05 Jan 2014

Am I a Creationist?

Religious 110 Comments

Someone recently asked me this. I am pretty sure I said “no,” but only because I know that the person meant, “Are you committed to the view that God created all of the various species in a literal 6-day timespan as laid out in Genesis?” I am not committed to that position, and so I said “no.”

But actually, anybody who’s a monotheist in the tradition of the West’s major religions would be a creationist in the sense that, “I believe in a supreme Being, and yes He created everything in the universe.” For example, it would be ridiculous if I said, “I believe J.K. Rowling created James and Lily Potter, but that natural reproductive mechanisms explain the birth of Harry Potter, whom Rowling did not create.”

More generally, there is a massive amount of confusion about what it means if someone challenges the standard Darwinian paradigm. For example, Michael Behe is one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement; his signature argument is the claim that the bacterial flagellum could not have plausibly arisen through incremental improvements favored by natural selection.

Now a lot of cynics simply assume that Behe must think God created the bacterial flagellum in its present form, about 6,000 years ago. But no, as I understand it, that’s not Behe’s position at all. I am pretty sure Behe has no problem if someone claims the earth is billions of years old, and that all current life forms can trace their origin back to a single ancestor.

Rather, what Behe objects to is the claim that is repeatedly made by modern Darwinians–though they often might not realize that they are making it–that all you need to explain today’s structure of life forms is random mutations and the time span of the universe. In particular, modern Darwinians will often argue (again, not realizing that this is a distinct claim from the hypothesis of common descent) that there is no guidance or intelligence necessary to the entire explanation. To repeat, this is a much stronger claim than to say that all life forms evolved from a common ancestor.

Now you can say Behe hasn’t made a good case; that’s fine. But what really frustrates me in these debates is when people say that in principle his claim is “un-scientific.” No, it isn’t. Suppose for the sake of argument that intelligent aliens evolved in another solar system, then traveled to Earth a few billion years ago. At that time, Earth was completely barren of life, but it had potential. So the aliens designed a super seed cell, which contained the genetic blueprints for all of today’s various species, then turned it loose on the planet.

According to a lot of the critics of the ID movement, if the above did happen, then scientists are forbidden from even trying to come up with possible ways to test this hypothesis and learn the truth. They can think about it on Sunday in church, but from Monday through Friday at their actual jobs, they are forbidden from wondering what the evidence would look like if the above were true, versus a completely terrestrial origin of life.

110 Responses to “Am I a Creationist?”

  1. razer says:

    Bob, what would it take for you to falsify god? I say that it would be impossible for you to find anything that will falsify your belief in him/her. The same thing for Keynesians. You believe because you want to believe even without a shred of evidence. In fact, try and assume that there was no god. What do you think religions would look like in this case? Pretty much the same as they do now. A bunch of people swearing their all powerful but completely invisible master genie exists yet no one has ever seen him/her in the flesh.

    • Dan says:

      “A bunch of people swearing their all powerful but completely invisible master genie exists yet no one has ever seen him/her in the flesh.”

      Um, Jesus.

      • Ken B says:

        Um, Honi the Circle Drawer?

        • Dan says:

          I always wonder why you ever feel the need to respond to me. You’ve commented to someone in the past that I stalk you on this site, but I rarely even take the time to read anything you write and I never respond to you unless you say something towards me first. And even then, I’ll never take anything you say seriously. I genuinely don’t believe you have any interest in honest discussions. But it’s not even that I hate you or anything like that. I just feel sad for you. I think it is cruel that anyone could end up with a personality like yours.

          • Richie says:

            Dan, Ken B. is the most objective, honest person that comments here. Oh, and the wittiest. Just ask him.

      • LvM says:

        Um, Harry Potter.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          There’s historical evidence for Harry Potter?

  2. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, you describe Behe’s position, but what’s yours? Do you believe that all living things have a common ancestor? Do you believe that all humans are descended from two people named Adam and Eve? And how old do you think the Earth is?

  3. Yosef says:

    If the days of creation aren’t literal, why do religious people keep a literal day holy as a Sabbath? And why the choice of ‘day’ as the analogue of the period of time for each step of creation? Was each step of creation equally timed, which is why each is a ‘day’?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Well, I’m not Christian, but what if the “days” refer to stages of creation? Stages don’t have to be of equal duration, after all.

      • Yosef says:

        That goes back then to the question of way day was chosen as the analogue. Stages and steps don’t have to be of equal duration, but days are. Days are a measure of time. So why were days chosen?

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Yosef, I’m sorry. I just looked in Genesis 1, and not only does it refer to days, it specifically says that the days were divided by “an evening and a morning”. I don’t know how you could possibly interpret that phrase any other way than an actual day. (Unless you interpreted the whole creation account figuratively.)

          • Matt Tanous says:

            Posit a planet that is spinning slowly. Much slower than Earth. And possible has a different orbit.

