Is Creationism Child’s Play?

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Cover of Science, behavioral science issue, May 18After you have been in the habit of creationism-watching for a few years you become extremely familiar with all of the usual creationist arguments, half-baked talking points, unchecked assertions taken as obviously true, etc. If you really get into it you learn the creationist movement’s long and specific history, and you learn that whatever form of creationism you are studying at the moment inevitably traces back basically to American protestant fundamentalism, and before that to something sometimes called “naive Biblicism.”*

But there comes a point when you don’t think you can learn anything much new about the creationists. You might stumble on a new mutation of a creationist urban legend or quote mine, or a new bit of creationist history like Dean Kenyon actually being a young-earther despite this fact being carefully hidden by the ID movement for 15+ years. But basically, you don’t expect to find out much that is new.

Well, if you thought you were at this point, you would be wrong. A review article in this week’s Science magazine (with a special focus on behavioral science) shows that scholars can ring out yet another twist in creationism studies.

Historians and creationism watchers have long noted several strong and quite reliable psychological generalizations that can be made about creationists – e.g., how creationists jump to conclusions based on what naively seems like “common sense” to them, an almost instinctual dualism- and design-based thinking, a place of pride for “childlike faith”, an old-fashioned Baconian attitude to science (Facts good! Theories bad!!), a severe difficulty with probabilities and other abstract topics, a severe case of typological thinking and an inability to even correctly conceptualize a particular proposed “transitional” organism, an amazingly uncritical acceptance and blind repetition of anything their own authorities say, etc… These generalizations apply to young-earthers right through to old-earth creationists (and therefore IDers, which are a mix of the two).

In the new Science paper (Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg, 2007, “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” Science, 316(5827), 996-997, 18 May 2007, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133398) Bloom and Weisberg independently identify many of these psychological generalizations and point out that they can all be traced to biases regularly found in studies of childhood cognition and childrens’ intuitions and conclusions about scientific topics. They hypothesize that American resistance to evolution, in particular, can be traced to these factors:

[From the conclusion]

These developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and it will be especially strong if there is a nonscientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are thought of as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States, with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and evolutionary biology. These concepts clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals, and (in the United States) these beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities (24). Hence, these fields are among the domains where Americans’ resistance to science is the strongest.

It is one thing to vaguely note, as many creationism observers have, that there is a peculiar childlike quality to many creationists and their methods of rhetoric and reasoning (e.g., AiG director Ken Ham’s main message to the kiddies: “Were you there?”) It is quite another thing to have this all tied directly to the scientific literature on childhood psychology. As far as I know this is the first time someone has made the connection explicitly (although inevitably someone can probably turn up precursors).

Footnotes

* This is a rather crude description, but basically “naive Biblicism” describes the following sentiment: the Bible says it, I believe it, “it” being whatever I perceive to be the “common sense” reading according to an English reading with 1800s American “common sense” assumptions. This sort of thing was ubiquitous in early-1800s America where there was suddenly no established state church and where the only remaining authority was the Bible, interpreted by every man for himself – kind of like the European Protestant Reformation redone on steroids. This produced the wild proliferation of American denominations and sects, and of course it persists strongly in 20th-century fundamentalism/conservative evangelicalism. Read Arthur McCalla’s (2006) The Creationist Debate and Mark Noll’s (2002) America’s God for serious treatments.

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The DOI link seems to be not functioning.

Nick,

Thanks for this heads-up on the Science article (the link produces an error, however).

I and some of my colleagues had come to these conclusions back in the 1980s after watching the creation scientists for a few years. I’m a physicist, not a psychologist, but back then the whole area of Physics Education Research was getting off the ground in a much more formal manner.

There has always been anecdotal evidence of persistent misconceptions that were traceable to the experiences and preconceptions students bring with them into a physics course. Now, with over 40 years of formal research into these misconceptions, the Physics Education Research community has produced an extensive catalog of these problems in nearly every area of physics.

When observing the creation science people back in the 1970s, and since then, the intelligent design proponents, it was obvious to us that the same fundamental misconceptions permeated the thinking of both groups. These were exacerbated by the tactics of Duane Gish who developed and polished the technique of deliberately provoking scientists in debates with seemingly stupid cartoons of impossible creatures that were supposed to convince his audience of the stupidity of evolution. He already understood and exploited naive misconceptions about evolution that had been planted by irresponsible preachers among the fundamentalists. Add to this the deliberate efforts of their political activists, and you get an unusually resistant set of misconceptions that propagate among members of these sectarian groups. These sectarian groups have constructed a particularly strong echo chamber of fear and logic to reinforce their misconceptions. The recent emphasis on Hitler and the evil fruits of “Darwinism” is a reassertion of the fear factor in enforcing adherence to sectarian dogma.

Persistent misconceptions can carry all the way through a PhD program, and the ID/creationists who complete PhD programs all appear to have cobbled together a “logical” set of misconceptions that allows them to hold onto their prior religious indoctrinations. In fact, it is psychologically crucial that they do this given that their doctrines are “absolutely true” and doubting them places them in terror of the fires of Hell.

This also seems to explain the consternation they exhibit when they are “excluded by a closed-minded scientific cabal.” I suspect that most of them really don’t know what is wrong with their own understanding of science and consequently can only conclude they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Many of the recent ID/creationist letters-to-the-editor in our local newspaper reflect these fears and hatreds among the fundamentalists in our community. It is quite clear that the preachers in these churches are still using the same tactics.

Fixed the link I think. Thanks for that interesting comment Mike.

The challenge will come in convincing Biblical literalists that child-like thinking is in any way undesirable. Matthew 18: 1-3. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Combine this with the ability to claim “persecution” when challenged (Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”.) and you are liable to make them giddy with pride.

The challenge will come in convincing Biblical literalists that child-like thinking is in any way undesirable. Matthew 18: 1-3. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Combine this with the ability to claim “persecution” when challenged (Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”.) and you are liable to make them giddy with pride.

you are liable to make them giddy with pride.

Uh-oh. Isn’t pride one of the seven deadlies?

“Uh-oh. Isn’t pride one of the seven deadlies?”

Doesn’t matter, since all creationists think they’ve got a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

[Gish] already understood and exploited naive misconceptions about evolution that had been planted by irresponsible preachers among the fundamentalists. Add to this the deliberate efforts of their political activists, and you get an unusually resistant set of misconceptions that propagate among members of these sectarian groups. These sectarian groups have constructed a particularly strong echo chamber of fear and logic to reinforce their misconceptions. The recent emphasis on Hitler and the evil fruits of “Darwinism” is a reassertion of the fear factor in enforcing adherence to sectarian dogma.

I haven’t read the article yet, so I don’t know if it addresses the point - and my fellow critics of ID/creationism certainly don’t do make enough to suit me - but this clearly looks like a case of “childern believing fairy tales” (rank & file creationists and parroters of ID sound bites) and “parents” (anti-evolution activists) telling fairy tales to children. With respect to anti-evolution movements, the Gish example shows that the process was well in place before YEC and OEC “evolved” into ID. I guess that “parents” who tell the story enough can delude themselves into believing it, but with ID there is no story to tell, but just one big cover-up of the fact that there is not just one story, but several with irreconcilable differences.

I don’t doubt that ID leaders believe that life is designed, or that something other than “natural processes” may be operating in abiogenesis and speciation. Nor do I doubt that they truly believe that the masses need to take fairy tales literally to behave properly. But there are enough hints - from Behe’s early admission of common descent (which he must regret even though he apparently still accepts it) to Dembski’s admission that ID can accommodate all the results of “Darwinism” (Dembski appears to be incapable of regretting anything) - that most or all ID leaders, including “YECs” like Kenyon, must know that they are telling fairy tales. Why else would they keep the design language, at least until the recent designer-free replacement scam, and say less and less about what the designer did and when? IOW, why have they been steadily omitting the only parts that have a shot at being allowed in public school science class (aside from finding an activist judge)? Could it be that they know that mainstream science is right?

