How I spent my morning.

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A google search this morning turned up a right-wing, err “conservative voice” in the person of Fred Reed. Mr. Reed apparently failed as a chemistry student (hey Fred- I hit the P Chem wall too), and instead had a career in journalism. He is quite upset with science, and particularly evolution. Fredwin On Evolution. He attracted some dupes at a free “blogspace” (scan down to “Fred on evolution” posted on Tuesday).

Well, I asked myself, “Self, do you want to play with these guys?” And, myself replied, “The last fishing boat left an hour ago, no editors are particularly ticked off at you (at the moment), and it is better than poking out your eyes with sharp pointy sticks.”

But, I still wondered, “Are you sure that it is better than poking out our eyes with sharp pointy sticks.”

And myself settled the matter with an irrefutable argument, “Trust me! If you can’t trust your self, who can you trust?”

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Fred on Evolution from Gene Expression on March 11, 2005 12:52 AM

Every now and then someone capable of reasonable thought writes out a long attack on evolution, and I feel like responding with a persuasive essay explaining why he is wrong. In fact, I have been known to do that in... Read More

145 Comments

Give Fred credit, he made hardly any absolute claims of what is or isn’t true.. all he did was express a view that skepticism as to unproved details is not unjustifiable. I think you do him a disservice in seeking to eviscerate him in this way.

I actually wrote him an email response earlier today:

Thanks for a typically incisive article, Fred. I am one of those who take the plausibility of Evolution as being most consistent with how I observe the world working around me, but I very much appreciate your thoughtful critique. Not all evolutionists will reflexively take what you have written and read ‘heathen!’ into it. If by happy chance you actually are a heathen, well, that’s of course your own look out. I don’t get that from this article, though. Small comfort, I expect. I would like to say that scientists are investigating just about everything you write about, and that what they are doing is as fascinating as your questions. On biogeneis: I’ve a few interesting links that I’ve come across that talk about experimentation in the field. The first two talk about a research program to create simple structures capable of Darwinian evolution from some RNA and bubbles of fatty acids. http://www.carlzimmer.com/articles/[…]ore_DNA.html http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/006006.html The next link is a computer simulation that analyzes the necessity of structural separation among early replicators in order to evolve more complex (and reliable) replication machinery. http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaP[…];dynoptions= Life is complicated stuff, but I think it’s clear that it’s either not as hard to come about as we intuitively suspect it is, or that there was something that helped it past the hard parts. Intelligent Design folks claim that, at a minimum, something helped it past the hard parts, but I suspect that life in this universe just isn’t that hard. It may be that a Creator created the universe in that way on purpose, but then one has to wonder how and why the Creator came about. On your starlings vs. guacamayos conundrum: I think the matter of things is that different living things go their own way through history, and everybody is optimizing for slightly different things, as a result of their unique history. Guacamayos may be colorful not because it makes them easier to find, but because the guacamayo ladies decided at some point that they just liked that sort of thing. Ditto the starlings. Who knows? You’re right that the ‘just so stories’ are not to be relied on as evidence for evolution, but most of the Darwinian skeptics I’ve met tell ‘just can’t be so’ stories which are equally difficult to base a reliable argument on. As far as significantly beyond-the-mean human intelligence being maladaptive: That may be true only recently. One of the things that seems to keep life interesting on this planet is that the natural and competitive environment around each of us is always changing, and what might have helped (or been neutral to) an ancestor might help us slightly less today. Perhaps society (which evolves faster than we do, culturally and technologically) has evolved to the point where you don’t have to be that smart to survive well enough to have a mess of kids. Thanks very much for all of your material. It’s a joy to read intelligent, elegant, and curmudgeonly writing such as your own. Jon

The last point seems hard to grasp for most creationists today. They seem to think that all the babbling about bit sand the UPB actually means something in terms of being able to calculate the likihood of some sort of self-replicator coming into being. How they think they can calculate the probability of something happening without:

a) knowing EXACTLY what the target somethings are (we don’t) b) knowing at least roughly what sorts of environments the target somethings have to form in (we don’t, or at least, we vaguely know only some of them) c) in some way modeling causal reality of how all the different things in these environments interact

The biggest headslapper is c). Somehow, people like Dembski et al have convinced themselves that you can model the complex causal realities of the natural world by simply flipping a bunch of coins in indepedant, repeated trials!

Jonathan Abbey, you might want to mention that while biologists can indeed be prone to telling “just so” stories, the fact is most of them then go on to try and test the implications of those stories to see if they make sense. For instance, biologists didn’t simply “just so” the idea that bdelloid rotifers had become asexual at some specific point in their evolutionary past: they actually thought up a way to test the idea and even get a pretty decent date onto when it happened.

