation, and basically have to do with pressure waves. Stars in spiral arms are younger on average – because that’s where stars are more likely to form.

    OK – I’ll do the next one do, supernova remnants. This is based on a single paper from 1994 by YEC that has been torn to shred http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/supernova/ In fact, it claims there are no third stage SNRs, but there are, which by itself is evidence for a universe far older than anything compatible with YEC.

    Seriously – if you are going to make these arguments, you should at least spend a few minutes with Google looking for the counter arguments.

  41. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 5:23 pm

    @daedalus:

    Also true – law and history are not my forte. I gave it a go as best I could.

    Is it unreasonable to think that we are both in a way correct – that truthiness determination as a matter of law and that evidence for a case being scientific are reasonable explanations?

  42. nybgruson 04 Jan 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I also appreciate Dr. Novella’s post – it seems mostly in line with what I have written (though of course I make no claim everything I wrote is absolutely 100% correct, but it should be pretty close).

    But to make a more relevant point to Zach – note that I knew the AIG arguments would have already been refuted. You don’t need to come here and ask us to explain each point AIG can throw out. There are myriad sources that have already done that. If you are genuinely interested in finding the answers you would do the groundwork and find the answers yourself. Now, if you come to a point and simply can’t understand something, I’m sure myself or someone else here would oblige you an explanation. But nobody is particularly keen on rewriting what has already been done.

    Let me put it this way – it is without doubt that just about anything from AIG is incorrect and has a robust rebuttal already written somewhere. Find it and compare the two and do whatever background reading you need to come to your own conclusions. Along the way folks like us would be happy to help clarify points if you need.

    As I said (here or somewhere else, I can’t recall) I was genuinely interested in finding an answer to the question “Is anthropogenic global warming real?” I had assumed so because that is what I seemed to be hearing (much as you assume creationism is true). But I didn’t really know. So I spent a few months reading up on it, watching youtube videos from proponents and deniers and the rebuttals to the proponents and deniers, learned about things like “albedo” (a word I had never even heard before), and evidence for and against global warming. I got my answer. In the meantime I debated a few things here, used the debate to refine my own understanding and to ask questions to clarify points and learn from others who referened legitimate sources. If you really care to find the answer to your questions, you would put in the time and effort like I did to be able to come to your own conclusion.

  43. daedalus2uon 04 Jan 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I think what is telling is that the authors of AIG don’t link to rebuttals or refutations of their arguments, or change or abandon their arguments in the face of contradictions. That is what scientists do.

    If a scientists arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny, scientists want to know and will abandon those ideas that don’t correspond with reality.

  44. JMoon 04 Jan 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Okay, this may be (totally is) completely off topic, and therefore I am as guilty as nybgrus for hijacking Steven’s comments section, but what the hell, I had a good laugh.

    http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3sbmq1/

  45. Zachon 04 Jan 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Hey Steve,
    Thanks for the response. Though we disagree I appreciate the civil conversation.

    I did not read your article yet on methodological naturalism. I will try to get it to soon.

    I would disagree with you about empirical evidence. Another solution would be a reliable witness who was there to see what happened and tell us about it. The Christian claim is that there was such a person there to witness this which is revealed in John 1 as the Logos, Jesus Christ. Please don’t take this as something I just proved, I am just giving a brief response to your question. The reasons why I accept the revelation of the numerous authors of the Bible is something that would need to be explained and I am more than willing to do that. However, moving on; I am well familiar with the differences between philosophy and science, my claim is that many scientists and professors are well acquainted with the science but frequently engage with philosophy when they don’t realize the difference in the two. This is the error you have made.

    In my previous post I pointed out a grave logical error you made – in which you did not discuss in your response. You claimed that science is the only method of ascertaining knowledge, yet that is a self-defeating statement, science cannot prove that statement to be true. It is sort of like the relativist who claims that there are no absolutes – a self defeating statement that is defeated by it’s own claim. Your statement is not provable by science and therefore is wrong by it’s own claims. You need to acknowledge this error if you want to be honest about the relationship between science, logic/philosophy.

    You say I rely on Creationist sources – yet most of my responses are not from YEC sources, I use some of their points sure, but logic philosophy is not YEC specific.

    You claim that they have an agenda – which assumes you think there are those who do not have agenda. This is another false claim. Everyone has certain unprovable presuppositions and assumptions (agendas) and the only way one can doubt unprovable assertion A is from unprovable assertion B. Aldous Huxley (an non-theist) himself made this point.

    I am correct on history, you are mistaken and my next example should help show you why.

    You claim that science can prove that George Washington was a man who actually existed is false.
    By your own definition I could claim that science has proven that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be (God in flesh).
    For example, I could state the hypothesis that a man named Jesus Christ lived in Israel about 2,000 years ago and claimed to be God in the flesh, was born, died and burried, and rose again from the dead on the third day. I could then test this hypothesis by examining the historical records (largely the gospels and other books of the new testament, and even some non-biblical accounts like Josephus). I can compare the documents to see if they agree with each others historicity. I can go the alleged tomb of Jesus and see it is empty. I can then test the documents to see how far back they were written and compare them with the other thousands of early manuscripts and apply textual criticism in order to determine if they are reliable. I could then attempt to ascertain how this one person literally changed the history of mankind as we know it drastically and forever. There is no one even in the same ball park as Jesus of Nazareth in terms of impact on humanity.

    Now where I disagree with you, is that this is NOT science (yet I suspect with this person you’d put them in a different category and claim the opposite of what you did about George Washington), and neither is what you suggested about ascertaining who George Washington was via science. It doesn’t mean we can’t know, I assert that we can (as you stated to know something is not 100% but pretty darn close). This knowledge is not determined via the scientific method. It’s more like a court room and how truth is determined there – weighing of the evidences and coming to a conclusion that best fits the data – inference to the best conclusion, this how the vast majority of human knowledge is determined. So please do some research into this as you are gravely mistaken on the ability of science to make historical claims. It’s not that science is weak or bad – it simply is not the right tool for that job. Tape measures are great and awesome, but if I try to saw wood with one it won’t work.

    In response to your inflationary universe not being a rejection of uniformitarianism, how is that any different that when the creationist claims basically the same thing? I will use your own words back at you. YEC claim that there were different extreme conditions where the laws we have break down, because they are really a special case of deeper more universal laws we haven’t worked out yet…. you can’t have it both ways. The point YEC’s make is not that magic just changes everything whenever it feels necessary, it simply states that laws we know and see cannot possibly explain all – the same exact thing you just said. Yet when a YEC says it they are spewing nonsense in your eyes. Do not see the glaring contradiction and hypocracy you are using here (I don’t mean that offensively)?

    You said, “The fact remains, some creationists simply assume, without any reason, that the speed of light was faster in the past as a special pleading strategy to rescue a young universe. It is not logically or scientifically valid.”

    I can turn this around on you.
    The fact remains that many philosophical naturalist (which you have clearly revealed that you are) simply assume, without any reason, that the speed of light was faster (different) in the past as a special pleading strategy to rescue an old universe from the problem of horizon. If its a problem for YEC it’s equally a problem for you.

    I could sit and argue about who is more credible and academically honest – AIG or Talk Origins, but that’s a waste of both of our time. Even if you believe AIG to be wrong, you have to see their main point is true. The evidences absolutely do not interpret themselves and are interpreted by ones presuppositions/assumptions. If you assume philosophical naturalism then you won’t look for keys anywhere else but under the light of naturalism.

    Creationist and Philosophical naturalists go round and round on the arguments, I am convinced it ultimately comes down to the presuppositions that one holds, and as I have stated I believe yours to be faulty and illogical in your use of them.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  46. BillyJoe7on 04 Jan 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Two great articles and everything has already been said in refutation of YEC.
    So I won’t be beating a dead horse. Just one little item:

    “The only factual item you can present in support of your god’s existence is that he cannot be proven to not exist”

    In fact you can.
    The first thing to do is to ask the believer to define god.
    You can easily disprove this particular god, as defined.
    In other words, the definition of god contains the seeds of its own distraction.

    nybgrus,

    Regarding GW (Global Warming, not George Washington!).
    I did exactly the same and came to the same conclusion. But my initial impression was that is was nonsense. 0.8% rise in temperature causing all this concern! One initial confusion Was the different way climate scientists use the word ‘anomaly’.