            Interestingly, the Earth must at some point have had a faster spin and longer orbit. All orbits, after all, decay due to loss of momentum and energy. Collisions, drag from particle winds, etc. All would slow the Earth down in both regards.

            It also could have been spinning slower, if the hypothesis that the moon was created from a large collision is accurate.

            Suffice it to say that “morning and evening” do not imply a 24 hour day. Nor does the text even specify a terrestrial reference point. “Morning and evening” on Mercury amounts to 58 days, 15 hours on Earth.

      • Ken B says:

        Keshav Jennings Bryan?

        Actually I have respect for Bryan. He was straight forward and honest:if evolution is true then his faith is false.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      “If the days of creation aren’t literal, why do religious people keep a literal day holy as a Sabbath?”

      Short answer – because God told them to.

  4. Major_Freedom says:

    Intelligent design is, and has always been in practise, grounded on appeals to ignorance.

    Irreducible complexity is not evidence against evolution, and the biochemical systems touted by Behe are not irreducibly complex anyway.

    Behe writes:

    “By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

    Those who have some understanding of evolution will realize that Behe is by definition ruling out one of the most important aspects of evolution, namely, the coming together of structures that result in new structures with new properties and functions. You want to use evolution to explain what we see? Sorry bud! NOT ALLOWED!

  5. Ken B says:

    Bob’s main point here — lets ignore the rest –is perfectly sound. Darwinism, pace Tel, is falsifiable. Behe claims a falsification. You can’t just define that away without defining away Darwinism’s falsifiability. Behe is wrong, not “not even wrong.”

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Behe is claiming a falsification to a false conception of evolution that is not even the theory of evolution by natural selection proper. He literally ruled out structures coming together to make new structures as an aspect of evolution. It’s pretty easy to claim falsification of an empirical theory when you didn’t even test it.

      • Sam says:

        I must be missing something here on the part about structures coming together to form new ones; I don’t see where Behe ruled it out, I don’t see how it defeats his argument if we allowed it.

        The whole flagellum argument is that no part or combination of parts of the flagellum except the whole confer any reproductive advantage; natural selection guides by reproductive advantage; the development of the flagellum therefore did not benefit from this guidance. And he goes on to say that the mutations involved in producing all those parts are not trivial enough to be serendipitous. It doesn’t seem to matter whether these intermediate parts are formed in series or in parallel batches for final assembly; neither process is natural selection guided, given that the intermediate parts do not themselves provide reproductive advantage.

        Or have I missed your point?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          He did it by defining his challenge to evolution, i.e. “irreducible complexity”, as excluding the coming together of structures.

          I’m trying to think of a good analogy to make this more clear…

          It would be like a Keynesian trying to test ABCT by excluding interest rates from his own test.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            I don’t think Behe’s saying that natural selection can’t expain the coming together of structures. I think he’s saying that natural selection can’t explain complex structures whose constituent parts would be useless if left uncombined.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Right. MF an evolutionary story can rely on different structures, but it can’t require that they all come together in one fell swoop. There has to be a step by step process, where each jump is more advantageous than the previous configuration.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Yes, that’s at least what Behe’s argument is. But should mention what people like Dawkins argue is that evolution CAN create a complex structure in one fell swoop (i.e. via a mutation in a single generation), without there being a stage when the constituent parts existed seperately.

              • Ken B says:

                This is not quite right. Different parts of a mechanism can develop in parallel, later to be retasked together. Also “more advantageous” needs a litle care, since it means “in changed conditions” .
                But Keshav is simply wrong to assert Dawkins believes a fully assembled 747 from nowhere is a legitimate saltation. The steps must be close in code space ie in terms of genetic information.

              • Ken B says:

                An example of a “big” mutation as far as the phenotype goes could a change in the number of legs or body sections. A mutation in a homeobox gene would be fairly dramatic. But in code space it could be a single code change. A mutation requiring several simultaneous changes in code space could be a problem.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, that’s what I was trying to say. People like Dawkins argue that changes that are small in terms of code space can lead to dramatic changes in phenotype, so you can have a complex structure in one generation even though the constituent subsystems didn’t even exist in the previous generation.

                Now it’s true that Dawkins also makes the argument that a lot of what Behe claims is irreducibly complex is actually reducibly complex, in the sense that it was actually the result of small phenotype changes. But Dawkins does admit the existence of irredicible complexity in the sense of of dramatic changes in phenotype, he just thinks that it’s fully explicable in terms of genetic mutations.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Since Behe has made that claim, I remember hearing that it’s been shown how each of the components had their own function.

              • Ken B says:

                I do think you are confusing complex structures which involve phenotypic expression from a large segment of the code space with saltation. Dawkins would argue that paths through code space always move to new early adjacent states and that the fotness of the state is measured in phenotype space. The central claim of Darwinism is that the paths must always move through an advantageous series of states as measured phenotypically.

