21 Aug 2011

Why Evangelicals Get So Worked Up About Evolution

Intelligent Design, Religious 77 Comments

A few years ago, I got hip-deep into the Intelligent Design (ID) controversy and gave it a qualified (opposable) thumbs-up. Here’s my quick position, because I know some readers will be horrified if I don’t clarify:

(1) I do not think the Biblical Genesis account should be treated as a literal chronology, as an eyewitness account of (say) someone spending a week in the Bahamas. I think the writer was divinely inspired, and really did “see” how God created the universe and its contents, but that it would be hard for such a person to comprehend what he had just witnessed. (In contrast, when the writers of the gospels report that Jesus walked on water and healed the lame, there can be no ambiguity there. If that stuff didn’t happen, then somebody was consciously lying.)

(2) Most defenders of the orthodox, Darwinian account are hilariously overconfident in the weight of the evidence behind the falsifiable portions of their worldview.

(3) Michael Behe is right when he distinguishes between outward behavior and the informational requirements behind such outcomes. For example, even if it turns out to be the case (and I have no dog in the fight one way or the other) that every living thing on Earth can trace its heritage back to a common single ancestor, from this it would not follow that there is no longer “any need for the God hypothesis” or “role for an intelligent creator.” If you need to have an exquisitely calibrated external environment, and an exquisitely calibrated initial living cell, in order for “blind chance and natural selection” to then spawn all living things, then it leads us to wonder why we happen to be living in just-so of a world. This is where (in my opinion) the ID people are making serious contributions, and where (in my opinion) most biologists and chemists miss the argument completely. It would be like finding a house in the woods that was nice and cozy, and one guy saying, “I don’t know why you keep asking, ‘Whose house is this?’ I can explain the temperature controls in natural terms, using that thing on the wall over there with numbers on it.”

But the above isn’t really the point of my post right now. Instead, I want to explain why the typical evangelical Christian gets so worked up over this topic. You see, a lot of agnostic (or even Christian, for that matter) believers in the orthodox Darwinian account will say things like, “Look, whether or not people and apes share a common ancestor is just a question of history and biology. It doesn’t have any bearing on our ethics, our philosophy, or our religious values. The Nazis were still wrong, whether or not you believe in the Genesis account–so Ben Stein is a moron. Let’s stop wringing our hands over what science teaches us about the natural world, for crying out loud.”

OK, so here’s why a lot of evangelicals don’t buy that line: the proponents of “evolution” don’t either. People use the Darwinian view of man’s origin all the time, outside of narrow biological sphere. For example, the friendly Keynesian Daniel Kuehn says stuff like this all the time, though in the below he’s quoting Tyler Cowen:


[Tyler Cowen:] “There is nothing in the (very useful) data cited by Mulligan, in his posts on supply and employment, which runs against the Keynesian story. Of course I am a fan of the blogosphere, but sometimes it frightens me when I see it having influence over research interpretations. We’re just a small number of apes sitting at computers, relative to the overall literature. When it comes to Keynesian economics, I don’t always see we apes as reflecting the broader literature very well, yet we are read by a relatively large number of apes. We can expect this problem to get worse, as people learn the “blogosphere versions” of different points of v[i]ew.”

[Daniel Kuehn:] Nothing Mulligan has been saying runs againts Keynesianism: check.

We are just smart primates and should never forget that: check.

Blogosphere versions of economic theories really distort peoples’ perception of the science: check.

The one thing that Cowen didn’t get right in my view is what I didn’t quote here…

As I have tried a few times to ask Daniel, what does the word “just” do in the above claims? The next time a brilliant chemist gets a tough question from a wise-aleck doctoral student, he should just say, “I don’t need to answer that, since–as we learned on Tuesday–you are just a collection of molecules.”

Historically, Christians–especially the dogmatic Bible-thumpers–were threatened by Darwin’s theory of evolution precisely because they knew people would “apply” it the way Cowen and Kuehn did in the quotation above.

77 Responses to “Why Evangelicals Get So Worked Up About Evolution”

  1. Ryan Murphy says:

    You can read the statement as the modern progressive equivalent of “Man is fallen,” I believe. The research that comes from the paradigm associated with humans as evolved apes presents a view of human nature practically similar to the Judeo-Christian view of human nature. That statement may sound incredible, but keep in mind that the previous view of human nature for progressives was tabula rasa.

  2. Yosef says:

    If the Biblical Genesis chronology should not be treated as a literal chronology, per your (1), why do you rest on a day of the week? if the seven days of creation are not “days”, why is the seventh day a day?

    So, the days of creation are not to be taken literally, but walking on water and healing the lame are literal. What about a pillar of cloud and a pillar of light?

    • bobmurphy says:

      Yosef, yes I believe there was a pillar of cloud and light. If that stuff happened, then the Israelites actually saw it in real-time and passed it down until it was eventually written. In contrast, no human was alive to observe the creation of the universe out of nothingness.

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, you skipped the inconsistency between the non literal days of creation and the literal day of rest (which is itself a day of creation).

        While it may be true that the Isrealites saw something, it was not they who wrote things down. You say that it was passed down until it was written as though that was nothing, but we know that tales tend to grow and change in the passing.

        Perhaps when the generation of exodus left Egypt there was a very bright star, and then as the years went on and the children and grandchildren asked “Are you sure this is the way, are we lost?” the older generation would say “Of course this is the way, why, when we left there was a giant pillar of light to guide our way. Keep walking.”

  3. Ash says:

    Bob, would you (and/or other evangelicals) get equally worked up over ‘the Earth is a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam’ style rhetoric?

    Because if so, I think you are missing (what I understand to be) the point to be in this type of rhetoric: that we (as in humanity) shouldn’t get too worked up over trivial issues as who’s got the best jump shot or what is or isn’t consistent with Keynesianism.

  4. Student of a Rabbi (sort of) says:

    I was under the impression that Christians opposed the theory of evolution because it suggested that the creation story as it is stated in the Bible (as opposed to how it is interpreted) is utterly false. And if that story is false, what else might be false? And if it is a metaphor and open to interpretation, what else might be metaphorical and open to interpretation? Might not the injunction to have no god but God be a metaphor for why the ingesting of broccoli in significant quantities is conducive to good health?

    “I do not think the Biblical Genesis account should be treated as a literal chronology, as an eyewitness account of (say) someone spending a week in the Bahamas. I think the writer was divinely inspired, and really did “see” how God created the universe and its contents, but that it would be hard for such a person to comprehend what he had just witnessed.”

    All parts of this are unsupported by any holy text. Why do you believe it?

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “I was under the impression that Christians opposed the theory of evolution ”

      “Christians” do not oppose the theory of evolution! A small percentage of them do.

      “because it suggested that the creation story as it is stated in the Bible (as opposed to how it is interpreted) is utterly false. And if that story is false, what else might be false? And if it is a metaphor and open to interpretation, what else might be metaphorical and open to interpretation?”

      According to the Catholic Church, any portion which turns out to be proven false by science is to be interpreted metaphorically.

      “All parts of this are unsupported by any holy text. Why do you believe it?”

