Being a Theistic Evolutionist without contradiction

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“It is not, however, possible to be a Christian DARWINIST without contradiction. A Christian Darwinist is bound to maintain logically incompatible positions: that evolution is both a tool and an autonomous process, that providence and chance are both ultimately real, that design is potentially detectable and that it is a priori indetectable. This intellectual schizophrenia cannot be maintained.”

Such concludes a posting on UcD by a new poster named Thomas Cudworth.

The problem is that Thomas has failed to recognize several logical fallacies. First of all, the claim that design is potentially detectable is not one which logically follows from a Christian perspective. In fact, YEC have given up on detecting design and rejects any discrepancies between science and their faith. Furthermore, it is hardly self evident that God’s Design should be detectable. In fact, some have argued that this lack of detectable evidence is both a requirement for free will as well as a foundation for our faith.

So how can (Darwinian) evolution be a tool and autonomous process at the same time? Charles Darwin already provided the answer.

One of the major processes of evolution is variation and natural selection. Those familiar with natural selection will remember that Darwin appealed to artificial selection to make his case for natural selection. In other words, God can at least in principle affect the process of natural selection. Second of all, the process of variation. Much confusion exists over the meaning of the term random here. Sufficient to say that random seems to be misunderstood by many an ID Creationist who misinterprets it as ‘unguided’, or ‘guided by a pure chance process’ when in fact logic dictates that random refers to the immediate relevance of said variation in the environment. Furthermore, science has shown how variation can become biased by the same processes of evolution, as long as the source of this variation in variation is genetic. In other words, natural selection can select for sources of variation which are more likely to be successful.

The arguments are not much dissimilar from the observation that although the laws of gravity guide the motion of objects, humans have found ways to guide ballistic projectiles.

Thus we come to the following claim

Once God sets a truly Darwinian process in motion, he has no control over whether it will produce Adam and Eve, a race of pointy-eared Vulcans, or just an ocean full of bacteria.)

First of all this suggests that Humans were the expected outcome of God’s creation and while it is easy to understand this flawed logic, after all, we are the outcome of God’s creation, this should not be confused with a forward looking goal. In fact, it is easy to argue that God’s Creation was set in motion to eventually result in a form of life which could gain spirituality and a soul and thus become aware of His existence. Furthermore, even if God had set in motion a Darwinian process, He could still have intervened, as I have explained above, without violating natural law. In other words, the process would still appear purely Darwinian and at the same time would be guided.

So contrary to the fallacious claims that ‘true Darwinists’ cannot be ‘true Christians’, it is self evident that such a position is not logically tenable.

What I find puzzling is why people are intent on rejecting the good science of Darwinism and evolutionary theory as somehow being incompatible with their faith. That shows both a disregard for science, which is a typical ID Creationist affliction, as well as a significant lack in faith.

What I find particularly ironic is the opening statement that

There is plenty of room within orthodox Christianity for the belief that the earth is very old, and for less-than-completely-literal interpretations of Genesis.

Not only is there plenty of room, Christianity cannot and should not maintain a position which is at odds with known facts of science. As such, I find it far more puzzling to hear ID Creationists be critical about theistic evolutionist while remaining mostly silent about a far worse threat to science and faith, namely Young Earth Creationism.

And yet Cudworth seems to ‘argue’ that

But Darwin’s mechanism leaves room for neither intelligence nor skill; it is the unconscious operation of impersonal natural selection upon mutations which are the products of chance. It follows that Darwinian evolution is not a tool, but an autonomous process, and therefore out of God’s control.

What Cudworth fails to realize is that autonomous processes can be affected and used as tools to control evolution. Once ID Creationist realize their mistakes, they should be quick to abandon their foolish objections to TE’s and become more critical of YECers. But since ID Creationists are most likely to be YECers, it seems no wonder that their disagreements lie with Christians who have not found a need to deny the facts of science in other to have a solid faith.

So let me end with Cudworth’s original statement applied to a far worse threat to science and faith

“It is not, however, possible to be a Christian Young Earth Creationist without contradiction. A Christian Young Earth Creationists is bound to maintain logically incompatible positions: namely that science contradicts consistently the claims of a Young Earth, and a purely faith based interpretation of the Bible that insists that God created in less than 10,000 years. This intellectual schizophrenia cannot be maintained.”

2 TrackBacks

While the comments show that the strident, irrational atheists don’t like it, PvM at Panda’s Thumb provides an excellent commentary on theistic evolution and how it is not at odds with Christian faith: One of the major processes of evolutio... Read More

Evolution as God’s Tool from Threads from Henry's Web on June 24, 2008 2:43 PM

A post on the Panda’s Thumb today calls attention to this post from Uncommon Descent, which claims that theistic evolutionists must believe contradictory things: I would not have a problem understanding evolution as God’s “creation tool,... Read More

147 Comments

I don’t think there exists a coherent account of how information damages will - or even more modestly - damages will in a way that is undesirable. I always get a kick out of used car salesmen using this apologetic approach, though. I’d let you look under the hood, but I don’t want to rob you of your free will.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Pvm, nice article :)

PvM,

Amen.

If you already believe in God, figuring out how to square that belief with the known facts of biological evolution is not that difficult, a pleasant and mostly harmless parlor game. The facts of evolution do not suggest and certainly do not imply the existence of a God, however. Indeed, since the yield of the “process” of evolution is so meager that the last thing it suggests is any kind of intention whatsoever. What chemist would ever choose a method of synthesis that takes four billion years and trillions of corpses to produce a single intelligent species?

Breath taking projected schizophrenia.

Accept the ancients tales without question as objective fact and the YEC’s projected reality doesn’t gel with the real world.….leading to the “logical conclusion” that “god’s world” is not real?

Indeed if the scientific method or as they like to call it “Darwinism” is not congruent with their version of god then one or the other is wrong.

Their craziness only allows one choice.

What next.…hearing voices?

That my friend is a very good question. Of course time may not be of any consequence and the trillion corpses, it’s not as if God killed them, most if not all met a natural death. But you are right the facts of evolution do not suggest nor deny the existence of a God.

