Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Beginning


[a rock with bugs - no God needed?]

According to today's New York Times, scientists are still thrashing around trying to figure out how life started without having to involve God.

The rapid appearance of complex life in some accounts — “like Athena springing from the head of Zeus,” in the words of Dr. McKay — has rekindled interest recently in a theory fancied by Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the double helix, that life originated elsewhere and floated here through space.

But whatever you do, just don't mention the "G" word. Belief in God would mean that the clergy would be more important than scientists, something taken for granted before Darwin published Origin of Species (150 years ago, all universities were extremely Christian, if not primarily theological seminaries), and that must be avoided at all cost.

34 comments:

Mike said...

Yeah, I find the problem of abiogenesis to be a much bigger problem for atheism than evolution. Their only rebuttal is to propose far fetched hypotheses that amount to little more than hand-waving. They know it too, but as long as they use erudite sounding language, for many people it doesn't really matter that it's all BS. The celestial seeding hypothesis, of course, does not solve this riddle one iota either.

jewish philosopher said...

What interesting is "Space aliens did it" could be science yet, arbitrarily, "God did it" cannot be science.

NC said...

BTW, I have no problem with saying the G word.

However, any claim that involves the supernatural cannot be science, since supernatural phenomena contradict inductive reasoning. Science is the study of the natural, not the supernatural, by definition.

For example, science cannot study how witches or curses work. Any attempt to do so inevitably leads to contradictions and a dead end.

Mike said...

"What interesting is "Space aliens did it" could be science yet, arbitrarily, "God did it" cannot be science."

Well what disturbs me is that people, especially scientifically inclined atheists, conflate "science" with "truth," which really reflects nothing more than a materialist's bias on their part. Science itself is incapable of assessing, via empirical experimentation, what happened before physical existence came into being. We are left to philosophical speculation regarding this, and in my view, postulating a Creator is the most rational of views.

By postulating a Creator, we can arrive at some reasonable speculations regarding such a being, but of course, short of Revelation, little can be determined with accuracy. We can reasonably speculate that this creator is vastly more intelligent than us. In order to avoid the infinite regress of asking "who designed the designer?" ad infinitum we would have to postulate a being that stands outside of physical constraints--i.e. an Infinite being.

But yes, these speculations are not science, in the sense that detailed experiments can be conducted--they belong more to the realm of natural philosophy. But so what? Who says the tools of science are equipped to answer every question?

jewish philosopher said...

"I have no problem with saying the G word."

Good, so say it.

Anonymous said...

NC:

Multiverse is considered a perfectly scientific theory. In fact, Stephen Hawking uses it in his latest theory. Multiverse says that there are universes out there where there are witches, unicorns, leprechauns, etc. It also requires that there be a universe where an Omnipotent G-d took a Naion otu of slavery and gave revealed Himslef to them, and gave them a book of law. All perfectly scientific.

NC said...

""What interesting is "Space aliens did it" could be science yet, arbitrarily, "

Not, that is not a scientific theory nor science. It is science fiction.
BTW that is a straw man argument since no serious scientist says that.

NC said...

Mike-
" But so what? Who says the tools of science are equipped to answer every question?"

Nobody claims that, not even atheists. But the distance from postulating an infinite being to making claims about a fiery hell for atheist sinners is long indeed.

jewish philosopher said...

"that is a straw man argument since no serious scientist says that"

I didn't say they did. I said "Space aliens did it" could be science. Does someone have a reading comprehension problem?

jewish philosopher said...

NC wrote this and I deleted it by accident

The definition of science has changed over the past century and a half. Many things that were consider science in the 1800s are no longer considered so.

jewish philosopher said...

The truth is that I have a suspicion that science is a concept created by atheists.

Prior to Darwin, I believed that the word "science" was seldom used.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science was founded in 1831.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Science_Associationqq

The word "scientist" was coined in 1840.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientist

And the phrase "scientific method" in 1885. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_scientific_method#Mention_of_the_topic

The idea that science is different, special and superior to philosophy, history, engineering, theology, or any other field of knowledge would appear to be a basically atheistic invention. Prior to Darwin, people believed in God, an inerrant revelation and an infallible clergy. Post Darwin, this would be replaced with a belief in nature, an inerrant science and infallible scientists. 

NC said...

I would like to think that science is the best way to discover truths about the physical world.

"The idea that science is different, special and superior to philosophy, history, engineering, theology, or any other field of knowledge would appear to be a basically atheistic invention. "

I think you have it backwards.
Because of the success that science has had, with its clearly superior track record over philosophy or religion in determining truths about the natural world, is what discredited "theological" knowledge and permitted atheism to take root.

jewish philosopher said...

Not really.

Actually, there is reality and there is our knowledge of reality. Reality includes God, man, the sun, the moon, angels, souls, sports, weather and innumerable other things. Our knowledge of reality is acquired by direct observation, reliable testimony, laboratory experiments, mathematics, documents and many other ways. Much of what people thought in the past was false and no doubt much of what we think now is false.

Here's a little gem for example:
 
“Practically all advanced opinion in Europe believes that the world’s ills can only be cured by socialism.”

