Dave Thomas posted Entry 985 on April 27, 2005 05:46 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/983

Who actually accepts or supports the theory of biological evolution?  Traditionally, one gets different answers to this question from scientists and from creationists / “Intelligent Design” advocates.

Most scientists agree that it is scientists - those practicing science - who accept and support evolution.  However, according to New Mexico’s chapter of IDnet, “evolutionists” are instead those who adhere to Philosophical Naturalism:

…evolutionists, because of their philosophical commitment to Naturalism, insist as a matter of dogma that the process of evolution is undirected and without purpose.

Now, two new pundits weigh in with answers to this age-old question.  And the answers are in substantial agreement, despite their different sources - one is Christian pastor and parent Ray Mummert, from Dover, PA, and the other is Geoff Brumfiel, Nature’s Washington physical sciences correspondent.

Mummert’s assessment appeared on Yahoo News, and is archived
here.  The March 29th article, “TEACHING DARWIN SPLITS PENNSYLVANIA TOWN” by Catherine Hours, notes

With the [Dover] lawsuit pending, the council members, defended by an organization of Christian lawyers, will not talk about the case.
But pastor and parent Ray Mummert, 54, explained their point.
“If we continue to indoctrinate our young people with non-religious principles, we`re headed for an internal destruction of this society,” he said.
“Evolution is just a theory and there are other theories,” Mummert explained, smiling through his beard.
“There is such a complexity in life, and science wants to hang its hat on a belief that life somehow started — they say there is no creator, no order … believe there is a creator,” he said.
Both sides acknowledge the political context of the debate over Darwinism, and the relation to the re-election of staunchly Christian President George W. Bush.
“Christians are a lot more bold under Bush`s leadership, he speaks what a lot of us believe,” said Mummert.
“We`ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture,” he said, adding that the school board`s declaration is just a first step. …

Brumfiel of Nature is the author of an article in today’s Nature called “Intelligent design:  Who has designs on your students’ minds?”

Brumfiel writes

But despite researchers’ apparent lack of interest, or perhaps because of it, the [ID] movement is catching on among students on US university campuses. Much of the interest can be traced to US teenagers, more than three-quarters of whom believe, before they reach university, that God played some part in the origin of humans (see graphic). But others are drawn to the idea out of sheer curiosity.

This is the graphic Brumfiel cites:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7037/images/4341062a-f1.2.jpg

Here are the key data from that the bottom panel of that graphic, which pertain to our question:

Support for Darwin Increases with Level of Education
Percentage of adults who believe evolution is a scientific theory well supported by the evidence:

  • Postgraduate Education 65%

  • College graduate 52%

  • Sample Average 35%

  • Some college education 32%

  • High school or less 20%

And there you have it.  Who is For evolution?  To the Ramparts!  To the Turrets!  To the Fortified Bunkers!  To Arms!  No one is safe!  It’s the Attack of the Intelligent and Educated!

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Comment #27022

Posted by Mike Walker on April 28, 2005 12:16 AM (e)

Well, the obvious retort from the other side is not that they are “Intelligent and Educated” but that they are “Indoctrinated”. That’s what creationists and the DI tends to moan and gripe about.

Comment #27026

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 12:40 AM (e)

Support for Darwin Increases with Level of Education

Ah yes. Did you know that support for Watson and Crick also increases with education level? As well as support for black people, women and gays.

How do you like those rutabegas?

But it ain’t foolproof as I learned to my dismay last year, when a fresh attorney in the big city upon hearing the word “DNA” in a conversation, unwisely blurted: “You don’t believe that stuff, do you?”

Such are the oddities one encounters in the United States when one mingles with contemporary graduates of so-called “liberal arts” colleges.

Comment #27029

Posted by Alex Merz on April 28, 2005 1:17 AM (e)

Well, GWW, having graduated from a liberal arts college that consistently competes with Caltech (and consistently beats MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, CMU, et al.) for the rank of #1 in per-biology-major yield of life science PhDs (nearly 20%), I gotta say that I have no idea which liberal arts colleges you are talking about. Not my alma mater, that’s for sure. Williams, maybe? Swarthmore? Oberlin? U. Minnesota, Morris? [;-)]

Comment #27030

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 2:38 AM (e)

UC San Diego -> Harvard Law! ;)

I didn’t mean to dis liberal arts colleges. I loved college and grad school was fun too (for the first few years).

What’s amazing to me about those numbers in Dave’s post is not that 80% of people who stop after high school (or earlier) have no concept of geologic time scales, it’s that 35% of college postgrads are able to keep themselves deluded about basic scientific facts.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason for this is that, in this country, bizarre nonsensical beliefs are coddled as long as they are associated with Christianity. And I’m not talking about mystical beliefs, the stuff that many of us carry around in our hearts and souls. I’m talking about stuff that is just plain wrong.

For example, I’d bet $100 that same 35% of postgrads believes that scientific evidence supports the efficacy of distant prayer on human healing.

I understand that it’s hard to “let go” sometimes. I remember very well the difficult emotions that churned through me the day I discovered wrapped presents in my parents’ closet that were tagged “From Santa.” It was disturbing, to say the least.

By comparison, the transformation from the religion my parents had indoctrinated me into my present state was much more gradual (perhaps a few giant steps were made under the influence in college).

But it does surprise me that when it comes to spiritually irrelevant facts (e.g., the non-existence of telekinetic powers, ESP, communicating with the dead, creationism) that adults with a quarter century or more of education still won’t “let go.”

Comment #27031

Posted by NDT on April 28, 2005 2:51 AM (e)

Typically, Mummert completely misrepresented the theory of evolution. “They [scientists] say there is no creator, no order”, according to Mummert. But of course that’s not what scientists are saying at all.

Comment #27032

Posted by Randall Wald on April 28, 2005 3:49 AM (e)

Off-topic, but in reply to Alex, I’m a current undergrad bio major at Caltech, and am pleasantly surprised to hear that we’ve got a better bio-PhD-per-bio-BS ratio than MIT, Harvard, et all. It’s especially surprising because biology is barely considered a science here; physics and chemistry are sciences, but biology is often viewed as a linear combination of stamp-collecting and pipetting.

Comment #27033

Posted by tom on April 28, 2005 4:48 AM (e)

But..ah…God teaches creation…so..if God was there over the evolutionary process..then he’s a liar, in which case he isn’t God, because God is perfect.
Unless of course it was Buddah, but he can’t speak so no one knows where he stands.

Comment #27034

Posted by PaulP on April 28, 2005 5:01 AM (e)

Randall Wald wrote

biology is often viewed as a linear combination of stamp-collecting and pipetting

Aaahh, another entry for “1001 uses of a pipette”

Comment #27038

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 6:20 AM (e)

Comment #27022
Posted by Mike Walker on April 28, 2005 12:16 AM

Well, the obvious retort from the other side is not that they are “Intelligent and Educated” but that they are “Indoctrinated”. That’s what creationists and the DI tends to moan and gripe about.

And we all know that, because religious indoctrination pretty much starts in the cradle and teens are very well indoctrinated indeed by the time they become teens, what is happening in higher educaiton is really DE-INDOCTRINATION.
Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27039

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 6:58 AM (e)

If creationist don’t like the whole indoctrination thing maybe they would be willing to cut a deal. If they agree to give up indoctrination as a tool for oh, say…two thousand years, science will agree too. Oh that’s right, science educates, not indoctrinates, so we don’t lose anything there.
Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27042

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 7:34 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'I'

Comment #27043

Posted by Evolvin\' Apeman on April 28, 2005 7:46 AM (e)

[Some people just don’t get it. When you break Rule 6 here, you are not welcome back. I can keep adding further IP addresses to be banned easy enough. – WRE]

Comment #27044

Posted by Jim Wynne on April 28, 2005 8:40 AM (e)

Paul Flocken wrote:

Scientists insist that evolution was undirected because there is no evidence to the contrary.

Are you sure this is what you meant to say? I think it would be more accurate to say that science has no opinion as to whether evolution was directed because the “evidence” for direction is not accessible to the scientific method. The unsupported assertions of scientists (and preachers) are irrelevant.

Comment #27045

Posted by SeanD on April 28, 2005 8:43 AM (e)

This is a little off topic, though it does reference a quote from the post above– I wonder what IDists take ‘philosophical naturalism’ to be. The way they use the term bears little resemblance to how it seems to be used in contermporary philosophy, where it denotes, roughly, a methodological attitude *in philosophy* which regards philosophy and science as in some sense importantly continuous– that is, philosophy is distinguished less by having a unique method than by the particular questions it addresses (not to say that philosophy is regarded as ‘a science,’ per se). Insofar as scientists might have opinions about the role of philosophy, they could be naturalists or not– but its hard to see why this would affect their views on evolution, though presumably a naturalistically inclined philosopher would be more likely to accept evolution (though neither would most non-naturalists deny it). If we read ‘philosophical naturalism’ among scientists as an opinion towards their own discipline and its methods, as a belief that, say, the methods of biological science are the best way to learn about the biological world, then it would seem that any serious biologist would have to be a naturalist in this sense.

By ‘philosophical naturalism’ do IDists/creationists just mean atheism/agnosticism (or perhaps, more reasonably, some methodological version thereof- but methodological principles in the sciences are prboably not really ‘philosophical’ in any perjorative sense)? Or some sort of materialism/physicalism (as opposed to dualism, vitalism, etc…)? Obviously, accepting evolution as a good empirical theory in biology (and hence likely to be true or close to true) doesn’t require commitment to either one (as, of course, witnessed by the existence of theistic evolutionists, which include such theological dunces as the entire Catholic Church hiearchy).

This is just one of the many ways that ID advocates reveal their ignorance not only of science, but also of some basic philosophical issues (the other which always bothers the hell out of me is the ‘evolution is not falsiable, and so not science’ argument– even if the antecedenct is true, the consquequent doeesn’t follow. Falsifiability hasn’t been regarded as a straightforwardly necessary condition for ‘sciencehood’ by hardly anyone since the 1950s when W.V.O. Quine published a blistering attack on the doctrine in his famous ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism.’ Note that the ‘good guys’ fall into a similar trap sometimes as well, by arguing using the same strategy that ID is not a science. A long history of attempts to demarcate science from ‘pseudo-science’ have, I think, at least strongly suggested that we’re better off regarding disciplines like ID and astrology as *really unsucceful sciences* rather than as simply ‘non-scientific’).

Comment #27046

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 8:54 AM (e)

Comment #27044
Posted by Jim Wynne on April 28, 2005 08:40 AM

Are you sure this is what you meant to say? I think it would be more accurate to say that science has no opinion as to whether evolution was directed because the “evidence” for direction is not accessible to the scientific method. The unsupported assertions of scientists (and preachers) are irrelevant.

I would like to think that evidence is, by definition, accessible to the scientific method. Or, expressed negatively, that which is not accessible to the scientific method is not evidence, hence no contrary evidence to undirectedness. But lacking a rigorous examination of that, your formulation is the more accurate statement. Thanks.
Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27047

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 9:08 AM (e)

SeanD,
You are correct about ‘philosophical naturalism’. It is one of those codewords that creationists use that are only supposed to be understood by other creationists because it has a definition only creationists apply to it.

To return to the topic I so blithely ignored, since this posting of Mr. Thomas obliquely addresses the problem of teenagers not having enough of the right tools to rigorously analyze creationist quackery, this is a good place to bring up Sir ToeJam’s attempt at an ngo. Is it a go or will it fail at conception. It is an excellant place to show our anger will drive us to act.
Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27048

Posted by Ed Darrell on April 28, 2005 9:13 AM (e)

Some version of E. Apeman said:

Correction, higher education has increasingly become an indoctrination process for liberalism, which has its roots in Darwinism.

Spoken like someone who has never seen a graduate school!

Conservatives dominate graduate education in the U.S., especially in business schools (where MBAs are granted, if you didn’t realize it), law schools, medical schools, and engineering. There are a handful of famous, liberal thinkers on university faculties, compared to the thousands of faculty members, most of whom are no more liberal than your grandmother (if your grandmother is liberal, perhaps you should pay more attention to her reasons).

Darwinism? In business school? In engineering? In software design and “systems analysis?” That’s rich.

Darwinism plays too small a role in biology, too small a role in medicine, and no discernible role in any other facet of higher education.

This is of course the problem with “knowledge puffs up” that supports your arrogant attitude. I’m just waiting for you guys to propose a voting system where years of education are used to weight a citizen’s vote. You “alphas” really out to read Huxley’s “Brave New World”

The liberal myth that “education” will somehow solve societies problems continues. Consider your efforts to be as successful as Moore’s propoganda piece was in preventing Bush’s re-election.

Education is much cheaper than ignorance. Moore was right, of course. Too bad his delivery cemented so many otherwise good Americans into thinking that Bush had told the truth about Iraq. Of course, most Americans supported Lyndon Johnson and the escalation of the Vietnam war, at first. God help us that Iraq doesn’t take a similar course from here on in!

Knowledge is the glory of God, American theologians used to say. If there is a god, that’s certainly true (I’m a believer). So when the IDolators rail against education, it is one more means by which we can discern their Pharisaic philosophy and departure from the path of righteousness, American patriotism, and the common sense which once was prized by common folk who aspire for their own children to get educations better than their own.

Contrarianism is entertaining when backed by thought, but simple dissention otherwise, a sowing of strife for no yield.

Comment #27049

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 28, 2005 9:19 AM (e)

evolving-apeman,
I notice you did not disagree with my assertian that religious indoctrination begins in the cradle. In my bookstore, there are religious picture board books(that means no words, apeman) specifically for the one to three age range. And they are quite doctrinaire on creationist subjects. Is it right or wrong to expose(far to weak a word in my opinion) children to such brainwashing before they are barely capable of thinking, let alone critical thinking. Setting aside a name for it, what goes on in the universities of this country at least has adults as the object. They are quite capable of deciding for themselves if the education is worth it.
insincerely,

Comment #27051

Posted by RPM on April 28, 2005 9:44 AM (e)

Off-topic, but in reply to Alex, I’m a current undergrad bio major at Caltech, and am pleasantly surprised to hear that we’ve got a better bio-PhD-per-bio-BS ratio than MIT, Harvard, et all. It’s especially surprising because biology is barely considered a science here; physics and chemistry are sciences, but biology is often viewed as a linear combination of stamp-collecting and pipetting.

Among geneticists, CalTech has a very nice reputation as the 2nd home of Drosophila genetics (after Morgan’s lab moved from Columbia). While modern genetics got its start in NYC, it really took hold in Pasadena. One of the most important figures of the Modern Synthesis, Th. Dobzhansky, got his start at CalTech (before, ironically, moving to New York), and you could very well argue that CalTech was one of most important institutions in giving rise to modern evolutionary theory.

Comment #27052

Posted by Keanus on April 28, 2005 9:59 AM (e)

The stats on education level and acceptance of evolution don’t surprise me in the least. Of all college graduates, a non-trivial portion are graduates of fundamentalist colleges where evolution is often taught as the standard doctrine of atheists and agnotics. Of the rest I suspect that fewer than a third have studied any biology in college, much less a second year course on evolution or, god forbid, a course on the relationship between science and religion. After all look at the bozo in the Whitehouse. He went to Yale, earned gentleman C’s, never took a course in biology, and yet has the gall to say in his ignorance that “the jury’s still out on evolution.”

The results also are consistent with an anecdotal observation of mine. I volunteer five to six hours a week at a local Planned Parenthood clinic escorting patients through screaming and physically obstructionist pickets. My fellow escorts and I all have at least four years of college. Through talking with the few pickets who are civil, I’ve learned that at best one in five is a college graduate and many of the rest high school dropouts. But that doesn’t stop them from screaming that abortion causes breast cancer, is more risky than a full term pregnancy, that Planned Parenthood spreads diseases, that PP is a money machine, and other factually incorrect nonsense. The escorts uniformly accept evolution; I’ve never asked the pickets about evolution, but I expect most reject it. I suspect that statistically education is a key distinction in differentiating those on the two sides of both issues.

Of course, the folks at the DI have the “education” but they’re the statistical anomalies found in any large population. Education isn’t all one needs. One also needs some common sense and dose of wisdom.

Keanus

Comment #27055

Posted by Moses on April 28, 2005 10:20 AM (e)

“What’s amazing to me about those numbers in Dave’s post is not that 80% of people who stop after high school (or earlier) have no concept of geologic time scales, it’s that 35% of college postgrads are able to keep themselves deluded about basic scientific facts.”

So lets say someone’s got a Masters in Elizabethean Poetry… That somehow should make this individual aware? Or they’re a lawyer? Nothing personal, but a Lawyer is a guy with a bachelors degree that went to a difficult trade school.

Or what about me? I’m an accountant with a graduate degree in accounting. And while I know more about US Taxation than probably 99.999% of all Americans, my formal schooling in Biology stopped as a college sophmore, when I took Oceonography 101 taught from a biological perspective instead of a geological perspective. My last broad spectrum biology class was in high school, where I discovered in the sex ed unit I knew more about women’s bodies than most HS girls. (Nothing like Gray’s Anatomy, first read as a 3rd grader when Dad was in Medical School.)

Everything I’ve learned since is either from my wife (PhD) who is a research biologist at a top university; or attributable to my natural, and rare, desire to learn and grow in my understanding of the “universe as it is, not what someone wishes it to be” as a human.

Comment #27057

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 10:30 AM (e)

About levels of education: It’s an interesting statistic, but one that seems hard to make sense of. Many students, myself included, make it through undergrad. without even taking a biology course (I was a philosophy major, and my two science core-requirements were met by chemistry and physics). And I would guess that the percentage of graduate students studying discinplines other than biology is rather high.

Concerning religion and Darwinian evolution: There is no empirical evidence that I know of for the intervention of an intelligence, either in mutation or environment; neither is there empirical evidence against such intervention. What would count as evidence either way? It seems to me that the question of intervention, for or against, is beyond the scope of science.

Comment #27058

Posted by Alex Merz on April 28, 2005 10:36 AM (e)

Evolving Ape-man wrote:

Higher education has increasingly become an indoctrination process for liberalism, which has its roots in Darwinism.

No, it doesn’t. Liberalism as a political philosophy emerged in the late 1700s; the term liberalism was in use by the early 1800s. And Darwin published the Origin in 1859. You are emitting impossible nonsense, as usual.

Comment #27059

Posted by PvM on April 28, 2005 10:39 AM (e)

ID proponents like Johnson and others have done a great disservice to science and faith by their consistent conflation of methodological and philosophical naturalism. Perhaps the end justifies the means ??? but such a conflation is easily exposed and shows the underlying religious foundation of Intelligent Design.

Comment #27060

Posted by Ken Shackleton on April 28, 2005 10:48 AM (e)

Evolving Ape wrote:

This is of course the problem with “knowledge puffs up” that supports your arrogant attitude.

Is the Apeman actually advocating ignorance as a tool to fight arrogance? If so….then he has this exactly backwards…..the most arrogant and opinionated people that I have ever met have been the ones with the least education.

It has also been my observation that people [even intelligent and well educated] tend to have the strongest opinions on the subjects in which they possess the least knowledge.

Comment #27061

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 11:05 AM (e)

PvM wrote:

ID proponents like Johnson and others have done a great disservice to science and faith by their consistent conflation of methodological and philosophical naturalism.

As I’ve discovered in the recent thread on this topic, there is a tremendous amount of confusion concerning “methodological naturalism.” It seems to me that science is not methodologically naturalistic; indeed, it is not naturalistic at all.

The phrase “methodological naturalism” suggests a methodological commitment to a position that can only be characterized philosophically. Science, I’m told, makes no such commitments and does not engage in philosophy.

Rather, the results of science have found nothing but natural causes. Perhaps this could be called a de facto naturalism, but even that would be incorrect because the conclusion is not in any way supportive of naturalism, i.e., every scientist is (or should be) open to the idea that tomorrow they will have evidence of miracles left and right, but until they do, they correctly adopt a show-me-the-money attitude.

Comment #27065

Posted by Jim Wynne on April 28, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

Ken Shackleton wrote:

Is the Apeman actually advocating ignorance as a tool to fight arrogance?

Not surprising; he is highly qualified in the use of it, and it seems to be the only tool he has.

Comment #27066

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 28, 2005 11:32 AM (e)

Nobody has pointed out the obvious problem with assuming that increased education leads to belief in evolution. Since people with advanced degrees are likely to be more intelligent than others, the statistical correlation between education and evolution may simply reflect the tendency of intelligent people to understand and support evolution.

Comment #27068

Posted by Flint on April 28, 2005 11:35 AM (e)

Finley:

I agree, these terms are tossed around without much attachment to anything. Science presumes (pending evidence to the contrary) that natural, observable effects have natural, observable causes. This is indeed a presumption, a meta-working hypothesis. I would contend that if science were to encounter an effect that did NOT have a natural or observable cause, then science would either guess wrong, or permanently remain in “We don’t know” limbo.

The creationist claim is that science is constructed in such a way as to define the supernatural as impossible and nonexistent, but this is misleading. Better to say that science consists of applying a well-understood method, and the method is incapable of detecting or evaluating unnatural mechanisms if indeed any exist. So the show-me-the-money approach truly does constrain what is recognizable as money. Faith is not money. “The results of science have found nothing but natural causes” because the scientific method is only capable of looking for natural causes. Other causes, if any, lie outside the scope of science.

Comment #27070

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 11:53 AM (e)

Flint,

I think your interpretation is too strong. Let’s take a straight-forward example: if tomorrow I encounter a burning-bush in my back-yard, and it starts talking to me, and I invite, friends, neighbors, reporters and scientists over to take a look, and they all verify my findings, and despite years of analysis no natural cause can be found, and…, eventually don’t we have to chalk that one up to a miracle. Must we throw up our hands and leave the matter in “we don’t know” limbo?

Comment #27074

Posted by spencer on April 28, 2005 12:09 PM (e)

Let’s take a straight-forward example: if tomorrow I encounter a burning-bush in my back-yard, and it starts talking to me, and I invite, friends, neighbors, reporters and scientists over to take a look, and they all verify my findings, and despite years of analysis no natural cause can be found, and … , eventually don’t we have to chalk that one up to a miracle. Must we throw up our hands and leave the matter in “we don’t know” limbo?

In my view, yes, we must leave it in “I don’t know” limbo. Because how can we attribute it to a “miracle” if we can’t even verify the existence of a source of miracles?