      He’s intelligent?

      • Student of a Rabbi (sort of) says:

        Sorry, what do you mean by that last part?

      • Student of a Rabbi (sort of) says:

        Rather, what do you mean by “intelligent?’

  5. David says:

    I’m inclined to disagree slightly. To me it seems Keynesians are using the ape analogy to show their philosophy of how “primitive” consumers are, not to parallel evolution. After all, they love the idea of animal spirits. Actually, upon reading it again they seem to be complaining about people on the internet (non-Keynesians, apparently) having influence on their economic logic (fallacies).

    However, if the Keynesians were to parallel evolution, or at least natural selection, they wouldn’t be very good Keynesians.The Keynesian view insists on the idea of top down, intelligently-designed economies specifically because (in their view) we’ll tear each other to pieces competing. So they think we need “intelligent” designers like Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman.

    The Austrian view shows that the businesses most able to cater to consumers are the most capable survivors. Furthermore, these businesses change in order to adapt to the changing consumer environment. This directly parallels natural selection and evolution. I’m not implying that biology and economics must reflect one another but rather that there are striking similarities and the theory of evolution holds true for both.

    I would really like to hear your falsifiable portions of the orthodox darwinian theory.

    There’s no reason that evolution and religion can’t exist together in the same philosophy.

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    And every time you ask me that I try to press you on exactly what you’re thinking being just a highly evolved ape lacks. You seem to think it implies a lack of meaningfulness, identity, etc.. You practically say this about the collection of molecules. We are just a collection of molecules. Maybe I’m dense, but I need you to clarify why being a collection of molecules gives the brilliant chemist license not to answer his student.

  7. bee says:

    You have no problem believing the government is lying yet you have obvious problems believing that the people who say Jesus walked on water were lying. I should add, and you well know, that religion served a state functiion almost from its beginning. Also, I think what you are mostly attacking on the darwinian side is the common ancestor theory, which many darwininas today believe is flawed. It tries to explain the creation of life, or abiogenesis ”by chance” if you want.but darwinian evolution does not try to explain the creation of life…evolution takes life as given and explains just the laws of how it will behave – just like natural order in economics for exemple. life came to earth probably in salves of meteorshowers during many many millions of years, so there could possibly be a bazillion ancestors.see jurnal of cosmology > http://journalofcosmology.com/Life101.html

  8. Daniel Kuehn says:

    And every time you ask me that I try to press you on exactly what you’re thinking being just a highly evolved ape lacks. You seem to think it implies a lack of meaningfulness, identity, etc.. You practically say this about the collection of molecules. We are just a collection of molecules. Maybe I’m dense, but I need you to clarify why being a collection of molecules gives the brilliant chemist license not to answer his student.

    • Silas Barta says:

      You’re making Bob’s point: if you think that being a highly evolved ape lacks nothing of significance, then why do you bother to bring up that we’re “just” a bunch of primates, etc.?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        I’m not sure I understand your point. Why can’t being just a highly evolved ape na significant, extraordinary, meaningful thing?

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          *be an

        • Silas Barta says:

          It can, but people use the ape comparison for its negative connotations and to disparage humans, not to highlight their abilities.

          Why not say that humans are “just” “Bayesian inference engines well-calibrated to earth-like environments”?

          Oh, right, because it doesn’t sound so humbling when you put it that way.

          Don’t pretend like you don’t know what the typical reader is going to take away from being compared to an ape.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            I don’t see what’s disparaging about this. Most of the civilized world recognizes that we’re apes and doesn’t find anything disparaging in it. Why would they? Apes are incredible animals.

            When people get delusions of grandeur and forget that miracle they’re a part of, they start to do very dangerous things.

            Anyway, for centuries Biblical literalists (which, as Bob points out, he is not and I understand that) thought we came from dirt. That’s considerably more disparaging than my proposition.

            • Silas Barta says:

              You really don’t understand the difference between denotation and connotation, do you?

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                I understand it fine. However, there are multiple connotations associated with “ape”. Context clarifies exactly which connotations are relevant, and clearly there was nothing disparaging in my use of the word.

              • Silas Barta says:

                Great, we’re getting somewhere. Now, in the examples Bob cited, which connotation do you think the writer was aiming for, and do you think that was the right mindset with which to approach the subject matter?

                Specifically, when Tyler_Cowen advises us to remember that we’re “just apes” when talking about economics, what improvement does that cause in my thinking about the issue?

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                I took him to mean that we are not omniscient compendiums of the entire literature – we’re smart apes sitting at computers trying to work this out.

                A lot of people try to pretend that humans are something transcendent. We’re not. We’re just really smart apes. Why you or Bob or Gene take that to mean that there’s something insignificant about us is beyond me.

              • Silas Barta says:

                Wow, and you there you go justifying my opinion of your honesty level!

                I don’t claim that there’s anything insignificant about us, nor that it would follow from us being apes! Where did you get that? Show me specifically.

                What I claim is that *emphasizing* this negative-connotation aspect doesn’t serve any purpose but to push unnecessary humility on the reader while maintaining plausible deniability.

                Can you tell me what error I would make on this topic as a result of not being reminded that I’m “just” an ape?

                And are you really ignorant of how the term “just”/”merely” changes the meaning of a sentence?

            • bobmurphy says:

              Daniel Kuehn wrote:

              A lot of people try to pretend that humans are something transcendent. We’re not.

              Bingo! That’s exactly the point I was trying to make, Daniel. A lot of people try to get Christians to chill out and say, “Hey look, if you want to think your God designed everything and set it in motion at t=0, be our guest. You want to think you’re a ‘child of God’ and that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ? Be our guest. We’re just saying, don’t start crossing metaphysical and spiritual boundaries with natural facts about the development of biological organisms.”

              But the proponents of evolution don’t respect such boundaries. You are telling me not to think I’m special, because after all I’m “just” an ape.

              And as Silas is hammering away, the whole reason Tyler brought up the point is to remind everybody of how dumb we are. Stop thinking you guys are dealing with “Truth with a capital T”! We’re just stumbling around with these ideas, since we’re just a bunch of apes.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                When have I told you not to think you’re special? Of course your special Bob.

                Claims of existence of spirit seem entirely unsubstantiated to me, but that’s a separate issue. I don’t see any good reason why a spiritual nature couldn’t belong to “just apes”.

                You think Tyler thinks we’re dumb?!?! I think he’s just saying that we’re imperfect. I wouldn’t have thought that would be so hard for you to swallow.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Let me put it this way – if ID and endowment with a soul is accurate then we are still just apes, but we’re apes that are lucky enough to have been endowed with a soul by an (indirect) Creator. That would be pretty cool. I have no reason why we should think this is the case, but if we were ensouled apes that would be great. Nobody who thinks we are ensouled apes should have any problem with recognizing that we’re just apes.

              • bobmurphy says:

                Why do you keep using the word “just”?? It’s not a coincidence; you use it repeatedly when these discussions come up. If you think you are mentioning a true statement without in any way detracting from other, equally true statements, then you should stop using the word “just.”