Oh, no doubt. I think Fred is extrapolating popular recountings of evolutionary stories into the work of professional biologists, but I don’t. To the extent that ‘just so’ stories are ever told, however, I think that ID’ers like Behe are worse.

You stated that: Some immediate examples of evolution in action are found at 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent.  Further examples are given at Observed Instances of Speciation.  So, we have taken care of the “evolution happens” issue.  If you don’t think so, then there really isn’t any point for you to continue reading anything but the Bible and the obits.

If that’s the case, it’s time to win some money…$250,000.00. Here’s the challenge:

The general theory of evolution believes these five major events took place without God: 1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves. 2. Planets and stars formed from space dust. 3. Matter created life by itself. 4. Early life-forms learned to reproduce themselves. 5. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals).

Observed phenomena: Most thinking people will agree that.. 1. A highly ordered universe exists. 2. At least one planet in this complex universe contains an amazing variety of life forms. 3. Man appears to be the most advanced form of life on this planet.

Go to www.drdino.com on: How to collect the $250,000: Prove beyond reasonable doubt that the process of evolution is the only possible way the observed phenomena could have come into existence. Only empirical evidence is acceptable.

PS. let us know if you win, OK? We’re still posting over at Vox Day’s blog…

Thanks very much for all of your material. It’s a joy to read intelligent, elegant, and curmudgeonly writing such as your own.

What!

I nearly had lip cramp. Fred has made no effort to read the scientific literature on the orign of life research. He knew diddly to begin with, and then has the unmitigated gaul to argue that his total ignorance- which is willful as most of the article I can cite (35 pages worth that I have read)are available for free- justifies a rejection of the sciences. This is either dishonest, lazy or stupid. Mr. Reeds use of words suggest that he is not stupid. The fact that he maintains his “blog” suggest that he is not lazy. I see little alternative to dishonesty. Dawkins is famous for suggesting insanity, but I think he is too kind.

I’ve been reading Fred’s stuff for a couple of years now. I wasn’t thanking him for his scientific opinion on evolution. I do appreciate his asking intelligent questions, and for accepting that there might be intelligent answers to them, despite his ignorance.

Hello Mark. Perhaps you should read Kent Hovind FAQs: Examining “Dr. Dino”

The phony “Doctor” Kent Hovind’s offer of any money to anyone seems in poor taste since he has also insisted that he is bankrupt in order to avoid paying income tax, and been arrested when trying to evict rent paying tenants of his properties.

Mark, after you’re done reading the TalkOrigins articles on evidence for macroevolution and other examples of speciation, you may want to look at why Kent Hovind’s challenge is designed to be impossible to win. Quick summary: To win, you’d need to prove things which science doesn’t actually claim, and you’d need to prove them to the satisfaction of people hand-picked by Hovind (think he’ll get impartial judges?).

Mark in OC (Oblivious Confusion?) Wrote:

The general theory of evolution believes these five major events took place without God: 1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves. 2. Planets and stars formed from space dust. 3. Matter created life by itself. 4. Early life-forms learned to reproduce themselves. 5. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals).

Wow! That’s 5 out of 5 WRONG! Though you could make that last one right with a little rephrasing, i.e. “amphibians evolved from fish” etc.

I’m giving the troll too much credit by addressing this, but …

Mark in OC Wrote:

The general theory of evolution believes these five major events took place without God: 1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves. 2. Planets and stars formed from space dust. 3. Matter created life by itself. 4. Early life-forms learned to reproduce themselves. 5. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals).

#1-3 are not even part of biological research, let along evolutionary biology. They are matters addressed by physicists and astronomers. #4 is more along the lines of abiogenesis, which is a different field from evolutionary biology. #5 deals with evolution, and the Talk Origins site has plenty of examples.

3. Man appears to be the most advanced form of life on this planet.

If any evolutioary biologist calls man “the most advanced form of life on this planet” you should check his/her credentials. It’s an obvious sign of a misunderstanding of evolution. Extant organisms are not related like rungs on a ladder, but rather like the tips of brances on a tree.

Thanks, BTW, for sticking your head in there, Doc. I try and get at least some of them to doubt their presumptions of comprehension of science but the vocal ones aren’t all that easy to nail down.

The most annoying part is that ET and most of science really doesn’t argue against anything the Bible or Faith say about God, as long as you aren’t a literalist.

You’d think that ET directly “proved God” wrong the way some of ‘em look at it, though, instead of not having anythng to say about God except what techniques He used in the process of creation if He did create it all.

Part of it is for self-clarification (I always like to test my world construct against the views of others) and part of it is for the lurkers’ consideration. Some of them may think about it and Get It even if the noisy ones don’t.

;-)

This is either dishonest, lazy or stupid. Mr. Reeds use of words suggest that he is not stupid. The fact that he maintains his “blog” suggest that he is not lazy. I see little alternative to dishonesty.

