Wesley R. Elsberry posted Entry 1 on March 23, 2004 04:30 AM.
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"The Panda's Thumb" is many things...

First, it is an example of jury-rigged evolutionary adaptation made famous by the late Stephen Jay Gould in an essay of the same name. Second, it is the legendary virtual bar serving the community of the legendary virtual University of Ediacara somewhere in the Ediacaran hills of southern Australia, growing out of the lore of the Usenet talk.origins newsgroup. And now it is a weblog giving another voice for the defenders of the integrity of science, the patrons of "The Panda's Thumb".

Much as in any tavern serving a university community, you can expect to hear a variety of levels of discussion, ranging from the picayune to the pedantic. The authors are people associated with the virtual University of Ediacara (and thus the talk.origins newsgroup), and various web sites critical of the antievolution movement, such as the TalkOrigins Archive, TalkDesign, and Antievolution.org.

So, here's a virtual pub crawl that you might actually learn something from. We hope you find your time spent here pleasant and rewarding.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #1

Posted by Ed Brayton on March 23, 2004 6:24 AM (e)

Testing the comments. Nice job on the initial post, Wes.

Comment #2

Posted by Nick Matzke on March 23, 2004 10:17 AM (e)

Yes, excellent start Wes. I especially like how the University of Ediacara website lists at the top of it’s resources, “1997 Dean’s Address (NEW!)“.

Comment #3

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 23, 2004 10:52 AM (e)

Well, you have to understand… on the geologic time scale David uses, it *is* new.

Comment #4

Posted by PZ Myers on March 23, 2004 11:35 AM (e)

This will take the strain off any contributors, too…we’ll each only have to submit one article once an epoch.

Comment #5

Posted by Skip Evans on March 23, 2004 1:11 PM (e)

So, that means I have to to be able to type, what, 35 words an era?

Comment #6

Posted by Paul R. Gross on March 23, 2004 1:25 PM (e)

Looks great. A metaphorical glass is prosecco is now lifted. More power to you all.

PRG

Comment #7

Posted by Ed Brayton on March 23, 2004 1:36 PM (e)

Paul-

You’re welcome to join the list of authors any time (hint, hint).

Comment #8

Posted by john m lynch on March 23, 2004 3:06 PM (e)

Some how, this Irishman is shuddering at the idea of a _virtual_ pub crawl.

Comment #9

Posted by John Wilkins on March 23, 2004 3:16 PM (e)

Are these Genesis epochs - one day equals a thousand beers?

Comment #10

Posted by Ed Brayton on March 23, 2004 3:26 PM (e)

We’re not even 24 hours into this and already the puns have appeared. Darwin help us.

Comment #11

Posted by PZ Myers on March 23, 2004 6:11 PM (e)

And the beer jokes. Don’t forget the beer jokes.

I think talk.origins is in the process of speciating.

Comment #21

Posted by John Brawley on March 23, 2004 8:18 PM (e)

Beautiful job, Wes.
(I’ve avoided blogs until now. Good grief there’s a lot of stuff out there in these things.)
Your link-list is comprehensive.

Comment #24

Posted by DS on March 24, 2004 5:38 AM (e)

Nice Blog.

~DS~

Comment #26

Posted by Paul Nelson on March 24, 2004 7:24 AM (e)

Hey – great-looking blog, and what a cast of contributors. I’ll be a regular visitor.

Too bad about the name, though. Maybe when we see each other next month in LA, Wes, you can give me the evidence showing that the panda’s thumb is suboptimal. ;-) I asked Gould himself once, in his office at the MCZ, and he said it was just obvious. No evidence, however.

Comment #27

Posted by Ed Brayton on March 24, 2004 8:02 AM (e)

Paul-

Less than 24 hours and already the enemy has discovered our base camp! Welcome to the Panda’s Thumb. For you, the Guiness is on the house.

Comment #29

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 24, 2004 8:17 AM (e)

Hi, Paul. Thanks for the compliments.

I’ve already responded to your 1997 “Jettison” paper on suboptimality. Just to pick up from where that left off, the anatomical arrangement of the primate thumb is comparatively superior to that of the panda’s thumb on quantitative measures like range of motion and power. A designer responsible for both designs hobbled the panda by comparison. And it is just obvious. The evidence is in the comparative analysis.

Comment #31

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on March 24, 2004 8:25 AM (e)

Wesley wrote: “The evidence is in the comparative analysis.”

That’s more or less what Gould said (in March 1990, when we talked about this). OK, I’m game: show me the comparative analysis.

Comment #36

Posted by Andy Groves on March 24, 2004 11:15 AM (e)

Ed,

There hasn’t been Guiness served in the Thumb for at least three billion years. Although many guest ales are featured, the favourites are Primordial Stout, Burgess Shale Ale and Protostome Pilsner (“Protostome Pilsner - in one end, out the same end”).

Comment #46

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on March 24, 2004 2:15 PM (e)

I offer to pick up the first round (20 ounce, your choice of brew) at any meeting where I and any contributor here are both attending. Andy – SDB in Calgary this July?

Comment #51

Posted by Steinsky on March 24, 2004 3:56 PM (e)

Can I just remind everyone of basic pub safety: always watch your drinks, there may be folk around who think spiking your drinks with dihydrogen monoxide will please some chap called “God” (though I’ve never met the chap and I can’t be sure he’s not someone they’ve just made up).

Comment #53

Posted by John Segerson on March 24, 2004 4:08 PM (e)

I’ll be checking in for amusement and education.
Will there be an invite to some of the more inspiring IDevotees?

J:-)

Comment #103

Posted by Jacob Martin on March 25, 2004 3:01 AM (e)

This is a great idea guys. I wish you all the best of luck!

Comment #106

Posted by alfanso on March 25, 2004 5:26 AM (e)

“This is a great idea guys. I wish you all the best of luck!”

I could not agree more, bless your little hearts!

Comment #267

Posted by Deanne Taylor on March 26, 2004 6:28 PM (e)

I know this might seem a bit odd to point out, but do you have any females on this list of authors at all? The first thing that struck me is that it was a collection of excellent people, and then the second thing that struck me is that it seemed all male.

Comment #270

Posted by Jack Krebs on March 26, 2004 7:16 PM (e)

I’ve noticed this. There are some very important women leaders in the science activism field: obviously Genie Scott of NCSE, Patricia Princehouse in Ohio, Liz Craig in Kansas, and so on, but they are in the minority. However, it seems like this business of writing and posting on the internet is a “guy thing” for the most part. Thinking about why that is would probably be an interesting exercise.

Comment #274

Posted by PZ Myers on March 26, 2004 8:20 PM (e)

Sorry, Jack, but your answer isn’t adequate. Some of the best and most distinctive voices on the web are female–try reading The Invisible Adjunct or Body and Soul or Making Light or Feministe sometime, just to name a few of my favorites. This blogging thing is definitely not a largely male domain, although the linking thing does seem to be biased, and the fact that this site emerged out of the talkdesign/talk.origins environment may have also predisposed it to that selectively male sample.

Comment #304

Posted by caerbannog on March 27, 2004 10:17 AM (e)

Has anyone considered designing a really cool Panda’s Thumb t-shirt and offering it for sale here? I’ll bet that quite a few folks (including myself) would love to buy one (or a few). The t.o. crowd alone would probably buy up a whole production run. This could help foster the evilutionist conspiracy and raise a bit of money to offset some of the costs of running this web-site.

Comment #396

Posted by Steinsky on March 29, 2004 5:16 AM (e)

The recent design changes have forced the text at the bottom of the article (date, comments etc) onto two lines in Opera 7x, but only taking up half the line width, so it should only be on one line.

Nobody but me uses Opera though, so don’t worry about it!

Comment #397

Posted by PZ Myers on March 29, 2004 5:53 AM (e)

The line break is there in every browser, not just Opera. I don’t think I like it, either.

Comment #646

Posted by Jenn H. on April 4, 2004 11:07 AM (e)

All I must say is thank you for existing..

ciao.

Comment #730

Posted by dr pepper on April 7, 2004 3:02 AM (e)

The creator of a diploma mill, “Columbia State University”, was just sentenced for fraud. Do any well known creationists sport his degrees?

Comment #1236

Posted by Charlie Wagner on April 17, 2004 8:51 AM (e)

BEHE’S MOUSETRAP REVISITED

In his book “Darwin’s Black Box”, Michael Behe discusses what he
refers to as “irreducible complexity”. He defines IC as “a single
system, composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that
contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of
the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”. He goes
on to say that “an irreducibly complex system cannot be produced
directly…by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system,
because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing
a part is by definition non-functional”.
He should have seen it coming. The critics had a field day with
this because he handed them on a silver platter the means to defeat
his claim. All the detractors had to do was to show that even if a
part is removed some function, perhaps a different function, still
remains and that there can be a workable but simpler form of the
system. One can readily see by the most cursory of examinations that
one could easily remove the platform and nail the other parts to the
floor. Clearly Behe’s mousetrap is not irreducibly complex when
measured against the definition that he provided.
Behe missed the boat by measuring irreducibly complexity against
simpler, non-functional systems. He approached the problem backwards
by saying that if any part was removed the system would become
non-functional. He should have known better.
But Behe was right about one thing. The mousetrap is unevolvable
by random, non-directed, accidental processes but not for the reason
he provided. The reason for this is that a mousetrap has a quality
called organization, which is much different from complexity or order.
Each part of the mousetrap, the platform, the holding bar, the spring,
the hammer and the catch each have specific functions. And each of
these functions are organized in such a way that they support the
overall function of the mousetrap, which is to catch mice. The
function of the platform is to hold the parts, but it’s there
ultimately to facilitate the process of mouse catching. The function
of the spring is to exert a force on the hammer, but it’s ultimate
goal is to enable the process of mouse catching. All of the parts have
functions that not only support the other functions, but ultimately
support the overall function of the device. This type of organization
is not obtainable without insight, and insight always requires
intelligence. There is no way that these parts could be assembled in
such a manner without insight.
A mousetrap is a simple machine, made up of several structures and
processes and exists for a purpose. The construction of the mousetrap
was initiated with intent, and fashioned for a purpose. Living
organisms are similarly machines, with structures and processes that
work together to create a function. In fact, all complex, highly
organized machines in which means are adapted to ends are the product
of intelligent design. The important point is that the adaption of
means to ends, the adaption of structure and process to function
requires insight.
Behe’s moustrap is unevolvable, not because you can’t take it
apart without it losing it’s function, it’s unevolvable because you
can’t put it together in the first place using only random,
non-directed, accidental occurrences. The selection of the parts, the
configuration in which they’re aligned, the assembly into one unit all
require intelligent decisions at every step of the way. Similarly,
living organisms show the same characteristics. It’s not that you
can’t remove parts and lose total function, it’s that you can’t
explain why these particular parts were selected, why they’re
integrated together in just such a way and how they were assembled
from raw materials without invoking an intelligent agent.

Comment #1238

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 17, 2004 10:32 AM (e)

Charlie:It’s not that you can’t remove parts and lose total function, it’s that you can’t explain why these particular parts were selected, why they’re integrated together in just such a way and how they were assembled from raw materials without invoking an intelligent agent

Totally missing the point namely that there are gradual pathways. ID’s argument was that IC systems could not evolve gradually, as has been shown plausible pathways exist both biologically and non biologically destroying IC as a reliable indicator of design.

Comment #1240

Posted by Jack Krebs on April 17, 2004 11:14 AM (e)

I’m sorry to belabor the obvious, but Behe’s mousetrap is unevolvable because mousetraps don’t reproduce. Furthermore, mousetraps are made of parts that don’t, on their own, interact with each other. All in all, the mousetrap analogy is worthless in regards to biology.

Comment #1241

Posted by charlie wagner on April 17, 2004 11:25 AM (e)

All proposed gradual evolutionary pathways are suspect and many of these are totally bogus. If you think that a believable pathway exists that demonstrates that unguided evolution can result in highly organized structures and processes, I would like to know about it. Try to avoid using words like “appears”, “is generated”, “arises”, and “evolves” if possible.
Since there is no limit to the ability of the human mind to dream up hypothetical scenarios, then if you use that as a guideline, anything is possible, rendering the conclusions meaningless. Just because something could have happened a certain way, doesn’t mean that it actually did. There is a burden to demonstrate not only that it could have happened a certain way, but to provide plausible evidence that it actually did. So far I’m not convinced. Evolutionary biology has not demonstrated to my satisfaction that random mutations and natural selection are capable of producing the highly organized biochemical machines that are living organisms.