                Let me put it to you this way. Would you be fine if I kept telling people, “We are just the most extraordinary thinking machines in the history of the universe. Keep that in mind the next time you discuss something.” ?

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Also – “Bayesian inference engines well calibrated to earth like environments” seems to fall under the umbrella of “apes”. It’s fine too, of course.

            • Silas Barta says:

              Wow, I didn’t know that “ape” strongly implied “Bayesian inference engine …”, nor that most of the civilized world recognized the connection, nor that it elicits the same behavior from the typical reader that a comparison to apes would!

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                I’m not sure it “strongly” applies, but the two certainly aren’t in any conflict. We’re apes and we’re Bayesian inference engines and I’m happy to call us both.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Look Silas – you’ve never shown any capacity to give me a fair hearing. Just the other day you accused me outright of being a dishonest person. I don’t appreciate any of that. Spin my phrase however you feel like spinning it, but don’t tell me what I think – I haven’t said anything disparaging about mankind.

            • Silas Barta says:

              And you’ve not shown any capacity to undestand the point Bob is making.

              Yes, human are apes. Does reminding humans that they are “just apes” accomplish what e.g. Tyler_Cowen intended with his usage of the phrase? Yes, we can all invoke plausibile deniability (especially with people like you around to help!) when we try to make people humble, “remember you’re just apes”, while sheepishly claiming, “but it’s literally true”. Still doesn’t make it a helpful use of the comparison.

              (I’m not endorsing some kind of anti-evolution view, if that’s what you were thinking.)

              Are you some kind of passive-aggressive debate advocate or something? “You’re an ape … what, what, I’m just saying the truth, that doesn’t imply anything negative … I said it for no reason whatsoever, reallly!!!! See, straight face and everything!”

            • Silas Barta says:

              Tell you what, Daniel_Kuehn: would you ever tell your girlfriend that she’s just an ape? No, no, stop, that’s wasn’t what I asked. Yes, I know your girlfriend is an ape. The question before you is whether you are aware of the connotations that people (normal people, I mean, not Daniel_Kuehn when he wants to be contrarian) take when compared to apes.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                I can’t imagine there are that many occasions I’d have to say that to my wife, but I don’t see what problem there would be with saying that.

                I can give you two examples I remember, though. When I first came across Carl Sagan’s line in reference to human achievements that “these are some of the things that molecules do given four billion years of evolution” I was impressed enough by it to share it with her (implying, of course, that she’s just a bunch of molecules – a bunch of molecules I care very deeply about, of course).

                The other example is a passage that I shared with her from The Metaphysical Club (I could quote it to you exactly later tonight), where someone was implying that our minds are pinpoints in a vast continuum of matter where “the universe become conscious of its own existence”.

                I don’t recall if I’ve ever noted that she’s just an ape – but if you want me to I could bring it up with her tonight. I don’t think she’s under the impression that she’s anything other than that and I don’t expect saying that will shake her understanding of how much I love her and how special I think she is. It might come across as a non-sequitor, but not an insult.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                Well, depending on how I say it. If I say “you smell like you haven’t bathed for a month – you’re just an ape”, then THAT would probably come across as an insult. Thankfully, I’ve never had cause to say anything like that.

              • Silas Barta says:

                That wasn’t the question. Read it again: I didn’t ask if you shared an insight from Carl Sagan with your wife. I asked if you directly called your s/o an “ape”, because I know you’re not ignorant of how such a statement would be read, and this is the way I have chosen to show you the distinction, and yet again you impress me with your ability to dodge the point.

              • Daniel Kuehn says:

                I know that wasn’t the question. I’m furnishing you with similar cases because, as I said, I haven’t had the occasion to say that to her.

                And if I just said “of course I’d be happy to say that to her” you’d whine about how I wouldn’t, in reality. So I’m giving you related examples.

              • Silas Barta says:

                And those examples differ from what Tyler_Cowen was doing when we said we’re “just” (whatever that means) apes at computers, in crucial ways that I have already explained against your herculean efforts not to get it, even as you manage to conduct your life as if you do.

              • Dan says:

                Silas, I got the chance to test out your theory on my girlfriend. She was at the computer telling me about some email her mom sent her and I responded, with a dead pan delivery, that she was just an ape sitting at a computer. Her reaction was to scowl and give me the middle finger. I guess she didn’t understand that I was just stating a fact.

              • Dan says:

                I can’t even believe that someone could argue that saying someone is “just” an ape should not be taken with a negative connotation. Shoot, you call the wrong person “just” an ape, even if you meant it in the literal sense, you are going to be considered a racist and probably end up in a fight.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Daniel Kuehn wrote:

      And every time you ask me that I try to press you on exactly what you’re thinking being just a highly evolved ape lacks.

      No, the burden of proof is in you (and Tyler) to explain why you are using the statement. Clearly it serves a rhetorical purpose–you are trying to make people doubt their confidence in their knowledge, and to stop thinking they are “transcendent” (your exact word).

      The irony here is funny. You and Tyler are specifically using the phrase to get people to think less of themselves, and then you wonder why I think being an ape lacks something.

      (If you think you are just uttering a simple fact, the next time you are tempted to remind people that they are “just a smart primate,” instead tell them, “You are a member of a class of the most sophisticated computational devices in the existence of the universe, capable of generating everything from beautiful poetry to mathematical proofs.” If that messes up the point you are trying to make, then stop pretending that you’re not using the primate/ape language for rhetorical effect.)

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        re: “No, the burden of proof is in you (and Tyler) to explain why you are using the statement”

        I’ve explained why. Then you seem to put words in our mouths and never explain why you’re doing that.

        For example – above you say I’m telling you that you can’t consider yourself special. I’ve never said anything of the sort and I think I’m justified in asking you why you would assert that I have said such a thing.

        re: “You and Tyler are specifically using the phrase to get people to think less of themselves, and then you wonder why I think being an ape lacks something.”

        Why do you keep saying this? Why do you think I want people to think less of themselves?

        Apes are brilliant, marvelous creatures and we are more brilliant and more marvelous than any other ape. It’s precisely the heights that we’ve achieved after hundreds of thousands of years of progress that is so awe-inspiring. How could you see this as an insult? Look at all that we’ve accomplished!

        • bobmurphy says:

          Daniel, every time you use this insight, it is to warn people to not overrate their abilities. That is the function of this observation on your blog, and it is why Tyler used it. He wasn’t saying, “We bloggers kick a**! We’re just the smartest apes on the whole frickin’ planet! Homo sapiens! Homo sapiens! Somebody get Casey Mulligan another banana, he’s earned it with all that deep thinking his noodle has been doing!”

          I have to stop this now. Maybe Silas or somebody has more stamina. On the one hand, you tell people to remember that they are “just apes,” and then on the other, you act as if this statement has no content at all.

          • Daniel Kuehn says:

            Well sure, I’d say we don’t want people to overrate themselves. But I don’t want people to think less of themselves.

            Is this how you would react to Hayek’s explanation of the knowledge problem? – as just a matter of “rhetorical effect”? Of course the intent is to recognize exactly what we are, but there’s no implicit denigration.

