Dec 21 2017

The Return of Lysenkoism

It seems that bad ideas never truly go away. Whatever cultural or psychological factors favored their rise in the first place may bring them around again and again. A solid debunking may knock them down for a while, but a new generation, ignorant of the past, can resurrect them as needed.

I have to say, despite the fact that I am an experienced and even jaded skeptic, the rise of flat-earthers over the last couple of years surprised me. I know that there are no practical limits to self-deception and the distorting effect that a powerful narrative can have on perception and motivated reasoning. But still I can be surprised when new examples push the limits of sloppy thinking.

Now, vying for the title of dumbest pseudoscience to resurrect, we have the apparent return of Lysenkoism in Russia. A recent article in Current Biology details how sympathy for Trofim Lysenko, while still fringe, is on the rise in Russia, apparently riding a wave of anti-Western and pro-Stalin sentiment.

A brief history of Lysenko

I have often used Lysenko as an historical example of what can happen when ideology trumps science and reason. The story is such a perfect and extreme example that it almost sound apocryphal, but it is entirely true. A recent article in The Atlantic also gives a good overview, but here are the highlights.

Trofim Lysenko was basically a crank. He was a poorly educated peasant, but was an enthusiastic communist who came to the attention of Stalin, who liked his ideas and supported him. Lysenko rejected Darwinian evolution and genetics. He did not even think genes existed. He believed that the environment had unlimited ability to shape plants and animals in permanent ways. This fit very well with communist ideology.

With Stalin’s support, Lysenko was put in charge of Soviet agriculture. Under Lysenko the collectivist farms, which were already failing, failed even more. As the Atlantic recounts:

Lysenko forced farmers to plant seeds very close together, for instance, since according to his “law of the life of species,” plants from the same “class” never compete with one another. He also forbade all use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Wheat, rye, potatoes, beets—most everything grown according to Lysenko’s methods died or rotted, says Hungry Ghosts (a book about Lysenko).

Lysenko believed he could train plants to have whatever traits were needed. His ideas were rejected by the world outside the Soviet Union, and he was mocked as an incompetent. But back at home, Lysenko enjoyed tremendous power and prestige. Under his command Soviet biology was gutted, genetics was destroyed and set back half a century by some estimates. He had scientists who disagreed with him jailed, fired, or even killed.

It was an ugly picture of what happens when science is subservient to ideology, arguable the most extreme example in history. As a result of Lysenko’s crank ideas, the famine that was already underway was worsened. Lysenkoism was also exported to other communist countries like China, who also experienced horrible famine. Millions of people starved due to Lysenko’s crank ideas, making him arguably the scientist with the largest body count in human history.

The Return of Lysenko

Lysenko’s power faded after Stalin died, and Lysenko himself died in 1976. He was still revered to some extent, but that too faded and was gone by the 1990s. But now, according to the Current Biology article, Lysenko and his ideas are making a comeback. The authors suspect that there are two main reasons for the revival.

The first is epigenetics, which is the study of environmental influences on gene expression and phenotype. Epigenetic factors can help adapt an organism to current environmental conditions, such as drought, famine, or abundance. These factors can even be inherited to a limited degree, affecting the next few generations. These factors are essentially a tweak on genetic inheritance, allowing for short term phenotypic adjustments to changing environmental conditions.

Frustratingly, epigenetics is often poorly reported on and explained to the public, hyped into something that it is not. Epigenetics is not the inheritance of acquired characteristics, nor does it refute any of the main pillars of Darwinian evolution. But a superficial reading of epigenetics can twist it into such things, and that is apparently what is happening in Russia in order to argue that Lysenko was right after all.

Of course, Lysenkoism is not epigenetics in any way. Lysenko rejected the existence of genes and had bizarre ideas about how plants behave. He did not anticipate epigenetics, nor does any recent epigenetics research rescued Lysenko from being a pure crank.

But probably the real reason for Lysenko’s return is that he represents former Soviet glory and is a symbol of anti-West ideology. Embracing Lysenko is a way of sticking it in the eye of Western foes and standing up for Russian exceptionalism.

It seems the core lesson of Lysenko has faded along with the memory of the horrors he created. It is a dangerous thing when ideology trumps science. We live in a big and complex world, and often the stakes are high. Our civilization is dependent upon technology, and we are straining its resources. One wacky idea about agriculture, if implemented on a large scale, can be disastrous.

And of course it does not take much imagination to think of other examples of ideology trumping science and evidence. Global warming denial, anti-vaccine sentiments, anti-GMO hysteria, and alternative medicine are all a triumph of narrative over logic and evidence.

These problems are all exacerbated by a general anti-elite, anti-expert, and anti-intellectual sentiment. It is too easy and too accepted to reject knowledge with hand-waving conspiratorial thinking. The bar has been lowered to the point that people can actual believe that NASA is engaged in a massive conspiracy to convince everyone that the world is a sphere and gravity exists. What about the pictures of a round earth from space? They are “fake news.”

I hope we don’t need another 30 million people to starve to death so that we can relearn the lessons of Lysenko for another generation.

 

286 responses so far

286 thoughts on “The Return of Lysenkoism”

  1. michaelegnor says:

    Lysenko was anti-Mendelian, not (particularly) anti-Darwinian. He endorsed a Lamarckian view of heredity.

    Lysenko’s catastrophic influence was not due primarily to his scientific errors. Many scientists have gotten things wrong, just as wrong as Lysenko.

    Lysenko’s catastrophic influence was his systhesis of science with government power and censorship. Scientists were not permitted to speak out or teach anti-Lysenko theory. Lysenkoism was deadly because it was government-enforced science–totalitarian science.

    You avoid Lysenkoism by teaching the controversy, and by allowing open debate in schools and universities about scientific theories.

    Lysenko’s modern clones are the Darwinists who run to the police and the courts whenever anyone questions Darwinian theory in classrooms.

  2. Kishoshima says:

    “Lysenko’s modern clones are the Darwinists who run to the police and the courts whenever anyone questions Darwinian theory in classrooms.”

    Except thats a gross overstatement and broad brush observation. In reality, there are VERY few cases where the courts get involved at all because “darwanism is questioned.” Most often times these cases go to court because the district in question is trying to completely remove Darwin from the classroom to be REPLACED by theological teaching, which has parallels to what the article speaks to. In areas where the two are to be taught side by side, its not nearly as big a deal. You do have those few that make the most noise and get the most attention, but they are the minority not the majority.

  3. mumadadd says:

    Have your arguments been soundly spanked multiple times over in this very forum? Never mind, you’re the little engine that can! Just keep repeating them and eventually people will lose interest or die of old age, so you’ll win by default! Yay, having no integrity or shame!

  4. edwardBe says:

    There’s no such thing as Darwinism or Darwinists. “On the Origin of Species” is not a catalog of beliefs; it is an examination of biological data and produces a working hypothesis, ie, natural selection. This hypothesis has been refined by other concepts such as genetic drift.

    Lysenko was definitely anti-Darwin even if he didn’t come out and say so. You can’t be anti-gene and not be anti-Darwin. The facts supporting evolution would be meaningless without the reality of genes and genetics.

    What really bothers me about Lysenko that many people may not consider is that he was an example of just how bad political correctness can get. It was extremely politically incorrect to disagree with Lysenko since that was indirectly disagreeing with Stalin. PC will always represent a triumph of ideology over science, because PC will always throw out facts that it finds inconvenient. Thus we get statements like “Telling the truth is racist!”

    One major academic area where ideology triumphs over science is in the area of genetic influences on intelligence. Most IQ specialists agree privately that there is a very large genetic influence on intelligence, but they will never admit it publicly because their funding and tenure depend on toeing the politically correct line that IQ tests are biased and that it is a poor environment that causes differences in scores not genetics. Studies of twins, however, repeatedly show this to be false.

  5. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Lysenko’s modern clones are the Darwinists who run to the police and the courts whenever anyone questions Darwinian theory in classrooms.

    Yes. Why not teach alchemy in chemistry class and the principles of sympathetic blood magic in physics? It’s so unfair that the subject matter need be restricted to scientifically-validated curriculum. It’s almost as though the practice of “science” was being defined by a particular methodological process. The nerve of those Darwinists!

  6. hardnose says:

    “Epigenetics is not the inheritance of acquired characteristics, nor does it refute any of the main pillars of Darwinian evolution.”

    Of course epigenetics is the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It is known that epigenetic changes can be inherited. The post even says so. What kind of changes and how many generations can inherit them is NOT yet known. Epigenetics might eventually refute the main pillars of Darwinian evolution. It already has, in that the current version of Darwinian evolution says the environment does NOT influence DNA, and acquired traits CANNOT be inherited.

  7. hardnose says:

    “These problems are all exacerbated by a general anti-elite, anti-expert, and anti-intellectual sentiment.”

    Sometimes the elite expert intellectuals are right, and sometimes they are wrong. Venerating them is a very bad idea.

  8. PunctureKit says:

    @Dr Egnor
    Ah, a new thread in which to hide from my questions.

    You mention teaching the controversy. Where the reality of genetics is at issue, then there is controversy. Where creationism applies the phrase, it’s weasel words and irresponsible. From your use of it, I infer you approve of it as a propaganda strategy.

  9. PunctureKit says:

    When they are wrong, it’s their peers who put things right. By the application of expertise and rigorous good practice, mostly well beyond the comprehension of their amateur critics.

  10. Kabbor says:

    Any belief can successfully indoctrinate an eager mind in the span of a few videos. The validity of the content simply does not matter once you are invested in the belief.

    Online content services play into this by offering similar content to what was just seen, creating the perfect conditions to instill belief in anything anyone cares to make content about.

  11. chikoppi says:

    [hardnose] Of course epigenetics is the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It is known that epigenetic changes can be inherited. The post even says so. What kind of changes and how many generations can inherit them is NOT yet known. Epigenetics might eventually refute the main pillars of Darwinian evolution. It already has, in that the current version of Darwinian evolution says the environment does NOT influence DNA, and acquired traits CANNOT be inherited.

    As usual, you are incorrect.

    The epigenetic mechanisms are defined by the genome. The methylation state of those mechanisms is what gets inherited epigenetically. Changing the pattern of methylation states does not alter the genotype, it merely alters the expression of existing genes.

    To put it another way, before the expression of a gene can be influenced by epigenetic methylation the regulation mechanism must already exist in the genome. Switching it on or off does not alter the genome itself, merely how the regulated gene is expressed.

  12. chikoppi says:

    [hardnose] Sometimes the elite expert intellectuals are right, and sometimes they are wrong. Venerating them is a very bad idea.

    So is pretending that they’re all idiots because they don’t concur with your grossly underinformed and specious notions or ideological sentiments.

    Honestly, do you actually think biologists who work in the field of evolution don’t possess a detailed understanding of epigenetic processes within the context of evolutionary science? Epigenetics is a foundational principle of developmental biology, how genes are regulated during the developmental stages of sexually reproducing species.

  13. ChrisH says:

    Russia lost many very talented scientists because of Lysenko. Fortunately not all died in Siberia, many went to other countries.

    My father and many of his Post WW II veterans not only benefited by the GI Bill, but by some of the Russians who came to the USA to do real science. My father graduated in 1950 as part of the then largest class at Washington State University (a land grant school, aka an “Aggie” school).

    One of the new professors that arrived there after escaping Russia was an expert in poultry husbandry. While he probably responsible for the massive increase in chicken production, he had an asset many of the veterans wanted: how to speak Russian. The guys on the GI Bill convinced this biology professor to also teach them Russian. (my dad got a degree in linguistics, most were likely from that department).

    Apparently learning Russian, German, etc were very popular then as part of dealing with the Cold War. My dad ended up in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps. It required lots of listening to radio.

    Russia’s loss was the USA’s gain.

  14. BBBlue says:

    Decent point, right up until “teach the controversy.”

  15. hardnose says:

    “When they are wrong, it’s their peers who put things right. By the application of expertise and rigorous good practice, mostly well beyond the comprehension of their amateur critics.”

    Faith in the infallibility of the mainstream scientific establishment. Sort of a replacement for the Catholic church.

  16. hardnose says:

    “Honestly, do you actually think biologists who work in the field of evolution don’t possess a detailed understanding of epigenetic processes within the context of evolutionary science?”

    I know what epigenetics is, and I know that it is not completely understood. Epigenetic changes might somehow influence or guide genetic changes. Evolution is probably much more complicated than you like to think.

  17. PunctureKit says:

    There’s a huge difference between infallibility and self-correcting!

  18. bachfiend says:

    edwardBe,

    ‘One major academic area where ideology triumphs over science is in the area of genetic influences on intelligence. Most IQ specialists agree privately that there is a very large genetic influence on intelligence, but they will never admit it publicly because their funding and tenure depend on toeing the politically correct line that IQ tests are biased and that it is a poor environment that causes differences in scores not genetics. Studies of twins, however, repeatedly shows this to be false.’

    It’s generally agreed that intelligence is around 50% genetics (affected by multiple genes of small effect) and 50% environment. 50% is ‘a very large genetic influence on intelligence’. The mistake would be asserting that it’s almost 100% and ignoring environment.

    I wonder if you have specific examples of ‘IQ specialists’ ‘toeing the politically correct line’, but obviously if such a conspiracy exists, then the evidence won’t exist.

    The term ‘IQ specialists’ is not a good one. IQ tests aren’t a very good measure of intelligence. 50 years ago, we were given a IQ test in school and told the results – there were from memory three measures (mathematics, spatial orientation and language). I managed to score above average on the three, with quotients of 120, 140 and 160 (in the maths component). My lowest score was in language. Nowadays, I have major problems with simple calculations, having to use a calculator. And my major interest is language, mainly reading and listening to German. And my major strengths in my IQ scores didn’t predict what career path I’d chose 10 years later.

    I’m reminded of Nicholas Wade’s terrible book ‘An Troublesome Inheritance’ which very rightly got panned severely. I don’t think that there was any academic criticism that claimed that there wasn’t a major component to intelligence.

  19. chikoppi says:

    [hardnose] I know what epigenetics is, and I know that it is not completely understood. Epigenetic changes might somehow influence or guide genetic changes. Evolution is probably much more complicated than you like to think.

    Again, answers to questions not asked.

    You do not know what epigenetics is, because the statement, “It already has [refute the main pillars of Darwinian evolution], in that the current version of Darwinian evolution says the environment does NOT influence DNA, and acquired traits CANNOT be inherited,” is incorrect.

    “Darwin” didn’t know about genes or DNA. Darwin made important observations that inspired more than a century of intense research. The modern theory describes that research.

    Evolutionary biologists understand epigenetics, including the extent of what is known or unknown, far better than you. It dates back to the 1940s and is fully recognized in evolutionary theory.

    If you have some experimental data that the experts are not aware of, you should probably publish it. If not, then you don’t “know” anything that they don’t.

    “Might somehow” and “probably more complicated” are garbage terms used by motivated denialists who have no interest in the extent or indications of actual evidence. You are asserting a conclusion without evidence and accusing experts in the field of ignorance while doing so.

  20. bachfiend says:

    Hardnose,

    ‘The current version of Darwinian evolution says that the environment does NOT influence DNA, and acquired traits CANNOT be inherited.’

    No. Obviously environment does influence DNA. Genetic variants within a population better suited to survive and reproduce in the given environment have more surviving offspring, so the DNA in the genome changes in subsequent generations due to environment as a result of the mechanism of natural selection.

    And environment may produce epigenetic changes, affecting the expression of individual genes (but not the actual nucleotides forming the gene), which may be passed down several generations, until the environment changes again removing the epigenetic changes.

    There’s just no evidence for your belief that mutations are non-random, directed and to the benefit of the organism. I’ve challenged you many times on how you’d distinguish this from the reality that mutations are random, non-directed and with natural selection eliminating deleterious mutations and favouring beneficial ones, but you always have ducked, including as recently as yesterday.

  21. hammyrex says:

    “We don’t know everything, therefore we know nothing”

    It’s nice to see that years later, nothing changes. Same ol’ hardnose.

  22. SFinkster says:

    Hardnose says – “Sometimes the elite expert intellectuals are right, and sometimes they are wrong. Venerating them is a very bad idea.”.

    What you conveniently leave out is that it is ALWAYS other elite expert intellectuals that correct the ones that are wrong. Ideological cranks like Lysenko (and hardnose) are not almost always wrong, they never correct someone else who is wrong.

    I’m down with the elite expert intellectual any day.

  23. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor says: “Lysenko’s catastrophic influence was his systhesis of science with government power and censorship. Scientists were not permitted to speak out or teach anti-Lysenko theory. Lysenkoism was deadly because it was government-enforced science–totalitarian science. You avoid Lysenkoism by teaching the controversy, and by allowing open debate in schools and universities about scientific theories.”

    I’m curious, Doc. Should we “teach the controversy” with regard to vaccines? GMOs? UFOs? Chemtrails? Homeopathy? Coffee enemas? A flat earth?

    Should we allow high schools students to decide which side of whatever “controversy” is correct? You know, tell ’em about the benefits of vaccination, then tell ’em about Patrick Kennedy’s opposing views and let them decide for themselves? Or maybe, let Muslims in the classroom to explain why female genital mutilation is OK? Where do you draw the line, Doc? I draw it with the consensus of science on every topic. You do too, except when it interferes with your religious biases.

    You are simply an ideologue who, despite being obviously intelligent in some ways, isn’t capable of independent thought. You repeat brainless, empty phrases like “3-D chess player”, “Feminazi”, “SJW”, “Libtard”, and more just because you absorb them from your tribe’s blogosphere. Try REAL argumentation, Doc.

    I’d bet my bottom dollar that almost everyone who posts here would agree that ID SHOULD be discussed in a biology class. They’d also agree that ID shouldn’t be presented as science, but used as a foil to show how science does not work. C’mon Doc, give us one single shred of real scientific evidence that supports ID. Just one. Pointing to questions that science hasn’t yet answered isn’t considered evidence. Just imagine how successful your approach would have been two or more millennia ago: you know, challenging some ancient goat herder to explain how, without “god”, things like disease, lightning, plagues, earthquakes, and such couldn’t possibly exist.

    Finally, you claim Aquinas’s “proofs” are irrefutable. Let’s first note that you are in a distinct philosophical minority on this. Why is that if Aquinas is irrefutable? Then let’s note that Aquinas saying “and this we call God” is no proof at all. An equally valid conclusion would be “and we can’t explain this”. That is what real science says. Scientists, as a rule, don’t just jump to “hence my belief is the only answer”.

    The Bible: The Goat Herder’s Guide to the Universe” Seth Andrews

  24. Sarah says:

    Don’t let your lack of knowledge prevent you from speaking definitively of it, Hardnose. Those “experts” are clearly just lying about their extensive knowledge of the subject gleaned from years of analysis. You’re the real hero.

  25. TheGorilla says:

    >thinking science isn’t subservient to ideology

  26. ChrisH says:

    Funny how the only real on topic message on how Lysenko’s ideas destroyed Russian science, but yet helped both science and intelligence outside of Russia during the cold war has been held in moderation.

    Everyone enjoy your cognitive dissonance while chomping down on a chicken sandwich. Obviously you have no idea that chicken was freaking expensive until the 1960s. Or that being a linguist in the Cold War was an asset. (though sitting at a desk listening to radio transmissions was soul killing)

    Though as a child of a linguist who was fluent in multiple languages we kids were yelled at various languages. We learned early to not repeat we had heard unless we understood the actual words. Being that we spent much of our youth in international schools we were more than likely to encounter kids who knew the naughty words our dad used.

    May I recommend a few books on Russia and science? No? Okay, I am going to do it anyway because I am in perpetual moderation (seriously I ignore Egnor and Hardnose):

    Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel

    Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen

    Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America by Owen Matthews

    By the way, I used to be a structural engineer. Our curriculum and (sometimes) textbooks were by this guy:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Timoshenko

    Say his surname out loud to understand we called him “some Irish guy”, but seriously he was the anchor to our structural engineering studies. There is a mad respect for him for those who relish the history. We know that political upheaval is why that Ukrainian had to leave Russia, but benefited the USA in so many ways.

    By the way, don’t disrespect those who do structural engineering. Think about us whenever you drive over a bridge, fly in an airplane, or even step into a two story building. We are everywhere.

  27. ChrisH says:

    Seriously, you do not have to approve this, but keep it in mind in the future:

    By the bye… my brother retired from the State Department when he was forced to after turning 65 years old. His job was/is as an embassy computer nerd. But after forced retirement he can occasionally fill in when there are a lack of employees. Which seems to be a problem now. He is heading for Moscow soon (and it is not the one in Idaho!). I cannot wait to hear his stories.

  28. PunctureKit says:

    Please note that FGM is not Islamic practise per se. It’s practiced in some Muslim countries, but it predates Islam and is not mentioned in their sacred texts.

  29. Willy says:

    Fair point, PunctureKit.

  30. BillyJoe7 says:

    ChrisH,

    Your comment automatically goes into moderation if it is your first comment on this blog or if your comment contains more than three links.
    Also, occasionally, the blog freezes due to some technical glitch.
    There is no censorship here.
    (Just look at the BS that gets through by the likes of hardnose, Michael Egnor, and Ivan Grozny)

  31. mumadadd says:

    I took a hiatus from commenting here regularly due to various factors, a lot to do with personal circumstances — death, miscarriage, death, career change, baby. But a lot of it was just a lack of interest on my part. Seemed like the trolls were just that: totally intractable and just there to fling poo in the fan of honest discussion. There was no progress to be made in arguing with them and anything I could say would be said better by somebody else anyway (generally Chikoppi [not that I’m equating myself with him/her/shim/sher]).

    I seem to have just recently become interested again but something in my perception of ME and hn has shifted: whereas before it was fun to kick them around and to feel sort of superior, I’m now seriously perturbed by their existence. How does someone like ME actually exist? How can a neurosurgeon lack the common sense to stop himself from stating on a public forum that:

    – Evolutionary theory is scientifically controversial
    – School children should debate and decide scientific controversies
    – Well established science should not be taught as such in school
    – Taking legal recourse to protect the science curriculum is equivalent to Lysenkoism
    – Aristotle and Aquinas won philosophy, so it should stay down
    – Evolutionary scientists are ‘Darwinists’ and still hold exactly to Darwin’s theory
    – Science is responsible for the atrocities of all non-overtly religious states or institutions
    – Anyone who opposes Trump is a Libtard and supports, and has/never had any reservations about Hilldog
    – Libtards
    – Assholes

    All of which is transparently false and can be dealt with pretty swiftly by anyone even mildly educated. Except the last two, obviously. We are all Libtards and assholes.

    I worry about the wider context that enables a neurosurgeon to behave in this way. How did he get to this destination? There has to be an audience to whom he (at least thinks) he is playing. He has to be interacting with people who keep these ideas alive in his head. There has to be no shame in his professional peers discovering his comments on this blog and shunning or officially censuring him.

    I’m absolutely not suggesting that his institution should monitor his output and sack him if they don’t like his beliefs, but you would think (or hope) that the quality of thought in said institution would be sufficient to stop him from spewing this stuff up in public, for fear of embarrassment. You would think his professional reputation should be shredded by this bile.

  32. RickK says:

    I didn’t want to make you more incredulous, but you forgot a few additional quotes that make your wonder how some simutaneously so educated yet so bigoted, so Christian-righteous yet so mean-spirited can exist:

    Michael Egnor: “The Inquisition was a disaster. Because it was too timid and limited.
    Every culture needs to defend itself, and the failure of central and northern Europe to mount a rigorous Inquisition was catastrophic.”

    Michal Egnor: “Trump is the best president we’ve had since Lincoln, and maybe better. Bless him.”

    Michal Egnor: “Obama is absolute scum. The worst president, ever, not even close.”

    Michael Egnor: “White Christian males are a pretty successful group. Nearly all Western science, Western art, Western music, Western literature, Western government, etc etc are the product of white Christian males. Nothing to sneeze at. White Christian guys are overachievers.”

  33. RickK says:

    That was directed to mumaddad. Sorry for typos – you get the gist.

  34. Willy says:

    Mumadadd: Welcome back; I’ve missed your comments. I hope all is well in your life now and that the future will be brighter.

    As to your post, holy cow, I could have written every sentence you wrote and I have certainly thought about each point you made many times, especially as regards Egnor. He is an enigma and an embarrassment to himself and to Stony Brook. Obviously, intelligence and wisdom do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

  35. BillyJoe7 says:

    Rage against ignorance, dishonesty, and outright lies:

    SN: “Epigenetics is not the inheritance of acquired characteristics”

    HN: “Of course epigenetics is the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It is known that epigenetic changes can be inherited. The post even says so”

    Hn does not seem to understand that saying that “Epigenetics is not the inheritance of acquired characteristics” does not deny that “epigenetic changes can be inherited”. What SN is saying is that the “inheritance of acquired characteristics” is not what constitutes “Epigenetics”. After all, the word “Epigentics” was first used in the context of embryogenesis and described the mechanisms that lead to the differentiation of the blastocyst into the various organs of the body. Same genome, different phenotypes.

    HN: “Epigenetics might eventually refute the main pillars of Darwinian evolution”

    Appeal to future vindication!
    How low can you get?
    After three decades, there is still no evidence that Epigenetics can lead to evolutionary change.
    And all the evidence is that epigenetic mechanisms are coded for in the genome.