Comment #1242

Posted by charlie wagner on April 17, 2004 11:33 AM (e)

Jack,
Living systems are unevolvable for the same reason. And they do reproduce. Living systems are made up of structures and processes integrated in such a way that they not only support each other, but they contribute to the overall function of the living system. This type of organization, in which means are adapted to ends and multiple structures and processes perform multiple functions, all of which contribute to the overall functioning of the organism are unatainable by any kind of random process or chance occurrence. It requires insight and insight means intelligence. There’s simply no way to get around that basic point.

Comment #1243

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 17, 2004 11:44 AM (e)

Charlie:
All proposed gradual evolutionary pathways are suspect and many of these are totally bogus.

Without any particulars I will have to conclude that your answer lacks in specificity.

Charlie: If you think that a believable pathway exists that demonstrates that unguided evolution can result in highly organized structures and processes, I would like to know about it.

Remember the argument: ID claimed that it was IMPOSSIBLE for evolution to result in IC systems. Since it has been shown how IN PRINCIPLE IC systems can evolve, IC is not a useful indicator of intelligent design.

Charlie: Since there is no limit to the ability of the human mind to dream up hypothetical scenarios, then if you use that as a guideline, anything is possible, rendering the conclusions meaningless.

Charlie describes intelligent design quite well, other than that ID fails to come up with any positive hypothesis relevant to design. That Charlie, without much supporting evidence concludes that intelligents is needed is merely begging the question. ID, the appeal to ignorance in action

Comment #1246

Posted by Nick on April 17, 2004 2:44 PM (e)

Charlie,

Your personal satisfaction with evolutionary models means very little. The experts who have published on the topic in the peer-reviewed literature disagree with you.

Please go through the references cited in the links from Irreducible complexity and the scientific literature on EvoWiki. Not all of the systems listed have been treated on the EvoWiki yet, but I can recommend Evolution of flagella, Immune system, Blood clotting, and Toxin degradation pathways. Less material, but still useful, is found on Photosynthesis and Nitrogen fixation.

Thus far essentially none of the references linked from these pages (or listed in off-EvoWiki pages that are linked to) have been seriously addressed by ID creationists. It is simply bizarre that people like Dembski and Charlie Wagner feel that they can proclaim the downfall of Darwinism using the “irreducible complexity” argument when they and their collegues systematically fail to even acknowledge the existence of this literature – which shows how “irreducibly complex” systems evolve – let alone publish the detailed reviews that would be necessary to even attempt to make a claim about it, let alone actually discredit it in the eyes of the scientific community.

Comment #1250

Posted by Charlie Wagner on April 17, 2004 5:27 PM (e)

Nick,
On the contrary, my dissatisfaction with current evolutionary models means quite a lot. I’m used to holding a minority opinion and I would have to say that any of the so-called “experts” who claim that these models are anything more than mere speculation are misguided.
I am familiar with all of the examples that you mentioned and many more that have been proposed. I can say with great assurance that all are highly speculative with no empirical evidence to support them. They are nothing more than just-so stories. Anyone who claims to understand the evolution of the immune system, flagella or blood clotting system is being at the very least disingenuous.
In addition, let me caution you that I am NOT defending irreducible complexity and/or intelligent design creationism so spare me the references to the Discovery Institute and it’s members.
The simple fact is that evolutionary biologists have never been able to establish a nexus between random mutations and changes in gene frequency in populations due to natural selection (both supportable claims) and the emergence of highly organized structures and processes such as are found in living organisms. Natural selection acts only on existing variation. The adapatations have to come into existence *before* natural selection can act on them so it is fair to say that only random processes are available to produce this variation.
Take a specific example, such as the eye. It is made up of many various structures and processes and all of these structures and processes are integrated in such a way so as to enable vision. Each structure and each process has its own specific function, which acts in support of the other functions and contributes to the overall function of the eye, to allow vision. In addition, this structure itself is integrated into the overall structure of the body and contributes to the maintenance of the living state.
It is my contention that the organization of these structures and processes and their assembly into a functional system required insight, and could not have been accomplished by random, accidental fortuitous occurrences. In order for your evolutionary view to prevail, you must somehow demonstrate that evolution has the power vested in it by you and you must demonstrate that random, non-directed processes such as mutation have the power to organize and assemble highly integrated systems in which means are adapted to ends. Until then, it’s just a story, although I will admit, a pretty good story. After all, it’s lasted for 145 years. But then again, christianity was a pretty good story too, and it’s lasted over 2000 years. I guess truthfulness is not a necessary requirement for longevity in the fairy tale business.

Comment #1253

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 17, 2004 6:13 PM (e)

Charlie: I can say with great assurance that all are highly speculative with no empirical evidence to support them.

A meaningleass assertion that lacks any supporting evidence. Perhaps Charlie could take any of the proposed exmples.

So far his arguments seem to be lacking in much specifics and depend more on ignorance. For instance his claim that evolutionary biologists have never been able to establish a nexus between random variation and changes in populations due to natural selection and the emergence of highly organized structures.

Charlie thus dismisses the work by Ofria, Lenski, Adami, Schneider, Endler, Toussaint.

And who says that ID was an argument from ignorance?

Comment #1255

Posted by Loren Petrich on April 17, 2004 7:36 PM (e)

And Erik Nilsson’s work on eye evolution. Eye function is NOT all-or-nothing; there is a continuum of vision quality. I have direct experience of that when I try to see without my glasses – my visual acuity drops drastically, but I can still see large-scale detail.

Comment #1258

Posted by Nick on April 17, 2004 10:48 PM (e)

Charlie,

All I see so far from you is Argument by Unsupported Assertion. There is a lot of work on eye evolution: even Behe, of all people, concedes that the morphological evolution of the eye by gradual modification of an eyespot is possible.

You seem to think that all of the parts of the eye would have to be put together (requiring insight) before there would be selectable function. But it is trivial to show that selectable function exists even for very simple eyes. Therefore small random changes can be gradually accumulated by selection (which just keeps the improvements) – this is far different than the “randomness has to do it all” straw-man that you put forward.

(You also say “I am NOT defending irreducible complexity” [etc.] but you are making exactly the IC argument with your claim that biological organization must be all-at-once and therefore requires foresight.)

Please draw for us the line that successive rounds of random variation and natural selection cannot cross in the B section of this figure:

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/images/futuy…

All of these kinds of eyes are found in snails.

For two technical, peer-reviewed, evidence-filled articles (remember, you claimed there is no evidence), see:

Salvini-Plawen, S. V. and Mayr, E., 1977. On the evolution of photoreceptors and eyes. Evolutionary Biology. 10, 207-263.

Nilsson, D.-E. and Pelger, S., 1994. A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences. 256, 53-58.

Better yet, please tell your readers here why you didn’t review these references for us before deciding to post your claims? They are some of the classic reviews on the topic of eye evolution, and yet you tried to give the impression that they don’t even exist.

Finally, your complete failure to review or even attempt to rebut the other sighted references is noted.

Comment #1260

Posted by Nick on April 17, 2004 11:50 PM (e)

I just started the EvoWiki page on eye evolution for reference.

Comment #1269

Posted by Charlie Wagner on April 18, 2004 10:54 AM (e)

The argument by unsupported assertion is the foundation of modern evolutionary theory. The assertion that random, accidental, fortuitous mutations can somehow accumulate in such a way as to result in the appearance of complex structures, processes and systems is totally unsupported by observational or experimental data. It represents a huge leap of faith by evolutionary theorists.
WRT the eye, I believe the diagram referenced arranges the various morphological forms into what appears to be a convincing series of steps leading from the sismple eye cup of patella to the lens eye of nucella. While this is aesthetically pleasing and suggestive of gradual evolution of the eye, the fact is that there is no evidence at all that these examples represent phyletic evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition from eye cup to lens eye. Similar errors in assuming gradual transitions have been made many times in the past and have proven to be apocryphal. The most well known example is the horse.
You are being fooled into believing that the impossible becomes possible if it is only broken down into a sufficient number of smaller steps, each of which, on it’s own merits appears to be attainable. This is no different from a gambler who goes to Las Vegas knowing full well that he can never beat the odds, yet holding out hope that by some magical “system” he can build a fortune. The basic point is that we know from experience that random processes cannot result in organization, no matter how much we want to believe it. Any evolutionary mechanism that relies only on random processes and rejects intelligent input is doomed to failure no matter what clever debating tricks are used to make it seem possible.
Evolutionary theory would attribute to natural selection, the same kind of intelligent insight that an engineer employs when he designs and builds a complex, highly organized functional machine. But this model fails because the creation of the improvement must occur before natural selection acts. Natural selection can only act on existing variation, it has no power within itself to create new variation. The new variation, the improvements, so to speak, must occur as a result of purely random processes, which is known to be impossible.

Comment #1270

Posted by Nick on April 18, 2004 11:24 AM (e)

Charlie opines,

Any evolutionary mechanism that relies only on random processes and rejects intelligent input is doomed to failure

But of course natural selection is a nonrandom process.

Your Vegas analogy is very interesting. You say no one can beat the odds in the long run. But let’s add selection to the mix. Let’s say that everyone who loses a round gets shot by the mob. In no time you would just have a few very rich winners left. This would seem highly improbable, unless you took into consideration the selection process that got you there.

(To continue the analogy would require that the gamblers replicate and their gambling success odds be heritable, but I trust the point is clear for readers…)

As for innovations by mutation, see:

Evolution of new information

Evolution of Toxin degradation pathways

Comment #1271

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 12:10 PM (e)

Charlie: The argument by unsupported assertion is the foundation of modern evolutionary theory.

That of course is an unsupported and also easily disproven assertion but I’ll first let Charlie support his claims.

Charlie: The assertion that random, accidental, fortuitous mutations can somehow accumulate in such a way as to result in the appearance of complex structures, processes and systems is totally unsupported by observational or experimental data.

THe usual appeal to ignorance exhibited by Charlie is easily corrected by pointing to such works as

Schneider: Evolution of biological information

Adami: Evolution of complexity

Evolution of complexity and robustness

The Evolutionary Origin of Complex Features

Toussaint: The evolution of genetic representations and modular neural adaptation.

See Charlie, it’s not that hard to the necessary research to support one’s claims. The last publication also addresses evolvability to show that natural selection can indeed influence the kind of variation.

Charlie: Natural selection can only act on existing variation, it has no power within itself to create new variation.

And? Natural selection AND variation combined form a powerful mechanism that seems to contradict much Charlie asserts.

But that’s the risk of appeal to ignorance.

Comment #1276

Posted by Charlie Wagner on April 18, 2004 2:08 PM (e)

Pim,
I am familiar with the works that you cited and I’m sorry to report that not one of them provides any evidence, either observational or experimental that demonstrates that random, accidental events can ever accumulate in such a way as to result in the appearance of complex, highly organized and integrated structures, processes and systems.
The first paper talks about information, which is irrelenvant to the question. Evolution is not an increase in information, it’s an increase in organization.
The second and third papers talk about complexity. Again, complexity is a red herring that has nothing to do with evolution. Highly complex systems can be generated by random processes, but that’s not evolution.
In addition, digital simulations and genetic algorithms have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of evolution that is said to occur in natural settings and is likewise useless.
What needs to be done is to connect mutation and selection to the emergence of highly organized systems in which numerous structures and processes perform functions that support other structures and processes as well as contribute to the overall function of the organism.
Remember that living organisms are biochemical machines with characteristics similar to other machines. A computer, for example has a power supply whose function is to produce various voltages, disk drives for storage, a processor to do calculations, a monitor to produce images, etc. Each of these structures performs specific functions that support other structures and also support the overall functionality of the computer.No one would ever imagine that a computer could have been the result of random, accidental processes or that it could have been designed and built without intelligent input.
Living organisms are no different. Humans have a heart to pump blood, kidneys to remove wastes, lungs to exchange gases, and a brain to direct all of these activities, each of which supports the other functions and also the overall maintenance of the living state. The design and assembly of such a machine could not have occurred without intelligent input anymore than your computer could have built itself.