We can speculate that it may have been a miracle, or believe that it probably was a miracle. But we can never *know* it was, simply because of the vast amount of unknowns the universe still contains.

Comment #27076

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 12:17 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

I think we should leave that question for the moment you encounter that burning bush.

After all, it might never happen, right?

Comment #27077

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 28, 2005 12:19 PM (e)

Scientists don’t have a rule book that tells them what they can and cannot do. As in Common Law, such determinations are made on a case by case basis. The boundary between scientific research and philosophical speculation or mere magic has gradually developed over time much through the actual practice of science and the accumulation of precedents. The methodology reflects what worked. If burning bushes and fairies had turned up, scientific practice would presumably reflect those facts. Since the world is not haunted, the biologists didn’t turn into ghost busters.

At root, the problem the Creationists and ID folks keep bumping their heads against isn’t some complicated issue of epistemology. They are just wrong about the facts. Everything else follows from that.

Comment #27080

Posted by Harq al-Ada on April 28, 2005 12:40 PM (e)

“Human beings have evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.”

This wording does not help things at all. It makes no distinction between theistic evolutionists and ID beleivers. A natural consequence is that the IDers will claim that 43% of Americans believe in ID, and only 18% of us are Darwinists. In fact, they have made this claim.

Comment #27081

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 12:40 PM (e)

Finley

Let’s take a straight-forward example: if tomorrow I encounter a burning-bush in my back-yard, and it starts talking to me, and I invite, friends, neighbors, reporters and scientists over to take a look, and they all verify my findings, and despite years of analysis no natural cause can be found, and … , eventually don’t we have to chalk that one up to a miracle.

Reminds of the Brady Bunch episode where Greg has everyone believing there is a flying saucer patrolling the neighborhood.

You crack me up Finley! Surely you can come up with a more impressive “miracle” than that one. DOn’t disappoint me next time.

Comment #27083

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee, FCD wrote:

I think we should leave that question for the moment you encounter that burning bush.

After all, it might never happen, right?

My money is on it never happening. But extreme thought experiments are useful for fleshing out theoretical issues. Thus, we can hypothetically ask, “If…, then what might we be inclined to believe?”

It seems to me that, if an observed phenomenon resists all attempts at naturalistic explanation over a lengthy period of time, then it would make sense to consider other logical possibilities. If you tell me that such possibilities are off the table, I’ll ask why. Won’t your answer have to be philosophical?

Comment #27084

Posted by 386sx on April 28, 2005 12:47 PM (e)

Mike Walker wrote:

Well, the obvious retort from the other side is not that they are “Intelligent and Educated” but that they are “Indoctrinated”. That’s what creationists and the DI tends to moan and gripe about.

Maybe, but if the creationists and the DI are right about that then the Intelligent and Educated would have had to have been indoctrinated by the… Intelligent and Educated. It’s Intelligent and Educated all the way down, folks!

Comment #27085

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 12:49 PM (e)

Jim,

Before you go painting with a broad brush, perhaps you should reread my comment, especially the sentence “Rather, the results of science have found nothing but natural causes.”

Great White,

Burning-bushes that talk and are not consumed aren’t good enough for you? What do you have in mind?

Comment #27086

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 12:56 PM (e)

Finley

But extreme thought experiments are useful for fleshing out theoretical issues.

What in heck is extreme about a burning bush that talks, Finley?

That’s not much more extreme than a statue which cries blood, if you ask me. Or a spring whose water “heals” people with “incurable” ailments.

Look at this way: let’s say tomorrow all over the world the sky turns successively purple, green, blue, red and yellow, everyone’s dog starts singing “Blowin in the Wind” in unison, and at high noon over Death Valley a booming voice heard by everyone in the entire world in their native tongue, including deaf people, says “You people aren’t worshipping me hard enough! Tomorrow start praying or I will destroy you! Here’s a sample!” and at that moment everyone in Alabama, Ireland and South Africa implodes into a tiny crystal.

You know what? I’m praying my ass off. I don’t have to know what it is I’m praying to, but I’ll be praying. And I’ll be advocating prayer in schools too.

So much for my “commitment” to “philosophical naturalism.”

Comment #27088

Posted by Flint on April 28, 2005 12:58 PM (e)

It seems to me that, if an observed phenomenon resists all attempts at naturalistic explanation over a lengthy period of time, then it would make sense to consider other logical possibilities.

This is a really tough question, at least for me (I’m sure it’s stone simple for GWW). Is a supernatural explanation a “logical possibility” or is it a space-filler, a way of pretending we have an explanation rather than admitting we do not? We may as individuals select whatever explanations satisfy our need to supply one, but I think science as a discipline must consign this to “not explained” until such time as a workable scientific explanation can be established. And a “workable scientific explanation” means one that has proposed tests, some of which have passed and some of which have failed. If your talking, burning bush can’t be subjected to tests, it lies outside the scope of science.

We may have an ace in the hole in this case: if the bush is talking, maybe what it says can suggest some good tests. Maybe we can even question it!

Comment #27089

Posted by qetzal on April 28, 2005 12:59 PM (e)

I think maybe we miss the point when we argue whether science can only consider “natural” causes. I suggest the more useful statement is that science only considers things that are observable, predictable, and verifiable. Observable, in this case, has to be considered broadly, since we frequently infer things that are not directly observable (e.g. macroevolution), from things that are (e.g. the fossil record, genetic relatedness, microevolution).

In that sense, I agree with Micheal Finley. If we observed a burning bush that talked, claimed to be God, and could repeatedly perform verifiable feats that violated physical laws (e.g. temporarily stopping the earth from spinning, instantaneously creating new complex organisms, etc.), we could “scientifically” conclude that God is the best available explanation.

After all, we don’t scientifically dismiss hypothetical alien Intelligent Designers because they are necessarily “unnatural”. (At least, I don’t. Alien Intelligent Designers could in principle be entirely natural.) We object to them because to date, there is nothing observable, predictable, or verifiable about them, directly or indirectly.

No doubt many of us mean essentially that when we talk about “natural” phenomena and causes. But to many others, the term “natural” excludes God and religion by definition. Science is restricted to natural phenomena in the first sense, but not the second.

More proof that science can readily address religious or “supernatural” phenomenon: controlled trials on the efficacy of prayer. There is no inherent impediment to conducting rigorous, controlled, double-blinded studies on the efficacy of prayer. Imagine if well-designed studies had repeatably demonstrated positive effects. Think of the follow up studies you could do! Relative efficacy of Catholic vs. Protestent prayer. Comparative intercessional power of different saints. You could even ask who is stronger - God or Satan! Just have two different groups “pray” for the same patients - Christians pray for patients to get better, and Satanists pray for them to get worse. The possibilities are endless!

;-)

Comment #27091

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 1:11 PM (e)

if an observed phenomenon resists all attempts at naturalistic explanation over a lengthy period of time, then it would make sense to consider other logical possibilities

Only if there is a deadline for “explaining” the “observed phenomenon.” Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to consider “other logical possibilities” (which include, I’m imagining, “The Gods are playing a game with us” and “The Gods are trying to tell us something” and “My dead aunt Martha is upset that I used her ashes for fertilizer”).

Comment #27092

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 28, 2005 1:12 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #27093

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 1:23 PM (e)

You could even ask who is stronger - God or Satan! Just have two different groups “pray” for the same patients - Christians pray for patients to get better, and Satanists pray for them to get worse.

You can ask these questions now and, in fact, our government will give you money to do these experiments.

Let me repeat that: our government will give you money to do these experiments.

Do you find that hard to believe?

I do. I’ve seen Rosemary’s Baby. I know the deal.

I propose simply having a computer that generates a billion random numbers an hour and 100 evangelical christians in one room who pray “Even, even, even” for 1 hour. And another 100 who pray “odd odd odd” for the next hour.

My prediction: no difference in distribution of even and odd numbers when you compare the numbers generated over those two hours.

Let’s have a laugh now and discuss why that experiment “doesn’t prove anything.” Wait, let me light my pipe first.

Comment #27094

Posted by Jim Wynne on April 28, 2005 1:25 PM (e)

michael finley wrote:

I think your interpretation is too strong. Let’s take a straight-forward example: if tomorrow I encounter a burning-bush in my back-yard, and it starts talking to me, and I invite, friends, neighbors, reporters and scientists over to take a look, and they all verify my findings, and despite years of analysis no natural cause can be found, and … , eventually don’t we have to chalk that one up to a miracle. Must we throw up our hands and leave the matter in “we don’t know” limbo?

How about a real-world example? Suppose it’s 1650, and you believe, like everyone else, in spontaneous generation–you see maggots appear on decaying meat, and with no other explanation available, assume that life has formed from nonliving matter. Despite years of analysis and watching maggots appear, no other answer is forthcoming, at least not definitively until Pasteur’s famous experiments 200 years later. Or should Pasteur have just chalked it up to a miracle?

Comment #27095

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 28, 2005 1:25 PM (e)

Mr. Findley’s like the guy in the coffee bar who’s sure the people in the other booth are talking about him…

If you read Pliny the Elder or any one of a number of Renaissance books on natural history, you’ll find many reports of what one might retrospectively call supernatural phenomena. Such reports tended to dry up later on as the criteria for reliable information became tougher. It certainly wasn’t because David Hume wrote an essay against miracles.

If you do want the miracles to come back, all you have to do is stop examining the evidence critically. The Protestants, most of ‘em anyhow, believed that miracles ceased after the Apostalic Age because they got scruples about promoting superstition among the people and real miracles don’t happen as a matter of fact. Miracles keep happening for Catholics because the hierarchy wants them to and there will never be a shortage of vague stories that can be tarted up into proofs of faith, especially if you have a flexible notion of truth—the Devil’s Advocate bit is about as credible as the latest Papal investigation into priestly pederasty.

Comment #27096

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 28, 2005 1:28 PM (e)

amazing.

everyone here sees the problem faced; the numbers are very clear.

instead most of the discussion begins to evolve into a debate over the definition of “naturalism”?

where are the movers and shakers here? This really isn’t a topic for mental masturbation. It’s a topic to discuss what could be done, imo.

so, for example, nobody has any ideas on how to change the fact that 2/3 of current teenagers don’t believe there is good evidence to support evolutionary theory?

everyone talks here, but nobody wants to actually DO anything.

another example:

Wesley posted a great idea for compiling and comparing data on creationist claims, and asked for volunteers:

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=426c24a20725ffff;act=ST;f=14;t=12

anybody bother to even check it out?

There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
–Isaac Asimov

Comment #27097

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 1:30 PM (e)

Flint

if the bush is talking, maybe what it says can suggest some good tests. Maybe we can even question it!

Ah, metaphysics – where would we be without it?

Comment #27098

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 1:32 PM (e)

GWW wrote:

Only if there is a deadline for “explaining” the “observed phenomenon.” Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to consider “other logical possibilities”….

Please justify this statement.

qetzal wrote:

I suggest the more useful statement is that science only considers things that are observable, predictable, and verifiable.

Would prediction be a reasonable expectation of a miracle? It seems to me that prediction requires law-governed regularity. A miracle, on the other hand, is by definition an irregular event contrary to the laws of nature. Aren’t observable and verifiable sufficient?

If, for example, someone has been pronounced dead by several physicians, and has been dead for a couple of days, a miraculous resurrection is a logical possibility (setting aside Flint’s concern for the moment), but how could it be predicted? Nonetheless, if such a resurrection were observed and verified, would it not be an empirical fact, a scientific fact?

Comment #27099

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 1:34 PM (e)

Sir Toejam

so, for example, nobody has any ideas on how to change the fact that 2/3 of current teenagers don’t believe there is good evidence to support evolutionary theory?

everyone talks here, but nobody wants to actually DO anything.

Um, I’m at work right now. Maybe this weekend?

Comment #27101

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 28, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

that’s exactly the response i expected.

Comment #27102

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

Jim Wynne wrote:

How about a real-world example? Suppose it’s 1650, and you believe, like everyone else, in spontaneous generation — you see maggots appear on decaying meat, and with no other explanation available, assume that life has formed from nonliving matter. Despite years of analysis and watching maggots appear, no other answer is forthcoming, at least not definitively until Pasteur’s famous experiments 200 years later. Or should Pasteur have just chalked it up to a miracle?

O.K., “chalked up,” i.e., “decided in favor of,” was too strong. Rather, other logically possible answers should be placed on the table. Concerning your example, spontaneous generation was on the table, and rightfully so. It’s being on the table, however, should not and did not discourage the pursuit of other possibilities.

I think the same should be true of any persistently unexplainable phenomena.

Comment #27103

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

I wrote

Only if there is a deadline for “explaining” the “observed phenomenon.” Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to consider “other logical possibilities” ….

and Finley asked me to “justify it.” I refer Finley to 27094 and 27095 for the answer.

I might include a caveat that it could also “make sense” for one to “consider other logical possibilities” if one is addicted to mental masturbation.

Comment #27105

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 1:58 PM (e)

GWW wrote:

I refer Finley to 27094 and 27095 for the answer.

You can, but they don’t provide an answer.

…mental masturbation.

How Freudian of you. Is a topic idle thinking because you say it is, or do you have a criterion of “mental masturbation”?

Comment #27106

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 1:59 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

My money is on it never happening.

At least we agree on this.

But extreme thought experiments are useful for fleshing out theoretical issues. Thus, we can hypothetically ask, “If … , then what might we be inclined to believe?”

Danger: “believing” is a loaded word. Either I have enough data and convincing interpretation to “know” (in the provisional sense of all scientific knowledge) or not. So, we either “know” what caused the strange phenomenon or we don’t.

believing has no part to play in a scientific assessment of the event.

Comment #27108

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 2:05 PM (e)

Finley

I think the same should be true of any persistently unexplainable phenomena.

News flash for Finley: we are all free to believe that anything we don’t understand “just happened.” And we can even make up silly explanations and pretend to “study” them.

Five thousand alien abductees can’t be wrong, right? Maybe Sasquatch is really really good at hiding. Perhaps Nessie can shrink down to the size of a quarter at will. Maybe Uri Geller is trying to make us believe that he’s a fraud because “we’re not ready.” Renowned psychic John Edward might be ruling the world with his legion of invisible spirits.

It’s all “on the table” Finley. For some strange reason, you just lack the imagination to articulate these hypotheses.

Why is that, I wonder?

And did you have a point to make regarding creationism or something?

Comment #27109

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 2:13 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee, FCD wrote:

Danger: “believing” is a loaded word. Either I have enough data and convincing interpretation to “know” (in the provisional sense of all scientific knowledge) or not. So, we either “know” what caused the strange phenomenon or we don’t.

I wasn’t being that careful with my language, but my loose expression is consistent with yours.

If we go with the traditional definition of “knowledge” as true, justified belief, then to know is also to believe (Gettier cases notwithstanding). Assuming our “inclinations” are supported by “justification,” my expression amounts to the same.

Comment #27111

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 2:21 PM (e)

GWW,

You’re awefully good at disparaging rhetoric, but you should occasionally fill it with something sound. Otherwise it appears to be disagreement for disagreement sake.

Look. Was the belief in spontaneous generation prior to Pasteur a reasonable one? Of course it was.

Comment #27112

Posted by Marek14 on April 28, 2005 2:22 PM (e)

There was some talk about indoctrination of children. The question is, how would it look if the children were NOT indoctrinated? I know, because that’s what happened to me. Nobody in my family talked about religious matters - ever. I think I must have been around 8 when I realized that there is something like religion and that people are adhering to it.

You know what? I’m glad for it. I found out about religion in age when I could make my choice. I’ve chosen atheism, since that was the most logical choice (I was a strange kid). It would be interesting how many people would chose different religions if they were brought up without any.

Isn’t this what it’s all about? Maybe the people who indoctrinate the children do so because they know the kids wouldn’t choose THEIR religion otherwise.

Comment #27113

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 2:25 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

You do a wonderful job of confusing the issue. If we have no explanation for a phenomenon, then we have no explanation for a phenomenon. If we do, then we do.

If we don’t, some of us will jump to unwarranted conclusions and claim that their “belief” is now “justified” by the lack of an explanation.

And we’re back to square one: the lack of a satisfactory natural explanation is not equivalent to the presence of a satusfactory supernatural explanation.

Comment #27115

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 2:30 PM (e)

Addendum:

Of course I’m talking about scientific knowledge. Everybody’s perfectly free to believe whatever they feel like believing, even if it is the same ol–same ol’ God of the Gaps.

Comment #27116

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 2:36 PM (e)

And we’re back to square one: the lack of a satisfactory natural explanation is not equivalent to the presence of a satisfactory supernatural explanation.

Sigh. I agree.

What I am asserting is the persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.

What’s more, I’m not even asserting that there are any phenomena lacking natural explanations, but only that if there were, then, etc., etc.

I think one of the problems around here (at least that I’ve encountered) is that everyone immediately jumps ten imagined steps in front of the small point being advocated, and then proceeds to reject the imagined end result - “I think I see where you’re headed, and let me assure you it won’t work!”

Comment #27118

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

I suggets we stick to what we do know, as much as possible. You see, it is my humble opinion that this happens most frequently when people undertake “extreme thought experiments”.

But let me suggest you a very simple and much less extreme thought experiment:

If “supernatural” is defined by elimination, how can we ever conclusively decide that something is indeed of “supernatural” character?

(I was almost writing “supernatural nature”, but I don’t want this to sound too sarcastic.)

Comment #27123

Posted by caerbannog on April 28, 2005 3:14 PM (e)

Michael Finley said:
What I am asserting is the persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.

Of course, there’s no reason to limit this to abiogenesis.

For example, the formation of lightning is still poorly understood, in spite of decades of study. This persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation for lightning formation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation (such as the “Thor theory of lightning”).

Comment #27125

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 3:22 PM (e)

Finley

I think one of the problems around here (at least that I’ve encountered) is that everyone immediately jumps ten imagined steps in front of the small point being advocated

We’re just trying to help you articulate your “small points” Finley.

What I am asserting is the persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.

And I’m asserting that I’m sitting in a chair.

This blog is about evolution Finley, with an emphasis on anti-science creationist drivel designed to compromise the teaching of scientific facts in public schools.

If you were surprised that your comments are interpreted in light of what explanations evolutionary biologists should be testing, perhaps that is because you forgot where you were. At least, that is a logical possibility that we should consider. So, the possibility that you suffer from a severe short-term memory issue is now “on the table.”

Happy? I should think so – “logically” speaking, that is.

Comment #27126

Posted by HPLC_Sean on April 28, 2005 3:26 PM (e)

Sir Toejam said:

so, for example, nobody has any ideas on how to change the fact that 2/3 of current teenagers don’t believe there is good evidence to support evolutionary theory?

Expecting teenagers to have an understanding of evolution is unrealistic. Expecting laypeople to have an understanding of the evidence that supports evolution is a big stretch too. Most people can’t fathom what the Earth was like even 500 years ago, let alone millions or billions of years ago. Most discourses on basic organic chemistry or classic Mendelian genetics, de rigeur topics when chatting about evolution, are met with understandable incomprehension.
I maintain that it is not science’s role to campaign for or against a theory. Theories aren’t subject to popular opinion or referenda, they stand and fall on their merits. I DO think it is science’s role to educate and promote rational skepticism and curiosity in our teenagers. THAT is the raison d’etre of the fight against teaching forms of creationism in schools, but to extend that fight to an “awareness campaign” with the fruitless goal of boosting evolution’s poll numbers is practicing politics, not science.

Comment #27129

Posted by Ed Darrell on April 28, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

When I encounter a burning bush in my back yard, I put it out. If it refuses to be put out, I look for a fuel source beyond the ordinary.

My experience is that if I don’t put it out, it burns out by itself, generally very quickly.

None of them have spoken yet. I agree with the poster who urged we not speculate about what to do with the speaking bushes until such time as we encounter them

But am I to understand that some creationists just let their bushes burn? No wonder California is in such a mess with wildfires in August, especially in those areas where creationists are endemic.

Mad dogs and Englishmen have enough sense to put out burning bushes …

Comment #27130

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 28, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

“but to extend that fight to an “awareness campaign” with the fruitless goal of boosting evolution’s poll numbers is practicing politics, not science.”

er, you might want to rethink that. this IS politics. or hadn’t you noticed?

Comment #27134

Posted by Henry J on April 28, 2005 3:46 PM (e)

Re “Expecting laypeople to have an understanding of the evidence that supports evolution is a big stretch too. “

Yeah. In my case at least, I hadn’t paid any real attention to the subject before about 10 years ago, when I got on the internet and found the science forum on the Prodigy BB, where evolution was one of the hot topics.

Henry

Comment #27137

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 3:58 PM (e)

Expecting laypeople to have an understanding of the evidence that supports evolution is a big stretch too

I would be happy if laypeople just understood that when virtually all of the world’s scientists (1) ignore the “research” promoted by the Disclaimery Insitute and (2) state that Dembski, Behe, Wells, Johnson et al. are charlatans with a religious agenda, those scientists are not deluded frauds and liars with an “atheist” agenda.

My impression is that most laypeople already understand this.

It’s our lazy media and our political representatives who fail to understand that it is PERMITTED TO STATE THESE BASIC FACTS. Indeed, we can easily argue that it is their job to do so and their failure to do their jobs is why the task has ended up in the hands of judges.

Comment #27138

Posted by speedwell on April 28, 2005 4:04 PM (e)

“What I am asserting is the … absence of a … natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.”

I don’t understand how the absence of anything can or should suggest the presence of something else. I’m certainly boggled as to how the absence of something natural should suggest the possibility of something non-natural.

It sounds too much like saying “I have no orange juice, therefore Kool-Aid might possibly exist.”

Comment #27143

Posted by qetzal on April 28, 2005 4:16 PM (e)

HPLC_Sean wrote:

Expecting teenagers to have an understanding of evolution is unrealistic. Expecting laypeople to have an understanding of the evidence that supports evolution is a big stretch too.

If you mean that it’s generally beyond their abilities to even understand, I disagree. However, I think it’s beyond most people’s ability to critically evaluate the evidence on evolution and make reasonably informed conclusions for themselves. For most people, evolution vs. ID/creation is very much a he-said, she-said affair.

I strongly support the idea of teaching rational skepticism. There is way, WAY too much incredulity in our culture, and it has impacts far beyond evolution vs. ID/creation. Rational skepticism and critical thinking skills should be required subjects, beginning around grade 7 or 8. I think that would make a huge difference, and it would be useful for everyone, regardless of final career or level of education.