                This can provide an answer to Tel’s objection but I’m too lazy to go into it.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Actually, I think Behe is “not even wrong”. I don’t think there is any empirical fact that would convince Behe that there’s no divine hand involved in the development of Man. That’s not to say evolution is unfalsifiable. But I don’t think Behe has proposed any way (or at least not that many ways) to falsify evolution that a supporter of evolution would agree falsifies evolution.

      • Ken B says:

        I agree Behe is not open about this. He’s a fundie pushing fundamentalism. I see ID as a dodge. MF is right that it is an appel to ignorance. But in theory a highly complex example of irreducible complexity would if demonstrated be a dagger through the heart of natural selection. If ANY such challenge is ruled out of bounds you are claiming unfalsifiability.

        This btw goes to why I dispute wheter you accept evolution Keshav. “Souls” and all human mental attributes are the result of evolution. I believe you reject that. This to me is like saying you accept the axiom of choice, but don’t believe in unmeasurable sets.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          “But in theory a highly complex example of irreducible complexity would if demonstrated be a dagger through the heart of natural selection. ” Could you describe an example of that? Haven’t people like Richard Dawkins argued that irreducible complexity is a natural byproduct of evolution?

          As far as my beliefs, yes, when I say that I believe in evolution, I mean that the human body is a product of evolution, not that all properties of humanity are due to evolution. I certainly don’t think the soul is a result of evolution.

          • Ken B says:

            I believe they argue reducible complexity is.
            Dawkins has dismantled Behe for instance, showing that the constituent parts of his motor can be useful.
            Irreducible complexity is a can’t get there from here argument. You need to show a complex adaptation –has to be an adaptation to challenge darwinism –that could not have evolved from any simpler set of parts, nor from any more complex one that is recursively irreducible. so there is no path from prelife to the motor through stages where the motor parts accrete and confer benefit.
            A tall order but since darwinism, as opposed to landsburgism, does not allow an infinitely complex starting point, but a logically possible one.

            (It may now be clear why I so sharply reject landsburgism. )

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              Ken B, I think people like Dawkins have argued that even irreducible complexity is a natural byproduct of evolution. Specifically, they argue that instead of having no parts at one stage, separate parts in another stage, and linked parts in the final stage, you can have a situation where you a single mutation or set of mutations can create a complex structure whole cloth in one generation, without an intermediate stage where the constituent parts are separate.

          • Ken B says:

            Aha! The old “member of an empty set” thing. I too believe that no soul ever evolved. But you are left with a quandry. Souls waiting around twiddling their non existent thumbs while real thumbs for them to twiddle evolve.
            Or do you believe souls just occupy and do not affect?
            If the latter, how is soul different from “placeholder for a phenomenon I cannot explain?”

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              “But you are left with a quandry. Souls waiting around twiddling their non existent thumbs while real thumbs for them to twiddle evolve.” Yes, that’s exactly what I believe. Souls were waiting for the gods to bestow them onto a collection of particles. What quandary are you talking about?

              “Or do you believe souls just occupy and do not affect?” No, I believe that the soul most definitely affects the behavior of the brain.

              • Ken B says:

                That you need a special machine to evolve, soullessly, with just the equipment and shape a soul needs. All the supporting brain structure and musculature to make language possible, yet it evolved before any speaking conscious mind (else you do not need a soul) was there to use it.

                Language is the most obvious but just a start. I assume the soul feels orgasms. Do primate bodies? Do primate bodies seek them? Then what ned of a soul, etc. either you have incomplete humans evolving structures they do not need, or you have no need nor warrant to introduce a soul. Quandry.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, I think the brain evolved in concert with the introduction of the soul. That is to say, the brain developed in such a way as to best utilize its interactions with the soul.

                Here’s an analogy. Suppose that alien spacecrafts started orbiting the Earth, and they decided that they wanted to help the lifeforms on earth by broadcasting a telepathic signal giving useful survival tips. Some organisms, like plants, would not be able to receive the signal at all. But other organisms would be able to receive the signal, and if the content of the signal was useful enough then over time, the organisms that could reliably receive, process, and act on the information in the signal (which might even mean ignoring the advice of the signal if it gets in the way) would have a survival advantage, so soon they’d predominate.

                So basically, brains adapted to the presence of souls, developing structures and systems that would allow them to gain maximal survivial advantage by interacting with the soul.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                By the way, for concreteness I should add that as a rule of thumb, animals have souls and non-animals don’t. (That’s just a rough dividing line, however. Things that science classifies as being in other kingdoms may have souls, and some organisms in kingdom Animalia may not. The scriptures give more precise detail, but I haven’t studied those parts of the scriptures very thoroughly.)

            • Tel says:

              If the phenomenon is unobservable that does make it difficult to find an explanation for.

  6. Ivan Jankovic says:

    The most ironic aspect of all this is that Bob is an Austrian economist, and Austrians typically don’t believe that you need a conscious intelligent control by anybody, in order to see the intelligent and rational structures being formed in social cooperation, such as private property, market prices, free competition and so on. Not only that he rejects this same “catalactic” logic in the area of natural phenomena, but moreover he reinterprets the free market “Darwinism” so as to make it really theologically driven: Smith’s Invisible Hand is for him not at all a metaphor for the unguided, decentralized processes realizing an intelligent pattern by evolutionary selection, but a literal Divine intervention or act in the real world. Invisible hand is a Hand of God.