Comment #1279

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 4:02 PM (e)

Charlie: I am familiar with the works that you cited and I’m sorry to report that not one of them provides any evidence, either observational or experimental that demonstrates that random, accidental events can ever accumulate in such a way as to result in the appearance of complex, highly organized and integrated structures, processes and systems.

If Charlie wants to dismiss the research without much of an argument fine. This appeal to ignorance once agains seems to be a strong motivator not to engage in a serious discussion.

Charlie uses such terms as information, complexity, organization and states, again without much evidence that evolution is not an increase in information (wrong), not an increase in complexity (wrong) but rather an increase in organization. For that reason we should reject the vaste amounts of evidence that contradict his claims? Interestingly enough Charlie seems to have forgotten the “The Evolutionary Origin of Complex Features” paper as well as Toussaint’s work.

Charlie thus ends his ‘response’ with a begging the question assertion “The design and assembly of such a machine could not have occurred without intelligent input anymore than your computer could have built itself.”

Of course computers do not replicate and mutate. Geez Charlie… This is basic stuff, such meaningless rethoric does not help your case. Why not focus on the papers I did provide with you and which you chose to reject without much of an argument?

In other words, drop the rethoric and show us some supporting evidence.

Comment #1281

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 4:06 PM (e)

If Charles had read the paper

The evolutionary origin of complex
features by Richard E. Lenski, Charles Ofria, Robert T. Pennock & Christoph Adami

He would have noticed the following:

A long-standing challenge to evolutionary theory has been whether it can explain the origin of complex organismal features. We examined this issue using digital organisms—computer programs that self-replicate, mutate, compete and evolve. Populations of digital organisms often evolved the ability to perform complex logic functions requiring the coordinated execution of many genomic instructions. Complex functions evolved by building on simpler functions that had evolved earlier, provided that these were also selectively favoured. However, no particular intermediate stage was essential for evolving complex functions. The first genotypes able to perform complex functions differed from their non-performing parents by only one or two mutations, but differed from the ancestor by many mutations that were also crucial to the new functions. In some cases, mutations that were deleterious when they appeared served as stepping-stones in the evolution of complex features. These findings show how complex functions can originate by random mutation and natural selection.

And it becomes quickly clear that Charlie’s strawman of evolution should be rejected.

Comment #1282

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 4:10 PM (e)

And the classic blooper:

In addition, digital simulations and genetic algorithms have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of evolution that is said to occur in natural settings and is likewise useless.

absolutely nothing Charlie? Other than that they use natural selection and variation.

Oh boy

Comment #1283

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 4:25 PM (e)

And a funny quote from Charlie

Where does this organization come from? What caused molecules of carbon dioxide and water and nitrogen to organize themselves into amino acids, proteins, DNA, cells, tissues and organisms? To believe in organic evolution, you have to believe that you can get something from nothing. This is precisely what the 2d Law say cannot happen.

Link

Enjoy :-)

Comment #1285

Posted by charlie wagner on April 18, 2004 6:44 PM (e)

I like this one better:
“I like to think that I’m challenging people to think and to defend their beliefs with facts. You have no idea how frustrating it is to encounter the kind of pig-headedness and closed-mindedness that I often encounter. There are a lot of problems with evolutionary theory, but not once in the last two years has anyone granted me even the smallest point. This has led me to the conclusion that evolutionary theory is not a scientific theory, but a religious belief that people will defend at all cost, even when the facts do not support it. Take the “no evolution for 800 million years” argument that I made. No one will grant that it is a problem. They’re trying to prove to me that there *was* evolution, despite the observational evidence. Just say, “yes it’s a problem and we haven’t got an answer yet”. But evolutionists will *never* admit that they don’t have an answer. They just make up something that sounds good and put it forth as the truth. This is *not* science as I know it. Evolutionists (and cosmologists) should have to adhere to the same rigorous standards as all other scientists. But for some reason, they seem to be exempt. They are allowed to put forth any bizarre hypothesis and demand that others disprove it. A belief in evolution requires a belief in miracles. That something as profoundly complex as a living organism could spring up from nothing by a series of chance events.”

And this one:

“Yes, and many of these so-called “truths” turn out to be totally wrong. In Aristotle’s time it was considered self-evident that heavier objects fell faster than lighter objects. We teach our children that the core of the earth is made of iron and nickel without any direct evidence. We assume that gravity is the same everywhere in the universe. We assume that the universe is expanding because we see a phenomenon called red-shift. We assume that life arose on the earth, because we can’t imagine how it could have come from elsewhere. We assume that radioactive decay rates have never changed over time and that the waters in the ocean came from outgassed water vapor from earth’s interior. We don’t even know where the internal heat of the earth comes from or how oil and gas were formed or how the solar system was formed or how the universe came to be. But oh, we have theories for everything. Theories, theories, theories…enough to make you gag. Well frankly, I’m sick of it. Let’s just say it clearly: this is what we know, this is what we don’t know. I think we’d get a lot more respect.”

Comment #1286

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 18, 2004 7:09 PM (e)

Charlie: A belief in evolution requires a belief in miracles. That something as profoundly complex as a living organism could spring up from nothing by a series of chance events.”

Miracles is merely a term for that which people do not understand or are afraid to understand. In this case Charlie seems to resort to an assertion which reflects more on ignorance than on any productive argument. Take for instance “a series of chance events”, a common fallacious understanding of evolutionary mechanisms.

Evolutionary theory may appear to be simple: variation and selection, how hard can such a theory be? But there are many additional aspects which complicate matter, for instance the neutrality of mutations which add both to evolvability AND robustness at the same time. Or the scale free nature of RNA or protein networks, understandable by simple mechanisms and yet so essential for succesful evolution. It is fascinating how science is finding out how evolutionary processes shaped itself.
So what about scale free networks? Do I care? Well one should since these networks explain many facets of evolutionary observation.
Science and evolutionary science has expanded its knowledge immensensely in the last decade and more and more data are coming in from gene data helping us understand how evolution has shaped the living world.
It would helpful if those who oppose evolution make some effort to familiarize themselves with the essential concepts and the data which strongly support evolutionary theory. In addition to evidence of selective mutations, neutral mutations also play an important role in providing for sequence variation with immediate genotype effect. Few mutations however often suffice for new structure to be reached.
Charlie’s last comments suggest that he’d rather appeal to our ignorance (or his understanding of science) rather than to what we do know.

THat Charlie gets upset by theories is somewhat surprising since theories should be of great appeal to scientists.

Comment #1292

Posted by Nick on April 18, 2004 9:38 PM (e)

Charlie writes,

A belief in evolution requires a belief in miracles. That something as profoundly complex as a living organism could spring up from nothing [but] a series of chance events [typo corrected]

There you go with that straw-man “it’s all chance” again. Not with natural selection, it’s not. Yes, I will point out this make every time you repeat it, it is fundamental to your whole mistaken position. Just because you aren’t willing to pay the slightest attention to the fundamentals of the science you criticize, doesn’t mean that they can be safely ignored.

(Your mistakes might go a ways towards explaining the reactions you say you get, have you ever thought of that?)

Duly noted that you also object to mainstream scientific theory on the composition of the earth’s core, the formation of fossil fuels, radiometric decay, gravity, etc., etc. I will refrain from making a snarky comment, and instead make an observation/suggestion:

Occasionally I meet people who are quite smart, and who have scientific questions that aren’t answered in whatever basic science education courses they’ve had, or in the popular books that they find in the bookstore or library (or google search, although it’s amazing what google can turn up sometimes). Sometimes, these people assume that this means no one knows the answers, and they therefore express the kind of cynicism that you expressed in that quote you posted. I suspect that you may have once been one of these people back when you started debating these questions. After 11+ years of disputing mainstream science you may have reached some sort of advanced embittered state, I’m not sure.

On the off-chance that you’re not, let me suggest something. Go to a university library and start looking things up. In my experience, the answers, or at least partial answers, are always there. Let’s pick an example that has nothing to do with evolution. For example, I don’t know why scientists think that the earth has a core made of iron and nickel. I expect that they figured it out using sound waves from earthquakes and nuclear explosions, lab experiments with those metals under incredible pressures, lots of math, plus perhaps some general considerations such as the density of the earth, predictions based on what elements supernovas produce, and the composition of asteroids. But, I don’t really know. I challenge you, Charlie, to look it up, do a short review of the evidence, and evaluate the mainstream scientific theory. Did they end up having the answers, or didn’t they? Was it you, or the geologists, who was ignorant?

Comment #1309

Posted by charlie wagner on April 19, 2004 11:42 AM (e)

Pim,
Pim wrote: Miracles is merely a term for that which people do not understand or are afraid to understand.

Not really. A “miracle” is an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event, or one transcending the ordinary laws by which the universe is governed.

By this definition, evolution without intelligent guidance constitutes a miracle.

Pim wrote: It would helpful if those who oppose evolution make some effort to familiarize themselves with the essential concepts and the data which strongly support evolutionary theory.

I am more than just familiar with the essential concepts of evolution and I hold advanced degress in these areas. These concepts are not supported by a single shred of empirical data, either observational or experimental that establishes a nexus between random mutations and simple changes in gene frequency that result from natural selection and the emergence of the highly organized processes and structures that form biological systems. Have I missed something?

Comment #1314

Posted by Dr. James R. Quaradial on April 19, 2004 12:12 PM (e)

Charlie:

Natural selection was theorized long before the structure of DNA was known.

In your opinion, Charlie, why DOESN’T the discovery of mutations in DNA and their effect on the physical appearance and attributes of biological organisms and sub-organismal structures LONG AFTER DARWIN’S THEORY WAS POSTULATED constitute “a single shred of empirical data, either observational or experimental that establishes a nexus between random mutations and simple changes in gene frequency that result from natural selection and the emergence of the highly organized processes and structures that form biological systems”?

In your opinion, what would a “single shred of empirical data, observation or experimental” of the type you refer to look like (theoretically)? I’m not talking about “proof” of natural selection as the mechanism for evolution (this is science, after all) but rather ANY evidence. What would such evidence look like? What sorts of experiments should scientists be doing if they want to understand what the mechanism of evolution is? Hypothetically speaking, what kind of evidence would cause you to rethink your position regarding the absolute lack of “empirical data, either observational or experimental” to support the average scientist’s view that natural selection accounts for the diversity of life which we observe today and in the fossil record?

Comment #1316

Posted by charlie wagner on April 19, 2004 12:50 PM (e)

Nick wrote:

“There you go with that straw-man “it’s all chance” again. Not with natural selection, it’s not. Yes, I will point out this make every time you repeat it, it is fundamental to your whole mistaken position. Just because you aren’t willing to pay the slightest attention to the fundamentals of the science you criticize, doesn’t mean that they can be safely ignored”

Do you understand that natural selection can only act on variation that is already there? By itself, it has no power to create variation or to organize new processes and structures. It cannot assemble systems from parts and it cannot decide which parts go where and how they are integrated. It’s power is limited to selecting from what’s already present, those adaptations that are best able to survive in a particular environment.
All of the modifications and changes that create new variation are the result of the random processes of mutation and possibly genetic drift.
The dealer in “Blackjack” selects the winning hand and pays out to the player, but the dealer did not have any control over who gets which cards. The hands are generated by a totally random process.

Your characterization of me is far off the mark. I’m not only highly intelligent, I’m well educated and I hold advanced degrees in Biology and Chemistry from major universities. Just because I disagree with conventional thinking, you assume I must be some kind of brain-dead moron. I assure you I am not. The statement I made is absolutely correct.

Comment #1317

Posted by PZ Myers on April 19, 2004 1:04 PM (e)

You’re the one who approvingly cited the comment, “A belief in evolution requires a belief in miracles. That something as profoundly complex as a living organism could spring up from nothing by a series of chance events.” That quote is patently false, and dishonestly misleads.

And no one cares about your degrees (or mine). We all should be judged by what we say, and that quote is absurdly far off the mark, and pretty damned stupid.

Comment #1324

Posted by Robert Zimmerman on April 19, 2004 1:33 PM (e)

“Just because I disagree with conventional thinking, you assume I must be some kind of brain-dead moron.”