Once again I want to make clear that (1) we don’t know what people believe in private, and (2) ID certainly promotes YEC indirectly, perhaps even better than classic YEC itself. I don’t object to the speculation that most/all IDers are closet YECs (in terms of private belief), but I do object to how it’s usually suggested as the only possibility. Especially since the typical reaction to that is “what’s the harm in believing.”

It’s worth noting that old-time Creationists, who were examining the tale of Noah;’s Ark nearly 300 years ago, came to the “common sense” but logical conclusion that the story was an impossible situation, which led more or less directly to proposals of an old earth and evolution of biological species.

It’s worth noting that old-time Creationists, who were examining the tale of Noah;’s Ark nearly 300 years ago, came to the “common sense” but logical conclusion that the story was an impossible situation, which led more or less directly to proposals of an old earth and evolution of biological species.

It’s worth noting that old-time Creationists, who were examining the tale of Noah;’s Ark nearly 300 years ago, came to the “common sense” but logical conclusion that the story was an impossible situation, which led more or less directly to proposals of an old earth and evolution of biological species.

It’s worth noting that old-time Creationists, who were examining the tale of Noah;’s Ark nearly 300 years ago, came to the “common sense” but logical conclusion that the story was an impossible situation, which led more or less directly to proposals of an old earth and evolution of biological species.

Interesting. Michael Shermer in his book “ Why People Believe Weird Things” makes the point that smart people use the “adult” tools of logic and reasoning to defend conclusions, arrived at earlier in their lives, from un-smart reasons.

Thanks for the link, very interesting reading.

I haven’t yet read the Science paper but I’d be careful about the inference that Creationism is somehow just child-like attitudes uncorrected by proper education. For example, the “common sense” epistemology and naive “Baconian attitude” you correctly attribute owes a great deal to late 18th century Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment figures like Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart. These are mainly figures of interest to intellectual historians now but they were tremendously influential in their own time and had tremendous impact on the early 19th century evangelicals who are the founders of modern American religion. Noll does a particularly nice job of discussing the importance of these thinkers in America’s God and there is a nice essay by George Marsden on Creationism’s infatuation with 18th century science.

It is easy to construct a psychological account of why just about anyone does just about anything. If you don’t like someone’s beliefs, or you take them to be false, you can always come up with some account of a non-rational process that is the REAL reason why they believe it. But being able to come up with a seemingly plausible “psychoanalytic” speculation about people’s beliefs is quite a different thing from actually proving that they believe what they believe for those reasons. (This is probably one of the reasons Freud has become so discredited.) I could construct just as plausible an account of why people believe in naturalism and Darwinism. Such storytelling should not function as a replacement for the real question (with regard to creationists, Darwinists, or anyone else): Are these beliefs true? Do they match the evidence or not?

My recent introduction to ID and young earther creos, came about from interacting with people beyond my normal circle (science-medicine). This was a byproduct of participating in online forums having nothing to do with science, e.g. politics, social, financial, hobbies, etc.. If they claimed to be Martians, it wouldn’t have been more surprising or jarring.

One guy (with a botany degree) claimed that humans could not be descended from apes because: 1. Apes do not have color vision. 2. Apes have a three chambered heart!!! 3. Apes have muscles in their feet whereas humans do not. (He was unable to explain how one wiggles their toes.) All of these assertions are false as 2 minutes with a search engine would show.

My brief study of Homo creationist has yielded the following findings. 1. They tend not to be very well educated. 2. They don’t seem to be highly intelligent (being polite here). 3. They were far more interested in reinforcing their pseudoscience then in questioning it.

This was not a publication quality study, of course. But I’ve seen enough to be concerned about the latest attack on science. The dark ages are history and should stay that way.

For the brighter and more self aware YECs, IMO, it is willing suspension of disbelief.

We all do this often to read a fiction book or watch TV or a movie. The author’s task and skill is to make it easy so the work is entertaining.

The creos have just decided to check out from reality permanently. So they have a giant supercontinent breaking up 4,000 years ago and herds of mammoths, synapsids, and dinosaurs wandering through North America up until recently.

By itself this would be harmless. It is not harmless when they insist the rest of us do the same thing and try to sneak their stories into our children’s science classes.

It’s worth noting that old-time Creationists, who were examining the tale of Noah;’s Ark nearly 300 years ago, came to the “common sense” but logical conclusion that the story was an impossible situation, which led more or less directly to proposals of an old earth and evolution of biological species.

It is one thing to vaguely note, as many creationism observers have, that there is a peculiar childlike quality to many creationists and their methods of rhetoric and reasoning (e.g., AiG director Ken Ham’s main message to the kiddies: “Were you there?”)

I was thinking the very same thing after viewing Cameron and Comfort’s idiocy. They sound like their target audience is 5-year-olds. There is an almost Mr. Rogers’ quality to their delivery. Ditto for the guy trying to prove creationism with peanut butter.

how does this apply to people like lee strobel who claim to be former atheists?

personally, i think the guy is lying, but i dont have any direct evidence of this. what do you think?

I could construct just as plausible an account of why people believe in naturalism and Darwinism. Such storytelling should not function as a replacement for the real question (with regard to creationists, Darwinists, or anyone else): Are these beliefs true? Do they match the evidence or not?

Right. And “beliefs” that do match the evidence don’t need such an account, do they? In trying to explain creationism’s appeal, you have to construct some kind of account, because the belief is demonstrably untrue. What you call “the real question” has been answered, and it tells us only that people persist in believing what is demonstrably untrue. Why is that?

Well, there’s always a meme’s eye view… Creationism thrives in an environment where critical thinking is discouraged in favor of revelation. It is reinforced by us-them thinking, and paranoid visions of persecution (They only say we’re wrong because they hate the baby Jesus)–so it goes well with religions of martyrdom. And, I’m convinced there’s a strong streak of class envy and what might be called “naive anti-authoritarianism.” People who are already susceptible to creationism just love the idea that a reg’lar guy like Gish can really stick it to them egg-head perfessers with their cock-eyed theories (and their perceived wealth and prestige), when any fool can see…

All pretty childish, you ask me.

snex,

I’ve sometimes thought that “former atheists” like Strobel, or Josh McDowell, or any number of others, could have gone through turbulent adolescences where they became “mad at God” for one reason or another. Many Christians are brought up in the belief that atheists are “mad at god”; so the charitable explanation is that they think that phase really was atheism, when in fact they never really gave up their theistic beliefs, and all their arguments are born out of that same set of assumptions that they were raised with. Hence the poor quality of their argumentation – they will never convince a genuine atheist, but maybe that’s the point. The target audience is more likely to be believers who are vacillating in their faith, and are much more likely to be swayed by arguments that essentially start with the assumption that god exists. After all, “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” will never convince someone open to the possibility of “Misquoted, Misunderstood, or Made-Up”.

Which brings me to the other possibility, that they are liars. Certainly there’s a sizable market for pious frauds in American fundamantalist community. Some people have made a comfortable living speaking at fundie schools and churches about their fanciful experiences in “Satanic cults” – for which there is no independent evidence, of course, but it keeps the faithful afraid and in line.

Of course I have no hard evidence either, just my thoughts.

snex Wrote:

how does this apply to people like lee strobel who claim to be former atheists?

personally, i think the guy is lying, but i dont have any direct evidence of this. what do you think?