    • Ken B says:

      As I have often noted, Bob thinks economics is science, and biology isn’t.

      • Tel says:

        There’s only three types of Science: Physics, Stinks & Stamp Collecting.

        Economics involves a lot of stamp collecting, but the way Krugman uses it to promote political objectives does stink a bit.

        On a serious note the same problems pop up in both Evolutionary Biology and Economics:
        * lack of repeatable experiments
        * lack of a control experiment to establish a null hypothesis
        * lack of ability to make predictions
        * abundance of retrospective reasoning
        * people willing to kid themselves that taking lots of measurements implies they must be following an empirical approach.

        Austrian economists don’t claim to have solved all these issues, but at least they are reluctant to indulge in self-delusion pretending those problems just quietly went away. IMHO being skeptical, honest and pragmatic are the most important building blocks for a scientific approach.

  7. Jim Manzi says:


    I did a widely-unread piece at the Atlantic a few years ago that got into the structure of selection, crossover and mutation to make the point that complete acceptance of the Modern Synthesis (ie, no “Intellignent Design” or whatever, just acceptance of the conventional science of evolution) actually doesn’t rule out purpose or a Creator: http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2009/09/in-defense-of-robert-wright-against-jerry-coyne/196959/

    All the best,
    Jim Manzi

    • joe says:

      It contradicts the Bible.

      • Jim Manzi says:

        I don’t think I made any claim in that article about whether the MES contradicts the Christian bible our not.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thanks for the article, Jim. I especially liked the discussion of how mutation is pseudo-random, not actually random.

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      Didn’t the good Jerry Coyne rebut that piece some years ago?

      • Jim Manzi says:

        Here is my response to Coyne.


        I guess you’ll have to judge for yourself, but I don’t think his “rebuttal” holds much water.

        Jim Manzi

        • Ken B says:

          Just on a quick skim, your response about divine plans and Darwin’s 545 pages is a complete non sequitur. Coyne is talking about man and animals, not general divine plans in that passage.

          • Jim Manzi says:

            Perhaps you should have done more than skim it prior to responding.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Jim Manzi wrote:

              Perhaps you should have done more than skim it prior to responding.

              I see you’re new around here, Jim. Ken B. has the ability to intuit people’s positions very quickly, sometimes even before they themselves know it. For example, I never realized I thought biology wasn’t a science, but Ken B. corrected me in this very thread.

            • Ken B says:

              Not at all. I read that section. Your response to Coyne addresses a point he didn’t make.
              He argued Darwin erased the hard line between man and animals; you talk as if theat is a claimed disproof f the possibility of any kind of divine plan.

              • Jim Manzi says:

                Here is specifically what Coyne said’ in his opening paragraph:


                Note that he said that Darwin “demolished” this notion. My argument was that Darwin (and more importantly, our current scientific understanding of evolution, the modern Evolutionary Synthesis) does not rule out a divine plan that we do not understand, with purposes that we do not understand. If Darwin did not demolish the notion of a divine plan for the universe, how did he demolish the notion that humans are unique in this divine plan, since such a plan would be something that we do not understand?

              • Ken B says:

                Here is the section, I hope your bolding survives the cut and paste

                In my post, I said that Coyne claimed in his review that “evolution through natural selection demonstrates that there is no divine plan for the universe. Coyne, in his reply to me, says this about it:

                Wrong! What I have said repeatedly is that there is no evidence for a divine plan for the universe.
                Well, here is the first paragraph of Coyne’s review, which I quoted in my post [Bold added]:
                Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity’s self-image. The first was Galileo’s announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe. The secondand more severelanded in 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, demolishing, in 545 pages of closely reasoned prose, the comforting notion that we are unique among all speciesthe supreme object of God’s creation, and the only creature whose earthly travails could be cashed in for a comfortable afterlife.
                He doesn’t say that there is no evidence for it, but that Darwin demolished this notion.

                Demolshing the notion that we are special in certain way does not address the question of whether divine plans which do not rely on that specialness are possble. Coyne is explicit elsewhere that he on ly claims science disproves certain plans not the very idea of one.

              • Jim Manzi says:

                Ken B,

                I don’t usually do the commenting thing, so I can’t figure out how to append this below your most recent one, but here goes (hopefully I won’t also delete the quote as I did in the last one).

                This is what Coyne has to say in the response of his that you are referencing. He says that my second point (and he is correct in attributing this view to me) is that I think that there can be a divine plan privileging humans that we don’t understand:

                [BEGIN QUOTE FORM COYNE]

                Ugh. First of all, what reason do we have to think that evolution has a goal? That idea doesn’t come from empirical observation, for there’s not a scintilla of evidence that evolution is being externally driven toward some specific product. Nor does it come from reason, for if you understand natural selection you see that it cannot have a goal.