Not brain-dead, Charlie. Just wrong. And it’s not an assumption based on your “disagreement with conventional thinking.” It’s that you have provided us with zilcho basis for your viewpoints except that for your enjoyment with being a gadfly and your repeated claims that you hold “I hold advanced degrees in Biology and Chemistry from major universities.”

Nothing on your website says anyting about those degrees or about any peer reviewed papers you might have published. C’mon let’s have it. I’m not convinced you have these advanced degrees of which you speak. Convince me.

I did spot a couple statements on your site which made chuckle. In a section relating to “myths and hoaxes” you include the following “hoax”:

————————————
“7. Recycling is a worthwhile practice that can help to save the planet.

Well, this old planet has been around for 4.5 billion years and I really don’t think that anything we mere mortals can do will harm it. Certainly not with a few plastic bags and styrofoam cups! I think that by and large we are wasting our time and energy with attempts at recycling. It might make us feel better about ourselves, like we’re doing something worthwhile, but in reality, it’s a total waste of time. Just look at what we recycle. Newspaper. Nobody wants it. There’s no market for recycled newsprint. We have the technology to build very clean and efficient incinerators that will burn this stuff up. Or we can just take the cheap way out and bury it in landfills. What’s the problem? What about aluminum cans and glass? We have enough of this stuff to last for centuries. Just bury it and forget it. You say it doesn’t decompose or degrade? So what? Neither does rock! The earth is covered with a quadrazillion tons of broken rock just lying around forever. Not hurting anyone. So what if a few glass bottles and cans are added to the pile. Recycling is a total hoax that lure people into thinking that thay are accomplishing something worthwhile. How about directing some of this energy towards solving real human problems like hunger, disease and war?
——————————-

(http://www.charliewagner.net/hoax.htm)

I guess I like the sentiment in the last statement but as for the rest of it, I have a proposition for you: Can I dump my garbage on your front porch? Because you seem to have an amazing tolerance for it. Besides, we’re all going to die anyway.

I also enjoyed this tidbit from Chuck’s website:

“Some people probably think that “Blond on Blond” was Dylan’s first album. There are probably others who think it was his last album. I don’t advocate either of those extremes …”

Just so we’re clear, Charlie, if I say that “Blond (sic) on Blond (sic)” is Dylan’s last album, is that merely an unconventional viewpoint? Or is it just plain wrong?

And I’m scratching my head at your professed devotion to Dylan circa 1961-65 with this heart-warming sentiment:

“Every group in society seems to want to assure for themselves some kind of special privilege that allows them a competitive advantage. Minorities, women, the disabled and handicapped, gays and lesbians and a host of others all want to be “protected” from discrimination. What they really want, in many cases, is simply a card to play if they need it. “

Just lovely.

And lastly, there’s this chestnut:

“Children are just as intelligent as adults, they just lack knowledge and experience. They can see through phoniness easily and are not readily fooled. Insincerity is quickly detected and even quicker a child will know whether you really like him or not. Children respect honesty, fairness and sincerity.”

My first question Charlie is if children are so smart and see through phoniness so easily, why do so many of them grow up to be scientists who accept the evolution of life on earth and think people with your views are ill-informed or just plain nutty?

And we all respect “honesty, fairness and sincerity,” Charlie. I have no doubt that you are sincere in your beliefs, but you are certainly not being fair to thousands of scientists when you dismiss their work out of hand without providing any explanation, nor have I seen any evidence that you are being honest about your lack of understanding of evolutionary biology, particularly at the molecular level.

I expect you will be distracted by my post, but please don’t forget to first address the excellent questions posed by other curious people, above.

Comment #1350

Posted by charlie wagner on April 19, 2004 6:29 PM (e)

Robert wrote:

“Nothing on your website says anyting about those degrees or about any peer reviewed papers you might have published. C’mon let’s have it. I’m not convinced you have these advanced degrees of which you speak. Convince me.”

Thank you for taking the time to look at my website. I hope you found some things of interest.

Comment #1351

Posted by cewagner on April 19, 2004 6:31 PM (e)

Robert wrote:

“Nothing on your website says anyting about those degrees or about any peer reviewed papers you might have published. C’mon let’s have it. I’m not convinced you have these advanced degrees of which you speak. Convince me.”

Thank you for taking the time to look at my website. I hope you found some things of interest.

Comment #1353

Posted by Robert Zimmerman on April 19, 2004 7:01 PM (e)

“Thank you for taking the time to look at my website. I hope you found some things of interest.”

Sorry. Mostly just hot hair from an old fart who wants to share his mildly offensive “insights” with the world. Congrats on the grandkids, I guess.

Comment #1354

Posted by ArtK on April 19, 2004 7:04 PM (e)

Charlie wrote (twice, no less):

Robert wrote:

“Nothing on your website says anyting about those degrees or about any peer reviewed papers you might have published. C’mon let’s have it. I’m not convinced you have these advanced degrees of which you speak. Convince me.”

Thank you for taking the time to look at my website. I hope you found some things of interest.

What a great summary of the whole discussion. Charlie, when faced with a simple, specific question tries to evade it by addressing the most trivial aspect.

I shudder to think that A Major University awarded a degree for this kind of thinking. Unless it was Whatsamatta U, in which case the farsical aspects of this need no further explanation.

Comment #1355

Posted by Pim van Meurs on April 19, 2004 7:11 PM (e)

Charlie: Not really. A “miracle” is an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event, or one transcending the ordinary laws by which the universe is governed.

By this definition, evolution without intelligent guidance constitutes a miracle.

As I said before, your exhibited understanding of evolution as well as your unsupported assertions do not make for a very convincing argument.
It is obvious to me that Charlie has made up his mind, mostly on a fallacious strawman interpretation of evolution.
I see no reason to continue this conversation as Charlie has shown no interest in presenting his arguments in a coherent and supported manner.

For those interested in Charlie’s “arguments” check out his website or talk.origins newsgroup.

Comment #1487

Posted by mcdowell on April 25, 2004 10:12 AM (e)

This site rocks. Great posts.

Comment #2034

Posted by Kevin on May 11, 2004 4:49 AM (e)

As a VERY concerned humanist, I am coming to you. I just don’t have the ability to poke holes in this book. Please review it for me.

Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off
by Fazale Rana, Hugh Ross

I desperately want to know what you think about this book.

Comment #2235

Posted by john on May 15, 2004 10:50 AM (e)

Hello to the forum:
i just found this website today and would like to join in the discussion.

Could someone give me an honest answer….is this an evolution or an anti-evolution site?(or neutral)

I will admit at the beginning to being a creationist, ie. I believe in God; I believe God created all things; I am a disciple of the Philip Johnson school of Intelligent Design (ID); I am a pseudo-scientist, ie. a retired MD.

Comment #2259

Posted by Gary Hurd on May 15, 2004 3:22 PM (e)

In regard to Ranna and Ross:

Hey there,

You will need to wait a while for my comments anyway. I am way behind my “real” reading. I did look at Ross’ website remarks about chirality and he hasn’t got a clue about what he is talking about. If that is any guide, the rest of the book is full of manure too.

My current favorite book to recommned to non-specialists is “The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview” by Iris Fry, 2000 Rutgers University Press. Read this instead of wasting time and money on creationists nonsense.

To John:

All of the contributers are pro-science and are a mix of scientists and other people conserned at the growth of anti-reason, and basic superstition that is threatening US Constitution and educational policy.

As a case in point, your equation of “creationist” and “someone who believes in God” is neither logically or historically correct. When I was a professor of medicine, I helped organize a Seminar on Psychiatry and Religion, so I understand that a medical degree is not a science degree. In fact, one of the more outrageous young Earth creationists, Carl Wieland, is an MD.

Comment #2289

Posted by john on May 16, 2004 1:09 PM (e)

Gary Hurd answered my question thusly…

“All of the contributers are pro-science and are a mix of scientists and other people conserned at the growth of anti-reason, and basic superstition that is threatening US Constitution and educational policy.
As a case in point, your equation of “creationist” and “someone who believes in God” is neither logically or historically correct.  When I was a professor of medicine, I helped organize a Seminar on Psychiatry and Religion, so I understand that a medical degree is not a science degree.  In fact, one of the more outrageous young Earth creationists, Carl Wieland, is an MD.”

…The reason I asked whether this was a pro-evolution or an anti-evolution (or neutral) site was because I obtained the link from www.antievolution.org but from my cursory reading yesterday, it sure seemed like a pro-evolution site to me. And while I thank you, Gary, for the reply, I must take issue with several parts of it.

First of all, while you can say that all the contributors are pro-science (that was not what I asked by the way, I asked if the site was pro-evolution or anti-evolution), the rest of your sentence, “and are a mix of scientists and other people conserned at the growth of anti-reason, and basic superstition that is threatening US Constitution and educational policy.”, seems to imply that they are pro-evolution and/or anti-creationism. For instance, I am a creationist, but yet I am very pro-science, I just believe that the theory of evolution is very poor science. And from my brief reading yesterday, it appears that the posters Jack Shea and Charlie Wagner seem to share some of my misgivings about the T of E also. So I don’t think you can say all the contributors are one thing or another, but that’s a minor point.
My main concern is with your seemingly equating the creationism position with the terms anti-reason and basic superstition. Superstition is the reliance on the guidance of an imaginary supernatural being. If the supernatural being, ie. God, exists, then it is not superstition or anti-reason(irrational). On the contrary though, if God does indeed exist, then to ignore Him or His purposes is to ignore reality and thus is the epitome of irrational behavior. So the logical question for you Gary, is can you prove that God does not exist?
And insofar as your “case in point”, I was not making an equation, but rather identifying myself, and I can assure you that what I said is both logically and historically correct. But the more I think about your statement, the more I’d love to hear you try to explain that the equation, a creationist = one who believes in God, is not logically or historically correct.
Anxiously awaiting your replies, John

Comment #2290

Posted by Pim van Meurs on May 16, 2004 1:29 PM (e)

John: So the logical question for you Gary, is can you prove that God does not exist?

Of course not, this is an issue of faith not science. What often seems to happen is that this faith acceptance leads people to expect that God created in a specific manner, ignoring all the evidence He provides to us about how He created. Evolutionary theory is a very good science but I am always open to hear opposing scientific views.

Comment #2292

Posted by Jack Krebs on May 16, 2004 2:23 PM (e)

One small point: by “contributor,” Gary meant those who are members of the group who formed the Panda’s Thumb and who can make opening posts. See the top of the left-hand sidebar for a list of these contributors. Anyone can add comments, but that was not what Gary meant by contributor.

Comment #2297

Posted by Gary Hurd on May 16, 2004 4:16 PM (e)

“My main concern is with your seemingly equating the creationism position with the terms anti-reason and basic superstition. Superstition is the reliance on the guidance of an imaginary supernatural being.”

Superstition is not at all as you state. In fact, superstitions are religious practices that have become isolated from their religious tenet. For example, there is the superstition that it is “bad luck” to walk under a ladder. The origin of this superstition dates to the 12th century European notion that the Christian trinity was represented by a triangle, and to “break” or intrude a triangle would bring misfortune. The religious belief is forgotten, but the superstition lives on today. An alternate definition of superstition is an unusual fear or awe toward a religious symbol, concept, or towards the unknown. In each sense, creationism is clearly a superstition.

The “does God exist” question is irrelevant to the fact that creationism is completely at odds with reality.

There are many kinds of creationists other than the garden variety young earth creationists. There are for example, Hindu and Native American creationists who insist that their cultural tradition of origins is literally true, and that science is mistaken. Additionally, there are vast numbers of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all believers in God, who are what you would probably call “evolutionists.” In other words, they accord evolutionary biology the same provisional acceptance as we do to the atomic theory, or any other well supported science.

So, there creationists who do not believe in the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, and there are believers in that God who do understand evolution and support science education without government dictated religious intrusion.

I think that addressed all the relevant issues you raised.

Comment #2305

Posted by Purple Panda on May 16, 2004 7:04 PM (e)

John said

And from my brief reading yesterday, it appears that the posters Jack Shea and Charlie Wagner seem to share some of my misgivings about the T of E also….I’d love to hear you try to explain that the equation, a creationist = one who believes in God, is not logically or historically correct.