Well, in the arena of Xtian attitudes, Xtians are sorta like Democrats with Keynesianism and Marxism, or the dangers of The State. Any argument against it has just got no sticking power. You lead them down the logical path, they follow you step by step, all the way, and as you turn around to show them, “See, your idea doesn’t work…” And then turn back and they are gone – POOF! – somehow, they teleported back to where they started from with no memory of the journey.

It’s not actually stupidity, but it is a form of it, sort of like an inability to time-bind or something.

I do appreciate his asking intelligent questions, and for accepting that there might be intelligent answers to them, despite his ignorance.

Except for the little detail that the intelligent answers already exist in abundance, are easy to find and reasonably easy to understand. And that being the case, people remain ignorant not because they can’t find or understand the answers, but because they *don’t like* the answers.

Be careful, Jonathan. In these waters, one can tell a man’s religion by his honesty. Fred knows better and so do you.

And that being the case, people remain ignorant not because they can’t find or understand the answers, but because they *don’t like* the answers.

Be careful, Jonathan. In these waters, one can tell a man’s religion by his honesty. Fred knows better and so do you.

Why are you trying so hard to be insulting? I assure you it is unnecessary. And I disagree that intelligent answers are reasonably easy to find and understand. The question of biogenesis is still very much an open research question, I think, and I don’t remember reading about giraffe ancestry in any issue of Scientific American or Discover in the last 15 years.

Fred is not responding to the technical evolutionary biology literature. I’m quite sure he hasn’t read it. What I imagine he has read is the popular presentation of evolution in places like Scientific American and the like, and he has some questions about that. He hasn’t said ‘evolution is fake, ID rules, d00d’, he has said ‘this doesn’t seem to me to be proved as well as it would need to in order to merit the presumption of certainty’.

And he’s right, it isn’t proved to *certainty*. Almost nothing is. It costs us nothing to admit that.

The issue of certainty aside, he has actually posed some good questions. Maybe he’s dishonest for pretending not already to know the answers, or lazy for not being au courant on the leading journals, but I think that’s a bit harsh. He’s a skeptic, but from appearances an open minded one, and that’s far and away from the usual sort of ID riff-raff that trolls around here.

He’s also a pundit, and he writes deliberately with full knowledge that lots of people won’t agree with him when he shoots his mouth off. I think that’s codified in law someplace that pundits get to do that.

Read some of his other stuff, at least, before you condemn him. He’s a hell of a writer.

Jon,

Fred Reed is not responding to the deficiencies of journalists incompetently reporting science. If he were, he might be able to claim some sort of advantaged insight, as he claims to be a journalist. But he is not making this claim. Rather he has assumed the pose of a privileged critic informed of the scientific details, and forthrightly announcing that they are faulty. In order to honestly maintain this, he would have had to shown a little bit of effort at learning what is well known. His bogus “questions’ are proof enough- they are generally ignorant and framed only to be misleading. He did not honestly present what is readily avialable in scientific publications, free to anyone with the wit to read them. He is therefore dishonest.

Journalists maybe are tolerant of dishonesty in their ranks, their readers seem to be, but scientists are not. He is ‘condemned’ because he is dishonest and/or incompetent.

Hey Mark in OC:

PS. let us know if you win, OK? We’re still posting over at Vox Day’s blog …

I love making bets with right-wing christian nuts when they say particularly crazy things. Vox is under the impression that he’s an economic expert. A few years ago, 2003 if I remember correctly, Vox said that the market was going to be obliterated. I bet Vox that he was wrong. Eventually we settled on the metric. He said the S&P would lose over 50% of its value by late 2005. While you’re over at his blog, ask him how this little bet is going.

Fred may be a journalist, but he’s not a science journalist. The column in question is just something he put up on his web site for his fans to read. When he was working as a journalist, he tended to go out on patrol with cops in various major cities and report on their experiences. He’s also had a column in Soldier of Fortune, I believe. That sort of thing. Mostly these days he writes about politics, how proud he is of his daughter, what it’s like living as an ex-pat in Mexico, and so forth.

His assumption that his questions have not been addressed or answered may in many cases be bogus, but I don’t believe the questions themselves are. Mostly, I think the column is about him complaining that his questions are treated like they are bogus and that anyone who doubts something having to do with evolution is an idiot.

I don’t think idiot describes Fred. Nor do I think scientist or science journalist describes him. I think curmudgeon describes him. Uppity would describe him nicely.

And I think for a layman, he asks a lot of good questions that I don’t know the answer to. How did color vision evolve? I’m quite certain that it did, and I’m even quite sure that it has been written about in detail (I do recall Dawkins touching on the topic in The Ancestor’s Tale), but I don’t think that I have myself read discussions of the neuro-evolution of it. I did do some research into neural network modeling of episodic memory in college, so I know there’s a lot of ways in which the brain self-organizes in response to input. It’s perfectly plausible to me that the color-sensitive receptors came first and the brain just worked with it, but Fred may not know about neural self-organization. Even if he did, he’s asking for more than plausible in the article.