  47. BillyJoe7on 04 Jan 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Zach,

    I actually do not believe you deserve the civility shown you here: You speak absolute nonsense. It sounds like you have never even bothered to read any counter-arguments. You do not even understand what methodological naturalism is. And now it seems you don’t even know how unreliable eye-witness testimony is (even when witnessed yesterday, let alone two thousand years ago). But I’ll agree with keeping it civil.

    “You claimed that science is the only method of ascertaining knowledge, yet that is a self-defeating statement, science cannot prove that statement to be true.”

    Okay let’s just rephrase: the evidence is that science is the only way to obtain reliable information.
    And what is this evidence? Simply that science works and nothing else does. We have computers, GPS systems, and spacecraft. What do other presumed ways of knowing have to show that they work?

    “It is sort of like the relativist who claims that there are no absolutes – a self defeating statement that is defeated by it’s own claim.”

    Again, simply rephrase: the only absolute is that there are no absolutes.
    Actually, science has evidence that this is false: spacetime is an absolute.

    “You claim that they have an agenda – which assumes you think there are those who do not have agenda. This is another false claim. Everyone has certain unprovable presuppositions and assumptions (agendas)…”

    This is the difference: AIG start with a conclusion and find evidence to support it (by cherry picking evidence that support that conclusion and ignoring or misrepresenting evidence that does not support that conclusion). Science follows the evidence to wherever it leads. The only premise is naturalism and it has worked for four hundred years.

    “you are gravely mistaken on the ability of science to make historical claims.”

    Your hidden I agenda here is that you don’t want no historical science refuting your Christian view of Jesus. Because the scientific evidence is that there is only marginal evidence for the existence of Jesus and virtually no evidence of what he was on about. Everything was written decades and centuries after his presumed death and all of it conflicting.
    The evidence for Jesus does not even approach the evidence for George Washington.

    ” YEC claim that there were different extreme conditions where the laws we have break down, because they are really a special case of deeper more universal laws we haven’t worked out yet”

    How disengenuous is that? YEC claims that there are miracles, not that there are scientific laws that have not been worked out yet. There is evidence that the present laws of physics break down in black holes and the Big Bang. Science won’t accept the claim of miracles because there is no evidence for miracles. So it’s a work in progress.

    “The fact remains that many philosophical naturalist (which you have clearly revealed that you are) simply assume, without any reason, that the speed of light was faster (different) in the past…”

    Citation needed.

    ” The evidences absolutely do not interpret themselves and are interpreted by ones presuppositions/assumptions. ”

    Simply, there is no evidence for supernaturalism; there are four hundred years of naturalistic explanations supplanting previous supernaturalistic explanations; there is the self-correcting nature of the scientific method (peer review); and science works.
    No contest.

  48. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 12:04 am

    “You claimed that science is the only method of ascertaining knowledge, yet that is a self-defeating statement, science cannot prove that statement to be true.”

    I did not see any statement like this above. Please use a quote so that we can see what you are misunderstanding.

    “I am correct on history, you are mistaken and my next example should help show you why….”

    Despite your smugness, you are very wrong on this one. Please consult philosophers of science (or their literature) on historical sciences and you will learn how and why history is a science. (There is a term historical science) In your example using Jesus and George Washington, the only difference is the quality of the evidence, and the scientific method should be used for these types of questions. If not, you are not doing science, but you are not doing history either. History without science is storytelling, which is fine but they are not the same thing.

    “It’s more like a court room and how truth is determined there – weighing of the evidences and coming to a conclusion that best fits the data– inference to the best conclusion, this how the vast majority of human knowledge is determined”

    That is not what a court room does. As daedalus2 said above: ‘Juries don’t determine guilt or innocence as a matter of fact, they determine guilt or innocence as a matter of law.’ Your impressions of how science and law works are mistaken, yet you are quick to accuse others of being wrong.

  49. nybgruson 05 Jan 2013 at 1:38 am

    I think I may have to agree with BJ. Zach seems to not be actually reading anything being written or referenced, and merely pushing the same tired points over and over without substance.

    This is, of course, quite par for the course with creationists. But at least we gave him the benefit of the doubt to start with.

    It seems I was mistaken about law and courts – I was going off how I envisioned evidence and court decision making to be. I have been corrected on this and accept that I was mistaken. Unlike Zach, I am happy to have learned something today.

    In any event, I doubt I’ll be posting too much for the next couple of days – I have a few responsibilities to take care of, but also I have friends in town I haven’t seen for a year.

    Best of luck Zach – I do hope you try and educate yourself instead of just parrot trite talking points long disproven.

  50. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:49 am

    The sling of ad hominems does nothing to prove your ad populum claims.

    Engage the points instead of pontificating your view.

    Disappointing.

  51. BillyJoe7on 05 Jan 2013 at 5:26 am

    Zach,

    You can’t have been around much if you consider the above comments a “sling of ad hominems”. I was merely making the observation that you seem not to know the opposing view whilst “pontificating” your own view. You consider two thousand year old eye-witness testimony written down a couple of decades or centuries after the event to be reliable, whilst scientists regard eye-witness testimony written down immediately after the event as unreliable. But it sounds like you are totally unaware of this fact.
    You claim not know that history is a scientific endeavour. In fact you claim that it is not. That is surprising for a start. But then you perist with your claim even after it has been clearly demonstrated to you by several different posters why your claim is false.

  52. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 9:09 am

    I want to put in a caveat about my last comment on history. I did not mean to imply that all of what is regarded as history is a science, but that history “can be” and “is” approached scientifically. I have no doubt that some of what is/has been viewed as history is storytelling, or even formalized propaganda (historical pseudoscience). The point is that history can be and is done in a scientific manner. There have been time periods and areas of the world in which this has not always been the case, but that can be true of many disciplines

  53. tmac57on 05 Jan 2013 at 10:47 am

    Concerning daedalus2u’s point about the U.S. criminal justice system not being about “truth”,I would suggest interested readers find a copy of ‘Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)’ by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.Chapter 5 (Law and Disorder) expounds on that point pretty effectively,and shows why a more scientific approach to law is badly needed.Some of the same problems that we see with other questions of fact are discussed there,such as cognitive dissonance,motivated reasoning,confirmation bias,use of pseudo-scientific methods and rejection of the scientific findings of flaws in the treatment of eyewitnesses,suspect interrogation,and the mental traps that color juries understanding of evidence and testimony. It’s a frightening and eye opening look into the sausage that is our criminal justice system.

  54. DavidTayloron 05 Jan 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I haven’t read all of the responses, so it is possible that someone has already drawn your attention to Bertrand Russell’s autobiography, in which he makes a similar point about fundamentalists and creationism. As I recall it, from reading it some 40 years ago, Russell described giving a lecture in which he closed his eyes, shook, and opened them with the revelation that he had just been given by god, that everything, including all of the people in the audience, their memories, the building, the city, everything that exists, was created a few seconds ago by god, and Russell was deemed the new prophet, singled out by god with this amazing new truth about the seconds-old nature of the universe. Now, Russell said, prove that I’m wrong….

  55. nybgruson 05 Jan 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Ad hominem is only a logical fallacy if it is used to inappropriately discredit the ideas put forth by a person.

    In other words, if I say that evolution is true and you respond by saying “You are an evil person because you have had premarital sex and therefore your assertions about evolution are false” that is an ad hominem.

    But if I say that you are merely parroting canned talking points that are long discredited with little evidence you have actually read anything we have written, that is not an ad hominem. That is merely a statement of fact that is directly pertinent to the conversation at hand.

    Stating that you blindly assert the power of eye witness testimony in the face of mountains of evidence demonstrating it to be highly unreliable in the best of circumstances and then doubling down on that without consideration is not ad hominem, it is a statement of fact relevant because the point is directly pertinent to our discussion.

    Responding to the numerous examples of why history is, in fact, a science by merely stating “nuh uh! no it isn’t! and you are just wrong!” and then us pointing out that you are disingenously engaging us without any real desire to examine or learn anything is also not ad hominem.

    The fact of the matter is you are not getting any traction by Gish Galloping canned and disproven creationist talking points and that is frustrating you. The frustration is perfectly understandable. But your feelings of frustration are not evidence that you are right and we are evil slingers of ad hominem. That is evidence that your cognitive dissonance is being challenged and you aren’t getting your way and nothing more.

    As I said, if you are genuinely interested in finding out if you are wrong rather than blindly wishing to prove that you are right you will do the legwork yourself and actually have a chance at discovering the truth of the matter.