John, Charlie Wagner is allegedly an agnostic creationist (he might disagree with the latter characterization; suffice it to say he believes that life on earth is too nifty to have evolved by natural selection). He might be able to explain to who how we “logically” achieves his state of belief (or disbelief, as the case may be).

Comment #2316

Posted by john on May 16, 2004 8:41 PM (e)

Pim and Gary;
Pim wrote…
John: So the logical question for you Gary, is can you prove that God does not exist?
Of course not, this is an issue of faith not science. What often seems to happen is that this faith acceptance leads people to expect that God created in a specific manner, ignoring all the evidence He provides to us about how He created. Evolutionary theory is a very good science but I am always open to hear opposing scientific views.

Pim, you are correct; Gary can not prove that God does not exist and so, in spite of his claim that my question is irrelevant(which is just his way of not answering my simple question) he can not use the terms anti-reason or basic superstition to fairly refer to Creationism.

And Pim, you say that my question is a matter of faith not science, and Gary uses a similar tack by saying the question is irrelevant, but the question is made relevant by Gary describing Creationism with the terms anti-reason and superstition. If God does not exist, then it would be irrational and superstitious to believe in Creation; but since you can not prove that God does not exist, you can not equate Creationism with anti-reason and superstition(although you can state that you believe that Creationism is irrational and superstitious).

And Pim, my faith in God and Creation, does not lead me to expect that God created in any specific manner or to ignore any evidence of how God might have created all things. I have some problems accepting some narrow minded Creationism views just as I have problems accepting the Theory of Evolution as “good science”. If you truly believe that evolutionary science is good science, read “The Survival of the Fakest” by Johnathan Wells available at www.discovery.com (sorry, I don’t know how to link things and it’s too long to cut and paste).

I need a separate post to reply to Gary…

Comment #2319

Posted by Syd Croft on May 16, 2004 10:13 PM (e)

Gary can not prove that God does not exist and so, in spite of his claim that my question is irrelevant(which is just his way of not answering my simple question) he can not use the terms anti-reason or basic superstition to fairly refer to Creationism.

John, your belief in God *is* unreasonable and superstitious. “Unreasonable” and “superstitious” are just blunter ways of saying that your belief is based on “faith”. If you’re like most people on Earth, you arrived at your religious beliefs based on how you were raised by your parents, or some “miraculous” event that happened to you, or some “personal crisis,” but most likely the former.

Thus, if you’re like most people, your religious beliefs aren’t “logical” decisions based on “reason.” Probably there is a substantial component of fear which drives your continued belief in God. Most people in the United States are scared crapless that if they stop believing in God they will end up in an unheated basement without a window view for a really really long time.

As for me, I believe that there is no God.

Why do I believe there is no God? I believe there is no God because Ploink Ploink told me so. Ploink Ploink is a Giant Invisible Bat from the 12th Plane of Herumenon who created God (and Jesus) but destroyed both of them immediately after the 2000 Presidential Election (she explained to me that “the joke had gone too far.”)

You should ask Ploink Ploink about evolution. She’s rather impressed by the abilities of earth’s biologists.

If you truly believe that evolutionary science is good science, read “The Survival of the Fakest” by Johnathan Wells available at www.discovery.com

John, just fyi: Wells is a charlatan and a Moonie (you know, one of those followers of that homophobic nutcase who owns some newspapers out east) and Wells’ arguments that evolution is bad science are totally bogus. Please dig around the website archives and educate yourself about Mr. Wells’ before pushing his bogus trash on us.

Oh, and since you brought the issue up, here’s what your expert “Dr.” Wells had to say about his “sincere” effort to understand what scientists have taught us about evolution and the processes which underlie evolution:

Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.” – from Wells’ article “Why I went for a second Ph.D.”

Comment #2321

Posted by john on May 16, 2004 10:28 PM (e)

Gary posted…

In each sense, creationism is clearly a superstition.
The “does God exist” question is irrelevant to the fact that creationism is completely at odds with reality.
There are many kinds of creationists other than the garden variety young earth creationists.  There are for example, Hindu and Native American creationists who insist that their cultural tradition of origins is literally true, and that science is mistaken.  Additionally, there are vast numbers of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all believers in God, who are what you would probably call “evolutionists.”  In other words, they accord evolutionary biology the same provisional acceptance as we do to the atomic theory, or any other well supported science.
So, there creationists who do not believe in the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, and there are believers in that God who do understand evolution and support science education without government dictated religious intrusion.
I think that addressed all the relevant issues you raised.

Gary,
I purposely left out the first part of your post as it seemed you wanted to argue semantics. I don’t…I’ll accept whatever definition of superstition you decide upon. What I can’t accept is your pronouncement, “In each sense, creationism is clearly a superstition.” Just you saying it is clearly a superstition, does not make it so. But here’s something we can agree upon; either there is a God, who created all things, or there is not. Only 2 possibilities, and if one is true, the other can not be. Now, if there is a God, who created all things, then a belief in Creationism is not irrational or superstitious. And the contrary, if there is not a God, then He could not have created all things, so then of course, it would be irrational and superstitious to believe in Creationism. Sheesh…I can’t believe we’re arguing about this. My point is, as I expressed in my last post to you and Pim, that since you can not prove that there is not a God, you can not fairly pronounce that a belief in Creationism is anti-reason or superstitious (although you can state that you believe it to be).

And then you posted…
“The “does God exist” question is irrelevant to the fact that creationism is completely at odds with reality.”
…you know Gary, I didn’t ask, Does God exist?, but instead I asked, “So the logical question for you Gary, is can you prove that God does not exist?” That might have been an irrelevant question had you not already used the terms, anti-reason and basic superstition to refer to Creationism, at which time the question is relevant. But relevant or not, it was never a difficult question; you certainly could have answered the question, whether it is relevant or not, the answer is still always the same; even Pim was able to answer the question for you, he said, “Of course not”! Of course not, indeed! If there is a God, omniscient, omnipotent, certainly one of His powers would include the ability to hide Himself from finite little Gary(actually, He has gone out of His way to make Himself known to finite little Gary, but finite little Gary has probably been too busy make his God-like pronouncements to have noticed). Like this next pronouncement of finite little Gary, “…the fact that creationism is completely at odds with reality.” Oh really now, finite little Gary, creationism is completely at odds with reality? That is a fact now? So now you CAN prove that God does not exist? Because if you can not prove that God does not exist, then it can not be a FACT (once again, you can believe anything you want) that creationism is completely at odds with reality.
And yes, Gary, I know there are many kinds of creationists, that’s why in my introductory post, I politely tried to identify precisely what kind of creationist I was. You made the illogical leap, (Gary of the Gaps?)…”As a case in point, your equation of “creationist” and “someone who believes in God” is neither logically or historically correct.” when I was not making any equation at all, but only describing myself. But then I asked you “to explain that the equation, a creationist = one who believes in God, is not logically or historically correct.”, and I’m still confused by your answer. Let me explain it this way, like the logic problems they use on SAT tests: all creationists believe in God, if not, Who would do the creating? But the converse is not true, all people, who believe in God, do not believe in creation. Just further reason for me to identify myself as one who believes in God and one who believes that God created all things, although I’m not sure which natural processes God utilized in doing the creating. I believe the theory of evolution is just that, a theory, and should not be presented as fact, no more than the “fact” presented here that creationism is completely at odds with reality.

ps. sorry about the sarcasm, pique, and peevishness of this post…you may call me finite little johnny if you wish, my wife does! LOL

Comment #2340

Posted by Gary Hurd on May 17, 2004 11:45 AM (e)

If you had asked me during my years studying science at Berkeley whether or not I believed what I read in my science textbooks, I would have responded much as any of my fellow students: puzzled that such a question would be asked in the first place. One might find tiny errors, of course, typos and misprints. And science is always discovering new things. But I believed – took it as a given – that my science textbooks represented the best scientific knowledge available at that time. Jon Wells, “SURVIVAL OF THE FAKEST” American Spectator. (This is just a thumbnail rehash of “Icons of Evolution.”)

http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/survi…

Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.” — from Wells’ article “Why I went for a second Ph.D” True Parents Magazine.

http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/talk…

Compare the two statements. The “fakest” award goes to Jon Wells. In 1978, already a minister in the Unification Church, Wells is merely seeking a science credential to hide behind. In the American Spectator article John is so taken with, Wells presents himself as a poor little naif who had been fooled by the bad Darwinian conspirators

The Wells book has been thoroughly discredited on the following website (plus links), and there is no reason to repeat this material here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/

John, Your inability to grasp what I have pointed out to you, and your insistance on false dualities leaves me with little motivation to continue this discussion. I am going fishing for the next day or two. I will look in when I return.

Comment #2374

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 9:59 AM (e)

Pim, Gary, and Syd,
First of all, welcome to the discussion, Syd. You entered the fray between my 2 posts the other night and I just now saw your post. Thanks for your reply. I see now that I spent about 2.5 hours to reply to Gary, and he dismissed me as being irrelevant in about 30 seconds….Oh well, I’m used to that as that seems to be the modus operandi of the NeoDarwinism/Materialism crowd. I hope that you, Syd, will not shrink from discussing this most important issue.
Your claims, Syd, are very similar to those of Pim and Gary, you posted….
“John, your belief in God *is* unreasonable and superstitious.”
….Now, Syd, your use of the word “is” implies that your statement is factual, which of course, it is not. That is your belief. So then, I ask you the same question I asked Gary, and note well, I am not asking you if God exists, which is what Gary falsely assumed, but I am asking you if you can disprove that God exists. That is a very simple question for any honest, reasonable person; Pim already answered it correctly in this thread.
And since you can not disprove the existence of God, then you are actually the one who is acting unreasonably. Your story about why you don’t believe in God, the one about Ploink Ploink and all, is amusing and facetious but it does not give this subject the serious consideration that it deserves.
Since you speculated about how I came to believe in God….
“ If you’re like most people on Earth, you arrived at your religious beliefs based on how you were raised by your parents, or some “miraculous” event that happened to you, or some “personal crisis,” but most likely the former.
Thus, if you’re like most people, your religious beliefs aren’t “logical” decisions based on “reason.”  Probably there is a substantial component of fear which drives your continued belief in God.  Most people in the United States are scared crapless that if they stop believing in God they will end up in an unheated basement without a window view for a really really long time.”
….I will admit that I was born and raised a Catholic. I consider my faith in God to be a great gift from God; I do not take any credit for having this faith. That disclaimer notwithstanding, I have spent a large portion of my life questioning my faith. I have looked at the various arguments pro and con for the existence of God and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I can not disprove the existence of God. Furthermore, after examining all the evidence, I believe it takes a greater leap of faith to NOT believe in God. It takes about 2 seconds to realize that you can not disprove the existence of God, whereas it might take you all your life to prove to yourself that God exists. i know that doesn’t sound fair; it doesn’t seem fair to me either, that God should give such a large quantity of the gift of faith to one person and so little to another. I don’t presume to know the Mind of God, nor do I presume to know the content of your soul, ie. how much faith you have been given. and how much of the gift of faith you have rejected and allowed to atrophy.
But I can say with some degree of certainty, that you seem like an intelligent, reasonable person. Besides the gift of faith, God also gives us other gifts, among them, the gifts of intelligence, the ability to reason, and free will. I challenge you, Syd, and all you other NeoDarwinists/Materialists, to use the gifts God has given you. First of all, have the humility and the good sense to admit that you can never disprove the existence of God. Then search for Truth, God is Truth, so in searching for Truth, you are really searching for God. And if you sincerely seek the Truth (God), God will find you. A cursory search of the web yields a multiplicity of sites dealing with the existence of God. My advice would be to spend more time searching for the Truth(God) than fishing(Gary). And if you still sincerely end up in the same place, ie. you still believe this universe has just always existed instead of being created, (which in my opinion requires more of a leap of faith than a belief in God), then I would advise you to worship this God whom you can not disprove to exist. My prayers are with you, John

Comment #2375

Posted by Syd Croft on May 18, 2004 10:07 AM (e)

the one about Ploink Ploink and all, is amusing and facetious

How DARE you denigrate Ploink Ploink. I told you precisely why I believe that there is no God: Ploink Ploink told me that she destroyed God in 2000 after the debacle in Florida. I can be more specific if you like about how that destruction occurred, but I wanted to spare you the gory details.