Honestly, I’d expect that to get detailed answers to many of his questions, he’d need a graduate level education in zoology / molecular biology / evolutionary biology. I think the root of his problem is that he’s wanting to know for himself at a detailed level how this stuff happens rather than taking the word of the scientific community on it, but that a lot of the details are either not yet known, or are not disseminated down to where the layman can read the details.

Dr. GH,

I must have missed the part where science has observed mutation plus selection creating a (choose one or more):

1. novel body type 2. novel tissue type 3. novel organ

Be a good chap and give me the reference for that.

Thanks in advance.

Jonathan Wrote:

I think you do him a disservice in seeking to eviscerate him in this way.

Nah. Dr. GH is just doing his part to endear the academic community with the unwashed masses. And the curs don’t even have the common courtesy to appreciate what an effort it is for people like Dr. GH to descend to their level to speak to them. It’s an outrage, dammit.

DaveScot

Just because I believe that Fred Reed is asking questions in a sincere, if ignorant, way, doesn’t mean that you trolling like that doesn’t make you a pernicious twit. The events you’re asking about are ones that would be expected to take a very long time indeed to develop, perhaps into the hundreds of thousands if not millions of years for vertebrates. You’re asking for something that evolutionary theory doesn’t predict should likely be directly observable in human time scales, and then asking that mutation be directly observed bringing it about.

Given that you’re not even interested in having the proper questions asked _or_ answered, shouldn’t you run off and play with your dolls or something?

Jonathan,

I’m interested in making clear what a huge extrapolation of actual observations is made when crediting mutation/selection for all the observed diversity.

You don’t have a problem with clarity do you? After that long pompous speech about trying to make things clear to laymen I think I made a very clear point for you. Practice what you preach and spread the word.

Jonathan Wrote:

The events you’re asking about are ones that would be expected to take a very long time indeed to develop, perhaps into the hundreds of thousands if not millions of years for vertebrates.

Pay attention. I didn’t mention vertebrates. A bacterium mutating into a yeast would be fine. I’m not picky. Show mutation/selection generating any novel body type, any novel tissue type, any novel organ.

You’re asking for something that evolutionary theory doesn’t predict should likely be directly observable in human time scales, and then asking that mutation be directly observed bringing it about.

And you sir, are asking me to accept as a matter of faith that time empowers mutation/selection to accomplish things that have never been observed.

I thought faith was the stuff of religion and empirical evidence was the stuff of science. Am I wrong?

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I’m interested in making clear what a huge extrapolation of actual observations is made when crediting mutation/selection for all the observed diversity.

Yes, and you’ve made it clear for _ever_ that you consider such extrapolations to be unjustified, no matter how strong the inferential evidence. We get your opinion. Why keep sniping at it in every post?

You don’t have a problem with clarity do you? After that long pompous speech about trying to make things clear to laymen I think I made a very clear point for you. Practice what you preach and spread the word.

You didn’t clearly state anything, you asked a snarky question seeking to prove a point that you’ve tried to make over and over again, and that hasn’t convinced anyone.

Pay attention. I didn’t mention vertebrates. A bacterium mutating into a yeast would be fine. I’m not picky. Show mutation/selection generating any novel body type, any novel tissue type, any novel organ.

Fine, you’re not picky. You want to see direct observation of any change that evolutionary theory says should take on average thousands or millions of generations, and you’re not picky about whether it is a bacterium or a vertebrate. How fair minded of you.

And you sir, are asking me to accept as a matter of faith that time empowers mutation/selection to accomplish things that have never been observed.

I’m not asking you to accept anything, whether as a matter of faith or not. You clearly have no interest in considering anything but your own point of view. You demonstrate this by your refusal to internalize the evolutionary argument, and by your constant demand for evidence for that which evolutionary theory does not predict.

Jonathan,

I don’t have a problem with holding out mutation/selection as a strong explanatory mechanism for diversity. What I have a problem with is holding it out as the only mechanism and pretending it doesn’t have problems that would make one want to consider other explanations.

Jonathan Wrote:

I’m not asking you to accept anything, whether as a matter of faith or not. You clearly have no interest in considering anything but your own point of view. You demonstrate this by your refusal to internalize the evolutionary argument, and by your constant demand for evidence for that which evolutionary theory does not predict.

Good grief, Jonathan.

YOU clearly have no interest in considering anything but your own point of view.

YOU demonstrate this by your refusal to even consider intelligent design worthy of mention.

And by YOUR constant demand for evidence of a designer when that’s something that ID doesn’t predict is observable.