    HN: “the current version of Darwinian evolution says the environment does NOT influence DNA”

    How ignorant can you get.
    How thoroughly and completely ignorant can you possibly get.

    HN: “and acquired traits CANNOT be inherited”

    Take your pick: ignorance, dishonesty, or outright lies!
    When you have been repeatedly corrected and you ignore the corrections and you continue to repeat your errors, then your ignorance becomes indistinguishable from dishonesty and rises to the status of outright lies.

    Okay, my rage occasionally rises above the level of tepid cool.

  36. arnie says:

    BilyJoe7

    I’ll wager that the vast majority of us readers, lurkers, and occasional and regular commenters agree fully with you.

    And I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the rage you feel and the truth you wrote will never make the slightest dent in hn’s self awareness and thinking/ideology.

    HN is nothing more than troll as you have often pointed out. Trolls gain all their sustenance and motivation to keep on keeping on by feeding solely on others’ frustration, anger, and argumentation at, to, and with them. Without that, they would wither and disappear or seek more fertile pasteurs.

  37. michaelegnor says:

    @muma:

    [I took a hiatus from commenting here regularly due to various factors, a lot to do with personal circumstances — death, miscarriage, death, career change, baby.]

    My sympathies. I hope things are better. And congratulations on the baby!

    [But a lot of it was just a lack of interest on my part. Seemed like the trolls were just that: totally intractable and just there to fling poo in the fan of honest discussion. There was no progress to be made in arguing with them and anything I could say would be said better by somebody else anyway (generally Chikoppi [not that I’m equating myself with him/her/shim/sher]).]

    I’ve found this to be true with a lot of the science worshipers I debate. They lose interest after a while–look at Gorski, Moran, Shallot, even Myers, who is pushing far left politics a lot more nowadays than Darwinian fairytales. You guys don’t do well when people challenge your smug half-thought-out dogma. It’s no fun when people ask you questions you can’t answer.

    [I seem to have just recently become interested again but something in my perception of ME and hn has shifted: whereas before it was fun to kick them around and to feel sort of superior, I’m now seriously perturbed by their existence.]

    Because exposing your arguments for the tripe they are is a very effective remedy for your “feeling superior”.

    [How does someone like ME actually exist? How can a neurosurgeon lack the common sense to stop himself from stating on a public forum…]

    How can someone who demolishes your smug sense of superiority actually exist? You must be in a crisis.

    [– Evolutionary theory is scientifically controversial]

    There are lots of evolutionary theories. ID is one of them. Darwinism is an evolutionary theory that is very controversial, and declining fast.

    [– School children should debate and decide scientific controversies]

    Science is all about controversy. The best way to teach kids about how science works is to present them with competing theories and help them sort out the answers based on evidence. Presenting science as dogma, which is what Darwinists demand in court, is not science.

    [– Well established science should not be taught as such in school]

    Huh? Of course it should. It should be presented as a theory (not dogma) for which there is evidence, and the evidence only makes sense if competing theories are presented as well. For example, evidence for continental drift makes no sense is continental stasis isn’t a theory as well.

    [– Taking legal recourse to protect the science curriculum is equivalent to Lysenkoism]

    Legal recourse to exempt a scientific theory from scrutiny is the definition of Lysenkosim.

    [– Aristotle and Aquinas won philosophy, so it should stay down]

    Aristotle and Aquinas never won, or lost, philosophy. They were ignored, and their philosophy was forgotten. We are happy to debate philosophy, but that debate presupposes knowledge by their opponents of the arguments as stake. Of which you are utterly ignorant.

    [– Evolutionary scientists are ‘Darwinists’ and still hold exactly to Darwin’s theory]

    Natural selection and random heritable variation are the cornerstone of Darwinism, and are held to be the basis for biological evolution and functional complexity by essentially all materialist evolutionary biologists.

    [– Science is responsible for the atrocities of all non-overtly religious states or institutions]

    Science is a method of studying nature, and is “responsible” for no atrocities. People who use junk science (Darwinism, eugenics, Malthusianism, AGW hysteria, etc) are responsible for atrocities.

    [– Anyone who opposes Trump is a Libtard and supports, and has/never had any reservations about Hilldog]

    Trump opponents are not all libtards. Some are conservo-tards (the Bushes, Bill Kristol), and some are just thoughtful people who are mistaken (many of my family, friends and colleagues.)

    Anyone who has “reservations” about Hillary is an idiot. She is a gangster and the most dishonest political figure (along with her “husband”) in modern American political history. Having “reservations” about her is like having “reservations” about Bernie Madoff’s financial probity. It just means you’re an A**hole.

    [– Libtards… Assholes. Definition: people who have “reservations about Hillary”.

    [I worry about the wider context that enables a neurosurgeon to behave in this way.]

    A guy who has “reservations” about the integrity of the Clinton Foundation worries about a brain surgeon who doesn’t.

    [How did he get to this destination?]

    I worked hard, and I don’t have patience for bulls*t.

    [There has to be an audience to whom he (at least thinks) he is playing. He has to be interacting with people who keep these ideas alive in his head.]

    I want to disabuse your delusion of personal superiority. You and yours may win this fight, temporarily, but I want to make sure you walk funny when the fight is over.

    [There has to be no shame in his professional peers discovering his comments on this blog and shunning or officially censuring him.]

    I’m well-liked and respected by my peers. I was granted tenure in the midst of my public debating of these issues.

    [I’m absolutely not suggesting that his institution should monitor his output and sack him…]

    Yea. That’s the farthest thing from your mind.

    [if they don’t like his beliefs, but you would think (or hope) that the quality of thought in said institution would be sufficient to stop him from spewing this stuff up in public, for fear of embarrassment. You would think his professional reputation should be shredded by this bile.]

    You attribute your own insecurity and dependence on the opinion of other to me. I don’t give a sh*t what you or anyone thinks of my opinions.

  38. michaelegnor says:

    @little willy:

    “…especially as regards Egnor. He is an enigma and an embarrassment to himself and to Stony Brook. Obviously, intelligence and wisdom do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.”

    It’s hilarious that you would assume that I am the least bit concerned about “embarrassment”. what you’re really commenting on is your own craven insecurity. You wouldn’t dare tell the truth if it caused you embarrassment.

    You’re a good little lemming, doing exactly what all the important people tell you to do.

    How fitting you would comment on a post about Lysenkoism, which relied on just your kind of cowardice and fear of authority and status.

  39. michaelegnor says:

    And regarding hardnose: he makes more sense in each sentence than all of you half-educated guttersnipes do in all of your posts.

  40. arnie says:

    It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that you can take my comment above (#36) and expand every “HN” to “Hn/ME/IG”. Styles, content, and degree of hostility differ somewhat but otherwise interchangeable as purely ideologically driven trolls lacking any commitment to critical thinking. Feeding any of them will bring nothing of value in return other than as examples of hostile, purely ideologically driven trolls as ME immediately proved once again.

  41. Steve Cross says:

    [michaelegnor] I don’t give a sh*t what you or anyone thinks of my opinions.

    That comment would be a LOT more persuasive if you hadn’t just spent all this time defending yourself.

    To almost everyone else, your actions are more similar to a Don Quixote type — desperately tilting at windmills, i.e. reality to the best of our collective ability to understand it.

    And to all appearances, not to mention the actual evidence, the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory is the most correct, accurate, and USEFUL way to view the world. It has huge predictive capability and most, if not all, of our understanding of biology and medicine (especially disease) is interlocking proof that the theory is generally correct. Literally EVERY new scientific discovery in the field of biology either confirms or fine-tunes our understanding. So far at least, NOTHING has been found to disconfirm the overall structure of the theory.

    Contrast that with your own antiquated beliefs. There has never been any actual evidence EVER. Merely archaic philosophical arguments that serve only to convince those that are already convinced.

    Your political beliefs are just as transparently evidence-free, and presumably are based in large part on simply attempting to discredit your opponents. In other words, the mere fact that almost all of the scientists and other people that support evolutionary theory are also smart enough to recognize Trump for the buffoon and conman that he is, is enough for you to unreservedly support the team of science deniers.

  42. michaelegnor says:

    [lacking any commitment to critical thinking.]

    The irony is delicious. Here HN, IG and I are ripping your smug dogma to shreds, and you bleat about our lack of “commitment to critical thinking”.

    We’re the only ones thinking critically here.

  43. Steve Cross says:

    arnie,

    I agree that hn/ME/IG etc. certainly engage in trollish behavior, but I’m not so sure that they realize it or that it is their primary motivation.

    Especially in the case of egnor (and to a lesser extent hardnose), I believe that the driving force is simple insecurity. Perhaps it’s just fear of death, but ME seems to be terrified of the potential collapse of his world view. And hardnose to a lesser extent. IG, on the other hand, seems to just be a card carrying member of team “right wing” and feels compelled to support his team.

  44. Willy says:

    Doc, I wouldn’t even begin to think you actually feel embarrassment, though you should. As for being a lemming, you appear to be a lemming when it comes to Trump and right-wing ideology, yet you are to chicken shit to even try to defend his statements on healthcare, which you certainly know demonstrate his deep ignorance of the topic.

    Please tell me more about my “craven insecurity”, “cowardice”, and fear of authority”. Perhaps you could even identify the “important people” whom I obey. Try to be specific.

    I tremble in anticipation of your response.

  45. Willy says:

    On a cheerier note, it was an excellent early Christmas present to see Dr. Egnor at his bile-spewing finest this morning.

  46. michaelegnor says:

    Steve-o:

    [And to all appearances, not to mention the actual evidence, the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory is the most correct, accurate, and USEFUL way to view the world. It has huge predictive capability and most, if not all, of our understanding of biology and medicine (especially disease) is interlocking proof that the theory is generally correct. Literally EVERY new scientific discovery in the field of biology either confirms or fine-tunes our understanding. So far at least, NOTHING has been found to disconfirm the overall structure of the theory.Contrast that with your own antiquated beliefs. There has never been any actual evidence EVER. Merely archaic philosophical arguments that serve only to convince those that are already convinced.]

    Better check out your keyboard. YOUR cap-LOCK keeps GETTING stuck.

  47. michaelegnor says:

    [the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory is the most correct, accurate, and USEFUL way to view the world. It has huge predictive capability and most, if not all, of our understanding of biology and medicine (especially disease) is interlocking proof that the theory is generally correct. Literally EVERY new scientific discovery in the field of biology either confirms or fine-tunes our understanding. So far at least, NOTHING has been found to disconfirm the overall structure of the theory.]

    It’s the BEST idea anybody ever had!!!! Things change and survivors survive!!!!! EVERYTHING proves it and there’s NO evidence against it!!!!!!!! IT explains DISEASE!!!!!!!! IT explains the WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!! It explains EVERYTHING !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sounds like the opening benediction to a Darwin Day celebration.

    Critical thinking never rests.

  48. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] You guys don’t do well when people challenge your smug half-thought-out dogma. It’s no fun when people ask you questions you can’t answer.

    Here’s one for you. What distinguishes science from philosophy or theology?

    Science is all about controversy. The best way to teach kids about how science works is to present them with competing theories and help them sort out the answers based on evidence. Presenting science as dogma, which is what Darwinists demand in court, is not science.

    Scientific methodology should be taught. Absolutely. Especially the difference between scientific knowledge and theology, such as why “ID” is not science.

    Teaching science, not religion, in science class is what is being defended in court.

    Huh? Of course it should. It should be presented as a theory (not dogma) for which there is evidence, and the evidence only makes sense if competing theories are presented as well. For example, evidence for continental drift makes no sense is continental stasis isn’t a theory as well.

    No. There is the THEORY, which means a well-tested and established model of causation that most accurately reflects all available observational evidence and provides accurate predictive power. The Theory is what describes the evidence.

    Compared to the theory are historical hypotheses that failed either because they were falsified or because they lacked sufficient evidence to be substantiated in the first place.

    “ID” is neither a “competing theory” nor a scientific hypothesis.

    Legal recourse to exempt a scientific theory from scrutiny is the definition of Lysenkosim.

    What garbage.

    If you can present evidence to the scientific community that challenges evolution then DO IT. Absolutely no one is stopping you. Design an experiment and publish. Your Nobel is waiting.

    You can’t, because “ID” is not and never was science. You know that, so instead the “ID” crowd tries to indoctrinate children by corrupting science education. No one is fooled. Keep your religion out of science class.

  49. michaelegnor says:

    [“Literally EVERY new scientific discovery in the field of biology either confirms or fine-tunes our understanding.”]

    Darwinism is PERFECT. There’s NOT an iota of evidence against it. It’s TRUE to the INFINITE degree. All CRITICAL THINKERS agree TOTALLY without the slightest doubt or reservation.

    If you have any doubts, Comrade, Science Commissar Lysenko would like to see you in his office.

  50. arnie says:

    Steve Cross,

    Although I agree with you that their deeper, or “primary” motivation arises out of profound insecurity and feelings of threat to their desperately held ideologies, I am suggesting that the extremeness of their “trolling behavior” qualifies them as genuine trolls, whether they realize it or not. But, you’re right, IG is not quite of the same ilk as ME and HN. But I agree that the label isn’t the most important point. Their insecure and vulnerable is what’s at stake for them but in feeding them by the way most of us do, I think only enables and reinforces their attempts to compensate for their insecurity/vulnerability by their behavior which has successfully stimulated responses which do nothing but further feed their aggressive behavior which camouflages their (for them) their vulnerability. And round and round we go! For ME, in particular, it mirrors very closely a certain politician he so enormously admires.

  51. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [What distinguishes science from philosophy or theology?]

    All systematic understanding is philosophy (“love of knowledge”).

    Systematic understanding of nature is natural science, which we call by the abbreviated term “science”. Theology is the systematic understanding of God and supernatural reality.

    [“ID” is neither a “competing theory” nor a scientific hypothesis…“ID” is not and never was science.]

    Is there any scientific evidence against ID?

  52. PunctureKit says:

    @egnor
    Doubt very much if I’m the first here to break it to you that ID is not a theory. If you disagree, then you’ll be able to cite a testable hypothesis that it proposes and a successful prediction that it’s made. Unless you chose to define “theory” differently than everyone else? In which case it’s not in the same category as Darwin’s ToE and not in competition with it. Come on, you’re the expert.

  53. michaelegnor says:

    @Punk:

    [ID is not a theory.]

    So there’s no evidence against it?

  54. Steve Cross says:

    [michaelegnor] We’re the only ones thinking critically here.

    LOL.

    I sincerely hope that you do know how to think critically on occasion, at least for the sake of your patients in your day job. That doesn’t mean you apply it to all aspects of your life.

    To name just one obvious example, why isn’t “crooked hillary” already in jail or at least under indictment? All three branches of government have a Republican majority. Now would be the perfect time.

    For an administration whose byword is “whataboutism”, Trump could certainly use a distraction from his own numerous peccadillos. He has never been shy about using this technique before. The most recent example being moving our embassy to Jerusalem in a transparent attempt at changing the news narrative. Regardless of any risks to world peace.

    And for a president with historically low approval numbers, going after Hillary would delight his base. Which he desperately needs right now. There aren’t enough left of them to elect a republican in a deep red state.

    So, mr. expert critical thinker, why hasn’t it happened yet? Could it be that even someone as stupid as Trump knows that it isn’t true. That Hillary isn’t the arch criminal that the Republican propaganda machine has portrayed her to be?

    But somehow, your own critical thinking skills haven’t managed to figure that out. You REALLY, REALLY need to apply some of the genuine critical thinking skills that you presumably use to treat your patients to some other aspects of your life.

    P.S. So sorry if my occasional usage of uppercase for emphasis offends you. I’m fully aware that many denizens of the Internet find it rude. Although for most people, it is only because using uppercase exclusively for the entire comment makes it harder to read.

    In any event, I believe your rather juvenile name calling and refusal to answer any substantive criticisms to be rather more rude. Not to mention being a completely ineffective way to win a debate.

  55. mumadadd says:

    ME: “Theology is the systematic understanding of God and supernatural reality.”

    AKA magic, which can’t even be defined rigourously without the concept collapsing upon itself.

  56. mumadadd says:

    Willy — responding to your comment from yesterday: thanks, and yes, life is good right now. I have a 5 month old little boy who’s just beautiful. 🙂

  57. mumadadd says:

    “AKA magic, which can’t even be defined rigourously without the concept collapsing upon itself.”

    I mean this sincerely — it’s not just a throw away line to insult ME. I can’t fathom how supernatural (or non-material) causation could possiblly be a thing even in principle. It seems to me to be more of a junk drawer category people use to defend beliefs for which no evidence can be produced — if the evidence is non-material or supernatural then of course it can’t be detected…

  58. Willy says:

    You’re a joke Dr. Egnor: “Is there any scientific evidence against ID?”

    Is there any scientific evidence against fairies? Santa Claus? Allah?

    C’mon, big guy, give us some evidence that ID is science–you know, answer the question that you were asked and that you ducked.

  59. PunctureKit says:

    Guys, don’t lecture the contrarians. They love it. Only ask the questions we all know they have no answers to and leave it there. For example if ID is such a hot “theory”, it must support explicit, testable hypotheses and make verifiable predictions. One example of each will do? So come on Dr E; you’re the expert.

  60. mumadadd says:

    PunctureKit,

    But, as Michael has just implied, if there is evidence against ID then it must qualify as a scientific theory!

    ME: @Punk:

    [ID is not a theory.]

    So there’s no evidence against it?

    See, your science worshipping ways have been exposed. You must be walking funny now!

  61. michaelegnor says:

    [For example if ID is such a hot “theory”, it must support explicit, testable hypotheses and make verifiable predictions. ]

    Irreducible complexity.

  62. arnie says:

    Thank you PunctureKit. At least that’s the next best thing to do if one can’t just totally ignore them. I don’t think, though, that they’re just contrarians. I think they are active “bait casters”. Voila! They hook something (someone) every time. And round and round we go. Or worse, the subject of the OB gets diverted and degenerated into mutual insults. Neither is very productive.

  63. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘Irreducible complexity’? That wasn’t a great ‘discovery’ of Michael Behe worthy of a Nobel Prize. It was described by a real Nobel Prize winner Herman Muller in 1918 and 1939, under a different name, who realised (rightly) that it was no problem for evolutionary biology.

    Anti-science proponents such as you, hardnose and Ivan the Terrible create controversy in science where there’s none, and distort and get established science facts wrong, and don’t bother correcting the errors when challenged, just repeating them later as if they’d never been challenged.

    As you did with Libet’s research when you asserted that the time of conscious awareness of a touch stimulus is is backtimed to the instant of the skin being stimulated, which is patently false and not at all what Benjamin Libet found. All in order to provide evidence that the mind is immaterial. And somehow the soul insists.

  64. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor says: “Irreducible complexity” aka, well, golly be shucks, science can’t explain this yet, so it is irreducible complexity.

    You do a damned lousy job of defending your ideas with actual evidence, although, I must admit, you are a champ at spewing venom and obfuscation. Too bad you haven’t the abilities for introspection and self-awareness. Take the time to review a few threads here, Doc. Try, with a straight face, to identify even one person who consistently comes even close to your level of hostility and juvenile name-calling. You can’t and you won’t.

    Follow your tribe, Doc. I won’t expect you to cite a single example of proven IR, nor will I expect you to defend your idiotic claim that Drumpf is a “3-D chess player”. You are great at empty assertions, not so good at presenting any objective evidence.

  65. michaelegnor says:

    One of the real pleasures we reality-based types have in this debate is when we are faced with the assertions “ID isn’t science” and “ID is refuted by the scientific evidence”.

    I mean, it’s hilarious. It’s like debating toddlers.

  66. michaelegnor says:

    willy:

    Here’s a great resource on Trump, that you may find useful when you learn to read.

    https://www.amazon.com/Win-Bigly-Persuasion-World-Matter/dp/0735219710

    Nice synopsis of 3-D chess.

  67. Willy says:

    PunctureKit says “Guys, don’t lecture the contrarians.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I try not to do any “educating” and, in general, I haven’t for long time. I agree exactly–ask them specific questions about claims they have made. Silence is most common response, followed by such brilliant intellectual responses as calling people “lemmings”, “Libtars”, FemiNazis” and accusing them of things like “fear of authority” and blind obedience to some unnamed “leader”. I put Dr. Egnor at the apex of this method of “argumentation” (LOL); hardnose is a far distant second.

  68. PunctureKit says:

    @egnor
    Irreducible complexity is a prediction? All examples ID advocates have suggested are all easily explained by routine evolutionary processes. A few have been observed actually occurring.

    Try again. And an example of a falsifiable hypothesis please.

  69. mumadadd says:

    ME “One of the real pleasures we reality-based types have in this debate is when we are faced with the assertions “ID isn’t science” and “ID is refuted by the scientific evidence”.”

    See, totally contradictory. If magic is refuted by science, magic becomes science. Then magic is true because it’s science — well, it’s at least as good as any scientific theory because there’s scientific evidence that refutes it. And yes, I really am a brain surgeon!

    “I mean, it’s hilarious. It’s like debating toddlers.”

    QED, libtards. Call the Pink Mafia — you are done.

  70. michaelegnor says:

    punk:

    [Irreducible complexity is a prediction? All examples ID advocates have suggested are all easily explained by routine evolutionary processes. A few have been observed actually occurring.]

    Let me restate that in sense.

    “ID advocates predict that there are some aspects of biology that could not have evolved by a series of smaller steps by natural selection, but those predictions have been refuted by scientific evidence.”

    Whether that assertion is true or not, it is an assertion that can only be true is ID is scientifically testable.

    ID can only be scientifically testable if it is a scientific theory.

    Since you obviously have significant cognitive deficits, I’ll lay it out by logic:

    ID is either science or not science.
    ID is subject to analysis restricted to science
    Therefore ID is science.

    If you don’t understand, ask your Resource Room teacher for help.

  71. michaelegnor says:

    mummy:

    [If magic is refuted by science, magic becomes science.]

    A guy who believes that everything came from nothing for no reason mocks “magic” in science.

    Do you assert that species “exist for no reason” in evolutionary biology, like you assert it for the universe in cosmology?

    Oh–I forgot– Mr. “I don’t believe in magic” explains the universe as one of an infinite number of unobservable universes that are instantiated with every quantum fluctuation.

    No magic there.

  72. mumadadd says:

    The Tooth Fairy is either science or not science.
    The Tooth Fairy is subject to analysis restricted to science
    Therefore The Tooth Fairy is science.

    Ghost are either science or not science.
    Ghosts are subject to analysis restricted to science
    Therefore ghosts are science.

    The Loch Ness Monster is either science or not science.
    The Loch Ness Monster is subject to analysis restricted to science
    Therefore The Loch Ness Monster is science.

    Alien abductions are either science or not science.
    Alien abductions are subject to analysis restricted to science
    Therefore Alien abductions are science.

    Etc.

  73. PunctureKit says:

    [ID can only be scientifically testable if it is a scientific theory.]

    What?? You can test whatever hypothesis you want if it’s falsifiable! You don’t need a theory in place to test hypotheses. Why is it necessary to explain this?

    I don’t know what a Resource Room teacher is.

    Keep trying. And a falsifiable hypothesis? Just one.

  74. michaelegnor says:

    mummy:

    If you present scientific evidence to refute a hypothesis, the hypothesis is a scientific hypothesis.

    Logic. It’s not hard.

    Not only is ID a scientific hypothesis, but it is the mirror image of undirected natural selection.

    Undirected NS claims that all natural biological complexity can be explained by unintelligent causes. ID claims that (at least) some natural biological complexity requires intelligent cause.

    If you claim to refute ID with science, you logically confirm that ID is a scientific proposition.

    IF you are so sure that ID is wrong, why are you afraid to admit that it is testable scientifically, when you actually invoke science to refute it?

  75. mumadadd says:

    ME;

    “A guy who believes that everything came from nothing for no reason mocks “magic” in science. ”

    Can you provide some evidence that I believe that?

    “Oh–I forgot– Mr. “I don’t believe in magic” explains the universe as one of an infinite number of unobservable universes that are instantiated with every quantum fluctuation.”

    Uh, actually I don’t explain the universe’s origin in any way. It’s beyond my comprehension. I accept that physicists have vastly better tools, subject matter understanding and methodology than me, and that their hypotheses are more likely to be closer to the truth than anything I can pull out of my arse based on my experience of everyday life (or Harry Potter novels).

    “No magic there.”

    Indeed. As I said, I can’t think of a way to even define ‘magic’ without it being logically excluded from existence.

  76. michaelegnor says:

    punk:

    [I don’t know what a Resource Room teacher is.]

    It’s that nice lady in school who helps you with your homework so you can keep up with the smart kids.

    Think of me as your RR teacher.

  77. michaelegnor says:

    [It’s beyond my comprehension.]

    Sums it up rather well. A man needs to know his limitations.

  78. mumadadd says:

    ME: “If you present scientific evidence to refute a hypothesis, the hypothesis is a scientific hypothesis.”

    It seems like what you are basically saying is that your ‘theory’ proposes the hypothesis that evolutionary theory is wrong. And you are calling that a testable claim — I’m really not convinced that just saying a theory is wrong really counts here — and then you are to pass that off as a scientific theory?