Given rational skepticism and critical thinking skills, even someone with a weak understanding of evolution and biology could recognize how ridiculous ID/creation claims usually are.

Comment #27146

Posted by Arun on April 28, 2005 4:22 PM (e)

Michael Finley wrote:

What I am asserting is the persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.

From what is considered to be the first textbook of chemistry ( Libavius, around 1609) to the early 19th century, there was really no satisfactory natural explanation for what caused chemical compounds to form; we really understood the chemical bond only after we understood quantum mechanics. Non-natural explanations would have led to nowhere.

Science involves a search for natural explanations. Phenomena enter the scope of science when there are effective methods for handling them. If the ID folks can help us get handles on the designer they postulate - where it exists, how it originated (or why it is originless), how it acts, etc. - then ID will enter the realm of science. We today turn over artifacts to archaelogists; and forensic scientists investigate certain deaths - because there is a postulated human agent, and humans are also natural :)

Comment #27149

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on April 28, 2005 5:28 PM (e)

Mike W writes “Well, the obvious retort from the other side is not that they are “Intelligent and Educated” but that they are “Indoctrinated”. That’s what creationists and the DI tends to moan and gripe about.”

Indeed, thats Weinstein’s first law of creationism…

“Knowledge is Bias”

:-)

Comment #27150

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on April 28, 2005 5:32 PM (e)

Alex writes: Well, GWW, having graduated from a liberal arts college that consistently competes with Caltech (and consistently beats MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, CMU, et al.) for the rank of #1 in per-biology-major yield of life science PhDs (nearly 20%), I gotta say that I have no idea which liberal arts colleges you are talking about. Not my alma mater, that’s for sure. Williams, maybe? Swarthmore? Oberlin? U. Minnesota, Morris? [;-)]

Were you a science major? Post-Modernism has a large influence on the humanities.

Comment #27154

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 28, 2005 6:17 PM (e)

Concerning religion and Darwinian evolution: There is no empirical evidence that I know of for the intervention of an intelligence, either in mutation or environment; neither is there empirical evidence against such intervention. What would count as evidence either way? It seems to me that the question of intervention, for or against, is beyond the scope of science.

Indeed. That is precisely why ID isn’t science, and precisely why ID “theory” can’t make any statements about the world that can be tested using the scientific method.

And they are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Comment #27156

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 28, 2005 6:36 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #27157

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 28, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

Michael Finley said:
What I am asserting is the persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation.

Of course, there’s no reason to limit this to abiogenesis.

For example, the formation of lightning is still poorly understood, in spite of decades of study. This persistent and lengthy absence of a satisfactory natural explanation for lightning formation should suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation (such as the “Thor theory of lightning”).

Indeed. Let’s take Mikey’s god-of-the-gaps argument (“anything we don’t understand, God – er, I mean An Unknown Intelligence – dunnit!!”) to its logical conclusion.

We don’t know where Amelia Earhart is. Ergo, the Intelligence must have kidnapped her.

We don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is, either. Therefore the Intelligence must have kidnapped him too.

We don’t know how great white sharks breed. Therefore the Intelligence must be producing them through artificial insemination.

Whaddya think, Mikey?

Comment #27158

Posted by HPLC_Sean on April 28, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

Sir Toejam said:

er, you might want to rethink that. this IS politics. or hadn’t you noticed?

I’m not too sure what you mean by the word “this”. What are you referring to? I like to think that PT is more of a philosophical discussion forum that clarifies theories on the origins of life than a political crusade.

qetzal said:

If you mean that it’s generally beyond their abilities to even understand, I disagree.

That wasn’t what I meant. I believe that anyone with an open mind and the appetite to understand giants like Darwin, Mendel, Meyr, Watson, Crick, Franklin (I can’t forget poor Rosalind), and Gould could leave a two hour lecture with a good basic grasp of the theory’s major tenets. Unfortunately, people rarely have the patience or interest to sit through this kind of explanation. Besides, it must be pretty enerving for someone of strong faith to be faced with a rational argument refuting that Adam’s rib didn’t literally form Eve.

Comment #27160

Posted by Flint on April 28, 2005 6:58 PM (e)

speedwell:

It sounds too much like saying “I have no orange juice, therefore Kool-Aid might possibly exist.”

No, that’s not what Finley is trying to say. He’s saying “We know all about orange juice, we can’t make this drink match any notion of orange juice we’re aware of, is it possible that this drink is NOT orange juice?” In other words, Finley has proposed a binary model of causality: there are natural causes, and there are supernatural causes (which may not exist). According to this model, these two possibilities are exclusive and exhaustive. There’s nothing else to choose from.

THEN, he attempts to propose an observation which meets certain criteria:
1) It’s fully observable in complete detail.
2) It violates all the natural rules we’re aware of.

Now, is science obliged to ponder this thing for a while (as long as it wishes) only to conclude “beats me”? If science can (due to the very nature of science) gain no better purchase on it, can we properly say that science rules out the supernatural a priori? It seems from this discussion that science is assuming a natural cause for everything. If there truly is a supernatural cause that can have natural effects, science’s tools are ineffective; science is blind to this. Science can guess wrong (“It’s being caused by natural phenomena currently beyond our models and theories”) or science can label it “unknown” and just leave it there. Science is NOT able to say “it has a supernatural cause best understood by (presumably Finley’s) religion.”

Comment #27161

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

Sir TJ

I like to think that PT is more of a philosophical discussion forum that clarifies theories on the origins of life than a political crusade.

I like to think of it as a resource where people can learn how to quickly detect and destroy creationist anti-science bullcrap, especially ID creationist bullcrap.

I’ve found it to be extremely effective in that regard.

Comment #27162

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 7:22 PM (e)

Now, is science obliged to ponder this thing for a while (as long as it wishes) only to conclude “beats me”? If science can (due to the very nature of science) gain no better purchase on it, can we properly say that science rules out the supernatural a priori?

Is it proper to do that? Maybe we should ask Miss Manners.

Seriously.

Because when it comes to determining when it’s “proper” for scientists to start saying “I give up because there must be a mysterious force behind this observed phenomenon that can never be understood scientifically”, scientists are going to consider Miss Manners’ opinion as deeply as they consider the opinion of a two-cent philosopher or an ID peddling charlatan (yeah, I know it’s redundant).

Comment #27163

Posted by Flint on April 28, 2005 8:06 PM (e)

GWW:

Are you saying that if the supernatural exists, science has no option but to stick it into the “unexplained” category forever? I pretty much agree with this.

Comment #27164

Posted by Michael Finley on April 28, 2005 8:22 PM (e)

Flint,

Even though you strongly disagree with me, thanks for getting my position right. That’s a moral victory for me in itself.

I think this mini-discussion has run its course. When perfectly proper words like “proper” get dragged through the equivocal mud, and the Tireless Blowhard starts his parade of “uh’s” and “shrugs,” there’s little chance for sincere dialogue.

Comment #27167

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 28, 2005 8:40 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

You’ve overlooked a question I posed you, I believe.

If “supernatural” is defined by elimination, how can we ever conclusively decide that something is indeed of “supernatural” character?

I would be grateful if you at least tried to address this fundamental problem of any argument in the form “Not (yet) explained, therefore inexplicable!”

Comment #27169

Posted by steve on April 28, 2005 8:48 PM (e)

Are you saying that if the supernatural exists, science has no option but to stick it into the “unexplained” category forever? I pretty much agree with this.

Under what scenario would we know that ‘the supernatural’ exists? I need some kind of evidence, even if indirect, to know something exists. Now, there’s never been evidence that was off-limits to science. So if you want to convince me that something exists which is off-limits to science, you’ve got an uphill battle.

Comment #27171

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 28, 2005 8:56 PM (e)

“I like to think of it as a resource where people can learn how to quickly detect and destroy creationist anti-science bullcrap, especially ID creationist bullcrap”

[begin rant]

when was the last time you used what you “learned” here to any advantage?

it’s all fine and good to talk up the worthless nature of most of the ID movement, but other than the resident trolls, you are mostly preaching to the choir here.

Are you sure mere documentation is sufficient in your mind? This battle won’t be won by what is posted here. If you think creationists will just go away because you can prove their credibility lacking here, I think you are sorely mistaken.

Talk.origins does just fine documenting evidence. PT can and should do more, imo.

It’s becoming apparent to me that few others seem to feel this way, so I ask those of you who do not feel the need to act; why not?

Wesley obviously felt it was time to go above and beyond what PT offered in and of itself; so did I. I even proposed the formation of an entirely new ngo to assist in outreach and education.

If there is nobody on PT who feels they can contribute any time in support of anything other than intellectual discussion, where does one look, eh?

will you all fiddle while rome burns?

If you don’t think this is a political battle, try listening in on the latest congressional debates once in a while. They are starting to sound more like church debates than congressional ones. What about Meet the Press doing an entire show based on religious views with Tim Russert?
If we all don’t take some time and contribute, like Dr. Scott and others, we will LOSE this battle. What does that mean? It means any funding for evolutionary research will be lost, plain as that. You are fooling yourselves if you think otherwise.

[end rant]

Comment #27174

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 9:11 PM (e)

Flint

Are you saying that if the supernatural exists, science has no option but to stick it into the “unexplained” category forever? I pretty much agree with this.

I’m not sure about the “no option” part and I’m not sure what “science” means in a world where “the supernatural” “exists”.

I can say this: as a scientist, I can propose all kinds of weirdo theories about ideas or subjects which most of us would agree are best categorized as “supernatural.” Some of the theories would arguably be “testable” although nearly all scientists would be laughing at me or pitying me if I spent much time trying to do that.

Does that scenario sound familiar? ;)

In any event, it seems Finley has bailed out of his own metaphysics lecture yet again, vanishing in a hazy cloud of disturbing inuendo.

Comment #27175

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 28, 2005 9:21 PM (e)

Sir TJ

So … other than proposing stuff, how are you going to help us to “achieve our goals”? Are we supposed to do what you tell us to do?

I’m confused.

You build it and I will come. I have money I would love to contribute to toppling the Disclaimery Institute and shaming the charlatans who inhabit its dank halls.

But I’m not going to quit my job and start a new career as a wanna-be television pundit. For starters, my wife would divorce me.

Comment #27177

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 28, 2005 9:42 PM (e)

Hey, all i asked for was ideas and input relating to dealing firsthand with the problem.

I assume that you agree there is a problem, based on the stats here, and that of the gallup polls for the last 20 years, and that the idiot who thinks coal isn’t fossil fuel was just re-elected for another 4 years, and the decline in science funding that has happened over the last 25 years.

I already threw one out myself based on the fact that every day here i see a comment about helping out secondary level educators. I put the propsal here:

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/evolution-ngo

but my point was not that you even need to contribute your time all that much, tho it eventually will be necessary for someone to. my point is that it would be worthwhile to at least work on generating ideas to address some of the issues raised by the statistics, and by the political movement that is ID, rather than just addressing the logical merits of ID “theory” all the time. I too enjoy throwing rocks at the trolls here, and the occasional real discussion over issues of science.

I’ve been participating here on PT for a couple of months now, and see very few ideas appear that one could actually act on.

You’re a smart guy, what have you thought about doing yourself?

as to how I can help “achieve our goals” i have something a lot of folks here don’t:

a buttload of time on my hands. I’d say that’s pretty damn rare for someone with an advanced biology degree who has started/participated in forming two non-profits within the last 12 years. I’m all for using this resource to assist in getting something done, but I can’t do it alone.

I doubt money will really be the issue. it will be, as it always has been, the contribution of time.

look, maybe I’m overreacting here, but i saw the same attitude when i was graduate student at Berkeley. perhaps ironic, but i found the level of activism on this issue at the graduate level to be almost non-existent when I was there. You had to drag profs kicking and screaming into anything that required the slightest level of activism. those that finally did so were often chastised by those who did not.

I’d be willing to bet that Dr. Scott herself has put her whole career on the line for this fight.

I only threw out one idea that could be acted on; wesley threw out another. I’m more than happy to go with whatever folks think will work, but it does need some discussion.

cheers

Comment #27179

Posted by Henry J on April 28, 2005 9:57 PM (e)

Re “The creationist claim is that science is constructed in such a way as to define the supernatural as impossible and nonexistent, but this is misleading. Better to say that science consists of applying a well-understood method, and the method is incapable of detecting or evaluating unnatural mechanisms if indeed any exist.”

Or to put it another way, it’s not so much whether the scientific method is capable of detecting something, but whether people are capable of detecting and verifying the relevant evidence.

Re “A miracle, on the other hand, is y definitionan irregular event contrary to the laws of nature.”

Is that the laws of nature as understood in 1805, as understood in 2005, or as they will be understood in 2205?

Henry

Comment #27181

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on April 28, 2005 10:43 PM (e)

“We don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is, either. Therefore the Intelligence must have kidnapped him too”

And gave him cement shoes.

Comment #27184

Posted by Alex Merz on April 28, 2005 11:15 PM (e)

Stuart Weinstein wrote:

Were you a science major?

Yes, biology.

Post-Modernism has a large influence on the humanities.

Warning: you are in danger of jettisoning the baby with the bathwater.

Comment #27187

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 29, 2005 1:41 AM (e)

At the very least, science suffers from a constitutional inability to detect nonexistent things. Quite a failing.

Comment #27194

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 29, 2005 7:18 AM (e)

I only threw out one idea that could be acted on; wesley threw out another. I’m more than happy to go with whatever folks think will work, but it does need some discussion.

Much is in limbo right now, utnil we get a ruling in Dover.

The results of that ruling will decide which direction we need to go.

Comment #27197

Posted by HPLC_Sean on April 29, 2005 7:49 AM (e)

Jim Harrison said:

At the very least, science suffers from a constitutional inability to detect nonexistent things.

1. Could you please forward a copy of the “science constitution” to me. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail.
2. Could you please explain how one might detect something that doesn’t exist?

Comment #27199

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 8:18 AM (e)

steve:

Under what scenario would we know that ‘the supernatural’ exists? I need some kind of evidence, even if indirect, to know something exists. Now, there’s never been evidence that was off-limits to science. So if you want to convince me that something exists which is off-limits to science, you’ve got an uphill battle.

Yes, clearly one problem is that the word ‘supernatural’ lacks any solid referents. It generally serves as a pigeonhole either for things not yet understood, or for observations so poorly taken nobody can be sure what was being observed. The former is the target of daily science, the later can safely be ignored. Another suggested referent for supernatural is the general notion of fate. Nearly every real event is vanishingly unlikely, and events interact in ways equally unlikely. Ask anyone about the incredible chain of coincidences leading up to their meeting their spouse, working at their current job, living where the live, etc. These chains are chaotic – change some tiny insignificant element somewhere, and the entire subsequent pattern changes. The human craving to find patterns is superimposed where no real pattern exists, and the least complicated projected pattern is our notion of what gods are and do.

I think Finley is trying to be more specific. He’s trying to provide solid evidence, and proposing (as a thought experiment) that you as a scientist encounter a very real, very observable, measurable effect either impossible or unexplainable by anything known to science. He proposes that this effect remains unexplainable despite any intensity or duration of investigation. The effect is not off limits to science in any way.

Now, Finley asks, CAN the time ever come when science might legitimately conclude that the effect is NOT natural, that it is inherently paradoxical or inimical to all (otherwise thoroughly attested) natural laws, forces and principles? Finley tells us that the effect you are studying (in this thought experiment) is genuinely supernatural, and that no natural explanation can EVER be correctly found, because there is none. It is ‘caused’ purely by the Will of God.

There seem (to me) to be three options:
1) Science decides it’s supernatural and beyond the scientific method.
2) Science guesses wrong (“It’s natural but not yet understood”).
3) Science withholds judgment forever.

If the first option above cannot be realized by the definition of science, then science has a priori ruled out the supernatural. Science has decreed that all natural phenomena have natural causes, and if they do NOT have natural causes, then see clause one!

Comment #27200

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 8:33 AM (e)

Flint:

Science has decreed that all natural phenomena have natural causes, and if they do NOT have natural causes, then see clause one!

So, is anyone arguing that “natural phenomena” may not have natural causes?

I’m sorry, but I think this use of language is rather confusing. I find especially confusing this idea of “causation”.

Let me explain by way of an example: planetary motion. What “causes” planets to move the way they move?

Are Kepler’s laws the “cause” of planetary motion? Clearly not.

Is the conservation of momentum the “cause” of planetary motion? But then, what “caused” that momentum? The Big Bang? But then, what “caused” the Big Bang?

Shouldn’t we refrain from ruling out the possibility that perhaps, since planetary motion is essential to life, billions of invisible angels may be the “real cause” behind it all?

Frankly, I think that proponents of the supernatural need to come up with a positive definition for it, i.e. a definition that does not rely on elimination of natural causes.

Otherwise, since we do not know how many possible “natural causes” there might be for a given phenomenon, we are left with a non-terminating procedure.

As for me, I find “I don’t know, and I’ll continue to see whether something turns up” a much more honest temporary answer than “I don’t know, therefore it must be magic!”

Comment #27204

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 9:06 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

Here’s the way I see it. People have motivations, purposes, and intents. We have proximate, midrange and long range goals for everything we do. We are powerfully constituted to project our nature onto the patterns we see around us. And so we tend to see the Great Outside World through a teleological filter. Things happen for a purpose. A purpose implies an intent to achieve that purpose. An intent implies an intender, so we deduce gods. Gods must have some means of making their intent real, which can’t be detected, so these means are supernatural.

This chain of reasoning may not suit your scientific purposes, but I think it’s pretty obviously profoundly satisfying for the psychological demands of most people. Even theistic scientists (a sizeable percentage, I’m told) just push back their gods one step beyond what science currently knows. The notion that the universe, life and everything have NO purpose is incomprehensible and terrifying for most people. And so you have a practical definition of the supernatural: It’s part of the superstructure necessary to give our lives the purpose and meaning we require.

Comment #27205

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 9:20 AM (e)

Flint:

Sorry, I must have been unclear. I don’t see what you offered as a positive definition of the supernatural, i.e. something that enables an observer to identify any “supernatural instance” without having to resort to elimination.

Example: Mr. Finley’s burning bush. How can we know it’s “supernatural” without checking whether it was spontaneous combustion due to overheating, a prank pulled by our neighbours, or anything like that?

If we cannot, then we are stuck in a potentially infinite loop.

Comment #27206

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 9:26 AM (e)

Anyway, I wouldn’t overgeneralize, if I were you:

…part of the superstructure necessary to give our lives the purpose and meaning we require.

clearly does not apply to the many people who give purpose and meaning to their lives without recurring to the supernatural.

It may be sufficient, but most definitely it is not necessary.

Comment #27207

Posted by Keith Douglas on April 29, 2005 9:32 AM (e)

Some comments:

“law of nature” as understood in the clearest sense does not take a “as understood in the year …” qualification, as it refers to the objective patterns in nature themselves, not our understanding of them. (What many people call laws, e.g. Newton’s, are in fact better called “law statements”, which are attempts to reconstruct in thought the patterns that exist in the world.)

It is *these* that we claim exist, and that a worldview that permits the miraculous (supernatural) rules out, and hence it seems pretty clear that a supernaturalist world view and a scientific one are irrevocably at odds.

Why? If one grants the miraculous, one must ex hypothesi grant that that they could occur at any time, because they are (by definition) patternless. Our understanding goes “poof”, because any data we may have about the world may be “contaminated” by spurious miracles.

(I take it this is why Descartes in his more philosophical works - inconsistent with his science - attempts to show that God won’t deceive him. Unfortunately the argument is doomed to fail, for the above reason.)

As for how to improve education, my single most important suggestion is to stress the systemic character of the world and subsequently our knowledge of it. I think students are taught in too “atomistic” a fashion.

Comment #27208

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 9:32 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

I’m afraid we’re not communicating. Natural causes can be observed, tested, and explained. “Supernatural causes” are nothing more than the logical necessity arising from the requirement that the gods DO something. The gods are in turn a logical necessity arising from the requirment that life have meaning and purpose. The requirement that life have meaning and purpose seems ultimately an epiphenomenon of the way our brains are constructed.

In Finley’s example, you are invited to check anything and everything about his bush, any way you wish, for as long as you like. But between us, Finley and I have said this several times already. How is this not clear? The situation was that the bush is burning for sheerly supernatural reasons, that there are NO natural causes, and no amount of scientific testing can find any.

The question Finley is asking is, IF it’s supernatural, and thus HAS NO natural cause, can science possibly determine this? What DOES science decide about a truly causeless phenomenon?

Comment #27209

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 9:44 AM (e)

Flint:

The situation was that the bush is burning for sheerly supernatural reasons, that there are NO natural causes, and no amount of scientific testing can find any.

And my question is: how do we (Mr. Finley, yourself, myself or anyone else) find out if this is the case?

If the only way we can find this out is by successively ruling out every possible natural cause, we have a problem, as we don’t know whether we have run out of possible natural causes or not!

So, Mr. Finley’s thought experiment breaks down.

Comment #27210

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 9:53 AM (e)

…by the way, what would we do if a truly irresistible force met a truly immovable obstacle?

[sarcasm]Such extreme thought experiments are indeed very good for refining our theoretical framework![/sarcasm]

Comment #27211

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 10:05 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

And my question is: how do we (Mr. Finley, yourself, myself or anyone else) find out if this is the case?

My contention is that we could not. And so I wrote above “science’s tools are ineffective; science is blind to this.”

So, Mr. Finley’s thought experiment breaks down.

No, I disagree. Finley asks if science is inherently capable of deciding a cause is supernatural (as opposed to undetermined), at least pending some more traditional explanation. My contention (and perhaps Finley’s as well, and I infer you’d agree) is that science lacks this capability. Science would continue to search for a natural cause forever, and the hypothesis that the cause is supernatural would be ruled out as inherently untestable and therefore nonscientific.

Now, just speculating here, I think Finley believes that there REALLY ARE supernatural phenomena, that gods are ‘real’ in some sense I can’t begin to get a handle on, and that this limitation (or outright bias) in science cripples the discipline in critical ways, since Finley’s god is really really important to him, it MUST exist. If science can’t find it, it’s because science REFUSES to find it, because science has arrogantly ruled it out ahead of time. This is a clear moral failure on the part of science, which permits us to dismiss uncongenial theories and explanations – these theories are only demonstrations that science is deliberately avoiding the Truth.