    Case in point, I am curious as to why I was wrong about jury proceedings and what the implications are. So rather than doubling down and insisting I was right, I will be reading the book recommended by tmac57. If, after I read it, I feel that it still supports my stance then I would come back here and discuss it with tmac57 and try and learn why he thinks it says something different than what I am reading. That is intellectual honesty and the best way to actually learn something. All along the way I would try my best to think of counter-arguments to my arguments to see if I can cast light on my own erroneous thinking. I may still be wrong and merely incapable of thinking of why I am, but at least that improves my chances of being right and makes progressionin the conversation easier and more rapid.

    So it is up to you to decide what you wish to do – actually find the answers you profess to be looking for, or merely maintain your preconceived conclusions and trump up a self-styled victory by consoling yourself that a group of skeptics with expertise relevant to your inquiry were mean to you.

  56. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Ccbowers,

    The smugness and pretentiousness coming through on these posts is typical of internet atheists. That’s my point. Calling out the other person as uneducated (though you don’t know my education) is a pointless remark. It’s distracting from the discussion and stifles conversation. If I am wrong prove my points wrong. Simply insulting the YEC position over and over does nothing but show your own insecurities. Look if YEC are all nuts and crazy bats then it should be easy to disprove their crock pot theories. Yet if you look at my posts, I am pointing out the fallacies used in Steven’s posts attacking YEC for the star light problem – more on this later.

    You need to read my statements in context. I am comparing the notion that science can prove George Washington is president with science then can prove if Jesus Christ is who he said he was (God in flesh).

    I already stated I don’t think science can prove Jesus Christ is Lord, but it was Steven who argued that science can prove these sorts of historical events. Science can not tell you history of events (these types of events at least). Sure you can use science to discover evidences – but those evidences do not speak for themselves. Let’s take the movement of the solar system. I agree with Kepler that it all moves like a clock and we can trace back with mathematics where it has been. But the problem is you can’t use the scientific method alone to determine this historical claim. Why? It’s based on unprovable assumptions. You can’t prove (and remember by prove I mean prove in regards to the scientific method) uniformitarianism or philosophical naturalism to be true – you can’t. It doesn’t mean they are untrue, it simply means the scientific is not the sole tool for that job.

    Look, some of you have claimed I am being rude, but I really don’t mean to be rude, but I am not a scientist and that doesn’t bother me, I am more well versed in philosophy and logic, hence why if you notice I am not trying to prove the scientific evidence one way or the other, I am merely pointing out the flawed logic in the claim that star light proves YEC is wrong.

    I will assume you are familiar with gentlemen like Richard Dawkins. Now, as a Christian I don’t think he’s a moron or stupid, etc. But this is a clear example of what I am talking about, a scientist who is brilliant and does some great science I am sure, but then tries to be a philosopher too. He starts brushing all the different forms of knowledge under the umbrella of the scientific method, but then expands the scientific method beyond what it is even capable of doing. All of this because he’s not trained in philosophy. Gentlemen (and ladies if there are any here), please be careful of not making this same mistake. Your very notion that science can prove history (specifically my example asking if science can prove George Washington was president of the United States) is a gross misunderstanding of the different branches of knowledge and how we ascertain them. History is absolutely NOT knowable by the scientific method. Can we take evidences from the past and use different aspects of the scientific method on it? Of course, I have never denied that. But doing so will never ever tell you that George Washington was the president of the United States, you have to invoke logical processes and reasoning to the best conclusion based off the evidences. Those calling “but hey that’s science”. No it’s not. Be careful of smudging the two together. Let’s say you find his grave. Science will tell you there was a corpse there, and you can even apply some dating methods on the bones. But it will never come back with a verdict (based off the scientific method alone) that these bones actually belong to who the grave stone says they do. You must heavily rely on historical witnesses to conclude that. That’s not bad, it’s just not science.

    Here is an example of the logic gone bad in Steven’s argument. By Steven’s own standards he also then proves Old Earth views wrong as well due to the same weakness demonstrated by the horizon problem. Steven explains the Horizon problem with a theory that basically suspends uniformitarianism – yet what’s ironic is this is the same problem he originally wrote about that he claimed creationists do…. it’s a clear and blatant hypocrisy (I am not being smug or insulting, it is what it is).

    Now make sure you understand me. I am not saying that Steven’s theory is wrong, I really am not. I have my own opinions, but my entire point is that the logic being used here is inconsistent at best. Please try to understand this point. What Steven should have said is that the YEC claim “God did by miracles thus making history that never happened” is not a convincing argument for him, and though he doesn’t believe YEC claims the star light problem is a problem for both views (equally one might suggest). So YEC is wrong for other reasons, but not the starlight problem. For if YEC is wrong for that reason, so is Steven’s view. They might both be wrong because of the starlight problem – but one is not superior to the other in this respect.

    I’m going to say this again condensed just in case my point has not been understood yet.
    If YEC is wrong (and I know you have deep convictions that it is), it is not wrong for the starlight problem, it’s wrong for other reasons. For if it is wrong because of the starlight reason and it’s suspension of uniformitarianism, you would also have to say that big bang theory is wrong for it’s star light problems as well.

    Please re-read what I wrote with this understanding.

    Respectfully,

    Zach

  57. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 1:02 pm

    nybgrus,

    You are misunderstanding the ad hominem argument.

    The point of an ad hominem is to discredit the person by attacking their character or ideas as

    That is what’s happening in this thread. It’s the equivalent of you going to a creationist website and them responding with, “nybgrus if you really wanted to learn why your false and biased un-scientific claims are so wrong you only need to look and read, AIG and others has long discredited all of your views, yet you simply only parrot the atheist/agnostic viewpoints over and over. Go learn truth or be stuck in your ignorance. If you want to learn there are numerous books written by credible creationists on the subject proving you wrong.”

    How much weight would that hold with you? I am guessing very little. Doing to same to me is not convincing and doesn’t get me flustered as you suggest, it simply shows me the character and education of those I am dealing with.

    And again, the vast majority of my discussions are not focused on the YEC vs Darwinian/naturalists debate, it’s trying to drive home one main point – the logic being used by Steven to attack YEC for the starlight problem is fallacious.

  58. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Sorry, my post got cut out from using greater than and lesser then signs.

    In the start what I tried to write was,

    “The point of an ad hominem is to discredit the person by attacking their character or ideas as (insert negative adjective here).”

  59. bgoudieon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Zach

    You seem to have a major issue with understanding what the scientific method is and for that matter what constitutes proof beyond rational doubt. It has already been explained just how one approaches a question in history in line with the classic, question, hypothesis, test, analyze repeat. Despite your inserting of some quasi-philosophical baggage about what constitutes “proof” this is indeed using the scientific method in a historical context to reach a conclusion that is beyond a reasonable level of doubt.

    The introduction of magic or miracles into any discussion of the actual universe is pointless. It turns the whole thing into an exercise in fiction. Let us accept for a moment the claim that the laws of the universe were altered in such a way as to make the universe appear to be far older than 6000 years. Once you have allowed for that there is no valid objection you can bring forth to the counter proposition that all evidence for the Earth being a 6000 year planet was done by the gods to disguise the fact that it began as a turtle on the back of four elephants. or that were all just avatars in giant game of Sims 6Billion. It is nothing but mental masturbation.

  60. daedalus2uon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:26 pm

    The level of evidence for GW and Jesus of Nazareth are completely different. There are no contemporaneous accounts of JoN, no physical artifacts that can be directly attributed to JoN.

    For GW we have multiple eye witness accounts that were written during GW’s lifetime. We have multiple original documents signed by GW.

    There is a place in the Capital that is called Washington’s Tomb

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington%27s_Tomb

    And ZOMG!!! it is empty!!! (but we also know where Washington’s actual grave site is, so there are not (yet) cults claiming a resurrected and immortal GW). On the other hand, there are some rumors that Abraham Lincoln was a Vampire Hunter.

  61. daedalus2uon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Scientists use what is termed Bayesian analysis to evaluate the reliability and likelihood of claims, ordinary and extraordinary. Feynman has an example in a discussion of UFOs.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman_on_UFOs

    “It is not unscientific to make a guess, although many people who are not in science think it is. Some years ago I had a conversation with a layman about flying saucers — because I am scientific I know all about flying saucers! I said “I don’t think there are flying saucers”. So my antagonist said, “Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it’s impossible?” “No”, I said, “I can’t prove it’s impossible. It’s just very unlikely”. At that he said, “You are very unscientific. If you can’t prove it impossible then how can you say that it’s unlikely?” But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible. To define what I mean, I might have said to him, “Listen, I mean that from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.” It is just more likely. That is all.”