Jim Harrison said:

If you already believe in God, figuring out how to square that belief with the known facts of biological evolution is not that difficult, a pleasant and mostly harmless parlor game. The facts of evolution do not suggest and certainly do not imply the existence of a God, however. Indeed, since the yield of the “process” of evolution is so meager that the last thing it suggests is any kind of intention whatsoever. What chemist would ever choose a method of synthesis that takes four billion years and trillions of corpses to produce a single intelligent species?

k.e. said:

What next.…hearing voices?

Who said that… Show yourself…

I’m afraid Stephen Colbert beat Cudworth to the punch. From his most recent interview with Ken Miller:

What about one of these days if intelligent design just takes the name evolution, wouldn’t you be in trouble there?

The 900 foot straw man is that evolution is fine, it’s Darwinism (which here becomes something resembling philosophical naturalism) that’s the problem.

One of the posters on UD had a good point - certainly, the uniting of one of several million sperm (well, more like billion, if you count the total number of times my parents probably did it) with one of several hundred thousand eggs was a random act and yet, here I am. What are the odds…

It’s Cudworth’s invitation at the end to join them that gets me. I can keep all my understanding of evolution if I will just be willing to accept that design might be detectable. Well, it might be, but since not a single IDer has even come close to demonstrating that in a way that is as simple and easy to understand and grasp as, that has even an inkling of the elegance, as evolutionary theory, well, I’ll stay on this side of the divide they’re trying to erect.

Likewise, I have yet to be convinced that morality can be explained by Dawkins in a way that is as simple and easy to understand and grasp as, that has even an inkling of the elegance of, the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I think that ID masks a shakiness in faith. Why must the work of God be detectable in scientific ways? Is faith not enough for you people?

How can a Christian take the word of some carnival ringmasters over those of the good book itself? They demand their side show exhibits be promoted in taxpayer-funded schools while kicking the Bible out. They string up some chicken bones and lizard bones together and call it a trasitional form. They told us John Merrick was a transitional form! What a load of horse hockey! The feejee mermaid was more credible than this contemporary crud. I’ll take the words of the good book anytime over the disciples of P.T. Barnum!

Interesting. PvM paraphrased me as writing “the facts of evolution do not suggest nor deny the existence of a God” when what I wrote was “the facts of evolution do not suggest and certainly do not imply the existence of a god.”

While I cheerfully agree that facts of evolution do not formally contradict theism, they surely aren’t favorable to belief. At the very least, what we have here is the dog that did not bark; for if the universe harbored a god, you’d surely expect to find some evidence of him in nature.

You keep telling me that there’s an elephant in this phone booth, but damned if I can find him.

James F said:

I’m afraid Stephen Colbert beat Cudworth to the punch. From his most recent interview with Ken Miller:

What about one of these days if intelligent design just takes the name evolution, wouldn’t you be in trouble there?

The 900 foot straw man is that evolution is fine, it’s Darwinism (which here becomes something resembling philosophical naturalism) that’s the problem.

I understand and disagree. Somehow ID Creationists do not have a problem with gravity but suddenly become screamish when it involves natural selection. Darwinianism, which insights are still a big part of evolution and evolutionary theory is not a problem, unless ID Creationists let it become philosophical naturalism. Such a confusion seems quite common amongst ID Creationists. Unfortunately

Sometimes I think that ID masks a shakiness in faith. Why must the work of God be detectable in scientific ways? Is faith not enough for you people?

Indeed, my point as well.

Jim Harrison said:

Interesting. PvM paraphrased me as writing “the facts of evolution do not suggest nor deny the existence of a God” when what I wrote was “the facts of evolution do not suggest and certainly do not imply the existence of a god.”

While I cheerfully agree that facts of evolution do not formally contradict theism, they surely aren’t favorable to belief. At the very least, what we have here is the dog that did not bark; for if the universe harbored a god, you’d surely expect to find some evidence of him in nature.

You keep telling me that there’s an elephant in this phone booth, but damned if I can find him.

Now we come to issues of faith. Sure, evolutionary theory, like most any scientific theory does not deny or prove any form of theology, however to suggest that evolutionary theory or the facts of evolution are not favorable to belief may be a problem for belief. The evidence for God is for all to see, all one need to do is believe. Expecting that God should reveal Himself for your amusement seems rather … well…

You keep telling me that there’s an elephant in this phone booth, but damned if I can find him.

Faith my dear friend, faith. What more do you need?

Jim Harrison asks: “What chemist would ever choose a method of synthesis that takes four billion years and trillions of corpses to produce a single intelligent species?”

A chemist who has all time and all space at his disposal, who experiences infinity and eternity as a gestalt, and to whom death is not an end?

Dave Luckett said:

A chemist who has all time and all space at his disposal, who experiences infinity and eternity as a gestalt, and to whom death is not an end?

In other words, your average imaginary, fictional character.

tomh said:

Dave Luckett said:

A chemist who has all time and all space at his disposal, who experiences infinity and eternity as a gestalt, and to whom death is not an end?

In other words, your average imaginary, fictional character.

The concept may include you standard fictional character but I’d say that most fictional characters hardly live up to the chemist described above.

PvM said:

… the trillion corpses, it’s not as if God killed them, most if not all met a natural death.

Well, that’s certainly a forgiving attitude. If you start a process that results in many deaths, is there no responsibility? At the very least, don’t try it under the US legal system, for you will surely wind up in jail.

Death is unavoidable. Let’s turn this around, if you start with a process that results in many lives is there no responsibility? Life and death, two sides of the same coin

After all, using your logic we may as well send all parents to jail :-)

tomh said:

PvM said:

… the trillion corpses, it’s not as if God killed them, most if not all met a natural death.

Well, that’s certainly a forgiving attitude. If you start a process that results in many deaths, is there no responsibility? At the very least, don’t try it under the US legal system, for you will surely wind up in jail.

PvM said:

Let’s turn this around, if you start with a process that results in many lives is there no responsibility?

Well, it’s not a crime to cause life but it is a crime to cause death, so it would seem that there is a difference no matter how many times you turn it around.

PvM said:

Life and death, two sides of the same coin

And just what coin would that be? I’m not familiar with it.