    So if I put forth an alternative ‘theory’ that ID won’t be able to explain the varietity of species on earth — I’ll say they’re all pieces on the 3D Chess board of a giant cosmic alligator — am I being scientific?

  79. michaelegnor says:

    [“A guy who believes that everything came from nothing for no reason”– Can you provide some evidence that I believe that?]

    Pray tell–could I have been wrong? You’re really a passionate perspicacous theist merely pretending to be a clueless minimally sentient atheist?

    Fatherhood changes everything. 😉

  80. michaelegnor says:

    [It seems like what you are basically saying is that your ‘theory’ proposes the hypothesis that evolutionary theory is wrong. And you are calling that a testable claim — I’m really not convinced that just saying a theory is wrong really counts here — and then you are to pass that off as a scientific theory?

    So if I put forth an alternative ‘theory’ that ID won’t be able to explain the varietity of species on earth — I’ll say they’re all pieces on the 3D Chess board of a giant cosmic alligator — am I being scientific?]

    Darwin shook the world by proposing a mechanism for adaptation that did not invoke intelligent cause.

    ID proposes that adaptation requires intelligent cause, in some cases.

    Both are theories. Both are subject to scientific confirmation or refutation, because they are opposite answers to the same scientific question: can biology evolve without intelligent design?

    That’s the whole f*cking debate, ace.

  81. michaelegnor says:

    mummy:

    When you deny the scientific status of the negation of your theory, you deny the scientific status of the affirmation of your theory, because both theories turn on the same question.

    If ID isn’t science, Darwinism isn’t science.

    Why are you so panicked by the application of the scientific method to ID claims?

  82. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘Do you assert that species ‘exist for no reason’ in evolutionary biology, like you assert it for the universe in cosmology?’

    Species in evolutionary biology exist for their own ‘reason’. Species don’t exist for the benefit of other species. Natural selection doesn’t allow the evolution of traits in one species that only benefit another species. The evolved trait must benefit the species in which it evolves.

    Cuckoos manage to parasitise the nests of other bird species with their eggs, not because the host bird species evolved to accept foreign eggs as their own. They evolved to care for any egg present in their nests. Evolution tries (I’m using the teleological shortcut here, evolution isn’t an entity that ‘tries’ to do something) to evolve traits in the host species that allow them to recognise the cuckoos’ eggs and eject them.

    The universe doesn’t exist for a ‘reason’. It’s just there. The idea that the Multiverse consists of an infinite number of parallel universes due to random quantum fluctuations is an interpretation of the Many Worlds model – not a very plausible model. And not science.

    It’s not true that there’s only ‘science’ and ‘not science’. There’s science, such as evolutionary biology, climate science and cosmology. There’s borderline science, such as String Theory. And there’s pseudoscience, such as astrology and alchemy.

    Where Intelligent Design fits in the continuum is debatable (and it’s a continuum, with often no definite borders). Just because ID is testable doesn’t make it science. Alchemy and astrology are testable too (but they fail), so they’re not science.

  83. mumadadd says:

    That’s laughable, Michael.

    I propose that gravity requires an intelligent cause. People used to believe that it was god who stopped up floating away into the sky. Therefore the scientific explanation for gravity can be summed up as:

    Gravity needs no intelligent cause!

    And my position that gravity needs an intelligent cause is now a scientific theory.

  84. michaelegnor says:

    mummy:

    Gravity does require an intelligent cause. (Aquinas’ Fifth Way). It’s secondary causation, rather than primary causation. You really need to bone up on Metaphysics 101.

    Everything that begins to exist needs a cause other than itself. Basic logic, ace.

  85. michaelegnor says:

    The fact that gravity needs an intelligent cause (via secondary causation) is a metaphysical fact, not a scientific fact.

    Atheism and materialism is just a jumble of idiot non-sequiturs and evasions.

  86. mumadadd says:

    ME: “Why are you so panicked by the application of the scientific method to ID claims?”

    Okay, so do a quick bullet point summary of ID claims and respective applications of the scientific method to said claims.

    All you are doing now, it seems, is playing word games.

  87. mumadadd says:

    ME: “The fact that gravity needs an intelligent cause (via secondary causation) is a metaphysical fact, not a scientific fact.”

    There we go. It’s ultimately magic, but that magic is interacting with reality via a secondary, non-magical mechanism. And mediating this interaction are… midichlorians? Good stuff, Michael! There’s a sci-fi novel in you somewhere!

  88. PunctureKit says:

    Egnor [Both are theories.]

    Wrong. You can’t just decide arbitrarily on a nice definition of the term “theory”. Please look up the criteria by which, say, the theory of electromagnetism achieves this status, and realize what a long, long way ID has to travel. As a competitor to ToE it’s not got its shoes on.

  89. mumadadd says:

    Michael,

    Just curious — you keep calling me ‘mummy’; I wonder if there’s a Freudian element to this? I’m afraid I’m more wire mother than cloth mother, so you won’t be able to retreat to my bosom for comfort.

    🙂

  90. michaelegnor says:

    Primary cause is direct creation by God. Secondary cause is causation by created things acting in accordance with material, efficient, formal and final causes.

    Science deals (mostly) with secondary causation.

  91. michaelegnor says:

    [Just curious — you keep calling me ‘mummy’; I wonder if there’s a Freudian element to this? I’m afraid I’m more wire mother than cloth mother, so you won’t be able to retreat to my bosom for comfort.]

    Oops. My keyboard keeps typing m when I hit d.

  92. mumadadd says:

    “Oops. My keyboard keeps typing m when I hit d.”

    Speaking of keyboards, you owe me a new one! I just sprayed my drink out through my nose all over this one.

    Thanks for the chuckle, sir!

  93. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor: I’ve read several books on Trump and followed his junior high antics quite closely ever since he announced his candidacy. I don’t need to read some sycophant explaining to me that the man has an advanced brain; I’ve seen enough first-hand to know he’s an ignorant fool. I will grant you that he quite good at manipulating his followers (I could shoot someone…).

    What I have repeatedly asked you is to defend Trump’s obviously ignorant and uninformed pronouncements on healthcare. You dodge that question and will continue to do so because even you won’t stoop so low as to pretend the man knows healthcare from dog catching or checkers. I suppose you deserve praise for not defending him on healthcare or “nuclear” (Trump’s word, not mine). Tell me, Doc, Trump says he was well into his 30s when he found out, to his surprise, that “nuclear is powerful”. Is that a 3-D chess player? How old were you when you found out that “nuclear is powerful”?

    Your lack of integrity shows quite brightly with every instance you repeatedly refuse to answer simple questions. Obfuscation is your game, Doc.

  94. michaelegnor says:

    Merry Christmas to all. 😉

  95. mumadadd says:

    ME: “Primary cause is direct creation by God. Secondary cause is causation by created things acting in accordance with material, efficient, formal and final causes.”

    When Jesus talks to you in a still, quiet voice, and rearranges the events and people in your life so that you can learn valuable lessons, how does he do it? Or are you a solipsist? Just you and the G-man, in it together forever?

    As for the infinite regress — yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. It does seem like there would have to be some uncaused cause that caused all the other causes! Hot dammit, well that cause must be the god of the Christian bible (The Goat Herders’ Guide to the Universe)!

    Only things is, I have some understanding of my limits as an ape evolved to live in and understand a small world of tribes, social intaractions and the intuitive physics of moving objects; I wouldn’t trust my intuitions to sort out the question of how it is that there is anything at all, so I defer to process, and tentatively accept explanations derived through processes that make the best predictions.

    Or I could just say: I propose that it was all created by this magical being I read about in a 2000 year old book. Yes, I’ll tentatively accept that as the best current working hypothesis.

    There aren’t enough facepalm GIFs on the Internet to sum up how dappy that is.

  96. michaelegnor says:

    mummy:

    [As for the infinite regress — yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. It does seem like there would have to be some uncaused cause that caused all the other causes! Hot dammit, well that cause must be the god of the Christian bible (The Goat Herders’ Guide to the Universe)!]

    Reason doesn’t get you to the New Testament.

    Reason gets you to the fact that there is an Unmoved Mover/First Cause/Necessary Existence/Ultimate Perfection/Final Cause, and from that you can reason to the personhood, metaphysical simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolance of God. Aquinas does it beautifully in the first part of the Summa, and Ed Feser has a nice synopsis in his book Aquinas.

    That God is Triune, and that the Second Person of the Trinity was born to a virgin in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, is a matter of revelation and faith. You can’t reason to it.

    My argument is simple: the rational basis for belief in the existence in the Prime Mover… etc is very strong and has never been genuinely refuted. Those who deny it are generally ignorant of what it is they deny, and that applies to philosophers as well as blog commenters.

    Regarding my own belief in God, it got a major boost with the birth of my first son. When I saw him being born, which was one of the most powerful emotional experiences of my life, I said to my (agnostic) self: “I don’t care what atheists say. What just happened to me is a gift, a gift that I couldn’t possibly deserve. My son came from Someone, a pure blessing. He came through me and my wife, not from us. He was a gift, and he came from Someone who loves us and him.

    Witttaker Chambers had the same experience of conversion when he was feeding his infant daughter in her high chair. He noticed her ear–the perfection of it’s shape and it’s beauty, and he knew there was a God.

    Reason only gets you so far. The Prime Mover exists–He must exist, by logic.

    But there’s a lot more to learn about Him. Pascal understood, when he said that the heart has reasons that reason knows not of.

  97. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    Don’t write off a book just because Michael Egnor links to it on Amazon.

    The book is ‘Win Billy. Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter’ by Scott Adams.

    I know that Scott Adams has a bad reputation in certain sceptical circles, but I like Scott Adams, and I always look forward to ‘Dilbert’ in the Melbourne ‘Age’. And I hate Sundays, because there’s no cartoons in the Sunday issue, instead having a ‘Faith’ column (today’s was a classic with a hospital chaplain confusing the story told in Luke with the story told in Matthew, and writing that the wise men followed a star to a stable in Bethlehem).

    Anyway. Despite Egnor’s ‘kiss of death’, I’ve bought it (despite already having far too many books to read).

  98. bachfiend says:

    Oops,

    Curse Spellcheck. Scott Adam’s book is ‘Win Bigly’. It’s annoying when the Spellcheck hasn’t previously come across a made up word and substitutes a different world instead as part of its AI program. I expect if I ever type ‘Billy’ it will substitute ‘Bigly.’

  99. PunctureKit says:

    These insights haven’t given you the slightest understanding of how science operates, nor even as much as a civil tongue.

  100. chikoppi says:

    [chikoppi] What distinguishes science from philosophy or theology?

    [michaelegnor] All systematic understanding is philosophy (“love of knowledge”). Systematic understanding of nature is natural science, which we call by the abbreviated term “science”. Theology is the systematic understanding of God and supernatural reality.

    Really. That’s the only distinction you can conjure. You have no business discussing science education.

    “Supernatural reality.” HA!

    [michaelegnor] Is there any scientific evidence against ID?

    Is there any scientific evidence against leprechauns or fairies?

    You really do not understand how science works. All the more reason to keep nonsense out of the classroom.

  101. Willy says:

    Bach: I listened to a very long interview with Scott Adams about that book on Sam Harris’ podcast. I wasn’t impressed. I think the only thing Adam’s got right is that Trump supporters in particular and too many people in general don’t give a rat’s patootie about facts anymore. I’ll still pass. I hope you don’t find the expense too much of waste.

    As far as “winning bigly”, check the very long list of Trump’s business failures. Trump wins big at being a con man and nothing more. The world’s leaders show contempt for the little boy.

  102. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    I agree completely with you regarding Trump. I’m still trying to understand how such a deeply flawed character could ever have been elected to be POTUS. And that Egnor thinks he’s good.

    I’m still trying to understand how John Howard could have been elected Australian Prime Minister for 11 years, until the electorate came to its senses and he lost both government and his electorate in 2007. And why he’s still praised as a good PM. And why one of his successors Tony Abbott ‘the Mad Monk’ still gets adoration despite being a failed PM, not lasting even two years before his party got rid of him.

  103. michaelegnor says:

    @bach:

    [And that Egnor thinks [Trump’s] good.]

    Not good. Great.

    @punk:

    [These insights haven’t given you the slightest understanding of how science operates, nor even as much as a civil tongue.]

    *sniff*.

    I’ve noticed that atheists cannot endure mockery. To treat your supercilious nonsense with civility would be to lie,which would be uncivil.

  104. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    I know you have problems with reading comprehension, but ‘good’ is included in ‘great’. If you think Trump is ‘great’, then you’re more deluded than I’d previously thought.

    Your problems with reading comprehension is also illustrated by your confusing ‘evoked potential’ with ‘action potential’ in so gloriously getting Benjamin Libet’s research so wrong.

    ‘I’ve noticed that atheists cannot endure mockery. To treat your supercilious nonsense with civility would be to lie, which would be uncivil.’ And believers can endure mockery? That Jesus could not have been born around the Winter solstice in the middle of Winter for the shepherds keeping watch in the fields to come to the stable in Bethlehem?

    Being civil doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell lies. It often means that you should leave unsaid things you believe to be true, but can’t prove.

  105. Willy says:

    The Doc says “Marry Christmas to all”. I dunno about y’all, but after the insults and venom he’s thrown about today, his well wishing sounds just a bit hollow to me.

    Nonetheless, Merry Christmas to all.

  106. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    I’ve just remembered I have already read the best explanation of Trump. It’s ‘Insane Clown President. Dispatches from the American Circus’ by Mat Taibbi.

    To most people outside America, America isn’t a circus. It’s a madhouse. And the inmates think they’re living in paradise, and everything is much better than it actually is.

  107. BillyJoe7 says:

    Rage against ignorance, willful ignorance, and the arrogance of ignorance:

    ME: “Science is all about controversy”

    Science is not all about controversy.
    There is also consensus.
    Yes, CONSENSUS.

    “The best way to teach kids about how science works is to present them with competing theories”

    The best way to teach kids about science is to inform them about the scientific method, and then the consensus of experts on various topics, and then the true controversies where the experts can’t reach consensus, and then the pseudoscience or non-science like Creationism/ID.

    “Presenting science as dogma, which is what Darwinists demand in court, is not science”

    No, it’s taking legal action to exclude the teaching of pseudoscience and non-science in SCIENCE classes.

    “Parallel universes”

    Here his ignorance of science leads him to confuse the “Multiverse” of cosmological theory (inflationary theory) with the “Many Worlds” interpretation of quantum physics.
    Yes, science is truly not one of his strong points.
    It necessarily must be so in order to maintain his “worldview”.

    “Irreducible complexity”

    It’s hard to believe anyone still thinks this is a worthwhile argument.
    The eye is irreducibly complex. Meanwhile nature presents with all manner of eyes, from light sensitive patches of skin, through the flawed human eye with optic nerve fibers passing in front of the retina, to the superior vision of the octopus eye.

    “ID can only be scientifically testable if it is a scientific theory”

    No, ID could be an hypothesis rather than a theory.
    But it doesn’t even rise to the level of an hypothesis.
    Hypotheses must be based on, and be consistent with, existing science.

    “Both [ID and modern evolutionary theory] are theories”

    It’s so amusing when he continually confuses “hypothesis” and “theory”.
    And, of course, ID is not even a theory (see above)

    “Everything that begins to exist needs a cause other than itself. Basic logic.”

    Every thing needs a cause.
    But that is an infinite regress.
    Therefore – except for the one cause – every thing has a cause.
    Basic logic? Don’t make me laugh! Since when is denying your premise basic logic?
    Oh, I forgot…the prime mover is outside space and time and therefore doesn’t have to obey the premise.
    You couldn’t make this $#!+ up.

    “the existence in the Prime Mover…is very strong and has never been genuinely refuted”

    It doesn’t need refutation.
    It self-implodes!

    “Reason gets you to the fact that there is an Unmoved Mover/First Cause/Necessary Existence/Ultimate Perfection/Final Cause, and from that you can reason to the personhood, metaphysical simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolance of God”

    I think someone just had an orgasm.

    “My son came from Someone, a pure blessing. He came through me and my wife, not from us. He was a gift, and he came from Someone who loves us and him”

    Yes, I think he did have an orgasm.
    And…wtf…I mean WTF?

    “Witttaker Chambers…noticed her ear–the perfection of it’s shape and it’s beauty, and he knew there was a God”

    Oh dear!
    How embarrassing!
    Has anyone read Dostoyevsky?
    The Leap of Faith?
    The psychological phenomenon of “the leap of faith”.

    “The Prime Mover exists–He must exist, by logic”

    The existence of a supernatural being outside time and space that contradicts the premise that every thing has a cause is arrived at by…wait for it…LOGIC!

    You truly cannot make this $#!+ up.

  108. BillyJoe7 says:

    …oh, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  109. PunctureKit says:

    “I’ve noticed that atheists cannot endure mockery. To treat your supercilious nonsense with civility would be to lie,which would be uncivil.”

    I don’t remember telling you I was an atheist.

  110. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    Well, you were right about Scott Adams.

    Fortunately Amazon allows eBooks to be returned for a refund if done early enough.

    I decided it wasn’t for me when he included a section on cognitive dissonance, and then praised himself for being right when he predicted a landslide for Trump (who won a minority of the votes of the minority who voted). He’s just too arrogant (rather like a certain neurosurgeon we all know).

  111. michaelegnor says:

    punk:

    [I don’t remember telling you I was an atheist.]

    Then perhaps there’s hope…

    I merely presumed that a dupe for atheism’s creation myth would be an atheist. Silly me.

  112. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘I merely presumed that a dupe for atheism’s creation myth would be an atheist. Silly me.’

    The Christian creation myth is genuinely silly, not just silly in your mind. That God created humans 200,000 years ago and then waited 198,000 years to send himself as his son to sacrifice himself to himself as penance for Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden being non-existent) so he could forgive humans for something they didn’t do.

    And all humans have to do to earn eternal reward in heaven is just to believe in this nonsense.

  113. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor: people do not “choose” to be atheists; it’s how they’re built and how they grew up. Can you choose to be an atheist? A Muslim? Sure, some people like you change their minds (about many things) over the course of their lives, but that isn’t a true choice, either, is it? You didn’t just wake up one morning and say “Hey! I’m gonna choose to be a Catholic today.”. Your mind and opinions evolved over time to the point where Catholicism made more sense to you than atheism, or (maybe) simply a lack of interest in religion.

    Do you realize just how ignorant it is to assume all atheists, or all of any group, exhibit any particular characteristic. You exhibit intellectual laziness with almost every post you make herein.

    Love, your lemming, Willy

  114. Willy says:

    Bach: If you want the Readers Digest version of the book, check out Sam Harris’ podcast with Adams. It’s from probably about 3 months ago.

    I still enjoy Dilbert, but I view it a lot differently. I realize he really means it when he says that “management” and “authority” are all idiots. On one level, that’s always been obvious, of course, but after listening to Adams, it’s taken on a darker tone for me.

    I spent my career as an engineer in “cubicle land” and, in the beginning as a lowly entry level guy, it was easy to see management decisions as ‘stupid”. But, as I “climbed the ladder”, I began to interact directly with management, eventually working regularly with all of the VPs and department heads for many years. Talking to these folks, asking questions, and viewing results made me see things from a “bigger perspective”. It made me realize that most of these folks are quite bright; they don’t do things foolishly. I was lucky to spend my entire career with one smallish company (less than 400 people) and it really paid off big for me, thanks to good management. Now, when I read Dilbert, I still chuckle, but a part of me realizes that Adams actually believes management is pretty much always stupid.

    Merry Christmas. It already is where you are, right? Did Trump do anything stupid tomorrow? LOL

  115. RickK says:

    Egnor: “Reason gets you to the fact that there is an Unmoved Mover/First Cause/Necessary Existence/Ultimate Perfection/Final Cause, and from that you can reason to the personhood, metaphysical simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolance of God.”

    What utter rot.

    First, there’s nothing wrong with infinite regress. It doesn’t “feel” right, but when has that stopped anything from being true? Does quantum mechanics “feel” right? If the first cause can “just be”, then it can just as easily not be.

    Even if we assume a first cause, it is a pure leap of faith to assume it is intelligent. Intelligence has every characteristic of being an emergent property.

    Finally the whole omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence thing is logically impossible and no more real or meaningful than “The Trinity”. Both are silly rationalizations to resolve the crude stories and origins of the Jewish God with the desired message of the Catholic Church.

    All of it is tribal mythology. Aquinas is Jesse Owens when it comes to leaps of faith.

    And here we have this propaganda pushed at us by a Discovery Institute lobbyist – exactly the kind of political operator that comprises the very swamp he rails against.

    Billy Joe feels rage after reading Egnor’s sanctimonious, insult-laced preaching. I just feel the need for a shower.

  116. Willy says:

    RickK: “What utter rot.” Well said!

  117. michaelegnor says:

    [First, there’s nothing wrong with infinite regress.]

    There are two kinds of potential infinite regress.

    Infinite regress of accidental causes is possible. An accidental cause (a technical term) is a cause in which the antecedent cause need not exist for the effects to continue. Generations of families is an example. You are caused by your parents, who are caused by your grandparents, who are caused by your great-grandparents, etc. and your grandparents etc don’t still have to be alive for you to be caused.

    An essential series of causes is different. An essential series of causes is a series in which each step has to coexist for the final effect to occur. A stack of books is an example. The second book down holds up the top book, the third book down holds up the second book, etc. If any one of the causes doesn’t continue to exist, none of the effects down the line can occur.

    You can have infinite regress of accidental causes, but you can’t have infinite regress of essential causes. That is because if you try to have infinite regress of essential causes, you can never get the causal series started. In an essential series of causes, there must be a First Cause (or Prime Mover) that exists outside of a causal chain and that “anchors” the causal series. You can’t go backward to infinity, just like you can’t have an actually infinite stack of books.

    This is basic metaphysics, known since Aristotle.

    There are some causal series in nature that are essentially ordered (when you hammer a nail, your muscles contract, which depend on your nerve firing, which depends on your motor cortex activating, which depends on glucose metabolism, which depends on covalent bonds, which depend on energy from the sun, which depends on fusion, etc, etc. If any of these things didn’t happen, none of the subsequent effects could happen.

    The existence of essentially ordered causal series in nature presupposes an Uncaused Cause.

    [Even if we assume a first cause, it is a pure leap of faith to assume it is intelligent. Intelligence has every characteristic of being an emergent property. Finally the whole omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence thing is logically impossible and no more real or meaningful than “The Trinity”. Both are silly rationalizations to resolve the crude stories and origins of the Jewish God with the desired message of the Catholic Church.]

    Some aspects of the nature of the Uncaused Cause can be deduced, which Aquinas did in Commentary on Sentences of Peter Lombard (I,3,1), in the 4th chapter of On Being and Essence, and in Book 1 Ch 10-13 of Summa Contra Gentiles. The First Cause/Prime Mover must be omnipotent, omniscient, metaphysically simple (one, not many), etc.

    You don’t really disagree with Aquinas, because you don’t have a clue as to what he actually said. You don’t even know the most basic terms of the argument.

    If you wish to engage these questions intelligently, you have a long way to go.

  118. mumadadd says:

    Honestly, it’s like Michael is telling us that the Harry Potter universe us real, and when he’s told it isn’t, he counters with more detailed descriptions of the Harry Potter universe.

  119. mumadadd says:

    *is* real. I corrected that 3 times! What has happened to Android’s predictive text recently?

  120. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    Your example of an ‘accidental series of causes’ such as generations of a family requires each part of the series to exist for later ones to occur. For example, if my paternal grandmother didn’t exist before she gave birth to my father, then I wouldn’t exist.

    Your example of an ‘essential series of causes’ such of a stack of books doesn’t require each part of the series to exist. For example, if one book doesn’t exist, then all you’d have is a lower stack of books.

    You don’t seem to understand what you’re talking about if you think your examples explain anything. I think you should have reversed your examples. An ‘essential series of cause’ would be generations of a family. An ‘accidental series of cause’ would be a stack of books.

    And why can’t the ‘Big Bang’ 13.84 billion years ago be the ‘first cause’ of everything in the universe? What happened before the Big Bang is unknowable. It could have been a quantum fluctuation in the Multiverse, or God, somehow, could have said the Word and brought it all into existence.

    I don’t know. Nor do you. But your Christian creation myth is really silly. God created humans 200,000 years ago and then waited 198,000 years before sending himself as his son to Earth to be sacrificed to himself as penance for a non-existent Original Sin committed by a non-existent Adam and Eve in a non-existent Garden of Eve, just so God can forgive humans for a sin they didn’t commit. And all they have to do to achieve eternal salvation is to believe.

  121. bachfiend says:

    mumadadd,

    Do you mean Harry Potter isn’t real? But I went to the Harry Potter museum in England in 2016.

    Actually the one thing that convinced me that it was fiction was the calculated number of witches and wizards in the UK. If each house in Hogwarts received 12 new students each year, there’d be 50 new candidate witches and wizards each year. And if they lived an average of 100 years then there’d be 5,000 witches and wizards in the UK, which somehow supported the enormous bureaucracy of the Ministry of Magic.

    The existence of magic didn’t bother me at all.

  122. Damlowet says:

    Merry Christmas guys.