    When you apply the standard, “are the reports of the extraordinary events more likely the result of known, common, irrational and deceitful characteristics of humans in the information chain-of-custody, or the result of miracles for which there is no non-supernatural explanation and which have never been reliably observed and recorded”; ancient, multi-hand, written, translations of translations of accounts of miracles are not compelling evidence.

  62. daedalus2uon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:33 pm

    We know that when people hear a story and then tell it later, the details are often changed. There are many stories of miracles from the past. We know there are no reliable contemporary stories of miracles. We know that people in the past have changed records so as to make them more consistent with their beliefs. The authors of Conservapedia are undertaking a revision of the Bible to remove the “liberal” bias that has crept into it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservapedia#Conservative_Bible_Project

    Revising history to reflect religious dogma is not limited to religious doctrines.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Barton_%28author%29#The_Jefferson_Lies_withdrawn_from_publication

    There is much more evidence that Mohammad existed and was a real person than that JoN existed and was a real person. There is more compelling evidence that Joseph Smith existed than JoN existed. There is even more evidence that L. Ron Hubbard existed.

    If religious belief is contingent on evidence that a certain person existed, then why the focus on JoN with such limited evidence? There are photos of L. Ron Hubbard, so it is very clear that he did exist. Scientology is young enough that there is evidence of the leaders revising texts to further their own authority and power. We don’t have such evidence from early Christians, but we don’t have evidence that it did not happen. If the leaders of such groups were like most humans, and were like the leaders that followed, it is to be expected that they did revise the “story line” to better match what they wanted, exactly what Conservapedia is doing today.

  63. gr8googlymooglyon 05 Jan 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I agree that Zach does not deserve the civility shown him here. He demonstrates either profound ignorance or calculated deception (or both) in his arguments.

    I asked this previously. Perhaps Zach can provide some insight:

    Fact: The only real fact to support the existence of God (any god, actually) is that he cannot be proven to not exist. There is nothing else that can be considered evidence. Nothing.

    Considering the above fact, when did not being able to prove something does not exist become a good reason to believe it does?

  64. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I am going to comment on Zach in series, because I dislike long posts:

    “Calling out the other person as uneducated (though you don’t know my education) is a pointless remark. It’s distracting from the discussion and stifles conversation.”

    I never referred to your level of schooling or education in general, but nice strawman. Perhaps you are referring to when YOU said to Dr Novella:

    “So please do some research into this as you are gravely mistaken on the ability of science to make historical claims.”

    “I already stated I don’t think science can prove Jesus Christ is Lord, but it was Steven who argued that science can prove these sorts of historical events.”

    There is another difference that I failed to mention (because I thought you were referring to Jesus as a hisotrical person): Jesus as “Lord” is not a historical question. Science cannot answers questions of the supernatural by definition. So we have a false analogy there

  65. JJ Borgmanon 05 Jan 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Hey, Zach,

    At 12:51 you objected to posters referring to your (unknown) level of education, but then you did the same thing back at them at 1:02. Can you please suss out that logic for me, because you specialize in philosophy and logic.

    Also, and I’m probably committing an ad hominem attack here, what you’re writing here isn’t the least bit convincing and I’m not some kind of brainiac like most of the posters here. I mean you’re debating against things here that are as certain as the rotation of the earth which presents the sunrise and sunset at slightly various but regular intervals every day (and has for all of recorded history, well, except that one day for Joshua).

    Contrast that with god belief (Abrahamic, specifically) which hasn’t been reliably witnessed or recorded since the various writings of the bible were authored and, by golly, I just don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish. You came to Dodge City with a slingshot. I know that worked in 1 Samuel, but it can’t work in Dodge.

    I’m don’t know how much time you’ve spent reading or listening to Dr. Novella, but I can’t think of anyone who has put more effort into publicly expounding on logical fallacies. I think you might have just caught a tiger by the tail. Google that.

  66. daedalus2uon 05 Jan 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Regarding civility, we don’t behave civilly toward people because they “deserve it”, we behave civilly because we are civil.

    The idea that there is consistency of how the universe behaves over time and space has a great deal of compelling evidence. It is not just assumed, it has been measured to be so (within limits). The speed of light has been measured to be consistent in every tested reference frame.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.1284

    Physical constants are not simply assumed to be constant, measurements are made from historic events and constants derived from those measurements.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0205340

    When physical constants are used in calculations in ranges where they have been shown to be constant over time, where is the assumption?

  67. steven johnsonon 05 Jan 2013 at 3:17 pm

    This is a fascinating and wide ranging discussion. The replies bring up many interesting points.

    “I am long on record as specifically not taking this position – because something is unknowable it is therefore untrue. Philosophically, this is not a valid position. My position is the agnostic one – because something is unknowable (unfalsifiable) it is unknown. I never said there is no God and the universe was not created. I simply pointed out that such a hypothesis is not scientific because it is not falsifiable. I would go further and say that such ideas are worse than wrong – they are worthless.”

    This assumes that “truth” has nothing to do with corresponding to reality. Yet if “truth” is something else, maybe a logical possibility, then religious ideas may be useful. The notion that they may be worse than wrong seems to follow if you think that truth means correspondence to reality, and religions have never discovered anything true. Actually, your position seems to concede formally that religion may have some kind of truth other than scientific truth.

    “…when we investigate the universe with the process of science, which includes the necessary assumption of cause and effect (methodological naturalism)…”

    Why is methodological naturalism necessary to science? It is the conclusion to centuries of empirical and formal scientific investigations. But events and processes that do not have cause and effect are studied in any everyday meaning of the phrase are legitimate fields of study. And I would suggest that the notion of cause and effect is conceptually confusing in certain contexts, like cosmology. It is the much despised strong naturalism that makes sense there, not methological assumptions like cause and effect.

    “Further, as several commenters pointed out, the principle of Occam’s Razor applies – unnecessary components to a theory should be excised.

    So scientists do not say there are no miracles. They say that you cannot invoke miracles in scientific explanations. Miracles are not even wrong – they are irrelevant, and when removed by Occam’s razor they are not missed.”

    This is just begging for the rejoinder that miracles are acceptable in nonscientific explanations. I think that is nonsense. I think we can say that Jesus didn’t come back to life, because there are no miracles. Saying that science doesn’t, won’t and can’t deny the Resurrection because it concerns itself with science and miracles are irrelevant to science isn’t preserving the purity of scientific logic. I think it makes science irrelevant.

    “We absolutely can use scientific methods to investigate the past, because the past leaves evidence in the present. We can form hypotheses about the past that we can test with observations and evidence.”

    Falsifiability is not possible on any significant scale in the historical sciences, whether it’s geology or cosmology or evolutionary theory. If the scientific core is the testing of predictions, then there is very little to these sciences. In practice, what these sciences do is accumulate empirical evidence of the past and provide scientific explanations that fit. There is rarely any moment of falsification because any worthwhile reconstruction consists of far too many assumptions in far too complex an interaction to permit predictions to falsify. Creationists are wrong in assuming that naturalism is just a methodology that can be chosen. Naturalism is necessary to a scientific explanation because it’s been showed that naturalism is true, corresponds to reality. But it hasn’t been shown that anything other than naturalism is even logically consistent, much less true!

    “The arrogance is in assuming that you can know truth or have some other method of knowledge – that you can see even where there is no light. And again – you don’t have to appeal to strong or philosophical naturalism, only methodological naturalism.”

    Of course I agree with the sentiment. But I don’t understand how a person who specifically denies that truth is what corresponds to reality has any grounds for denying that people who have a non-naturalist methodology haven’t found any “truth.” However, that may be conceived.

    “Science does not deal in absolute proof, only probabilities (although probabilities can get damn close to 100%).”

    In one sense I agree with the sentiment, and just nitpick the notion that measurements aren’t proof. Or even that probability can’t conclusively rule out a hypothesis. I don’t agree with the apparent implication that there is such a thing as absolute proof. I guess that would be a demonstration of logical necessity? I’m inclined to think that logic is concerned with valid argument, not with what’s true, i.e., really so. And from what I understand about logic (and “pure” math too since Frege and Rusell seemed to have joined them,) the foundational issues show there is no logical necessity anyhow.

    But going beyond that, the probability of our scientific understanding being correct is essentially zero. The discovery of dark energy has demonstrated that. The probability of any religion being true is also zero. Mathematically they are obviously equal, so why not pick religion? Personally I would say because naturalism has been showed to be true, that religion has been shown not to be true. More to the point, there is no meaningful sense in which we can talk about probabilities. I can always quibble about the numbers. And after that I can still choose to bet the long odds.