Once again, I’ve got no quarrel with apologists for religion. I just want to point out the irrelevance of their activity to nonbelievers. You really have to be in a peculiar place to be impressed by the kind of reasoning undertaken by proponents of theistic evolution. Simply interpreting things to avoid contradictions is intellectually trivial because contradictions are actually quite rare. Two propositions have to have a great deal in common to contradict one another–two randomly chosen propositions have a vanishingly small probability of doing so. And to speak less abstractly, since biology and theology have no terms in common, their propositions can hardly be logically incompatible. “God” can’t be represented in the language of modern biology.

PvM said:

Let’s turn this around, if you start with a process that results in many lives is there no responsibility?

Well, it’s not a crime to cause life but it is a crime to cause death, so it would seem that there is a difference no matter how many times you turn it around.

PvM said:

Life and death, two sides of the same coin

And just what coin would that be? I’m not familiar with it.

Well, it’s not a crime to cause life but it is a crime to cause death, so it would seem that there is a difference no matter how many times you turn it around.

Death is inevitable, God no more caused death than parents who gave live to a child.

Jim Harrison said:

Once again, I’ve got no quarrel with apologists for religion. I just want to point out the irrelevance of their activity to nonbelievers. You really have to be in a peculiar place to be impressed by the kind of reasoning undertaken by proponents of theistic evolution. Simply interpreting things to avoid contradictions is intellectually trivial because contradictions are actually quite rare. Two propositions have to have a great deal in common to contradict one another–two randomly chosen propositions have a vanishingly small probability of doing so. And to speak less abstractly, since biology and theology have no terms in common, their propositions can hardly be logically incompatible. “God” can’t be represented in the language of modern biology.

I see your point. And yet, the poster to whom I responded suggested that there were contradictions, something I considered to be foolish and ill supported.

PvM said:

Death is inevitable,…

Not for God, apparently. Just for His creations. Religion is a personal matter as everyone knows. As you said, first you believe, then you see. You just can’t expect to convince people that, out of all the thousands of possiblities, your own particular brand of religion is the correct one. Odds are that it is not.

Not for God, apparently. Just for His creations. Religion is a personal matter as everyone knows. As you said, first you believe, then you see. You just can’t expect to convince people that, out of all the thousands of possiblities, your own particular brand of religion is the correct one. Odds are that it is not.

Interesting point, is there such a thing as a wrong religion? Could all religions be right or share at least some truth components? Latest Pew Forum results suggest that more and more americans are warming up to the idea that other religions may not be that wrong. Except somehow for Jehova Witnesses who seem to be convinced that their religion is the only correct one. Fascinating but for me the big question is not as much as whose religion is correct but rather what we can learn from creation.

PvM said:

Sometimes I think that ID masks a shakiness in faith. Why must the work of God be detectable in scientific ways? Is faith not enough for you people?

Indeed, my point as well.

The *only* problem is, it isn’t about faith in God; it is about faith in the Bible the way they read it.

Clearly, if God were omnipotent, it would be entirely possible for him to influence evolution in a way completely undetectable by us, so the false dichotomy of ID or NS is a direct contradiction of Abrahamic tradition.

Nor is it a particularly strong objection that natural selection would be a particularly wasteful way of getting from organic sludge to thinking being. Genetic algorithms are routinely used by human designers to solve engineering problems because, compared with the required human effort, the ‘waste’ of the millions of failed attempts is trivial. Perhaps the element of surprise is a positive characteristic to our putative creator? He lets Gould’s “tape of life” run and sees what rises above its humble beginnings to stand before him. Perhaps, even, we came about by directionless natural selection because God did, and this is what it means to “be made in his image”? It is probably impossible to know, surely, but why should that make it improper to consider?

What is a sticking point is divine omniscience. That rules out surprise or experiment as a reason for natural selection, and also any parsimony of effort, since a being that knew everything would not need a genetic algorithm to arrive at an acceptable solution. But then, omniscience is not particularly compatible with free will either, leading many theologians to reject or limit the concept.

In the end methodological naturalism is not philosophical naturalism. To do science, it is certainly desirable if not necessary to exclude supernatural explanations for phenomena under study, but I do not see that this dictates that one must therefore dismiss the supernatural entirely. If someone has faith that’s fine with me, but if they want me to believe they’ll need to bring proof.

I am starting to understand why Lenny left (aside from the umm “friendly debates” with PZ and others).

“Time for another (seemingly weekly now) pointless holy war.”

…yawn…

snex said:

PvM said:

Well, that’s not what I said; I was talking about the perception of the average American, faced with the choice between the strident atheist and the strident fundamentalist. But we can explore it if you’d like.

Do you have any evidence that you love your wife, or that you enjoy beauty?

since both of these matters relate to my own subjective experience, the idea of some kind of shared objective evidence for them is nonsensical. but theists are claiming more than their own subjective experience - they are claiming that some external, intelligent, personal agent exists and is responsible for creating the universe, possibly life, and performing various miracles throughout history.

How long have you studied theology? On what basis can you say that theists claim more than their subjective experience?

Even within just Christianity there is a wide and diverse body of thought on these issues. Whenever I see statements such as yours, purporting to encapsulate theology into a brief sentence, I cannot help but think of the Creationists who do the same with science. As a lay person in both schools of thought, I can tell both sides that the other is much more complex and rich in diverse thought than they suppose.

snex said:

Frank Hagan said:

The system put the wrong attribution to the quote; that was mine, not PvM’s.

In this thread, I don’t see religious people crossing the line and insisting that scientists accept theistic evolution. Rather, I see atheists insisting that PvM’s belief is a delusion, or a lie, and its not enough that he accepts evolution. Implicit in the argument is that he must abandon faith as well.

Even in your challenge you desire to enforce a kind of conformity, limiting the range of belief and expression of people of faith. Is it enough to say you believe in evolution, or must you also pass a series of litmus tests to, what, be admitted to the “true rational beings” club?

you are correct. acceptance of evolution is not enough. creationists accept heliocentricity, but we agree that they are not in the “club.” acceptance of heliocentricity is not enough. geocentrists accept newton’s laws of motion, but we agree that they are not in the “club.” acceptance of newton’s laws of motion is not enough.

so what is it that gets you into the “club” then? it is not acceptance of some random conclusion of science. it is not even acceptance of all the conclusions of science. it is the willingness to use the method of science in your own personal life, about all objective claims you encounter. this includes claims about gods and their activities in the world. and when you apply the method to those claims, you must be willing to abide by the results, even if they tell you that what you believed is probably not the case. that is how you earn your membership in the “true rational person club” - by being rational not when it is merely convenient for you, but whenever objective claims are made.