Can you prove that Ploing Ploink does not exist?! I didn’t think so. I’m going to tell Ploink Ploink what you said about him. He’s not going to be happy.

Comment #2376

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 10:14 AM (e)

WOW…I just spent almost 2 hrs composing a post and it didn’t get posted. I have no idea what happened; have I been secretly banned from the site? I am posting this as a test to see if I can post and if so I will try later to re-compose my answer to Pim/Gary/Syd.

Comment #2377

Posted by Jack Krebs on May 18, 2004 10:40 AM (e)

John, I suggest you compose in a word processor and then paste into the Comment box when you are ready. That way you have a saved copy of your work, and composition is easier.

My 2¢

Comment #2380

Posted by Syd Croft on May 18, 2004 11:27 AM (e)

WOW … I just spent almost 2 hrs composing a post and it didn’t get posted.

Bwahahhhaahaha! I told you Ploink Ploink would not be happy. If I were you, I would avoid walking near construction sites for the next few weeks.

Comment #2381

Posted by Smokey on May 18, 2004 11:34 AM (e)

John,

If you don’t mind me interjecting myself into the debate, I have a question. Your argument seems to boil down (largely) to this statement:

…I believe it takes a greater leap of faith to NOT believe in God.

Why do you believe this?

While it is of course true that it is impossible to disprove the existence of god, it is equally true that there is no positive and unambiguous evidence for His existence. That is to say, there is no good reason to believe He does exist. It is also impossible to prove that there aren’t any fairies or leprechauns running around, but lacking any evidence for them (unexplained pots o’ gold, cast off wings of mysterious origin, etc..), I consider those who believe in them to be unreasonable and superstitious. Do you not agree?

I suspect much of the disagreement here is semantic. You seem to think that your faith is a valid “reason” for your belief, while I would argue that faith and reason are antithetical. This all depends on how one defines reason. Among the definitions given on dictionary.com are (1)The basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction and (3)An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence. Under definition (1) you might be correct, but I think definition (3) is what is generally meant in the context of this debate and in Gary’s original comment here. If you can adduce any fact or cause (outside of your own, personal faith) which provides a logical basis for your belief in god and/or creationism, I’d be interested to hear it.

BTW, I wouldn’t worry about being banned. You may be slightly unreasonable, but you’ve got a ways to go before you reach the level of Charlie, Jack, or Jerry Don, and they’re all still here, obfuscating and avoiding to their heart’s content.

Comment #2382

Posted by Jack Shea on May 18, 2004 11:36 AM (e)

Human beings are capable of conscious perception. This capability enables us to determine differences in things, to distinguish “this” from “that” and to form linguistic structures which embody our discriminations in symbols. With these symbols we can create complex expressions relating to our perceptions, and by these means we define our world.

Science is an extremely complex method of acquiring and refining the symbols which define our world. Indeed, Science considers its collective ability to perceive, discriminate, refine and define “reality” to be paramount among all human languages. It grants itself this status precisely because of its adherence to the “reality” of its described universe which, in order to be considered science, must correspond to a verifiable recognition of something which actually exists in the material world. Science, simply defined, is the preeminent language of “fact”. To the scientist, “superstition”, “irrationality”, “conjecture”, “fantasy” and a wide assortment of other human mental frailties are considered to be the opposite of “fact” and hence are deemed unscientific. The scientist presupposes that his advanced mind is free of these delusory encumbrances from a bygone age. As an instrument dedicated to the revelation of material truths, the scientist’s mind prides itself primarily and ultimately on the authenticity and accuracy of its reflections of an existent natural world.

So, what then is the purest form of scientific thought? It is the most accurate mental and symbolic reflection of the natural world, free of superstition, conjecture and imagination. “Rooted in reality”. And how does the scientist describe this ability? As an aspect of “intelligence”.

Curiously, although the materialist scientist freely grants himself this quality of “intelligence” he adamantly refuses to allow this property to exist in the world which he symbolically describes. Perversely, although every dimension of the human thought process which the scientist deems “intelligent”, conceptual as well as physical, has its origins in the natural world which the scientist is attempting to reveal, still the scientist refuses to grant “intelligence” to the origins of his existence which also forms the entire content of his symbolic reflections of his world. This world, the materialist scientist attests, and furthermore “proves”, is the product of spontaneous accident, without design, without intelligence, without purpose. This denial of intelligence and design in the natural world becomes a kind of pinnacle realization of the “intelligent” scientific mind. Somehow, with the emergence of this purportedly hyper-rational scientific intelligence, human existence becomes separate from its universal origins and human intelligence becomes a self-originating faculty unique and apart from everything which it reflects and absorbs into itself.

The paradox in this view of “intelligence” is overwhelming. A body of knowledge which comprises an imperfect description of a reality which allowed that body of knowledge to come into existence and which comprises every symbol and “fact” in that body of knowledge is deemed to indicate “intelligence” whereas the reality itself, which spawned every aspect of that imperfect description is deemed only “apparently, deceptively intelligent (but not actually so)”. Continuing the paradox, the materialist scientific mind allows itself attributes of design, intent, purposefulness, discrimination, realization, etc., while at the same time denying all of these attributes to its unarguable source and contents.

The scientific materialist getout of course is to declare that “intelligence” does not exist on any level, human or cosmic, that “intelligence” is just another expression of the universe’s continuous unfolding of chance operating on dumb matter. The term “intelligence”, then, is perceived to be just another aspect of universal meaninglessness. However, the getout does not dismiss the identity between whatever quality it is in the human mind which creates its reflective, discriminative body of knowledge and the origin and source and composition of that knowledge. In other words it doesn’t matter what the quality is called or how it is described. The argument is not merely semantic. The indisputable fact is that if “it” is possessed by the human mind it is inconceivable that “it” is not also possessed by the reality to which every dimension of the human mind, its existence as well as its contents, as well as its expression, owes its origins.

But we are dealing with realities here, not terminologies. In reality there does exist a faculty of human intellligence, design, intent, discrimination, which is not merely a slave to chance. The mind is not subservient to the matter which allows it to exist. Human beings possess attributes of both predestination and free will. I am predestined in the sense that I am a human being of a certain sex, a certain size, born at a certain time, with hands and feet and so on. Much as I would like I cannot jump buildings in a single bound. I do, however, possess free will. I can wiggle my little finger and stick it in my ear and stamp my foot with no provocation from the predestined elements of my existence but simply because I will these things to occur. My “intelligence” is indeed separate from the material components of my brain which allow that intelligence to exist. Linked, certainly, but independent. My brain allows my mind to exist but my mind is perfectly capable of issuing commands to my brain which are not derived from the physical components of my brain. “Wiggle that finger, brain!” I say, and the brain does as it is told.

Given that there is unarguable identity between the qualities of my human existence and the qualities of the existent universal world, the universal world also invariably possesses attributes of intelligence, design, intent, perhaps even predestination with its suggestion of possible limitations. It may be that some things are not possible, even to “God”. What is unarguable is that we as humans, with all our faculties, are a miniscule subset within the Set of forces, intelligences, designs to which we owe our origins. It does not require a name. It Is.

By this reasoning it is impossible to deny the existence of a superhuman agency, a “being” whose origins and limits are unknown, but whose existence cannot be denied. Again, the scientific materialist could argue that we are not “beings” and therefore there is no “Superhuman Being”, but as I have shown previously the invalidation of a linguistic term in no way invalidates the cause-effect identity of correspondence which exists between ourselves and the source of our existence. If we are “not beings”, then It is a “Super Not Being” . (I use caps merely to indicate the distinction between origin (It) and emanation (us). If we are “chance entities” then It is a “Superchance Entity”. If we are “illusion” then It is “Superillusion”. There are limits to human perceptive and descriptive faculties and terminology will always be relative and inexact. But it hardly matters what terms we use to describe our existence when the correspondent realilties are so immediately apparent and undeniable. Within the framework of human language, then, “Intelligent Design” capabilities, if possessed by us, must also be possessed by It.

Comment #2384

Posted by Nomen Nescio on May 18, 2004 2:09 PM (e)

Jack seems to me to be committing a fallacy of composition. if i’ve understood his argument rightly, he claims that since the human mind is intelligent, and since the human mind is a subset of the universe, the universe must be intelligent.

an ant is an insect; an ant is a subset of an anthill; yet an anthill is no insect. i see no reason why the nonsentience of the natural universe at large should make human intelligence either impossible or supernatural. we are but a very small, highly specialized part of all that is, and the rest of it all does not have to operate the way we do merely in order for us to be able to operate this way. an anthill does not need six legs and two antennae; an ant would be hard pressed to do without them. us humans may be said to be “intelligent designers”, but that alone is no reason the universe at large should need any such thing.

then again, i may have badly misunderstood mr. Shea. i confess that much of his argument seemed incomprehensible to me; the bit about “origin and emanation” is either wholly beyond me or meaningless, and i can’t tell which.

Comment #2385

Posted by Nomen Nescio on May 18, 2004 2:10 PM (e)

Jack seems to me to be committing a fallacy of composition. if i’ve understood his argument rightly, he claims that since the human mind is intelligent, and since the human mind is a subset of the universe, the universe must be intelligent.

an ant is an insect; an ant is a subset of an anthill; yet an anthill is no insect. i see no reason why the nonsentience of the natural universe at large should make human intelligence either impossible or supernatural. we are but a very small, highly specialized part of all that is, and the rest of it all does not have to operate the way we do merely in order for us to be able to operate this way. an anthill does not need six legs and two antennae; an ant would be hard pressed to do without them. us humans may be said to be “intelligent designers”, but that alone is no reason the universe at large should need any such thing.

then again, i may have badly misunderstood mr. Shea. i confess that much of his argument seemed incomprehensible to me; the bit about “origin and emanation” is either wholly beyond me or meaningless, and i can’t tell which.

Comment #2386

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 2:25 PM (e)

Well, first of all, my lost posts have appeared; evidently there is a little lag time before the posts are posted; sorry for raising the alarm.

Smokey,
Not only do I not mind you entering the discussion, I am very pleased to have you. I gave Syd too much credit when I said he seemed like an intelligent and reasonable person, for instead of him giving my post the serious consideration that this subject deserves, he reverts to the same Ploink Ploink story, which I admitted was amusing and facetious the first time, but the 2nd time it’s just silly and a way for him to avoid my questions. But, like I said, I’m used to this as this is the modus operandi of you Neo-Darwinists/Materialists.

Smokey posted part of my post and then asked the question…… I believe it takes a greater leap of faith to NOT believe in God.
Why do you believe this?

…Because as I have said repeatedly, it takes about 2 seconds for the honest, reasonable person to admit that they can never disprove the existence of God. So doesn’t it take an infinite amount of faith then to believe something inspite of the fact that you can never prove it?

And then you say…

“While it is of course true that it is impossible to disprove the existence of god, it is equally true that there is no positive and unambiguous evidence for His existence.”