Comment #27213

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 10:17 AM (e)

Flint:

Here you are, jumping ten steps ahead to Finley’s conclusions! ;-)

I do not agree that science is blind to the supernatural; I maintain that there is something intrinsically weak in any “residual” definition of “supernatural” that prevents us all from even knowing (not necessarily “scientifically”) whether something matches that definition!

Take my sarcastic example above: how do we know whether a force is truly “irresistible”? Of course by testing it against any possible resistance and seeing whether it manages to overcome it. And how do we know whether an obstacle is truly “immovable”? By testing it against any possible force and seeing whether it withstands the test.

Even before pitting the two against each other, we have a real problem here: how do we know that we have indeed tested that force against every obstacle, or the obstacle against every force?

Comment #27217

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 10:47 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

You are thinking of the supernatural as being something like the natural, only different in ways that don’t matter. At least my reading of your demands is that for you, the supernatural must be essentially (that is, in how it behaves) simply another natural force, just a new one. If it’s something fundamentally different from a natural force, such that it’s not only untestable but even undefinable, you’d prefer simply dismissing it as imaginary. I admit I would as well, but we make little progress with ANY Believer, whether creationist or theistic evolutionist, by dismissing their gods as imaginary.

The supernatural, if we can conclude anything at all about it from what Believers tell us, is that it is inherently untestable. “God can not be tested”, scripture says so. The supernatural must be taken on faith, faith being functionally defined as the sheer will to believe it exists because it makes us happier to believe it.

And so there you have your definition: the supernatural is everything which cannot be tested or falsified. Or, as I attempted earlier, the supernatural isn’t a “thing” in any reified sense, but rather the logical implication falling out of religious requirements.

And so, by one path or another, we reach the same crux: Faith and science disagree (for some faiths). Faith is non-negotiable, sacrosanct. It is true by definition, not by observation. Definitions are not right or wrong, they are useful or not useful. Faith is useful (and probably hardwired in some neural sense, beyond some fairly young age, if it ‘takes’ at all). Science must therefore be wrong.

And so we have some Believers holding that science has misinterpreted the evidence, others claiming science has fabricated the evidence, yet others arguing that science itself is malformed and based on philosphical error. When observational systems conflict with definitional systems, observational systems are wrong by definition. All that remains is to determine how and why.

Comment #27218

Posted by Jim Wynne on April 29, 2005 11:01 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee, FCD wrote:

Even before pitting the two against each other, we have a real problem here: how do we know that we have indeed tested that force against every obstacle, or the obstacle against every force?

Part of the problem with philosphers getting involved in this type of dicussion is that the discussion almost always gets sidetracked; that’s a big part of ID strategy. Look at it this way: I encounter an object that I can’t move. I form a hypothesis: the object is immovable. I set out to falsify the hypothesis by setting every force I can find against it, and it still won’t move. I publish my results, with my conclusion being my theory that the object is immovable. We may hold that theory as “fact” until it is disproven. We may not, however say that the theory holds that the object is immovable except by God, because our peers have no way of testing that contention. On the other side of the river there might be a whole tribe of people who scoff at us for not acknowledging the power of God, but they’re not scientists.

Comment #27219

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 11:04 AM (e)

Flint:

At least my reading of your demands is that for you, the supernatural must be essentially (that is, in how it behaves) simply another natural force, just a new one.

Wrong. If it is what is left when we have finished testing and/or attempting to falsify, then it is indeed something different.

And so there you have your definition: the supernatural is everything which cannot be tested or falsified.

Do you notice that this is, once again, a definition by elimination?

That’s where Finley, I believe, finds his reasoning unsatisfactory: he’s talking about something he believes in a priori, but defines a posteriori.

Of course this cannot work.

All I’m asking for is an a priori definition of what is “supernatural”, one that does not resort to the “supernatural-of-the-gaps” residual definition. Am I asking for too much? Am I being precommitted to philosophical naturalism?

I didn’t think so.

Comment #27221

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 11:07 AM (e)

Flint,

You have charitably characterized my position except on this last point:

Now, just speculating here, I think Finley believes that there REALLY ARE supernatural phenomena, that gods are ‘real’ in some sense I can’t begin to get a handle on, and that this limitation (or outright bias) in science cripples the discipline in critical ways, since Finley’s god is really really important to him, it MUST exist. If science can’t find it, it’s because science REFUSES to find it, because science has arrogantly ruled it out ahead of time. This is a clear moral failure on the part of science, which permits us to dismiss uncongenial theories and explanations — these theories are only demonstrations that science is deliberately avoiding the Truth.

I do indeed believe in the divine (in particular, in the Christian god). My justification for that belief, however, is not its personal importance to me, i.e., god is “really, really important” to me, therefore god exists. My belief is grounded in religious experience (see, e.g., Plantinga’s writings on the subject, especially Warrant and Proper Function; this is a much longer conversation that should be set aside here).

I also do not want to impute motives to science (e.g., arrogance, vice, etc.), but to suggest that, if science rules out supernatural causes (miracles), then it is blind, as you say, to certain possibilities which may nonetheless be true (lower-case ‘t’). In which case, science makes an a priori commitment to naturalism.

Aureola Nominee, FCD wrote:

Even before pitting the two against each other, we have a real problem here: how do we know that we have indeed tested that force against every obstacle, or the obstacle against every force?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this objection seems to beg the question. Returning to the burning bush, if we measure the effects against all known natural causes and none proves sufficient, we have (as you correctly point out) not, by any stretch, exhausted all logically possible natural causes. We have, nonetheless, come to the end of our rope with what we do know. Thus, we are faced with the three possibilities outlined by Flint. Your objection implies the second alternative (possibly the third), and rules the first out a priori. Right?

Comment #27223

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 11:13 AM (e)

Mr. Finley:

The three options are founded on your hypothetical scenario that some phenomenon has a “supernatural” cause.

I don’t know what a supernatural cause is. Would you mind enlightening me, please? I’ve been asking this repeatedly, but we seem stuck.

The moment you tell me how anyone can reliably decide that something has a supernatural cause, I’ll be glad to tackle how scientists should (IMHO) behave in regard to that phenomenon.

Comment #27227

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

Aureola Nominee,

Assuming the definition of “cause” is the same in “natural cause” and “supernatural cause,” I take your request to be for a definition of “supernatural.”

Suppose I define “nature” as the whole consisting of all matter/energy and the laws governing matter/energy. Is this whole co-extensive with all existents? You say ‘yes’, I say ‘no’ [insert Beatles music]. There is, I believe, a divine (spiritual, if you like) being.

My definition of such a being will include postive as well as negative characterizations (e.g., non-physical). [Lest you balk at non-physical entities, let’s consider a more mundane example adhered to be one of the leading naturalists of all time, Quine. Quine believed that a mathematics sufficient for the support of science requires the existence of sets. Sets are about as non-physical as they come. What’s so troubling about the idea of non-physical existents?]

Comment #27230

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 11:55 AM (e)

Mr. Finley:

My definition of such a being will include postive as well as negative characterizations (e.g., non-physical).

Excellent! Now, would you mind sharing such positive (i.e. non-residual) characterizations?

Comment #27232

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 12:05 PM (e)

…and lest we get even more confused: my question concerns the “supernatural”.

You are changing the subject, possibly unwittingly; please address my question. Divine beings may exist or not; that was not what we were talking about.

Comment #27233

Posted by Henry J on April 29, 2005 12:07 PM (e)

I don’t see how “supernatural” could be defined other than relative to our current ability to detect and verify things.

Henry

Comment #27235

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 12:10 PM (e)

Henry J:

I agree, but we may be wrong. Maybe Mr. Finley has a definition of “supernatural” that does not proceed by elimination of natural causes, thus managing to overcome what I see as a fatal flaw in his reasoning.

Comment #27240

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 29, 2005 12:43 PM (e)

The assumption seems to be that the category of the supernatural has been around for thousands of years. As it is used here, however, “supernatural” is a distinctly modern notion that evolved as a reaction to the increasingly obviious failure of the sciences to detect god in nature. Previously, philosophers and theologians mostly thought that natural reason could verify the existence of God and some of his attributes even if a fuller understanding of the divine was only possible by received revelation or personal illumination. If, as so many of its practioners expected, Victorian science had discovered real vestiges of creation, nobody would be talking about a class of phenomena, events, or entities whose basic if not only characteristic is to be invisible to the ordinary methods of the sciences. The move to supernaturalism is like the dodge of the parapsychologists who maintain that telepathic ability cannot be revealed by objective tests because the process of testing automatically destroys the ability to read minds. Of course the sciences cannot discover entities that are defined as undiscoverable. The question is why reasonable people want to postulate the existence of such beings?

Many posts ago somebody asked me where he could get a copy of the constitution of science. But I had written about science being constituionally unable to detect nonexistent things. I guess the guy was an American since he automaticaly thinks of a constitution of something as a document rather than the basic way that it is put together. I could have written, “Practiced properly, Science can’t discover nonexistent things.” And to answer a second question in the same post. Science can’t be expected to discover nonexistent things, but many other human activities routinely can and do by various shifts of fraud, self deception, or drug abuse. One simple method is to decide that the insane have the ability to see real beings invisible to others.

Comment #27242

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 29, 2005 12:54 PM (e)

Jim

One simple method is to decide that the insane have the ability to see real beings invisible to others.

Is it proper for scientists to pretend that insane people do not have the ability to see real beings invisible to others?

Comment #27244

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 1:00 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

Perhaps Finley’s definition really does not proceed by elimination of natural causes. He is proposing (as I understanding) a NON natural cause, whose effects we can easily examine. The non-natural cause is the Will of God, which I understand Finley to define as beyond and outside of scientific processes entirely.

Now, here we have this supernatural phenomenon, and here we have you the scientist trying to figure out what the natural cause of this phenomenon might be. You presume a priori that all causes are natural. So if the cause is NOT natural, then the search for a natural cause cannot terminate, because the only path you see to a supernatural cause is the Sherlock Holmes approach of saying “if the impossible has been eliminated, whatever is left, however improbable, must be true.” But of course the impossible can never be eliminated, so this leaves the supernatural being negatively defined as “what’s left over after every possible natural cause has been eliminated” rather than positively defined as “The Will of God made manifest.”

And so now we’re down to a list of TWO possibilities:
1) You accept that it’s the Will of God through faith.
2) You continue to assume all causes are natural, thus the search for the ‘real’ cause can never end.

You are changing the subject, possibly unwittingly; please address my question. Divine beings may exist or not; that was not what we were talking about.

In my reading (once again) divine beings are exactly what we are talking about. If you reject their possibility, you have rejected supernatural causes which can be accepted only through faith.

Maybe Mr. Finley has a definition of “supernatural” that does not proceed by elimination of natural causes

He does. I don’t see how he could be much clearer. He says, “this bush is burning through a supernatural agency. God is doing it, in defiance of any and all natural laws.” I think Finley is asking a rather profound question: If there IS a God capable of effecting any arbitrary miracle, could you name a single miracle God could perform that would satisfy you of His existence? Or would you deny His efforts and complain of the impossibility of eliminating all possible natural causes? The distinction between saying “there’s no such thing as supernatural” and saying “there is no mechanism I choose to recognize by which the supernatural can be identified” is probably without any real difference.

The “fatal flaw” in Finley’s reasoning, from what you write, is that Finley believes in a God who DOES things in defiance of natural law, by means of mechanisms unknowable to you in principle. You are staking out the position that if the mechanism is unknowable to you, it does not exist. And for you, this is surely true. Not for Finley.

Comment #27245

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:01 PM (e)

Just to reformulate my objection to Mr. Finley:

If I look for my glasses and can’t find them anywhere… is there a point when I am justified in throwing my hands up and saying, “They’re NOWHERE! This must mean that they are hidden in a supernatural place!”?

Comment #27246

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:08 PM (e)

No, Flint. You keep misunderstanding my position (and I’ll assume it’s my fault for being unclear).

As far as I can tell, Mr. Finley’s definition is NOT “positive”, i.e. he cannot distinguish between a phenomenon that has a natural cause and one that hasn’t.

I have been asking all along that he does so for my benefit. Let me restate it once again for clarity:

Why would a burning bush be supernaturally caused? How do we know that?

We do know that natural causes exist. We don’t know (no, not even Mr. Finley) that supernatural causes exist.

So, I think that the very first step into establishing whether such a strange beast exists would be to clearly identify it. Don’t you agree?

And no, talking about “supernatural causes” and talking about “god(s)” is absolutely not the same. Let’s dismantle one ambiguity at a time, please.

Comment #27248

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 29, 2005 1:16 PM (e)

Aureola

I think Finley is asking a rather profound question: If there IS a God capable of effecting any arbitrary miracle, could you name a single miracle God could perform that would satisfy you of His existence?

It’s not a profound question. It’s a trivial question and I provided one of an infinite number of possible answers upthread:

let’s say tomorrow all over the world the sky turns successively purple, green, blue, red and yellow, everyone’s dog starts singing “Blowin in the Wind” in unison, and at high noon over Death Valley a booming voice heard by everyone in the entire world in their native tongue, including deaf people, says “You people aren’t worshipping me hard enough! Tomorrow start praying or I will destroy you! Here’s a sample!” and at that moment everyone in Alabama, Ireland and South Africa implodes into a tiny crystal.

You know what? I’m praying my ass off. I don’t have to know what it is I’m praying to, but I’ll be praying. And I’ll be advocating prayer in schools too.

So much for my “commitment” to “philosophical naturalism.”

Comment #27250

Posted by steve on April 29, 2005 1:20 PM (e)

One simple method is to decide that the insane have the ability to see real beings invisible to others.

The insane would object to your “methodological visibilism”.

Comment #27251

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:21 PM (e)

GWW:

Sorry, that quote wasn’t from me. :-)

Comment #27252

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 29, 2005 1:22 PM (e)

GWW asks, “Is it proper for scientists to pretend that insane people do not have the ability to see real beings invisible to others?”

I don’t know if the word “pretend” was carefully chosen. If so, it seems an odd choice since it implies that the scientists really knew that the pink elephants were real but decided to act as if they weren’t. Maybe the insane do see realities, but that doesn’t mean those of us who assume they don’t are being insincere. It also doesn’t imply that we think that the speech of the insane is meaningless or that we shouldn’t listen to them.

Comment #27253

Posted by steve on April 29, 2005 1:25 PM (e)

The whole question here is, at what point can we put god in a gap. My answer: never. Science is about what exists, not about fairy tales.

Comment #27254

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 1:31 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

I’m willing to try…

As far as I can tell, Mr. Finley’s definition is NOT “positive”, i.e. he cannot distinguish between a phenomenon that has a natural cause and one that hasn’t.

He claims to have this ability, and the technique he uses is faith. No other technique can succeed.

Why would a burning bush be supernaturally caused? How do we know that?

We accept it through what Finley calls religious experience. It is made known to you directly.

We do know that natural causes exist. We don’t know (no, not even Mr. Finley) that supernatural causes exist.

Finley believes he knows otherwise. He knows through direct religious experience, a separate avenue of knowledge available to those ready to recognize and accept it.

So, I think that the very first step into establishing whether such a strange beast exists would be to clearly identify it. Don’t you agree?

This beast has been identified, and is indeed recognized (in various guises, to be sure) by the vast majority of the human population, now and as far into the past as we can determine. Maybe a good metaphor would be that science is a microscope: very narrow field of focus, extremely high resolution within that field. The microscope is ideal for studying the characteristics of a tiny spot of paint on the canvas; the microscope is incapable of seeing the picture itself. The picture is an entirely different entity than the molecules of paint; different even from all the molecules considered together. Qualitatively different.

And no, talking about “supernatural causes” and talking about “god(s)” is absolutely not the same.

Permit me to disagree. I tried to explain this earlier, but perhaps this context will work better? “Supernatural causes” are hereby defined as the mechanism the gods use to assert their will. That’s ALL they are. You can’t separate them.

If I look for my glasses and can’t find them anywhere … is there a point when I am justified in throwing my hands up and saying, “They’re NOWHERE! This must mean that they are hidden in a supernatural place!”?

No. But if instead of your glasses, you are searching for meaning and purpose in your life, if you need an anchor of certainty in a sea of relativity, I submit there DOES come a point where you can conclude that these are hidden in a supernatural place.

Comment #27255

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:31 PM (e)

Flint:

The distinction between saying “there’s no such thing as supernatural” and saying “there is no mechanism I choose to recognize by which the supernatural can be identified” is probably without any real difference.

It’s a pity, then, that I never defended either of these positions.
Be careful not to misrepresent me, please.

What I’m saying is: “I’m all ears. If you have a reliable way for identifying ‘supernatural causes’, please describe it for me so that I may begin using it.”

Comment #27256

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 29, 2005 1:33 PM (e)

Aureola – oops! My apologies.

Jim – I was being facetious but I agree with your take. Pretend is not the best word. Perhaps “behave as if they know” is better.

steve – agreed. But indulge me: would you join me in prayer if the events of 27248 occurred? or would you take your chances?

Comment #27257

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:35 PM (e)

Flint:

Am I mistaken, or was Mr. Finley talking about science?

What has science to do with “finding meaning and purpose in your life”?

Comment #27258

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:38 PM (e)

Flint:

Also, I must take exception with your claim that “supernatural” means “by the will of the gods” or somesuch.

Are you seriously claiming that ghost-haunting, metempsicosis, and the like cannot exist independently of gods?

Comment #27259

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 1:45 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

What I’m saying is: “I’m all ears. If you have a reliable way for identifying ‘supernatural causes’, please describe it for me so that I may begin using it.”

You recognize supernatural causes through religious faith. It’s the only way. As to HOW you apply that faith, I guess if you have it you don’t need to ask and otherwise you’ll never know. The curtain separating me from the joys of religious faith is opaque and impenetrable.

GWW:

For someone who reacts so violently to creationists who mock misrepresentations of what scientists say, you produce nothing but mockery of misrepresentations of your own devising. I would suggest you attempt to be less clever and more honest, but I wouldn’t want to cramp your style. A serious discussion gets occasonally heavy, and it’s a relief to have a clown come bumbling through now and then.

Comment #27260

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 1:50 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

Are you seriously claiming that ghost-haunting, metempsicosis, and the like cannot exist independently of gods?

I guess I’m not the person to ask. Maybe Finley or one of our usual creationists has more insight than I do. I’m only trying to give Finley the benefit of the doubt as much as I can, because I really detest it when creationists attack misrepresentations of what I say. So I don’t wish to discuss some absurd caricature of Finley’s views. Maybe I would, if I could be as consistently amusing as GWW?

Comment #27261

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 29, 2005 1:51 PM (e)

For someone who reacts so violently to creationists who mock misrepresentations of what scientists say, you produce nothing but mockery of misrepresentations of your own devising.

Nothing? Please.

I would suggest you attempt to be less clever and more honest, but I wouldn’t want to cramp your style.

Where have I been dishonest?

A serious discussion gets occasonally heavy, and it’s a relief to have a clown come bumbling through now and then.

I agree. But we can’t let steve do all the work. ;)

Comment #27264

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 1:54 PM (e)

Flint:

You recognize supernatural causes through religious faith. It’s the only way. As to HOW you apply that faith, I guess if you have it you don’t need to ask and otherwise you’ll never know.

If that is the case, why waste time at all with possible natural causes? Why can’t someone possessing this “supersight” look at a phenomenon and say, “That’s supernatural!”?

Why claim that it is science to be somehow defective, when the real point is many people’s inability to disassociate “meaning and purpose” from this ineffable “supernatural”?

Comment #27267

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 2:04 PM (e)

GWW:

Just to select your quote of yourself from your prior post:

let’s say tomorrow all over the world the sky turns successively purple, green, blue, red and yellow, everyone’s dog starts singing “Blowin in the Wind” in unison, and at high noon over Death Valley a booming voice heard by everyone in the entire world in their native tongue, including deaf people, says “You people aren’t worshipping me hard enough! Tomorrow start praying or I will destroy you! Here’s a sample!” and at that moment everyone in Alabama, Ireland and South Africa implodes into a tiny crystal.

You know what? I’m praying my ass off. I don’t have to know what it is I’m praying to, but I’ll be praying. And I’ll be advocating prayer in schools too.

So much for my “commitment” to “philosophical naturalism.”

Do you think you have produced an accurate, or even remotely fair, representation of the Christian notion of what God does? Your description is pure mockery. Then you imply that this idiocy is an accurate contrast to philosophical naturalism, making it clear that you know better. Your purpose is to try to make your opponents look like fools. Some of your opponents are liars of the worst stripe, some are deluded, most are sincere, none of them deserve being misconstrued for the purpose of mocking the misconstruction.

I think I understand your point: Since we can never communicate, why make any real effort? Why not just denigrate for the sheer joy of it? So long as you’re only trying to impress yourself, I guess you can’t miss.

Comment #27269

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 2:05 PM (e)

This thread is now flowing extremely quickly. And surprisingly, my job actually entails work today, so I regret not being able to participate more.

Aureola,

It seems to me that your question basically reduces to the questions “What do you mean by ‘God’?” and “How do you know God exists?” Both questions have long and distinguished histories, with difficult and subtle answers throughout.

Let’s first recognize that the term ‘God’ can be meaningful even if there is no God. This should be standard fare for everyone familiar with the sense/reference distinction introduced by Frege and now commonly accepted by just about everyone.

Philosophically, I define ‘God’ as ‘the greatest possible being’ (Anselm); religiously, I define ‘God’ as ‘a spiritual, perfectly just, perfectly loving, etc. being’. Here, then, are many positive definitions.

I believe that God exists because of my own religious experience. I suspect you believe that the senses provide the only valid justification for the truth of a claim. That this is untrue is obvious on a moment’s reflection. The senses cannot justify the accuracy of our memory, or our thought processes, indeed, of themselves. Nontheless, I would contend that we know these to be accurate. Neither are particular thoughts, emotions, imaginations, etc. evident to the senses, yet who can deny their existence?

The supernatural, then, includes God (it may include other things, but one is sufficient to establish the category). A supernatural “cause” is, e.g., God as cause.

Comment #27272

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 2:15 PM (e)

As I had foreseen, mixing “gods” in the discussion has hopelessly muddied the waters.

Mr. Finley, what you just gave me still does not allow anyone to distinguish between what is and what is not supernatural. I didn’t ask for examples, I asked for a methodology.

As an extreme thought experiment, I grant you the existence of one or more gods. Now, would you kindly tell me how you can tell whether something (say, a murderer repenting just before killing a new victim; or a tsunami wiping out a couple hundred thousand people) is “caused by (one or more) god(s)”?