Ah, so you would say that Newton himself was not a scientist? Or that men like today’s Geneticist Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is not a scientist?

I await the list of people who pass the snex test for orthodoxy!

Frank Hagan said:

I see atheists insisting that PvM’s belief is a delusion, or a lie, and its not enough that he accepts evolution. Implicit in the argument is that he must abandon faith as well.

Even to you that must sound silly. Who cares if he abandons his faith, let alone that he “must” abandon it. The original post tried to make the case that proclaiming oneself a theistic evolutionist involved no contradiction. Since some people disagree with that claim there are comments about the subject. Other than a moron troll or two, like FL, no one is calling him a “liar”. Since PvM often writes about his faith here he no doubt enjoys discussing it. You, on the other hand, seem to enjoy playing the Christian victim card, talking about how courageous PvM is to publish such a thing and whining about all the abuse those nasty atheists are giving him. Poor Christians, 90% of the country on their side and they’re still so persecuted.

Sometimes I think that ID masks a shakiness in faith. Why must the work of God be detectable in scientific ways? Is faith not enough for you people?

And this is a bad thing to have a shakiness in the faith of something when that something is not detectable in scientific ways? OMG the horror!!

Observations and evidence are different things. Observations only have value as evidence within some interpretative framework. If one of my students goes into the lab and determines (1) the adsorption isotherm of an enzyme onto a specific surface, (2) the enthalpy of adsorption associated with the same adsorption process, and (3) the effect of adsorption on the reaction kinetics for the same enzyme, all I have are data. The data don’t become evidence until my student applies, for example, specific adsorption and kinetic models. Once that happens, the data have the potential to be evidence for (or against) a particular interpretation.

I do note, however, that in these discussion, “evidence” is sometimes used interchangeably with “data.” This is often not a problem, because the key elements of the interpretive framework are usually tacitly agreed to. In my example above, I am not likely to challenge my student’s use of UV absorbance to determine enzyme concentrations. We’ve worked out the method, calibrated it, and cross-validated it with other methods, so we have good reason to trust the results. Thus, the applicability of UV absorbance becomes one of the tacitly agreed-to elements of the interpretive framework.

Now, let’s consider again PvM’s comment:

PvM said:

as mentioned earlier, if the evidence were there, EVERYBODY would see it. and for those that didnt, you could easily point at it. why are you unable to do this? your behavior in this manner is not in any way different from how creationists arrive at their belief in creationism.

I fail to see you point. All I state is that the evidence is easily visible to those who believe in God. I see the sunset, the flicker in my daughters’ eyes, etc, and see in it a wonderful Creation. Others may very well look at the same evidence and come to fully opposite conclusion.

I have no problem with that.

It seems clear to me that what PvM means, put a little less poetically, is “All I state is that when I interpret what I see in the sunset or in the flicker in my daughters’ eyes through the framework of my belief in God, I see evidence of a wonderful Creation. Others may make the same observations but interpret them differently. I have no problem with that.”

And I have no problem with that.

Sometimes I think that ID masks a shakiness in faith. Why must the work of God be detectable in scientific ways? Is faith not enough for you people?

Yeah, let’s not have a shakiness in faith when something isn’t detectable in scientific ways. Much better to have a shakiness in faith if it is detectable in scientific ways. Sorry, but religion is really dumb sometimes! No offense intended, of course!

Frank Hagan said: How long have you studied theology? On what basis can you say that theists claim more than their subjective experience?

Even within just Christianity there is a wide and diverse body of thought on these issues. Whenever I see statements such as yours, purporting to encapsulate theology into a brief sentence, I cannot help but think of the Creationists who do the same with science. As a lay person in both schools of thought, I can tell both sides that the other is much more complex and rich in diverse thought than they suppose.

are you asserting that christians do not claim that the resurrection of christ was a real historical event in the same way that george washington crossing the potomac was? where are these christians? is PvM one of them? are you? is ken miller?

Frank Hagan said: Ah, so you would say that Newton himself was not a scientist? Or that men like today’s Geneticist Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is not a scientist?

I await the list of people who pass the snex test for orthodoxy!

notice how frank ever-so-subtly switches “rational” out for “scientist.” did he think i would let that slip? not a chance. i never said you cant be a scientist. i said you arent being rational. and nobody who has read newton’s works on alechemy, let alone religion, would call the man completely rational.

lets not forget that francis collins asserts that human morality could not have possibly evolved naturally, and that therefore must have been put there by a supernatural agent, some might even say, an “intelligent designer.” collins’ argument is exactly identical to that of the IDers - logical fallacies and all, and yet you want to label him rational while excluding them? sorry but it doesnt work that way. collins can be an excellent geneticist, and you may be an excellent car mechanic (or whatever it is that you do), but that does not make you rational. what makes you rational is in my previous post, and i note that you failed to offer any substantive response to it.

[Oh noes! I can’t find my first comment and now I was going to use some it over at the thread spawned over Bad Math Good Math.

Okay, if I missed it or it resurfaces later, so be it. I will try to recapture the gist of it:]

Draconiz said:

The Sutta provides ten specific sources which should not be used to accept a specific teaching as true, without further verification:

Seems like a reasonable list. But the problem is rather about the verification, as this thread makes clear.

As usual I fail to observe any coherency in apologist arguments, probably because they assume their conclusion and cherry pick for gaps to put their gods in.

So let me look at todays cherry picking.

PvM said:

Furthermore, science has shown how variation can become biased by the same processes of evolution, as long as the source of this variation in variation is genetic. In other words, natural selection can select for sources of variation which are more likely to be successful.

As much as I like to speculate in evolving evolution, it doesn’t change that evolution is autonomous and non-teleological, nor that variation is independent of the functional needs of the organism.