I think that adults who are “born again” and adopt the creationist “world view” are in a bit of a different category, and there seems to be a common thread amongst them. In Strobel’s case, he says that his wife got religion and was attending church, so he was forced to use his legal and investigative powers to examine the “case for Christ,” and in so doing he was converted. It seems, though that what happened was that his wife got converted, and he had a decision to make, and the only way that he could do so was to claim that the evidence was sound.

You will also hear about adult born-agains who came to the church as a result of some other type of personal crisis–drug addiction, the death of a family member, etc. They find a community that accepts them and offers some form of camaraderie and a shoulder to cry on, and they wind up buying the bill of goods in order to remain a part of the community.

Frank J.

“I don’t doubt that ID leaders believe that life is designed”

It depends on what you mean by “believe”. I doubt this very much, in many cases. But it depends on whether you think that a self-interested, sadistic Soviet bureaucrat could necessarily be said to “believe in Marxism”. In some ways, yes, in some ways, no, I suppose.

I see what we call the “religious right” - and the non-Catholic “religious right” is almost individual for individual identical with ID/creationism - as more of a cult-like authoritarian socio-political movement. The only exception is among people who are so education-deprived that they don’t know any better. There may be a few liberal religious figures who deny science, but I haven’t seen any. Even evangelical Southern Protestants like Jimmy Carter tend to be pro-science if their theology and/or politics are liberal.

The real obsessions and goals of the religious right, as far as I can tell, revolve around sex, enforced displays of submission by non-leadership, and corporal punishment.

Since their demands are unpopular and difficult to live up to, even for themselves, they exploit the Bible. The idea is simple - justify intrusive, unreasonable, and inhumane policies, they turn to the only authority whose absolute power commands obedience without question - God.

Creationism and ID are effectively part of an authoritarian political system.

If it were a sincere, childish belief system, it might be associated with some particular political belief, but a 100% association with the political right wouldn’t make sense.

Another obvious piece of evidence to support my conjecture - they constantly rail about what they imagine must be an authoritarian “political agenda” behind the straightforward acceptance of scientific reality. In their minds, you choose an authoritarian agenda for reasons of emotional disturbance, and then you find a “belief system” that justifies enforcing it.

Yes, I’m sure they “believe” in it at some level, and yes, I realize there are people on “the right” who don’t like sharing their tent with creationists (but for now it seems that they have to).

It’s true I keep bringing this up, but it’s because the question keeps coming up -“Why are these people so ‘dense’, what is misleading them, why won’t they acknowlege the facts?”

It’s the agenda, stupid.

This message does not discuss elements of the right wing unrelated to, or in rare cases opposed to, creationism. I realize that there are Ayn Rand types out there who don’t really like sharing the tent with creationists. I don’t agree with you, either, but this message is not about the progressive income tax.

Especially the sense that things exist “for a purpose” when they have function has been mentioned previously in the literature as a “childish” view that often lasts into adulthood.

But I wonder just how much traction is to be had in identifying creationism/vitalism etc. with childhood psychology. For one thing, are ancient myths really “childish” or some such thing? And would being “childish” or “adult” be ipso facto a good or a bad thing?

It wasn’t just Jesus who said “become as little children”, Nietzsche also wrote things like, “The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement.… “ Indeed, the child is thought to be “teachable”, to be able to grasp new ideas (vs. many tired old minds), to be hope and renewal. The scientist, it is said, continues the child’s experiments with the world, being curious, unprejudiced, and open-minded.

Of course that’s the idealistic view, and yes, the severe typological thinking, difficulties with abstraction, and a not-uncommon stubbornness and refusal to consider new ideas is the downside of childhood.

The trouble is that we tend to alternate between depictions of childhood as hopelessly naive, uncomprehending, and one might even say “stupid”, and the sense that children have a plasticity, openness, and lack of prejudice too rarely found in adults.

The truth is that adults are continuations of the children who gave rise to them, and many of the faults in children become faults in adults, while many of the virtues in children become virtues in the adults. It’s getting childhood psychology and cognition down right that makes a good “adult mind”.

Yes, of course the adult mind is different from the child mind. However, this would be true of both the good adult mind and the one that fails to deal well with the “modern world.” I doubt that we’re so much more adult than creationists, we just learned how to hone the bewildering varieties of openness and stubbornness in the child’s mind into a kind of openness without loss of rigor in our present minds.

I could look at creationists/IDists either way, as children who look openly and naively at a world and take it “on its own terms” (so to speak—in fact interpretation is imposed on all of us to some degree), intuitively. Or I could look at them as people who in fact ceased to be children too soon, without having learned to think, merely ridifying from childish naivete into stubborn stupidity. Both are simply interpretations, however, of a more complicated pattern of reinforcement which has maintained some childish intuitions as adult dogmas, or alternatively, has let intuition go where possible (obviously, in the social sphere there often is no substitute for intuition).

People like Behe and Dembski try to come up with adult and progressive rationalizations for maintaining the beliefs of childhood, or one might say, of earlier human eras. To be sure, this looks a whole lot like childish rationalization, something which, however, is hardly unknown among adults. Yet in a way, much that drives the adult rationalizations of childish beliefs is the sense that there is something special and “true” about earlier forms of thought, and the belief in magic. Surely, we can just look at animals and decide that some magical being designed them? Why complicate everything, indeed? Those who do complicate it all just don’t want to believe in baby Jesus, eternal life, and magic minds, and, having lost the innocence of the child (or a certain sort of Xian—according to them) to become bitter atheists (or some such thing), they just want to be mean and take it away from the rest of us.

Of course I’m back to their “childishness” in the last sentence, but my point is that either the fall from “childish innocence” is into something better or into a sad continuation of the prejudices and reactions of the child. They’re both adult, unless we go for the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, it’s that we fall into knowledge, or we just fall. Behe and Dembski fell from the innocence of the child, without getting the (relative) innocence and openness that a competent adult wields.

None of us has exactly moved from childhood psychology into something completely different, we just grew up intellectually in better or worse ways. Rationalizing childhood beliefs is not something rare in adults, but it is far from being admirable, or a good use of the enhanced abilities that adults have.

A common psychological aspect of both adults and children, that of reaction, seems to have a lot to do with whether or not the fall from innocence is into knowledge or into rationalizations of childhood belief. The individual and collective reactions against growing up into a harder, and crueller—yet more interesting and open (in its way)—world, are what matter. And it is the collective reactions, above all, which maintain the (relatively) poor intellection of the child into so many adults, regardless of if they are of the creationist sort, or of the more magical-believing New Agers and those who long for the state of the “noble savage”.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

CJO makes a good point. The psychological scenarios (as well as the suspicions of lack of intelligence, dishonesty, etc.) are the sorts of attempts to explain behavior that come when it seems that people are continuing to believe something that has been obviously proven to be false. If something is obviously false, then we have to account for the people who for some reason can’t or won’t see it. If there was nothing wrong with such people, it might call into question the “obviousness” of our evidence. It seems unlikely to us that normal, honest, intelligent, psychologically-functioning people can be on both sides of a dispute where the evidence clearly favors one side. I don’t think this feeling is entirely warranted. Even good and intelligent people can be legitimately confused about things at times, especially when we take into account the depth of entanglement people have with a whole host of different assumptions about the universe, etc. However, I think I agree that there does seem to come a point where the evidence is so clear that we have to start asking deeper questions about why people will not or cannot see what is obvious. Both Darwinists and creationists generally see the creation-evolution controversy in this light. Creationists (and many theists in general) often argue that a fundamental pride and rebellious attitude towards the true God is what motivates people to be naturalists and Darwinists. Pride and rebellion cause them to suppress the truth, thus distorting their processes of reasoning so that they miss the obvious and end up endorsing nonsense, despite the intelligence of many naturalists which, if not subjected to their rebellious spirit, would lead them in a totally different direction. Paul, in Romans 1:18-32 in the Bible, provides a good example of typical theistic reasoning about why naturalists really believe what they believe despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

By the way, in case anyone hasn’t detected it by now, I am a Christian and a creationist. I don’t particularly enjoy getting into motives too much, but I have to agree with CJO that sometimes it is necessary to do so. However, thoughts about motives should not take away from what in my last post I called “the real question,” which is the state of the evidence. Sometimes discussions about motives can degenerate into ad hominem arguments and simply name-calling, which, of course, should never replace serious evaluation and argumentation.