Comment #27274

Posted by Great White Wonder on April 29, 2005 2:19 PM (e)

Flint

Do you think you have produced an accurate, or even remotely fair, representation of the Christian notion of what God does?

I was not asked to do that so I did not even try. My “representation” addressed a much more general question.

Your description is pure mockery.

See above. Moreover, let me know if you need evidence that alleged deities are vengeful or petty.

I don’t understand why we are squabbling. Finley sounds like he’s just getting warmed up.

Comment #27275

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 2:20 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

Hey, I’m as blind as you are about some of this stuff, I’m just feeling around in the dark.

If that is the case, why waste time at all with possible natural causes? Why can’t someone possessing this “supersight” look at a phenomenon and say, “That’s supernatural!”?

I guess many people do. They say “kinds” appeared supernaturally, people were created in the image of the supernatural, the apparent age of the earth is supernatural, the lack of flood effects means the flood was supernatural, and so on. Nowadays, there seems to be quite a number of people who can point rather arbitrarily to things from molecules to mountain ranges and say “That’s designed!”

Why claim that it is science to be somehow defective, when the real point is many people’s inability to disassociate “meaning and purpose” from this ineffable “supernatural”?

My understanding is the following chain: Meaning and purpose are derived from God’s intent, God’s intent is derived from His Word in the Bible, this means the Bible is literally true, the Bible has tales at odds with scientific theories, therefore science must be misinterpreting the evidence. The alternative is that their interpretation of scripture is false, which is defined as impossible so there!

In this regard, I’m close to GWW: I think we’re seeing the symptoms of psychological damage done with all good intent by damaged parents. The first goal of a parasite is to disable its host’s defense mechanism, even getting the host to protect and defend the parasite. And the second goal is to reproduce into the next generation of hosts. I don’t think it’s necessary to misrepresent the nature of this parasite to recognize the damage it does.

Comment #27276

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 2:28 PM (e)

AN said:

“Why would a burning bush be supernaturally caused? How do we know that?”

Flint replied:

“We accept it through what Finley calls religious experience. It is made known to you directly.”

uh huh. interesting; has a supernatural phenomenon ever been “made known to you directly?”

can anyone here make that claim? I rather doubt it.

Comment #27278

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 2:29 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

As an extreme thought experiment, I grant you the existence of one or more gods. Now, would you kindly tell me how you can tell whether something (say, a murderer repenting just before killing a new victim; or a tsunami wiping out a couple hundred thousand people) is “caused by (one or more) god(s)”?

The methodology you demand has been presented countless times: You pray for enlightenment. God provides you with a religious experience (if your faith is true) and TELLS you. You can tell that God has told you when you discover that you know the answer deep in your heart. This happens through non-sensory input.

Such answers are extremely comforting for two general reasons: They assure you that God’s in his heaven, and they NEVER tell you your opinion is wrong. Who could ask for more?

Comment #27279

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 2:34 PM (e)

note that i am NOT saying that flint is claiming that he makes this claim for himself, I am only saying that there is no way to verify anything “made known to you directly”.

you can’t even call that faith.

in the example of the burning bush, it wasn’t moses’ faith that revealed the nature of the bush to him, it was “made known to him directly” by god telling him what it was.

so is the faith part for the rest of the people he told the story to?

just curious.

Comment #27280

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 2:34 PM (e)

Flint:

Fine. Sooooooo… what would allow me to distinguish between the genuine claims of divine guidance and the countless fakes (for instance, those of “the Papists”; or - if one happens to be a devout Catholic - those of the “damned Protestant sects”)?

Comment #27282

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 2:49 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

Fine. Sooooooo … what would allow me to distinguish between the genuine claims of divine guidance and the countless fakes (for instance, those of “the Papists”; or - if one happens to be a devout Catholic - those of the “damned Protestant sects”)?

I regard this as an excellent question. One of the most distinctive differences between science and religion is in how conflicts are resolved.

Science presumes there is the “one true science” just as each religion considers itself the “one true religion.” In the case of science, it’s based on the axiom that reality is what it is, that there are no paradoxes, the universe is internally consistent, and that there’s an explanation for everything. When scientists disagree, eventually (Kuhn notwithstanding) the evidence arbitrates. Disagreement in science is a positive thing – it directs research in fruitful directions. Eventually, the evidence becomes strong enough so that (as Gould wrote) it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.

Religions tend to approach disagreement by defining a doctrinal interpretation as “official truth” – and those who disagree define one another as wrong. There can occasionally be rapprochements between sects, but schisms are far more common. Those in disagreement who consider themselves provisionally (“probably”) right can eventually agree. Those who consider themselves absolutely right rarely can.

So the answer to your question is: as an outsider, either ALL claims are genuine, or none of them are. As an insider, YOUR claims alone are genuine.

Comment #27284

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 29, 2005 2:52 PM (e)

technical note: Findley says “Let’s first recognize that the term ‘God’ can be meaningful even if there is no God. This should be standard fare for everyone familiar with the sense/reference distinction introduced by Frege and now commonly accepted by just about everyone.” That’s fine, except that the fact that a word can be meaningful without having a referent doesn’t imply that every word has a coherent sense. People used to talk earnestly about the set of all sets, for example, even using it as a way of defining God. There isn’t such a thing as the set of all sets, however, as any set theory book will inform you. The nonexistence of the set of all sets was not established by looking to see if it were in the closet but by showing that the postulation of such an entity lead to contradictions. “Set of all sets” doesn’t have a coherent sense. A word can have a sense without a referent but it can’t have a referent without a sense.

God is a meaningful word in the English language and every normal person knows what it means. It isn’t clear, at least to me, that many of the philosophical definitions of God are coherent however and one hardly establishes their coherence by pointing out that they don’t need an existant referent to have a sense. I’d hate to put too much weight on the Anselm bit, for example.

Comment #27285

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 3:04 PM (e)

Flint:

But of course I have no problem with people believing because they know in their hearts.

I have big problems with people saying that I must believe because they know in their hearts.

So, the core problem remains. How do these “privileged observers” manage to make “unprivileged observers” like me share their observations?

…by burning me at the stake, as was de rigueur long ago? Or by condemning my children to ignorance, as seems to be the current fashion?

Comment #27290

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 3:17 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee:

So, the core problem remains. How do these “privileged observers” manage to make “unprivileged observers” like me share their observations?

… by burning me at the stake, as was de rigueur long ago? Or by condemning my children to ignorance, as seems to be the current fashion?

I vote for the latter. But I would disagree that burning at the stake was ever either common or effective. The quality of belief is not strained, as Shakespeare might have written. The parasite’s host WANTS to do the parasite’s bidding, if this is required for the parasite’s lifestyle. Much more effective if, when a child reaches the age of reason, there are certain things placed beyond the scope of reason. My interpretation is that by adulthood, one can no more easily abandon their faith if they have one, or adopt a faith if they lack one, than they can change their sexual orientation voluntarily. They can fake it, of course. They can try real real hard to convince themselves otherwise. But by that age, a belief or its lack, like a sexual orientation, has “set up” to the point where I (at least) find all claims of genuine conversion suspect. The “born again atheists” likely never took their believe to heart or examined it very closely, those who “find God” likely knew God was out there all along.

So try as I might, I can’t move past the conviction that Finley’s “religious experience” is what a brain dysfunction seems like to the brain suffering it.

Comment #27292

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 3:26 PM (e)

“But I would disagree that burning at the stake was ever either common or effective. “

actually, it wasn’t the burning so much as the threat of it. and THAT was very effective, or have you forgotten about the years of the inquisition?

think that is ancient history?

what about the McCarthy years? It would be just as easy to argue the effectiveness of calling someone a “communist” during those years.

“burning at the stake” doesn’t have to be literal to be effective; we can simply use it as an analogy for “destruction of one’s life”.

and it has been a common AND effective tactic as long as humans have recorded history.

Comment #27294

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 3:32 PM (e)

Flint:

I vote for leave me and my kids and my school and my hospital and my university and my funeral home alone, and come back only when you’ve agreed among yourselves on which god, if any, is going to plunge me into the Lake of Fire.

Oops… sorry, it was my precommitment to methodological naturalism showing.

Comment #27295

Posted by HPLC_Sean on April 29, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

Aureola:
The Church has NEVER allowed science to examine so-called “genuine claims of divine guidance” and they never will.
Nevertheless, people of faith find “supernatural phenomena” in the modern world all the time! Recently, in a Latin American country (sorry, I don’t have a reference), believers congregated around and revered a salt stain found on a concrete overpass support pylon; the salt stain was supposed to be shaped like the virgin Mary. They placed flowers and candles before the salt stain…
Flint is absolutely right when he says:

You recognize supernatural causes through religious faith.

If you are a person of faith, phenomena you cannot explain using your personal reality testing mechanisms become supernatural by default. Once you have concluded that the cause is supernatural, you abruptly terminate any further inquiry because 1) you take comfort in “confirming” the existence of God and 2) to look for another explanation means challenging your faith or inviting blasphemy. Both alternatives invite psychical discomfort through fear, guilt or self-loathing and so the believer rejects any alternative, even when faced with a rational alternative. When you look at a salt stain on an overpass pylon, you might see what brings you comfort; the virgin Mary.

If you are a rational skeptic, your reality testing mechanisms are robust in knowing that everything you have observed in your life so far has a rational, natural explanation. You search for a natural explanation first and assume that a supernatural cause is the least likely of the possible scenarios. When you look at a salt stain on an overpass pylon, you see calcium carbonate and salt precipitation brought about by rain dissolving road grime and running off the interstate. It gives you comfort to know that there is a rational explanation.

Comment #27297

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 3:39 PM (e)

“The Church has NEVER allowed science to examine so-called “genuine claims of divine guidance” and they never will”

would the shroud of turin come under that heading?

Comment #27298

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 3:41 PM (e)

Aureola Nominee, FCD wrote:

As an extreme thought experiment, I grant you the existence of one or more gods. Now, would you kindly tell me how you can tell whether something [e.g., a burning bush that talks and is not consumed] is “caused by (one or more) god(s)”?

I’ve just noticed a bit of Flint’s interpretation of my position that I want to emend. My belief in a god follows from my religious experience. Part of that belief in god is the belief that god “does stuff,” as it has been put. And some of the “stuff” he does affects natural things.

I do not, however, consult my religious experience on a minute by minute basis in an attempt to determine causes. I’m perfectly fine with natural causes, and presume that they’re operative the vast majority of the time. If it rains, for example, I do “divine” the cause. Rain is a common event and we have a decent understanding of its causes. A burning, talking bush in my yard, on the other hand would elicit surprise. From what I know about bushes, they are always consumed by fire and they never talk.

Thus, again, if such a phenomenon resists natural explanations over a lengthy period of time, and I know there are non-natural causes “out there,” they become a reasonable place to turn for the cause of the burning bush.

In summary, my faith puts supernatural causes on the table, and any extended failure of natural explanation would suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation, a miracle.

Comment #27299

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 3:41 PM (e)

Recently, in a Latin American country (sorry, I don’t have a reference), believers congregated around and revered a salt stain found on a concrete overpass support pylon; the salt stain was supposed to be shaped like the virgin Mary. They placed flowers and candles before the salt stain …

Believe it or not, that “Latin American country” was Chicago…

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/04/20/mary.underpass.ap/

Comment #27302

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 3:43 PM (e)

That should read “I don’t divine the cause.”

Comment #27304

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

Sir_Toejam:

actually, it wasn’t the burning so much as the threat of it. and THAT was very effective, or have you forgotten about the years of the inquisition?

Anticipating this objection, I spent whole paragraphs of special effort to head it off. I guess I failed, so I’ll repeat: Burning at the stake, or even the threat of burning at the stake, is not effective in converting people to a different faith. It’s extremely effective at persuading people to FAKE a different faith, but it doesn’t make sincere converts anymore than an abusive boss improves morale by threatening to fire anyone who isn’t sincerely cheerful. You may see lots of grins; you won’t find happy people.

Comment #27305

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 3:49 PM (e)

It has been suggested on this board, and in this thread, that empirical tests for the supernatural could be devised, e.g., directed prayer tests, etc.

However, by comparison with the discussion about burning bushes, any result of such an experiment would not support supernatural causes. Suppose that the experiment turned out exactly how you’d expect if prayer actually worked. According to the position being advocated against me, an unknown natural cause would have to be held out for, even in the face of the results.

Thus, there is no event so bizarre that it would suggest a non-natural cause, because it is assumed a priori that all causes are natural. Right?

Comment #27307

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 3:52 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

If a burning bush started talking to me with no visible cause, I would probably seek medical help, but not because “God does not exist”; rather, because mental illness and hallucinations do exist.

I know, this is Mr. Hume all over again; but what can I do? He still makes sense…

Comment #27308

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 3:55 PM (e)

“extremely effective at persuading people to FAKE a different faith,”

the point being? the end result is bad, either way you look at it.

Comment #27309

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 3:55 PM (e)

Finley:

In summary, my faith puts supernatural causes on the table, and any extended failure of natural explanation would suggest the possibility of a non-natural explanation, a miracle.

Here I’d like to join the chorus asking just where such a line should be drawn, even if it’s a wide and hazy line. OK, burning, nonconsumed, talking bushes are pretty damn spectacular. Miracles of that sort haven’t been attested since the dawning of the Age of Verification (perhaps the renaissance, perhaps earlier). But how about the salt stain in Chicago? Better yet, can you provide any examples you would consider candidates for miraclehood?

I know someone who sincerely believes he saw his father’s ghost, weeks after his father died. He swears the ghost was clear and obvious, and that the dogs also recognized it and gathered around barking at it. After a few minutes, the ghost faded away never to return, but this guy has forever after believed in life after death. Is this the kind of thing you mean?

Comment #27310

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 29, 2005 4:00 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

Thus, there is no event so bizarre that it would suggest a non-natural cause, because it is assumed a priori that all causes are natural. Right?

Not quite. Let me be very direct: you cough up an event so bizarre that it suggests a non-natural cause, and I’ll tell you what I think of it.

I agree with GWW on this: were the Abrahamic Tetragrammaton to address us, or even just me personally, I would probably fall to my knees and whimper in fear. If Allah paid me a visit, even very brief, I’d call my travel agent for a trip to Mecca. Should Thor show up at my place, I would be very careful not to raise his wrath. But…

what has this to do with science?

Comment #27312

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 29, 2005 4:04 PM (e)

The supernatural is a category whose sole use seems to be apolegetic. “Supernatural” isn’t a category in scientific thought, and it isn’t assumed a priori that all causes are natural because this whole way of talking about things only makes sense in the context of defending religion. The sciences have discovered all sorts of amazing stuff nobody expected. They just didn’t discover what believers wanted them to discover. This “no event so bizarre that it would suggest a non-natural cause” business would make a better impression if there were a candidate or two for a bizarre event that wasn’t as sad and kitchy as the tawdry miracles reported daily in the tabloids.

Comment #27313

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 4:07 PM (e)

“This “no event so bizarre that it would suggest a non-natural cause” business would make a better impression if there were a candidate or two for a bizarre event that wasn’t as sad and kitchy as the tawdry miracles reported daily in the tabloids.”

what about the reappearence of the ivory-billed woodpecker?

;)

Comment #27314

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 4:10 PM (e)

Flint,

I have an array of causal explanations in my bag. I try to use the one that fits best. Natural explanations work extremely well for just about everything under the sun (and in the cosmos), but I have others to employ under a limited set of circumstances.

The burning talking book is the the extreme example, but like your acquaintance, I sometimes wonder whether the divine or supernatural is not at work in less spectacular cases. Any example involving fate (as already alluded to) invites such wondering. I would think observing a dead relative along with your dogs is fairly spectacular. Lines are always hard to draw, and the best way to draw them is on a case-by-case basis.

Comment #27315

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 4:13 PM (e)

were the Abrahamic Tetragrammaton to address us, or even just me personally, I would probably fall to my knees and whimper in fear. If Allah paid me a visit, even very brief, I’d call my travel agent for a trip to Mecca. Should Thor show up at my place, I would be very careful not to raise his wrath.

Then I humbly suggest to you that you’re being inconsistent. Why not hold out for a natural explantion?

Comment #27317

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 4:21 PM (e)

what about the reappearence of the ivory-billed woodpecker?

As a former (reformed?) birder, I must admit this comes awful close to being a miracle in my eyes. The former territory of the Ivory Bill has been combed by armies of hopeful birders for decades with only the most very infrequent and indirect instance of wishful thinking – maybe that distant call, maybe this hole in the bark. A sudden POOF confirmed sighting is, as one of the birder said, much like discovering the real Elvis pumping gas in Pissant Arizona. The most plausible explanation in my opinion is that there still ARE ivory bills in Cuba, one of which blew across the gulf ahead of last summer’s hurricanes and has taken up residence. I confess that God exhuming one fails my personal sniff test.

I think Jim Harrison did nail it, though. “The supernatural” is meaningful only within the context of rationalizing obsolete religious doctrine, and is meaningless within the context of science. If miracles happened, science as a discipline would be useless because it would be as unreliable as prayer.

Comment #27319

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 29, 2005 4:37 PM (e)

Hi all. May I humbly suggest that y’all have pretty well beaten this poor horse to death? (At this moment, GWW has roughly 19 comments, Finley 18, Flint 21, Aureola 31, ToeJam 9, others less…)

How about this suggestion: can y’all give it one final, wrap-up comment, and then we can all move on to other threads?

The conversation has been interesting, but never went to places I thought it would (such as Lisa Simpson being the Icon of an Evolutionist).

Not being one to want to stifle conversation, I also don’t happen to think we’re going to settle the question of defining the supernatural, much less determining if it exists, in this little thread.

So, if this carousel is still going round’n’round tomorrow, I will most likely be inspired to bring the curtain down on comments for this thread.

Do make those last comments count, OK?

Cheers, Dave

Comment #27324

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 4:51 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

I think Jim Harrison did nail it, though. “The supernatural” is meaningful only within the context of rationalizing obsolete religious doctrine, and is meaningless within the context of science.

Jim Harrison wrote:

The assumption seems to be that the category of the supernatural has been around for thousands of years. As it is used here, however, “supernatural” is a distinctly modern notion that evolved as a reaction to the increasingly obvious failure of the sciences to detect god in nature. Previously, philosophers and theologians mostly thought that natural reason could verify the existence of God and some of his attributes even if a fuller understanding of the divine was only possible by received revelation or personal illumination. If, as so many of its practioners expected, Victorian science had discovered real vestiges of creation, nobody would be talking about a class of phenomena, events, or entities whose basic if not only characteristic is to be invisible to the ordinary methods of the sciences.

This is simply inaccurate. The theoretical divison between “natural” causes (i.e., meant here as material causes) and causes beyond “nature” originates with Plato. The notion of God as a cause transcending nature is at least as old as Augustine. It finds it’s fullest expression in Aquinas and Duns Scotus long before any modern notion “that evolved as a reaction to the increasingly obvious failure of the sciences to detect god in nature.” While convenient, this revision of the history of theology not factual. Jim Harrison speaks as if the idea of a miracle is a modern invention to alleviate the failure of 18th-century natural theology.

Jim Harrison wrote:

That’s fine, except that the fact that a word can be meaningful without having a referent doesn’t imply that every word has a coherent sense. People used to talk earnestly about the set of all sets, for example, even using it as a way of defining God. There isn’t such a thing as the set of all sets, however, as any set theory book will inform you. The nonexistence of the set of all sets was not established by looking to see if it were in the closet but by showing that the postulation of such an entity lead to contradictions. “Set of all sets” doesn’t have a coherent sense. A word can have a sense without a referent but it can’t have a referent without a sense.

God is a meaningful word in the English language and every normal person knows what it means. It isn’t clear, at least to me, that many of the philosophical definitions of God are coherent however and one hardly establishes their coherence by pointing out that they don’t need an existant referent to have a sense. I’d hate to put too much weight on the Anselm bit, for example.

A good example is that of a “square circle.” It lacks a referent because it lacks sense. Now all you have to do is show that the idea of a greatest possible being is self-contradictory.

Comment #27325

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 4:53 PM (e)

Dave,

Thanks for your patience. I’ll leave things as they stand.

Sincerely,
MF

Comment #27332

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 5:39 PM (e)

Dave, as the originator, what comments would YOU like us to take away from the post?

Any last comments you think are relevant?

thanks

Comment #27336

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 5:49 PM (e)

Dave: as the originator, any final thoughts from your end? any take home message you wanted to come across?

thanks

Comment #27338

Posted by steve on April 29, 2005 5:57 PM (e)

steve — agreed. But indulge me: would you join me in prayer if the events of 27248 occurred? or would you take your chances?

Why should I worship such a being?

Comment #27339

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 29, 2005 6:06 PM (e)

I also do not want to impute motives to science (e.g., arrogance, vice, etc.), but to suggest that, if science rules out supernatural causes (miracles), then it is blind, as you say, to certain possibilities which may nonetheless be true (lower-case ‘t’). In which case, science makes an a priori commitment to naturalism.

I’ve already pointed out why this assertion is cow crap – despite all your whining, science does NOT “rule out supernatural causes (miracles)”. But I’ll be happy to do so again:

*ahem*

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God – uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer – created both but used common features in a common design.

Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see … ?

IDers, please fill in the blank.

And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions – things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then – if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here – contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God – er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer – didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let’s therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything’s fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke ALL of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis “genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design”, or indeed ANY other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID “theory” falls flat on its face. It is NOT any presupposition of “philosophical naturalism” on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks — it is the simple inability of ID “theory” to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design “theory” STILL can’t follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position —- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.

So Mikey, please do let us know whan you have finished with your pseudo-philosophical excuse-making, and are ready to actually use your ID, uh, “theory” to make some statements about the world that can be tested using the scientific method. So far, all your attempts have been rather pathetic.

Comment #27343

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 29, 2005 6:27 PM (e)

“whatever god-thing you like”

giant space bats ok?

Comment #27348

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

Flank:

I’ve already pointed out why this assertion is cow crap — despite all your whining, science does NOT “rule out supernatural causes (miracles)”. But I’ll be happy to do so again:

Please come in at the beginning. You present the steps science takes to examine the natural world. You say that these steps do not rule out UNnatural phenomena. And this would be true IF AND ONLY IF supernatural phenomena followed natural rules and were amenable to investigations of natural rules. But by definition supernatural phenomena DO NOT follow natural rules, and the scientific method CAN NOT work.