  68. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 3:18 pm

    “You can’t prove (and remember by prove I mean prove in regards to the scientific method) uniformitarianism or philosophical naturalism to be true – you can’t. It doesn’t mean they are untrue, it simply means the scientific is not the sole tool for that job.”

    You keep referring to science’s inability to “prove” this and “prove” that, but that is not how science works. It is difficult to progress in this discussion when you are claiming to know philosophy, but don’t have a good understanding of the philosophy of science… and this is the topic you have shifted to. Science can create hypotheses and models that best fit with data, and these can be tested to see if they match what we observe and how well they can make predictions. You are mixing metaphysical questions in there which confuses the questions, and is not what science deals with.

    “For if it is wrong because of the starlight reason and it’s suspension of uniformitarianism, you would also have to say that big bang theory is wrong for it’s star light problems as well.”

    This again is false equivalence. First of all, there is no assumption of uniformatarianism necessary for science, it would just complicated things. This is not the only issue, however. It is not the conclusions or even assumptions that are the problem here, but the process.

    The YEC are starting with their conclusions and retrofitting their ‘theories’ to match these conclusions using special pleading (this is why the star light is a problem – the suspension of uniformity is just the mechanism of this special pleading). If scientists one day determine that there is nonuniformity of the laws of physics, (for example), it won’t because it fits a conclusion that scientists like, but because that would lead to a better theory/ better science. Only one of these is an approach that advances knowledge

  69. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 3:39 pm

    This conversation has not proven profitable. Again, you guys are not interacting with my main points fairly. You can disagree with me, but not based off pontification. I assert many of you are doing just that.

    If you believe history is provable by the scientific method I’m not sure what else to tell you. I’m not insulting your intelligence, but this is a basic understanding in logic/philosophy. If you don’t have a background in either, that’s fine, but please don’t try to convince me that history is provable by the scientific method, it’s simply false. I will attempt one last demonstration to prove that.

    When you attempt to prove via science that George Washington was the president of the United States please tell me how you would use soley the scientific method to prove this? If you invoke some other level of evidence (which you will, and you will rely on eye witness accounts and historical documents, both unprovable to their accuracy via the scientific method), then you are outside the realm of science.

    He who defines the terms win the arguments – and that is largely our problem here, and the problem I am trying to address is that the terminology many of you use is inaccurate.

    The scientific method as defined, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

    Notice, it is observable, testable, and repeatable.

    Can you observe that George Washington was the president? No. He’s dead. can you test the notion that he was president…. no, this is not testable. Repeatable, no.

    If you rely on any eye witness accounts to prove that George Washington is president, that is by definition NOT the scientific method. It is something else entirely. I agree it has various levels of reliability, but that is NOT what we are talking about.

    If you don’t understand this I am not sure what else to tell you, I am at this point beating the dead horse.

    Someone asked me the evidences for God. I will respond assuming you are actually wondering and not just trying to play a game of “Gotcha” (as many seem to be doing in these responses).

    First off, all world views are not created equally. I am not one of the religious types who believe this. I know, very against current western culture.

    If you demand evidence via the scientific method that there is a God, well you won’t find much, but keep in mind I am measuring this by the actual scientific method, not the distorted one many of you are using here.

    Without a creator you have no absolute morality, you only have personal opinion that stands in contradiction to the realities of the natural world. Read Tim Keller “The Reason for God”, or C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man, or Miracles to start.

    No one proof point will lead someone to the conclusion of a creator, it’s a systematic process of accumulating evidences that lead to that as the most likely conclusion. Getting from there to the bolder claim that Jesus Christ is God is another conversation entirely. Keller addresses that one a bit closer.

    In comments on civility, saying we behave civil because we are civil is circular reasoning, since mankind’s decisions involve the choice of being civil or not. Many are not civil, so therefore saying we are civil when we happen to choose to be civil is because we are civil is circular. It’s true in a sense, but not worth saying and is by no means the reason for civility.

    gr8googlymoogly, no offense, but if you cannot understand the adult level discussion and points I am making you probably shouldn’t talk about them. It’s fine if you don’t comprehend them, it took me a long time to understand how the laws of logic work, but don’t attack them because they are confusing to you.

    No one has responded to my two main points with a logical and proven refutation.

    1. Steven’s comment that science is the only means of ascertaining truth is a self-defeating statement as it is not a scientific statement itself. It is defeated by its own claims.

    2. If YEC is wrong because of the starlight problem, then the big bang theory/billions of years old universe is equally wrong. Both might be wrong, but one is not superior to the other on the grounds of uniformitarianism. Both must apply special conditions/rule sets (suspension of uniformitarianism) to explain the star light problem.

    I guess there is a 3rd, but it’s the one you guys keep focusing on, what is and what is not the scientific method. I have repeatably addressed this and shown that the way one concludes that George Washington was president is by trusting the eye witnesses who wrote about him – not by applying the scientific method.

    Zach

  70. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 4:11 pm

    “please don’t try to convince me that history is provable by the scientific method, it’s simply false.”

    There you go again with “provable.” That is a meaningless word in this discussion. The rest of your comments about history cannot be meaningfully discuss because of your lack of understanding about epistemology and philosophy of science. That may sound harsh, but its blatantly obvious, and your smugness makes it easier for me to be direct in this regard.

    “gr8googlymoogly, no offense, but if you cannot understand the adult level discussion and points I am making you probably shouldn’t talk about them. It’s fine if you don’t comprehend them, it took me a long time to understand how the laws of logic work, but don’t attack them because they are confusing to you.”

    I think you should be projecting this statement inward some more. You are pretty sensitive for someone who is willing to insult others for their admittedly layman’s perspective.

  71. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 4:16 pm

    “1. Steven’s comment that science is the only means of ascertaining truth is a self-defeating statement as it is not a scientific statement itself. It is defeated by its own claims. ”

    You are misrepresenting what he said. I have asked you to provide the quote in which he said this, but you have failed to do so, so how can I respond?

    “2. If YEC is wrong because of the starlight problem, then the big bang theory/billions of years old universe is equally wrong. Both might be wrong, but one is not superior to the other on the grounds of uniformitarianism. Both must apply special conditions/rule sets (suspension of uniformitarianism) to explain the star light problem.”

    I have addressed this above. It is not a question of uniformity, but you keep framing it this way because it is convenient to make a false equivalence. It is about the process in which we come to a conclusion. Above I wrote the following:
    The YEC are starting with their conclusions and retrofitting their ‘theories’ to match these conclusions using special pleading (this is why the star light is a problem – the suspension of uniformity is just the mechanism of this special pleading). If scientists one day determine that there is nonuniformity of the laws of physics, (for example), it won’t because it fits a conclusion that scientists like, but because that would lead to a better theory/ better science. Only one of these is an approach that advances knowledge.

  72. JJ Borgmanon 05 Jan 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Jeez, Zach, now I’ve developed a real inferiority complex. I’m going to have to go to AIG to really understand the truth…’cuz you’re so smart. Your apparent arrogance is remarkable especially in companion to your implied humility.

    I was encouraged by your claim to “attempt one last demonstration”, though. You see, your problem with GW is that it is recent history and entirely plausible. That doesn’t mean all ancient history is implausible, but a lot of it falls in the maybe/maybe not group. I wonder what your case for The Great Flood or The Exodus looks like. The arguments against are compelling.

    Things that are incongruous with our knowledge of how the world works, such as virgin birth and resurrection, are readily disposable without unequivocal evidence. The details tied up in that unreasonable claim, the reality of a living Jesus – Son of God, fall victim to the problem of our lack of other such examples in modernity. Now we don’t have dinosaurs, either, but we do have the fossil record. We have lots of dying and rising savior stories, but nothing modern or that could offer any degree of plausibility for such a being to be real.

    A caveat: we might one day know more about the way our world works that could support such a claim. For now, there is no reason to think so nor to waste time twisting or fabricating scant evidence. In that scenario, you will be considered someone with real vision.

  73. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Ccbowers, who have I insulted? The gentlemen clearly does not have a background in logical/philosophical studies, that’s absolutely not saying he is stupid or insulting him.
    Look, I don’t have a background in mathematics, I am terrible at math, so I am not going to engage in a discussion/argument over different mathematical theories with a mathematician – not without doing some heavy research.