Bertrand Russell, article in New Republic 3/22/1922

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell

Or take this piece of genius:

“The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies--between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae--between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked (18. 'Anthropological Review,' April 1867, p. 236.), will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

From THE DESCENT OF MAN AND SELECTION IN RELATION TO SEX by Charles Darwin Chapter VI. On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man; on the birthplace and antiquity of man; second edition September, 1874


Part of atheist mythology seems to be that a new, amazing, virtually infallible way of acquiring knowledge called science (code word for atheism) was discovered about 1850 which has superseded religion and superstition (code words for monotheism).

Anonymous said...

NC:

Science seems to have a pretty poor record when it comes to answering the big questions about origins.

Nathan

Anonymous said...

And I'm not convinced that science has discredited theology all that much. People use to be able to say that the Universe was infinitely old, therefore there is no need of a creator. Now we know that there was a creation event that closely parallels Bereshis. And people use to believ ein the spontaneous generation of life. Now we know that that couldn't happen, so we need a Creator to explain the origin of life.

Nathan

NC said...

JP, you keep throwing red herrings and making the same logical error over and over. You keep quoting various people as "authorities" even though we don't rely on them as such. You know, Einstein was wrong about certain things (like his rejection of quantum machanics). But his relativity theories stand on their own merits, not because Einstein said them.

And I do not claim that Darwin discovered science.

And I do not claim that science is the best way to find out everything. Only about the natural world.

In contrast, you say that creation is true because the bible said so. Then you use pseudoscientific claims to "prove" it.

jewish philosopher said...

The idea that science is a new, special, nearly infallible type of knowledge which has proven there is no God is an atheist myth. Here's another gem from Mr Harris

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/science-must-destroy-religion/

Mike said...

"Nobody claims that, not even atheists."

I disagree. Prominent atheists certainly extend scientific thinking beyond its proper bounds.

As per Dawkin's attempted disproof of the existence of God:

"A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity
because any God capable of designing anything would have to be
complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own
right."

Dawkins is such a materialist that he rejects out of hand the possibility that God might not be constrained by the physical laws of the universe. The above argument only carries force if we assume God to be a physical being, bound by physical properties of nature. In other words, something that can be (theoretically) described by science.

But for an atheistic materialist, the mere thought of something that exists outside the bounds of physical reality is an inherent absurdity. If it can't be measured, or approached in tangible physical terms, it is to be regarded as a figment of the imagination and nothing more. This is a reflection of bias, nothing more.

Hence the attempts at comparing belief in God to the tooth fairy, easter bunny, etc. The problem is, of course, that the argument from design is not based on fanciful thinking, or the mere play of the imagination, divorced from reason. It is logical, and points to the possibility of an intelligent agent behind the creation of the physical universe. This intelligence (at first blush) may be corporeal, or non-corporeal, but Dawkin's argument, cited above, can actually be applied against the possibility of a corporeal creator, putting his views, ironically, in line with traditional (at least Jewish and Muslim) monotheism.

Dawkins would never hear this, however, because he rejects the possibility of a non-physical creator out of hand, since science (read Dawkins) would be powerless to characterize such a being.

Much of the discrediting of intelligent design is on the basis of it not being science. This line of argumentation is not used, however, simply in order to properly categorize ID as more an arm of natural philosophy, than science, but rather to discredit it as a intellectual position with any validity whatsoever.

This is obvious if you read the papers, and the rhetoric thrown around by secularists. "Science" has effectively been conflated with "truth" to advance an agenda, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Some great scientists like Faraday, Maxwell, and Newton studied science in order to better understand G-d.

Anonymous said...

Sam Harris has recently writtena book wherein he claims that science can determine what i smoral and immoral. He does this dispite all the historical evidence that this just isn't true.

jewish philosopher said...

Prior to Darwin, people who studied nature were called natural philosophers and it was taken for granted that "God did it".

jewish philosopher said...

By the way it recently occured to me that the Amish community should be a hotbed of evolution.

Nearly all Amish today are descended from about 200 people who immigrated to American about 250 years ago. Therefore there is a great deal of inbreeding among relatives and any genetic mutations therefore will often be inherited by children from both parents. Of course many mutations are harmful, however some should be naturally selected, increasing reproductive success and eventually leading to a new, improved species of Homo. 

This would be a perfect example of reproductive isolation which would cause evolution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium#Theoretical_mechanisms

Once the Amish finish evolving into superhumans, they would quickly kill us off and overrun the world, bringing about a punctuation in equilibrium. We would be new Neanderthals, replaced by Homo amishus.

In reality, the results so far are kind of disappointing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish#Health

Isolated Appalachian communities, especially prior to the advent of the railroads, should also have done plenty of evolving, however it doesn't seem to have worked there either.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2621/are-there-inbred-families-in-the-ozarks-appalachians-like-in-em-deliverance

But listen, letting facts get in the way of a really cool fantasy like atheism is out of the question.

nc said...

JP, your claim that inbreeding should stimulate evolution is just as absurd as your claim that the global warming should. Just another one of your red herrings. Of course, the claim really reflects your total misrepresentation (intentional or not) of evolution.

nc said...