                [END COYNE QUOTE]

                In this response, Coyne completely ignores my argument that this is not true. My lengthy argument is that teleology is in fact completely consistent with evolution. Obviously, I might be wrong, but he does nothing to demonstrate this, he simply asserts it. Note the complete lack of argument form him of the form “here is finding X that demonstrates there can be no goal,” or “here is where Manzi’s understanding of evolution is flawed in a way that shows there can be no goal,” or whatever.


  8. joe says:

    Bacterial flagellum are not irreducibly complex. The type three secretion system makes up the base of the bacterial flagellum. The type three secretion system is perfectly functional. Behe’s argument is easily discredited.

    Type three secretion system

    • Ken B says:

      There is something both bathetic and hilarious about theists crying “rotary motors prove god exists.” Really, to see the hand of god you need to look at rotary motors now?

  9. Sean says:

    It is worth noting (in case others aren’t aware of the long history of this), that classical Christian theologians have almost never interpreted Genesis literally in the sense that we today mean by “literally”. Augustine, for example, in “On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis” does what we might almost call a “symbolic” interpretation basing it on Greek Neoplatonic physics of form, matter, mind, etc., altering them to fit Christian notions of non-cyclical time and a non-eternal universe. Augustine explicitly states that the notion that the days in Genesis refer to human days is nonsensical. I think that looked at from that point of view we can see the same issues: how does randomness, chaos, non-being, become being or cosmos without a mind to direct it or make something out of it. Matter holds the connotation of being formless–and I think there is something like that in debates now, only they are expressed more particularly as, for example, how can life develop out of non-life, how can complexity emerge from relative non-complexity. On the other hand it seems that the concept of God can’t be used scientifically to explain particular evolutionary events: when we try to do this the god concept becomes operationally indistinct from chance and/or physical causality.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      If they’re not literal days, then why are they separated by “an evening and a morning”?

      • James says:

        Because, continuing the metaphor, the evening refers to the end of the period and the morning refers to the beginning.

        With some effort, you can find other examples of the same extended metaphor outside of scripture. The campaign materials of Ronald Reagan and the lyrics of Led Zeppelin would both be good starting points.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Look at Genesis 1:4-1:5 “[4] And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
          [5] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Clearly the evening and morning are being used as a delineation between the light and the darkness.

          • James says:

            That’s not the same as the day and night referring to a literal day and night from a planet rotating.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              OK, then what is the “Day” and “Night” that is being referred to? It’s clearly not just an arbitrsry period of time, it’s a period of time demarcated by light and darkness.

    • Futurity says:

      Augustine believed in young earth, he wrote:
      “They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed” The City of God, Book 12: Chapt. 10 [AD 419]

      Furthermore, Augustine believed the genealogies given in Genesis to be literal chronologies and that the pre-Flood patriarchs lived to be around 900 years. The City of God, Book 15, Chapters 11–12

      He also believed in global flood, the ark and Noah as historical. The City of God, Book 15, Chapter 27

      • Sean says:

        Yes he believed in these things based upon biblical genealogy. He did not believe that God created the universe in six earth days. He believed that God created the entire physico-temporal universe instantaneously in one act., from his existence outside of time. God’s creation of the earth cannot be a temporal act, from Augustine’s point of view, because God exists non-temporally and non-spatially.

        • Futurity says:

          Indeed, and you even pointed out the reason why he believed it was an instant act. It is because he was influenced by external philosophies. Hardly the methodology we would consider proper as God warns us against such philosophies. We also know that Augustine had no knowledge of Hebrew and that he mostly used Latin translation (Vetus Latina). This translation could imply that Universe indeed was created instantaneously.

  10. Tel says:

    Ken, unless you can define an algorithm to identify the difference between “reducible complexity” and “irreducible complexity” you must accept that from an empirical point of view there is no difference, because there is no measurement.

    Thus, your claim that Evolution represents a falsifiable theory is weak.

    What I’m saying is that the theory must be falsifiable by some experiment that can actually be defined at least, even if it might be difficult to perform.

  11. Sam Geoghegan says:

    Even Thomas Nagel has some reticence for the materialist model and somewhat sympathises with the more-or-less outlier views of ID proponents.

    I too conclude that scientism is obsolete. Proponents are flogging a dead horse. In fact, I would go as far as calling the use of science to solve the hard questions, patently absurd. Absolutes render science redundant because it can only define unknown quantities by other unknown quantities. Science relishes in this ‘chain of events’ stuff to evade concrete answers.

    • Tel says:

      How can any person comprehend a new idea other than either direct observation (e.g. this is green) or in relation to something already know (e.g. a leaf is a similar colour to grass)?

      I mean what else is there?

      You could try and say, “this is God” but without a convenient observable example, what do you point to?

      You could say, “God the father,” but that is just describing one thing by reference to another, and only an approximation at any rate.