    This pontificating going on here really needs to stop. I have demonstrated how scientific method cannot prove that George Washington was the president at a time in history. You have still failed to use the provided definition of the scientific method to demonstrate that it can. I have demonstrated what exactly you must assume to come to this conclusion. You must weigh the evidence left, you must decide whether or not the historians who wrote about him were accurate, etc. etc. That by default falls outside of the definition of the scientific method…

    Science is unable to prove at least 6 things.

    1. Existential truth.
    2. Moral truth.
    3. Logical truth.
    4. Historical truth.
    5. Experiential truth.
    6. Religious truth.

    I did a quick google, and found an article that with a quick glance appears to explain this in layman’s terms.

    http://powertochange.com/discover/life/five-things-science-explain

    I am not endorsing this website, just glance over the article and do some investigation into it if you are interested.

    Do a quick search of “The scientific method cannot prove history”, and you will find boat loads of information on this that argues my point.

    As far as Steven’s claim that science is the source of knowledge,

    “Science is not about “truth” – it is exactly about what we can know with scientific methods of investigation – where the light is. This is not a choice, because we have no choice. The arrogance is in assuming that you can know truth or have some other method of knowledge – that you can see even where there is no light. And again – you don’t have to appeal to strong or philosophical naturalism, only methodological naturalism.”

    Key statement, “The arrogance is in assuming that you can know truth or have some other method of knowledge – that you can see even where there is no light.”

    Now, look at the context of my response to the previous article. In that article I talk about philosophical naturalism being the equivalence of a drunk refusing to look for his keys anywhere else but under the street lights, because it’s brightest there.

    Make no mistake, Steven clearly is a philosophical naturalist, even if he doesn’t realize he is. And philosophical naturalism is a self-defeating system.

    In his follow up comments he asks me directly if there is any other way (besides the scientific method) of discovering truth about the universe…. it was specific context of age, but the point is still clear.

  74. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 6:46 pm

    JJ Borgman

    I am not being arrogant, I don’t agree with you, for reasons I am providing, learn to the tell the difference.

    You said,

    “Things that are incongruous with our knowledge of how the world works, such as virgin birth and resurrection, are readily disposable without unequivocal evidence. The details tied up in that unreasonable claim, the reality of a living Jesus – Son of God, fall victim to the problem of our lack of other such examples in modernity.”

    This is all beliefs that you hold. It is not science. You very well might be right, but not because science tells you this is all true.

    The only way you can doubt the historical claims of Christianity is from unprovable (via science) assertion A is from unprovable assertion B. I will explain why.

    Do virgin births happen frequently? No, does that mean they never happen? No. We are not talking about whether you should believe that to ever happen, but about the sum total of human knowledge and what we can and cannot know.

    Your hidden premise is an appeal to uniformitarianism – not a bad conclusion to come to after examining the world, but it’s a belief that you hold, it’s not science.

    Again, naturalism. Not a bad idea and might be true, but it’s a belief you hold – not science.

  75. JJ Borgmanon 05 Jan 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Umm, Zach,

    Your response to me is beyond reason. You are arrogant and I’ll write it once more, You Are Arrogant. You ALSO disagree with me, but you are arrogant. You have no monopoly on knowledge, yet you suppose you do.

    You’re not anywhere near how smart you think you are, nor are your arguments anywhere near how convincing you think they might be.

    Don’t tell me to “learn the difference” about anything you sanctimonious jerk.

    Science absolutely tells me how the world works, so you can’t make the claim that it doesn’t. Yes, I might be right, but it’s not about me being right. It’s about facts that you don’t like. Too bad, so sad.

    And what is that stupid crap about virgin births? They don’t ever happen? Name one that can be proved. You should also get off the uniformitarianism jinx. My thing is I see no reason to think there is a god, particularly of the Abrahamic derivation.

    I can guarantee you I have no hidden premise.

    What I do believe is, in fact, based on science. So quit that crap about it not being science. The extrapolation of that is better expressed by other posters here. All things that you don’t like anyway, so I don’t have to refute you personally. You have been refuted and rejected the refutations. Go back to your lair with all your fluffy arguments.

  76. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Zach- Here is what you said:

    “1. Steven’s comment that science is the only means of ascertaining truth is a self-defeating statement as it is not a scientific statement itself. It is defeated by its own claims. ”

    …and when prompted to provide the quote in which Steve said that you use:

    “Science is not about “truth” – it is exactly about what we can know with scientific methods of investigation – where the light is. This is not a choice, because we have no choice. The arrogance is in assuming that you can know truth or have some other method of knowledge – that you can see even where there is no light. And again – you don’t have to appeal to strong or philosophical naturalism, only methodological naturalism.”

    Really!?? Really??? So Steve says that science is not about Truth, and you conclude that he says the opposite, that is the only way to acertain truth.

    I’m not sure if this is intellectual dishonesty or intellectual incompetence, but I’m not sure there is a reasonable alternative to these options. I understand what Steve was saying in his quote completely (Do you?), and he is correct yet you fail to demonstrate that you understand. With respect to questions like the age of the universe, science is the best (the only reasonable) way to approach this question. Do you have an alternative?

    I follow this blog quite often, and leave comments quite often, but rarely engage in this type of back and forth because it requires time with little reward if the other person cannot progress in discussion. As I see this discussion is not progressing much: you keep talking about science not “proving” things despite my comments that this term is not meaningful in this discussion. You do not alter your arguments when demonstrated to be incorrect (in fact you repeat them). You are also willing to misrepresent others to make your arguments easier.

    Nothing to see (or learn) here folks… lets move on

  77. BillyJoe7on 05 Jan 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I think this discussion is not worth pursuing.

    Zach insists that every point he has made has not been responded to, when everyone else can clearly read that all of them have not only been responded to but been demolished. So he just keeps asking the same questions pretending they haven’t been dealt with. Round and round the merry-go-round.
    The biggest joke is Zach, trained in philosophy and ignorant of science, telling scientists what is science and what is not science. It’s just a convenient way to dismiss the scientific evidence against god and religion, by claiming that, when scientists do that, they are not doing science. Arrogance or what? Or protecting his turf?

    Zach is a Christian.
    But here is the scientific refutation of Christianity:
    The evidence from population genetics demonstrates that there were never only two humans alive. Furthermore, the common male ancestor of all humans alive today (called Y chromosome Adam) did not live contemporaneously with the common female ancestor of all humans alive today (called mitochondrial Eve). If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no original sin, which means no need for 1/3 of the trinity to come down to Earth to die for the sins we didn’t commit.

    No wonder Zach wants to redefine science.

    Science IS the only way to knowledge. Philosophy? Firstly, philosophy is useless unless based in science. Meaning that the only philosophy worth paying attention to is naturalistic philosophy. The rest is naval gazing and mental masturbation. And, even then, philosophy cannot produce any “truths”. Otherwise name one “truth” derived at through philosophy. Only science can do that.
    (By “truth”, I obviously mean “truth” as defined in science or “probability of being true”)

    Absolute morals? There aren’t any. It is we, as a community, who decide what behaviour we should discourage and what behaviour we should encourage in order to produce a society in which we would like to live. Listening to the contradictory dictates of imaginary gods via discredited holy books only gets in the way of this goal.

    Enough.

  78. BillyJoe7on 05 Jan 2013 at 8:46 pm

    …I see ccbowers is on the same page.

  79. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 9:12 pm

    “…I see ccbowers is on the same page.”

    Yes, except that you are incorrect about the contributions of philosophy, but that is another topic altogether. Listen to the interview with Massimo Pigiucci on the “Skeptics Guide…” podcast this week. It touches upon the topic.

    Also, Zach has his philosophy wrong as much as his science

  80. ccbowerson 05 Jan 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Actually the SGU interview doesn’t really delve into the subject too much, but it was fitting to the topic. I haven’t read it yet, but I imagine Massimo’s new book will discuss that topic.

  81. BillyJoe7on 05 Jan 2013 at 9:50 pm

    ccbowers,

    I didn’t say philosophy does not contribute, just that it doesn’t contribute “truths”.
    It can certainly help to focus scientists on finding these “truths”.

  82. Zachon 05 Jan 2013 at 9:59 pm

    JJ Borgman.

    I am sorry if you feel that way. This is one of the reasons I shy aware from arguing on the internet – text is a very very bad way to have a conversation about things that are this personal. People get upset, misunderstand your tones/inflections, and it doesn’t usually end up being beneficial. Please keep that in mind when reading what I am saying. I am truly not trying to insult anyone, I am attempting to state my views and point out disagreements I have. If you don’t agree with me that’s fine, but many of you seem to get angry that I don’t. Why is this so personal to you? I don’t get offended that you don’t agree with me.