Mike-

I don't disagree that there is a rational way to believe in god. But that and JP's philosophy are like day and night. I think that all organized religions, including Judaism, with perhaps the exception of Buddhism diminish the concept of god to a tribal psychopathic leader, much like Gaddafi.

If god did create the world, he also created the various different religions, tribes, ethnicities which is the source of endless conflict and suffering in this world. I'm not a bleary eyed liberal, but I think about the Babel story and I wonder-- why do we Jews think that god did a good thing? Had the builders succeeded man would be unified and wouldn't be slaughtering each other since time immemorial.

I'm not just blaming religion, but I think it has a large part in the tribalization of people. Certainly in the middle east it does.

jewish philosopher said...

"JP, your claim that inbreeding should stimulate evolution is just as absurd as your claim that the global warming should."

That's exactly my point - the entire theory is absurd. "Reproductive isolation" may sound all scientific and such, however if you think about it for a minute, reproductively isolated communities actually end up in the shallow end of the gene pool, so to speak. Although I will admit that the Appalachian problem did eventually create some classic television.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hee_Haw

"red herrings"

Red herring is an idiomatic expression referring to the rhetorical or literary tactic of diverting attention away from an item of significance. Actually you, not I, keep doing that with repeated unsourced, misquoted and irrelevant references to Talmudic vaginas whenever you get stuck. I think my comments are highly significant.

"Had the builders succeeded man would be unified and wouldn't be slaughtering each other since time immemorial."

Actually, when evil people unify it's not good. Think Nazis or even OPEC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPEC

"Certainly in the middle east it does."

Islam is a religion which preaches and promotes violence. Look at a world map. Look at any point where Muslims border non-Muslims. Notice how ALL those places involve armed conflicts, from Sudan to Chechnya to Cyprus and let's not even mention Palestine. That's not coincidence.

NC said...

JP, we had been discussing the philosophy of science and how it related to evolution. Then you brought up the Amish.

""Reproductive isolation" may sound all scientific and such, however if you think about it for a minute, reproductively isolated communities actually end up in the shallow end of the gene pool, so to speak"

Reproductive isolation, as a mode of speciation, is a completely different concept than inbreeding. Are you confusing the two intentionally to fog your argument?

According to you any 2 humans who mate are "inbreeding" since they are related far enough back.

In reality, once you get to the level of second cousins the deleterious effects of inbreeding are negligible.

The only time reproductively isolated species are a problem is when the population is too low.

jewish philosopher said...

So in large populations evolution will not work because the effect of any rare, advantageous mutation will be lost in the large population. Alternatively, evolution will not work in a small population because of the destructive effects of inbreeding, as demonstrated for example by the Amish. 

So, in summary, evolution will not work.

Anonymous said...

An important part of Punctuated Equilibrium is that evolution takes place in samll isolated populations separated from the main population of the species. This is why evolution, which is species to species change, is not found in the fossil record.

NC said...

"So, in summary, evolution will not work."

Gee, its so simple, why didn't those brilliant biologist think of that??? Again, you set up false dichotomies from back and white thinking.

Evolution in large populations occurs because of mutations from genetic drift and the normal variation. Genetic disease from inbreeding occurs because of inheriting MANY identical genes from both parents, not just one trait. In the case of siblings they share 50% of their genes. That is different from speciation, when some subgroup with an advantageous trait branches off.

jewish philosopher said...

According to punctuated equilibrium evolution is supposed to happen in small groups.

Allopatric speciation suggests that species with large central populations are stabilized by their large volume and gene flow. New and even beneficial mutations are diluted by the population's size and are unable to reach fixation due to factors such as constantly changing environments. If this is the case, then the transformation of whole lineages should be rare, as the fossil record indicates. Smaller populations on the other hand, which are isolated from the parental stock, are decoupled from the homogenizing effects of gene flow. In addition, pressure from natural selection is especially intense, as peripheral isolated populations exist at the outer edges of ecological tolerance. If most evolution happens in these rare instances of allopatric speciation then evidence of gradual evolution should be rare. This stimulating hypothesis was alluded to by Mayr in the closing paragraph of his 1954 paper.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium#Theoretical_mechanisms

Remarkably, this stimulating hypothesis doesn't seem to stimulate too many Old Order Amish or Appalachian hillbillies.

Score: JP 1 Evolutionists 0

NC said...

So? Punctuated equilibrium is a variation on evolution.

Does biblical creationism explain the facts better? Does it explain Neanderthal man and all kinds of other things that the bible does not mention, or gets wrong?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't see any issue of "better"; evolution is just wrong.

Anonymous said...

NC:

The point JC is trying to make is that evolution happens in isolated populations. Therefore, we shuld see evolution happening in isolated human populations. But we don't. We see just the opposite.

And the various Midrashim that discuss cycles of creation and destruction explain the fossil evidence far better than evolution.

Nathan

jewish philosopher said...

There's an album "Yo, I Killed Your God"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yo!_I_Killed_Your_God

I think that's what I've done to atheists. Sorry guys.