From my objective POV, you are little different than a bible thumper. You both have articles of faith where you assume things to be true that have never been observed and are by definition unobservable. You are both convinced you have the correct answer. You both refuse to acknowledge any possibility that the other is right.

I can understand this kind of behavior in the unwashed masses. I can’t understand it from people like you.

DaveScot said:

I’m not picky. Show mutation/selection generating any novel body type, any novel tissue type, any novel organ.

Remind me of the problem here: Mosquitoes have developed immunity (not just resistance) to DDT through the novel mechanism of now being able to digest the stuff rather as a nutrient, and break it down. How is this example insufficient for your challenge?

Hey, I acknowledged in the first comment on this post the argument for creationism. I acknowledge that God might have done it all. I just don’t acknowledge that evidence has been presented for that proposition. There is massive, interlocking, mutually supporting evidence for evolution. Given the direct observation and characterization of genetic mutations, the evidence from molecular biology for a succession of small mutations over time and the vast quantity of replicators and the time for replication that Earth has had, the question becomes why you think the evidence does not suffice to point to micromutations giving rise to large-scale changes over time. What intercedes to prevent the small changes from accumulating to large changes?

If you were really interested in clarity, you would at least address yourself to that question. The fact that you pick on the fact that large evolutionary changes tend to happen over a really long time as if it were a weakness rather than one of the essential characteristics of the theory shows that you’re not serious.

Funny…

Evolutionists have a bunch of fallacies that they state over and over.…I will try and rephrase them so that you can see what I find funny.……

1) Even if an all powerful God created the first life from dust we still know that he didn’t created more than one species. Because we made theories and monkeys and humans are very similiar…

2) Evolution is caused by random mutations which although extreamly unlikely to have singlehandedly formed the complex forms we have now, are able to make complex life because they are guided by this process natural selection that we don’t understand and can’t quantify.

3) The evolution movement has backed away from biogenesis, false claims about life on Venus, Jupiter, the moon and Mars. Most evolutionists have backed away from survival fo the fittest as well. But evolution has always been proven right, those other parts were never part of evolution, expecially the parts that didn’t turn out the way we wanted. Evolving from dust.…please that is not part of evolving without any outside interference…

4) Creationists are silly for believing a unknown non-random cause make mutations in DNA causing lifes varied makeup. We all know it was a unknown random cause…how silly they are. Ocman’s razor and all that.

5) Evolution has been proven. Because I said so.

6) No you misunderstand, evolution happened. Didn’t you hear me say so.

7) Look at these sceptical non-evolutionists how ignorant they are. Questioning how frequent large scale mutations are when none are observed in current life.…how dare you question our dogma.

8) Of course evolution is true we are here aren’t we? There is no God and no little green men therefore evolution is true until you can prove a theory for how life started. Nevermind the holes in this theory.

9) The first ancestor and all creatures even remotely similiar to it are all dead leaving only creature 4 or 5 orders of magnitude more complex than it, they evolved thats why they aren’t there, dumbass. Asking why are there still monkeys when humans have evolved from monkeys is not a valid question, dumbass.

10) Evolution is a gradual process whereby the entrophy of life is reduced allowing more complex life with more information stored in its DNA. But missing links are ok too.

Do you see why these arguments are silly yet?

If by that you mean why won’t I put unwavering faith in the unobserved and unobservable then it’s simply to be consistent.

That’s nice.

Can you tell me where any nonhuman intelligent designer has been observed?

And aren’t YOU the one who just told us that “ID theory predicts the designer isn’t observable”?

Hmmmmmm . ….

Why, again, do you put your unwavering faith in ID . … ?

I’m STILL waiting for you to explain to me why the appearence of life through natural means on another planet is any more or less probable than the appearence of life through natural means here, and how you know.

Why that is trivial, if you mean any other planet. Do really mean that, or do you mean another earth-like planet?

Nice evasion.

Now answer the goddamn question.

I will close comments Friday morning, and will most likely delete those with profanity etc…

This is becuase public schools as well as many public libraries have blocking software which scans for “bad words.” Naughty naughty!

Demanding that creationists be honest is an exercise in futility. Demanding forcefully that they be honest earns you demerits, but no honesty. I’m quite confident that you could put a gun to a creationist’s head and threaten to pull the trigger unless he told the truth, and he’d die shortly thereafter never understanding what was expected of him whatsoever.

Rev,

I’m STILL waiting for you to explain to me why the appearence of life through natural means on another planet is any more or less probable than the appearence of life through natural means here, and how you know.

HEDDLE wrote: Why that is trivial, if you mean any other planet. Do really mean that, or do you mean another earth-like planet?

Nice evasion. Now answer the goddamn question.