A remember children, the next time that nice politician says they’re going to take the “common sense” approach, what they really means is: “NO EXPERTS”.

I should have written the following less ambiguously:

or alternatively, has let intuition go where possible (obviously, in the social sphere there often is no substitute for intuition).

as:

or alternatively, has let go of intuition as the deciding factor where possible (obviously, in the social sphere there often is no substitute for intuition).

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Paul, in Romans 1:18-32 in the Bible, provides a good example of typical theistic reasoning about why naturalists really believe what they believe despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

Well, kudos for thoughtful engagement, Mark. We don’t see a lot of that from “the other side” around here. Very adult of you. ;-)

It would be a side-track to ask you to unpack this “obvious evidence to the contrary” of “naturalism,” but let me just inquire: are you equating science as it is practiced with a philosophical system? Because surely you are aware that practicing scientists come from all philosophical and religious traditions. Further methodological naturalism is, by definition, a method, and methods are not subject to contradiction by fact.

Mark, re “evidence”: I do not think that word means what you think it means. In particular, “evidence” does not include revelation. In standard scientific usage, evidence is by definition available to everybody. It is synonymous with the scientific usage of “fact”. As somebody said above, if you ever doubt the facts, you are free to find them and look at them yourself. Contrast this with your usage of “evidence” which, based on your subjective language when you talk about it, is actually better described as “revelation”.

Science only deals with evidence which is available to all. It does not — it cannot — include revelation. C.f. religion, which concerns itself with the interpretation of revelation to reach faith. If religion used evidence to reach conclusions, it wouldn’t result in faith.

You can save us a lot of time if you can categorize how you came to know some of the things you claim. Is the Bible infallible because of evidence? Or because of revelation?

Mark,

Btw, in a free country there is nothing wrong with using revelation as a way to personally know things. The problem is when revelation is conflated with evidence, and when it is used as the basis for authority. You must acknowledge that you’re doing a bit of both.

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Mark Hausam Wrote:

It [the Christian bible] matches what we ought to know from our experience and interaction with ourselves and with the world so well that it must be taken seriously as a divine revelation. Since my acceptance of it as divine revelation is based on its conformity with reality, it is immensely falsifiable. If it didn’t match reality, its claims would be falsified.

It is clear that Mark doesn’t understand the meaning of circular thinking. If we humans can have “experience and interaction with ourselves and with the world” why can’t humans write that stuff down? Is he claiming they haven’t without “divine prompting?” If humans do keep records, does that justify calling them divine revelation because they match with the experiences they have had? Does he know anything about the history of religion and law?

Experience teaches humans many lessons that don’t require “divine revelation” to understand. This isn’t limited to humans. Most animals can learn, and many exist within organizational structures roughly analogous to what we would call “cultures”. Humans and other animals are able to pass knowledge on to later generations; humans do it more efficiently (not necessarily more effectively because, as is obvious here, some don’t learn from history). Evolution explains this ability more parsimoniously than does “divine revelation”. How can monotheists have so many conflicts over their interpretations of “divine revelation” from this one true source? Evidently they don’t all agree that “divine revelation” matches their experience and interactions with themselves, yet they all claim to know “The Truth”.

One doesn’t have to belong to any particular religious sect to understand the concept of behavioral consequences. And many societies that have never heard of the Christian bible have developed rules of behavior to regulate their daily lives. These rules have worked as well (and in many cases better) than those supposedly divine revelations Mark takes to be “in conformity with reality.” Most cultures on this planet have not agreed, and would not agree, that what is written in the Christian bible matches their experience and interaction (“conforms to reality”).

Living in such a closed dungeon of medieval thinking leaves one pretty much unaware of an entire universe of knowledge that others have discovered. Metaphors such as Plato’s cave come to mind. Mark not only needs to learn science, he needs to study history, literature, art, poetry, mythology, law, comparative religions, cultural diversity, and a whole range of subjects that deal with the propagation of human knowledge and perception. It is clear that he has no reference points whatsoever.

Forget comparative religions – Mark needs to learn the basics of his own religion! Most of what he’s said would embarrass all but the dumbest of his fellow Christians, and was rightly rejected by Christian philosophers centuries ago.

Can anyone here paste that famous quote from St. Augustine about Christians making fools of themselves by claiming to know things that any Pagan can see just ain’t so?

I kinda skipped over this part:

Since my acceptance of it as divine revelation is based on its conformity with reality, it is immensely falsifiable.

So you wouldn’t accept any revelation which was surprising? Only those which fit the evidence?

Do you realize how lacking in self-awareness most of you are? You seem to be unable to really understand the thinking of someone who actually has a different worldview from yours. Instead of really listening carefully and trying to understand, you oversimplify, caricature, and reject without serious consideration.

Many of you are quite convinced I don’t know anything–reason, the meaning of evidence, logic, history, and pretty much everything else. You are quite convinced you’ve got my psyche basically figured out. Well, I happen to know myself, and you are completely off base. You are confident you understand me, but your evaluations are groundless and almost completely inaccurate. Obviously, for you, confidence is not in proportion to having a good reason to be confident. Your getting things so ridiculously wrong here doesn’t give one much confidence you know what you are talking about in other areas. You obviously have a difficulty with keeping your claims in proportion to your evidence.

You keep asserting things without proving them, as if they are obvious. And yet your assertions simply reflect your ignorance that there are real, intelligent people who think differently from you. They reveal your apparently undiscovered biases. You assert that evidence doesn’t include revelation; that there are lots of good ways to interpret the Bible non-literally; that I can’t possibly know something about the nature of God from reason; that conflicts among monotheists must mean none of them have any good reason to believe what they believe. These are nice assertions. I am well aware that there are lots of people who hold these beliefs, and I understand the argumentation behind them. I happen to think they are wrong. Revelation can be evidence accessible to everyone. It is dishonest or uninformed to claim to believe the Bible without accepting its historical and other factual claims. Conflict among monotheists doesn’t prove that Christians don’t know the truth. Those are my assertions. We can both assert. But assertions won’t do it; we need facts. I am willing to give you my reasons for my assertions. Do you have any good reasons for yours? In order to have good reasons for yours, you really need to try to seriously understand how I (and others like me) think and why, rather than simplistically caricaturing and rejecting. So far, none of you have shown that you have the self-awareness and other-awareness to have done this or to be doing it now. It is difficult to have an intelligent conversation when you can’t understand anything but your own viewpoint.

Let me give you one example. I claim to know that God exists. I gave you some arguments for the existence of God a while back. Hardly anyone has attempted any real response to those arguments. Glen responded with a long post, but his response was dismissive and didn’t really deal with any of my arguments substantively. It all pretty much amounted to, “All this metaphysics stuff is stupid, so there!” Well, I don’t think it is stupid, and I am not going to be convinced by loud, unproven assertions to the contrary. Pete Dunkelberg (I believe) actually attempted an intelligent response, but it pretty much amounted to a complaint that I don’t know how to define “logic.” Actually, I do. I’m sorry he didn’t like my particular use of the term in that context, but that hardly amounts to a substantive critique. (I also appreciated Pete’s attempt, condescending though it was, to be respectful. Thank you.) All of you simply assert that I cannot know anything metaphysical, such as something about the nature of God. That is your belief, where is your proof? I think I can know these things. Am I supposed to believe I can’t, against my own experience, simply on the basis of your authority? Sorry, I’m too scientifically-minded to work that way.