…Thank you Smokey, for answering the question. Yes, it is impossible to disprove the existence of God(God is always capitalized); we actually agree on something!!!! But I can’t agree with the 2nd clause of that sentence; first of all, equally is redundant, if something is true, it’s true; truth is an absolute, there are no various degrees of truth(partial truths, such as excuses to my wife to explain my whereabouts, being the notable exception). But seriously, positive and unambiguous evidence for His (and I commend you for using the capital H) existence means different things to different people. You’ve used the requisite 2 seconds to consider whether you can disprove the existence of God, and rightly concluded that you could not. So use the rest of your life to examine, consider, and seek the evidence for whether God exists or not. Like I said in my earlier post, if you sincerely seek the Truth (God), He will find you! Have you tried the Google search I suggested? There are literally thousands of sites dedicated to the discussion of whether God exists or not and for you to say that there is no positive or unambiguous evidence for God’s existence just says to me that either you have not looked at the evidence or that you have already made up your mind and will not even consider the evidence. Here’s a challenge for you, you tell me what would constitute in your mind, positive and unambiguous evidence for the existence of God? And I will bet you that that evidence has already been presented. For instance, a reasonable person might say, well, if God came down to the earth and raised someone from the dead, I would believe in Him. But that has already happened, (see story of Lazarus in the Bible), and yet, one of the witnesses to that event, refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead Himself(see story of Doubting Thomas in same source). I have noticed a similar phenomenon in discussions with certain atheists; I might get them to agree that if Someone raised someone from the dead, that would be a miracle worthy of proving God’s existence; but at the same time they would insist that they were hallucinating if they happened to see such a miracle, because miracles are not possible! I hope you are not so closed-minded, Smokey.

ps. oh, by the way, are you the one who’s been driving for years? bout that time I broke down in tears…..cause I wanna drive the Zamboni

Comment #2389

Posted by Syd Croft on May 18, 2004 2:43 PM (e)

I might get them to agree that if Someone raised someone from the dead, that would be a miracle worthy of proving God’s existence

John that would prove absolutely nothing. Ploink Ploink can raise the dead and has done so numerous times. Lazarus? That was classic Ploink Ploink, one of her best pranks. Jesus was all “Hey look what I did” and the apostles were all “Wow, check it out!” Meanwhile Ploink Ploink had a big laugh. For YEARS Jesus thought it was he who raised Lazarus. He had a laugh with Ploink Ploink when he found out how he’d been punked. That was when Ploink Ploink was on better terms with JC and God, before the 2000 Elections.

Given that Ploink Ploink destroyed your God in 2000 after the Black Demon “Harris” (real name: Glargutron, She-beast of Cygnus 32) rigged the Florida elections, how can your God possibly raise the dead? If someone were raised from the dead, it would almost certainly have to be the work of Ploink Ploink.

If you were smart, John, you’d ask Ploink Ploink to raise God from the dead. Then you’re prayers would not be in vain. Of course, Ploink Ploink would appreciate it if you made a modest offering, particularly after your obnoxious statements about her earlier. She accepts PayPal. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll give you the email address where you can make a deposit in Ploink Ploink’s account.

Comment #2395

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 3:18 PM (e)

Smokey,
I thought I better post something before I completely lost my train of thought…now to get back to answering your post, you said…

“That is to say, there is no good reason to believe He does exist.  It is also impossible to prove that there aren’t any fairies or leprechauns running around, but lacking any evidence for them (unexplained pots o’ gold, cast off wings of mysterious origin, etc..), I consider those who believe in them to be unreasonable and superstitious.  Do you not agree?”

…Yes, I do agree! That’s 2 things we agree upon already. But don’t you agree with me also that the question of whether fairies and/or leprechauns exist, is a far less serious, almost flippant, question when compared to whether God exists or not? One might even say, who cares whether fairies and/or leprechauns exist? It matters not. But the question of whether God exists or not is the essential question of being. Who cares whether God exists? We all should care, it is the essential question of life. And granted, if God did not exist, we would have the need to create a god. But that does not mean that God does not exist. If God exists, then to ignore Him and His purposes, is to ignore the most important part of reality, and to ignore reality is irrational behavior. Which takes us to your paragraph on reason…but I’d better post this first.

Comment #2396

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 3:23 PM (e)

Syd,
Which part of my post did you not understand?

I gave Syd too much credit when I said he seemed like an intelligent and reasonable person, for instead of him giving my post the serious consideration that this subject deserves, he reverts to the same Ploink Ploink story, which I admitted was amusing and facetious the first time, but the 2nd time it’s just silly and a way for him to avoid my questions.

Now go outside and play and let the grown-ups continue their discussion without you annoying them. That is unless you have any serious contribution.

Comment #2398

Posted by Syd Croft on May 18, 2004 3:40 PM (e)

a way for him to avoid my questions.

Avoid your questions??? You mean questions like this one:

If God exists, then to ignore Him and His purposes, is to ignore the most important part of reality

Once again, John: Ploink Ploink killed God and Jesus (and a few lesser saints) in the weeks following the 2000 Election debacle. Prove that it didn’t happen. I dare you. What’s that? You can’t prove it? Just as I suspected.

But you continue to live in denial and insist on believing in your God. Pathetic.

News flash: this blog has NOTHING to do with the existence of your God, John. That is why so many scientists believe in both God and in Darwin’s theories explaining how life evolved.

If you find it necessary to attack the hard work of hundreds of thousands of biologists in order to logically justify your faith, then your faith is sickeningly pathetic.

If you don’t find it necessary to attack the hard work of hundreds of thousands of biologists in order to logically justify your faith, then please take your bogus philosophical claptrap to your church where it belongs.

Ploink Ploink is very very upset now and I fear that she is going to pee on your God’s grave if you don’t stop the annoying preaching.

Comment #2400

Posted by Jack Shea on May 18, 2004 3:59 PM (e)

Nomen:

Thank you for your considerate reply.

What I am trying to get at is this. The scientific mind is composed of factual realities. Every scientific truth without exception originates in the natural world, not in the mind. This identification with reality is the hallmark of good science. Scientific thought, therefore has only the illusion of separateness from the natural world. “E=mc2”, a remarkable scientific perception, did not originate in Einstein’s mind. It pre-existed in the interrelationship between matter, energy and the speed of light. This is true of Newton’s laws of mechanics, the four forces, DNA, everything. The scientific mind reflects, and is composed of, perceived realities external to itself (while at the same time existing within those realities). Thus the entire content and process of scientific thought, observation, deduction -“scientific intelligence”- cannot be said to have any truly independent existence. The scientific mind is an accurate but partial reflection of the universe. Thus no scientific discovery, no matter how brilliant, can be claimed to be the invention of the scientist. The “intelligence” of the scientific mind is merely an imprint of the “Intelligence” of the world we perceive. We cannot claim such “intelligence” as our sole human property. Our scientific minds are merely plagiarizing the Mind resident in everything. We are rewriting a book that has already been written.

Comment #2401

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 4:00 PM (e)

Smokey,
You posted…

“I suspect much of the disagreement here is semantic.  You seem to think that your faith is a valid “reason” for your belief, while I would argue that faith and reason are antithetical.  This all depends on how one defines reason.  Among the definitions given on dictionary.com are (1)The basis or motive for an action, decision, or conviction and (3)An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence.  Under definition (1) you might be correct, but I think definition (3) is what is generally meant in the context of this debate and in Gary’s original comment here.  If you can adduce any fact or cause (outside of your own, personal faith) which provides a logical basis for your belief in god and/or creationism, I’d be interested to hear it.”

…I most certainly do not want to argue semantics with you, but why in the world would you say, “You seem to think that your faith is a valid “reason” for your belief”? That would be an absurd thing to say; why would you attribute such an absurd statement to me? At other times, you have successfully cut and pasted quotes of things I’ve actually said, so why do you feel the need to manufacture statements on my behalf now?

This is what I really said about faith…

“.I will admit that I was born and raised a Catholic.  I consider my faith in God to be a great gift from God; I do not take any credit for having this faith.  That disclaimer notwithstanding, I have spent a large portion of my life questioning my faith.  I have looked at the various arguments pro and con for the existence of God and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I can not disprove the existence of God.  Furthermore, after examining all the evidence, I believe it takes a greater leap of faith to NOT believe in God.”

….the more I think about this, Smokey, the angrier I’m becoming. Maybe you’d like to try to explain to me how you came to attribute your statement, “You seem to think that your faith is a valid “reason” for your belief”, to me?

Oh and one other thing before I continue answering your post in the serious manner it deserves(unlike some children who will remain unnamed), would you mind clarifying which of Gary’s comments you are referring to in this part of your post?

‘ Under definition (1) you might be correct, but I think definition (3) is what is generally meant in the context of this debate and in Gary’s original comment here.”

Gary has made several comments in this thread and I sincerely do not know, to which comment you are referring.

Comment #2408

Posted by john on May 18, 2004 5:11 PM (e)

Gary,
You posted…

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/
John, Your inability to grasp what I have pointed out to you, and your insistance on false dualities leaves me with little motivation to continue this discussion.  I am going fishing for the next day or two.  I will look in when I return.”

…I actually went to the talk origins website and read the Icons of Obfuscation rebuttal paper, or most of it….and now I wanna go fishing or get drunk or both. I did not come away thinking that Wells’ article, “Survival of the Fakest”, was inaccurate, but I did think that the talkorigins article was aptly titled, in that a lot of obfuscation was present. But that is not my major interest, I only posted it in reply to Pim who asked for evidence of the Theory of Evolution being bad science.
But I am very interested in what you have pointed out to me, which i have been unable to grasp. Perhaps you could clarify that for me?
I realize that you don’t want to continue the discussion with me; I would point out to you that you have barely participated in any discussion with me in the first place. You haven’t answered my simple question, you know the one, Can you disprove that God exists? The one you confused with, “The “does God exist” question is irrelevant to the fact that creationism is completely at odds with reality.” And then you make the ridiculous claim of fact when the statement, “creationism is completely at odds with reality”, can only be true if God does not exist. (At this point I should clarify again, what I mean by creationism, ie. that God created all things. I will concede that some of the specific creationism theories are ridiculous). So feel free to rejoin the discussion or keep fishing, but don’t blame your disappearance from this thread on my inabilty to grasp your points.

Comment #2410

Posted by Smokey on May 18, 2004 5:37 PM (e)

John,

Have you tried the Google search I suggested? There are literally thousands of sites dedicated to the discussion of whether God exists or not and for you to say that there is no positive or unambiguous evidence for God’s existence just says to me that either you have not looked at the evidence or that you have already made up your mind and will not even consider the evidence.

I think you are making a mistake common to theists when debating atheists (of which I am one, as you no doubt guessed). Theists often seem to assume that we are simply ignorant of religion, and that if we were to just look, we would find god (or God). But this is terribly patronizing. I was raised in a very religious family, and I went to church (and Sunday School) every week for close to twenty years. My parents are Methodists (my father is a lapsed Catholic) and are people of strong (and unreasonable) faith. I have spent many, many hours reading, listening, and thinking about religion and God. Atheism is the informed position that I have come to. I have respect for faith, but it is, and must be, unreasonable.

So doesn’t it take an infinite amount of faith then to believe something inspite of the fact that you can never prove it?

I think you’re confused about what faith is. I don’t need to have faith that no god exists, for the same reason that I don’t rely on faith in my belief that a leprechaun will not lead me to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There are simply no reasons to believe the opposite. If you choose to define the failure to believe in things which have no rational basis as faith, so be it. To borrow Syd’s example, is it faith you rely on to reject Ploink Ploink? Or is it that Ploink Ploink is pretty ridiculous?

Here’s a challenge for you, you tell me what would constitute in your mind, positive and unambiguous evidence for the existence of God?

God’s like pornography: hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Seriously, I don’t know, I can’t imagine any single piece of evidence that would justify such a belief. What, in your view, is the evidence which does exist? Assuming you have reasons for your reasonable belief, that is.

And I will bet you that that evidence has already been presented. For instance, a reasonable person might say, well, if God came down to the earth and raised someone from the dead, I would believe in Him. But that has already happened, (see story of Lazarus in the Bible), and yet, one of the witnesses to that event, refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead Himself(see story of Doubting Thomas in same source).

As I said, I don’t think any single event would justify a belief in God, and I certainly don’t think the Bible is a reliable (or unbiased) source of evidence when debating the question. It is far more reasonable to conclude that the story of Lazarus is just that, a story (we can observe people making up stories and allegories in the world around us, we have no well-documented cases of people being raised from the dead that I am aware of). A belief in the literal truth of such a story is less reasonable.

But the question of whether God exists or not is the essential question of being. Who cares whether God exists? We all should care, it is the essential question of life. And granted, if God did not exist, we would have the need to create a god. But that does not mean that God does not exist. If God exists, then to ignore Him and His purposes, is to ignore the most important part of reality, and to ignore reality is irrational behavior.

Do my eyes deceive me, or are you trotting out Pascal’s wager? Pascal’s wager may be a good bet, but it’s not necessarily reasonable. It says nothing about the likelihood of God. The key line here is “If God exists.” As that is the question we are asking, I think that’s a pretty big if. If Ploink Ploink exists, you’re pretty much screwed for mocking her. Therefore, you should, as Syd suggested, immediately go make an offering at the shrine of PayPal. I suspect you will not, however, because there is no reason to believe Ploink Ploink exists (or that She is particularly vengeful and reads evolution blogs).