      You could say, “God defies human comprehension,” but that defeats the purpose of describing something in the first place. You haven’t solved the problem that way, you have just admitted there is no solution.

  12. Mike M says:

    It is amusing to watch some individuals pontificate with certainty on the origins of life

  13. Gamble says:

    Even is God is fake, the story of Jesus Christ is good for humanity and especially good for proponents of liberty because The Story of Salvation emancipates the individual from collective guilt and collective government.

    The Story of Christ is the epitome of individualism and anti-state…

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Would Jesus have supported armed resistance against the State? Did he even condemn the State as illegitimate?

      • Gamble says:

        NO Jesus did not support violence of any type, for any reason, but if every Christian did as they were instructed, the State would of never came to be.

        Yes Jesus condemned the State as illegitimate , several times.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Gamble, what’s the opposite of peace?

          • Gamble says:

            IT depends on context.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Can you give examples of Jesus condemning the State as illegitimate?

          • Gamble says:

            John 18:36 ►
            Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

            Mark 12:17 ►
            Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.( IN context, none of it is Caesars)

            Matt 9:11-13
            11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13″But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

          • Gamble says:

            If you honesty interpret Romans 13, you will accept this to be the greatest example of state illegitimacy because R13 sets the impossible standard of conducting Gods work 24,7, 365. God is not evil or corrupt so any government action contrary violates R13, ultimately revoking any previously granted authority. In a nutshell, state legitimacy was conditional, as was the covenant with the Israelites…

            13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Pretty sure worshipping torture isn’t conducive to individual liberty.

      • Gamble says:

        Do you mean torture on the Cross? Never needed again.

  14. Gamble says:

    How does a person support natural selection on 1 hand and on the other support guns of government welfare? Seems like a head-splitting contradiction?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      What contradiction is there between believing that humans evolved through natural selection and believing in government welfare programs? They seem unrelated to me.

      • Ben B says:

        I think Gamble thinks that if one “supports” natural selection as a valid scientific explanation, then they must “support” it as something that is good. And then he thinks that government welfare is a deviation from natural selection, thus if you support government welfare then you are against natural selection.

        • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

          Rather than welfare programs, I usually highlight environmentalism.

          In other words – if natural selection is so great, then why should we give a hoot whether the spotted owl goes extinct or not?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            But who ‘s claiming it’s great? People are just claiming that it exists.

          • Ben B says:

            I think one could also argue that private welfare could also be a deviation from natural selection, if one holds the assumption that natural selection is great.

            But I’m with Keshav, just because someone supports the argument of natural selection doesn’t mean they are saying that it is great that natural selection exists, in that any perceived deviation away from natural selection would generate a loss in psychic revenue.

            • Gamble says:

              So welfare is unnatural?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Well, it depends on what you mean by unnatural. Are clothing, money, barter, writing, and farming all unnatural?

            • Gamble says:

              Supposedly private welfare is more than a payment. Usually you get guidance and support along with payment. Sometimes private charity is not even a payment.

              However tax code has perverted charity.

  15. Richard Forrest says:

    In answer to the question in the title, yes.

    There are many different kinds of creationists, and what they have in common is a rejection of science in general and evolutionary theory in particular, and the attempts to have their particular religious dogma taught as science in science classes. If they were not trying to do this, there would be no issue here.
    Intelligent Design in an invention of creationists. The Discovery Institute, set up to promote this particular version of creationism has an agenda which is explicitly religious and political, and not scientific. It is an attempt to evade US law against the teaching of religion in schools by using the euphemistic term “intelligent designer” when what they mean is “God”. The nature of ID, and it’s roots in “scientific” creationism were exposed clearly and unambiguously in the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial. If anyone doubts this, just look up “cdesign proponentsists” on the internet.
    The “evidence” offered by ID goes as follows:

    We observe that “intelligent agency “creates complex objects and systems.

    (OK so far.)

    Therefore, any complex object or system must be the product of “intelligent agency”.

    (which is a ludicrous logical fallacy: all mackerel are fish, and therefore all fish are mackerel)

    They go on to characterise a particular (though very poorly specified) form of complexity as “irreducible complexity”, and claim that any instance of this falsifies “Darwinian” evolution.

    They then go on to make the huge leap of fractured logic, which is to claim that if there is no such explanation, the only possible alternative is that such systems must be the work of an “intelligent designer”, using unspecified but possibly supernatural methods.

    There are a few things wrong with this:

    Firstly, “irreducible complexity” was predicted on the basis of evolutionary theory almost a century ago by Herman Muller (you can find his paper on the internet : Genetic variability, twin hybrids and constant hybrids, in a case of balanced lethal factors. Genetics 3: 422-499). This fact is rather studiously ignored by ID creationists in spite of its being pointed out to them over and over again.