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”

On the contrary, rules 3 through 5 REQUIRE that what is being investigated is natural. The supernatural is not testable by definitiion. If it were, it would be natural and not supernatural.

As Finley tries to say (at least as I understand it), you have a method for investigating everything that is round. When Finley says, what if it’s square? you reply that your method is perfectly capable of testing a square – so long as it is round!

Now, squares may not exist at all. I’m personally convinced that the only people who have ever “seen” one have been too strongly (even desperately) predisposed to do so, for their accounts to be credible. If there’s any one genuine unquestionable power religion has, it’s the power to enable us to see what’s not there and blind us to what is there.

So Mikey, please do let us know whan you have finished with your pseudo-philosophical excuse-making, and are ready to actually use your ID, uh, “theory” to make some statements about the world that can be tested using the scientific method. So far, all your attempts have been rather pathetic.

Your inability or unwillingness to understand what Finley is saying does not render his attempts pathetic, only your response. The supernatural, whatever other characteristics it may have, for sure lies outside the bounds of scientific investigation. You might decide that it’s imaginary. But you can’t honestly demand that the supernatural be natural, and that’s what you are doing.

Your Standard Requirement is quite excellent when applied against those IDiots who claim their faith is “science” or scientific, and misrepresent religious doctrine as scientific theory. But Finley isn’t (at least as far as I can tell) saying the supernatural is science. He’s only saying it exists in some sense invisible to the scientific method you keep waving around. Finley (I think) is saying the supernatural is visible only to faith, not to tests.

But this is not pure mumbo jumbo. I spoke earlier of reality as we know if consisting of long sequences of unlikely coincidences. No particular event is impossible or even (on the whole) peculiar. Now, how would you apply your Five Doctrinal Steps to test whether or not any particular sequence of coincidences was managed for some purpose we can only see in hindsight? Sure, we can construct computer models showing that given all that CAN happen, chains of coincidence are what MUST happen. Now, go ahead and use your method to show that the particular chains that DO happpen are or are not managed. Do you see the issue yet?

Comment #27354

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 29, 2005 7:08 PM (e)

Comment #27319
Posted by Dave Thomas on April 29, 2005 04:37 PM

So, if this carousel is still going round’n’round tomorrow, I will most likely be inspired to bring the curtain down on comments for this thread.

[anxious distress]Noooooooooooo, some of us have jobs and can’t participate 24/7.[/anxious distress]
And boy did this thread explode in the last twelve hours.

Dear Mr. Lenny Flank, please give it a rest. Pretty please with splenda on top. As much as the overwhelming majority of PT’ers are on your side, including little-ole troll me, your hostility provides the perfectly negative contrast to Finley’s civility. He is the best example of what the trolls might accomplish if they didn’t act so much like… like… like, well trolls. That hostility is great when dealing with the likes of heddle, ds, dk, ea, and jad, and I love watching it, but Finley doesn’t deserve it. [anxious distress again]And it might cause Dave Thomas to prematurely close the topic.[/anxious distress]

I’ll even try and poke a whole in your argument for Finley.
Comment #27339
Posted by “Rev Dr” Lenny Flank on April 29, 2005 06:06 PM

…despite all your whining, science does NOT “rule out supernatural causes (miracles)”…
The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are…
2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed…
NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest…

If your five steps could be said to be broken into substeps then one of the substeps of step two is application of Occam’s Razor, and that tool does not allow unnecessary multiplication of explanatory entities. All your examples are generally looked upon as unnecessary, right? So step two does exclude the supernatural in principle.

Flint, you have got to be one of the most eloquent and insightful thinkers and writers I ahve ever read. Will you give my eulogy? :)
(And for the smart alecs out there, yes I already know the insult. My sample set must be pretty small.)

Mr. Finley are you an American?

Now back to reading.

Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27356

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 7:24 PM (e)

Mr. Finley are you an American?

Indeed I am. A Texan, in fact.

Comment #27357

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 7:24 PM (e)

Paul,

Did you really deploy the fortitude necessary to plow through this entire thread? If so, my hat is off to you as well. I hope you find yourself the wiser for the effort!

Comment #27359

Posted by Michael Finley on April 29, 2005 7:29 PM (e)

*If this is a double-post, my apologies.

Mr. Finley are you an American?

Indeed I am. A Texan, in fact.

Comment #27366

Posted by Flint on April 29, 2005 8:20 PM (e)

Why won’t this thread update?

Comment #27382

Posted by qetzal on April 30, 2005 12:03 AM (e)

Seems like much of this dispute comes down to definitional issues.

If God and the supernatural are, by definition, not repeatable, not objectively verifiable, and not predictable in any way, then of course science can’t address them.

Yet it is perfectly possible to perform scientific studies on prayer. People really do believe that praying for a certain outcome can increase the likelihood of that outcome, and science is perfectly capable of testing that belief. Same goes for other non- or supernatural things like clairvoyance, levitation, etc. Many people believe in them, most would agree they are not “natural,” and they can be (and have been) readily tested scientifically.

That’s why I argued a long ways back that it’s unproductive to ask if science can evaluate the supernatural. Science can evaluate the observable, repeatable, and predictable. If something can be supernatural and still meet those criteria, science can evaluate it. If not, then not.

I would also suggest that this might be a useful way to respond when someone charges that science is philosophically committed to naturalism. When it’s framed like that, it implies that science (and scientists) are consciously choosing to reject “non-natural” explanations such as God and religion.

I suggest the proper response to such a charge should be: “No, science is committed to phenomena that are observable, repeatable, and predictable. If that applies to anything in your religion, science is willing and able to consider it according to the same rules it applies to anything else.”

Comment #27383

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 12:49 AM (e)

That’s why I argued a long ways back that it’s unproductive to ask if science can evaluate the supernatural. Science can evaluate the observable, repeatable, and predictable. If something can be supernatural and still meet those criteria, science can evaluate it. If not, then not.

I would also suggest that this might be a useful way to respond when someone charges that science is philosophically committed to naturalism. When it’s framed like that, it implies that science (and scientists) are consciously choosing to reject “non-natural” explanations such as God and religion.

I suggest the proper response to such a charge should be: “No, science is committed to phenomena that are observable, repeatable, and predictable. If that applies to anything in your religion, science is willing and able to consider it according to the same rules it applies to anything else.”

I believe that is what I said. ;>

Comment #27389

Posted by Cubist on April 30, 2005 5:55 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #27394

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 30, 2005 8:40 AM (e)

The Talented Mr. Finley:

Then I humbly suggest to you that you’re being inconsistent. Why not hold out for a natural explantion?

Did I say I would do this scientifically, Mr. Finley?

In my present state of mind, that (possibly mistakenly) I consider quite sound, I would say that the most likely explanation for those mystical experiences would be hallucination. In the state of mind I would most likely find myself in after those alleged experiences, they would probably look quite real.

The boundary between subjective delusion and objective reality gets hazy, when the universe loses its footing; and the very existence of unrestricted, miracle-performing deities would toss our universe into a pretty sorry state, from the point of view of consistence and knowability.

Comment #27396

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on April 30, 2005 8:56 AM (e)

Dave Thomas wrote:

It’s been my position for a couple of years that science doesn’t automatically rule out consideration of the supernatural, but does require, like qetzal said,

and

science does NOT “rule out supernatural causes (miracles)”.

Dr. Thomas and Dr. Flank,

I very much appreciated your thoughts in that regard. In answer to the question as to who believes in evolution, it is true that polls indicate the more higher education is conferred, the more likely one is to accept Darwinian evolution. However, as the article I think suggests, that demographic is at risk of changing.

Intelligent design on the college campuses is beginning to make in roads with the biology majors and scientists of tomorrow. We were able to convert Michael Behe and Caroline Crocker and we are converting biology majors at the undergrad and graduate level. We have a very easy time with the engineers (who are naturally gifted as recognizing design), mathematicians, computer scientists, a physicists.

This last week I was at Paul Gross’s school, 60 students watched Privileged Planet and we had a panel discussion with 3 of the UVa professors. Also this week at Jason Rosenhouse’s school, James Madison, we had a meeting with 50 students present and Dr. Rosenhouse in the audience. The meeting went from 7pm to 11:30 pm because of the intense interest. There were physics majors there who seemed to really enjoy the discussion. There were biology majors there who were part of our IDEA chapter. Like the case with George Mason University and Dr. Caroline Crocker, I know that at JMU and UVa there are a science faculty who sympathize with intelligent design.

At our meeting at JMU the students discussed with me bio chemistry, physics, computation theory, Godel’s incompleteness, computation theory, cardinality of computable functions, Turing Machines, poplulation genetics, mito-chondrial Eve, Rayleigh-Bernard convection, Quantum Mechanics and the von-Neumann Regress, variable speed of light and the quantum intertial hypothesis and Bradley Michelson’s speed of light measurments, racemization dating, interpretations of Dayhoff Diagrams, testable predictions with sequence divergence….all these topics are tied deeply to intelligent design and creationism. We have undergrad, grad, and PhD participants at our IDEA chapters. The level of intellectual discussion reaches extraodinary levels.

One of our IDEA members does experimental research into phylogeny and are profoundly disturbed at the amount of molecular convergence present and the uncritical acceptance of the molecular clock hypothesis. This empirical data is persuading this student that common descent and Darwinian evolution is argued with flawed and circular reasoning. Empirical data of convergence and the fine tuning of sequence divergence is breaking the Darwinian interpretation of molecular data. Contrary to poplular perception, the hierarchical patterns of molecular taxonomy speak more of common design than common descent. The presence of convergences suggests design, and it also offers counter examples against common descent.

Intelligent design may not be ready for prime time in the high schools, but it is ready for prime time in a religion classes where controversial subjects are ripe for exploration. Though I think it’s rightful place is in the science classes, we may indeed have found a safe haven for our beliefs in the religion department. I can assure you all that our IDEA members at the PhD levels in biology are not dismissing Darwinian evolution because they’ve had a shortage of training in biology or evolution! That is very good news for the movement on the whole!

I believe Dembski’s Fundamental Theorem of Intelligent Design will demolish the Darwinian and materialistic view. His theorem is correct and it is a matter of time before it’s truthfullness becomes apparent.

Nature has indeed proven itself as a the premier science publication by covering a cutting edge scientific movement and giving it front page press. Though they are not at this time sympathetic to intelligent design, responsible reporting should not ignore it. The IDists are winning the hearts and minds of the scientists of the future. That article has reported on the early beginings of a massive movement by intelligent design on the university campuses. The empirical data is speaking to the students. Darwinian evolution and chemical evolution are grossly inadequate explantions for the complexity of life, and for all intents and purposes, Darwinists are holding on to a theory that has been substantially falsified both empirically and theoretically.

Comment #27397

Posted by Michael Finley on April 30, 2005 9:10 AM (e)

Well, since no one else heeded the request of Mr. Thomas, I guess I’ll play on ’till the curtain falls.

qetzal,

I knew I had seen the directed prayer suggestion before, thanks for returning and reminding me of its author. A couple of points:

(1) If, e.g., Aureola Nominee, Flint (et al.) hold that science must hold out for a natural explanation come what may, then what possible benefit would result from directed prayer experiments, even if the experiments produced the “right” results (e.g., those prayed for became healthy, etc.)?

(2) Your criteria for science are (a) observability, (b) repeatability, and © predictability. The burning bush example meets (a), the example could be adapted to meet (b), but (assuming the possibility of miracles) by definition it fails ©. A miracle is an event that violates a law (laws) of nature. Therefore, if something were a miracle, it could not be predicted. What would be the basis for its prediction?

With the directed prayer example, prayer is simply the asking for a miracle, so the same obstacle applies. Predictions are made on the basis of natural laws, therefore, something that violates those laws cannot be predicted. As I assume Flint would point out, you are stacking the deck by insisting miracles play by natural rules, when they are not natural events.

Aureola Nominee wrote:

Did I say I would do this scientifically, Mr. Finley?

My mistake. I thought you were wearing your scientist hat when you made your remark about Thor, etc. Can I rightly conclude, then, that (while acting as a scientist) there is no conceivable event(s) under any set of circmustances that would suggest the possibility of a miracle to you?

Comment #27399

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 9:33 AM (e)

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Comment #27400

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 9:36 AM (e)

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Comment #27403

Posted by steve on April 30, 2005 9:46 AM (e)

Or does that all come LATER, as part of, uh, “renewing our culture” …. . ?

Actually, it does. Dembski has said in the past that any science which does not include Jesus is fundamentally incomplete.

Comment #27412

Posted by qetzal on April 30, 2005 10:37 AM (e)

MF -

You asked,

If, e.g., Aureola Nominee, Flint (et al.) hold that science must hold out for a natural explanation,….(emphasis added)

See my comment above (#27382). It all depends on whether non-natural explanations can ever be objectively observed, verified, and predicted. If your definition of prayer excludes those properties, then it can’t be tested scientifically.

But I think many people define prayer in a way that does include such properties:

It’s observable - if you pray for someone to get better, you can observe whether they get better.

It’s verifiable - if you pray for someone to get better, others can verify whether they really do get better (e.g. by double blind testing).

It’s repeatable - you can pray for some other people to get better, and see if they do.

The last one is a possible sticking point, especially if you believe something along the lines of ‘prayers are always answered, but the answers are rarely what we expect.’ To me, that’s equivalent to saying that prayers don’t ‘work’ (in any scientific sense, anyway).

As for the burning bush, I don’t think miracles must be intrinsically unpredictable by your definition.

Suppose I ask your bush to temporarily stop the earth spinning on its axis, then start it again, all without causing any harm to any of us. The bush says OK, and it happens. We verify that it happens using telescopes, satellites, astronaut observation, etc.

That would be a miracle by your definition (a major violation of known natural laws). It was observable and verifiable, and it was predicted. We could even ask the bush to do it again, to bolster the predictability. It wouldn’t even matter if the bush sometimes refused to produce a specified miracle. Prediction needn’t be 100%.

In practice, of course, it becomes a problem if the miracles could be predicted only rarely, or if they were not clear-cut ‘violations’ of natural laws. That seems to be our current situation. Could the Salt Stain Virgin Mary be a real miracle? Sure! If there is an all-powerful God, no doubt He could cause such a salt stain to form. But that falls too far short of scientific criteria. It was only predictable in the very vague sense of “Sometimes, God will do stuff.” And the only room to argue that it volates natural law is, “It looks too much like the Virgin Mary to be natural.”

I don’t consider such things evidence of science’s failure to assess miracles. I consider them to failed evidence of miracles.

Look; I’m not saying A. Nominee or Flint are wrong. They are placing the supernatural outside of science by definition. I have no particular problem with that, because they’ve been explicit about it. I’m just trying to point out that it’s very possible to define God, religion, prayer, the supernatural, etc., in ways that do not exclude scientific analysis. Moreover, I’m arguing that many, many people have religious views that are very consistent with that approach.

I’ll go a step further and say that I’ve never seen anything that I consider valid scientific support for religion or the supernatural. So I think either those phenomena do not really exist, or they only exist in a way that truly is outside the realm of science. In other words, I don’t think A. Nominee and Flint are automatically right in principle, but they may well be right in practice.

:-)

Comment #27413

Posted by steve on April 30, 2005 10:38 AM (e)

Of course, some people are already hard at work on ID Meteorology.

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don’t think I’d be waving those [Rainbow] flags in God’s face if I were you. This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor”

–Pat Robertson

Comment #27414

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on April 30, 2005 10:40 AM (e)

What is the scientific theory of intelligent design — the one you want taught in public school science classrooms — and how do we test it using the scientific method.

Did I say I want ID theory taught right away in PUBLIC classrooms? I want it taught in univeristy RELIGION classes. I am not actively involved in the push for ID into the public classrooms. So in that respect, I have no major fight with you. I do however think teaching all evidences related to theory of evolution is fair game in public schools.

In regard to ID in the university RELIGION classes, ID is not specific about the details, however creationism is. Such ideas are fair game in a college religion class. Given that 74% of the students wanting to learn about ID also want to learn about creationism, from a marketing and money standpoint, administrators would do well to offer such courses. Even if our survey is off by a factor of 10, that still represents a sizeable portion of the student body of every major university. So where ID ends for some, creationism begins. www.creationscience.com represents my specific scientific hypothesis. Creation science is not intelligent design proper, but from a marketing standpoint, that’s what the students want, and God willing, that’s what the students will get. In the spirit of the free exercise of Religion on college campuses, I see no problem with offering these ideas as voluntary courses. It remains for the students to decide who has the better case empirically. I’m confident the IDists and the creationists will give their opponents on campus a run for their money.

But sincerely, I appreciate you and Dave Thomas’ comments on miracles. Coming from you guys, that meant a lot.

Salvador

Comment #27416

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 30, 2005 10:55 AM (e)

Salvador T. Cordova

Did I say I want ID theory taught right away in PUBLIC classrooms?>

I thought this was the whole point in dressing up creationism as a science?

I want it taught in univeristy RELIGION classes.>

Where it should probably stay, like all peudoscientific philosophy. This I can certainly agree with.

Even if our survey is off by a factor of 10, that still represents a sizeable portion of the student body of every major university.>

In America, outside of America we don’t have quite as many people who are likely to fall for it.

I’m confident the IDists and the creationists will give their opponents on campus a run for their money. >

Except Intelligent design lost a long time ago when Paley was thrown out. Why it’s being ressurected from the dead is rather strange, except as a strategy to get around the courts decision in the 80’s.

It’s fantastic however that you completely and utterly ignored his question and gave him a load of babble in return.

Though I think it’s rightful place is in the science classes, we may indeed have found a safe haven for our beliefs in the religion department. I can assure you all that our IDEA members at the PhD levels in biology are not dismissing Darwinian evolution because they’ve had a shortage of training in biology or evolution!>

Then why are they just so bad at it? ID advocates get facts horribly muddled, are unable to offer even basic scientific explanations for their theories and generally get shown up for performing no real science over and over. When asked a simple question such as what Dr. Flank asked you above, you are unable to give an answer and instead obsfuscate your position with an irrelevant answer.

So again, what makes evolution a ‘materialistic’ theory (aside from standard creationist nonsense) and what is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do you make predictions to test it?

Comment #27418

Posted by steve on April 30, 2005 11:11 AM (e)

“Intelligent design doesn’t have any theology to it.”

–Salvador T. Cordova

“I want it taught in univeristy [sic] RELIGION classes.”

–Salvador T. Cordova

(source of first quote: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7037/full/4341062a.html)

I think Bruce Alberts’s quote about ID could be applied to what Salvador says in general: “To me it doesn’t deserve any attention, because it doesn’t make any sense,”

Comment #27419

Posted by Steve F on April 30, 2005 11:21 AM (e)

Cordoba believes the earth to be around 6000 years old. His views on science are therefore irrelevent.

End. Of. Story.

Comment #27420

Posted by Steve F on April 30, 2005 11:24 AM (e)

I hear that Cordova holds similar views to the above mentioned Cordoba. He is therefore also worthy of nothing but contempt.

Comment #27421

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 30, 2005 11:25 AM (e)

Expecting consistency from creaion-uhh I mean intelligent design advocates is a bit pointless it seems. If there isn’t any theology in ID why are they so damn keen to be bringing up invisible pink unicorns as the cause of it all?

Comment #27422

Posted by Michael Finley on April 30, 2005 11:37 AM (e)

qetzal wrote:

I’ll go a step further and say that I’ve never seen anything that I consider valid scientific support for religion or the supernatural.

Neither have I. I am merely trying to determine what, in principle, such support would look like. And it seems from these discussions that, according to a particular interpretation of science advocated by A. Nominee and Flint (et al.), nothing whatever would provide “valid scientific support for the supernatural.” Moreover, that fact is built into science a priori, i.e., come what may, science has to hold out indefinitely for a natural explanation.

Now, if I understand you correctly, you part company with A. Nominee and Flint here. If, for example, the burning talking bush halted the rotation of the earth, etc. upon request, then it would be a scientifically verified miracle.

Even in this instance, however, “prediction” does not operate as in science. A scientific prediction must follow logically from a theory together with some set of initial conditions. Theories involve physical mechanisms, natural laws, etc. None of that is possible here because, again, a miracle is not a natural event. To demand that it be subject to scientific prediction is merely another form of the a priori exclusion of non-natural causes.

Comment #27423

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 30, 2005 11:38 AM (e)

The system ate my last post. I just wanted to put in an exception to Mr. Findley’s assertion that the notion of the supernatural is actually quite ancient. Not to be combative—philosophers shouldn’t give a damn about who’s right, though of course they do—I thought I’d try to rephrase my objection in a rather neutral form. The issue isn’t whether there wasn’t some concept that might be called supernatural before, but whether it was the same concept—I assume we’re not just talking about words, though I note that the term supernatualis is medieval Latin. It doesn’t occur in the classical language and I’m not sure what the Greek synonym would be.

It is perfectly true that Aquinas and others discussed miracles and that philosophers like Plato and others spoke about transmundane realms. I’m not disputing that. To claim that they didn’t operate with a modern version of the concept of the supernatural is similar to the claim, which I also subscribe to, that homosexuality is quite a modern concept/institution even though men have been picking up the soap forever. One way of doing philosohy is to more or less programmatically ignore history. Anyhow, that’s the way I was taught to do it long ago and far away. The other way is to contextualize the old discourse. Both approaches aim to make an eventual dialogue possible between the ages, but the later presumes that you have to seek differences if you want to detect real similarities.

All of this sounds rather pedantic. In the context of discussions about faith and knowledge, however, the issue has an important application. It is commonly overlooked, for example, that the job of faith is different now then it was in the past. In Christendom, anyhow, the impossible thing that faith allowed us to believe was not the existence of God, which very few seriously doubted before the 18th Century and most thinkers thought was quite evident from nature, but the possibility of being saved granted the deep sinfulness of our corrupted nature. For that matter, though there have been articles of faith for a long time and you can surely find some other counterexamples, the emphasis on faith as assent to a series of propositions instead of a certain attitude of heart is also rather modern.

Comment #27424

Posted by Michael Finley on April 30, 2005 11:42 AM (e)

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Comment #27425

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 30, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

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Comment #27427

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 11:52 AM (e)

What is the scientific theory of intelligent design — the one you want taught in public school science classrooms — and how do we test it using the scientific method.

Did I say I want ID theory taught right away in PUBLIC classrooms? I want it taught in univeristy RELIGION classes.