The Bible does not contain contradictions. The thing about rabbits not being ruminents and bats not being birds is an unfair evaluation of the Bible. The Bible is not interested in 21st century scientific classifications. It uses phenomenological and common-sense language–not surprisingly, since it is not just written to 21st century biologists. It may class all birds and bats together as flying creatures, but this is not an error, it is simply not attempting to describe things with the level of detail a biologist would. Now if the Bible said rabbits could fly, we’d have a problem. But it doesn’t. If you are being careless, it is easy to find apparent contradictions in the Bible (and probably just about anything else). If you care about getting things right, you will be able to tell the difference between a contradiction or error and a common-sense or phenomenological description. (By the way, what in the world is your reference for seeing the whole world from the top of a tree? I have no idea what you are talking about here.)

I’ve given you some proof for the existence of God in post #177611. Why don’t you deal with some of that seriously? After that, I can give you some more evidence for my beliefs. And perhaps it is about time to start providing some proof for some of your many strong claims. Revelation can’t be accessible to all and doesn’t constitute evidence? Prove it. The Bible can be legitimately and honestly interpreted without taking its historical claims seriously? Prove it. The existence of conflict among monotheists proves that none of them have the truth? Prove it. Metaphysical arguments are fatuous gibberish? Prove it. Lack of biologically precise language is the same as error? Prove it. It is time to break out of the little box of a universe most of you seem to inhabit and learn to understand the complexity of what is really out there and other ways of thinking besides what you are used to.

B. Spitzer, I want to thank you for your attempts so far to try to listen to what I have to say and to engage it seriously (and for standing up for me earlier amidst the absurd slanders of others, taking some slander yourself in the process). I greatly appreciate it. You say I must provide empirical evidence of the Bible before it can be taken seriously. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the Bible, or the Christian worldview, must predict accurate things about the world we observe. I do believe the Bible does this incredibly well, which is why I believe it should be taken seriously. There is much that can be said here, but let me start with what I have already started with–the evidence for the existence of God I gave in post #177611. Here is one example of where the Bible lines up with reality whereas some other worldviews, such as naturalism, do not. Naturalism predicts that God will not be a logically necessary ingredient to explain the universe. Christianity predicts he will be. It turns out that you cannot explain the universe we observe without the existence of God. This falsifies naturalism and supports Christianity (although other confirmations must be had before a complete case for Christianity is made). Do you consider this a valid example of what you call empirical evidence? If not, why not specifically?

Thanks!

Mark

Well, Mark, I don’t intend to repeat myself. Many responded to that post, and it was the post that revealed most clearly your lack of understanding of modern scientific concepts. It includes misconceptions that to all the way back to Zeno. And it revealed a complete lack of awareness of the long history of discussion, both philosophical and scientific, that has addressed the arguments you make. Several people pointed that out to you.

This is not the forum for you to get an education that is going to take you many years, given your current state and mindset. You will have to go to libraries, read science texts, and anything else that has been suggested here to bring yourself up to date.

No one here hates you or wishes you ill. Don’t misinterpret bluntness as rudeness. Many people replying to you have excellent credentials and many more years of experience than you do. Many have been where you have been and discovered they were not seeing the whole picture. Don’t copycat the criticisms we have made of your positions without understanding the big picture. You only make things worse for yourself and those you claim to represent.

Good luck to you.

It turns out that you cannot explain the universe we observe without the existence of God. This falsifies naturalism and supports Christianity (although other confirmations must be had before a complete case for Christianity is made). Do you consider this a valid example of what you call empirical evidence? If not, why not specifically?

I hate to say I told ya so…

meh, no i don’t.

You all spent 3 very patient days trying to explain things to him, and in the end, this is what you get.

Not one iota different from where he started.

shrug.

OK, I’ll play, can’t work until the caffeine kicks in anyway…

Mark, do you know about the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Have you Heard the Word? Why don’t you look up It’s Noodliness on Wikipedia, and come back and explain to us why your God is more credible…

Pastafarianism forever!

How predictable. Three responses so far to my arguments about the existence of God. None of them even try to deal specifically with the specific arguments.

Elzinga’s response: “That’s just stupid, and everybody knows it! You’re just dumb and uneducated!” Thanks for a brilliant and illuminating response.

Sir Toejam’s response: “We’re wating our time! He hasn’t been convinced by our brilliance yet!” Keep on shining helpful answers like that, and maybe someday I will be–if I stop looking for real evidence, that is.

demallian’s response: “Why do you believe in God more than the Flying Spaghetti monster?” I already told you in the post I referred you to. Go back and read it, then give a response rather than asking over again the same question I already answered.

Any more brilliance, anyone? Boy, how could I have missed the clear evidence for atheism…

Mark

Mark,

No, you haven’t already answered my question. I don’t see anywhere in your post a discussion of why the Bible is more trustworthy than the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Care to explain how you arrive objectively at the conclusion that one is better than the other?

What does it take for you “Darwinists” to stop taking Mark’s bait?

He admits to knowing about OEC and ID, only after much of my nagging, and is aware that they are just as much in conflict with his position as evolution is. But with your help he quickly reverts back to the pretense that it’s either “the Bible” (his interpretation only, of course) or “Darwinism.”

Mark, if you really want to learn about common descent, check Douglas Theobald’s online article “The 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution.” (yes, he uses “evidences” tongue-in-cheek). You can use it 2 ways. It is a gold mine for quotes to mine, if that’s what you want. But it also has 29+ potential falsifiers for “macroevolution,” that not one anti-evolutionist, whether YEC, OEC or IDer, has ever attempted to fulfill. Why would that be?

Revelation can be evidence accessible to everyone.

Yes, but revelation is not acceptable as scientific evidence.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with you if you use revelation as a way to know things. You just you can’t claim that your knowledge is evidence-based, and you certainly can’t premise your science on this knowledge. Those are the ground rules of science, I’m afraid, and there are good reasons for having them. Can you figure out why it’s important to exclude personal revelation from science? (Hint: My revelations are likely to be different than yours.)

And seriously, stop with the persecution complex. If you want a specific point answered, say so. You mentioned your “proof” that God exists hasn’t been addressed. Well, now I claim that Glen’s refutation of it hasn’t been addressed by you, despite your mis-characterization of it.

Mark Hausam dodged thusly:

The thing about rabbits not being ruminents and bats not being birds is an unfair evaluation of the Bible… It may class all birds and bats together as flying creatures, but this is not an error, it is simply not attempting to describe things with the level of detail a biologist would. Now if the Bible said rabbits could fly, we’d have a problem.

You are just making shit up. The Bible doesn’t “class all birds and bats together as flying creatures”, it says that bats ARE birds. That sir is an error. Likewise, it says rabbits “chew the cud”, which they in fact do not. That is also an error. It doesn’t cease to be an error because saying rabbits could fly would be an even bigger error.

If you are being careless, it is easy to find apparent contradictions in the Bible (and probably just about anything else).

Yeah, and if you are willing to ignore the meaning of clear straightforward language, and merely make shit up that conforms to your predjudices, it is easy to pretend errors aren’t errors.

what in the world is your reference for seeing the whole world from the top of a tree? I have no idea what you are talking about here.

And this differs from everything else how exactly?

I believe it was Joshua that had a dream that described such a tree.

Sir_Toejam Wrote:

I hate to say I told ya so… meh, no i don’t. You all spent 3 very patient days trying to explain things to him, and in the end, this is what you get. Not one iota different from where he started. shrug.