            I don’t know – I think you need to treat more carefully when you try to attribute insinuations to people.

            re: “and then on the other, you act as if this statement has no content at all.”

            When have I acted like it has no content? I really think you’re putting words in my mouth here Bob.

            • Dan says:

              If you don’t want people to overrate themselves and don’t want them to think less of themselves then why use apes at all? Do you honestly believe that if Tyler Cowen had said,”we are just members of a class of the most sophisticated computational devices of the universe, capable of generating everything from beautiful poetry to mathematical proofs.” it would have not changed his point?

      • Daniel Kuehn says:

        Look at the massive cognitive gap between a chimpanzee and us. It’s incredible to realize that that gap is simply a result of some fortuitous natural selection – that we can still aptly describe ourselves as great apes but that that encompasses all that we’ve accomplished.

        To me it would be sadder if our achievements were a result of aliens visiting us and cross-breeding with us, or a result of a god or gods making us this great. No – that’s not where the evidence points. The evidence points to this being within the capacity of apes from Africa. What’s disparaging is to attribute our achievements to some other intelligence. We don’t have to do that, though. We know that this is part of who we are and that you can trace these achievements back our family trees, back hundreds of thousands of years.

  9. Major_Freedom says:

    I do not think the Biblical Genesis account should be treated as a literal chronology, as an eyewitness account of (say) someone spending a week in the Bahamas. I think the writer was divinely inspired, and really did “see” how God created the universe and its contents, but that it would be hard for such a person to comprehend what he had just witnessed.

    Why do you not think that the Genesis should be treated as a literal chronology? Are humans too stupid to know what they themselves have seen, but at the same time, humans are not too stupid to know what others have seen?

    Most defenders of the orthodox, Darwinian account are hilariously overconfident in the weight of the evidence behind the falsifiable portions of their worldview.

    What’s more hilariously overconfident? Someone who is confident that a theological text written 2000 years ago, a time when the smartest people on Earth thought that the stars were animals and people, accurately describes the beginnings of the universe? Or someone who is confident that experiments proving evolution by natural selection (see the ongoing 50 year Russian experiment of breeding peaceful dog-like animals from an original population of violent and aggressive silver foxes) taking place are not some cosmic practical joke?

    Michael Behe is right when he distinguishes between outward behavior and the informational requirements behind such outcomes. For example, even if it turns out to be the case (and I have no dog in the fight one way or the other) that every living thing on Earth can trace its heritage back to a common single ancestor, from this it would not follow that there is no longer “any need for the God hypothesis” or “role for an intelligent creator.”

    That’s because God is not a falsifiable proposition. Theists can ALWAYS change their story. At first, theists claimed that God created ALL animals, and if pressed on what that meant, that is, if God created them “from scratch” or if God created them by setting the original dials and knobs to just the right setting at creation that evolution by natural selection according to immutable laws of biology and chemistry was then triggered, creating the diverse population of life from a single ancestor, the theist would invariably say that God created all animals as in created them from scratch.

    Then, when some secular arguments or evidence is advanced that evolution by natural selection is taking place, the theist will retract everything he said, but then maintain that no matter what the scientists find, God did it all. Hence, if evolution by natural selection is taking place, then God still did it, he is just planning the universe in a way we didn’t consider before.

    In other words, God can never be empirically falsified because humans will always have less than 100% knowledge of the universe, and (the more scientific) theists will keep relegating God to the sphere of what is not currently known. Today’s Christian theists hold a much different view than orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christians held that God was ever present, constantly intervening, controlling, and dictating the universe by his will. Today’s Christians hold the view that God originally created the universe, then “sat back” as it were, while his plans run their course. That’s why today’s Christian theists have relegated God to the sphere of the unknown, which is before (if there is even a before) and during creation of the universe. “Let the scientists have their evolution, but we will insist that no matter what is discovered, we can always say God planned that.”

    If you need to have an exquisitely calibrated external environment, and an exquisitely calibrated initial living cell, in order for “blind chance and natural selection” to then spawn all living things, then it leads us to wonder why we happen to be living in just-so of a world. This is where (in my opinion) the ID people are making serious contributions, and where (in my opinion) most biologists and chemists miss the argument completely.

    There’s many secular explanations for that fact. There’s the anthropic principle, which says that if the constants weren’t so “exquisitely calibrated,” then conscious life would not have been possible, and there would be no conscious observations of whatever constants would otherwise would have existed. Thus, if any “exquisitely calibrated” constants are going to be observed, they MUST be at or very near the constants we humans observe in this universe. For example (and this is very generalized), if the law of gravity did not exist, then physical matter would not have clumped together, and without matter clumping together, there would be no chance of conscious life arising (since conscious life requires a physical body). In such a universe, observations (which are a talent of conscious life) would not even take place, and therefore nothing could “know” of a universe without gravity. If then gravity is to be learned by a conscious entity, that conscious entity MUST be living in a universe with gravity. And that gravity force constant cannot be too strong, because if gravity were too strong, then all matter would collapse and form nothing but highly dense things like white and brown dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, none of which are conscious and able to know of a high gravity universe. We see gravity being what it is, because if it were something different, then nothing could observe it.

    There are many other secular explanations for why the universe is fine tuned. The anthropic principle (don’t let the “anthro” in “anthropic” mislead you, it is NOT special to human observations only, just conscious entities in general, of which we humans are one).

    In his book “The Hidden Reality” Brian Greene (which I recommend to anyone who, like me, can only read layman translations of advanced physics) goes into latest research on the anthropic principle, and what would happen if some of the constants were to change by this or that amount, but Greene prefers the multiverse explanation instead.

    OK, so here’s why a lot of evangelicals don’t buy that line: the proponents of “evolution” don’t either. People use the Darwinian view of man’s origin all the time, outside of narrow biological sphere.

    Wait, so the reason a lot of evangelicals don’t accept a particular idea from the proponents of evolution is not on the basis of rational arguments, or evidence, but rather because the proponents of evolution can be hypocrites, or inconsistent between that particular idea and their actual behavior concerning their other statements?

    So if a habitual cigarette smoker said that smoking a pack a day is bad for your health, then the non-smoker should take up smoking right there and then, because clearly the smoker is wrong about smoking being bad for your health on account of his hypocrisy and inconsistency between what he says and what he himself does? As long as he isn’t committing a performative contradiction just by saying smoking is bad for your health, then I see no reason why the smoker’s behavior should have any bearing on whether or not the smoker’s statement is true, such that it is either accepted or rejected by subjecting that statement to something other than just his behavior.

    Historically, Christians–especially the dogmatic Bible-thumpers–were threatened by Darwin’s theory of evolution precisely because they knew people would “apply” it the way Cowen and Kuehn did in the quotation above.

    When agnostics and atheists say “just” apes, they do so in order to distinguish their view of “humans = apes” from the theist’s view of “humans = apes + supernatual component”.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Major Freedom wrote:

      Are humans too stupid to know what they themselves have seen, but at the same time, humans are not too stupid to know what others have seen?