    Just a quick one, if ‘God’ is the perfect being, with ultimate knowledge and undeniable “Intelligent Design” capabilities, why is our genome so chock full of mistakes a copying errors? If God is trying to impress his mates with his abilities, he has screwed the pooch big time. But being omniscient, he would know this and be ok with his lowly creations thinking he was at best a ‘D’ student of creation, and probably should have studied biology a little more closely.

    Damien

  123. BillyJoe7 says:

    Bachfiend,

    Definitely not an expert but…
    (The italicised words are philosophical jargon)

    A better example is Michelangelo chiseling away at the block of marble to eventually produce the statue of David. With the removal of each chip of marble, the form (or shape) of the marble changes. These are called accidental changes. By definition, an accidental change is one that changes an accidental property of an object. And, by definition, an accidental property of an object is a property that can change. The form of the marble changes with the removal of each chip of marble.

    On the other hand, by definition, an essential property of an object is a property of that object that cannot change. An essential property of the block of marble is that it is made of…marble. That property does not change with the removal of each chip of marble. However, the marble can change into something else. When heated, marble erodes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide. By definition, this is an essential change. Note that the object itself does not undergo an essential change because it actually ceases to exist when an essential change occurs.

    Yeah, I know. 😀

    (No doubt ME will correct if I am wrong, but sometimes you have to stick your neck out!)

  124. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Your example of an ‘essential series of causes’ such of a stack of books doesn’t require each part of the series to exist. For example, if one book doesn’t exist, then all you’d have is a lower stack of books.]

    That’s just my point. If one book doesn’t exist, then the stack above it (it’s effects) doesn’t exist. So there must be a First Book that exists necessarily, or the whole stack can’t get started.

    You can’t have an actually infinite stack of books, just like you can’t have an actually infinite regress of essential causes.

    There must be a First Cause, that is Itself uncaused.

  125. BillyJoe7 says:

    …wait, isn’t the table the first cause? Otherwise where are you going to place the first book? In mid air? But wait…where did that goddamn table come from?

  126. BillyJoe7 says:

    Hey, Michael, shouldn’t you be in church?

  127. michaelegnor says:

    […wait, isn’t the table the first cause? Otherwise where are you going to place the first book? In mid air? But wait…where did that goddamn table come from?]

    The analogy between an essential series of causes and a stack is reasonably good.

    You can’t have an actually infinite stack of anything. What I mean by ‘actually’ is that you may imagine an infinite stack, or invoke it in an argument, but in reality an infinite stack is nonsense–it cannot exist.

    In the same way, you cannot have an actual infinite regress of essential causes. There must be an uncaused First Cause, which exists of Itself and necessarily.

    This also applies to the “What caused God?” retort. God is not caused. He is the Ground of Being, the Uncaused Cause, the Necessary Existence. His existence as such is deduced, not presumed.

  128. arnie says:

    “There must be an uncaused First Cause, which exists of Itself and necessarily.

    This also applies to the “What caused God?” retort. God is not caused. He is the Ground of Being, the Uncaused Cause, the Necessary Existence. His existence as such is deduced, not presumed.”

    ME’s statements are simply assertions, are nonsense, and are derived form ignorance.
    His analogy of “a stack” is also a complete failure. The fact that the human brain cannot fully conceive of infinity doesn’t mean that you can logically or from evidence meaningfully declare that there was a god by whatever name you want to grab out of the air of ignorance which was the “uncaused first cause”. His is just another example of the old and tiresome “god of the gaps”. Can’t tolerate the biggest gap of all not being filled, now or perhaps ever. Better to have the humility of simply not knowing, at least not yet. He offers some pseudo-sophisticated-sounding nonsense with no different motivation and substance than early hominid’s attempt to feel more less helpless more secure, or whatever, by giving the source of thunder and fire supernatural, deistic names. It’s understandable and well-intentioned perhaps but really just desperate, ideological smoke screening by a species with a limited brain and finite existence. Ignorance is never very easy but harder for some people than others. That’s ok. So be it.

  129. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor Thanks for being polite. I wish it was always so.

    Personally, I find the conclusion of “therefore God” quite unsatisfying. I think a more honest answer is “therefore we can’t understand this”. Positing an uncaused cause and claiming it to be God seems like word play.

    I also find the leap from “therefore God” to belief in the God of the bible to be a bridge too far. By any interpretation, the God of the bible, and all other gods that people believe in, is a petty, juvenile tyrant. The concepts of original sin, the need for “redemption”, and the existence of eternity in hell (or heaven) are just patently absurd, IMO, as is the idea of sacrificing oneself so others can be forgiven.

    I (and I’m sure most everyone here that is an atheist) am an atheist because I find the gods posited by the world’s religions to be ridiculous. A being capable of creating this universe, which is both full of amazing beauty and incredible horror, is not the kind of petty being described in the bible. I’d also bet that very few here are positively convinced that there is no “creator” (a creator is not to be confused with a religious “god”). We just see no evidence for any specific god, therefore we are a–theists, which is to say we are not theists. We’re quite content to say “I don’t know”. We’re also quite happy to poke fun at, and seriously criticize, the absurdities of beliefs.

  130. arnie says:

    Willy, I see you and I are saying essentially the same thing. if we have honesty and courage, we still must all finally say, “We (humans)I don’t know everything, at least not yet, and maybe and maybe never will”. Doesn’t mean we don’t know a lot and can’t continue to learn more. However, I’m not with you about the assumption that there has to be “a creator”. Energy and matter are inherently creative and change (creativity) is always happening, and perhaps always has. Who knows how long and how slowly the bit of profoundly concentrated energy finally resulted in the “big bang”, although that concept is also now being closely examined and meaningfully challenged?

  131. Willy says:

    Arnie: I am not assuming there must be a “creator”; I am simply saying I cannot reject that possibility. Also, the “creator” could well be inantimate or something else we can’t comprehend.

  132. RickK says:

    Michael,

    Thanks for another wonderful example of The Coutier’s Reply. Now, take your Aristotelian Metaphysics (whitewashed by Christian apologetics) and apply it to an environment where time and “cause and effect” have no meaning (e.g. our best understanding of conditions before the Big Bang) . Your whole model breaks down. I don’t have any interest in arguing 21st Century concepts in 13th Century terms. We’ve had this same discussion before – when you argue in favor of applying 13 Century morality to 21st Century issues.

    But to simplify it for you – if God can just exist without cause, then the state from which our universe expanded can exist without cause. It is only faith and preconception and personal desire that gets you to an intelligent creator – reason has nothing to do with it.

    Happy Holidays!

  133. arnie says:

    Ok, thanks Willy, I misunderstood and actually agree with you that, since I do not really know, I also cannot totally reject that possibility.

  134. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    As I asked you, why can’t the Big Bang be the ‘first cause’ of everything in the Universe. It’s ‘uncaused’ by anything in the Universe.

    What happen before the Big Bang is unknown. It could have been caused by a quantum fluctuation in the Multiverse. Or it could have been the Word, somehow, of a god or gods.

    I don’t know. Nor do you. Aristotle and Aquinas certainly didn’t know – they were also ignorant of the nature of the Universe and the existence of the Big Bang.

    You might want to think that your God is the ‘Uncaused Cause’, the ‘Ground of Being’, or whatever. The Christian creation myth is just ludicrous. God created Homo sapiens 200,000 years ago, and then waited 198,000 years and countless generations before sending himself as his son to sacrifice himself to himself so he could forgive humans for a non-existent Original Sin committed by a non-existent Adam and Eve in a non-existent Garden of Eden, but that only in a very tiny area of the Middle East. The spread of the ‘Good News’ to other parts of the world, such as the Americas, had to wait around 1400 years before the Spanish conquistadors spread the news to the native Americans. The minority not killed by Old World diseases such as smallpox.

    I’m still not convinced by your example of a stack of books as being an example of an essential series of causes. Each book in a stack is independent of the one below. Back at the time of the invention of the printing press in 1460 or so, you could have decided to build a stack of books by taking one copy of any book printed in a given town in a year and adding it to the stack. The lowest book might be the Bible. Later books could be anything. The first book doesn’t cause the later higher books. Books from some years might be missing, due to the Black Death or the Thirty Years War, The stack will still exist, but it will just be lower.

    A stack of books seems to me to be a better example of an accidental series of causes. And a good analogy for the universe. The stack of books has a First Cause – the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg. The universe has a First Cause – the Big Bang. And both the Universe and the stack of books both have a beginning, and aren’t infinite in time.

    You might want to wonder why Gutenberg decided to invent the printing press. Perhaps God decided to inspire him to do so in order to spread the Word to the masses (although the Church opposed any efforts to spread the Bible in understandable language in order to maintain its monopoly). Or he could have done it just for the money.

  135. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] This is basic metaphysics, known since Aristotle.

    Please read a book written after the 16th century.

    Even Kant, who was desperate to rescue “metaphysics” from the enlightenment philosophers, recognized that the only a priori knowledge possible was that of our own cognitive processes.

    Kant knew nothing of neuroscience, but if he had he would have recognized that the “categories” of his transcendental deduction are the equivalent of our neurological systems of cognition.

    [T]he objective validity of the categories, as a priori concepts, rests on the fact that through them alone is experience possible (as far as the form of thinking is concerned). For they then are related necessarily and a priori to objects of experience, since only by means of them can any object of experience be thought at all.

    There are no “metaphysics.” There is the human mind and the manner in which it orders perception and experience. Observations about such reveal only the gross structures and limitations of that mind, not the properties or existence of some objective object(s) external to it.

    We’re right back to the cuttlefish asserting that it can discover the secrets of the universe through contemplation alone. The only thing it is contemplating is its own little brain.

    The existence of essentially ordered causal series in nature presupposes an Uncaused Cause.

    No, YOU presuppose an uncaused cause, because that is all you are capable of imagining. “Nature” is under no such obligation.

    You don’t really disagree with Aquinas, because you don’t have a clue as to what he actually said. You don’t even know the most basic terms of the argument.

    If you wish to engage these questions intelligently, you have a long way to go.

    Provide a cogent refutation of Transcendental Idealism, which is necessary before establishing the predicates for a syllogistic argument regarding the nature of external causes or objects.

  136. bachfiend says:

    Chikoppi,

    ‘We’re right back to the cuttlefish asserting that it can discover the secrets of the universe through contemplation alone. The only thing it is contemplating is its own little brain.’

    Please stop insulting cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are intelligent. Not only that, cuttlefish haven’t invented a religion worshipping an uber-cuttlefish made in its own image.

  137. BillyJoe7 says:

    The Cosmological Argument.

    https://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/cosmological-argument.htm

    The Cosmological Argument or First Cause Argument is a philosophical argument for the existence of God which explains that everything has a cause, that there must have been a first cause, and that this first cause was itself uncaused.

    There is an obvious contradiction between the bolded bits.

    This bit…”this first cause was itself uncaused”…is contradicted by this bit…”everything has a cause”.
    Both cannot be correct.
    If everything has a cause then there can’t be something that is uncaused.
    Therefore the cosmological argument would seem to fail at the first hurdle.

    Apologists try to get around this with the following modification of the argument:

    Observation: Everything within the universe has a cause.
    Conclusion 1: The universe itself must have had a cause.
    Conclusion 2: The universe itself must have been caused by something outside the universe.
    Conclusion 3: To avoid an infinite regress, that cause must have been uncaused.
    And, of course, that uncaused cause they call “God”.

    The problem here is that we can know nothing about anything outside the universe.
    We cannot know if an uncaused cause outside the universe is even possible!
    This is the unstated premise of the argument and the argument fails if that premise is false.
    You cannot have logical PROOF based on a premise the truth or falsity of which cannot determined.

    As bachfiend said, you might just as well say that the Big Bang or a quantum fluctuation at the beginning of the universe was the uncaused first cause.
    The choice here would seem to be between an unknown mechanism yet to be discovered within the universe or a unknown mechanism outside the universe about which we know nothing!

    At the very least this is no logical PROOF of the existence of what they call “God”

    I truly believe that only a true believer could be taken in by this facile argument. |:

  138. mumadadd says:

    Willy: “Arnie: I am not assuming there must be a “creator”; I am simply saying I cannot reject that possibility. Also, the “creator” could well be inantimate or something else we can’t comprehend.”

    Saw this and wanted to respond; skimmed the comments to see if what was in my head had already been said; think it has but will say it anyway.

    First time I saw William Lane Craig in action was 10+ years ago, just at a point I’d decided to learn something about various things I’d been openly pontificating about up until then. I had a bit of a realistation that I didn’t really know what I was talking about; I’d possibly been winging it, and maybe I should make more of an effort to understand it. Anyway, he laid out the Kalam (of course):

    – Anything that began to exist has a cause
    – The universe began to exist
    – Therefore the universe has a cause

    And then there are some assumptions that I can’t remember if he stated explicitly:

    – No time before the universe began
    – No space before the universe began

    So, if the universe had a cause, that cause must have been outside of space and time. Something that is outside of time is eternal, being timeless and all. Though I suppose you could also say that something outside of time never existed and never will – blah blah semantics.

    (Not sure if he said anything about something outside of space being whatever the spatial equivalent of eternal is – infinite..? It seems from ME’s comments that he excludes infinities from his ontology; and he is a proponent of the Kalam — should I give him and WLC the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are consistent? Actually seems to obvious a mistake for WLC so will assume mine.)

    There was then a load of other crap that made no sense at all, trying to twist the above logic into the cause being an omnipotent super-daddy who loves you but will torture you forever if you question his love.

    Anyway, I commented something along these lines: ” love the argument for a cause outside space and time but WLC can’t bridge the yawning chasm of stupid between that and the Christian god. Wish we could have seen a deist WLC!”

    My point is that I can totally follow, and endorse, the Kalam’s logic: if the premises and assumptions are correct, I can’t deny the conclusion that the universe has a cause that is (was?) outside of space and time. And this thing might well have intended to create the universe. So I had some sympathy for deism.

    But physicists don’t seem to be hitting the same wall as WLC, ME and Aristotle. As far as I know they haven’t needed to invoke a perfect supernatural agent who self-contradictingly acts outside of space and time (like acting isn’t a temporal phenomenon that requires change, and perfection could be changed yet remain perfect). Nowhere is the language of uncaused causes, perfection and pure act. Did the universe begin to exist? Who you gonna ask?

    This later WLC debate with Sean Carroll is illustrative:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqKObSeim2w

    SC actually has one of the physicists cited by WLC in his case that the universe began to exist on video stating that he’s not sure but probably not.

    It’s basically a conspiracy to cover up the obvious fact that goddiddit, just like evolution.

    I really wish I could find some way to square some sort of magic with reality. Sincerely – if I could just find a scrap to hold on to and make permanent and irrevocable oblivion not inevitable, I would cling to it for my life.

  139. mumadadd says:

    I should point out that it took me more than 25 mins to type that so I didn’t see BJ7’s post.

    Anyway! Happy Jeebus coincidentally midwinter pagan celebration day, everyone!

  140. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [Provide a cogent refutation of Transcendental Idealism…]

    TI is a philosophical error of the first magnitude. There are two crippling problems with it.

    1) If we only conceive and perceive our own mental states (phenomena), rather than the objects of our thoughts and perceptions in themselves (noumena), then we cannot communicate meaningfully with each other. For example, in order for you and I to discuss the topic we are discussing, we have to both have some genuine contact with objective reality other than our own mental states. Otherwise, I’m just talking about my mental state (to which you have no access) and you’re just talking about your mental state (to which I have no access). Any genuine communication presupposes shared access to genuine reality that is to some extent actually independent of our perceptive and cognitive apparatus. Kant argued that the only thing we can really perceive and think are our own perceptions and thoughts.

    If we cannot know and share noumena, why write about it for others to read? TI is functional solipsism.

    2) Kant didn’t accept the Prime Mover (cosmological) argument. He argued that our logical inferences applied only to phenomena, not to noumena, and that God (in Whom he believed) was pure noumena, and could not be known by logical inference. Kant’s own argument for God’s existence was the Categorical Imperative, which he (correctly) believed was clear evidence for objective moral law that could only come from God.

    The difficulty with Kant’s denial of logical inference to God’s existence is that it is inherently a denial of the principle of sufficient reason. The PSR, elaborated most prominently by Leibniz but discussed by many philosophers for ages, is the principle that every state of affairs has some set of reasons adequate to explain it. Nothing happens without an sufficient reason. Of course, we may not know the reason, and we may not ever discover the reason, but such reason must exist, according to PSR.

    PSR is the basis for science, and is indispensable for daily life. When we explore nature or when we go about our daily business, we always assume that there are reasons for things. We never (if we are sane) proclaim: “This happened for no reason at all”. If we did, then every scientific theory must include “… for no reason at all”. How did man evolve? By natural selection, or by no reason at all. Why does the sun produce heat and light? By nuclear fusion, or by no reason at all. Why does my car go when I press on the gas? Because of the internal combustion engine, or by no reason at all.

    You can’t deny the PSR and function as a sane person.

    Yet Kant’s denial that logic extended to things in themselves (noumena) because they were utterly unknowable is an implicit denial of the PSR. Things in themselves (noumena) could be doing all sorts of things for no reason or for any reason, and we have no way of knowing. Science becomes impossible. Everyday life becomes Alice-in-Wonderland.

    TI is a philosophical catastrophe. We need the Aristotelian principle that when we perceive and think that we actually grasp the form of the object perceived or conceived, and we actually have access to some aspect of noumena. And we need the Aristotelian/Thomist principle that logic applies to understanding God’s existence, although of course in Aristotelian semi-realism we cannot know everything about God. But there are some things we can know.

    Kant’s error about mental access to reality, an error he shared with Descartes and Locke, derives ultimately from the nominalism of Ockham, which was the root metaphysical error that has infested modern metaphysics.

  141. bachfiend says:

    Mumadadd,

    Egnor’s words: ‘That God is Triune, and that the Second Person of the Trinity was born to a virgin in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, is a matter of revelation and faith. You can’t reason to it.’

    Except as Bart Ehrman notes in his book ‘How Jesus Became God’, theologians reasoned their way to the idea that God is one person in three, and it took them 300 years to do so, not by revelation. Early bishops of Rome, the first popes, obviously didn’t have a direct line to revelation as to the Triune (or Trinity) because they believed ideas of the nature of Jesus that were later reasoned to be wrong or heretical.

    I’ve asked him several times how he gets from a First or Prime Mover to his Christian God, but I don’t think I’ll be getting an answer, besides the waffle he’s already provided.

  142. michaelegnor says:

    mums:

    [I really wish I could find some way to square some sort of magic with reality. Sincerely – if I could just find a scrap to hold on to and make permanent and irrevocable oblivion not inevitable, I would cling to it for my life.]

    There are no infinite stacks of essential causes. Infinite regress of essential causation is impossible. There must be a First Cause. We can know some things about this First Cause via reason alone– It must be metaphysically simple (not composed of parts), it must be of unlimited intelligence and power, among other things. Ed Feser has a nice discussion of this in ‘Aquinas’.

    This doesn’t get you to the Christian God of the Bible. That is only by revelation.

    What I did, more or less, is realize that the First Cause exists, and then I asked “I know you exist. Tell me something about Yourself.” In due time, He did.

  143. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    “Infinite regress of essential causation is impossible”

    But we’re not talking about infinite regress of essential causation are we? We’re talking about infinite regress of accidental causation. You identified the series x, father-of-x, grandfather-of-x, great-grandfather-of-x, etc as an accidental series (because they all don’t have to exist simultaneously). An infinite regress of accidental causation is not impossible. Which would mean that an uncaused first cause would not be necessary.

  144. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘We need the Aristotelian principle that when we perceive and think that we actually grasp the form of the object perceived or conceived, and (the ‘and’ seems unnecessary and destroys the meaning of the sentence) we actually have access to some aspect of noumena.’

    I’ve mentioned the Penrose triangle several times, and you’ve never responded, but I’d be interested in your take on it. There’s a sculpture using the principle of the Penrose triangle near Royal Perth Hospital (the Wikipedia article on it has images of it) which has the ‘form’ of a perfect equilateral triangle, provided you’re observing from one specific location. Otherwise the sculpture is just a roughly U-shaped construct consisting of 3 joined metal bars.

    It contradicts your statement on Evolution News on December 1, 2015 that the mind grasps the ‘form’ of objects at the location of the object. But the sculpture indicates that ‘form’ of the object is constructed within the brain – the mind doesn’t have any way of discerning the ‘form’ of an object at its location. The mind is not independent of the brain, and is susceptible to extremely convincing visual illusions.

  145. BillyJoe7 says:

    I think we should leave the christian god out of this discussion, because we have first to establish if there is a logical PROOF that a god exists.

  146. bachfiend says:

    ‘What I did, more or less, is realise that the First Cause exists, and then I asked “I know you exist. Tell me something about Yourself.” In due time He did.’

    If someone said this about anything else, it would be a sign of a psychosis. But once it’s about God, it becomes ‘acceptable’, not needing evidence.

    Christianity, and religion in general, is a widespread psychotic illness. No wonder that the acceptance of belief is lowest in psychiatrists and highest in surgeons.

  147. Willy says:

    mumadadd: Here’s my thinking as to eternal life. Imagine Mt Everest and then imagine it is made of particles of sand. Now imagine that once every thousand years, a sparrow flies in and takes a grain of sand away. After a trillion years, a billion grains will have been removed, totaling about the volume of a pick-up bed. How many kajillion loads taking a trillion years per load will it take to remove the last grain of sand? Consider that, at the time of the last grain of sand being carted off, eternity will not have hardly begun.

    I suppose some properly motivated theologian, er, “philosopher”, could say that “outside” the universe, time has no meaning…

  148. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    BJ: “…wait, isn’t the table the first cause? Otherwise where are you going to place the first book? In mid air? But wait…where did that goddamn table come from?”

    Well, that was a joke (with a point), but you’ve taken it seriously with the following reply, so I’ll do likewise.

    ME: “You can’t have an actually infinite stack of anything. What I mean by ‘actually’ is that you may imagine an infinite stack, or invoke it in an argument, but in reality an infinite stack is nonsense–it cannot exist”

    You have my sympathy, but neither of us are mathematicians! Not only that, but we are both imagining things. I’m imagining an infinite stack of books, and you’re imagining an uncaused first cause outside the universe – in a dimension that we do not, and cannot, know anything about.

    The mathematics of infinite series tells us that, we can indeed have an (imaginary) infinite stack of books that does not collapse. The mathematics of infinite series tells us that every book in the series is supported by the book below. The stack will not collapse. We do NOT need a uncaused first cause. That might be counter-intuitive, but that is what the mathematics of infinite series tells us. If you disagree, take it up with the mathematicians!

    So…if you’re allowed your uncaused first cause, I’m allowed my infinite series.
    The point being that you do not have a logical PROOF of god.

    ME: “In the same way, you cannot have an actual infinite regress of essential causes”

    But you can have an infinite regress of accidental causes, which is actually what we are talking about. We are talking about accidental causes stretching back in time, not essential causes extending out in space.

  149. BillyJoe7 says:

    …that should have been…”if you’re allowed your imaginary uncaused first cause, I’m allowed my imaginary infinite series”

  150. BillyJoe7 says:

    Infinite Series.

    Any activity that requires an infinite number of moves to complete will not be completed in finite time but it WILL be completed if time is infinite.

    An infinite series of train carriages will not move because there is no end to the series and therefore no engine, but an infinite series of engines WILL move because each engine is moved by the engine behind.

    Take it up with the mathematicians if you disagree. 🙂

  151. michaelegnor says:

    [Take it up with the mathematicians if you disagree.]

    Mathematicians can deal conceptually with numerical infinity. They cannot deal with an actual infinity of objects or events, and thus mathematical infinity has nothing to do with the First Cause argument.

    Hilbert’s grand hotel was a thought experiment about properties of infinite sets, and was never an assertion that an infinite number of hotel rooms actually exist.

    An actual infinity of causes cannot exist, because an actual infinite regress of (essentially causal) agents is not possible. I can discuss infinite sets conceptually, but I cannot actually rent infinite numbers of hotel rooms.

    [an infinite series of engines WILL move because each engine is moved by the engine behind.]

    You misunderstand what is meant by essential series of causes. In an essential series, there are three categories. There is the final effect, there are the middle causes, and there is the (putative) First Cause.

    Each final effect and middle cause has no inherent causal power; their causal power is conferred by the preceding cause, which brings them into existence. Only the First Cause (if it exists) has independent causal power.

    There is obviously only one final effect. In an infinite series, there are infinite middle causes. If infinite regress is possible, then there is no First Cause.

    If infinite regress is possible, there are only a final effect and infinite middle causes. Neither final effects nor middle causes have inherent causal power, therefore the sum of infinite middle causes and final effect has no causal power.

    Only if there is a First Cause is there causal power.

    An infinite regress of essential causes is impossible, because an infinite regress of middle causes have no causal power. A First Cause is necessary if there is to be causal power.

  152. michaelegnor says:

    BJ:

    [But you can have an infinite regress of accidental causes, which is actually what we are talking about.]

    No. We are talking about essential series, not accidental series.

    Try to focus.

  153. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] If we only conceive and perceive our own mental states (phenomena), rather than the objects of our thoughts and perceptions in themselves (noumena), then we cannot communicate meaningfully with each other…

    If we cannot know and share noumena, why write about it for others to read? TI is functional solipsism.