Actually ST, this is “déjà vu all over again” for me; it is exactly where I figured it would go, and it is beginning to cycle right back through the same stuff. He wants to debate so he can sharpen his debating skills against us evilutionists. Debate is one of their favored forums because form takes precedence over substance, and one doesn’t have to know anything.

Mark has most of the characteristics I mentioned before he showed up and this all began. It was especially clear in his post #177611 where he elaborated a string of misconceptions that indicated he was sloppily self-educated in science. He has obtained his understanding of science from some pretty disreputable sources, and it shows. He doesn’t know this yet, and he won’t believe it even when we point it out.

Both the information and irony in this thread have been interesting. Nothing new, but at least a spot check on where things are in the ID/Creationist crowd.

By the way, I thought your input was excellent.

Instead of really listening carefully and trying to understand, you oversimplify, caricature, and reject without serious consideration.

And once again, you completely fail to describe exactly what we got wrong.

Revelation can be evidence accessible to everyone.

Most of the “revelations” I’ve heard of have been personal and unverifiable – including those of the various authors of the books of the Bible, who have no proof other than “God showed me this and you’d better believe me.”

I am well aware that there are lots of people who hold these beliefs, and I understand the argumentation behind them. I happen to think they are wrong.

You’ve just admitted you DON’T understand a huge amount of technical and logical stuff that backs up a lot of our argumentation; now you’re saying you understand it all. Color me unimpressed. And all you’ve said in response is that you “happen to think” we’re wrong, without telling us why we should happen to think so too. Personal belief don’t mean squat outside your own life, unless you can back it up with something that exists outside your own head.

[The Bible] may class all birds and bats together as flying creatures, but this is not an error, it is simply not attempting to describe things with the level of detail a biologist would.

You’re absolutely right – which is why (as I’ve said before in a post you completely ignored) it is foolish to try to use the Bible as a science text, as you insist on using Genesis. That’s not why it was written, and it makes no sense to use something for a purpose it was not made to serve. Using the Bible as a science text makes no more sense than shoveling snow with a screwdriver.

Revelation can’t be accessible to all and doesn’t constitute evidence? Prove it.

Lots of people have had revelations to which I am not privy; and I’ve had a few to which no one else is privy. None of it means squat in a peer-reviewed paper or a courtroom. What more proof do you need?

The Bible can be legitimately and honestly interpreted without taking its historical claims seriously? Prove it.

MILLIONS of Christians, if not billions, do just that every day: they draw moral values, spiritual strength, and common-sense guidance from the Bible, and get their knowledge in other areas (history, science, world affairs, etc.) from other texts. And they live honest, unpretentious and fulfilled lives according to the teachings of Jesus, commanding respect from all without threatening anyone or ignoring any complicated or uncomfortable truth. That’s more than Christians of your sort can say. The very fact that you have to demand such proof – and get it from a Pagan, no less – speaks volumes about your understanding of your own faith.

The existence of conflict among monotheists proves that none of them have the truth? Prove it.

Did anyone here even make that assertion? Some of us merely said that all that conflict proves that Christian thought and experience is more complex than you seem to think it is.

Lack of biologically precise language is the same as error? Prove it.

Again, you misrepresented our position: the error is in taking a book with such biologically imprecise language, and pretending it’s an “infallible” source of information on biological subjects such as the origin of species. If it has “imprecise language,” as you’ve just admitted it has, then it cannot be considered reliable on that particular subject.

There is much that can be said here, but let me start with what I have already started with—the evidence for the existence of God I gave in post #177611.

That’s the post where you tried to tell us that God knowingly planted a planetful of systematically misleading clues, in order to justfy ignoring all the evidence that contradicts your creation-story. And your “proof” of God’s existence is no more honest or credible.

But since you insist, I’ll go through a kinda-random sampling of the inconherent non-sequiturs and unfounded assertions that constitute your “proof:”

Some atheists have argued that the universe itself could be self-existent, and thus not need a cause. The problem with this is that the universe simply isn’t self-existent.

An assertion with no facts, observatins or logic to back it up. Besides, if the Universe can’t be “self-existent,” are you sure God can be?

Since the big bang theory has been accepted, most scientists have accepted that time has not gone on indefinitely, but this is better proven by philosophical argumentation.

Non-sequitur. Yes, the Big Bang is accepted, but that does not imply concensus on what, if anything, existed before it. Some scientists speak of an Oscillating Universe: Big Bang, expansion, slowing down due to gravity, brief stasis, contraction, Big Crunch, repeat forever. In my own opinion, Big Bang = “Let there be light!” But there’s no proof of that, at least not yet.

Time cannot have gone on forever because it is logically impossible to traverse an infinite series. If time had been going on forever, there would have passed already an infinite number of, say, minutes. But there cannot have already passed an infinite number of minutes, because it would take literally forever to traverse an infinite number of minutes.

If it’s possible for an infinite number of minutes to exist, then why is it not possible for someone or something (you’re a bit unclear here) to “traverse” them (you’re a bit unclear on that too)?

And yet, we have arrived at this present moment.

“We” were born/created within the possibly-infinite timestream, and “arrived” “here” – another point within the same timestream – from “there.” So what?

Also, not only does the temporal universe as a whole require an explanation outside of itself, but each moment in the time-series requires an explanation. Whenever something changes, there must be an explanation for the change, and it must come from outside the thing changing.

So far at least, all observed changes have been adequately explained using the physical laws and cause-and-effect relationships that prevail within “the time-series.” “Explanations” involving agency from outside “the time-series” have proven unreliable at best, insane or dishonest at worst.

There’s more to your “proof,” but I think I can stop here and conclude that it’s groundless and based on arbitrary assumptions and bogus word-games. George Orwell said it best: the more you think in abstractions, the more the words you choose to use will rush into the vacuum and do all your thinking for you. Use different words, and you will be led to different thoughts.

Furthermore, even if you can prove the existence of _A_ supreme being, you still have yet to prove WHICH supreme being(s) we should all worship and obey; and – more to the point here – none of this proves we can ignore centuries of valid science in favor of this or that vaguely-written creation-story.

Mark Hausam said:

Time cannot have gone on forever because it is logically impossible to traverse an infinite series. If time had been going on forever, there would have passed already an infinite number of, say, minutes. But there cannot have already passed an infinite number of minutes, because it would take literally forever to traverse an infinite number of minutes.

This is the Kalam argument, an annoying bit of pseudo philosophy. It is easily disproved by trying to imagine the location of the point in time (say X years BC) from which he claims we cannot move to the present. All distances are finite.

The argument for an infinite universe is that it had no beginning, not that (as this straw man presumes) it had a beginning, infinitely removed from now. But I’m sure he’ll ignore this like he ignores all the substantive arguments against his position.

That’s sort of like arguing that infinity can’t exist because if it did it would have properties that a finite thing wouldn’t have. (Such as being equivalent to a proper subset of itself.)

Henry

I claim to know that God exists. I gave you some arguments for the existence of God a while back. Hardly anyone has attempted any real response to those arguments. Glen responded with a long post, but his response was dismissive and didn’t really deal with any of my arguments substantively. It all pretty much amounted to, “All this metaphysics stuff is stupid, so there!” Well, I don’t think it is stupid, and I am not going to be convinced by loud, unproven assertions to the contrary. Pete Dunkelberg (I believe) actually attempted an intelligent response, but it pretty much amounted to a complaint that I don’t know how to define “logic.” Actually, I do. I’m sorry he didn’t like my particular use of the term in that context, but that hardly amounts to a substantive critique.

This is not an accurate characterization of these replies. What Glen did, in his typically exhaustive style, is point out your conflation of certain propositions in metaphysics with a foundation for logical certainty. You can prove anything with propositional logic, given enough freedom to choose your axioms. What you did was, in essence, assume your conclusion. Glen called you on it.