      You’ve read plenty of my blog posts and failed to absorb their content, so I can imagine a guy thousands of years ago “seeing” perhaps millions of years worth of events in a few minutes in a vision, and being completely befuddled.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        You’ve read plenty of my blog posts and failed to absorb their content, so I can imagine a guy thousands of years ago “seeing” perhaps millions of years worth of events in a few minutes in a vision, and being completely befuddled.

        But you weren’t talking about what you wrote, you’re talking about what someone else wrote.

        To make your analogy work, someone would have to say something like “I think the guy who wrote the consultingbyrpm blog really did believe the Bible is true, but he was befuddled by what he read and it was hard for him to comprehend what he read. In contrast, when the guy wrote about economic matters, I think there is no ambiguity there. He was either right about X, Y, and Z, or he was lying and just so happened to be right about X, Y, and Z.”

        It sounds like you are claiming to be more intelligent and knowledgeable than the guy thousands of years ago who wrote Genesis. Fair enough, but then from what basis are you concluding that the guy who wrote Genesis was wrong? What knowledge do you have that is true which contradicts the Genesis writer’s testimony, and from where and how did you acquire this knowledge?

  10. Jon O. says:

    ^^^ I like to imagine an ape, in a lab somewhere, surfing the web, slapping his forehead and thinking “not this again…”

  11. dogmai says:

    It is a scientific fact that matter can neither be created nor destroyed so on what basis can one claim that the universe i.e. ALL matter came from nothing?

    The basis of all human knowledge is sense perception, it is upon those who make claims to knowledge based on some other unknown sense that the burden of proof rests. They must demonstrate the efficacy of this “super”-natural faculty in perceiving reality.

    The skeptics who blithely assert that all truths and knowledge are ultimately unknowable because they are contingent on one’s senses implies that possession of such a truth must have been acquired without the means of one’s sense perception and put themselves in the same epistemological position as the bible thumping creationists or the followers of the all-powerful flying spaghetti monster.

    The incontestable fact is that knowledge must be acquired by some means (i.e. the senses) and validated by some method (i.e. logic) to arrive at the identification of some fact (i.e. truth). Any claim to a perception or to knowledge of some alleged fact that was not acquired in this way are making purely arbitrary and contradictory claims that there can be effects without causes.

    The fact is that, by ignoring these stubborn things, many people make spectacular fools of themselves in their pontifications, even in regard to subjects in both the hard and soft sciences.

    This error is present on both sides of the discussion. On the religious side, the ID’s fixation on the need to identify a supernatural conscious cause for the order found in nature comes from their bias towards everything spiritual (i.e. man’s mind) and against anything material. They observe that man can create order from the chaos found in his environment and prematurely conclude that the order found in nature must have been likewise caused by some other conscious entity.

    They refuse to accept the explanation that the order found in nature (i.e. matter as described by the laws of physics) is inherent in itself, that the way nature turned out the way it did was because it could not have happened any other way. Things are the way they are because everything acts in accordance with its identity, it cannot have acted any other way. To say that it could have acted another way is to maintain a contradiction. Contradictions do not exist. The cannot exist. There is no such thing as “contingency” when it comes to the nature of nature. Contingency is a concept that is used to describe humans lack of knowledge. If there is some evidence that x causes y but is not yet conclusive then it is “possible” that x causes y and “possible” that y is “contingent” on x, pending further investigation. But if, in a given context of knowledge, x causes y, then x causes y, once the causal relationship is established then its truth is likewise established unless there is some subsequent observation that contradicts it. Then it’s back to the “possible”. For the skeptics who would argue that there “may” be some such observation tomorrow, it is upon them to present the evidence for the “may” claim, lest all they do is perpetually submit useless and arbitrary claims and commit the very same error as the ID’s have done.

    The ultimate point is that the fact that we do not yet know exactly how it all unfolded is no justification for inventing supernatural explanations that defy and contradict all of the evidence for what we do know and neither is it justification for arbitrarily relegating all of human knowledge to the merely “contingent” ramblings of mindless apes or the deterministic robots of a “mere” collection of charged particles. Men are men, and we are conscious beings with a natural (not super natural) identity that gains knowledge of the world through the data gathered by our senses and validated through a process of reason.

    All of the arguments to the contrary are contradictory and thus self-defeating.

    • bobmurphy says:

      dogmai wrote:

      It is a scientific fact that matter can neither be created nor destroyed so on what basis can one claim that the universe i.e. ALL matter came from nothing?

      You’d better tell that to Stephen Hawking!

      (I know, I know, it’s OK to say false things when used to smack down uppity Christians. If a quantum physicist says that matter can come into existence very quickly, so long as it disappears again before the universe can “observe” it, then it’s fine. Just don’t start talking about God.)

      • dogmai says:

        In that respect I think he is wrong. Whatever the unifying theory turns out to be it will not be what Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr et al. have described in regards to multiverses, paradoxes and such. They are simply misinterpreting their own data.

        Whatever the true nature of quantum mechanics turns out to be it cannot contradict the fact that what they are observing exists and obeys certain laws under certain conditions and has certain effects and not others. Without this as a basis, they have no means, and no justification, for even postulating a theory.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          In that respect I think he is wrong.

          On what basis do you hold Hawking to be wrong about this? Almost the entire physics establishment accepts spontaneous matter/energy creation. It follows from the math in quantum mechanics.

          I have to hand it to Bob. For someone who doesn’t fully accept everything physicists claim, he sure knows a lot of physics, often times more than atheists who try to use physics to refute him.

          • dogmai says:

            and where did the math follow from? what observations of matter show how a zero can become a 1?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              and where did the math follow from?

              From logical rules.

              what observations of matter show how a zero can become a 1?

              Depends on what you mean by “nothing”.

              The Casimir effect for example has shown that perfect vacuums are not actually empty at all and contain quantum fluctuations.

              http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mark_vuletic/vacuum.html

              A universe that comes from nothing is, according to most physicists, possible.

              • dogmai says:

                “nothing”, as in “void”, the anti-existent. zero is the mathematical symbol denoting the absence of all things known or unknown.

                “logical rules” is the method of mathematics, it “flows” from observations of concretes i.e. from reality. reality does not “follow” from mathematics. math is simply another, more precise, way of describing reality not of creating it. therefore, it is impossible for there to be a “mathematics” that describes reality’s destruction or its creation, if there were such a thing it would be the mathematical equivalent of the book of genesis, purely speculative, fantastic, and utterly without a basis in reality.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                zero is the mathematical symbol denoting the absence of all things known or unknown.

                OK, but then you can’t claim to know that what you are claiming to know, because what you know obviously must exclude what you don’t know, or can’t know.

                What you are talking about is what we can’t know.

                Yes, I will fully agree with you if you say that what we can know MUST follow from what exists, because there is no other way to acquire knowledge of anything.

                But if you say “since we can’t know of spontaneous creation on the basis that we cannot know anything about that which does not exist, and therefore we must conclude that creation out of nothing is an impossibility,” then that is something else entirely. In order to make that conclusion, it is necessary that we accept the proposition that what is unknowable to us humans, necessarily cannot exist.