Selection gives feedback so that the genome in effect learns from the environment. I realize that feedback is confusing. Cosma Shalizi shows that learning systems can be modeled by time and so causality working backwards. It is done by an inappropriate closure between the learning system and its environment, a full model doesn’t have those attributes.

PvM said:

In fact, it is easy to argue that God’s Creation was set in motion to eventually result in a form of life which could gain spirituality and a soul and thus become aware of His existence.

Hmm. To claim compatibility with evolution one would first need to show observational evidence for this functional trait of a “soul”. People have abandoned this quest.

More importantly, this is in conflict with the claim that “this lack of detectable evidence is both a requirement for free will as well as a foundation for our faith.” And detectable evidence is both a requirement for science as well as a foundation for theories.

The main problem is that evolution is path dependent. And deterministic chaos, which is part of the environment and therefore affects these paths, makes it impossible to know the exact path from initial conditions.

Now, I assume, you could claim that gods may be omnipotent, even if this is a problem for the above claimed free will, however it is defined. But I fail to see how such an impossible knowledge of infinite precision, breaking the logic of math and physics, saves the argument by concluding that gods are illogical.

And of course the argument is supposed to be based on the very same logic that is rejected.

The main problem is that evolution is path dependent. And deterministic chaos, which is part of the environment and therefore affects these paths, makes it impossible to know the exact path from initial conditions.

Exactly, that part provides a foundation for ‘free will’ while the realization that evolution might eventually, somewhere in this vast universe end up with some form of life which will gain a spiritual awareness provides the answer to the question.

And detectable evidence is both a requirement for science as well as a foundation for theories.

Exactly. Your point being?

bigbang bigot said: I’m far, far more intellectually honest and consistent than PvM

Wow, that’s a new level of stupidity even for you, bigot! You’re calling yourself intellectually honest after repeating known lies for days at a time? What color is the sky on your planet?

You do remember you’re the one who blamed “Darwinism” for the Holocaust based on nothing more than your delusions that you can read the minds of dead men, don’t you? Or are you just a spambot who had a recent memory wipe? Not even a well-written spambot.

PvM is using a pretty odd definition of “Evidence” if he thinks it includes wishful thinking and imaginary friends. But you, Bigot, you don’t even seem able to comprehend basic English. In what universe can you lie as easily as you breathe and still expect people to accept you as “honest”?

Although I will grant that you’re consistent. Consistently dishonest and stupid.

Frank Hagan said:

snex said:

PvM said:

Well, that’s not what I said; I was talking about the perception of the average American, faced with the choice between the strident atheist and the strident fundamentalist. But we can explore it if you’d like.

Do you have any evidence that you love your wife, or that you enjoy beauty?

since both of these matters relate to my own subjective experience, the idea of some kind of shared objective evidence for them is nonsensical. but theists are claiming more than their own subjective experience - they are claiming that some external, intelligent, personal agent exists and is responsible for creating the universe, possibly life, and performing various miracles throughout history.

How long have you studied theology? On what basis can you say that theists claim more than their subjective experience?

Even within just Christianity there is a wide and diverse body of thought on these issues. Whenever I see statements such as yours, purporting to encapsulate theology into a brief sentence, I cannot help but think of the Creationists who do the same with science. As a lay person in both schools of thought, I can tell both sides that the other is much more complex and rich in diverse thought than they suppose.

Two words: Courtier’s Reply.

I could literally spend the rest of my life arguing with PvM and other Christians about why I don’t personally believe that it is justifiable to, not only accept the principal that any sort of God exists — never mind that which could reasonably be classified as Christian — but to allow the acceptance of that “fact” about the universe to influence your life to such a degree. But that requires consent on the part of the other individual, and quite frankly, most atheists are perfectly happy to accept the honesty of PvM and others, even if we don’t agree with their view on this particular issue. And it works both ways, as well.

I don’t believe that faith is likely to be a winning strategy for our species as we attempt to move forward, and certainly not when it concerns such a life altering question, and one which can affect a great many other people, but as long as people are willing to honestly assess scientific findings and to accept secular principles, particularly in the political arena (for obvious reasons, although that doesn’t mean that all arguments must be devoid of religious language and reasoning), it really isn’t any of my business what other people believe.

I am delighted that the Christians that frequent this site (as well as others) are willing to explain how evolution (and science in general) is, to them at least, theologically consistent with their faith. In fact, I wish that it would become a more prevalent feature of this site, for the reasons that I expressed in a thread yesterday. I genuinely believe that the issues concerning the acceptance of evolution are, to a large extent, theological, and not about the evidence at all. If that is true, we can present as much evidence as we like and it won’t make the slightest difference. We are essentially asking people to make a choice between accepting certain aspects of science — which has few obvious benefits, as you can still reap the material rewards, even if you lose out intellectually — and their faith in God.

And I am not simply talking about fundamentalists, either. Most Christians, in my experience, believe in a God that is not easily squared with the findings of science. Luckily, many of them simply haven’t thought about it to any great extent or our problems could be much worse. Of course, we all know that any God that isn’t consistent with the findings of science doesn’t exist in practice (unless we have made some monumental errors, that is), and therefore, it is the concept of God that needs to change, not the science. But that is a theological question and I simply don’t see enough effort on the part of the Christians that have found a way to accept both science and religion to alter the theological landscape of the US. I realize that I’m possibly being unfair here, at least to a number of people.

Sadly, there is more of a backlash against atheists who have understood this problem better than most Christians and have, rightly in my opinion, attempted to exploit it. If there isn’t a major effort to change the conception of God that many millions of Christians believe in, and it is that conception — that theology, if you will — that has lead to so much anti-scientific thinking in the US, at least in part, then the only alternative is to attack God as a concept, itself. Well that is the theory, anyway, and I realize that Christians are hardly likely to agree with it, but I can’t alter the theological landscape in America, not least because I’m British, but I’m an atheist to boot!