Comment #2414

Posted by Smokey on May 18, 2004 6:37 PM (e)

John,

… I most certainly do not want to argue semantics with you, but why in the world would you say, “You seem to think that your faith is a valid “reason” for your belief”? That would be an absurd thing to say; why would you attribute such an absurd statement to me

I apologize if I have misconstrued you. It was not my intent, but I’m not sure then just what your reasons are. You say:

I have looked at the various arguments pro and con for the existence of God and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I can not disprove the existence of God. Furthermore, after examining all the evidence, I believe it takes a greater leap of faith to NOT believe in God.”

When I asked why you came to believe this, you replied:

… Because as I have said repeatedly, it takes about 2 seconds for the honest, reasonable person to admit that they can never disprove the existence of God. So doesn’t it take an infinite amount of faith then to believe something inspite of the fact that you can never prove it?

If the entirety of your reason for believing in God and His creation (trying to get back on topic here) is that they cannot be disproven, this is nothing more than faith in a different guise. It has nothing to do with reason.

…would you mind clarifying which of Gary’s comments you are referring to in this part of your post?

In his reply to your first post, Gary (May 15, 2004 03:22 PM) refers to the forces of “anti-reason.” You objected to the implication that creationists were anti-reason, which is how this all got started. In truth, Gary’s usage is more similar to definition (4)The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence. But the point remains; there are no logical, rational, or analytic reasons to believe in creationism or in god/God/Ploink Ploink. There is only faith. This is not to say that faith is necessarily bad, it’s just not reasonable.

Comment #2427

Posted by Jack Shea on May 19, 2004 3:28 AM (e)

Syd and Smokey and John:

Smokey sez:

But the point remains; there are no logical, rational, or analytic reasons to believe in creationism or in god/God/Ploink Ploink.  There is only faith.  This is not to say that faith is necessarily bad, it’s just not reasonable.

Check out my posts yesterday. By proving that Science is legitimate plagiarism of the natural world I prove the existence of Intelligent Design. Is that important? Not really. Within my “proof” lurks the idea that rationality itself is a delusion. Nomen found the argument convoluted and difficult but it’s a lot simpler and clearer than the proposed evolution of cetaceans (at least to me).

Not all religions are based on the idea of a “God”. Buddhism is an atheistic religion. It sees “Mind” as the fabricating energy permeating the universe. Am I a Buddhist? Philosophically yes, evangelistically no. To each his own. Religion is less important than truth. Which is why religions like neodarwinism and hokey creationism and scientific materialism get up my nose, though there is value in all as pointers away from falsity to fact.

Smokey is right. Blind faith is not reasonable, and can be dangerous. Everything must be tested against fact. But it is possible to prove the existence of Superintelligence, as I believe I have done.

“To see infinity in a grain of sand and eternity in a flower…”
-William Blake

Jack

Comment #2443

Posted by Pim van Meurs on May 19, 2004 9:43 AM (e)

Jack: But it is possible to prove the existence of Superintelligence, as I believe I have done.

Wow. Nothing in this thread however provides for such supporting evidence. But perhaps I am presuming that you are making a scientific claim? Your suggestoin that you have proven something also seems to confuse the concept of how scientific inquiry works.

Comment #2455

Posted by Gary Hurd on May 19, 2004 1:04 PM (e)

John, “ … I actually went to the talk origins website and read the Icons of Obfuscation rebuttal paper, or most of it ….and now I wanna go fishing or get drunk or both. I did not come away thinking that Wells’ article, “Survival of the Fakest”, was inaccurate, but I did think that the talkorigins article was aptly titled, in that a lot of obfuscation was present.”

Well, that sums it up me. John, the “science” foisted by Wells is fraudulent. If you are
incapable of learning this, there is nothing I can do to help you.

If you just like to listen to those echoes in your head, I can suggest several Internet
connections that are mostly dedicated to arguments between creationists and science
advocates. Here are some links:

Controlled by creationists with heavy anti-science censorship:

http://www.theologyweb.com/forum/forumdisplay.ph…

http://www.baptistboard.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php

http://www.christianforums.com/f70

Controlled by science supporters with no censorship:

http://members3.boardhost.com/john666/index.html…

http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&am…

Comment #2502

Posted by john on May 21, 2004 8:40 AM (e)

Smokey;
Thanks for your apology; Yes, I did believe that you had misconstrued what I said.

You will think I am incredibly ignorant, but I was not aware of Pascal’s Wager, at least not consciously. I must have learned about it in college philosophy courses, but that was some 40 years ago. Ahhh, the wonders of the internet…I searched for Pascal’s Wager and found a multiplicity of sites….this cut and paste is from the www.probe.org entry for PW…

“Pascal says our inability to believe is a problem of the emotions or passions. Don’t try to convince yourself by examining more proofs and evidences, he says, “but by controlling your emotions.” You want to believe but don’t know how. So follow the examples of those who “were once in bondage but who now are prepared to risk their whole life…. Follow the way by which they began. They simply behaved as though they believed” by participating in various Christian rituals. And what can be the harm? “You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, full of good works, a true and genuine friend…. I assure you that you will gain in this life, and that with every step you take along this way, you will realize you have bet on something sure and infinite which has cost you nothing.”{47}
Remember that Pascal sees faith as a gift from God, and he believes that God will show Himself to whomever sincerely seeks Him.{48} By taking him up on the wager and putting yourself in a place where you are open to God, God will give you faith. He will give you sufficient light to know what is really true.”

So I guess that Pascal agrees with you, ie. that reason is not adequate for proving the existence of God. Ok, I will defer to Pascal, but I still think that reason helps me come to a belief in God.

But Pascal and I agree on faith being a gift from God. I said, “ I consider my faith in God to be a great gift from God; I do not take any credit for having this faith.”

And Pascal and I agree that “God will show Himself to whomever sincerely seeks Him.” I said, in my reply to Syd before you (Smokey) even entered this discussion, “But I can say with some degree of certainty, that you seem like an intelligent, reasonable person.  Besides the gift of faith, God also gives us other gifts, among them, the gifts of intelligence, the ability to reason, and free will.  I challenge you, Syd, and all you other NeoDarwinists/Materialists, to use the gifts God has given you.  First of all, have the humility and the good sense to admit that you can never disprove the existence of God.  Then search for Truth, God is Truth, so in searching for Truth, you are really searching for God.  And if you sincerely seek the Truth (God), God will find you.”

So Smokey, I sincerely hope that you will continue your search for the truth. I believe that “Reason” helps me to the position that God exists, ie. it is much more reasonable to me that the matter in the universe must have been created as opposed to just always exisitng. But I admit that both positions require a leap of faith, I just think it requires more faith to believe that this orderly universe just created itself. Keep on search, Smokey.

Comment #2504

Posted by john on May 21, 2004 9:32 AM (e)

Smokey;
Here is the URL of the website I quoted from…

http://www.probe.org/docs/pascal.html

Comment #2875

Posted by Leslie on May 26, 2004 12:00 AM (e)

Wow, what a site! And the posts are sizzling!

I hope no one minds me butting in at this point, but I must say I agree with Smokey and Syd.

I guess if a bunch of normally intelligent children were brought up on an isolated island with no religious training they would see absolutely no reason to believe in god/God. That’s because they wouldn’t see any real proof of his/His existence.

I did a bit of speed-reading and I think John says that it takes more faith to NOT believe in God. I don’t really see the reasoning behind this. If we all acted like rational humans we wouldn’t believe in things that didn’t offer SOLID, TANGIBLE proofs. At least there is solid and tangible proof that lead Darwin to make his theories.

And I don’t mean words in the Bible either. The Bible says Jesus raised someone from the dead, I think, but there is no PROOF except the Bible’s word. And there are equally and some less incredible, though much older stories in the writings of other religions (like in Buddhism) but I don’t see you believing blindly in THEM. I think anyone who takes the word of the Bible alone (or any other religious writing) possesses a large amount of extreme and blind faith. Neither do I mean random happenings, such as my computer hanging up whenever I play Morbid Angel’s “Blasphemy” or the cat I named Belial being run over by a car, or Chaminda Vaas taking a wicket in his first ball after making the sign of the cross, to be considered acts of God.

As for religious beliefs and writings, let’s say for the sake of argument that Syd has a secret army and takes over some poor uncivilised and untutored folk, and forces them to worship Ploink Ploink. In a couple of thousand years, I bet you’d find some of them believing in Ploink Ploink as firmly as you, John, believe in God today. Say that Syd goes a step further and composes a book he calls “The Word of Ploink Ploink”, and forces the barbarians to read it every Saturday between the cartoons and the wrestling. That would be THEIR Bible. Does that sound familiar?

Perhaps it’s all down to ego, and we’d much rather believe we are something special, made by God, instead of a product of millions of years’ evolution with no apparent guiding spirit, and that instead of going to heaven or hell, when we die, we die, and nothing happens to our souls and our bodies turn to dust. It’s nicer and more comforting to believe in God, believing He’s there for us, whereas it’s humbling to believe that we truly might be nothing special.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I’m sorry if I have. But I think it’s a little out of order for you, John, to dismiss Syd and Ploink Ploink, when you believe in God solely due to faith. And while faith is commendable and all that, it only serves in your case to overlook the need for Proof.

Have a nice day.

Maggots and cherries.

Leslie.

Comment #2882

Posted by Jack Krebs on May 26, 2004 4:39 AM (e)

Leslie says, “I guess if a bunch of normally intelligent children were brought up on an isolated island with no religious training they would see absolutely no reason to believe in god/God.”

I don’t think that is true (although it is too hypothetical to use as much more than a springboard to discussion.)

My opinion, based on an anthropological study of religion in primitive societies, is that the most intuitive human viewpoint is animism - the belief that an animating spirit resides within all things. This belief is a projected anthropomorphism of our own internal experience - we see ourselves as having an inner life and we naively assume that other things also do; picture the old maps of the winds being the breath of Gods blowing across the world to get the idea.

The knowledge that there are non-animistic explanations for most (if not all) of the world’s phenomena has taken millennia to accumulate, accompanied by changes in our religious understandings about the source of the animation that we do see.

I think it is wrong to think negatively of religion as something that would go away on its own accord if it were not imposed by society, and wrong to think that it we were just “rational” through and through we would have no reason for religious belief.

One difficulty in discussing this topic is that for many people “religious belief” is synonymous with a literal interpretation of Christian belief. There are ways to have religious and spiritual beliefs that would perhaps be more inviting to people who object to some of the literal beliefs of Christianity, but that’s a subject for another time.

Comment #2883

Posted by Jack Krebs on May 26, 2004 4:40 AM (e)

Leslie says, “I guess if a bunch of normally intelligent children were brought up on an isolated island with no religious training they would see absolutely no reason to believe in god/God.”

I don’t think that is true (although it is too hypothetical to use as much more than a springboard to discussion.)

My opinion, based on an anthropological study of religion in primitive societies, is that the most intuitive human viewpoint is animism - the belief that an animating spirit resides within all things. This belief is a projected anthropomorphism of our own internal experience - we see ourselves as having an inner life and we naively assume that other things also do; picture the old maps of the winds being the breath of Gods blowing across the world to get the idea.

The knowledge that there are non-animistic explanations for most (if not all) of the world’s phenomena has taken millennia to accumulate, accompanied by changes in our religious understandings about the source of the animation that we do see.

I think it is wrong to think negatively of religion as something that would go away on its own accord if it were not imposed by society, and wrong to think that it we were just “rational” through and through we would have no reason for religious belief.

One difficulty in discussing this topic is that for many people “religious belief” is synonymous with a literal interpretation of Christian belief. There are ways to have religious and spiritual beliefs that would perhaps be more inviting to people who object to some of the literal beliefs of Christianity, but that’s a subject for another time.

Comment #2892

Posted by Leslie on May 26, 2004 8:12 AM (e)

actually, i meant, children brought up with all the benefits of current education EXCEPT in religious matters. sorry. should have made myself clear!

up the irons.

leslie.

Comment #2948

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on May 26, 2004 9:58 PM (e)

OK, this has long since stopped being about the welcome message. I’m closing down the comments here.