    Kant most certainly believed in (and even requires) objects external to the self, which are the objective causes of phenomena. Though when discussing phenomena we are discussing our shared cognition of reality, rather than reality itself, that cognition is nonetheless meaningful in successfully navigating reality insofar as we understand it.

    Fortunately, it is relatively clear what phenomena are: “appearances to the extent that as objects they are thought in accordance with the unity of the categories are called phenomena” (A249). Earlier, in the “Aesthetic”, Kant had defined appearance as: “the undetermined object of an empirical intuition” (A34/B20). All objects of empirical intuition are appearances, but only those that are “thought in accordance with the unity of the categories” are phenomena. For instance, if I have a visual after-image or highly disunified visual hallucination, that perception may not represent its object as standing in cause-effect relations, or being an alteration in an absolutely permanent substance. These would be appearances but not phenomena. The objects of “universal experience”, as defined in section 3, are phenomena because the categories determine the a priori conceptual form; universal experience represents its objects under the unity of the categories. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

    Of course we can communicate meaningfully, we can agree on shared/similar perceptions, and we can discuss cognitive categories, all of which are indicative of how we think and perceive and not how things truly exist in themselves.

    Yet Kant’s denial that logic extended to things in themselves (noumena) because they were utterly unknowable is an implicit denial of the PSR. Things in themselves (noumena) could be doing all sorts of things for no reason or for any reason, and we have no way of knowing. Science becomes impossible. Everyday life becomes Alice-in-Wonderland.

    Nonsense.

    First, “things in themselves” very likely already do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons (and quite possibly no reasons) that we don’t understand and may never have a way of knowing. The universe is not required to be intelligible to Homo sapiens.

    Second, the fact that we don’t comprehend “things in themselves” does not reduce the world to unintelligible chaos. Our perception and cognition, however limited it may be, is reliable in navigating our world to the extent it is sufficiently consistent at scale. Time may be an illusion, but it is an illusion that maps to the underlying reality in a manner that is sufficiently consistent to be useful in navigating the world as we understand it.

    “Science” is not impeded, because the ambition of science is to accurately model our perceptual reality. I can accurately model what we perceive as time (the phenomenon) in a useful manner without being bothered by what time “really is.”

    Similarly, the Theory of Gravity is a demonstrably accurate model, even though we don’t yet have an understanding of what gravity “really is” or how to incorporate it into broader conceptual frameworks.

    “Metaphysics” is left with the impossible task of separating cognition from perception. At what point are you truly perceiving an external object/cause as opposed to a phenomenological representation or artificial cognitive category and how do you objectively test the difference? You don’t. You can’t ever get out of your own mind nor “explore” anything not contained within.

  154. ChrisH says:

    Checks in out of morbid curiosity.

    Oh, good grief. :-/

  155. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    I said I sympathise. Did you not read that?

    My point was that if you can have your imagined uncaused first cause, then I can have my imagined infinite series. If you can present your uncaused first cause as a brute fact, then I can present my infinite series as a brute fact. And you have presented it as a brute fact, because you certainly have not shown how your first cause could be its own cause or why your first cause does not need a cause. You can tell me that an actual infinity of causes cannot exist, and I can tell you an actual uncaused first cause cannot exist. The two propositions are on an equal footing therefore your claim that you have proven the existence of a uncaused first cause is false.

    To be clear, I am not proposing an infinite series as a solution to the problem. I am simply claiming that you have not proven your case that there must be an uncaused first cause

  156. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    “No. We are talking about essential series, not accidental series”

    No. We are talking about accidental series, not essential series.
    All the objects in an essential series are, by your own definition, comtemporaneous. You even used the stack of books as an example. Therefore essential series are not relevant to this discussion. On the other hand, accidental series, again by your own definition, extend backwards in time. Here you used the example of generations of parents.

  157. BillyJoe7 says:

    …and clearly, when we are discussing the cause of the universe we are looking at series that extend backwards in time (i.e. Accidental series)

  158. Pete A says:

    [michaelegnor] Hilbert’s grand hotel was a thought experiment about properties of infinite sets, and was never an assertion that an infinite number of hotel rooms actually exist.

    It isn’t an infinite set problem, it is a queue in which the seemingly infinite length is a deliberate red herring.

  159. Average Joe says:

    [ME: Mathematicians can deal conceptually with numerical infinity. They cannot deal with an actual infinity of objects or events, and thus mathematical infinity has nothing to do with the First Cause argument.]

    Here’s an example of an actual numerical infinity (if you ever had taken calculus you’d understand this).
    Walking across a room. You traverse half the distance. You again traverse half the remaining distance. Again, you traverse half the remaining distance. And so on until you reach the other side of the room. At ANY point, the distance between you and the other side of the room can be cut in half. And infinity series that has a mathematical solution (requiring calculus to solve) and the point of fact that you can cross the room.

  160. arnie says:

    Some thoughts:
    An important difference between what ME is doing and saying and what most of the other commenters are doing and saying is the difference between a man with delusional belief system in the case of ME and an open minded exploration of ideas in response to some as yet not fully answerable questions about time space and the origins, history and nature of the universe as represented by a number of other commenters.

    ME described to us a couple of experiences in his life that apparently resulted in a transformational change in his thinking such that thenceforth he “knew” (fixed idea not supported by evidence or sound logic) an actual trinal “God” exists and that this God is the uncaused cause of the universe (all future effects and causes). So everything about this that follows in his thinking, his reasoning, his questions and answers, stems from and is interpreted within the confines of this assumption, this fixed, faith-based (as opposed to evidence based) belief system created by his own imaginative powers. What makes sense to him is anything which appears to him to justify and support his already fixed, unshakeable Answer to the most perplexing questions of life and the universe as well as his future (after-life).

    The other responders here, each of us probably with our owned also motivated and preferred tentative answers to these questions, generally recognize the tentative, unfixed nature of our ideas and trial answers and remain seekers of truth, not revelation-conversion-based knowers of truth. We attempt to keep in mind the importance of evidence and sound logic and reason, and also tolerance for uncertainty, ambiguity, and the greater satisfaction of being a part of an ongoing search, and the slow tortuous journey involved in the use of the scientific method to find better understandings, change outdated answers and slowly add to the growing but never finished body of knowledge discoverable by the human species and its explorations.

    In referring to ME’s fixed belief system as a delusion am I suggesting he’s insane or mentally ill. Not at all (although I don’t really know). While his unproveable (by evidence, logic, or reason) fixed belief system about his God (uncaused firsts cause) is fairly idiosyncratic it is also similar to that held by billions of people, most of whom were simply indoctrinated to their particular version in the most vulnerable times of their youth. I am suggesting, however, that MEs Answer is probably closed to impact by the arguments brought to bear by most of the responders here and that he uses this blog primarily to further fortify his justifications, to feel superior, and to demean and to insult all those who whom he can’t intimidate in some way. I see that as a more serious “mental, interpersonal” problem on this blog than his attempts to explain and justify his personal belief system. The latter has produced some great, well thought out answers by other responders whose knowledge and efforts I have come to admire and appreciate benefiting from.

  161. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    {But you can have an infinite regress of accidental causes, which is actually what we are talking about}

    ‘No. We are talking about essential series, not accidental series.’

    Your example of a ‘series of essential causes’ – a stack of books – is just wrong. Apparently Ed Feser gives as an example of a ‘series of essential causes’ a rock balancing precariously on a ledge, the rock being balanced by a stick, which is held by a hand, which is caused to grasp by contraction in muscles of the arm, caused by nerve impulses in the nerves innervating the arm muscles, caused by activity in the motor cortex… eventually there’s a decision to balance the rock and prevent the rock falling, which may be subconscious or conscious in the brain of the person holding the stick (i can imagine that it could be possible for a hypnotist to leave a post-hypnotic command in a person to prevent the rock falling, in which case the person isn’t consciously deciding).

    I’d agree that there is a ‘first cause’ in a ‘series of essential cause’ in this example.

    All of the ‘causes’ have to exist simultaneously for the series to exist Remove the stick or the hand, and the rock falls. A stack of books isn’t a ‘series of essential causes’ just because the books exist in the stack simultaneously. The books in a stack were placed there at different times, the lower ones before the upper ones. The lower books don’t ‘cause’ the higher books. The person stacking the books could have missed a book, and it’s still a stack of books.

    Ed Feser gives an example of a ‘series of accidental causes’ the generations of a family, so in that respect you seem to be right regarding what Aquinas was arguing. Not that I think that the terminology is particularly convincing or useful.

    A ‘series of accidental causes’ need not have a ‘first cause’. I could imagine I could trace my family to a small population of Homo erectus humans (as everyone else in the world could do) living in East Africa over 200,000 years ago. And further back to a population of Australopithecus afarensis 3 million years ago. And further back to the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees. And gorillas. And all the other placental mammals in the Mesozoic. All the way back to the origin of life.

    The universe is either a ‘series of essential causes’ with a ‘cause’ in this universe of the Big Bang’. Or it’s a ‘series of accidental causes’, which need not have a ‘first cause’. In either case, the universe has as a ‘cause’ the Big Bang, even if it isn’t the ‘final cause’.

    If the universe is a ‘series of essential causes’ then the ‘final cause’ could be a quantum fluctuation in the Multiverse. Or the ‘final cause’ could be the Word of a god or gods bringing, somehow, by the Word the universe into existence through the Big Bang. In either case, it’s impossible, definitely, to tell which one it was. I don’t know. You don’t know. You want it to be your Christian God, but as I’ve noted, and you’ve never addressed, the Christian creation myth is just ludicrous and illogical.

    Or the universe could be a ‘series of accidental causes’ (which seems to me the correct option since the example of generations of a family is the exact analogy of the evolution of the universe) in which case a ‘first cause’ is unnecessary.

    The argument that you can’t get something from nothing doesn’t apply to the universe, because the universe is nothing. You can get nothing from nothing. The sum of the positive energy of ordinary matter, dark matter, dark energy and the residual cosmic background radiation of the Big Bang exactly equals the negative energy of gravity, so the overall sum is zero. Nothing.

  162. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    We must have some degree of direct mental access to noumena, or we cannot communicate about the world to others. We cannot even know that others exist.

    Interestingly, Dennett, who is wrong about virtually everything, has critiqued this denial of the knowability of noumena rather well, referring to the Cartesian/Lockean/Kantian functional solipsism as the “Cartesian theatre”–essentially a movie theatre in the brain in which our soul (homunculus) sits and watches a projection of our perceptions on a screen. He’s right to assert that this is a profoundly wrong way of looking at the mind and at our ability to grasp reality.

    Dennett goes off the rails after this, but he’s a materialist, and “goes off the rails” is part of the materialist toolkit.

    Bottom line: we must have some degree of direct perception/knowledge of noumena if we are to avoid solipsism.

  163. michaelegnor says:

    And as I noted, if we do not have any direct perceptual or cognitive connection to reality, we cannot invoke the principle of sufficient reason, which is the basis for science and for sanity in everyday life.

    There are then three general epistemologies: realism, semi-realism, and nominalism. Plato was a realist, and there are notorious problems with radical Platonic realism. Ockham was a nominalist, and his metaphysical progeny (Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Kant and most modern philosophers) imitated his error.

    Aristotelian semi-realism (forms exist in objects and are grasped by the senses and the intellect) is the most satisfactory way to understand reality and man’s access to it.

  164. BillyJoe7 says:

    The problems so far with the cosmological argument as PROOF of god’s existence:

    1) The premise (everything has a cause) contradicts the conclusion (there must be an uncaused first cause)

    2) It proposes entities that exist outside the universe, a dimension we can know nothing about.

    3) It has not shown how the first cause can actually be uncaused.

    4) Alternatively, it has not been shown how the first cause could actually be its own cause.

    5) You say that infinite series has not been shown to exist but your uncaused first cause has the same status.

    Therefore PROOF of God’s existence has not been demonstrated.

  165. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] We must have some degree of direct mental access to noumena, or we cannot communicate about the world to others. We cannot even know that others exist.

    Bottom line: we must have some degree of direct perception/knowledge of noumena if we are to avoid solipsism.

    Again, Kant insists that external objects are necessary. He acknowledges the very point you are making.

    Kant simply points out that we cannot claim to know anything about them apart from our perception. A point you apparently do not refute.

    Case in point: does gravity exist and what is its true nature?

  166. Willy says:

    I am no philosopher. I can’t discuss the merits of Kant vs Hume vs whomever. I am trying to learn some; however. I’ve listened to several Great Courses classes on philosophy and read a couple of books and the one thing that stands out is that, on ANY controversial topic, topics that have been debated for centuries,even millennia, there is no consensus. Each topic typically features three or more camps of belief, with no reconciliation in sight on any topic.

    As Dr. Egnor noted somewhere above, science used to be called natural philosophy. Once science began to establish facts and investigators began to come to a consensus on a given topic, it was no longer considered philosophy. It became recognizable as the best–I’d say the only way–to discover “truth”, or at least a good approximation thereof.

    Philosophers continue to argue, but distinct camps remain and it seems that the real “truth” is unknowable (via just “thinking) and will remain unknowable with regard to the tough questions of whether a god exists or whether or not we have free will. Meantime, members in each camp cling to their beliefs with no real evidence. Theologians represent dozens, probably hundreds of camps, with no agreement arising. Even within a single camp, say, Catholicism, opinions evolve and dogma changes. A Pope from the year 1,000 would likely be appalled at the state of today’s church.

    Dr. Egnor, you are a Thomist, which means you are a member of a minority within a swarm of minorities, yet you insist you KNOW the truth. How is this possible? Then you proclaim that through “revelation” you know still more details of the “truth”. What is the point of revelation in the mind of an omni-benevolent creator? What is the point of salvation? Why not give every being the same information? Can you even begin to grasp how absurd the concept of revelation is to an outsider? Why is “salvation”, to a large extent, a result of geography?

    Finally, I would like to ask your personal opinion as to the literalness of the Bible. Will you tell us what you believe?

  167. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘Aristolian semi-realism (forms exist in objects and are grasped by the senses and the intellect) is the most satisfactory way to understand reality and man’s access to it.’

    It might be the most satisfactory way to you but is it the way objects are actually perceived by the brain?

    I’ve asked you about the Penrose triangle several times, and you haven’t responded. There’s a sculpture near Royal Perth Hospital based on its principle. It has the form of a perfect equilateral triangle provided one is viewing from a particular spot. Otherwise, from other locations, it’s just what it is in reality, 3 metal bars joined in a rough U-shape.

    Its form of a perfect equilateral triangle is constructed in the brain. It’s a visual illusion and a very good one – you have to keep reminding yourself that it’s not an equilateral triangle. It doesn’t exist in reality. The senses and the intellect completely get the form of the object wrong if it’s viewed from a particular location, with the subconscious insisting it’s a perfect equilateral triangle.

    Anyway. Do you regard the universe to be a ‘series of accidental causes’ or a ‘series of essential causes’?

  168. BillyJoe7 says:

    Average Joe,

    “Here’s an example of an actual numerical infinity…Walking across a room. You traverse half the distance. You again traverse half the remaining distance. Again, you traverse half the remaining distance. And so on until you reach the other side of the room”

    If you actually do that, you will never reach the other side of the room. You will continue to halve the distance remaining. Forever. Of course, nobody actually does that. Nobody keeps walking across half the remaining distance. They just walk across the room.

    “At ANY point, the distance between you and the other side of the room can be cut in half. And infinity series that has a mathematical solution (requiring calculus to solve) and the point of fact that you can cross the room”

    The mathematical equation translated into words says “in the limit as the distance approaches the width of the room”. It approaches but never gets there. What the equation solves is the distance that it approaches.

    This is, in fact, an example of a “potential infinity” not an “actual infinity”.

    Of course, this is using philosophical language. Mathematicians talk about “actual” infinities all the time, but their definition of “actual” is different from that of philosophers. If the universe extends infinitely into the future, mathematicians would call that an actual infinity. In mathematical language, the word extends is synonymous with actual. However, philosophers would call that a potential infinity.

    In philosophical terms, you can’t have an actual infinity. An infinity cannot be there in it’s entirety. It’s sort of a contradiction in terms. In Mathematics, there is set theory, which (sort of) makes infinities actual. A set of infinite numbers, for example.

  169. BillyJoe7 says:

    We can ask questions, but ME is not obliged to answer them. He is also not obliged to clarify why he believes that the cosmological argument provides a logical PROOF of the existence of god. And he is not obliged to answer out criticisms of his so called PROOF.

    So I will simply leave my criticisms out there.
    They are the same as before but in expanded form.

    —————-

    The problems so far with the cosmological argument as a logical PROOF of god’s existence:

    1) He starts off with the premise: Everything has a cause. He ends with the conclusion: There must be an entity that is uncaused. The conclusion is a direct contradiction of the premise. If everything has a cause, then it can’t be the case that there is an entity that is not caused.

    2) In order to overcome this glaring contradiction, he proposes an unknown entity existing in some unknown dimension outside the known universe. He then boldly states, without any explanation, that this entity is exempt from the rule that “everything has a cause”. But not only that. He also boldly states that this entity is the cause of everything else!

    3) He has made no attempt to explain how that entity could be uncaused. He just boldly states it as a fact. Which is not a surprise because, after all, he is talking about an unknown entity in an unknown dimension outside the known universe!

    4) He has also made no attempt to explain how that entity could be its own cause.

    5) He states that actual infinities cannot exist, and in philosophical language, that is true. Actual existing completed infinities are a contradiction in terms. Infinities can only be potential (potentially extending in to the future). But he fails to see the same problems with his solution. His proposed entity is infinite!

    In summary:
    What he proposes is an unknown entity in an unknown dimension, outside the known universe, that is boldly stated, without any explanation, to be either uncaused, self-caused, or infinite unlike everything in the known universe. And this is a logical PROOF of God?

  170. arnie says:

    BillyJoe7,
    Excellent unveiling of the illusion that the supernatural argument and assertion/belief has no logical substance. That “Emperor” truly “has no clothes”. The assertion that he/it does is apparently based on desire alone.

  171. michaelegnor says:

    [1) He starts off with the premise: Everything has a cause. He ends with the conclusion: There must be an entity that is uncaused. The conclusion is a direct contradiction of the premise. If everything has a cause, then it can’t be the case that there is an entity that is not caused.]

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    The First Cause didn’t begin to exist. He is the Source of existence.

    Metaphysics 101. Try to keep up.

  172. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor, Hume, for one, would disagree: “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”, but then, Hume is no doubt an inferior intellect as compared to you.

    You don’t seem to grasp that simple assertions do not justify your positions, positions that are in a minority, I might note. A good number of philosophers reject out of hand the very “field” of metaphysics, yet, for you…a claim without evidence is “metaphysics 101”.

    Christ reportedly prefers the humble and meek. You don’t seem to qualify in that regard. I want to repeat that I appreciate your new found civility, but I note you still avoid answering most questions posed to you, preferring instead to lecture on your minority position philosophy. You don’t seem to want an exchange of ideas; you do seem to want to look down on your “intellectual inferiors” and make assertions devoid of evidence.

    Simple case in point: You claim Trump is a “3-D chess player” genius type, yet when confronted with clear and undeniable evidence that he is an idiot with regard to healthcare, you refuse to answer or offer a defense. C’mon Doc, Trump says that in a very short period of time, he understood everything there was to know about healthcare, then later showed he didn’t have the foggiest idea what a pre-existing condition was. Please square that circle for us. Perhaps posing as a fool is a strategy here????

  173. Pete A says:

    “[michaelegnor] The First Cause didn’t begin to exist. He is the Source of existence.”

    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Cosmological_argument

  174. PunctureKit says:

    @egnor
    You’ve still not answered most questions put, which is no surprise, because you have none.

    What have been ID’s breakthroughs these 20+ years? if there was anything in it, it would have produced some results by now surely? Or even a testable hypothesis? One example will do.

    Can you give one example of the successful application of Dembski’s design filter? Or anyone’s design filter?

    You assert IC is a prediction of ID. Well it’s not! The evolution of bacterial flagella, the eye, various biochemical cycles, and all the usual examples given in the propaganda, is well understood. We’ve even observed IC systems evolving in our lifetimes. The ToE on its own predicts IC.

    So what has ID got to show for it?

  175. bachfiend says:

    PunctureKit,

    And Irreducible Complexity wasn’t even a discovery of ID’s Michael Behe. It was described by Herman Muller, a real Nobel Prize winner not a wannabe winner such as Behe, in 1918 and 1939 (under a different name), who decided correctly that it wasn’t a problem for evolutionary biology.

    Obviously, if Egnor answers (he probabably won’t), he’ll claim that the results of ENCODE confirms the prediction of ID that there’s no junk DNA in the genome.

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘Everything that begins to exist has a cause.’

    Then why can’t the Multiverse always have existed and be the First Cause?

  176. RickK says:

    Egnor: “The First Cause didn’t begin to exist. He is the Source of existence.

    Metaphysics 101. Try to keep up.”

    Special pleading. Logical fallacies 101. Try to keep up.

  177. mumadadd says:

    I’m no philosopher either, but:

    – How can an agent be timeless? (action requires time; agency requires action)
    – How can a perfect and timeless being create anything without becoming imperfect and temporal? (can perfection be changed and remain perfect? Doesn’t making a decision and acting upon it necessitate that the ‘agent’ had to be temporal and imperfect in order to act?)

    If I want to get around an insurmountable problem I don’t just decide to cheat. 2+2=5. Well, there is a magic 5 that actually is the sum of 2+2, and I don’t need to use maths to justify it.

    Honestly I struggle to even define terms like ‘philosophy’ and ‘metaphysics’ in a way that still allows me to incorporate all the putative examples I see. In A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell says something along the lines of (and obviously I’m paraphrasing): There are things we know, which we call science, and there is everything else, which we call philosophy. Metaphysics, for me, given the prefix, should relate to the required pre-conditions for physics; it should be ‘above’ phsyics. And yet so much of both (pre-Bacon) basically amounts to crank theories of everything: no testing against reality, just a reliance on internal consistency and whatever the philosopher had absorbed from the culture (filtered through their ideological lense and accepted as factual grounds upon which to base their reasoning).

    Having said that, I do see a role for non-expert taking the specialist output of esoteric scientific fields and parlaying it towards answering deeper questions that are beyond the purview of those specific fields. Combining the factual knowledge we have across disciplines, applying some rigourous and structured analysis, and contextualising it towards answering difficult and timless questions seems a worthy goal. Universal origins seems to be a perfect example of such a question.

    The answer to this (or these sub-) question/s are only going to be found by applying rigourous testing and constantly updating what we think we know. Hopefully there will be some philosophers on the vanguard to help us conceptualise things, and not just irrelevant bleating about magic.

  178. chikoppi says:

    Metaphysics 101.

    “You’ve got a degree in baloney.”

    https://youtu.be/mThKu3GXPw8

  179. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [Metaphysics 101. “You’ve got a degree in baloney.”]

    You opinion that metaphysics is baloney is metaphysics.

  180. michaelegnor says:

    willy:

    [Dr. Egnor, Hume, for one, would disagree: “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”, but then, Hume is no doubt an inferior intellect as compared to you.]

    I detest Hume. He was an idiot–a lousy philosopher and a liar.

    His “If we take in our hand any volume…” trope is perhaps the dumbest assertion in the history of philosophy (perhaps dumber than materialism). The assertion that we cannot trust any “volume” not based on abstract reasoning about quantity nor based on experiment is self-refuting: the assertion itself is not based on quantitive reasoning or on experiment, so if Hume is right, he asserts he’s wrong. Hume was a high-grade a**hole.

    [You don’t seem to grasp that simple assertions do not justify your positions, positions that are in a minority, I might note. A good number of philosophers reject out of hand the very “field” of metaphysics, yet, for you…a claim without evidence is “metaphysics 101”.]

    You may have noticed that I don’t give a sh*t about being “in the minority”.

    [Christ reportedly prefers the humble and meek. You don’t seem to qualify in that regard. I want to repeat that I appreciate your new found civility, but I note you still avoid answering most questions posed to you, preferring instead to lecture on your minority position philosophy. You don’t seem to want an exchange of ideas; you do seem to want to look down on your “intellectual inferiors” and make assertions devoid of evidence.]

    Your instruction regarding Christ is amusing. He was anything but humble and meek, if you ask the Pharisees. He didn’t end up on the Cross by being agreeable. He pissed a lot of people off, and still does. That’s one reason I love Him.

  181. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Then why can’t the Multiverse always have existed and be the First Cause?]

    The First Cause must be pure act, without potency. If it had potency that could be elevated to act, then it wouldn’t be prior to all other causes, because it would have to be raised from potency to act by a prior cause.

    The multiverse/universe, whatever it is, contains potency, and thus cannot be the First Cause/Prime Mover/Necessary Existence.

    Thomism 101, first day in class, first lesson.

  182. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Christianity, and religion in general, is a widespread psychotic illness…]

    …says a guy who believes that everything came from nothing for no reason, that life emerged from mud, that there is no objective morality, and that our cars change the weather.