If I were to express my own opinion on the faith issue, I am yet to see even mildly convincing refutations of the problems of evil and/or suffering, so I have a hard time understanding how anyone can believe in anything but an evil (or completely disinterested) deity. And that is an even more insurmountable problem for FL, and all fundamentalists, than it is for PvM. Having said that, I’m not entirely convinced that FL has either the ability, or the inclination, to reason about such issues. Why concern yourself with terrible pain and suffering when you can just believe that it is all part of God’s wonderful grand plan? Regardless of how “mysterious™” God is, isn’t it strange that we sinful humans are more ethically advanced than the perfect, loving creator of the universe?

The only way to explain away the problem of evil is to bizarrely rationalize that we too, one day, may see the moral and ethical value in all of the suffering and pain. Or that God is a bit of an amateur, just finding His feet in the universe development business, and that this effort is on a par with the child’s painting that you pin to the fridge.

Hagan says to snex: “Even in your challenge you desire to enforce a kind of conformity, limiting the range of belief and expression of people of faith. Is it enough to say you believe in evolution, or must you also pass a series of litmus tests to, what, be admitted to the “true rational beings” club?”

.

Snex responds: “you are correct. acceptance of evolution is not enough…. so what is it that gets you into the “club” then? it is not acceptance of some random conclusion of science. it is not even acceptance of all the conclusions of science. it is the willingness to use the method of science in your own personal life, about all objective claims you encounter. this includes claims about gods and their activities in the world….”

.

Thank you, thank you, snex; thank God for atheist Darwinians that at least posses enough intellectual honesty and rigor to acknowledge the obvious. Wow, that was painful. Now, have the rest of you Darwinians and so-called Darwinian TEs learned anything? (Remember my deluded Darwinian TE friends, what snex is saying has been the conviction of nearly all top Darwinians, like Meyers, Provine, Dennett, Dawkins, Gould, Mayr, etc, etc.)

I’d sure lke to se P. Z. add his two cents and perhaps convince any remaining “credulous idiots” here that still think it’s possible to be a TE, a Christian Darwinist without contradiction.

Eric said:

FL said:

Rosenhouse has genuinely come up with a sharp issue that MANY theistic evolutionists (especially the online ones who specifically say they are Christians, but really all of them) HAVE NOT been able to resolve. I know, ‘cause I’ve been asking and listening in other forum.

Its fora.

You have just rephrased the greater philosophical ‘problem of evil.’ I.e. why do bad things happen in a world under the power of an omnipotent omniscent omnibeneevolant diety.

As far as I can tell, your fundamentalist literalist religion hasn’t solved that problem either, so I’d quit throwing stones.

An no, before you go off on a quote storm, ‘original sin’ doesn’t solve that problem either, because the follow-on question then becomes, if evil is an inheritance, why would such a creator allow innocent souls to inherit evil.

I don’t think FL really cares about solving that problem, or any problem for that matter. I’m reminded of a scene near the end of the movie “The American President” talking about his opponent:

President Andrew Shepherd said: I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore.

That’s FL and the entire religous right in a nutshell, isn’t it? Not the slightest shred of evidence. No interest in solving any problem, or making anyone’s lives better. No interest in the truth, not even the ability to recognize it when it’s staring them in the face. Just lies and innuendo, fraud and fearmongering and witch hunts. Power over principle, power over everything. Fueled by the desperate hope that if they keep people busy hating the right scapegoat, they won’t notice that the right-wing nutjobs are letting everything fall apart around them, tearing down everything that’s worth a damn and pawning it for a few measley pennies.

bigbang said: Thank you, thank you, snex; thank God for atheist Darwinians that at least posses enough intellectual honesty and rigor to acknowledge the obvious. Wow, that was painful. Now, have the rest of you Darwinians and so-called Darwinian TEs learned anything? (Remember my deluded Darwinian TE friends, what snex is saying has been the conviction of nearly all top Darwinians, like Meyers, Provine, Dennett, Dawkins, Gould, Mayr, etc, etc.)

I’d sure lke to se P. Z. add his two cents and perhaps convince any remaining “credulous idiots” here that still think it’s possible to be a TE, a Christian Darwinist without contradiction.

its not that there is a contradiction in being a TEist. there isnt. just like there is no contradiction in being a “theistic gravitationist.” but the purpose of this blog is to get the public to understand and accept evolution. well, how can we do that? evolution is built on logic and science. if all we do is get people to accept evolution without giving them the foundations of logic and science, then all we have done is replaced one priesthood with another.

but once you let the cat of science out of the bag, you can no longer try to stuff it back in when people start asking about the science of dead rabbis from galilee.

tomh said:

Frank Hagan said:

I see atheists insisting that PvM’s belief is a delusion, or a lie, and its not enough that he accepts evolution. Implicit in the argument is that he must abandon faith as well.

Even to you that must sound silly. Who cares if he abandons his faith, let alone that he “must” abandon it. The original post tried to make the case that proclaiming oneself a theistic evolutionist involved no contradiction. Since some people disagree with that claim there are comments about the subject. Other than a moron troll or two, like FL, no one is calling him a “liar”. Since PvM often writes about his faith here he no doubt enjoys discussing it. You, on the other hand, seem to enjoy playing the Christian victim card, talking about how courageous PvM is to publish such a thing and whining about all the abuse those nasty atheists are giving him. Poor Christians, 90% of the country on their side and they’re still so persecuted.

The original post is saying that there is no contradiction to the Christian or other person of faith, a position that is held by the mainline protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, and most I’ve talked to in the reform and conservative tradition in Judaism (I have no idea where Islam stands on the issue.) The insistence on conformity of thought occurs when non-believers insist that believers must abandon their faith to be “true” scientists, or to be “rational” or not “deluded.”

For example, snex stated this when challenged: “it is the willingness to use the method of science in your own personal life, about all objective claims you encounter. this includes claims about gods and their activities in the world. and when you apply the method to those claims, you must be willing to abide by the results, even if they tell you that what you believed is probably not the case. that is how you earn your membership in the “true rational person club”

I maintain that’s an irrational demand, that the desire to see complete conformity of thought is anathema to the idea of rational thought itself.

My challenge about proving you love your wife stands; it is not the kind of thing you can prove with the scientific method anymore than God is, or the ideas of philosophers. The reply has been that its a “shared experience” … the kind of sloppy evidence provided by theists.

snex said:

Frank Hagan said: Ah, so you would say that Newton himself was not a scientist? Or that men like today’s Geneticist Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is not a scientist?