    Secondly, to characterise evolutionary theory as “Darwinism” or the “Darwinian paradigm” is a classic example of the use of emotive terms to appeal to their target audience of creationists, who treat Darwin as a hate figure. Few modern evolutionary biologists would call themselves “Darwinists”. Although Darwin made a substantial contribution to evolutionary theory, his theory was incomplete and lacked many of the elements of our current version of that theory. In particular, he had no knowledge of genetics, mutations, the complex relationship between genetics and ontogeny or several other important elements of our current understanding of the phenomenon of nature we call “evolution”.

    Thirdly, in every instance in which ID creationists have claimed that a biological structure is “irreducibly complex”, evolutionary biologists have been able to provide detailed explanations for how such systems could occur. ID “theorists” ignore this. During the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial, Behe dismissed as “unconvincing” dozens of papers doing just this which he conceded that he hadn’t even read. It seems that ID creationists believe that ignoring evidence will make it go away.

    Fourthly, even if it could be demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that a biological system could not be the product of evolutionary processes, it would not add one iota of support to the assertion that an “intelligent designer” using unknown but possibly supernatural methods must be responsible. To have any validity as a scientific proposition, ideas need to be testable. That means there must be potential observations or measurements which show that the idea is wrong. There is no potential observation or measurement which could show that an “intelligent designer” is not responsible for a phenomenon. A dog giving birth to a cat would blow evolutionary theory out of the water, but could easily be “explained” by ID. For that matter, a dog giving birth to a new shade or purple, or a whale spontaneously morphing into a bowl of petunias could be “explained” by ID. A “theory” which can explain anything explains nothing, and has no place in science. The default position in science in the absence of an answer is not “God did it”, but “I don’t know”. That’s a good answer: science exists not because of what we know, but because of what we don’t know. It looks for answers, not religious dogma disguised behind sciency-sounding language pitched at non-scientists.

    Fifthly if, as ID creationists claim, their “theory” is scientific, why are they also demanding that we redefine the fundamental nature of science to accommodate the supernatural. This is a flat contradiction, of course. To spell it out in words of few syllables, if their theory were science, there would be no need to redefine science to allow it to be considered science.

    This is not an issue of religious belief. Many scientists, including some of the most determined opposers of ID believe in God. It is an issue of science not because that is what scientists demand, but because that is what ID creationists demand. That they seek to move the goalposts by redefining the fundamental nature of science shows their dishonesty.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      “There are many different kinds of creationists, and what they have in common is a rejection of science in general and evolutionary theory in particular”

      Other than evolutionary theory, specifically what general scientific concepts do creationists object to?

      I don’t know of any creationists who reject physics or chemistry…

      Evolution may be a science, but rejecting evolution is not the same thing as rejecting science entirely…

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Scientists often rely on the doctrine of methodological naturalism, the principle (devised by Thales) that observable effects should always be ascribed to physical causes. Presumably creationists would vociferously object with that.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “observable effects should always be ascribed to physical causes”

          …and water

        • Richard Forrest says:

          No, they don’t “often rely on the doctrine of methodological naturalism”. They always operate under the assumption of naturalism, not because it is doctrine to be accepted on faith, but because it is the assumption which makes science possible. Unless propositions set constraints on possible outcomes, they are not testable, and unless propositions are testable, there is no way of knowing if they are valid or not.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            No, scientists don’t always rely on methodological naturalism. Psychologists often use the paradigm of “disembodied cognition”, according to which some or all thought does not occur in the brain, but instead occurs in the mind, considered as a nonphysical, supernatural entity. This doesn’t stop their work from being scientific; they can still make falsifiable predictions on the basis of how they think the mind affects the body.

            Because science is ultimately with phenomena, not noumena. If you have a theory which postulates supernatural causes but is specific enough on what effects those causes will produce in a given circumstance, then you can still make a scientific theory that meets the conditions of verifiability, falsifiability, reproducibility, etc.

            But it is true that scientists use methodological naturalism a lot.

            • Ken B says:

              State vectors in quantum theory are not directly observable. They are rather like noumena. But they generate precise predictions. They are thinking tools and aids to using the mathematics.
              This is very different from the kind of ball and stick model used in organic chemistry, which is much more naturalistic. Neither discipline is unscientific, for the reasons Keshav notes.

            • Richard Forrest says:

              No scientist invokes the mind as a supernatural entity.

              If you invoke supernatural causes, you set no constraints on possible outcomes. That makes such causes untestable. That is why they have no place in science.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “No scientist invokes the mind as a supernatural entity.” No, that’s not true. Psychologists do indeed utilize the paradigm of disembodied cognition.

                “f you invoke supernatural causes, you set no constraints on possible outcomes.” No, that’s simply not true. A theory which invokes a supernatural cause can certainly place constraints on possible outcomes. If you have a theory in which lightning strikes are causes by invisible pink unicorns which always like to step on new places because they get bored, you can test that theory by seeing whether lightning ever strikes the same place twice.