    JJ Borgman, I don’t pretend to have a monopoly on knowledge. I do requests non-pontificating proof for assertions, and I believe what I am saying is accurate.

    You said,
    “And what is that stupid crap about virgin births? They don’t ever happen?”

    In your post you just accused me of claiming to have a monopoly on knowledge. Is this not the same thing? You know for a fact that there has never been a virgin birth? Let’s say 99.999999999999999% of all births occur naturally as we have observed. The only way to test your claim via the scientific method would be to test each and every birth.

    Now if you want to claim that based off the evidence you believe naturalism, and therefore when an entire culture shifts it’s extremist views (almost over night), and adopts a belief that is 100% contrary to their culture (God becoming a Human), and then is willing to die for that belief, that they are mistaken, then that’s fine. That’s belief, not scientific fact – no matter what side you come down on.

    I will tell you to learn the difference. You are confused and angry about it. That’s fine, but don’t expect me to accept your pontificating claims on face value. Science and history are different. I have provided you logical proof, pointed you to some outside evidences, provided universal defitions, and you reject my claims because …? You have a faith based belief that science is able to address every facet of human knowledge. This is a common mistake naturalists make, so I don’t blame you much for it.

    You said,
    “I see no reason to think there is a god, particularly of the Abrahamic derivation.”

    Not sure what your point is here. Your opinion on what is is not what matters. If I believe the world is flat, and don’t see much of a reason for it being round (though it is round), it doesn’t matter. Truth is truth no matter what I believe about it.

    You said,
    “Science absolutely tells me how the world works, so you can’t make the claim that it doesn’t. Yes, I might be right, but it’s not about me being right. It’s about facts that you don’t like. Too bad, so sad.”

    1. I agree, science has much to help and say about how the world works. I never made the claim that it doesn’t – again, wrong here on your understanding of my claims.
    2. I like facts, I.E. the fact that the scientific method cannot tell you whether any historical person did/said/was who historians said they were. Why don’t you accept this fact?

    You said,
    “What I do believe is, in fact, based on science. So quit that crap about it not being science.”

    1. Some of what you believe is based on science – much is based off presuppositions you hold to be true. Look, EVERYONE has unprovable presuppositions that they hold, it’s not a bad thing, we have to otherwise we would never even be able to approach the scientific method and start doing actual science.

    You said,
    “The extrapolation of that is better expressed by other posters here. All things that you don’t like anyway, so I don’t have to refute you personally. You have been refuted and rejected the refutations. Go back to your lair with all your fluffy arguments.”

    I don’t even know what this is. Seems like a rant.

    CCBowers,

    You said,
    “Really!?? Really??? So Steve says that science is not about Truth, and you conclude that he says the opposite, that is the only way to ascertain truth.”

    1. Please look back at what Steven actually said in context. Steven makes a distinction between truth and knowledge. Did you miss that part?
    2. Steven says science is about knowledge.

    You said,
    “I understand what Steve was saying in his quote completely (Do you?), and he is correct yet you fail to demonstrate that you understand.”
    I think you either mis or misunderstood that Steven makes a distinction between truth and knowledge. As I just asked, please re-read this.

    You said,
    “you keep talking about science not “proving” things despite my comments that this term is not meaningful in this discussion.”

    I must not be understanding you here – please clarify what you mean by “proving” being without meaning. How are you defining the term “proving”?

    You said,
    “Nothing to see (or learn) here folks… lets move on.”

    typical internet banter, lets not go there. I really don’t want to see “umad” troll faces posted in this discussion. Everytime someone does that, a puppy dies. (being facetious)

    BillyJoe7

    You said,
    “I think this discussion is not worth pursuing.”

    Then why post this at all? You say the discussion is not worth pursuing then you proceed to pursue it…

    You said,
    “Zach insists that every point he has made has not been responded to”

    No, I said my main points have not been refuted. People are responded to them, but mostly with pontification and rants about how I don’t understand science etc. etc.

    You said,
    “The biggest joke is Zach, trained in philosophy and ignorant of science, telling scientists what is science and what is not science.”

    Aside from the ad hominem, this sounds very much like the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority).

    You said,
    “It’s just a convenient way to dismiss the scientific evidence against god and religion, by claiming that, when scientists do that, they are not doing science. Arrogance or what? Or protecting his turf?”

    1. I am not arguing either at the moment, please look back at my actual points I have made.
    2. I believe Steven himself said that science does not address the question of God since science only deals within the realms of naturalism. Did you miss this? Is Steven arrogant too? Is he protecting turf?

    You said,
    “The evidence from population genetics demonstrates that there were never only two humans alive. Furthermore, the common male ancestor of all humans alive today (called Y chromosome Adam) did not live contemporaneously with the common female ancestor of all humans alive today (called mitochondrial Eve). If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no original sin, which means no need for 1/3 of the trinity to come down to Earth to die for the sins we didn’t commit.”

    Since this is a proven fact (you claim), what percentage of certainty would you put on this claim? 100%? 99%? 50%? I am just curious, not trying to make a jab.

    You said,
    “No wonder Zach wants to redefine science.
    Science IS the only way to knowledge. Philosophy? Firstly, philosophy is useless unless based in science. Meaning that the only philosophy worth paying attention to is naturalistic philosophy. The rest is naval gazing and mental masturbation. And, even then, philosophy cannot produce any “truths”. Otherwise name one “truth” derived at through philosophy. Only science can do that.
    (By “truth”, I obviously mean “truth” as defined in science or “probability of being true”)”

    I don’t even know where to begin with this one…

    1. I already address this problem, but lets do it again. Lets take your statement “Science IS the only way to knowledge.”
    Do you honestly not see that this statement itself is not a scientific statement? It is self-defeating. It’s kind of like saying, “There are no absolutes!”
    That statement cannot be true by it’s own rules, it itself is an absolute so therefore it cannot be true. The same thing goes with your statement that “Science IS the only way to knowledge.” Is that statement a scientific statement that is proven by the scientific method? Not even close, so it defeats itself and therefore cannot be true. This is basic logic 101.

    2. Your claims about philosophy are belief based pontificating.

    3. I just provided a list above of what philosophy can speak to, things that science cannot. I even provided a link to read. But I’ll provide you with three more.

    The laws of logic are not from the scientific method but from philosophy itself.
    The logical fallacies are from philosophy not science.
    The notion of existence and consciousness is from philosophy not science.

    Gentlemen, the abuse of philosophy/logic here is gone on long enough, let’s be fair and accurate about the terms and their actual meanings.

    You said,
    “Absolute morals? There aren’t any. It is we, as a community, who decide what behavior we should discourage and what behavior we should encourage in order to produce a society in which we would like to live. Listening to the contradictory dictates of imaginary gods via discredited holy books only gets in the way of this goal.”

    1. There aren’t any absolute universal morals? Ok then, so you claim that what is right is only what is favorable by society (the masses). This is a might makes right argument (Ad Populum fallacy) because not all societies agree on morality, many do not believe in human rights for the individual. Why do you? Which culture is superior? Which ever one has the biggest guns/larger army?

    Warning: incoming use of Godwins Law!!!

    If Hitler had won WW2 and Nazism spread throughout the world and become the dominate system of belief, would that have been “right”. By your standards you’d have to say it was. Are you honestly ready to do that? I hope not. Not only is your claim of morality based on a logical fallacy, but you would object to this type of morality if it was the norm.

    Back to the Vikings/Packers game.

  83. Thadiuson 05 Jan 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Zach,

    Not much of a game, so I think ill address some of your points:

    #First, Your point about not being able to say that every birth is natural w/out observing every birth therefore any claim that there has never been a virgin birth is not scientific. You don’t seem to understand the scientific method of the basics of philosophy of science.

    Of course we cannot know with 100% accuracy that every birth was natural, we cannot observe every birth. You would have to be the god you believe in to do so. We are not. So we look at the evidence(using strict rules of evidence to eliminate errors and biases) we have and draw conclusions from that. If new evidence (within the rules of evidence) comes forth that differs from the previous conclusion we may have to change our conclusion.