Nice. My first comment to you and you demonstrate the class I’ve come to expect from trolls like you. Oh well. It is a trivial question. Since life probably has a better chance when complex chemistry is possible, and since complex chemistry is facilitated by liquid water, nature’s best solvent, then life probably has a better chance on earth than on any planet without liquid water. That answers your question as to why life is more probable here than on another planet. If you meant on another planet just like earth, then the answer to your question is just as trivial and is independent of ID: on another planet just like earth, the probability appearance of life through natural means would be the same as on earth.

Emanuelle—I don’t know how to make the link clearer—by their own words many scientists of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries favored a steady state model because it avoided the beginning problem. That’s the link, see. Just like today many favor multiverses because of a more modern problem, fine tuning. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Mr. Heddle:

you continue confusing Humanism with Secular Humanism, and predating Secular Humanism to the 19th century when it began to spread in the first half of the 20th century. This is sloppy, to say the least.

But even more fundamentally, there’s simply no way you can have Secular Humanism make scientists of the late 19th-early 20th century prefer a model of the universe that would be developed around the mid-20th century.

Time travel has not been invented yet, you see.

No, Mr. Heddle. You need to do much better next time; and if I may suggest you a starting point for improvement, please drop the fundamentalist silliness of conflating humanism, secularism, atheism, agnosticism, naturalism and whatnot in a monstrous hydra hell-bent on getting rid of god(s). It is unbecoming, and it smells of desperation.

Re “and how much to the direct action of the severe climate? for it would appear that climate has some direct action on the hair of our domestic quadrupeds. “

That’s interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that rate of hair growth might be keyed to local weather conditions, but it makes sense. Has that hypothesis been tested? (And if so, confirmed or not?)

Henry

David Heddle wrote: .… Just like today many favour multiverses because of a more modern problem, fine tuning. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Whereas I guess there are other physicists who prefer other hypotheses because they believe in a creator?

I’d argue that this isn’t much more use to a theist than an atheist, similar to the “problem” of there being a beginning. I admit that if the fine tuning is indeed fine tuning and not just an artefact of our mathematics or that our universe is part of the speculated multiverse, then you can argue for a benign creator. Nevertheless I can’t see how you could argue for anything more than that. The nature of god is a matter of faith, and even if there was a creator of our vast universe, personally I find it hard to believe that it’d be particularly interested in what I did with my life. That may just be me though :).

I guess people who follow a particular religion would be very interested in a result that supports their beliefs. However, I think that once you start to say “well god did it” we loose a lot of our ability to actually understand the universe and how it works. What is to stop this creator from being some capricious being such as the Greek gods or maybe Q? Simple faith that it is not so? To a non-physicist, it looks like speculation once you start to look beyond the beginning of our universe, or would that be more accurately phrased outside our universe since space and time (at least as we know it) don’t exist beyond it?

You could argue that god was the inital spark setting the initial conditions and has stayed out of it since then, but if this being hasn’t, if miracles occur and it interferes periodically, then what hope have of understanding the universe? I guess it comes down to faith in a benign creator. “Generally this will happen unless (insert appropriate deity) has particular plans.…”

Are we the result of some creator with a liking for humanoids and “an inordinate fondness of beetles?” Or might we not just be an unintended or uninteresting result. A mere sideshow from the circus of the Universe? Does it come down to faith or is it just human hubris to assume that it’s all just for us? We’re Special!

Still if this universe required special creation, then from whence did this creator come from? What made it? Ad infinitum.… Admittedly not the most original of arguments, but I can’t see how evoking a god resolves any problems, without creating just as many new ones. Or are there questions to not be asked? I’ll watch for anvils and thunderbolts as I head home.

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno. - “Was the World Made for Man?” Mark Twain

I really shouldn’t stay this late in the office… again.

Apologies in advance if I’m off mark with:

“To a non-physicist, it looks like speculation once you start to look beyond the beginning of our universe…”

Speculation is a healthy endeavour! Leads to hypotheses.…

Mr. Heddle said:

Emanuelle—I don’t know how to make the link clearer—by their own words many scientists of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries favored a steady state model because it avoided the beginning problem. That’s the link, see. Just like today many favor multiverses because of a more modern problem, fine tuning. It’s déjà vu all over again.

It is not clear at all to me that they did this to avoid questions of God. As Hoyle thought steady state more “aesthetically” pleasing, so Einstein thought locality a better way for a universe to run, God or no. No specific beginning to the universe is an interesting hypothesis, but it squares with much scripture, especially that which describes God as “I AM” and not “I who began at some point in the past.”

I don’t know for certain that George Gamow was more religious than Hoyle – it doesn’t really matter. I think one aspect of loving the creating force of the universe is being able to take delight in the things the universe shows us, even when the universe defies our predictions or expectations.