  183. Willy says:

    You’re pretty funny Doc. My point about being in a minority is that you assert that you KNOW the truth and you ridicule others for not accepting your truth when your opinion doesn’t have…wait for it…a consensus (I know, gag and choke). It isn’t even close to being widely accepted. I’m in a minority too, Doc. I have no trouble being in a minority, nor do I expect anyone to make a choice to not hold a minority position just because it isn’t a majority opinion. I’m just more careful about asserting that my beliefs are indisputable facts–plenty of evidence for that claim can be found above. Try to keep up.

    Still silent about the 3-D chess player and healthcare, I see. Oh well, there is NO defense for it, so I expect nothing but silence.

  184. michaelegnor says:

    mums:

    [– How can an agent be timeless? (action requires time; agency requires action)
    – How can a perfect and timeless being create anything without becoming imperfect and temporal? (can perfection be changed and remain perfect? Doesn’t making a decision and acting upon it necessitate that the ‘agent’ had to be temporal and imperfect in order to act?)]

    Those are actually really good questions, and for years they bothered me. They were my biggest stumbling block about the Thomist understanding of God as perfect, pure Act, timeless, etc. How could such a Being interact with the imperfect temporal world without becoming Himself imperfect and temporal?

    Aquinas’ answer to this is that in cause and effect, the change need only be in the effect, not in the cause. God may will a change in the world to occur; His will is eternal and perfect, and only the effect is temporal and imperfect.

    Temporality and imperfection are characteristics of effects, and are not necessarily characteristics of effects.

    But it is a very good question.

  185. michaelegnor says:

    last sentence should be: “Temporality and imperfection are characteristics of effects, and are not necessarily characteristics of causes.”

  186. michaelegnor says:

    Mum:

    [In A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell says something along the lines of (and obviously I’m paraphrasing): There are things we know, which we call science, and there is everything else, which we call philosophy. Metaphysics, for me, given the prefix, should relate to the required pre-conditions for physics; it should be ‘above’ phsyics. And yet so much of both (pre-Bacon) basically amounts to crank theories of everything: no testing against reality, just a reliance on internal consistency and whatever the philosopher had absorbed from the culture (filtered through their ideological lense and accepted as factual grounds upon which to base their reasoning).]

    Russell gets it wrong I think. Metaphysics is not a “precondition for physics”. Metaphysics is the science of being qua being. It is a precondition for all thought. We are all metaphysicians, in that we each have a conception of reality by which we live. The conception is generally implicit, but it is a conception none-the-less.

    And Russell was awfully harsh on Aristotle and the pre-Baconites. Modern quantum mechanics is unabashedly Aristotelian (collapse of the quantum wave function is reduction of potency to act, quantum entanglement is akin to final cause, and the collapse of the wavefunction by observation/measurement is eerily like Aquinas’ assertion that the active intellect must reduce potency to act in an object in order to comprehend it. Relativity is much more Aristotelian than it is Newtonian. Aristotle believed that objects move in accordance with natural inherent attractions, which is an non-quantitative way of saying that objects in a gravitational field move along the shortest worldline in spacetime.

    Russell was stuck in Baconian/Newtonian physics, which as it turns out is not adequate to a modern understanding of the natural world. Aristotle is re-emerging: modern quantum and relativistic physics is remarkably Aristotelian.

  187. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘No, we are talking essential series, not accidental series. Try to focus.’

    I’ll ask you again. Try to focus and answer. Do you think the universe is an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an essential series of causes?’

    ‘The First Cause must be pure act, without potency. If it had potency that could be elevated to act, then it wouldn’t be prior to other causes, because it would have to be raised from potency to act by a prior cause,’

    Pure gobbledygook. Were it not Aquinas, a psychiatrist would diagnose a psychotic breakdown. Belief in religion is a condition that’s not regarded as a mental illness only because it’s so common.

    I don’t ‘believe’ that everything came from nothing for no reason (actually, as I’ve previously noted, the universe is nothing, so nothing can come from nothing, and it certainly didn’t originate for our reason), that life originated in mud (actually, it probably originated in alkaline deep hydrothermal vents), that there’s no objective morality (unless you define objective as god-given, which I don’t, regarding it as meaning the morality developed by society using reason) and that our cars change the weather (no, the emissions of CO2 changes the climate).

    I don’t ‘believe’ anything in science. I accept science as giving an account of reality that’s provisionally true unless or until it’s proven to be false, and/or a better account is developed.

    I could even be convinced that you beliefs regarding God are true if there was ever adequate evidence.

  188. CKava says:

    Another promising comment section ruined by the inane rantings of Egnor. Anyone remember the topic of the original article?

    Like hardnose, and all the other long time trolls, Egnor has repeatedly demonstrated that he has no capacity to engage in genuine critical discussion or develop his views and absolutely no self-awareness. His online persona is stuck in an eternal squealing pubescence, complete with self-satisfied references to medieval philosophers. Looking at things objectively, this is a grown man with a successful medical career who delights in assigning people he disagrees with on the internet childish nicknames. He’s a walking illustration of online troll psychology but beyond that I really don’t know how anyone benefits from still engaging with him.

    BillyJoe’s and others critiques above are valid and well presented but none of them will make any dent on his worldview. Indeed, I don’t think Egnor ever really bothers to defend his views because he can’t; they are too jam packed with obvious logical fallacies and non-sequiturs. Instead, he just talks past (and down) at people mindlessly asserting that he is correct and that anyone who disagrees is a dummy. Detailing the fundamental problems in his positions has no impact, as he will inevitably glibly dismiss any criticism and gish gallop onto his next talking point. Similarly, regardless of how comprehensively his arguments are rebutted in any given thread, just like hardnose, he will be right back in the next thread to spew the exact same nonsense.

    He doesn’t even care about being consistent with the ideologies he advocates. He will, for instance, happily declare his allegiance to Catholicism but then studiously ignore the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change and happily contradict the vatican’s position on intelligent design. Similarly, he’s willing at the drop of a hat to waffle on and on about the superiority of conservative or Christian values but thanks to his troll persona is also a cheerleader for Trump, a man who most mainstream conservatives recognise as being utterly without principle.

    Steve seems to be convinced that dealing with Egnor is instructive for skeptics but personally I don’t see it. He’s been here for years and nothing changes. He is the same derailing time sink he has always been; frustrating long time commenters and drowning out discussions from new posters.

    I admire all those who still take the time to rebut Egnor’s bullshit but for the New Year I’m definitely siding with those who suggest that just ignoring his derailments is the better policy. Egnor is an incredibly effective troll who knows how to push buttons and get the reaction he desires but it should be clear by now that the reaction is all he is really here for.

  189. PunctureKit says:

    @dr egnor
    As predicted, you cannot defend ID as anything more than pseudoscience.

  190. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    “Everything that begins to exist has a cause”

    Yes, it seems over the years that it has been thoroughly done over, beaten up, and torn to shreds, there has been a none-too-subtle change to the cosmological argument. The premise has changed from “everything that exists has a cause” to “everything that begins to exist has a cause”. This is so that this unknown entity from that unknown dimension can be said to have always existed. Or, should I say, boldly stated without any reason, evidence or explanation, to have also existed forever.

    Let me pause to draw your attention to the fact that I have already dealt with this in my five point criticism, which you somehow missed when you scanned my comment to pick out something, anything, to which you think you could respond while ignoring the rest of my comment.

    So, Michael, when you said actual infinities don’t exist, did you mean…cough…except for that…coughspecial unknown entity in that…cough…special unknown dimension who is…cough…exempt from that rule…cough…because he is…cough…special.

    This is a logical PROOF of God, Michael?
    Really???

  191. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [I could even be convinced that you beliefs regarding God are true if there was ever adequate evidence.]

    Evidence:

    Every change in every particle in the universe (Aquina’s First Way)
    Every creation of a new particle (Aquinas’ Second Way)
    Everything that exists contingently (Aquinas’ Third Way)
    Everything that has imperfection (Aquinas’ Fourth Way)
    Everything that acts according to physical law (Aquinas’ Fifth Way)
    Everything that is composite (the Neo-Platonic Proof)
    The existence of universal concepts (the Augustinian Proof)
    The distinction between essence and existence (the Thomistic Proof)
    The rationalist proof, based on the principle of sufficient reason.

    That’s just a small sampling of the evidence for God’s existence, bach.

  192. michaelegnor says:

    punk:

    [As predicted, you cannot defend ID as anything more than pseudoscience.]

    ID and Darwinism are merely the affirmative and negative answers to the same question: is evolution intelligently guided?

    If ID is pseudoscience, so is Darwinism, because they address the same scientific question.

  193. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Thomism 101, first day in class, first lesson.

    You have two degrees in baloney.

  194. bachfiend says:

    CKava,

    You’re completely right. It’s often difficult to remember that this thread was actually about Lysenko and the distortion of science… I think, it started so long ago.

    I’m not an apologist for Stalin (I think he was almost as bad as you know who, not to invoke Godwin’s law), but I think that Lysenko got support because he promised to alleviate the famine, which was caused by Stalin’s collectivisation of Soviet agriculture and the export of food to pay for industrialisation in the ‘30s to meet foreign threats. And his functionaries told him what they thought he wanted to hear, reporting bumper harvests, instead of the real situation.

    It’s always good to read Egnor. I enjoy a good laugh. He’s deluded if he thinks he’s producing anger in anyone who disagrees. It’s instructive in realising where he’s wrong. He’s like the surgeon in ‘Mash’ (the novel, not the film or series) Hawkeye used in order to decide which treatment plan to follow with a difficult problem in a patient; he’d ask for his opinion and when he came back with a well considered and well researched plan, Hawkeye would do the complete opposite.

  195. BillyJoe7 says:

    CKava,

    Yes, I guess we’re all just fascinated by how such an obviously (at least reasonably) intelligent paediatric neurosurgeon can also be so obviously goddamn dumb.

  196. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] If ID is pseudoscience, so is Darwinism, because they address the same scientific question.

    “Questions” don’t determine what is “science.”

    That’s just a small sampling of the evidence for God’s existence, bach.

    Not “evidence.”

    Russell gets it wrong I think. Metaphysics is not a “precondition for physics”. Metaphysics is the science of being qua being. It is a precondition for all thought. We are all metaphysicians, in that we each have a conception of reality by which we live. The conception is generally implicit, but it is a conception none-the-less.

    Oh…you’re so close here! “Metaphysics” is an examination of your thoughts. Specifically, your conscious thoughts, which is a limited subset of homo sapien cognition, which in turn is a very limited subset of reality.

  197. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    “Modern quantum mechanics is unabashedly Aristotelian (collapse of the quantum wave function is reduction of potency to act, quantum entanglement is akin to final cause, and the collapse of the wavefunction by observation/measurement is eerily like Aquinas’ assertion that the active intellect must reduce potency to act in an object in order to comprehend it. Relativity is much more Aristotelian than it is Newtonian. Aristotle believed that objects move in accordance with natural inherent attractions, which is an non-quantitative way of saying that objects in a gravitational field move along the shortest worldline in spacetime”

    Only if you’re ignorant about Quantum Physics and General Relativity and are simultaneously able to read about these areas of expertise through a special choice of lenses while squinting till your eyes hurt.

  198. bachfiend says:

    Michael Egnor,

    Your ‘evidence’ for God isn’t adequate or convincing.

    Answer the question. Do you think the universe is an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an ‘essential series of causes?’

    ‘ID and Darwinism are merely the affirmative and negative answers to the same question. Is evolution intelligently guided?’

    No. ‘Darwinism’ as proposed by Charles Darwin was the answer to Special Creation and the idea that species originated suddenly by divine command. The idea that species evolve, change by slow imperceptible steps, was Darwin’s idea. ID originated because Creationism had been ruled out of being taught in schools because it’s religion and American courts had adjudicated that it was an infringement of the separation of church and state in teaching religion in science classes.

  199. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor deserves a special name. I propose “Duck”.

  200. michaelegnor says:

    @ willy:

    [Dr. Egnor deserves a special name. I propose “Duck”.]

    Actually, “Willy” is already a pretty funny nickname, if you think about it.

  201. michaelegnor says:

    [Answer the question. Do you think the universe is an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an ‘essential series of causes?’]

    It contains both, obviously.

  202. Willy says:

    “Egnor” is a pretty funny name to and naming one’s (defunct, alas!) blog “Egnorance” is just downright hysterically funny.

    When ya can’t answer a question, try insults. I PROMISE you that everyone here is just bowled over by your wit. Between you and the “3-D chess player”, we realize we are just pieces of low-life scum. Truly we do.

  203. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    ‘It contains both, obviously.’

    That’s not the answer to the question I was asking. It’s the answer to a different question. The question I was asking was; ‘Do you think the universe IS an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an ‘essential series of causes’?’, not ‘Do you think the universe CONTAINS an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an ‘essential series of causes’?’

  204. PunctureKit says:

    @dr egnor
    “If ID is pseudoscience, so is Darwinism, because they address the same scientific question.”

    That doesn’t follow. It’s just whataboutism. Being negative about ToE is no defense of ID. (This is all as predicted.)

    Come on, where are the breakthroughs? What has the Discovery Institute achieved, other than organizing a few conferences and putting out propaganda slagging off Darwin? It’s really most unimpressive.

  205. avagoyamug says:

    Science is hubristic for sure. I like Fred Hoyle and his airplane assembly in a whirlwind – a 3 billion sequence for humans from scant mutations each generation, most of which are deleterious, even after 4 billion years – I reckon they’re not likely to be entirely random, and randomness is an unjustifiable default position. Its too speculative to even propose it as a default.

    You can hypothesize they are random, call it a shaky default, and keep an open mind to finding relevant mechanisms to challenge it, but that’s not how its presented by science. There has been no long term observation of mutation (100 years is nothing) and I haven’t found any references to scientists who have made a decent attempt at presenting mechanisms to challenge the default.

    On the other hand, Epigenetics gives us environmental influence for hereditable characteristics across generations. All it would take is a mutation to the genotype of an individual in a population to make permanent the expressed changes he/she shares with others, by reproducing. The individual can remain within that population due to shared expression, and pass on the mutation. It gets you part the way to overturning the default, and it is at least partly environmental.

    Whether the individual has a random mutation in that case, or a mutation brought about by a logical environmental mechanism like the Law of Mass Action, for example, would need to be analysed. But, as I said, I don’t see scientists out there making concerted efforts over long time scales to observe, or to propose relevant environmental mechanisms to challenge the default.

    I would be happy to learn of any, if you know of some, but they won’t be long time scales. I reckon science just bleats repeatedly about randomness when, to be real, it should have no default position. Hero worship, hubris, and making no real effort to challenge itself, are fairly typical of science, to hook the public.

    Science lacks effort, talent, imagination, cooperation, and it swirls around is obtuse blogs like this (michaelegnor excepted for the time being, mainly because it would take more time than I am prepared to devote to see if I can pull his arguments apart). As for the rest of you, apart from hardnose, you are a load of bleating sheep dancing to the tune of a boar, the blog owner. What a strange zoo this is. Any passing readers, take up the practice of law instead.

  206. arnie says:

    BillyJoe7, “Yes, I guess we’re all just fascinated by how such an obviously (at least reasonably) intelligent paediatric neurosurgeon can also be so obviously goddamn dumb.”

    I’m not quite sure why there is special “fascination” in that. There is nothing about intelligence or career choice that protects anyone from be obviously goddam dumb. Motivated reasoning from fixed, false ideological beliefs regularly produces obviously dumb assertions like which Egnor spouts almost everytime his fingers go to his keyboard. In fact, people with average or better intelligence tend to be more vulnerable than the less intellectually gifted to using words and pseudo-knowledge to produce the illusion of reason, logic, and knowledge to promote their evidence-free and logic-free belief systems. And don’t be fooled by the “pediatric neurosurgeon” title. I’ve known and worked or collaborated with quite a few. It takes only average intelligence to get through medical school and above average hand-eye coordination and small muscle control skills to do neurosurgery.

    As I and Kava have pointed out above, except for the fact that their illogical and evidence-free ideologies are also often shared by many other people, they would be readily viewed as “suffering from” crystallized delusional systems.

    Kava, thank you for reinforcing, even more effectively in your comment (#186) what I’ve tried to say earlier in this thread and been promoting (ignoring the several worst hijackers) for a long time. I agree that any value gained from these diversions and feeding-of-the-trolls is less than the negative impact on an otherwise great blog site.

  207. avagoyamug says:

    Arnie, I haven’t devoted enough time to michaelegor to overturn a single claim he has made, but you obviously have, given your conclusion that he is dumb, etc. It would save me time to know what, specifically, you base that upon. I could work from there, if you don’t mind helping me out while justifying your claim at the same time by some kind of fact and logic. Yours looks like an unsupported troll comment from here, but maybe I missed something along the way.

  208. Steve Cross says:

    arnie (and CKava),

    I can understand your frustration, but I doubt that many people here are naive enough to believe that anything will ever change the mind of Egnor or hardnose or even Ivan the terrible thinker. Still, that is not really the point, and none of them is the actual audience.

    Lots of other people read and lurk on Neurologica and I do think it is important to challenge obvious nonsense. Failure to do so simply makes it easier for woo-meisters like Gwyneth, Deepak, Dr. Oz, etc. to spout their malarkey and to be taken seriously.

    Admittedly, Dr. Egnor (and hardnose, etc.) lack the charisma of the above mentioned examples, and are unlikely to ever be truly effective pitchman for their brand of woo, but pointing out the glaring flaws in their reasoning is good practice and great fun. Besides, I (and I suspect many others) still learn a lot from the comments by the many talented regulars here.

    Obviously, Egnor, hardnose, etc. are tediously repetitious, but their well documented history of refusal (and apparent inability) to answer any substantive criticism speaks for itself and says volumes about their lack of evidence or reasoning ability. Any lurking fence sitters can hardly fail to notice.

    Still, not everyone enjoys the same sense of schadenfreude that I get from watching pompous fools embarrass themselves. I do wish that the commenting system here had a few more options for people to be able to tailor the experience. I really like the system at Ars Technica. You can selectively “Ignore” any posts from commenters that you find to be worthless. Also, individual comments can be “liked” or “disliked” and comments falling below a threshold can be automatically hidden.

  209. michaelegnor says:

    Such angst!

    There’s a pattern here:

    1) Steven writes a post with some true things and some false things.

    2) Egnor/HN/Ivan point out the false things

    3) Darwinists reply, extending the discussion is various ways

    4) Egnor/HN/Ivan reply to Darwinists, generally with cogent reasonable points

    5) Darwinists lose debate

    6) Darwinists commiserate about nasty trolls, obdurate Egnor/HN/Ivan, how evil and close-minded they are, etc, etc.

    7) Egnor/HN/Ivan smile while drinking morning coffee.

  210. Willy says:

    Smile on, Duck. Deep down, you DO realize what a chicken-shit you are.

    “…cogent reasonable points.”??? Really? Really? Much of your posting history consists of downright childish name-calling, with the occasional condescending, pompous lecture about the fine points of philosophy thrown in.

    If you think that the “Darwinists” here are feeling any “angst” whatsoever, you’d just be flat out, dead wrong. We’re laughing at you all the time. Zero angst, Duck. ZERO! The fantasies you construct in your mind about “Darwinists” are as baseless as your assertions about your God.

  211. arnie says:

    Steve Cross,
    I understand your points and have also gamed some learning value in the comments made in response to the trolls’ nonsense and crazy talk but that was more so in the first year or two of my becoming a regular reader of the blog. We do have many very talented and knowledgeable regular commenters. But overtime it has become increasingly repetitive and decreasingly instructive.

    I also know that some, such as you, actually enjoy the “game” in the ways you mentioned while others, I think, simply can’t resist biting at the bait even though there is nothing of substance to consume. And by the way,

    So, since I have little expectation that the day will come when ME/HN/IG et al are ignored enough to go off to harrass and spew their garbage elsewhere, I will just continue to selectively ignore and more carefully separate out the wheat from the chaff in my use of time.

    By the way, I don’t think it’s just my imagination that Steve N. has bothered less and less with writing responses to the hijackers under discussion. His comments were always very cogent but I suspect he also has little interest in just endlessly repeating his corrections to their ignorance, repetitive logical flaws, dearth of critical thinking, and lack of genuine engagement.

  212. arnie says:

    In my first sentence: “gained”, not “gamed”, obviously.

    Catching that typo while smiling over my coffee changed my smile to a chuckle. i”m glad Sigmund wasn’t listening.

  213. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor, in your original post on this thread, you stated that we should “teach the controversy” to avoid Lysenkoism. Aside from the fact that using the phrase “teach the controversy” shows you to be a lemming (as does your frequent use of other popular right-wing phrases like “3-D chess player”, Femi-Nazis, Darwinists, and SJWs), why don’t you explain to us just how to go about teaching science.

    Should high school students be taught to decide for themselves whether or not Lysenko was correct? Whether or not vaccinations are beneficial? Whether or not chemtrails pose a threat? Whether or not the earth is flat? Bigfoot? How many crank pot theories should we allow to be taught in high school in order to “teach the controversy” when, in all of these cases, there really is no controversy? At what point should we decide there is a controversy?

    Maybe even closer to home, should young Catholics be given evidence about other religions so they can choose the proper religion for themselves? Should catechism “teach the controversy” Doc?

    Here’s the deal, Doc. Not even you believe in teaching the controversy except in cases where your beliefs are in a minority and are rejected by scientific consensus. You don’t realize it, but you are in fact a lemming.

  214. Giovanni Tagliabue says:

    Here’s the Introduction of my peer-reviewed paper The EU Legislation on “GMOs” between nonsense and protectionism: An ongoing Schumpeterian chain of public choices. GM Crops and Food, January 2017, 8:35–51, http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/byiSkebKvAVnYvhRTATt/full
    * Introduction: European Neo-Lysenkoism
    The name of Trofim Lysenko, which means nothing to the general public, is unfortunately very well-known to scientists; the Ukrainian agronomist had a leading role in drawing up Soviet agricultural and food policy in the period between 1940 and 1960: on the back of some significant success in increasing the yields of various crops (wheat, peas, millet), with Stalin’s approval and against what had become the established scientific consensus, which saw the emergence of the fecund combination of Mendelian genetics and Darwinism, Lysenko imposed an outdated vision of biology, and in particular of agriculture and of the techniques to improve cultivated varieties. By doing so, with the support of the State, the official and all-pervasive affirmation of a wrong-headed philosophy and policy led to the destruction of the blooming Russian school in the field of genetics (also by silencing opposing scientists in a “classic” Stalinist purge) and, as a consequence, to a series of falling harvests and general deterioration in the vital agricultural sector.
    The historic parallel between Lysenkoism and the EU agricultural biotech regulation of the last quarter century seems to us as fitting as it is stunning: as we are going to explain, by refusing a rational approach to the matter, Europe’s political decision-makers have for too many years been obstructing progress in one of the most promising scientific fields, also denying a real freedom of choice both to producers and consumers.
    What is the only real difference between Lysenkoism and the current European situation? The former led to negative agricultural outcomes, which in a poor country such as the Soviet Union in the middle of the 20th century had a disastrous impact on the basic wellbeing of millions of families. Several decades later, rich Europe is losing ground in agricultural research and production: yet, given its purchasing power, whatever food or feed it cannot produce it simply imports. See Savage, Steve [2013] Should The World Keep Feeding Europe?, 30 May 2013, http://www.science20.com/agricultural_realism/should_world_keep_feeding_europe-113562

  215. chikoppi says:

    1) Steve writes a post
    2) Ideologues get their knickers in a bunch and stammer denialist nonsense
    3) Commenters point out the nonsense
    4) Ideologues quit the debate
    5) Repeat

    They accomplish nothing. Their sophistry is exposed. I agree it’s repetitive, but bad ideas are like mold that grows out of control if not constantly exposed to sunlight.

    I’ll add that Lysenko was wrong, and proven wrong, because his ideas were untested, based in ideology and not the scientific method. That is also why this “ID” and “metaphysics” nonsense will never be associated with scientific curriculum.

  216. PunctureKit says:

    Dr Egnor’s post in Evolution News on whether we’re living in a simulation is #5 on the Discovery Institute’s top stories of 2017. It’s a countdown ending on new year’s.

    So far the others fail to report on any research that may have happened at the DI, any breakthroughs, any results. What do their generous donors reckon they get for their money?

  217. Willy says:

    Prediction: There will be no announcement of significant advances in the “science” of ID on the Di’s top ten.

    Comment: You can identify the ignorance of a person regarding evolution based on whether or not they use terms like “Darwinists”. Hey Doc, are you a Salkist? An Einsteinist? A Newtonist? A Pasteurist?

  218. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael Egnor,

    I’m sure we both know why you can’t answer the criticisms of your position leveled by myself and others on this blog.

    And I’m sure we both know you didn’t smile while choking on your morning coffee.

  219. bachfiend says:

    PunctureKit,

    I notice Dan Brown’s book ‘Origin’ is number 6 on the top stories for 2017. Why, I don’t know. It was, as usual, pretty terrible (I only read it in German as a way of practicing my German).

    I wasn’t convinced with Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor’s explanation why we’re not living in a computer simulation particularly convincing. If we are, then obviously it would have to be in a much larger and advanced computer than Egnor’s Windows based computer. Or the largest computer in existence today.