Here is one example of where the Bible lines up with reality whereas some other worldviews, such as naturalism, do not. Naturalism predicts that God will not be a logically necessary ingredient to explain the universe. Christianity predicts he will be. It turns out that you cannot explain the universe we observe without the existence of God. This falsifies naturalism and supports Christianity (although other confirmations must be had before a complete case for Christianity is made). Do you consider this a valid example of what you call empirical evidence? If not, why not specifically?

The only reference there to anything that might remotely be construed as “empirical” is “the universe we observe.” In the post to which you keep referring us back, you make a great many unsubstantiated metaphysical pronouncements about what you believe to be the nature of the universe. Examples:

The universe is not really a unified thing but a collection of interacting things.

Whenever something changes, there must be an explanation for the change, and it must come from outside the thing changing.

The brain is an enormously complex animated pattern of matter and energy particles forming complex patterns and moving about in complex ways. But this in itself can do nothing toward producing consciousness.

All of these are unargued assertions. All are taken to be self-evident. The two big problems with this approach are: 1) as Glen forcefully pointed out, these are not uncontroversial even among those who take this kind of metaphysical argumentation seriously, so you can’t just get away with acting like you’ve forced anyone to accept them on your say-so and, more importantly, vis a vis empirical matters, 2) nothing is self-evident when it has to be methodically judged against against physical reality.

Scientific, or empirical, evidence is only obtained by testing a hypothesis in a replicable fashion and presenting the methodology and results for anybody to check for themselves. Supposed proofs for the existence of god simply don’t cut it. The fact that you don’t like the rules carries no force.

Mark Hausam Wrote:

Boy, how could I have missed the clear evidence for atheism…

Among many fundamentalist sects, “atheist” is a clear expression of fear and hatred (often synonymous with “instruments of the devil”, “Satan,” “The Evil One,” etc.).

It is one of the code words used by the religious handlers in these sects to insure that their followers avoid or discount any words from individuals who have been given this label. The next emotional connection is to apply this label to anyone who is critical of the sectarian line. Note the circularity.

Thus, other sects and non-Christian religions often receive this or some other pejorative label. Any objective comments about religions and ethical systems in general are presumed to come from atheists, hence devil worshipers and evil people bent on destroying the souls of the sectarian believers and are therefore to be discounted.

Does Mark think all discussions of topics involving sectarian views must be prefaced with assurances that the protagonist “sympathizes with”, “understands”, or is in some way validating the sectarian view and is only offering hypothetical critiques? Otherwise that person is evil in some way?

It is a verifiable fact that science has practitioners from nearly every religion, non-religion, or undeclared religion, who still all agree on the scientific evidence for evolution and the picture we have of the universe today. This is a better track record than even within some sects let alone among sects. Is this bad?

demallien —

Her Noodliness!

What does it take for you “Darwinists” to stop taking Mark’s bait?

Free pizza?

Henry

bloody extortionist!

:P

David Benson,

Pfft, you do of course have proof that Its Noodliness is female, don’t you?

RAmen

Way back in my earliest post (#176430, before Mark showed up) I was mentioning what I and some of my colleagues had observed back in the 1970s and 80s about the unusually persistent sets of misconceptions that are common and propagate within some of the fundamentalist communities.

It appears that the only significant change we have seen since then is the emphasis on the “materialism” shtick that was introduced primarily by Philip E. Johnson. By asserting that there are two justifiable ways of looking at evidence (one that includes supernatural revelation in the Christian bible, the other that contains only the evidence from the material world), it implies that both are justifiable but the one that admits the supernatural has to be superior by definition.

This, of course, goes back to Thomas Aquinas (with roots going back even farther to Augustine), who claimed that Man resides in the intersection of two worlds (a spiritual world and a material world) and draws knowledge from both. In principle the knowledge one obtains from both worlds must agree (after all, God made the world). However, if they do not agree, one is supposed to doubt the “corruptible knowledge” from the material world and give priority to the knowledge from the spiritual world because that comes directly from God by revelation. (Mark seems to think we don’t understand this concept.)

However, the rapid expansion of knowledge in the intervening centuries and our increased understanding of the development of religions have made this whole picture obsolete. Anyone who has studied this history knows what I am talking about. None of the ID/Creationists appear to have studied this history (or they are reading the corrupted version of history coming out of the Discovery Institute) so they believe they have come up with a new idea which makes them impervious because those of us who are corrupt can’t possibly see what they see from their supernatural insights.

So many of these ID/Creationists are both bulletproof and thin-skinned, meaning they are impervious to arguments from the “materialists” and sensitive to the barbs and arrows those godless devils throw at them. The latter makes them heroes and potential martyrs to their cohorts whenever they engage the atheistic Darwinists. This is an unbeatable combination. Unfortunately it is also wrong but they are imperviousness to the historical and scientific record as well.

Many here have patiently and extensively put forward the many reasons Mark’s “arguments” don’t hold water. You have more patience than I have.

I have developed a type of triage strategy in my own attempts to deal with the ID/Creationists. Generally, if an ID/Creationist comes loaded with a bunch of arguments, this one is already beyond “treatment” because he is armored-up and ready to do battle and is willing to accept martyrdom. So I tend to withhold knowledge and time from such an individual. Nothing works with them anyway. They are usually playing to some gallery.

At the other extreme are those who are comfortable with their philosophical and religious knowledge, are eager to learn and willing to put in the time and effort to do so. These I can help, and I don’t withhold knowledge and time from them.

In the middle are the ones who need broader theological and philosophical instruction as well as scientific instruction. I can handle the latter in my own areas of science, refer them experts in other areas of science, and refer them to well-respected theologians and philosophers for the rest.

Many of my colleagues over the years have not had sufficient exposure to the theological and philosophical issues and history to effectively sort these issues out. My own exposure was serendipitous. Back in the 1970s the Scientific Creationists were goading scientists into debates, and the scientists were thinking they were debating science. The rules of the debate were to “stick to the science”. They didn’t understand that the debate had nothing to do with science; it was really religious and (pseudo)philosophical. I saw a number of debates that were disasters for the scientists who didn’t pick up on the clues.

It seems to me that more of our scientific training will have to include these kinds of issues in the future. As long as much of our research money comes from the public, we owe it to them to at least understand the bigger picture. I have never regretted my exposure to these ideas. I think it made me a better researcher and instructor. It put my own research in a broader context and made it more interesting.

I personally find Mark’s world depressing and devoid of humor and potential.

You have to admit though Mike that this thread is brilliant! How many other threads start off with a scientific paper, and then provide an interactive example of the paper’s subject for us to play with? It’s practical science gold! Kudos to Nick Matzke :-)

And now back to waiting for the next installment from our labrat :-)

As I continue to reflect upon this conversation, it does seem that probably the biggest difference between my thinking and many of yours is that I take seriously the claim of the Bible to be a reliable revelation from God. I believe that God exists, and that it is possible to have such a revelation. I believe the Bible evidences itself to be such a revelation. This means that I come to the specifically scientific evidence for origins believing I have additional information on the subject, and that affects my interpretation of that evidence. Most of you seem to think the idea of revelation is inherently non-objective or non-evidential and cannot be part of one’s evaluation of the evidence. We have, therefore, a deeper philosophical disagreement that undoubtedly affects the way we evaluate things.