I see. So there IS NO scientific theory of ID, and those IDers who claim there is, are simply lying to us. Got it.

And ID is just religion, and those who claim it is not, are also simply lying to us. Got it.

Thanks for making that so clear to everyone. It’s what I suspected all along.

Comment #27428

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 11:57 AM (e)

Thank you, Dr Cordova, for making it so clear that there is no scientific theory of ID, that ID is ntohing but religion, and that IDers are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise.

But you still have not answered my other question (the same one that Dr Beckwith ran away without answering). That’s OK — I’ll just ask again. And again and again and again and again, as many times as I need to, until you either answer it or run away like Dr Beckwith did.

*ahem*

But your comment raises another question for me one that I asked Dr Beckwith when he was here, but alas he ran away without answering. let’s see how YOU do with it:

*ahem*

What, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than, say, weather forecasting or accident investigation or medicine. Please be as specific as possible.

I have never, in all my life, ever heard any weather forecaster mention “god” or “divine will” or any “supernatural” anything, at all. Ever. Does this mean, in your view, that weather forecasting is atheistic (oops, I mean, “materialistic” and “naturalistic” —- we don’t want any judges to think ID’s railing against “materialism” has any RELIGIOUS purpose, do we)?

I have yet, in all my 44 years of living, to ever hear any accifdent investigator declare solemnly at the scene of an airplane crash, “We can’t explain how it happened, so an Unknown Intelligent Being must have dunnit.” I have never yet heard an accident investigator say that “this crash has no materialistic causes — it must have been the Will of Allah”. Does this mean, in your view, that accident investigation is atheistic (oops, sorry, I meant to say “materialistic” and “naturalistic” — we don’t want any judges to know that it is “atheism” we are actually waging a religious crusade against, do we)?

How about medicine. When you get sick, do you ask your doctor to abandon his “materialistic biases” and to investigate possible “supernatural” or “non-materialistic” causes for your disease? Or do you ask your doctor to cure your naturalistic materialistic diseases by using naturalistic materialistic antibiotics to kill your naturalistic materialistic germs?

Since it seems to me as if weather forecasting, accident investigation, and medicine are every bit, in every sense,just as utterly completely totally absolutely one-thousand-percent “materialistic” as evolutionary biology is, why, specifically, is it just evolutionary biology that gets your panties all in a bunch? Why aren’t you and your fellow Wedge-ites out there fighting the good fight against godless materialistic naturalistic weather forecasting, or medicine, or accident investigation?

Or does that all come LATER, as part of, uh, “renewing our culture” …. . ?

Comment #27429

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 30, 2005 11:58 AM (e)

Personally I think it’s more of an affront he calls ID a ‘theory’ rather than a ‘hypothesis’ or ‘terrible guess’ or ‘creationism lite’.

Calling it a theory gives it more credibility than it has earnt.

Comment #27430

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 30, 2005 11:58 AM (e)

Hi all. It being the weekend, my access to PT is quite limited. Shopping to do, weeds, to whack, clubs to juggle, you get the idea. I won’t be able to manage this thread till late tonight, so use the day wisely.

Salvador, before you get all worked up about my saying you can test “miracles,” consider this - the Bible Code, the example I cited, actually provides a physical, real incarnation of the alleged “miracle” - the Torah. The 304,805 characters of the Torah can be compared to “mundane” texts, like War and Peace.

In ID, however, everything is the alleged “miracle” - all creatures have DNA, etc. There is no way to compare miraculous to non-miraculous in this case.

Gotta go. See ya later tonight.
-Dave

Comment #27432

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 12:00 PM (e)

In regard to ID in the university RELIGION classes, ID is not specific about the details, however creationism is. Such ideas are fair game in a college religion class. Given that 74% of the students wanting to learn about ID also want to learn about creationism, from a marketing and money standpoint, administrators would do well to offer such courses. Even if our survey is off by a factor of 10, that still represents a sizeable portion of the student body of every major university. So where ID ends for some, creationism begins.

Are you willing to go to Dover or Kansas and testify, under oath, that ID is just a continuation of creationism?

Comment #27434

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on April 30, 2005 12:02 PM (e)

Though I believe ID is a scientific theory, others here, like Dr. Flank do not, and I respect that. Thus, to avoid such confrontations in the university, it seems all parties would feel in completely appropriate to have it offered for starters in the philosophy and religion departments. I feel it’s rightful place is in the science curriculum, but given the objections offered here and elsewhere, I think a workable compromise is putting it in the religion departments.

ID is in my view science, but not in Bruce Alberts or Eugenie Scott’s view. But I have no problem bringing what I believe is science and what Alberts believes is theology into a religion class.

“Religion without science is blind.”
–Albert Einstein.

Comment #27435

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on April 30, 2005 12:11 PM (e)

Dr. Flank asked:

Are you willing to go to Dover or Kansas and testify, under oath, that ID is just a continuation of creationism?

No, because in my view the theological view of creation is the continuation of the scietific theory of ID. You actually stated my position somewhat backwardly. Science can inform metaphysical views, not the otherway around. The case of Antony Flew illustrates that principle well.

Salvador

Comment #27436

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 30, 2005 12:24 PM (e)

Thus, to avoid such confrontations in the university, it seems all parties would feel in completely appropriate to have it offered for starters in the philosophy and religion departments. I feel it’s rightful place is in the science curriculum, but given the objections offered here and elsewhere, I think a workable compromise is putting it in the religion departments.

But of course, this isn’t actually all that bad an idea, because ID is just creationism without any science. Teaching it in a non-scientific course will make perfect sense, because then you can discuss a creator without the problems of actually requiring scientific predictions to falsify it first.

You still have failed to demonstrate where ID is in any way scientific or how you can make predictions to falsify ID.

Comment #27437

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on April 30, 2005 12:28 PM (e)

Dr. Thomas,

Thank you for responding. I’ve gone on record as supporting Mark Perakh’s view of Bible codes. Bible codes, as popularly known, are bad postidictive conclusions, not science.

In regard to miracles, if we define natural law as the existing, generally accepted laws of physics, then we do know, natural law has limits. As John Wheeler said, “the laws of physics are not from everlasting to everlasting”. The source of the boundary conditions of the universe which formed the natural laws we know and love is by definition a supernatural source.

Within intelligent design, the source of the boundary conditions is hypothesized to come from an intelligent source, possibly conscious. Dr. Morowitz, the origin of life researcher who testafied against the creationists in Mclean vs. Arkansas, teaches at my school. Surprisingly, he believes that conscious intelligence, a MIND, is a solution to the regress problem of quantum mechanics. It is not an absolute proof that a non-material MIND exists, but it is a reasonable hypothesis as elaborated by Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner’s writings.

Consequences of this hypothesis are in prinicple testable, though the ultimate hypothesis perhaps can not be 100% proven because of the problem of self-reference. Still, certain corollaries from these hypotheses can be stated in terms of falsifiable experiments. For starters, the law of biogenesis (which actually Morowitz hoped to refute in some part), is one such falsifiable hypothesis.

But back to your point of who supports evolution. I encourage all my IDEA members to study evolutionary biology as thorougly as possible and as time will permit. When and IDEA junior in biology mentioned she was thinking of taking evolutionary biology in her senior year, I encouraged her by all means to take it. If she in the end decides that ID and/or speacial creation is true, then she has will have done so with all the facts and arguments from both sides in hand.

respectfully,
Salvdor Cordova

Comment #27438

Posted by FL on April 30, 2005 12:29 PM (e)

The case of Antony Flew illustrates that principle well.

Well, Rev, hast thou got a snappy comeback for ~that~? Eh?

:-)

Comment #27442

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 30, 2005 1:01 PM (e)

salvador said:

“At our meeting at JMU the students discussed with me bio chemistry, physics, computation theory, Godel’s incompleteness, computation theory, cardinality of computable functions, Turing Machines, poplulation genetics, mito-chondrial Eve, Rayleigh-Bernard convection, Quantum Mechanics and the von-Neumann Regress, variable speed of light and the quantum intertial hypothesis and Bradley Michelson’s speed of light measurments, racemization dating, interpretations of Dayhoff Diagrams, testable predictions with sequence divergence ….all these topics are tied deeply to intelligent design and creationism. We have undergrad, grad, and PhD participants at our IDEA chapters. The level of intellectual discussion reaches extraodinary levels.”

and i am willing to bet that ALL of the intellectual discussion was related to issues of philosophy surrounding the many issues you list, not the real science of them.

please, do feel free to prove me wrong by listing the details of even one of the discussions that truly revolved around matters of science, rather than philosophy.

:p

Comment #27443

Posted by Michael Finley on April 30, 2005 1:02 PM (e)

Paul Flocken,

Formally, it is ‘Mr.’ for another couple of years; I’m a doctoral student in philosophy. But as I don’t intend for anyone to call me ‘Dr.’, ‘Mike’ will do just fine.

I gather that you are willing to grant that science … is truly blind to the supernatural. If so, are you then willing to grant that science is at least honest about the effort it makes, the claims it makes, and the conclusions it draws? … If you are willing to grant that science is an honest endeavor, would you be willing to go on the record as supporting teaching proper science in public schools…?

Part of my question concerns the proper definition of “science.” Are supernatural effects, miracles, within the scope of science? Is it possible for science to entertain the possibility of non-natural causes? It seems to me that a negative answer commits science to a strong form of methodological naturalism, i.e., non-natural causes are excluded a priori.

This question, as far as I can see, is unrelated to the truth or falsity of Darwinian evolution. Darwin and his disciples have produced natural explanations for the emergence and diversification of life. My position only concerns logically possible phenomena that persistently resist natural explanation, e.g., an observed verified bush that burns without being consumed and talks.

I do not object to Darwinian evolution being taught in schools. Indeed, I’m not sure that I won’t soon be a proponent of Darwinian evolution.

Comment #27445

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 30, 2005 1:07 PM (e)

“Empirical data of convergence and the fine tuning of sequence divergence is breaking the Darwinian interpretation of molecular data. Contrary to poplular perception, the hierarchical patterns of molecular taxonomy speak more of common design than common descent. The presence of convergences suggests design, and it also offers counter examples against common descent.”

oh please do list the exact nature of the data of which you speak, and how one can come to a conclusion that in any way suggests “design” as a better explanation???

pretty please?

Comment #27447

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 1:32 PM (e)

Though I believe ID is a scientific theory

Then quit stalling and SHOW US THIS SCIENTIFIC THEORY.

Show us what it says. Show us how to test it using the scientific method. Put up or shut up.

Jeez. Just ONCE, ONCE, I’d like to ask a creationist a straightforward question and get a straightforward answer, without having to sit through a dozen performances of the Fundie Two-Step first.

You say there is a scientific theory of ID. Great. Wonderful. Praise Allah.

Let’s SEE it.

What’s the big secret?

Comment #27448

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 1:36 PM (e)

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Comment #27450

Posted by Henry J on April 30, 2005 1:38 PM (e)

Re “by the way, what would we do if a truly irresistible force met a truly immovable obstacle?”

Find some green kryptonite and use it to modify the situation.

Henry

Comment #27451

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 1:39 PM (e)

By the way, Dr Cordova, you STILL have not answered the simple question I asked of you.

I will ask again:

*ahem*

What, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than, say, weather forecasting or accident investigation or medicine. Please be as specific as possible.

Comment #27453

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 1:42 PM (e)

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Comment #27455

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 1:45 PM (e)

Still, certain corollaries from these hypotheses can be stated in terms of falsifiable experiments. For starters

For starters, you can tell me what conclusion Id “theory” reaches about the age of the earth, and why.

For seconds, you can tell me what conclusion ID “theory” reaches about whether humans are descended from apelike primates, and why.

Then you can tell me how to test your conclusions.

Or are you gonna run away from that question, too ……

Comment #27457

Posted by qetzal on April 30, 2005 2:25 PM (e)

Mike Finley wrote:

A scientific prediction must follow logically from a theory together with some set of initial conditions.

Scientific predictions come from hypotheses as well, even before there is any applicable theory.

Theories involve physical mechanisms, natural laws, etc. None of that is possible here because, again, a miracle is not a natural event.

Once again, if “not natural” means (among other things) “not subject to prediction in any way” then I agree, but I maintain that not everyone subscribes to that meaning.

If you still disagree, perhaps you could explain the flaw in the prayer example. Is prayer not “supernatural”? Do you dispute that prayer can be tested in double blind, scientific fashion? Do you not consider that sort of prayer “real”? Or is there something else I’m missing?

I have the clear impression that I’m missing something in your argument, but I can’t figure out what it is. To be fair, I usually do better extrapolating from the specific to the general, rather than the other way around, so if you could try to present your point in the context of the prayer example, maybe it will become clear to me.

Comment #27458

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on April 30, 2005 2:27 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

Can I rightly conclude, then, that (while acting as a scientist) there is no conceivable event(s) under any set of circmustances that would suggest the possibility of a miracle to you?

It depends on what you call “a miracle”. See, as far as I understand a “miracle” should be some natural phenomenon (say, a burning and talking bush) that comes about as a consequence of non natural causes.

My sincere question is: if those causes are “non natural”… what are they? And I don’t accept “God” as an answer. How does a non-material non-energetic entity produce material and/or energetic effects?

In reality, if you really want to know, my personal opinion is that, if one or more “gods” exist, they are de facto part of Nature.

In other words, I don’t look at the material/energetic universe and declare “this is all there is”, as you charged me with thinking. It is exactly the other way around: I consider all that is and call that “nature”. Do gods exist? Then either they interact with the universe (and we can take at least a look, as in the case of the study on prayer effect) or they don’t, and in that case it is exactly as if they didn’t exist.

I’m not restricting the definition of existence to exclude the supernatural; I’m actually expanding the definition of natural to encompass “miracles”, i.e. events that contradict our present understanding of the laws of nature.

Comment #27460

Posted by qetzal on April 30, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

I agree 100% with A. Nominee’s last post (#27458).

Comment #27482

Posted by Paul Flocken on April 30, 2005 5:04 PM (e)

Comment #27319
Posted by Dave Thomas on April 29, 2005 04:37 PM

The conversation has been interesting, but never went to places I thought it would (such as Lisa Simpson being the Icon of an Evolutionist).

I don’t get this. The link to pictures of Lisa Simpson was in your original post. You wrote it. Why would you be surprised by it?
Sincerely, Paul

Comment #27484

Posted by JRQ on April 30, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

“Are supernatural effects, miracles, within the scope of science?”

Do they make contact with DATA? in other words, does a “supernatural effect” reliably manifest itself in some measurable property of the world?

If no, than it is not within the scope of science.

“Is it possible for science to entertain the possibility of non-natural causes? “

This is impossible to answer until you are clear on what it means for a cause to be “non-natural”.

All causes that affect material data with some regularity would seem to be accessable to science…but then, why wouldn’t all such causes be ACTUALLY “natural” by definition? To proceed you need to precise on what features distinguish a “natural” cause from a “supernatural” cause.

“It seems to me that a negative answer commits science to a strong form of methodological naturalism, i.e., non-natural causes are excluded a priori.”

Excluded from what, exactly? a testable hypothesis about an effect? Science prioritizes the testing of hypotheses that can be ruled out if they are false…if your non-natural causes can never be ruled out (say, for example, their effects on data are not discernably different than those of natural causes), then they are non-scientific. If they can in principle be ruled out by looking at data, then they would be scientific, whether technically “natural” or not.

So again, your questions can’t really be answered without more information on how one distinguishes a supernatural cause from an natural cause if either can reliably affect observations.

Comment #27504

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on April 30, 2005 7:56 PM (e)

Is it possible for science to entertain the possibility of non-natural causes?

Show us how.

Propose a hypothesis involving a non-natural cause, and show us how to test it using the scientific method.

Until then, you’re just mentally weiner-wanking.

Comment #27542

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 1, 2005 7:53 AM (e)

My, my – it looks as if Dr Cordova has flown the coop without answering any of my questions, just like Dr Beckwith did.

I’m shocked. Utterly shocked.

Comment #27561

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 11:38 AM (e)

A. Nominee

In what sense is a burning, talking bush a “natural phenomenon” if it persistently resists natural explanations? Shoe-horning an (in my mind) obvious example of a non-natural phenomenon into the category “natural” is just another means of stating that science must hold out for a natural cause come what may. If that is your position, so be it, but it amounts to an a priori exclusion of the supernatural.

…if those causes are “non natural” … what are they? And I don’t accept “God” as an answer. How does a non-material non-energetic entity produce material and/or energetic effects?

Whether you accept it or not, “God” is my answer. To ask “how…?” in the manner you are is, again, another means of begging the question, i.e., the form of the question presupposes that only natural explanations will do.

I consider all that is and call that “nature”.

But how do you consider all that is? Sensation? Are their other modes of awareness that you countenance, e.g., religious experience? I hate to be redundant, but at every turn you make the very commitment I am questioning. Billions of people believe in the supernatural, the divine. Are they simply ignorant?

Comment #27562

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 11:40 AM (e)

I’d say the most persistent typo I commit is ‘their’ for ‘they’re’. Phonetic spelling errors are too easy without spell check. I think PT needs an editing feature, but maybe I’m just nit-picky.

Comment #27564

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 1, 2005 11:56 AM (e)

One associates the expression “Deus sive Natura” (God and/or nature) with the pantheistic Spinoza but lots of writers in antiquity and the middle ages identified God and nature—even the 18th Century American Jonathan Edwards sometimes spoke of God in terms of the connectedness of things in nature. The notion that there is an obvious and eternal difference between nature and supernature is, to say the least, problematic. Why treat NATURE (note all caps) as if it were the name for a metaphysical entity? Or, more to the point, if you are going to treat in this Age of Reason style, shouldn’t you specify what it is supposed to mean, not only for you but in the sciences. Hint: “Nature” is not a technical term in any science. Nobody does dimensional analysis on Nature.

Maybe the problem here is that “natural causes” are spoken of in this discussion as if there were something definable in advance about what counts as a natural cause. It seems to me with “natural causes” merely refers to the class of things that institutionalized science happens to recognize at some particular time as belonging in its bailiwick. If burning bushes started turning up and you could get grant money for studying ‘em, I expect the cash value of the term “natural causes” would change to reflect this fact.

Comment #27565

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 1, 2005 12:08 PM (e)

Finley’s back!

Billions of people believe in the supernatural, the divine. Are they simply ignorant?

That’s an easy one Finley: yes, many of them are simply ignorant.

Are all of them ignorant: no, but that doesn’t prove scientists should consider the possibility of deities when trying to explain a phenomenon.

Are you ignorant: about some things, I’d say willfully so. Otherwise your behavior is difficult to explain.

Comment #27567

Posted by Flint on May 1, 2005 12:45 PM (e)

If we define a supernatural phenomenon as the default (i.e. We presume it’s supernatural until the natural explanation is found, but we never give up searching for it), then I think Finley’s supernatural exists in this sense. I admit I consider it a rather artificial default. I would prefer “I don’t know” to “I’ll play make believe”. I see a genuine danger in playing make-believe, because it tricks us into thinking we have an explanation when we don’t, and inhibits sincere investigation.

If we define the supernatural as whatever it takes to impose some teleological pattern on the otherwise “meaningless” chains of coincidence that compose reality, then I agree billions of people do exactly this. The human brain comes equipped with both the ability and the craving to find such patterns and purposes, and WILL find them whether or not they exist.

I think a good case could be made that science has no way of investigating the supernatural because it has never had any occasion to do so. Examples of the supernatural are either mental experiments like Finley needs to conduct, or they are artificially imposed patterns without underlying causation, or they exist in fables composed for purposes of making some other point, like any fiction.

Gods give no evidence of existing except insofar as we WISH them to exist, so we SAY they exist, and then attribute to their wills whatever we desire (or can’t explain otherwise to our satisfaction. Coincidence and contingency are not satisfactory). The fact that Finley has all of historical reality to choose from and cannot find one single verifiable example (and must make one up) ought to be a clue. The general question here of “How would things be like if they were different, and how would science deal with this?” becomes thin entertainment after a while. Finley’s problems don’t lie with the philosophy of science, they lie with the perversity of his personal needs.

Comment #27571

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 1:08 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

I’m not the one “shoehorning” anything.

You want science to consider a new class of phenomena? Fine! Show that they exist and we can talk about them. I’m not interested in “extreme thought experiments”.

To me, a tangible bush (matter) emitting flames (energy) and yet not getting consumed (a measurable phenomenon) is “natural” - according to your definition - provided it happens to exist, and as such it is potentially subject to scientific thought. How unfortunate that it doesn’t, eh?

The burden of proof (and even before proof, the burden of definition) of “the supernatural” is strictly on the shoulders of those who make exintential claims. Try as you may, you cannot dodge this.

Tell me, does science rightly exclude the existence of invisible pink unicorns? After all, they could be behind all sort of strange phenomena, from the exact value of the Cosmological Constant (as per Mr. Heddle’s misguided ideas about “fine tuning”) to the uncannily arrogant pretense of those who see humanity as the intended end product of the universe…

If you define nature as “all there is, excluding God”, and then ask me why does science ignore God, I’ll simply ask you why does science exclude invisible pink unicorns.

In short, don’t shoehorn your preconceived notion into science, Mr. Finley: science starts from experience, and as soon as your God becomes an experience, science will gladly try to learn about It, Her, or Him as the case may be.

Comment #27572

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 1:18 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

Gods give no evidence of existing except insofar as we WISH them to exist, so we SAY they exist, and then attribute to their wills whatever we desire (or can’t explain otherwise to our satisfaction. Coincidence and contingency are not satisfactory). […] Finley’s problems don’t lie with the philosophy of science, they lie with the perversity of his personal needs.

The perversity of my personal needs? My wishes? Are you in a position to speak intelligently about these? Are you in a position to deny the evidential validity of my religious experiences? Absolutely not. Let’s not get too polemical here.

The fact that Finley has all of historical reality to choose from and cannot find one single verifiable example (and must make one up) ought to be a clue.

Historical reality? The number of historical claims concerning miracles is rather large. A notable example from my religious tradition is the resurrection of Jesus (or the resurrection of Lazarus, turning water into wine, healing lepers, etc., etc.). Your predictable reply is to deny that these were miracles, which puts us right back where we started.

It hardly suffices to punish the word “nature” to such a degree that the distinction between natural and supernatural disappears. That is an obvious “back-door” commitment to strong methodological naturalism, i.e., you’ve simply defined miracles away. I could reformulate the problem inside such parameters by drawing the appropriate distinctions within “nature,” but what’s the point?