Shakespeare said it well, in Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And Haldane surely thought of Shakespeare when he made the modern, scientific equivalent: “Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. … I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreaming.” (Possible Worlds, 1927)

I think any a priori rejection of the queer things the universe may show us is a bias against science. And as a Christian, I regard that as a bias against God – certainly a conundrum for the creationists who claim to be for belief in God, but who categorically reject every aspect of God’s creation that seems to them in the least bit queer.

Katarina

Abundant is a relative thing.

Random processes are abundant relative to small numbers.

Random processes are very very very very very very very very very very very very scarce relative to 4^4300000000.

So relative to that context no we cannot agree that random processes are abundant.

That is why evolutionists don’t like to use numbers because you can’t speak evolution in the language of science which is numbers…Its kinda like evolution is the anti-christ of science and numbers burn it or something.

Re “and how much to the direct action of the severe climate? for it would appear that climate has some direct action on the hair of our domestic quadrupeds. “

That’s interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that rate of hair growth might be keyed to local weather conditions, but it makes sense. Has that hypothesis been tested? (And if so, confirmed or not?)

Henry

Yes, by observation. Anyone in a temperate clime with a long-haired cat or dog can confirm it for you. Or look at the snowshoe hare, or any other species which has seasonal variants in its coat or feathers.

Not all the mechanisms are understood – science is dappled with such delicious mysteries – but the fact of seasonal growth of insulation is indisputable by Boy Scouts. I can’t cite a paper for you – check with your local veterinarian, perhaps.

Emanuele Oriano

I said “Evolutionists claim that a random process created human life. If that is true … “

You said “That is not true. No “Evolutionist” claims that. Why do you feel it is necessary to lie?”

*** So you think that NO evolutionist has claimed that life evolved from dirt? Not Carl Sagan? Not SETI?

Can you guys ever tell the truth?

Here SETI is trying to teach it to grade school kids

http://www.seti.org/atf/cf/%7BB0D4B[…]D/howlif.pdf

Complete cowards can’t even defend your own theory against adults.

Its sick.

Flint…

Honest? Calling your oponents arguments lies is a very poor debating tactic. Doing it twice is a cry for help.…

So here is the help…

Science 101, One aspect of science that is often not mentioned when people learn about it is that it is a cousin of math. Most scientists have the ability to do at least simple math and often find it helpful to seperate what is possible from what is not possible.

For examle, a human genome is roughly 4,300,000,000 bases long. Were life to be an accident the odds of putting bases together at random and getting your DNA would be 4^4.3 billion. Thats 1 with more than 2 billion zeros after it.

Thats a very big number. And it assumes that the building blocks are all ready formed into G A T C bases, each of these bases is made up of more than one atom. The odds of these spontaneous forming is rare too.

Its kinda like telling someone that they should buy lottery tickets if they want to get rich. Every week you have a lottery winner who actually did make money by buying a lottery ticket. But to claim that all wealth comes from playing the lottery is obviously false (or the company running it would go out of business).

Evolution is the same way, it appears possible even to sceptics in the same way that a lottery win is possible. Every now and again there is a big find that seems to support it. But the extreamly rare massive win is actually overshadowed by the mundane $1 loss that usually occurs. A proposed lucky win must over come unlucky streaks and yet produce improvement.

In the same way that you cannot explain that lotterys are a bad investment to a person who can’t understand math, so to it is very difficult to explain why evolution is such a weak theory to evolutionists who won’t do the math.….…

But as a rule of thumb if a scientist explains something to you without numbers and can’t make predictions with it BEWARE.

donkeykong Wrote:

Can you guys ever tell the truth? Here SETI is trying to teach it to grade school kids http://www.seti.org/atf/cf/%7BB0D4B[…]-9E79-113953 … Complete cowards can’t even defend your own theory against adults. Its sick.

I followed that link and that lesson template correctly states that life evolved through random mutations AND natural selection, not randomness alone, which is the point. Secondly, nowhere the origin of life is touched upon, so the question if life evolved from dirt is not even in there. The problem in discussions with creationists is, that you always have to check and double-check their statements and quotes, because usually they are simply lying. Does not seem very christian to me.

donkeykong Wrote:

For examle, a human genome is roughly 4,300,000,000 bases long. Were life to be an accident the odds of putting bases together at random and getting your DNA would be 4^4.3 billion. Thats 1 with more than 2 billion zeros after it.

Thats a very big number. And it assumes that the building blocks are all ready formed into G A T C bases, each of these bases is made up of more than one atom. The odds of these spontaneous forming is rare too.

Well, its number crunching again: If you are suggesting that Evolution states that humans have to form spontaneously from clay, then you have read the wrong book. Perhaps a practical joker changed the cover from “Bible” to “What evolution is” and you didn’t notice. Just a hint.

The second paragraph in the quote prompts me to ask a question: Do you have any, even a slight background in science? I am just curious.

Evolutionists don’t claim “a random process created human life”. Evolutionists claim a systematic process created human life. There’s a slight difference.