                Now, it is not my intention to pick holes in your arguments in order to make room for “supernatural knowledge.” I do not accept any supernatural “knowledge” to be valid. I would actually conclude that to even speculate on things that humans are not capable of knowing, can only be known to be connected to psychological utility/disutility, and not ontological facts of reality.

                A proposition not capable of being known to humanity, when uttered, could be true or false, and we’d never know whether it is true or false. Such knowledge that I think a human can never know is almost the entirety of what religion claims is true. Religious believers often couch their inability to know what they claim to know by attacking, questioning, or otherwise focusing on atheist explanations, and thinking that successfully unmasking what some of the more extremist scientists have to say is a vindication that what the religious believers say is indeed true. I don’t know how many times I have been told by a religious person something like “You mean scientists cannot prove how exactly the universe as we know it began? AHA! I TOLD you that God exists!”

                “logical rules” is the method of mathematics, it “flows” from observations of concretes i.e. from reality. reality does not “follow” from mathematics. math is simply another, more precise, way of describing reality not of creating it. therefore, it is impossible for there to be a “mathematics” that describes reality’s destruction or its creation, if there were such a thing it would be the mathematical equivalent of the book of genesis, purely speculative, fantastic, and utterly without a basis in reality.

                Ontologically, yes, logic flows from the existence of real concretes, and it would be impossible for math to describe reality’s destruction or creation, because math presupposes an underlying reality that exists.

                But epistemologically, that is, how we come to know anything at all, our logic is a priori to all knowable things. That means anything that does not follow the same rules as does our thinking, cannot ever be known. The main question then is whether their exists phenomena that obey rules which our mind does not follow, that is rules which our mental categories of thought, i.e. logic, cannot comprehend.

                In other words, I will always reject anything anyone says that my mind is capable of exposing as illogical, on the basis that the speaker themselves could not claim to know anything other than what obeys the logical categories inherent in human thinking. Nobody can know super-natural concepts or extra-logical concepts, and anyone who claims to know them is someone who has confused the ability to think something with that something being true.

                You’re right, mathematics can never describe what happens from non-existence to existence. Math is only possible for what we humans can know about existence. I’m just saying that many (most?) physicists accept spontaneous creation from nothing, from void. Hawking writes:

                “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. The universe didn’t need a God to begin; it was quite capable of launching its existence on its own.”

              • dogmai says:

                “But if you say “since we can’t know of spontaneous creation on the basis that we cannot know anything about that which does not exist, and therefore we must conclude that creation out of nothing is an impossibility,” then that is something else entirely. In order to make that conclusion, it is necessary that we accept the proposition that what is unknowable to us humans, necessarily cannot exist.”

                MF, I am saying that knowledge, all knowledge, presupposes that which exists so if you agree with that statement then, by implication, you have necessarily agreed to the proposition that if a thing is ultimately “unknowable” then it necessarily cannot exist. Why? Because what you are implying by separating the two statements is that there are things that can exist in reality but that they cannot ever be measured by any means, that they have no effects on physical reality whatsoever but are there nonetheless. How is this not a mystical standard? If there are things that can exist but cannot ever be measured (by humans or otherwise) then you have indeed made room for “supernatural knowledge” since only a “supernatural” being, one possessing omniscience, would ever be able to detect these things.
                Where is your evidence for such a claim? How does your assertion that such things “can” exist constitute truthful i.e. valid knowledge when it is not based any evidence? “The flying spaghetti monster exists”. Is that a valid claim? How is that any different from “It’s possible that the flying spaghetti monster can exist”? You claim you do not accept mystical knowledge as valid but at the same time you claim as knowledge that it is *possible* for things to exist which cannot ever be known, not because we have not observed them yet but because we can NEVER observe them, being the “limited” humans that we are. But, possible? On what grounds? The possible is only applicable in the presence of some evidence? Where is the evidence? On your own grounds there can never be any since we can never know but that does not stop you from rejecting the proposition that what is unknowable cannot exist. If you reject that proposition then any claim whatever is necessarily true so long as we can convince ourselves that we can never know anything about it, and THAT is exactly the purpose of equivocation on what is “possible”.

                “But epistemologically, that is, how we come to know anything at all, our logic is a priori to all knowable things. That means anything that does not follow the same rules as does our thinking, cannot ever be known. The main question then is whether their exists phenomena that obey rules which our mind does not follow, that is rules which our mental categories of thought, i.e. logic, cannot comprehend”
                I reject out of hand all references to a priori/posteriori descriptions of knowledge. In regards to the ontological/epistemolical status of knowledge, see above. Logic is simply a method that organizes and economizes our mental content into orderly and non-contradictory structures and it is necessarily limited, volitional and fallible. I do not accept the idea that logic is some kind of special knowledge gained prior to knowledge or “inherent” in the human mind, like a genetic attribute, which would imply epistemological determinism. Logic comes from our observations of cause and effect in the real world. People grow from infants to adults observing how things interact with each other, balls roll, rocks fall, clouds float, people make noise etc. The law of causality provides the basis for ordering our observations of all of these things in the way that we do. The a priori/posteriori is just a bunch of nonsense designed to inject uncertainty and mysticism into epistemological science.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, I am saying that knowledge, all knowledge, presupposes that which exists so if you agree with that statement then, by implication, you have necessarily agreed to the proposition that if a thing is ultimately “unknowable” then it necessarily cannot exist.

                That doesn’t follow.

                The notion that something is unknowable to humans does not mean that it necessarily cannot exist. Humans cannot know what it looks like in the center of a black hole, but that doesn’t mean that the center of a black hole does not exist. That humans cannot know what happens at less than a Planck length does not mean that it does not exist.

                Why? Because what you are implying by separating the two statements is that there are things that can exist in reality but that they cannot ever be measured by any means, that they have no effects on physical reality whatsoever but are there nonetheless. How is this not a mystical standard?

                It’s not a mythical standard because I am not claiming knowledge that is derived through faith or revelation.

                You need to learn the difference between what is knowable to humans, and what is true in reality. We humans are not omniscient. We cannot know everything that is happening in the universe down to the particle, but that doesn’t mean that the universe and all the particles in it don’t exist.

                If there are things that can exist but cannot ever be measured (by humans or otherwise) then you have indeed made room for “supernatural knowledge” since only a “supernatural” being, one possessing omniscience, would ever be able to detect these things.

                No, I have not made any room at all for supernatural concepts. I have only made room for real concepts that are not knowable to a human because a human is not omniscient.

                To say that something is unknowable to humans, but exists, does not mean that only supernatural concepts fit that bill.

                Where is your evidence for such a claim?

                My evidence is the nature of the human mind, and what it is capable of knowing.

                How does your assertion that such things “can” exist constitute truthful i.e. valid knowledge when it is not based any evidence?

                It depends on what you mean by “evidence”. If all you mean is “empirical evidence”, that is, what can be observed by humans, then sure, nothing I am saying contradicts that, and there is no “evidence” of what I am saying. But if one considers other evidence, namely what the human mind can know, then we can logically infer. I can logically infer that the inside area of a black hole exists. But that doesn’t mean that a human can ever know what it is like in there. Any human that went in to observe it, would be killed before he entered it.