It seems to me that you (plural, i.e., ‘yall’) are committed to strong methodological naturalism, but for some reason are uncomfortable with saying so.

Comment #27576

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 1, 2005 1:44 PM (e)

In the contemporary context, it is “natural” not “supernatural” that’s the residual category. Religious people know perfectly well what the supernatural is—the workings of gods and spirits. They’re the ones with the a view of the way the universe works that has been nailed down in advance. There’s never anything really new in official Catholicism or other traditional faiths, and the believers brag about this stasis. Meanwhile, the content of the “natural” has changed drastically as we have actually found out things about the world. The natural is the stuff you find out on the other side of the banalities of dogma.

The alarming thing about the sciences is that, unlike religions, they are beyond the control of human wishes. Nobody knew in 1800 where collecting bugs or experimenting with electricity would lead. And nobody knows in 2005 where additional research will lead. It isn’t like theology. You can’t put the fix in.

Comment #27577

Posted by qetzal on May 1, 2005 1:48 PM (e)

Mike Finley:

I’m still curious to know your answers to my previous questions. I’ll simplify and repeat them, in case you missed them before:

1. Do you agree that “effective” prayer (if it exists) is non-natural?

Note - I don’t mean prayer simply as an act. I mean prayer that leads to a response by the diety of your choice.

2. Do you agree that science can do valid tests of whether prayer leads to reproducible effects under certain conditions (e.g. by double blind studies)?

If you agree with 1 & 2, doesn’t that show that science can, in fact, address some non-natural phenomena?

If you disagree with either or both, would you mind explaining why? I’m sincerely curious?

Comment #27582

Posted by Paul Flocken on May 1, 2005 2:39 PM (e)

Comment #27572
Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 01:18 PM

Are you in a position to speak intelligently about these? Are you in a position to deny the evidential validity of my religious experiences? Absolutely not. Let’s not get too polemical here…Historical reality? The number of historical claims concerning miracles is rather large. A notable example from my religious tradition is the resurrection of Jesus (or the resurrection of Lazarus, turning water into wine, healing lepers, etc., etc.). Your predictable reply is to deny that these were miracles, which puts us right back where we started.

I haven’t yet been able to draw up a concise, integrated addition to this thread’s de facto topic, but this could not pass. Flint was willing to grant you that any personal experiences in your heart were evidence to you of the supernatural, but the examples you listed are not in your personal experience. You have teased a concession, applicable to you, from Flint, but then wanted to apply it to the whole world. I smell a fallacy of composition here. You yourself acceded to science needing observable and verifiable phenomena to work on. The standards of evidence for the time period and location you reference were CRAP. So I ask you, are you in a position to SUPPORT the evidential validity of your PERSONAL religious experiences. Are you equally in a position to support the evidential validity of historical claims NOT, I repeat NOT, in your personal religious experience. We don’t have to deny, you have to support. That IS the way it works.

Comment #27584

Posted by JRQ on May 1, 2005 2:58 PM (e)

“It hardly suffices to punish the word “nature” to such a degree that the distinction between natural and supernatural disappears.”

But I don’t think we have heard yet what precisely you think this distinction is.

I appreciate your logical point that if science is committed to a “strong methodological naturalism”, then a simple failure to “find” supernatural causes with scientific investigation does not eliminate the possibility that supernatural causes exist.

Fine.

But you then try to take the next step of actually “diagnosing” science as meeting your criterion for “strong methodological naturalism”, and you haven’t succeeded. Basically, you’d need to demonstrate that what we see in the history of science is a pattern of progress that matches more closely what we would expect under the following condition #1 than under condition #2:

1) There are supernatural causes but science is committed to naturalism.

2) There are ONLY natural causes.

Of course, if there are only natural causes, then the point is moot…so, provided we agree that at least some causes are “natural” you first need to be clear on how a situation with “supernatural” and “natural” causes would be different from one with “just natural” causes. Then you need to demonstrate there would be some discernable effect of “committing” to natural causes if supernatural causes exist. Finally, you would need to show that actual science follows a pattern consistent with #1 but not #2.

Comment #27588

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 3:38 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

the real torture is to decide that gods exist, then inferring that they must be able to do something, then calling this something “supernatural”, and then finally claiming that, since people lacking your precommitment do not see anything like this “supernatural”, then they must be unwilling or unable to see.

What if that something does not exist? Are you willing to concede that, if no gods exist, then we would expect to see precisely what we see, i.e. some natural cause for every natural phenomenon?

This has nothing to do with “strong methodological naturalism”; this has something to do with your “strong methodological supernaturalism”.

Once again: show me a burning bush that speaks intelligently and then we’ll talk. “Nature”, to me, is everything that exists, whether I am aware of it or not; if your hypothetical entity exists, then it is part of nature. You’ve been incapable of giving us any definition of the supernatural that would enable anyone - including someone with your same precommitment - to identify a phenomenon as being “supernaturally caused”. I rest my case: it might well be true that science is unable to detect what you yourself are unable to detect, but that hardly seems a shortcoming.

Comment #27589

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 3:39 PM (e)

qetzal,

I do believe that “effective” prayer (if it exists) is non-natural. Your second question, however, requires some stage-setting. Let me play devil’s advocate and consider your example from the other side.

Suppose we conduct a study as you suggest, and it turns out that the “targets” of the directed prayers benefit in the relevant respect while the others do not (ceteris paribus, of course).

What can science infer from this? That the cause of the effect is non-natural? On what basis? There’s nothing particularly supernatural about saying prayers. Neither is there anything supernatural about, e.g., people becoming healthy. Where, then, is the evidence?

Even if it could be established that the correlation of prayer and health (assuming there is one) is not accidental, say by repeating the experiment with the same result, it would not follow that the correlation represented a super-natural connexion. There could be a natural explanation that is presently unknown.

Returning to my side of the discussion, strong methodological naturalism seizes on this last sentence and demands that science hold out for a natural explanation. Thus, come what may, supernatural causes are excluded a priori. I take this to be the position of A. Nominee and Flint.

It follows that evidence for the supernatural is by definition impossible. Nothing whatever would count as evidence for a miracle. Thus, the requests for evidence - “Show me a miracle” - are empty because nothing could possibly qualify.

Not comfortable with this dogmatic stance, various particpants in this thread have tried to deconstruct ‘God’, ‘supernatural’, ‘natural’, etc. without realizing that their proposed definitions make the same commitment as the simple admission of strong methodological naturalism.

Comment #27591

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 3:48 PM (e)

A. Nominee,

That God exists is evident through religious experience. It is an experience that I share with the vast majority of men, past and present. It is not a sensory experience, and so its justification does not depend on the senses.

Let me ask you this: Do you only believe something if it can be verified by the senses?

Comment #27592

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 4:04 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

I’m sorry, sir, but the very existence of atheism means that god(s) are not self-evident. What’s evident is that many people make up the most diverse definitions for one or more entities they call “gods”, but they are unable to come up with anything resembling a unanimous decision. Whether anything or anyone exists that corresponds to any one of those (mutually exclusive, in most cases) descriptions remains to be seen.

Tell me, sir: what distinguishes your claims from those of any snake-oil salesman if your experience is “not sensory” (and I will add non-rational as well, which is a necessary corollary of your words)?

If nothing can be used to distinguish objectively between a “true” supernatural cause and a “false” supernatural cause, how can we (scientists and non scientists alike) “know” anything about it?

In other words: unless you are able to share your experience with me, it remains outside of the realm of knowledge, let alone science.

Comment #27594

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 4:09 PM (e)

A. Nominee,

Answer my question and I’ll answer yours.

…unless you are able to share your experience with me, it remains outside of the realm of knowledge, let alone science.

I share my experience with quite a few people. I’m a Christian, and at last count, there are a couple billion of us. Are you asking to go to church with me? If not, I’m not sure what you’re after.

Comment #27596

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 1, 2005 4:15 PM (e)

Not comfortable with this dogmatic stance, various particpants in this thread have tried to deconstruct ‘God’, ‘supernatural’, ‘natural’, etc. without realizing that their proposed definitions make the same commitment as the simple admission of strong methodological naturalism.

I’m a little curious — why the heck are you bringing up “god” and “religion” in the first place? Don’t all those IDers keep telling us that ID is about SCIENCE and has NOTHING to do with religion or god – nothing AT ALL???????

Or are IDers just lying to us when they claim that?

Comment #27598

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 4:27 PM (e)

Tireless Blowhard,

This is a courtesy, one you don’t deserve and one that won’t be repeated. I have no plans of engaging you in substative discussion because I do not believe you are capable of it. So unless you just like asking questions that I am not going to answer, direct your efforts elswhere.

Comment #27599

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 4:39 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

Are you asking to go to church with me? If not, I’m not sure what you’re after.

Well, let me explain. In the real world out here, if I want people to assent to a claim I make, I must be able to share with them my experience, i.e. to show them something (some sensory experience, possibly supplemented by a certain quantity of reasoning). If I tell anyone “there is this thing I know, but I cannot explain what it is, cannot show anything for it, cannot justify it rationally. I just know it is like I say! trust me!”, people will look to me quite strangely and say “yeah, whatever!”

I’ve been asking you to “show your hand” since the beginning of this discussion, and you have done everything but showing your hand. What is this “supernatural” you speak about? The will of God? Then what is this “God” you speak of as if everybody knew what it is and could reliably identify traces of its action?

I’m a Christian, and at last count, there are a couple billion of us.

No, you are mistaken, sir. There’s a couple billion people who share a name but practically nothing else, and even those who have devoted a lot of thought to this question cannot tell us how to reliably identify this supposed entity. Under that label you find people who idolize a book to the point of believing in things like the Noachian flood and the literal six-day creation of the universe, and at the same time people who are practically indistinguishable from Spinozan Deists. If that is “sharing”, I don’t know what isn’t!

Do you really need me to detail, once again, the age-old pattern of “supernatural acts of God” being finally understood by rational thought? At which point, after discarding “all natural explanation”, should we have accepted the “evident” existence of Thor as the cause of lightning? Or the “evident” rage of Neptune as the reason for tsunamis?

Sorry, but our senses and reason have been shown to be valid tools for expanding our knowledge. Your “religious experience” has not, as far as I know. If you have different data, please present them.

Comment #27600

Posted by Steven Laskoske on May 1, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

SeanD wrote:

This is a little off topic, though it does reference a quote from the post above— I wonder what IDists take ‘philosophical naturalism’ to be.

That’s easy. ‘Philosophical naturalism’ is actually having evidence to support your claims.

Comment #27601

Posted by Michael Finley on May 1, 2005 4:56 PM (e)

A. Nominee wrote:

…if I want people to assent to a claim I make, I must be able to share with them my experience, i.e. to show them something (some sensory experience, possibly supplemented by a certain quantity of reasoning).

I’ll ask again: Do you only believe something if it can be verified by the senses?

Comment #27604

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 5:12 PM (e)

“There could be a natural explanation that is presently unknown.

Returning to my side of the discussion, strong methodological naturalism seizes on this last sentence and demands that science hold out for a natural explanation.”

You said it yourself. There COULD be a natural explanation. Science demands explanations that can be tested, simply because that is the way to further science.

say we did find that someone who prays for something so very improbable gets their prayer answered. try something extreme, like person (A) in England prays for person (B) in Utah to have quintuplets. Person (B) had had a sonigram in their 1st trimester indicating only single fetus, but ends up giving birth to quintuplets.

say we are able to repeat this several times as an experiment.

OK, so now we have an observation that cannot be explained by our current knowledge of biology, that is repeatable.

now then, let’s assume we decide to accept that the cause is “supernatural” in origin.

of what value would our new hypothesis have? How would we test it? how could we make significant predictions based on it?

Can you see how this would not further our knowledge any further if we decide on a supernatural cause?

THIS is why science looks first to naturalistic explanations, not because there is any a-priori exclusion of the supernatural, but simply because it is not worthwhile to pursue it in any scientific sense.

it is not trying to reject “religion”, it merely sees it as a non-utilitarian starting point for investigation.

looking into the past, of what value was it to have accepted the theory of disease as that of supernatural origin for so many centuries? Was it not much more productive once people started attempting naturalistic investigation of such matters?

It is YOURSELF who is in danger of making this purely a dichotomy between naturalists and non. What value do you see in making this dichotomy, except to support an untenable philosophical position?

I can only assume two answers to that question:

1. you are in genuine confusion yourself, and are legitimately attempting to resolve personal conflict by discussing the issues here (repeatedly, i might add).

~or~

2. you are simply an intelligent troll, who attempts to deflect the topic on just about every thread you post in.

is there a 3rd alternative i am missing?

Comment #27605

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 5:16 PM (e)

Mr. Finley:

Once again, you play fast and loose with definitions. I use my senses, augmented and boosted by my reason, and the senses and reason of the rest of humanity, in order to expand my knowledge. When I don’t “know” something, I may make an educated guess; usually, I refrain from making uneducated guesses in fields where I am completely out of my depth. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable position; actually, it’s far more honest than “I don’t know - but I believe, so I don’t need to know!”

Now, what about you answering one of my questions to you, sir?

Let me restate them, for your convenience:

1) Do you have a positive definition of “supernatural causation” that would enable someone else (e.g., me) to reliably determine whether some phenomenon is indeed “supernaturally caused” without having to examine and discard a potentially infinite number of natural causes?

2) Do you have a reliable test for “supernatural claims” that would enable someone else (e.g., me) to reliably decide which are right (if any) and which are mere human invention, delusion, hallucination, etc.?

3) At which point would we have been wise to stop investigating tsunamis, finally admitting that they were the fruit of Neptune’s rage?

4) If question no. 3 appears to beg the question, how is that not the case for your own original contention that science should be able to draw a line and finally surrender to “it’s the will of God”?

Comment #27606

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 5:25 PM (e)

About prayer:

What science might do, if experimental data began to indicate that praying alters probabilities, is investigate further. For instance:

a) would praying to a specific deity be more/less efficient in obtaining the desired result?

b) would praying in a specific language be more/less efficient?

c) would ritualized prayers (standardized texts) be more/less efficient than “free-form” prayer?

d) would burning incense, chanting “hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare”, shaving one’s head, castrating the people doing the prayers, sacrificing one’s firstborn, burning animal carcasses, injecting psychotropic drugs, or other rituals, enhance our chances? (No disrespect meant: all these have been claimed as necessary or at least useful additions to prayer by very sincere religious people).

Somehow, I think many religious people might be a little worried by such a research program; however, I might be mistaken.

Comment #27607

Posted by Flint on May 1, 2005 5:27 PM (e)

Finley:

I’ll ask again: Do you only believe something if it can be verified by the senses?

Perhaps this is a trick question. I have worked with people who genuinely sincerely hear voices in the walls. The voices tell them to do things. Now, what exactly is the mechanism here? No instrumentation yet devised can find those voices anywhere outside the brain of the hearer. Yet these people are ‘sensing’ the voices in some way. I raise this question because your ‘religious experience’ seems no different in kind or cause from their voices.

Your way of knowing things is almost surely not supernatural; it’s a fairly normal quirk of the human brain. As Aureola Nominee points out, billions of people might share what you call a religious experience, but certainly do not share the content of that experience. As John Lennon wrote: “What do you see when you turn out the lights? I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.”

I think we could legitimately go a step further here. The practice of science recognizes the profound fallibility of human investigators. We hear voices, we see what we expect to see, we construct experiments with the intended results built in (without even realizing it), we take sides and adopt bias, and it comes quite naturally for us to construct the evidence as required by foregone conclusions. Recognizing this problem is the first step to countering it, but countering it is not easy. So we have peer review, we have replication of results, we have double-blind experiments, we deliberately encourage conflicting viewpoints, out of which are constructed useful methodologies. In other words, we do everything possible in science to neutralize the subjective.

Religion, quite the contrary, glories in the subjective. Even wallows in it. Even in near-legend, the prophets worked to induce unnatural mental states – they took drugs, they fasted, they caused themselves intense pain, they tried for sensory deprivation, etc. And yes, these are another avenue to knowledge entirely. The search for truth and the search for meaning often lead in entirely different directions.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the real source of your rather desperate need to rationalize the supernatural into existence were located within your brain by neuroscience, perhaps even within your own lifetime. In the meantime, I submit that the supernatural is something that ‘exists’ alongside your entirely-internal religious experience. The human brain is prone to misfire on a fairly regular basis. Religious experience may well be what such misfirings SEEM like to the brain suffering them.

Comment #27609

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 5:39 PM (e)

“I’ll ask again: Do you only believe something if it can be verified by the senses?”

I would add on to AN’s answer and say:

it doesn’t matter. what matters to science is only things that can be tested, verified by theory if not purely by sensory testing. It’s simply not a matter of belief, but rather of utility.

you keep seeming to confuse science with religion. the two simply are NOT one and the same.

science does not attempt to be an all-encompasing investigation of “TRUTH”, but rather a great way to investigate those things that we can measure, or predict based on measurable observation. It has no value as a method to investigate things that do not have “naturalistic” explanations, for the reasons i have explained above.

We only rely on using science to explain the testable, and simply answer “unknown” (at least for now) to the rest. The problem throughout history, is that people are never satisfied with that answer, so must come up with other ways that make them feel comfortable with that “unknown” portion.

I am quite satisfied that current scientific methodology is adequate to deal with the currently testable; it has shown a tremendous track record. It is when I see the methods created to deal with the unknown portion, attempting to interfere with perfectly good methods of dealing with the testable, that i begin to denigrate.

So should you. so should anybody who agrees that the scientific method has value.

Comment #27610

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 1, 2005 5:42 PM (e)

Tireless Blowhard,

This is a courtesy, one you don’t deserve and one that won’t be repeated. I have no plans of engaging you in substative discussion because I do not believe you are capable of it. So unless you just like asking questions that I am not going to answer, direct your efforts elswhere.

Ooops, you mis-spelled “questions that I cannot answer”.

How about if someone ELSE asks you, Mikey. Will you answer THEN?

Comment #27646

Posted by Gary on May 1, 2005 9:11 PM (e)

“I have no plans of engaging you in substative discussion because I do not believe you are capable of it. So unless you just like asking questions that I am not going to answer, direct your efforts elswhere.”

cf. Ralph Kramden:
“You think I won’t tell ya, you think I won’t tell ya? Is that what you think that I won’t tell ya?!”… “Just for that, I WON’T tell ya!”

Comment #27647

Posted by qetzal on May 1, 2005 9:14 PM (e)

C’mon, Mr. Finley. You’re dancing pretty hard, but you’re not that good a dancer.

First, you wrote:

I do believe that “effective” prayer (if it exists) is non-natural.

So you agreed with my first question. Then, you wrote:

Suppose we conduct a study as you suggest, and it turns out that the “targets” of the directed prayers benefit in the relevant respect while the others do not (ceteris paribus, of course).

From this, I infer that you agree that science can conduct valid tests on prayer.

But then you argue that it doesn’t really count, because there’s no proof the cause is non-natural. You already agreed that prayer itself is not natural, so I assume you’re postulating some other phenomenon that behaves just like effective prayer, but is entirely natural.

Then you state:

various particpants in this thread have tried to deconstruct ‘God’, ‘supernatural’, ‘natural’, etc. without realizing that their proposed definitions make the same commitment as the simple admission of strong methodological naturalism.

Don’t you see? It’s you that’s defining supernatural as anything beyond the study of science.

You accuse science of a commitment to “strong methodological naturalism” as if science chooses to ignore the supernatural. In reality, the way you define the supernatural places it outside of science. I don’t have any problem with that, but it would be better if you recognized and acknowledged it.

Sir Toejam made an excellent point:

[Science is] not a matter of belief, but rather of utility.

That sums up what I said before. Anything that can in some way be predicted, tested, observed, verified, can approached scientifically. Whether that includes the “supernatural” as you see it dependes on how you define supernatural.

Comment #27648

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 9:18 PM (e)

I apologize for answering him before you had an opportunity to do so, Qetzal. I’m just not the patient sort.

cheers

Comment #27650

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 1, 2005 9:33 PM (e)

steve

Why should I worship such a being?

Bro, you can always fake it. I’d hate to see you turned into a li’l crystal.

Comment #27651

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 1, 2005 9:43 PM (e)

Salvador Cordova

Intelligent design may not be ready for prime time in the high schools, but it is ready for prime time in a religion classes where controversial subjects are ripe for exploration.

HAHAHHAHAHAHHHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHHA!!!!!!!!

Hilarious.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “discussion.”

You’d make a great revolutionary Salvador in a country where a bunch of extremist freaks were trying to establish a theocracy. You know, like the Iranian mullahs when they overthrew the Shah. You’d fit in perfectly, absolutely perfectly.

Comment #27652

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 1, 2005 9:55 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #27653

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 9:59 PM (e)

now that you mention it, it IS rather odd. I’m sure they have legions of scycophants, don’t they?

but then, i guess sheep like being led, that’s why they let these doofuses do the talking for them.

Comment #27661

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 1, 2005 10:36 PM (e)

My own emphasis, in this debate, has consistently been on communication.

These guys can’t define what they are talking about (indeed they insist it can’t really be communicated), can’t offer any method for letting anyone - not already convinced - realize whether their claims are founded (indeed they insist that “faith cannot be put to the test”)…

and this is somehow science’s fault?

Get your own act straight, guys. Do you really want science to examine religious claims? Offer science one small scrap of actual evidence, one teeny tiny testable claim, and see what happens!

Here’s an extreme thought experiment for you, Mr. Finley:

Imagine we study prayer and it turns out that it works… when spoken in Japanese by martial art practitioners who address our collective ancestors! Then what, Mr. Finley?

Be careful what you wish for.

Comment #27663

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 10:57 PM (e)

ah, i remember the flak that occured after it was shown by three different dating methods that the shroud of turin was not 2000 years old.

I’d like finley to explain the social reaction that occured because of that little bit of scientific analysis of a supposedly miraculous bit of evidence.

don’t bother trying to counter the dating method, it’s not important for this question.

ask yourself why there was such a backlash afterwards, and then please try to explain it to us.

Comment #27670

Posted by Dave Thomas on May 1, 2005 11:27 PM (e)

Well folks. it’s been a very educational thread! And well behaved, for the most part. I’m disemvoweling one comment that got a little too personal.

As promised, however, it’s time to bring down the curtain.

Not to fear - there are other threads, new topics.

Till next time, Dave