    This whole process depends on our conclusions being falsifiable. If they are not, we cannot test them with new evidence and the process is stopped. You may ask, “then wouldn’t that conclusion be the most correct, as it cannot be falsified?” No! Because the conclusion cannot be falsified it cannot be compared to alternative conclusions through tests of evidence, and therefore is worthless scientifically. One analogy is the teapot orbiting Saturn. There is presently no way to falsify the conclusion(claim) therefore we cannot say anything about whether it is valid or not.

    #second i would like to address our point about:

    1. I already address this problem, but lets do it again. Lets take your statement “Science IS the only way to knowledge.”
    Do you honestly not see that this statement itself is not a scientific statement? It is self-defeating. It’s kind of like saying, “There are no absolutes!”
    That statement cannot be true by it’s own rules, it itself is an absolute so therefore it cannot be true. The same thing goes with your statement that “Science IS the only way to knowledge.” Is that statement a scientific statement that is proven by the scientific method? Not even close, so it defeats itself and therefore cannot be true. This is basic logic 101.

    #the correct statement JJ should have made was “science(or its prior, less refined beginnings) IS the only way to knowledge that has historically proven to be fruitful” does that clear it up for you?

    2. Your claims about philosophy are belief based pontificating.

    3. I just provided a list above of what philosophy can speak to, things that science cannot. I even provided a link to read. But I’ll provide you with three more.

    The laws of logic are not from the scientific method but from philosophy itself.
    The logical fallacies are from philosophy not science.
    The notion of existence and consciousness is from philosophy not science.

    Gentlemen, the abuse of philosophy/logic here is gone on long enough, let’s be fair and accurate about the terms and their actual meanings.

    #science is based on philosophy, this is like saying a Ford mustang cannot be compared to automobiles. Logical fallacies, do inform science. If you come to a conclusion about some set of data through a logical fallacy, you are doing BAD science. Consciousness IS being studied by science; you should read the pieces on this very website.

    #If you think morals are universal, how do you explain the progression (subjective) of morality as seen in a study of your own holy book compared to modern western civilization? If morality was “given” how does it change?

  84. daedalus2uon 05 Jan 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Regarding virgin births, they are known in some species. However they are always female (except in ants and bees where the males are haploid and females are diploid). A virgin birth in humans would be female because the only way for a fetus to get a Y chromosome is from a male parent. Perhaps a person could be mosaic, with both male and female cells and a type of self-fertilization could happen.

    However many women have been known to lie about their virginity. Exact numbers are not available, but the number could be a few percent per generation. Very often teenage mothers will lie (even to themselves) about how they got pregnant. If a woman was raped and became pregnant that she would have a strong incentive to lie about it.

    Which is more likely? An extremely rare mosaic individual with both male and female germ cells that generate male and female gametes that are both fertile simultaneously and that self-fertilize? Or a woman who finds herself pregnant before having sex with her husband and claims to be a virgin? Or a miracle? Or a made-up story?

    Since virgin births are not that rare in mythology, a made-up story seems the most plausible. Unless you are arguing for the validity of all virgin birth stories from antiquity?

  85. Zachon 06 Jan 2013 at 12:40 am

    Yikes! That Vikings game was painful…

    Thadius, you are right on probability, and pretty much accurate on your estamation of using the evidence. . I agree with you, but my point was not that 100% certainty is necessary, but the claim that virgin births cannot ever happen would be based on only a 100% certainty. Now, saying virgins birth seem unlikely and probably never occur, is a different statement that I agree with. This is a huge difference. Think of the difference between atheism (stricly defined) and agnosticism (stricly defined).

    Now keep in mind, this is very different that falsying evidence. Saying that it is 100% impossble for a teapot to orbit saturn would require 100% knowledge, which we do not have. Saying that it is incredibly unlikely that a teapot is orbiting Saturn is a true statement that is reasonable to accept.

    Thadius, you said the following,
    “#the correct statement JJ should have made was “science(or its prior, less refined beginnings) IS the only way to knowledge that has historically proven to be fruitful” does that clear it up for you?”

    No, I’m not following you and I read it a few times, maybe I’m being slow – probably, it’s been a long day, so could you re-explain what you mean for me. Thanks!

    Thadius, I think the vast majority of the confusion happening in this entire conversation comes down to my strict definition of what the scientific method is, do you agree? I think the strict definition is mandatory as that by defition is what science truly is. Now, where most in this thread part ways with my line of thinking is the precise categorization of the different departments and tools of evalutating evidences – they are separate and should but blurred together.

    I know that consciousness is being studied by science, but it is at best a soft science (which actually strictly speaking isn’t even science in the strictness of the term).

    Take pscychology for an example. This is by no stretch of the imagination the scientific method, it is a form of phylosophy. Something just dawned on me, and I think this might be causing many of the commmentators here confusion and frustration in what I am saying.

    Philosophy is not weaker than science. I think most here would believe it is. But let’s just pause for a minute, use the strict definitions of the two categories of knowledge and examine them. Science can only test something with the scientific method. Philosophy then takes over and determines the meaning of those naked evidences.

    Science is nothing more than, I took 20 ounces of such and such, and mixed it with 10 ounces of such and such, and this occurred.

    Philosphy then takes over and examines the application of this and what it might mean for humanity. For example, uniformitarianism is not a product of the scientific method, it is the product of philosophy. Here’s why. Let’s take that example I just gave of mixing the two elements together. Science says, this happens, it happened again, and again, and again. Now the second one speculates beyond that and postulates, “well it must always work this way in this type of environment, one is invoking philosophy. Science can’t possibly speak to to the claim directly of whether or not uniformitarianism is true or not. It can merely provide some narrow tests to then examine, put together rationally, and form ideas on what that evidence means.

    If you need more clarification on this I’d be happy to discuss it further, let me know what you think.

    Now, morality – my favorite subject to discuss.

    Modern western civilization’s culture largely comes from Christianity. I don’t think any scholars really object to this anymore, but if so I can attempt to prove this point to you if need be – let me know.

    Now, I don’t believe morality changes. I believe it is absolute and universal. Now I suspect you will challenge me (maybe not though) that the morality of Christianity has changed. I.E. we don’t stone people like they did in the Old Testament. This is a very good question that I am often asked, but it is not a matter of moral shifting or moral progress, it is a matter of difference. I will provide an analogy for you.

    I grew up with good parents who didn’t abuse me or anything. My parents had rules of the house. For example, when I was 7 I was not allowed to go to the park by myself to play with friends. My sister was older was allowed to go to the park without my parents and play with her friends. When I got a little bit older I was then allowed to. Now, should I cry fowl and say that my parents morality/rules/etc. changed, that they evolved? Of course not, it would be naive to think so.

    Another analogy would be the difference between a 15 year old and a 16 year old and the rules on driving.

    Now, back to the Old Testament and New Testament. The Bible explains that the nation of Israel lived under a theocracy – God as ruler. With that came certain regulations and laws that were to be applied in having this type of living condition. Another major difference between the Old and New Testaments is that in the Old Testament Christ had not come yet, neither the Holy Spirit, etc. etc. They were under the old covenant. In the New Testament Paul deals with this difference (called law) directly. In the Old Testament they were under Jewish Law, Paul a Jew realized that Christ fulfilled the law that we never could, thus his substitutionary death on the cross + perfect life paid the penalty demanded by the law. Hence allowing Christians to live under grace.

    Now, before you call non-sense, keep in mind I am summarizing a ton of information into a short response, it’s difficult to do. So the basic answer is, Christianity’s morality has not progressed from worse to better. It has shifted from one circumstance to the next – the principles still exist, but the circumstances are entirely different. The same way they were when I was a child wanting to go to the park.

    I know that’s a lot to bite off, I hope I am making sense for you.

    Daedalus2u,

    I agree with you, it is more likely that the women lied about her virginity.

    However, it is a common idea that has been postulated around the internet that the story of Jesus is basically in numerous religions so it brings nothing new to the table. I can assure you this is false, and even if it isn’t, it really doesn’t ultimately matter – each claim stands by itself. If you would like more information let me know.

    Now, there are reasons I accept the virgin birth of Mary as true, but it’s not nearly as simple as “some book says so and she claimed it to be true”. Rather, it is from trusting the historical eye witnesses and historicity of the early church that I deem Jesus is who He said He was. No other solution fits the evidence – unless you are in agreement with the Bart Ehrman types who assume philosophical naturalism so they will accept anything as more plausible than miracles being the answer. This is literally Bart’s response to the issue, ANY, and he means ANY naturalistic explanation, even though it itself is implausible, is more plausible than the claim of miracles occurring… I am unwilling to accept this presupposition and rule it out. It exclude