I await the list of people who pass the snex test for orthodoxy!

notice how frank ever-so-subtly switches “rational” out for “scientist.” did he think i would let that slip? not a chance. i never said you cant be a scientist. i said you arent being rational. and nobody who has read newton’s works on alechemy, let alone religion, would call the man completely rational.

lets not forget that francis collins asserts that human morality could not have possibly evolved naturally, and that therefore must have been put there by a supernatural agent, some might even say, an “intelligent designer.” collins’ argument is exactly identical to that of the IDers - logical fallacies and all, and yet you want to label him rational while excluding them? sorry but it doesnt work that way. collins can be an excellent geneticist, and you may be an excellent car mechanic (or whatever it is that you do), but that does not make you rational. what makes you rational is in my previous post, and i note that you failed to offer any substantive response to it.

If I’ve misquoted you, I apologize. In challenging PvM on his article, which appears to me to be written to answer a simple question of compatibility of Darwinism with Christianity, it seems to me that you are making the case that his position is not rational. Being “rational” then means holding to a specific set of beliefs, and everyone who has gone before, Newton, Pascal, et.al., are not rational.

If I’ve misunderstood you, then let’s clarify.

1. Do you believe it is possible for a Christian to believe in evolution and remain a Christian? 2. Atheism = rational. Any other belief = irrational and/or deluded?

phantomreader42 said:

Two words: Courtier’s Reply.

You don’t see the similarity to the line of reasoning in that article and what the atheists are doing here?

I fear the arguments will be with us always, because some who defend science are irrationally hostile to religion, and some who defend religion are irrationally hostile to science. *sigh*

fshagan said: I maintain that’s an irrational demand, that the desire to see complete conformity of thought is anathema to the idea of rational thought itself.

this is the very method used to discover the theory of evolution, and every other scientific theory. if you think it is irrational, then WHY do you want creationists to apply it to come to understand evolution?

theists are just sour grapes over the fact that when we do apply the scientific method to their objective claims, they never turn out to be correct. but do theists ever learn to stop making them? no, rather than humbly go back to discussing beauty and morality, they blame everything on those pesky atheists who insist on asking hard questions.

fshagan said:My challenge about proving you love your wife stands; it is not the kind of thing you can prove with the scientific method anymore than God is, or the ideas of philosophers. The reply has been that its a “shared experience” … the kind of sloppy evidence provided by theists.

why dont you give us a list of things that the scientific method is good for demonstrating and a list of things that it is not good for demonstrating? no need to be exhaustive, lets just keep the list centered on claims made by evolutionary theory and claims made by your brand of religion.

once youve done that, explain why you think religion is any good at demonstrating any of the items on list B.

fshagan said: 1. Do you believe it is possible for a Christian to believe in evolution and remain a Christian?

yes, but this is trivial. it is possible for a christian to believe in gravity and remain a christian. creationists manage to do this, but nobody here would say that they are therefore rational people.

fshagan said: 2. Atheism = rational. Any other belief = irrational and/or deluded?

with the current evidence we have, yes. that may change as new evidence comes forward, but like the intelligent design “theorists,” believers in gods never want to do any research for finding and demonstrating their gods. all they have is the same types of PR campaigns and propaganda machines that the IDers use to push their ideas on the ignorant public.

im not accusing all of you of making disgusting movies like expelled or anything like that, but how many of you self-professed christians take your children to church and talk to them as if god were a real being, jesus actually rose from the dead, etc? are you teaching your children to critically examine these claims, or do you expect them to swallow them whole? have you critically examined these claims? if so, by what standard? it seems to me that anybody who believes in the virgin birth has not done any critical thinking about it in the slightest.

You and Bigbang should hang out more often, you’re made for eachother.

snex said:

fshagan said: 1. Do you believe it is possible for a Christian to believe in evolution and remain a Christian?

yes, but this is trivial. it is possible for a christian to believe in gravity and remain a christian. creationists manage to do this, but nobody here would say that they are therefore rational people.

fshagan said: 2. Atheism = rational. Any other belief = irrational and/or deluded?

with the current evidence we have, yes. that may change as new evidence comes forward, but like the intelligent design “theorists,” believers in gods never want to do any research for finding and demonstrating their gods. all they have is the same types of PR campaigns and propaganda machines that the IDers use to push their ideas on the ignorant public.

im not accusing all of you of making disgusting movies like expelled or anything like that, but how many of you self-professed christians take your children to church and talk to them as if god were a real being, jesus actually rose from the dead, etc? are you teaching your children to critically examine these claims, or do you expect them to swallow them whole? have you critically examined these claims? if so, by what standard? it seems to me that anybody who believes in the virgin birth has not done any critical thinking about it in the slightest.

Eric, Damien, Phantom Reader, I can understand that you guys would like to shift the focus away from Jason Rosenhouse’s specific and sharp challenge to TE’s.….

Evolution by natural selection, you see, is an awful process. It is bloody, sadistic, and cruel. It flouts every moral precept we humans hold dear. It recognizes only survival and gene propagation, and even on those rare occasions where you find altruism and non-selfishness you can be certain that blind self-interest is lurking somewhere behind the scenes. All of this suffering, pain and misery, mind you, to reach a foreordained moment when self-aware creature finally appeared.

What theological purpose was served by all this bloodsport? If humans were inevitable why didn’t God simply fast-forward the tape himself, thereby sparing all of those animals that died horrible deaths in the preceding hundreds of millions of years?

.….and instead talk about something else like the problem of evil in general, or how much more ethical than God you happen to be, or some fictional “President” movie, or other assorted hooly-magoo’s. You’re trying to shift away from what you apparently don’t have an answer for, and would simply rather discuss Anything Else.

On most occasions, I wouldn’t mind discussing the P of E. Plenty of good resources both print and online to discuss that topic with, from the foundational book of Genesis to the classic Book of Job in the Bible, to the books of the New Testament that touch on the subject, to Kewl Philosophers like Alvin Plantinga and Winfried Corduan, and Kewl Apologists like Norman Geisler and Peter Kreeft (not to mention Kewl Evangelists like Billy Graham). Lots of good stuff from many directions.

http://www.leaderu.com/focus/goodevil.html

Probably wouldn’t change Damien’s mind, of course, and probably not yours either Eric, but it would be a fun diversion.