    We seem to live in the only universe that makes sense if there wasn’t a creator god. We could live in a universe consisting of just the solar system and the few thousand stars visible with the naked eye. But we don’t – we live in a universe 13.82 billion years old, the visible part 90 billion light years across with 10^11 galaxies and 10^22 stars.

    Im reminded of one of my favourite science fiction series by Philip Jose Farmer which starts with ‘the Maker of Universes’. The idea is that a technologically advanced race of Lords of Creation have the ability to construct pocket universes. In the third novel, one of the Lords tells Kickaha, one of the human heroes of the series, that the Earth is also in a pocket universe, a perfect copy of the Lords’ home universe.

    He’s astounded, immediately pointing out the billions and billions of stars. The Lord then tells him that if humans had sent out an interstellar ship it would at about twice the distance of Pluto from the Sun hit a barrier (on which the rest of the universe, including the distant stars and galaxies is projected) and be destroyed.

    Kickaha missed the point that the Earth’s universe is a perfect copy of the Lords’ home universe. They had sent out an interstellar ship, which hit a barrier at twice the distance of Pluto from the Sun and which was destroyed. So they realised that they were living in a created pocket universe and set out to create their own.

    I think it’s time to reread the series ago. I remember it was great fun when I read it 40 years ago. And then again 20 years ago.

  220. michaelegnor says:

    bach

    [The argument that you can’t get something from nothing doesn’t apply to the universe, because the universe is nothing. You can get nothing from nothing. The sum of the positive energy of ordinary matter, dark matter, dark energy and the residual cosmic background radiation of the Big Bang exactly equals the negative energy of gravity, so the overall sum is zero. Nothing.]

    “The universe is nothing.”

    That explains your comments.

    Let me point out, bach, that you can’t say “the ________ is nothing”, because “is” means “exists”.

    What you are (witlessly) saying is that the arithmetic sum of energy in the universe, labeling one kind of energy “positive” and the other kind “negative”, is zero.

    That doesn’t mean that the universe is nothing.

    Goodness gracious this is amusing.

  221. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    The universe is ‘nothing’ because its formation doesn’t break the conservation of energy. There’s no input of new energy to produce a new universe. It doesn’t break any of the physical regularities that we know of. There’s no need for a creator god.

    But anyway. Answer the question. Do you think the universe is (not contains) an ‘accidental series of causes’ or an ‘essential series of causes’?

  222. michaelegnor says:

    [The universe is ‘nothing’ because its formation doesn’t break the conservation of energy.]

    Conservation laws are something, ace.

    Regarding your stupid question, the universe (meaning everything that exists in the natural world) contains many causal chains. Some are essential, some are accidental.

    If there is even only one essential causal chain, the Prime Mover/First Cause argument works, and God is thereby shown to exist.

  223. michaelegnor says:

    Here’s a nice podcast of Ed Feser debating an atheist on arguments for God’s existence.

    http://unbelievable.podbean.com/e/5-proofs-of-the-existence-of-god-%E2%80%93-ed-feser-vs-arif-ahmed/

  224. PunctureKit says:

    Just listened to a radio documentary on progress in 2017 on human evolutionary genomics. Recent work is greatly enriching our understanding of the webs of migration and interbreeding between Neanderthals, Denisovans and modern humans.

    Fascinating. The contrast with the output of creation “science” and ID couldn’t be more stark!

  225. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] If there is even only one essential causal chain, the Prime Mover/First Cause argument works, and God is thereby shown to exist.

    *facepalm*

    It doesn’t. It demonstrates that you can’t conceive of any other explanation and are therefore asserting an argument from ignorance. You are also making assertions about hypothetical/conceptual states, which exist only between your ears, that cannot be substantiated and about which no reasonable conclusions can possibly be drawn.

    Your ignorance is not evidence, as hard as you might wish for it to be.

    Highly conjectural propositions such as multiverse theories are recognized as just that. Attempting to accuse others of “belief” in such things confuses faith with speculation. You have “faith,” believing without evidence. That is not the same as speculation, which is merely entertaining hypothetical propositions until evidence becomes available.

  226. michaelegnor says:

    Faith isn’t belief without evidence.

    Faith is fidelity to credible belief based on sufficient evidence.

    Faith in the Christian sense is synonymous with fidelity, not with credulity.

    The best Christians and atheists have faith, in the sense that they adhere to their belief-system, in the face of incomplete evidence. And of course the evidence for a world-view is always incomplete.

    You have faith, as do I. We both have worldview that we have constructed in the face of incomplete evidence.

  227. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [It doesn’t. It demonstrates that you can’t conceive of any other explanation and are therefore asserting an argument from ignorance. You are also making assertions about hypothetical/conceptual states,]

    I am using logic. If you have better logic, you’ve certainly been keeping it a secret.

    If you don’t understand the logic, that’s ok. It’s not easy stuff.

    If you do understand the logic, and still reject it, you’re contemptible.

  228. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    ‘If there is even only one essential causal chain, the Prime Mover/First Cause Argument works, and God is thereby shown to exist.’

    I take it then you think that the universe is an ‘essential chain of causes.’

    Ed Ferser’s example of an ‘essential chain of causes’ is a rock balanced on a ledge, held up by a stick, held by a hand, caused to grip the stick by muscle contraction, caused by nerve impulses to the muscle, caused by activity in the motor cortex, initiated by a conscious decision to prevent the rock falling.

    Remove even one in the chain, and the rock falls. There’s also a ‘First Cause’ – the conscious decision for the rock not to fall.

    The universe is more like an ‘accidental series of causes’, the example being you, your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, etc. An ‘accidental series of causes’ need not have a First Cause. I can imagine tracing my family line back to a population of Homo erectus humans living in East Africa over 200,000 years ago (as can everyone else in the world), then to a population of Australopithecus afarensis 3 million years ago, to a mammal population in the Mesozoic, all the way back to the origin of life.

    The universe also evolved. The present day universe can be traced back to the Big Bang. Probably caused by quantum fluctuation in the Multiverse (you want it to be from the Word of your God creating the universe out of nothing, but you don’t know). What happened before then is unknown, perhaps unknowable, but there’s no reason that there was nothing. Perhaps the Multiverse is temporally infinite?

  229. michaelegnor says:

    Universes, multiverses and quantum fluctuations don’t elide the logical necessity that a essential chain of causes have a First Cause, which is pure Act and is uncaused.

    The only way you can avoid the First Cause is to make the case that all causal chains are accidental, but it certainly appears that there are essential causal chains in the universe.

    Therefore a First Cause exists.

  230. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    An ‘essential series of causes’ has causes which are occurring simultaneously. It’s impossible to have an infinite number of causes occurring simultaneously, so there must be a finite number of causes, and so it’s reasonable that one of the causes can be considered to be the ‘First Cause’, in Ed Feser’s example, the conscious decision to prevent the rock falling.

    An ‘accidental series of causes’ doesn’t occur simultaneously. They occur one after the other. It’s not impossible for there to a an infinite sequence of causes, in which case there’s no ‘First Cause’, because it can always be plausibly imagined a cause preceding the last cause known to exist. We know the Big Bang caused the universe. What caused the Big Bang? You want it to be the Word of the You God, somehow, but you don’t know, I don’t know.

    I certainly don’t disagree that there are ‘essential series of causes’ in the universe, many of them in fact, and that they have ‘final causes’. It’s just that I disagree that the origin of the universe and its subsequent evolution is an ‘essential series of causes’ (with all the causes occurring simultaneously), but rather an ‘accidental series of causes’ (with the causes occurring one after the other). The first has a ‘First Cause’. The second need not.

    It’s just basic logic.

  231. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Faith is fidelity to credible belief based on sufficient evidence.

    “Belief” isn’t binary and doesn’t require faith or fidelity. I board an airplane “believing” it is highly likely that I will land safely but absolutely knowing it is not a certain outcome. I base that provisional belief not on ideology but on prior evidence. If the evidence changes so does my provisional belief.

    The best Christians and atheists have faith, in the sense that they adhere to their belief-system, in the face of incomplete evidence. And of course the evidence for a world-view is always incomplete.

    I don’t “adhere” to a belief system. I do my best to adopt a practical approach to knowledge claims.

    This seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding for the likes of you and hardnose. I am not a “materialist” or an “anti-theist” or any other kind of -ist. I am quite comfortable with uncertainty and require a standard of evidence comensurate with the scope of each claim. Tell me you have a dog and I believe you. Tell me you have a god and you’ll have to offer far more than untestable “metaphysical” assertions.

    You have faith, as do I. We both have worldview that we have constructed in the face of incomplete evidence.

    The difference is that I acknowledge where there is an incompleteness of evidence and either withhold belief or adopt provisional belief rather than engaging in “fidelity” to apologetics.

    I am using logic. If you have better logic, you’ve certainly been keeping it a secret. If you don’t understand the logic, that’s ok. It’s not easy stuff. If you do understand the logic, and still reject it, you’re contemptible.

    You are not “using logic.” You are making untestable claims based on nothing other than assertions about conceptual categories of existence about which you have no ability to either substantiate or examine. You are inventing entities from your own cognitive and perceptual limitations.

    Don’t tell me you “know” something. Demonstrate it.

    A knowledge claim that is testable is a hypothesis. A knowledge claim that is untestable is an assumption. The “logical” position is to withold belief, not to adopt “fidelity” to “the only excuse I can think of.”

  232. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [“Belief” isn’t binary and doesn’t require faith or fidelity. I board an airplane “believing” it is highly likely that I will land safely but absolutely knowing it is not a certain outcome. I base that provisional belief not on ideology but on prior evidence. If the evidence changes so does my provisional belief.]

    You have faith you will arrive safely.

    [I don’t “adhere” to a belief system. I do my best to adopt a practical approach to knowledge claims.]

    “I do my best to adopt a practical approach to knowledge claims” is your “belief system”. And your belief system is ideological, based on a host of metaphysical assumptions, but unexamined.

    [This seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding for the likes of you and hardnose. I am not a “materialist” or an “anti-theist” or any other kind of -ist.]

    You’re a non-ist-ist. That’s an ism, pal.

    [I am quite comfortable with uncertainty and require a standard of evidence comensurate with the scope of each claim.]

    As do I.

    [Tell me you have a god and you’ll have to offer far more than untestable “metaphysical” assertions.]

    My logical belief in God is based on the most rigorous reasoning of the best philosophers and theologians who have ever lived. I have made it a point to learn a bit about their arguments, and I agree with them.

    [The difference is that I acknowledge where there is an incompleteness of evidence and either withhold belief or adopt provisional belief rather than engaging in “fidelity” to apologetics.]

    I can’t speak to your fidelity. I certainly acknowledge an incompleteness of evidence regarding God. The logical evidence for His existence is air-tight, but there is very much about Him that remains a mystery. That’s a fundamental Catholic teaching, and true.

    [You are not “using logic.” You are making untestable claims based on nothing other than assertions about conceptual categories of existence about which you have no ability to either substantiate or examine. You are inventing entities from your own cognitive and perceptual limitations.]

    Like a mathematician who believes that the square root of -1 exists and is i, because it makes logical sense of a vast range of mathematics.

    [Don’t tell me you “know” something. Demonstrate it.]

    I have. That’s what the demonstrations of God’s existence are. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anslem, Aquinas, Leibniz, and countless others have demonstrated His existence. You don’t know the demonstrations, or care.

    [A knowledge claim that is testable is a hypothesis. A knowledge claim that is untestable is an assumption.]

    Is modus tollens testable? Is it a mere assumption? Logic is knowledge of a very high order, and it is untestable by empirical methods.

    [The “logical” position is to withold belief, not to adopt “fidelity” to “the only excuse I can think of.”]

    You can withhold belief in logic if you wish. It’s called vincible ignorance, and is a sin.

  233. BillyJoe7 says:

    I think we need to agree on definitions.

    Faith: accepting as true with no supporting evidence.
    Belief: accepting as true because of supporting evidence.

  234. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    ‘Is modus tollens testable? Is it a mere assumption? Logic is knowledge of a very high order, and is untestable by empirical methods.’

    Of course, logic is eminently testable by empirical methods. All you have to do is to test a logical statement and determine whether it’s true or false. The statement has been tested regardless of whether it’s true or false.

    What it is impossible by empirical methods to do is to prove that a logical statement is true. It’s possible to test it and prove that it’s false. Logical statements which aren’t capable of being tested aren’t worth being made or considered.

  235. michaelegnor says:

    BJ:

    Credulity: accepting as true with no supporting evidence.
    Belief: accepting as true because of supporting evidence.
    Faith: fidelity to belief, once established.

  236. BillyJoe7 says:

    Modus Pollens:

    P -> Q
    ~Q
    Therefore ~P

    Have you gained any knowledge?
    Or have merely thought about or categorised what you do know?

    Example:

    If my dog detects an intruder, he will bark.
    My dog did not bark.
    Therefore my dog did not detect an intruder.

  237. chikoppi says:

    You have faith you will arrive safely.

    No. I don’t. I just said I don’t. I said I assess the probability that I will arrive safely based on prior evidence. “Faith” would mean ignoring the probability established by prior evidence and assuming with 100% certainty that I will arrive safely.

    I do my best to adopt a practical approach to knowledge claims” is your “belief system”. And your belief system is ideological, based on a host of metaphysical assumptions, but unexamined.

    No, it is not “unexamined.” It is based on an observable history of the consequences of reckless adoption of knowledge claims and the demonstrable negative impact to personal well-being and human flourishing. The only “metaphysical” assumption is that of an objective and external reality, which is also based on prior experience rather than ideology. I reject “hard solipsism” out of preference and an appropriate abundance of caution.

    My logical belief in God is based on the most rigorous reasoning of the best philosophers and theologians who have ever lived. I have made it a point to learn a bit about their arguments, and I agree with them.

    Your appeal to authority is even less convincing when the authorities are subjectively cherry-picked.

    I can’t speak to your fidelity. I certainly acknowledge an incompleteness of evidence regarding God. The logical evidence for His existence is air-tight, but there is very much about Him that remains a mystery. That’s a fundamental Catholic teaching, and true.

    The “logical evidence” is not evidence. It is a litany of unfounded assumptions wrapped in anthropomorphized post-hoc rationalization.

    Like a mathematician who believes that the square root of -1 exists and is i, because it makes logical sense of a vast range of mathematics.

    Curious that you should choose an imaginary number. Freudian, even. A syllogism is only as valid as its premises and asserting imaginary premises does not make them true.

    I have. That’s what the demonstrations of God’s existence are. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anslem, Aquinas, Leibniz, and countless others have demonstrated His existence. You don’t know the demonstrations, or care.

    And I’ve told you why I don’t find these arguments convincing. Demonstrate this supposed knowledge. Do something observable with it.

    Is modus tollens testable? Is it a mere assumption? Logic is knowledge of a very high order, and it is untestable by empirical methods.

    Logic also has its limitations, especially in application given the limitations of human ability. If your claim isn’t empirically true then I have no reason to be concerned with it. If it is empirically true then it should be demonstrable.

    Even the logical absolutes are only true to the extent that they have never proven unreliable. We observe them to be true. We do not prescribe them so.

    You can withhold belief in logic if you wish. It’s called vincible ignorance, and is a sin.

    Oh no! I’d better toe the line or be punished!

    Even your imaginary friends are insufferable.

  238. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [Modus Pollens:

    P -> Q
    ~Q
    Therefore ~P

    Have you gained any knowledge?]

    If you’re arguing that propositional logic is not knowledge, and that learning propositional logic is not a gain of knowledge, then we have nothing to discuss.

  239. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    Faith: accepting as true with no supporting evidence.
    Credulity: too readily accepting as true with insufficient supporting evidence.
    Belief: accepting as true because of sufficient supporting evidence.

    (Belief is in proportion to the supporting evidence. Credulity is out of proportion to any supporting evidence. Faith is with no supporting evidence)

  240. BillyJoe7 says:

    Regarding modus pollens.
    That was not chi, it was me, and I was asking question.

  241. michaelegnor says:

    BJ

    [Regarding modus pollens.
    That was not chi, it was me, and I was asking question.]

    Oops.

    It’s a remarkably stupid question, not worth an answer.

  242. BillyJoe7 says:

    …what? Compared to your so-called logical proof of God. 🙂

  243. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    ‘Logic is knowledge of a very high order, and is untestable by empirical methods.’

    Your statement, and completely wrong. Logic is eminently testable by empirical methods when a single test shows it to be untrue. No matter how many times it has been tested and failed to be shown to be untrue, will it ever be proved. The testing involves acquiring evidence.

    Knowledge is having adequate evidence that something one accepts is true, and is provisional. More evidence could be acquired showing that it’s false.

    Belief is accepting something as true without adequate evidence.

  244. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Your statement, and completely wrong. Logic is eminently testable by empirical methods when a single test shows it to be untrue. No matter how many times it has been tested and failed to be shown to be untrue, will it ever be proved. The testing involves acquiring evidence.]

    *pounds head on desk*

    You’ve got it backwards, bach. When you “test” logic empirically, what you actually test is the physical assumption implicit in the empirical test.

    Consider modus ponens. If you were to “test” it empirically, for example, by Newtonian mechanics, you predict that mass is independent of speed.

    So, to “test” modus ponens, you test:

    “If you accelerate mass m, mass m remains constant..
    You accelerate mass m…”

    Of course, if you accelerate mass m, m does not remain constant. It increases.

    Your conclusion therefore is not that modus ponens is wrong, but that Newtonian mechanics is wrong.

    Whenever you “test” logic empirically, what you are really testing is the physical theory to which you are comparing the logical inference. When there is discordance, it is the physical theory, not the logic, that is empirically disproven.

    Logic is the framework on which scientific theories are tested. It is the scientific theory, not the logic, that is tested empirically. In fact, logic is the ground of science, in the sense that true scientific theories must be logically sound.

    My suggestion, bach, is that you avoid metaphysical/philosophical debates. This is not your forte.

  245. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [“Faith” would mean ignoring the probability established by prior evidence and assuming with 100% certainty that I will arrive safely.]

    No. Faith is not “100% certainty”. You have faith that your wife is not cheating on you. That does not mean you are 100% certain. It means that you are certain enough that you don’t seriously doubt it. You have fidelity to the reasonable belief that she is not cheating.

    Faith is fidelity to reasonable belief. It is not “100% certainty”.

    [No, it is not “unexamined.” It is based on an observable history of the consequences of reckless adoption of knowledge claims and the demonstrable negative impact to personal well-being and human flourishing.]

    Atheism has demonstrable positive impact on personal well-being and human flourishing? Have you forgotten the 20th century and the atheist hellholes that it spawned?

    [I reject “hard solipsism” out of preference and an appropriate abundance of caution.]

    If you accept Kant and TI, you have no choice but to be a hard solipsist. If you cannot know noumena, and only know phenomena, you have no actual contact with reality outside of your own mind, and therefore no empirical reason to believe that anything exists except your own mind.

    One of the salient characteristics of materialists and atheists and their bedfellows is that they never seem to take their own ideas seriously. If you’re really a Kantian, you must be a solipsist. The same tic is evident in Jerry Coyne, who is a delightful example of a materialist who doesn’t really believe his own claims. He denies free will, but incessantly scolds others for their actions, while simultaneously denying that they had any choice to do otherwise.

    You metaphysics isn’t really even wrong. It’s just a silly muddle that even you don’t really believe.

  246. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    Newtonian versus Einsteinian physics isn’t modus ponens.

    An example of modus ponens logic is:

    All humans are mortal.

    Sheridan is mortal.

    Therefore Sheridan is a human.

    It’s a perfectly good modus ponens argument. It’s tested by determining whether the conclusion that ‘Therefore Sheridan is a human’ is correct or not. It can be shown to be false by the fact that I take Sheridan for a walk every morning, give her regular tummy rubs and give her doggy treats.

    I also don’t think that free will exists. But that individuals have to take responsibility for their actions. There’s no contradiction.

    Free will involves making decisions. Decisions could be conscious and caused, conscious and uncaused, subconscious and caused, or subconscious and uncaused.

    Caused in this case means being made on the basis of the individual’s genetics, previous experience and instruction, and the particular circumstances under which the decision is being made. An observer knowing everything about the individual could predict what decision an individual is going to make, that the individual couldn’t make any other decision, in which case the individual has no free will.

    An individual could only have free will if decisions are conscious and uncaused (completely arbitrary and random, not determined by genetics, previous experience or instruction, or the circumstances at the time).

    But Benjamin Libet showed that most decisions are made subconsciously. And decisions are obviously caused. So most decisions are subconscious and caused, the opposite of free will.

    Individuals are still responsible for their decisions because it’s their subconscious making the decisions. And I agree with Libet that individuals have “free won’t” (the ability of consciously vetoing the carrying out of subconscious decisions).

    I’m not all that fussed whether there’s free will or not. I’m more convinced that there’s free won’t.

    Free will isn’t a free get out of goal card for the problem of suffering and the existence of natural evil in this world. Free will doesn’t explain the Great Lisbon Earthquake on All Saints’ Day November 1, 1755 which killed many believers in the cathedral giving praise to God.

  247. PunctureKit says:

    @dr egnor
    “Have you forgotten the 20th century and the atheist hellholes that it spawned?”
    No, but neither are the interminable religious wars of the Middle Ages forgotten. Millions died, and as a proportion of total population it compares unfavorably to the 20thC.

    If progressive secular ideas are so dangerous, how is it that the most atheistic country on earth, Iceland, is also the most crime-free? This secular age is the least violent time in human history.

    That’s not to say religion is bad for us; I’d argue the opposite. But there’s no clear connection between religiosity and non-violence, or between atheism and immorality. I know many atheists and many Christians: all are civilized, compassionate, trustworthy, community spirited. Do the atheists you know attack people randomly in the park and drive on the wrong side of the road?

  248. michaelegnor says:

    [Newtonian versus Einsteinian physics isn’t modus ponens.

    An example of modus ponens logic is:

    All humans are mortal.

    Sheridan is mortal.

    Therefore Sheridan is a human.

    It’s a perfectly good modus ponens argument.]

    No. You example is not modus ponens, but ‘affirming the consequent’, which is a rudimentary logical error.

    Our discussion is over, bach.

  249. michaelegnor says:

    punk:

    The wars of religion of the 17th century were catastrophic, and were the result of the Protestant Reformation and an attack on the Catholic Church. Catholics tried to prevent this violence, but didn’t succeed.

    Regarding atheism, it is the most violent ideology in human history. Every officially atheist nation has been (and is) a totalitarian hellhole. Soviet Russia, Maoist China, N Korea, Cambodia, E Germany, Cuba, etc, etc.

    Atheism in power is hell.

  250. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    “The same tic is evident in Jerry Coyne, who is a delightful example of a materialist who doesn’t really believe his own claims. He denies free will, but incessantly scolds others for their actions, while simultaneously denying that they had any choice to do otherwise”

    Don’t blame Jerry Coyne for your failure to understand his argument.
    It’s okay to understand an argument and disagree with it.
    But you can’t defeat an argument by misunderstanding it and arguing against your misunderstanding.

    If Jerry Coyne has a tic then you sir have a ballismus 😉

  251. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    “Atheism in power is hell”

    No, you still don’t get it.
    It’s was the moustaches.
    These guys all wore moustaches.

  252. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] No. Faith is not “100% certainty”. You have faith that your wife is not cheating on you. That does not mean you are 100% certain. It means that you are certain enough that you don’t seriously doubt it. You have fidelity to the reasonable belief that she is not cheating.

    Faith is fidelity to reasonable belief. It is not “100% certainty”.

    Oxford Dictionary: FAITH 1 Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. 2 Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

    At no point do I “completely trust” the plane can’t crash nor am I “completely confident” that it won’t crash. I board the plane knowing that it could and might. I determine it is reasonable to assume the risk of a plane crash because that probability is extremely low (absolutely and relative to other modes of travel) given the convenience.

    Atheism has demonstrable positive impact on personal well-being and human flourishing? Have you forgotten the 20th century and the atheist hellholes that it spawned?

    “Atheism” is not a political philosophy. Way to beat a dead strawman though.

    If you accept Kant and TI, you have no choice but to be a hard solipsist. If you cannot know noumena, and only know phenomena, you have no actual contact with reality outside of your own mind, and therefore no empirical reason to believe that anything exists except your own mind.

    That is not Kant’s position. You are actually looking at a suitable example right now.

    The thing you are looking at is a UI (user interface). It provides a range of sensory information. If you had no prior knowledge of technology and no ability to detect or examine what produces the interface then there is nothing provided in the UI would allow you to determine its underlying “true nature.” You wouldn’t glean any awareness of silicon, or circuitry, or machine code. It might be produced by hardware, or by an organic neural network, or by something no one has yet to conceive by a means not yet imagined. No amount of “reason” will reveal aspects of the reality underlying the UI other than those communicated by the UI itself.

    The UI is true to the underlying external reality. Your perception of the UI itself may be unadulterated. Yet, the extent of knowledge that can be discerned is limited by the information available within the bounds of, and as construed by, the UI.

    The difference between Kant and the analogy is that it is your mind constructs the UI.