                “The flying spaghetti monster exists”. Is that a valid claim? How is that any different from “It’s possible that the flying spaghetti monster can exist”?

                One is an empirical claim, the other is a logical claim.

                Has a flying spaghetti monster ever been observed in the universe? I don’t know.

                Is it logically possible for a flying spaghetti monster to exist? Is it logically contradictory? Flying? No. Spaghetti? No. Monster? No. Flying spaghetti monster? No.

                Thus, a flying spaghetti monster, I think, cannot be refuted on logical grounds alone.

                You claim you do not accept mystical knowledge as valid but at the same time you claim as knowledge that it is *possible* for things to exist which cannot ever be known, not because we have not observed them yet but because we can NEVER observe them, being the “limited” humans that we are. But, possible? On what grounds?

                It’s not because we can never observe them that I conclude that such things exist, but rather, it is because of logical inference.

                We don’t have to observe something to infer it exists.

                The possible is only applicable in the presence of some evidence? Where is the evidence? On your own grounds there can never be any since we can never know but that does not stop you from rejecting the proposition that what is unknowable cannot exist. If you reject that proposition then any claim whatever is necessarily true so long as we can convince ourselves that we can never know anything about it, and THAT is exactly the purpose of equivocation on what is “possible”.

                Nope. You’re ignoring logic.

                I reject out of hand all references to a priori/posteriori descriptions of knowledge.

                On what basis do you reject this?

    • bobmurphy says:

      dogmai wrote:

      The basis of all human knowledge is sense perception, it is upon those who make claims to knowledge based on some other unknown sense that the burden of proof rests.

      dogmai, Euclid. Euclid, dogmai. I have to go entertain my other guests, but you two have a lot to discuss.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      The basis of all human knowledge is sense perception, it is upon those who make claims to knowledge based on some other unknown sense that the burden of proof rests. They must demonstrate the efficacy of this “super”-natural faculty in perceiving reality.

      That is the empiricist position, yes. But Mises proved that there also exists non-empirical knowledge that says something true about reality. In contrast to Hume, who says “nothing is in the intellect that has not first been in the senses,” Leibniz responds “except the intellect itself.”

      The basis for knowledge cannot possibly be sense perception, because in order for you to even know what an observation is, you have to have an active mind that understands observation a priori. One cannot acquire knowledge of what an observation is by observing someone else making an observation. You cannot observe someone making an observation. You have to understand what an observation is first and then you can know if you are watching someone making an observation or not.

      In other words, the whole concept of observation and what it means cannot arise out of observation itself. Empiricists are skipping an important step. They are skipping the tacit understanding of what an observation is, before they can even claim that observations underlie all knowledge. Just consider entities such as radar detectors, or thermometers. These entities are receiving information, but they are not acquiring any knowledge. They are not acquiring any knowledge because they can’t understand that they are learning subjects, for they are not acting entities. If observations truly did underlie all knowledge, then radar detectors and thermometers should be acquiring knowledge, instead of just passively responding to external stimuli.

      Thus, contrary to its own pronouncement, empiricism is compelled to admit that there exists knowledge that is not based on observation but on understanding.

      The burden of proof is on you to show how an inherently self-contradictory doctrine can be a valid epistemology.

      • dogmai says:

        “You have to understand what an observation is first and then you can know if you are watching someone making an observation or not. ”

        Understanding of what an observation is does not come from observing others doing it, it comes from introspection about one’s own act of observing the world as against other distinct psycho-epistemological states (e.g. thinking or dreaming). Once that distinction is made implicitly it can be defined explicitly. A prior and posteriori have nothing to do with it, they are a false dichotomy and should be discarded as they only breed confusion.

        Observation is an inductive generalization about one’s own conceptual faculty that makes a distinction between acts of extrospection and acts of introspection. That provides the basis for the tacit understanding of what observation is. Its inductive, based on the implicit “observation” *that* one is perceiving and that one is perceiving some *thing* from the outside world, as opposed to perceiving nothing (e.g. dreaming). The “intellect” as such is not some mystical faculty that magically reveals reality a la Kant. It’s a process of inductive generalizations combined with deductive reasoning.

        Knowledge is an understanding of ones observations, including the knowledge that one is observing i.e. conscious. That is not a self-contradictory epistemology. What is self-contradictory is an epistemology that claims one can gain knowledge (i.e. understanding) of something by no means whatever.

        An epistemology that basically offers divine revelation as the principle means of acquiring knowledge to which you reply that no other means is possible since it was not divinely offered, which is nothing more than a circular argument.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Understanding of what an observation is does not come from observing others doing it, it comes from introspection about one’s own act of observing the world as against other distinct psycho-epistemological states (e.g. thinking or dreaming).

          Exactly. It is that self-introspection that I was actually alluding to. That introspection is not observable. I don’t think you know the fundamental tenets of empiricism. Empiricism holds that ALL of our knowledge comes from observation and observation alone, and any and all introspection propositions are just conventions and labels that have absolutely no connection to reality, that is, they say nothing true about reality.

          Observation is an inductive generalization about one’s own conceptual faculty that makes a distinction between acts of extrospection and acts of introspection. That provides the basis for the tacit understanding of what observation is. Its inductive, based on the implicit “observation” *that* one is perceiving and that one is perceiving some *thing* from the outside world, as opposed to perceiving nothing (e.g. dreaming). The “intellect” as such is not some mystical faculty that magically reveals reality a la Kant. It’s a process of inductive generalizations combined with deductive reasoning.

          That’s a Randian straw men of Kant, which if I wanted to hear I’d just read her works. It also contains a sneaky switching of the concept of obseration.

          First, Kant wasn’t an idealist. He didn’t hold that what the mind thinks must necessarily be true in reality, in which case yes, it would imply some magical facility of knowledge acquisition. Kant instead showed that all human thinking is constrained by certain logical categories, and that there exists non-hypothetical, non-observable true statements about reality (what he called “a priori synthetic ” propositions).

          Second, your argument “Its inductive, based on the implicit “observation” *that* one is perceiving and that one is perceiving some *thing* from the outside world, as opposed to perceiving nothing (e.g. dreaming).” is, to borrow a Rand concept, a “stolen concept” fallacy. You are stealing the concept “observation”, and denying all that such a concept is based on, which is UNDERSTANDING.

          Knowledge is an understanding of ones observations, including the knowledge that one is observing i.e. conscious. That is not a self-contradictory epistemology. What is self-contradictory is an epistemology that claims one can gain knowledge (i.e. understanding) of something by no means whatever.

          Agreed, but just be aware that that is not Kant’s epistemology, and what you just said is valid is not empiricist epistemology.