I am an empiricist, too. I think my arguments for the existence of God are empirical. They actually use the same kind of reasoning used by scientists (as well as by people in everyday life). Scientists believe they have found evidence of many planets orbiting distant stars. Many of them cannot be seen directly, so how do they know they are there? They deduce their existence from their gravitational effects on their stars. In a similar way, many of the classic proofs for God’s existence logically deduce the existence and much of the nature of God from empirical observations of the natural universe, one’s own consciousness, etc. There is a strong tendency among many scientists (and others) to want to separate “scientific arguments” from “religious” or “philosophical arguments,” but I think this is ultimately a false dichotomy that doesn’t hold up. Richard Dawkins seems to agree with this analysis. In The God Delusion, he rejects Gould’s NOMA and argues that the existence of God is a scientific question. Arguments for the existence of God are scientific arguments. of course, Dawkins thinks they are bad arguments whereas I think many of them are good. But if they are good arguments, then God would be scientifically established and all the implications of that (possibility of revelation, etc.) would have to be taken into account in further scientific research.

OK, let’s deal with some responses to responses to my arguments. I am going to try to go through these rather quickly. (OK, I’m naive. : ))

On rabbits being ruminents and bats being birds: Here are a couple of good websites that provide a good, more full response to these objections: http://www.answersingenesis.org/cre[…]/rabbits.asp and http://www.tektonics.org/af/batbird.html. As I said before, these objections make the mistake of confusing real error with more laid-back biological descriptions. The Bible’s definition of “chew the cud” is broader than ours and can include rabbits. “Birds” in the Bible is a broader category than our modern one as well–it lumps pretty much all flying creatures together. So there are no errors here. A lot of times, accusations of biblical error or contradiction stem from a superficial and shallow reading of the text. It is actually, in some ways, similar to the “quote mining” practice many Darwinists think creationists constantly engage in.

Let me deal with some of the responses to my arguments about the existence of God. Thank you for your thoughts on this, for trying to point out specific objections. I am going to try to go VERY quickly through these, since there are a lot of small objections. If you don’t remember my post very well, you might have to go back and look at it to remember what I am responding to, since I must use a bit of shorthand here.

“All your arguments are simply ungrounded assertions.” No, they are not. They are based in good logical thinking. They are substantive arguments that need to be dealt with on a deeper level than being merely dismissed without serious consideration, which is what this response is doing.

“Time could have been going on forever in the past.” No, it couldn’t have. I am well aware that the concept of an infinite past does not mean there was a beginning infinitely long ago–that is not my point. My argument is that if you posit an infinite past, you will have to say that time has actually been going on infinitely, which means an infinite amount of time–say, an infinite number of minutes–has to have actually occurred. But it is impossible for an infinite amount of minutes to have actually occurred. That would be an inifinite series of minutes that will have been completed and traversed, but you can’t traverse or complete an infinite series. It would take literally forever to actually traverse an infinite number of minutes, and yet an implication of saying that the past has been going on forever is that we have actually traversed such an infinite. The past is not hypothetical. By definition, it has already, actually happened. If the past is infinite, then an infinite amount of time has actually already happened, not just hypothetically but really. But this is impossible by definition. So time cannot have been going on forever.

“Consciousness can be reduced to matter/energy.” No, it cannot. Glen didn’t even attempt to deal with my arguments here, so I don’t have much to say.

“Science starts with evidence, not with unproven assumptions.” That assumes my arguments are “unproven assumptions,” which they are not. They are good, even empirically-based arguments that therefore should constitute a part of the evidence that sciantists consider.

“There can be two totally unrelated things.” I argued that the Ultimate Reality has to be simple being, one thing without parts. One reason for this is that you cannot have two ultimate things, neither one derived from the other or from some higher reality. The reason is that any two things will always share a common reality. They will share laws of logic. They will be simiarl in some ways, if only by both existing, sharing the same laws of logic, etc. Such a situation will not be able to explain the unity of the universe we live in. If the two ultimate things were truly completely and utterly unrelated, they would not share a common reality. Since they do, we have to explain where that unifying reality comes from. Whatever exlains that unifying reality will be the real Ultimate Reality. To explain that unity, it cannot be a combination of two or more things totally unrelated to each other but must be a complete unity itself. This is a bit hard to articulate. I will be happy to go into greater depth if anyone is interested. At any rate, the logic of my argument stands. You simply cannot have two totally unrelated things constituting some unified Ultimate Reality.

“It is possible to have only one object that is bounded/limited.” No, it isn’t. When we talk about something being bounded in this context, we are saying it comes to an end and then there is more reality outside of it. Whatever that reality outside of it is, it is not identical with the original object (since it is outside of it). If it is not the object itself, it is something different from the object. So you will have at least two different “things” or parts of reality. For reality to be truly unified, you must have something without parts and without any other reality existing ultimate besides that one simple thing/being. If no other reality exists, that being would constitute the whole of reality and thus could have no other reality “outside” of it. It would thus have to be unbounded or unlimited (one meaning of the term “infinite”).

Sometimes we get confused dealing with these things because we fail to distinguish what really exists, what must exist, etc., with mathematical ideas or concepts that may be useful mathematically but which cannot exist in the real world. An infinite series, for example, can exist as a mathematical idea, but it is logically impossible that there should be a real infinite series of anything in real life. We can imagine mathematically an infinitesimal point, but such a point is impossible in reality. The concept of infinite as an unending series of finite amounts of something is not possible in reality. But if we mean by “infinite” something that is unbounded, not only is that possible, it must necessarily exist.

“Who created God?” No one. God is a self-existent being. He is a necessary being who is the origin of all causal chains. Something must be self-existent, unproduced from something else, or there would be no basis for the existence of anything. If everything borrows its energy from something else, we leave unexplained where the energy comes from. It must come from somewhere, and yet if everything borrows it from something else, there will be no place it can finally come from. At the back or bottom of all reality, there must be some self-existent reality, something that is the very ground of being, itself unproduced from anything else. This cannot be the universe we observe, because it exhibits properties (such as passing through time), which are incompatible with being self-existent. So there must be some transcendent reality. This plus other arguments lead us to condlude this ultimate, self-existent reality is God.

“God is no better than flying spaghetting monster.” I need more info on the nature of such a creature. I assume he is partially made of noodles. He would therfore be made of bounded parts, and therefore could not be the unified ground of all being (see original post and above for details). Therefore, he cannot be logically deduced from the observable universe. Therefore, I have no evidence for his existence.

“Revelation is obviously subjective and personal, and cannot constitute evidence.” I disagree. I think there are good, objective reasons for accepting the Bible as information from God. My theistic arguments are a part of my case for that.

“You keep saying you don’t understand things and then you say you do.” Like most people, I understand some things and not others. This is not exactly contradictory. I am very familiar with the philosophical (and yet still empirically-based) arguments for my position. I am very familiar with biblical exegesis. I am very familiar with how assumptions can play a role in our evaluations of evidence. I am not very familiar with the technical arguments for and against an old earth, although I have some basic overall knowledge.

“The Bible is not a science book.” That is true. It speaks in common-sense and phenomenological terms, rather than in strictly accurate 21st century biological or other scientific language. However, it does make understandable claims that mean something, and my assertion is that it is always right when it does so. The Bible seems to claim that for itself, so I find it inconsistent to claim to accept the Bible as revelation and then ignore what it says about itself and other things. We must be careful when we draw historical or scientific information from the Bible, because it doesn’t speak with scientific precision or intend to address all we want to know. However, we must respect its factual claims. As I said before, if the Bible claimed that rabbits habitually fly, that would be an error, plain and simple, because they don’t. When the Bible says God created the world in six days, it seems most reasonable to understand that according to its common-sense meaning. The context seems to support that as well.

“A lot of Christians read the Bible differently.” I know. But that doesn’t prove they are right.

OK, that is enough for now. I did get the info for the website Frank J gave me. Thanks. Any other book recommendations on Darwinism? I want something that is reasonably accessible to the non-specialist but is thorough.

Thanks!

Mark

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on May 18, 2007 1:24 AM.

Intelligent Design and the Family was the previous entry in this blog.

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