    Your conscious awareness of reality is bounded by limited perception as filtered through innate subconscious cognitive processes (Kant’s “categories” or “non-empirical intuition”). Kant isn’t arguing for solipsism. He’s pointing out our access to knowledge about reality is mind-dependent, that we don’t have access to aspects not contained within our constrained/constructed “UI,” and we can’t know the extent of what we don’t know. He also argues that our UI creates some notions that are not properly independent reality. Both Leibniz and Kant argue that “space” is not a real (mind-independent) entity but rather an ideal (mind-dependent) construct (though there are differences in how they arrive at that position).

    We reason about the contents of our “UI” because that is what defines the aspects of reality about which we can possibly be aware of, even though some of those perceived aspects may be created by our mind itself (ideal) and not externally extant (real). Consider how the brain constructs and delivers conscious visual/sensory perception as opposed to awareness of unfiltered “raw” input, then apply that same principle to categorical cognition.

    One of the salient characteristics of materialists and atheists and their bedfellows is that they never seem to take their own ideas seriously. If you’re really a Kantian, you must be a solipsist.

    “The transcendental unity of apperception is that unity through which all the manifold given in an intuition is united in a concept of the object. It is therefore entitled objective, and must be distinguished from the subjective unity of consciousness… Whether I can become empirically conscious of the manifold as simultaneous or as successive depends on circumstances and empirical conditions.” – Kant

    For Kant, a defining feature of our representations of objects is their objective validity. For a representation to be objectively valid it must be a representation of an objective feature of reality, that is, a feature whose existence and nature is independent of how it is perceived. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

    The same tic is evident in Jerry Coyne, who is a delightful example of a materialist who doesn’t really believe his own claims. He denies free will, but incessantly scolds others for their actions, while simultaneously denying that they had any choice to do otherwise.

    I’m not an apologist for Kant or Coyne or anyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t seriously consider the arguments. I think some of Kant’s conclusions are justifiably correct whereas he was wrong or naive elsewhere. That’s the general bent of all “metaphysical” pontification.

    You metaphysics isn’t really even wrong. It’s just a silly muddle that even you don’t really believe.

    Keep telling yourself that.

    The difference is that I recognize “metaphysics” examines concepts about reality, not reality itself. I don’t prescribe the conceptual basis for reality a priori, as an artificial limitation on reality, but consider the implications of evidence and withold or assign proportional belief accordingly.

    What is space? Is it “real” or “ideal?” I don’t know. Until these arguments become testable I won’t know. Unless they become testable it really amounts to a distinction without a difference and I don’t need to know. I’m quite capable of suspending any “metaphysical” assignment whatsoever and considering the possibilities and potential implications of the phenomena without “fidelity” or “faith” to any of the proposed conclusions.

  253. PunctureKit says:

    “Atheism in power is hell”

    England under Mary I was hellish if you were of the wrong persuasion. So the religious slaughter in Europe was all the Protestants’ fault? Do I smell bias? The counter reformation and the crusades were equally murderous.

    Totalitarianism is hell, whether atheist or theocratic.

    Are the atheists you know all criminals? Is it really down to your kind of Christians holding it all together? How do you explain Iceland and our relatively peaceful civilization?

  254. PunctureKit says:

    I shouldn’t have said Middle Ages. The renaissance was well under way by the time of the 30 years war.

  255. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [The difference is that I recognize “metaphysics” examines concepts about reality, not reality itself.]

    No. Psychology examines concepts. Metaphysics is defined as the study of reality. (“Being qua being”).

    [I’m quite capable of suspending any “metaphysical” assignment whatsoever and considering the possibilities and potential implications of the phenomena without “fidelity” or “faith” to any of the proposed conclusions.]

    We all have metaphysical beliefs. That is implicit in daily life. The question is whether our beliefs are rational and examined.

    My problem with Kant (besides his excreble prose) is his denial of any knowledge of noumena. His “discovery” that our mind filters our perceptions and concepts is trite: of course our mind filters what we know. Everyone knew and knows that.

    The real issue is: do we have any direct contact with reality at all? Kant denied that, and by doing so he made solipsism the only alternative. He of course denies that, but there is no other conclusion that can be rationally drawn from his absolute denial of access to noumena.

    The Thomist approach is semi-rationalism: we partially know the forms of things (and thus the noumena) via our perceptions and intellect. We do have direct access to reality, but that access is colored by our mind.

    It is noteworthy that the term “epistemology” didn’t exist until the early 19th century. The reason is that prior to Kant and his modernist buddies, knowledge of reality wasn’t considered particularly problematic. The Aristotelian view (semi-realism) was widely accepted, and it made (and makes) sense.

    Kant and Hume and Locke and gang made profound logical errors, and actually created a philosophical conundrum that didn’t need to exist.

  256. chikoppi says:

    Well, at least we can agree that Kant’s prose is “abundantly florid.”

    Your reading of Kant and assertions about his position is at odds with the consensus of scholarship. I’m not a Kant apologist, so I’ll leave that to you to sort.

    Kant’s rejection of the more specialized branches of metaphysics is in part grounded in this earlier claim, to wit, that any attempt to apply the concepts and principles of the understanding independently of the conditions of sensibility (i.e., any transcendental use of the understanding) is illicit. Thus, one of Kant’s main complaints is that metaphysicians seek to deduce a priori synthetic knowledge simply from the unschematized (pure) concepts of the understanding. The effort to acquire metaphysical knowledge through concepts alone, however, is doomed to fail, according to Kant, because (in its simplest formulation) “concepts without intuitions are empty” [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

    You can define “metaphysics” however you like. That doesn’t void the fact that you are considering only the aspects of cognition and perception of which you are consciously aware, as presented by your brain and its inaccessible conceptual categorizations and biases. The degree to which the brain abstracts, ignores, or manufactures both perception and cognitive categories is dependent upon and defined by unconscious function. We see this in clearly by contrasting examples of abnormality or injury, in developmental biology, and through behavioral studies in comparison of species.

    An appeal to wanting direct and unrestricted knowledge of “things as they truly are” is not the same as having such. It is a conundrum only insofar as it conflicts with your desire for certainty, which is an appeal to consequence.

    You experience gravity. What is it? Do you assume a metaphysical certainty or withold belief?

    A belief can be “examined” and seem “rational” and yet be completely wrong. Adherence to a priori metaphysical conclusions is imposing artificial limitations on reality that are grounded within conceptual conceptualization.

    I said I don’t know if space is “real” or “ideal.” Experimental evidence of quantum vacuum states leads me to favor the direction of “real,” but I am uncommitted to either proposition. I do not require an assumption. It is quite possible to consider the various implications of phenomena without commitment to rigid metaphysical positions.

  257. chikoppi says:

    Ugh.

    “Conceptual conceptualization” = categorical conceptualiztion.

  258. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [The degree to which the brain abstracts, ignores, or manufactures both perception and cognitive categories is dependent upon and defined by unconscious function. We see this in clearly by contrasting examples of abnormality or injury, in developmental biology, and through behavioral studies in comparison of species]

    All true. That does not mean that we have no access to reality whatsoever. It merely means that our perception/understanding of reality is conditioned by our mind. That is obviously true. It is also obviously true that we do have access to reality to some degree. If we did not, as Kant insists, then we would be solipsists, by simple logic.

    [A belief can be “examined” and seem “rational” and yet be completely wrong.]

    Of course. No one denies that.

    [It is quite possible to consider the various implications of phenomena without commitment to rigid metaphysical positions.]

    The problem with Kant’s assertion that we can know nothing of noumena and that what we perceive and know is strictly our own mind is that is solipsistic, and that it’s self-refuting. The assertion that we can know only our own minds is itself an assertion about reality, and if we have no access to reality, then we can’t trust our assertion that we have no access to reality.

    When considering the truth or falsehood of metaphysical propositions, our first responsibility is to look for self-refutation. This anti-realist perspective refutes itself. If you can’t know reality, then you can’t know that you can’t know reality.

    The only sane perspective is the Aristotelian perspective: we can know some aspects of reality, filtered through our senses and intellect.

  259. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] All true. That does not mean that we have no access to reality whatsoever. It merely means that our perception/understanding of reality is conditioned by our mind. That is obviously true. It is also obviously true that we do have access to reality to some degree. If we did not, as Kant insists, then we would be solipsists, by simple logic.

    Logic is never so simple where language is involved and language is never so simple where Kant is involved. Kant doesn’t deny that we have access to objective external reality, he questions the degree to which we can claim knowledge about objective external reality. He claims ours is a “sensible intuition,” one that “can only intuit objects by being causally affected by them.” It is through causation of phenomena that Kant asserts objective reality.

    Again and again, I’m not advocating for Kant’s “metaphysics,” but seeing as he threw a fit when he was accused of being an idealist I don’t think it’s charitable to write him off as such-and-such without a fair reading.

    “Kant explains what he sees as clear differences between his own view and Berkeley’s. First, Kant identifies idealism as the doctrine that all cognition through the senses and experience is nothing but sheer illusion, and there is truth only in the ideas of pure understanding and reason and points out that, in this sense, his view is not idealism at all because the Critique consistently maintains that bodies exist in space and that we have immediate (non-inferential) knowledge of them.

    Secondly, Kant points out that his idealism is merely formal: he has argued only that the form of objects is due to our minds, not their matter. While the form-matter distinction in Kant’s philosophy is a complex matter in its own right, Kant’s point seems to be that the matter of experience, the sensory content that is perceptually and conceptually structured by space and time, and the categories, respectively, is not generated by the mind itself, but is produced in our minds through affection by mind-independent objects, things in themselves. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

    The only sane perspective is the Aristotelian perspective: we can know some aspects of reality, filtered through our senses and intellect.

    The same critique applies. Absent empirical evidence you are merely assuming an accurate transcendence (Kant’s term) of limited cognitive concepts and principles to instantiate an object without direct experience (sensible intuition, in Kanteneese).

    If wishes were horses I would ride. Seeing as they are not, what remains is a question, not a conclusion.

  260. bachfiend says:

    Since Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor brought it up, a book recommendation:

    AC Grayling’s book ‘the Age of Genius’, which is a history of the 17th century.

    AC Grayling argues that the Thirty Year War was the cause of the scientific revolution, or at least it allowed it, unlike Egnor’s repetitive tendentious claim that it was the Catholic Church.

    The Thirty Years War broke the absolute power of the Catholic Church, replacing it partly with the distributed power of Lutherism and Calvinism, which were often just as intolerant, but didn’t have the power to stop scientific enquiry.

  261. michaelegnor says:

    “but [the Catholic Church] didn’t have the power to stop scientific enquiry.”

    B.S.

    The Church was the source of scientific inquiry prior to the Reformation, and after it was still heavily involved in science. Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, are the source of modern science.

    Name the atheist contributions to the Scientific Revolution.

    Only in your “Universe of Nothing” was the Church an impediment to science.

    Modus ponens, ya know, bach.

  262. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [The same critique applies. Absent empirical evidence you are merely assuming an accurate transcendence (Kant’s term) of limited cognitive concepts and principles to instantiate an object without direct experience (sensible intuition, in Kanteoneese).]

    That’s exactly the issue. The problem is that by denying any knowledge of noumena, Kant absolutely precludes any test of subjective experience to objective reality. He does this as a predicate for his entire system, and then spends countless words trying to wiggle out of it.

    Aristotle assumes some direct contact with reality, by the grasping of forms by the senses and intellect, and (brilliantly in my view) he understands perceptions and cognition to be the means by which we contact reality.

    In contrast, Kant understands perceptions and cognition to be the only “reality” we actually have access to.

    Aristotle may not be right. Perhaps Kant is right and we have no contact with reality at all. But if he is right and Aristotle is wrong, then we are all solipsists, and if we are all solipsists, then there is no “we” and discourse and science are delusions.

    If we take such notions as Kantian disconnect from noumena seriously, then we can take nothing seriously, including our own opinions, which necessarily would have no connection to reality. Kant and his ilk are a dead end, intellectually.

  263. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Aristotle assumes some direct contact with reality, by the grasping of forms by the senses and intellect, and (brilliantly in my view) he understands perceptions and cognition to be the means by which we contact reality.

    In contrast, Kant understands perceptions and cognition to be the only “reality” we actually have access to.

    I don’t know how this falls to me to address, of all people, but you are using language that does not represent Kant’s view.

    It isn’t a question of “contact” with reality. Kant doesn’t think phenomena or cognitive categories (concepts of understanding, the equivalent of Aristolean categories) are possible without contact with reality. The distinction is not one of “do external objects exist,” but rather “what direct knowledge can we actually claim about them.”

    Aristotle may not be right. Perhaps Kant is right and we have no contact with reality at all. But if he is right and Aristotle is wrong, then we are all solipsists, and if we are all solipsists, then there is no “we” and discourse and science are delusions.

    Perhaps they are both wrong. Either way the universe isn’t going to change based on how anyone attempts to define it.

  264. Willy says:

    I’m enjoying the discussion between Dr. Egnor and Chikoppi a lot–thanks guys.

    Dr. Egnor, during time of the Scientific Revolution, which I see as roughly late 16th to late 18th centuries, it wasn’t very safe to be an atheist, was it? Let’s start listinb the contrfibutions of atheist mid-1

  265. Willy says:

    Unintentional entry above. You can see how poorly I really type–lol (essential tremor). Anyway, the last sentence should be: Let’s start listing the contributions of atheists in, say, the mid-19th century.

  266. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    The 16th and early 17th centuries were very dangerous for free thinkers bucking the teachings of the Catholic Church with its view of the universe based on a literal reading of revelations in the Bible. Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake in 1600. Gallileo had been sentenced to home arrest for the last years of his life. He might have met Bruno’s fate if he hadn’t recanted.

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor has his reading of history which is overly kind to his beloved Catholic Church, heavily based on the books of his favourite ‘historian’ Rodney Stark.

    I personally aren’t impressed by the pontifications of philosophers regarding the mind and how it perceives external reality. Philosophy is the study of science that’s not particularly well understood. Once the science begins to be well understood, then that science becomes an established field of science, and philosophers should butt out.

    Arguing about the philosophy of the mind, and whether Aristotle or Kant were more correct, to me seems to be a waste time. I’m more interested about what neuroscientists have discovered about how the brain (and mind) function.

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor believes a lot of nonsense about the mind. He thinks that the mind grasps the form of an object at the location of the object (instead of it actually being done in the brain). I’ve pointed out the Penrose triangle on a number of occasions. There’s a sculpture based on it near to where I live. From a specific location, it has the form of a perfect equilateral triangle. From nowhere else it’s just 3 metal bars arranged roughly in a U-shape. The form of a triangle is a visual illusion formed in (and only in) the brain.

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor often deliberately distorts neuroscience and history to avoid cognitive dissonance when they conflict with his 13th century worldview.

  267. michaelegnor says:

    willy:

    [Dr. Egnor, during time of the Scientific Revolution, which I see as roughly late 16th to late 18th centuries, it wasn’t very safe to be an atheist, was it? Let’s start listing the contributions of atheists in, say, the mid-19th century]

    Actually, there were quite a few atheists during that period

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism_in_the_age_of_the_enlightenment

    and safety wasn’t much of an issue. The Inquisition ignored atheists–it only had jurisdiction over Catholics. Secular persecution of heretics was quite aggressive, but atheists weren’t heretics. They were generally considered crazy, which seems about right. During the French Revolution, atheists were of course the persecutors, with countless thousands of innocents murdered and the first real modern genocide (in the Vendee) carried out by atheists.

    The fact is that quite a few disciplines (arts, philosophy, history,…) in the Enlightenment had quite a few atheists. Except science, which was loaded with devout Christians. There is not a single atheist that I am aware of active in the scientific enlightenment. Spinoza was the closest, but he was a pantheist Jew, not an atheist at all.

    During the 19th century, the scientific world was still almost entirely devout Christian– Linnaeus, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, Mendel, Asa Gray, Rutherford, …. Even Einstein was a theist, and disdained atheists. Wallace was a spirtualist of sorts, and Darwin was most probably a deist, not an atheist.

    Of course there were atheists later, in the 20th century, when such became fashionable, and science is infested with atheism now.

    But atheism played no role in the scientific enlightenment, which is not surprising. Why would people who believe that everything came from nothing for no reason, that there is no ultimate purpose or design in nature and that there is no Mind evident in nature, contribute anything to the study of nature?

  268. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [The 16th and early 17th centuries were very dangerous for free thinkers bucking the teachings of the Catholic Church with its view of the universe based on a literal reading of revelations in the Bible. Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake in 1600. Gallileo had been sentenced to home arrest for the last years of his life. He might have met Bruno’s fate if he hadn’t recanted.]

    No atheists were persecuted by the Church that I am aware of.

    Bruno was a religious nut, and Galileo was a devout Catholic all his life.

    The only atheism-related persecution in the 18th century was the genocide against Catholics in the Vendee perpetrated by atheists associated with the Reign of Terror, and of course all of the other atrocities committed by atheists during the French Revolution.

    Atheists are the least-persecuted religious group in history–no one else is even close. I am unaware of a single atheist killed by Church or government for his beliefs in the middle ages or the enlightenment.

    Atheists are also the most violent group, with a murder toll of at least 100 million in the 20th century alone.

  269. bachfiend says:

    ‘Why would people who believe that everything came from nothing for no reason, that there is no ultimate purpose or design in nature and that there is no Mind evident in nature, contribute anything to the study of nature?’

    Perhaps because that’s reality instead of a presupposed belief system created out of thin air?

  270. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    Also your point about Galileo is b.s.

    Galileo was opposed by the scientific establishement of his day, as well as by the Church, for good reasons. Galileo, who was a personal friend of the Pope and who was supported by the Church, was permitted to teach heliocentrism as a theory, but not as fact.

    In fact, the scientific evidence of the day favored geocentrism. Epicycles were more accurate than the Copernican model (which was based on circular, not eliptical, orbits), there was no sensation of motion or wind which would have been expected if the earth were moving (this was pre-Newtonian science), and most tellingly the stellar parallax that heliocentrism predicted was not observed. In fact, stellar parallax wasn’t observed until the early 19th century.

    The best scientific evidence in the 17th century favored geocentrism. Nonetheless, the Church (and the scientific establishement) had no problem with Galileo theorizing about heliocentrism, as long as he made no claim that it was scientifically proven fact.

    But Galileo was a bit of an a**hole, and taught it as fact, and called the Pope (his friend and patron) an idiot (“Simplicio”) in a publication.

    So he got Expelled, rather mildly, and deserved it.

  271. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Perhaps because that’s reality instead of a presupposed belief system created out of thin air?]

    What reality? You said the universe was “nothing”.

  272. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    ‘No atheists were persecuted by the Church that I’m aware of.’ The no true Scotsman defence. The Church did persecute individuals whom they called atheists. Not as heretics. Luther, i think, was slandered as an atheist.

    ‘But Gallileo was a bit of an arsehole, and taught it as fact, and called the Pope (his friend and patron) an idiot (‘Simplico’) in a publication. So he got Expelled, rather mildly, and deserved it.’

    So you think that Pope John Paul II apologising to Gallileo 350 years after the events was wrong?

    Gallileo was ‘permitted to teach heliocentrism as a theory, but not as fact.’

    I’m not surprised that you have the idea that a theory is not a well established fact.

    ‘Gallileo was opposed by the scientific establishment of his day’. Was there a ‘scientific establishment’. The Royal Society, one of the first associations of scientists didn’t come into existence until around 1660. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion around the Sun had been published by the time Gallileo had been condemned to house arrest for the rest of his life. Heliocentrism had been well established by the time of Gallileo.

  273. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor,

    “What reality? You said the universe was ‘nothing’.”

    The universe is nothing to the extent that the total energy of the universe is zero, which is nothing. Zero energy produced zero energy. Nothing came from nothing. No physical laws were broken with the formation of the universe.

  274. Willy says:

    Bach and Dr. Egnor: My understanding of the times is closer to Bach’s than Dr. Egnor’s. Imagine Doc, being punished for insulting a leader! Why, Obama should have had you thrown in jail, right? And, do you find it at least a bit odd that you are justifying persecution by claiming someone bucked the (almost nonexistent) scientific establishment and thus deserved it?

    It’s fine to root for your team, but, at some point, it just becomes hypocrisy. Face it, Doc, for about a thousand years, there was no real science. Maybe even more; the Romans were great on engineering, not so much on science per se.

  275. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor has his simplistic explanation for the cause of science developing.

    The trouble is that simple explanations, while they may contain a tiny bit of truth, are rarely the complete explanation.

    For the past 4 years I’ve been reading the history of World War I, the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. What was its cause? There’s no easy or simple answer. I’m currently listening to Professor MacMillan’s history lectures on the Versailles treaties, and she notes that there are around 35,000 books on the causes of the war in the English language alone (I read her book on the topic in addition to at least a further 5 or 6). She notes that in comparison there are virtually no books on the causes of the Second World War.

    Initially, I disliked the terminology of ‘an essential series of causes’ and ‘an accidental series of causes’, but the more I think about it, I like ‘an accidental series of causes.’ The causes of World War I was an accidental series of causes extending well back in time, even back in time to the Thirty Years War. None of the causes being critical, certainly not the assasination of Franz-Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

  276. Willy says:

    Bach: It is interesting that Dr. Egnor ignores the catastrophe that was WWI because there isn’t an atheist to blame. I really do appreciate his newfound willingness to be calm and have civil exchanges, but he does seem to have a “slight bias”.

    Dr. Egnor, my sincere thanks for your recent posts. I am learning things, even though I will never be conversant in the mire of philosophical debates. From my perspective, every “tough” question in philosophy has adherents on many sides. The lack of ability to have any consensus on any of these topics leads me to the conclusion that philosophy/theology is not up to the task of solving serious questions. I’ll go with science.

  277. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    I’d noted on Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor’s now defunct blog ‘Egnorance’ that in World War I, millions of soldiers marched off to the slaughter for ‘God, king and country.’ About the only country even remotely close to being innocent for causing the war, the French, were actually the least religious of the belligerents.

  278. BillyJoe7 says:

    ME,

    You’re still not getting it!
    It’s not that they were all atheists, it’s that they were all men…who wore moustaches.
    Name one atheistic moustacheless woman responsible for an atrocity.

  279. PunctureKit says:

    Dr Egnor
    Please remember the genocidal expansions by European nations, all Christian, into the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia. Would you like to count the millions who died , either from disease or deliberate extermination? Or the human toll from the Atlantic slave trade? We will never know the numbers. The 20thC calamities were documented far better, so we have appalling figures to support this argument or that.

    The notion that “atheists” are uniquely amoral is crap.

  280. bachfiend says:

    PunctureKit,

    Undoubtedly, Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor will bring up the papal bull of Sublimis Deus of 1537, issued by Pope Paul III banning the enslavement of indigenous Americans as indicating the concern of the Catholic Church for the well-being of non-Christians.

    Ignoring the fact that the native population had already been more than decimated by introduced Old World diseases so they weren’t conveniently available for enslavement, the cross Atlantic slave trade was in full flood, and was the bull was later rescinded (the brilliant film ‘the Mission’ – with its magnificent film score – was based on events occurring in the 18th century).

  281. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    Apparently there’s a new book on the brilliant Trump. ‘Collusion’ by Luke Harding. It’s apparently an account of how Trump was financed with ‘dirty’ Russian money after Western banks decided he was a poor credit risk.

  282. BillyJoe7 says:

    Testing

  283. BillyJoe7 says:

    This blog has been dead for the past few days so….

    I thought I’d post a link to an interview of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, head of Theology and Religion at Exeter University in the UK regarding her views on the bible. The interviewer is Charlie Pickering, host of the ABC program “The Weekly”.

    She has a delightful personality, complemented by the interviewer, so I’m sure you will enjoy watching it.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7xVBldyy_Oo

    (She does have a fairly negative opinion of the “aggressive New Atheists” – Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris – which, in this interview, centers on Richard Dawkins).

  284. bachfiend says:

    BillyJoe,

    I’d thought that there was a problem with the comments’ submission, since we hadn’t had any of the inane comments from our resident troll Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor for a few days.

    Apparently not.

    A book recommendation: ‘God: a Human History’ by Reza Aslan. It got a good review from Barney Zwartz of The Centre for Public Christianity (the review published in the Melbourne Age) He didn’t much like it (I loved it).

  285. bachfiend says:

    I occasionally look at that cesspool of insanity ‘Evolution News’ for amusement. Michael ‘Duck’ Egnor has a posting in his favourite form on Lysenkoism making his usual ridiculous claims. He’s not willing to make the claims here knowing that they will be eviscerated.

  286. BillyJoe7 says:

    bachfiend,

    I’m a bit loathe to read anything by Reza Aslan. He has a reputation for claiming to have qualifications he does not have, and of making numerous factually incorrect statements especially regarding Islam. He has also dumped on Sam Harris for daring to disagree with his version of the Islam by seemingly deliberately taking him out of context and misrepresenting what he say, and then doubling down and getting quite nasty when he is corrected.

    Having said that, Reza Aslan’s new book “God: A Human History” has pretty good reviews, including from a writer for “The Humanist”. But it doesn’t have a kindle version so maybe I’ll wait for that.

    AS for Michael Egnor, it’s hard to believe he is not knowingly intellectually dishonest in that article you referenced. He must know he is misrepresenting “Darwinism” and “Lysenkoism” and that his analogy between the two is completely false. And, of course, no comments allowed (though that’s probably not his fault).

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