          • dogmai says:

            I was never describing an empiricist epistemology. that was something you stated on your own. however, I think “understanding” is the stolen concept here. to understand implies that one has already observed a distinct thing and “understands” its similarities and differences from other distinct things. moreover, self-introspection is observable. It is immediately perceivable to the person doing the introspecting. that grounds it as a valid conception of the act of distinguishing between the observer and the observed, the object and the subject. If it were the other way around, if it were true that “understanding” was necessary prior to observing, then you would have to maintain the existence of inherent knowledge, that people are not born tabula rasa but already have knowledge pre-existing in the brain (via genetics or whatever) and would already know certain facts a priori. I understand your position, but I reject it as false. People are born tabula rasa, knowledge is gained by the application of logic to experience through a process of abstraction. There is no evidence of such knowledge and people who are born blind or deaf do not “know” what it is to see or hear before they can “see” or hear”. If you doubt this then I suggest you go read the account of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, it is a well-documented example of the Aristotelian approach to epistemology.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I was never describing an empiricist epistemology. that was something you stated on your own.

              But that is what I was criticizing, and yet you felt that my arguments applied to your position as well.

              however, I think “understanding” is the stolen concept here. to understand implies that one has already observed a distinct thing and “understands” its similarities and differences from other distinct things.

              You could not have observed that other thing unless you understood what it means to make an observation.

              You’re just moving the stolen concept one step back.

              If it were the other way around, if it were true that “understanding” was necessary prior to observing, then you would have to maintain the existence of inherent knowledge, that people are not born tabula rasa but already have knowledge pre-existing in the brain (via genetics or whatever) and would already know certain facts a priori.

              Yes, humans are born with logical knowledge. It’s what Rand called “rational faculty.”

              I understand your position, but I reject it as false.

              On what basis do you reject it?

              People are born tabula rasa, knowledge is gained by the application of logic to experience through a process of abstraction.

              What proof do you have that humans are born with a tabula rasa?

              There is no evidence of such knowledge and people who are born blind or deaf do not “know” what it is to see or hear before they can “see” or hear”. If you doubt this then I suggest you go read the account of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, it is a well-documented example of the Aristotelian approach to epistemology.

              But Helen Keller refutes your position. She did show signs of understanding.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “It is a scientific fact that matter can neither be created nor destroyed so on what basis can one claim that the universe i.e. ALL matter came from nothing?”

      Ooh, boy. Today pretty much every cosmologist thinks all matter came from nothing. And the idea that matter cannot be created or destroyed is only about a century or so obsolete.

      “The basis of all human knowledge is sense perception…”

      Now you are shoveling out 300-year-old philosophy! This one is so obviously false it’s hard to know what to say. (How could “bare” sense perceptions ever even give us a tree or a chair, let alone the Theory of Relativity?)

      • Paul says:

        We look out into the blackness of space and see nothing. If it is conceded that that nothing is actually something then it never was nothing and we were wrong. Nothing is the absence of an environment. Nothing is the absence of the ability to act. If, somehow a particle was manifested out of nothing then that action of manifestation means that the particle was manifested out of something thus the law of conservation of matter/energy remains intact.

      • dogmai says:

        Gene,

        So are you implying that when you look at trees and chairs you perceive nothing? And I did not say “bare”, you did. I said the “BASE”. Base and Bare, two different words with two different meanings, look up the differences, along with trees and chairs. http://www.dictionary.com.

        • P.S.H. says:

          Our perception is just a two dimensional image. No fact about the objective world—nor even the fact that there is an objective world—can be inferred from that image.

          • dogmai says:

            so you dont exist and what you write has no meaning and should be ignored. ok. done.

            • P.S.H. says:

              Nah; nothing quite that silly follows from your epistemology. What does follow is that one should never reach conclusions about an objective world, be they affirmative or negative. And that is silly enough.

      • dogmai says:

        “Today pretty much every cosmologist thinks all matter came from nothing.”

        And today pretty much every climatologist thinks anthropomorphic global warming is real a threat to the human race but that does not make it true.

        argumentum ad verecundiam is fallacious, or didnt you know that?

        • The Amusing Randi says:

          “argumentum ad verecundiam is fallacious, or didnt you know that?”

          It most certainly is not! The argument from authority is a valid inductive argument. Its strength in each case depends on the relevance and legitimacy of the cited authority’s expertise. So yes, it would be fallacious to cite a bunch of biologists’ to support one’s theory about cosmology. It would also be fallacious to cite Al Ghazali’s expertise as a philosopher to support occasionalism, largely because there is no expert consensus in philosophy or religion. But here Callahan has cited the overwhelming consensus of expert cosmologists to support his theory of — wait for it– COSMOLOGY!

          Again, this is not a deductive argument and the consensus could always be wrong. So the consensus doesn’t necessarily “make it true” any more than climatologists’ opinions “make” the threat of anthropogenic (not “anthropomorphic”) global warming true. But it constitutes powerful evidence, not fallacy, and it can’t be dismissed so lightly.

    • The Amusing Randi says:

      “The basis of all human knowledge is sense perception…”

      You’re half right but this is a false statement taken at face value. Radical empiricism is just as fruitless as radical rationalism.

      See Mises (http://mises.org/books/ufofes/ch1~1.aspx):

      “Although logic, mathematics, and praxeology are not derived from experience, they are not arbitrarily made, but imposed upon us by the world in which we live and act and which we want to study. They are not empty, not meaningless, and not merely verbal. They are—for man—the most general laws of the universe, and without them no knowledge would be accessible to man.”

      (although I don’t think “imposed” is necessarily the best word to use)

      See also Steiner (http://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/IndPhi_essay.html):

      “Locke entirely overlooks the fact that man, by enlightening himself about outer things, sheds a light upon them that streams from his own inner being. He believes therefore that all knowledge stems from experience. But what is experience? Galileo sees a swinging church lamp. It leads him to find the laws by which a body swings. He has experienced two things: firstly, through his senses, outer processes; secondly, from out of himself, the mental picture of a law that enlightens him about these processes, that makes them comprehensible. One can now of course call both of these experience. But then one fails to recognize the difference, in fact, that exists between the two parts of this cognitive process. A being that could not draw upon the content of his being could stand eternally before the swinging church lamp: the sense perception would never complement itself with a conceptual law. Locke and all who think like him allow themselves to be deceived by something — namely by the way the content of what is to be known approaches us. It simply rises up, in fact, upon the horizon of our consciousness. Experience consists in what thus arises. But the fact must be recognized that the content of the laws of experience is developed by the “I” in its encounter with experience.”

  12. Kryx says:

    Bob,
    Being a molecular biologist/evolutionist/Catholic, I don’t really accept the ID theory. At the end of the day, we were not really designed intelligently in human understanding – only about 1.5% of the genome codes protein (the rest is Junk (viruses, noncoding, etc, meaning we don’t understand the function yet), the structure of the eye is designed inside out, etc. I do accept evolution as a means of human understanding the development of the world and there are plenty of biologist out there like me: Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller (he has a book on the subject). The two are not mutually exclusive, but the fundamentalist on each side continues to try to pound the other out of existence while there is science to do.

    Enjoy the posts and keep up the good work.

  13. Jonathan Bartlett says:

    Have you heard of Marilynn Robinson’s book “Absence of Mind”? She brings in quite a bit of clarity to the discussion of origins and humanity.