                “That makes such causes untestable. ” Yes, but that doesn’t make a theory unscientific. As Ken B says, the wave function in quantum mechanics is undetectable, but you can test the predictions of quantum theory. If the wave function were a supernatural entity instead of a mathematical object, would that really make the theory unscientific? As I said, science is a study of phenomena, so as long as you can make falsifiable predictions about effects, it doesn’t matter if the causes are natural or not.

                Now it’s true that scientists often find that it helps to hypothesize that a given effect has a cause that exists in the physical world, but it’s not science always does this.

                Kepler, for instance, thought that planets were pushed by angels, because otherwise their motion would defy Aristotelian physics, but then Galileo overturned Aristotelian physics and so a replacement of Kepler’s angel theory was needed. Was Kepler’s theory unscientific? It made quite specific predictions about the ratios of planetary orbits and the five Platonic solids, because the angels were charged with moving the planets around in concert with the celestial spheres.

            • Richard Forrest says:

              “Psychologists do indeed utilize the paradigm of disembodied cognition.”
              There is nothing supernatural about disembodied cognition. And it’s not a paradigm, It’s a state of mind, a psychological phenomenon.

              If you have a theory in which lightning strikes are causes by invisible pink unicorns which always like to step on new places because they get bored, you can test that theory by seeing whether lightning ever strikes the same place twice.

              No, you can’t because you have simply invented a set of arbitrary constraints. There is nothing arbitrary about the constraints set by scientific hypotheses.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “There is nothing arbitrary about the constraints set by scientific hypotheses.” Of course there is. For instance, “probability of finding an electron is determined by a wave function which is continuously differentiable whenever the potential is finite” is a constraint that we arbitrarily impose, and then we can test whether the probabilities really do behave like that.

              • Richard Forrest says:

                For instance, “probability of finding an electron is determined by a wave function which is continuously differentiable whenever the potential is finite” is a constraint that we arbitrarily impose, and then we can test whether the probabilities really do behave like that.

                Those constraints arise from the theory which is being tested! Of course they are not arbitrary! The theory is based on observations and measurements .

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Yes, and a theory that postulates supernatural entities may also place similar constraints on the effects that result from supernatural causes, based on measurement and observation of the effects. Neither a wave function nor an Invisible Pink Unicorn is directly observable, but we can still make a theory based on either one that specifies constraints based on empirical observations.

      • Richard Forrest says:

        Other than evolutionary theory, specifically what general scientific concepts do creationists object to?

        They reject methodological naturalism, which is not just an assumption underlying all but the assumption which makes science possible. To have any value as science, a proposition needs to be falsifiable, i.e. there needs to a potential observations of measurements which could show that is wrong. “God did it” sets no such constraints, even if couched in the euphemistic terms of “intelligent agency”.

        They also reject whole swathes of physics – i.e. radiometric dating methods, fluid dynamics, planetary science – chemistry – i.e. by characterising chemical reactions as occurring at random – and anything else in any field of any science which shows that their “theories” are flatly false.

        • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

          So, in your view, *everyone* who believes that God created the universe rejects virtually every component of science, always, no matter what.

          Just looking for some clarity here.

          And if true, then your original statement is basically a tautology.

          • Richard Forrest says:

            So, in your view, *everyone* who believes that God created the universe rejects virtually every component of science, always, no matter what

            No, in my view anyone who rejects the fundamental principles of science rejects science. It has nothing to do with whether or not they believe in God, and as I have not referred to religious belief at all, I can only wonder why you seek to misrepresent me in this way.

            Anyone who rejects the fundamental principles of science yet claims scientific support for their religious dogma is at best ignorant of science, at worst lying.

            I suggest that anyone who claims scientific support for their religious dogma whilst demanding that we redefine science so that their religious dogma can be considered to be science is at best seriously confused, at worst a blatant liar.

            I oppose creationism – which is the claim that religious dogma is supported by science – because I have been reading creationist sources for 40 years and have yet to come across any not riddled with misrepresentation, distortion and outright and blatant falsehoods.

            I oppose creationism because it is dishonest. One of the most virulent falsehoods promoted by creationists is to characterise anyone who opposed their dogma as anti-religious.

  16. Bob-have-a-look says:

    You should like those guys Bob. They claim mundane physics is a failed paradigm, ancient texts paint a true picture with regards to astronomy and provide evidence for example that carbon dating is useless i.e. half-life is being affected by magnetism and thus can’t be reliable. And many others. Too bad gods turn into planets and God into electric current flowing in plasma which effects are scalable through many orders of magnitude – from lab to few galaxies. The good news is even double helix of DNA is visible in galaxies – it’s in a line with fractal view of the world.
    Fascinating stuff – evidence is crushing, hostile and devoid of substance defences of status quo point to this having some merit.

  17. Innocent says:

    Lol Bob I find it funny as I am a ‘creationist’ yet I do not believe that God created the Universe. Though I do think he formed the world. Please note the word ‘formed’ anyway interesting post.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      What’s the difference between creation and forming? And are you Christian? Because the King James Version says that God *created*, not formed, the heaven and the earth.

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