But that’s why I’m NOT going there. I DON’T want a diversion, as you do. I DON’T want to shift the discussion, as you do.

The exact name of this thread is “Being a Theistic Evolutionist Without Contradiction”, and that’s EXACTLY what Jason Rosenhouse’s challenge is addressing.

He’s not asking theistic evolutionists to discuss and resolve the entire P of E with all of its philosophical and theological angles.

He’s specifically asking TE’s to just tell him the “theological purpose”, the “WHY”, of God using the “bloody cruel sadistic selfish” red-tooth-&-claw evolutionary process for a gazillion years and a gazillion cruel animal deaths JUST TO evolve a few humans at the end of the game. Just tell him that much. Since TE’s clearly say that God used evolution to evolve the first humans into existence, Rosenhouse’s challenge is 100 percent legitimate and on-point. So I’d like to see Eric and Damien and PhantomReader answer that challenge rather than try to do a mile-long diversion on the P of E or “President Andrew Shepherd”.

(And as we’ve already seen, there’s been plenty of additional rational challenges to this claim of “Being a TE without contradiction” from other PT participants. Very interesting stuff; a most delicious thread.)

FL

Many years ago, I went on a trip to the Amazon as part of a course in tropical biology. We were accompanied by a fine scientist, an expert in millipedes, who looked upon this trip as an opportunity to uncover a new species or two. He was so intent on those millipedes, on seeing the world through only that lens, that he missed a huge portion of the experience - the culture, the people, the overall grandeur of the rainforest as a whole. I learned a lot from him. But it wasn’t about millipedes.

Before I dive into my opening unit on the nature of science at the beginning of the school year, I remind my students that there are many ways to understand the universe and ALL that it entails and if they choose to limit their way of understanding to just science or just faith or just math or just art or just literature, they may learn a lot, but they may miss out on the overall grandeur of it all. And with that, we launch into learning about the universe in ways that are logical, rational, observable, testable and predictable. It is only one small part of their education.

teach said:

Many years ago, I went on a trip to the Amazon as part of a course in tropical biology. We were accompanied by a fine scientist, an expert in millipedes, who looked upon this trip as an opportunity to uncover a new species or two. He was so intent on those millipedes, on seeing the world through only that lens, that he missed a huge portion of the experience - the culture, the people, the overall grandeur of the rainforest as a whole. I learned a lot from him. But it wasn’t about millipedes.

Before I dive into my opening unit on the nature of science at the beginning of the school year, I remind my students that there are many ways to understand the universe and ALL that it entails and if they choose to limit their way of understanding to just science or just faith or just math or just art or just literature, they may learn a lot, but they may miss out on the overall grandeur of it all. And with that, we launch into learning about the universe in ways that are logical, rational, observable, testable and predictable. It is only one small part of their education.

hey thats great, but you forgot to mention how exactly faith helps us understand anything about anything, let alone the universe. this is the mantra of the theist, that faith is just a “different way of understanding,” but darned if they can tell you how it works or why they cant even come up with a consistent picture of reality when they use it.

Torbjorn! So glad to be responding to someone not BB or FL. :)

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said:

First, I think snex makes an excellent point. To be acceptable general evidence it would have to be general. One would think.

Yes…to be acceptable general evidence. To be acceptable personal evidence, not so much. ‘General’ is pretty much similar to ‘scientific.’ Both are lowest common denominators - that minimum on which everyone, from wildly different backgrounds, can agree.

Now, as I scientist I think this is a great thing. And, referring back to some of your previous posts and justified belief, general evidence may be the *only* good basis for “knowledge.” However its not the only type of evidence on which regular humans make decisions. Even us skeptic-type humans :)

I would count empirical facts and theories as evidential knowledge.

Me too.

Even if there is a gray area between consolidated scientific fact and, say, technological usage. For example, it seems to me that learning that something works in practice is not general evidential knowledge, as it has to be disseminated as “evidence from authority”, or become validated in the process.

Um, I don’t get what you’re saying here. Technology is an extension of science as it is the ultimate (large set of) confirmation experiment(s). There is no appeal to authority required to make an airplane fly. This is why the ‘journal of irreproducible results’ is a geek joke. Anything you can’t count on as a reproducible phenomenon isn’t science. Technology is therefore just applied reproducible experiment.

He’s specifically asking TE’s to just tell him the “theological purpose”, the “WHY”, of God using the “bloody cruel sadistic selfish” red-tooth-&-claw evolutionary process for a gazillion years and a gazillion cruel animal deaths JUST TO evolve a few humans at the end of the game. Just tell him that much. Since TE’s clearly say that God used evolution to evolve the first humans into existence, Rosenhouse’s challenge is 100 percent legitimate and on-point. So I’d like to see Eric and Damien and PhantomReader answer that challenge rather than try to do a mile-long diversion on the P of E or “President Andrew Shepherd”.

The question is flawed. Nothing cruel, sadistic or bloody about the evolutionary process. Only as a strawman can FL further his flawed assumptions.

Of course, even if the why may be unclear, the facts clearly show that evolution happened over the time period of 4 billion years. So perhaps FL’s purpose is to argue that he lacks the faith and is instead joining the ranks of the atheists?

I would not be surprised.

hey thats great, but you forgot to mention how exactly faith helps us understand anything about anything, let alone the universe. this is the mantra of the theist, that faith is just a “different way of understanding,” but darned if they can tell you how it works or why they cant even come up with a consistent picture of reality when they use it.

Fascinating, an evangelical atheist, I have not met many of them recently. Instead of accepting that there are others who have a different faith, they decide to question, ridicule. Not much different from evangelical Christians who deride atheists. You pretend to know what the theist believes and yet you show little interest to explore their position.

Perhaps atheists are not much different from other religious people. But my contribution is not for the benefit of those on either extreme but rather to the rational middle.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on June 22, 2008 6:30 PM.

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