Calling your oponents arguments lies is a very poor debating tactic.

DonkeyKong, either you are lying or you have absolutely no clue what evolution theory says, how evolution works or even what science is all about. You recent spam-posting and in particular your attempt at number crunching in this thread clearly shows that. I disagree that calling lies for what they are is a poor debate tactic, but even if it was, my morals - and Flint’s, I assume - would force us to defend truth anyway.

For the complete clueless (that’s you, DK): evolution does not say that human beings pop up unaided from nothing. ID does in many of its flavours (given that it won’t explain how or where or when the design happened, nor who did the designing). Thus your “odds” are, at best, an argument against ID (more likely, they’re utterly useless). Check talkorigins.org to see a good article on the real probability of evolution - and please, don’t come back with this pathetic argument unless you can rebate the article in t.o.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Mr. DonkeyKong:

You can repeat the same lie over and over till you’re blue in the face; it won’t mysteriously turn into a true statement.

Either you can quote any legitimate evolutionary biologist who claims that somehow ANY given number of bases in the genome of ANY lifeform “randomly assembled itself and BINGO!”, or your claim is a lie.

Put up or shut up, as they say.

Emanuelle & RGD,

My American Heritage Dictionary (New College Edition, 1978) defines humanism as: (1)The condition or quality of being human (2)A philosophy or study that is concerned with human beings, their acheivements and interests, rather than with abstract beings and problems of theology.

And it defines humanist as (1) One who studies the humanities… (2) One who is concerned with the studies of human beings… (3) A Renaiassance student or a follower of humanism

So although I hate nit-picking games, in this case I was using humanism in an acceptable way. It need not be directly tied to the Renaiassance, and I was not confusing it with “secular humanist.”

Mr. Heddle:

So you now - noise of goalposts being moved - claim that the Steady State model of the universe was born out of what, precisely?

Out of a philosophy or study that is concerned with human beings, their achievements and interests, rather than with abstract beings and problems of theology?

As opposed to, e.g., the Big Bang model being born out of what else, precisely?

Also, please clarify for my amusement how could “late 19th-century physicists” (your words, remember?) prefer the Steady State model of the universe (which wasn’t around at the time) out of anything.

Emanuele:

The claim is simple and I am surprised that it is even controversial. When physicists were (mostly) believers, then a finite universe posed no philosophical dilemma. When religious belief among physicists waned in the 19th and 20th centuries, then it was only natural (and historic) that they would favor steady-state models. Anyone, religious or not, would prefer that their cosmology prsented no problems to their philosophy. This is not a criticism of anyone.

Today we see the same thing in cosmology. The response to the apparent fine tuning is either to say it affirms your religious beliefs or to say it points out a weakness in the current big bang model.

I don’t think you want to claim that physicists are impervious to all influences from their theism or atheism, as the case may be.

Mr. Heddle:

Your claim originally went like this:

The (erroneous) push for a steady state universe paralleled the growth of humanism, since a steady-state universe allows one to avoid that nasty problem of a beginning.

Unfortunately, despite your repeated attempts at reformulating the claim, it was false and it still is false. You have shown no causal connection whatsoever between the two things.

In other words: you seem to have an ideological axe to grind (namely: you think that “humanist” scientists actively search for theories and models that fit their philosophy, and “non-humanist” scientists actively search for theories and models that fit their philosophy).

You are so convinced of this that you even write things like

The claim is simple and I am surprised that it is even controversial.

Well, I don’t know whether this is how you “do science” (although I suspect that your overblown emphasis on the “appearance of fine tuning” might be revealing), but please don’t assume that other scientists must also be as ideologically driven as you.

Also, as a final note:

I don’t think you want to claim that physicists are impervious to all influences from their theism or atheism, as the case may be.

There, you’ve said it. You have conflated humanism and atheism, exactly as I had guessed. I’ve got news for you: they are not the same thing, whatever fundamentalist theists may say. Check it out in your dictionary, if you want.

Mr. Heddle, aside from the unsubstantiated nature of your commentary; I find it amusing that you have still failed to deal with Emanuele’s point: the steady state theory is a product of 1950’s scientific thought. How then could it have been pushed or favored or accepted by 19th century physicists?

What you appear to be grossly ignorant of are the actual motivations, behaviors, and practises of working scientists. Few of them allow their religious faith to force them to particular scientific conclusions. Even Dawkin’s doesn’t do that - and he takes his atheism out in public on far too long a leash.

As usual, your invented historical scenarios appear both baseless and confused. Study, Mr. Heddle, and learning. These are excellent things and will make these conversations so much more interesting and enjoyable for all parties.

Hokeydooky,

This is closed. Thanks for all cogent comments. Don’t forget the “bathroom wall” is available for any parting shots.

Gary

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Hurd published on March 9, 2005 4:26 PM.

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