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Wayne Rossiter: The dragon in Plantinga’s garage

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From Wayne State biologist Wayne Rossiter at his blog:

A critique of Plantinga’s argument for the compatibility of Darwinian evolution and Christianity.

Plantinga’s principle concern (stated in the first line of his first essay) is “Are science and religion compatible?” After some meandering, he refines the search a bit, offering, “Theistic religion endorses special divine action in the world—miracles, for example—but such action would contravene the laws promulgated by science. There is such a thing as the scientific worldview, and it is incompatible with theistic religion.” If it were true that “science” as a practice rightly conforms to this “scientific worldview” (read: naturalism), then I suppose we could stop here (on page two of the essay) and say that Plantinga has just given the game to Dennett. The two are incompatible. Thus, it is Plantinga’s main intent to create a space between naturalism and science, where religion can get along.

Okay, so how then does Plantinga find compatibility between science and theism? First, he points out that areas of science often aren’t even compatible with one another, and thus can’t be compatible with anything (he uses general relativity and current quantum theory as an example). Plantinga then focuses his gaze upon contemporary evolutionary theory. He seeks to diffuse the idea that evolution, “implies that neither God nor anyone else has designed, planned or intended human beings come to be.” If science held this, then it would be incompatible with Christian theism.

Plantinga then hones in even tighter on what he perceives to be the apparent point of conflict. He sees four major claims in evolutionary theory: 1) the planet is very ancient 2) there is descent with modification 3) universal common ancestry unites all life 4) the Darwinian mechanism is random mutation winnowed by natural selection. Of these, only the fourth registers as a concern for Plantinga theologically.More.

Rossiter begs to differ.

See also: Rossiter on Swamidass: Goalposts? What goalposts?

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16 Replies to “Wayne Rossiter: The dragon in Plantinga’s garage

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    This seems like an interesting topic, but it’s difficult for me to understand all the details on the first reading.
    I have to clarify the text before I can digest it.

    For example this sentence:

    Plantinga’s principle concern (stated in the first line of his first essay) is “Are science and religion compatible?” […]

    principle concern?

    What does that mean?
    Does it mean principal concern?

    (Please, note that English is not my first language).

    Thank you.

  2. 2
    SteRusJon says:


    You are most likely correct.

    first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.

  3. 3
    wrossite says:

    One Correction. I’m not from Wayne State…I’m from Waynesburg University 🙂


  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I found that to be a good essay against Plantinga’s (and Barr’s and others) view. The idea that God is creating mutations which appear random to us is impossible to analyze. It also removes God to an unessential/unrecognizable presence in nature and the world.

    However, the situation is very complex since we have to consider “modern science” as merely a functional component of the scientistic/materialist worldview, which it does not need to be.

    Plantinga and Barr seem to accept this worldview as a given. Then they try to fit religion into it.

    But this is a huge error because the real problem they should be addressing is this: “Is science compatible with materialist atheism”?

    The answer is, of course, no. Science is a contradiction to evolutionary materialism. Science, a product of rational thought, depends on theistic principles in order to make any sense at all.

    We tie our heads in knots trying to reconcile materialist atheism with any rational constructs — and those knots include a twisted version of religion that is supposedly compatible with an entirely materialist worldview (as if science requires that).

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Off topic:

    In order to make evolution a ‘hard’ science, Eugene Koonin recently argued that “sheer chance” should replace natural selection as the default explanation for why any particular biological feature might have arisen:

    Why Biologists Waste Time Looking For Adaptations That Don’t Exist – Jan. 2017
    Excerpt: The problem, according to Eugene V. Koonin,,, is that the emphasis on Darwinian natural selection as the main force driving evolution, has too often encouraged a fruitless search for adaptive explanations–where none is really necessary.,,,
    The temptation, he points out, is to come up with a ‘just-so’ story that suggests why–when a more precise and fruitful avenue, for one example, would be to sequence the critter’s genome and do a comparison to its cousin critters’ genomes.,,,
    A more simplified and more realistic approach, Koonin suggests, is to assume a neutral null model and then seek evidence of selection that could falsify it.
    “Null models are standard in physics but apparently not in biology,” he writes. “However, if biology is to evolve into a ‘hard’ science, with a solid theoretical core, it must be based on null models, no other path is known. ”
    This is not a minor problem in the field, he argues. The temptation to assume adaptation and look for adaptive/survival explanations at this level of research, can mislead scientists,,,
    “the proper null hypothesis posits that it is a result of neutral evolution: that is, it survives by sheer chance provided that it is not deleterious enough to be efficiently purged by purifying selection.”
    Eugene V. Koonin

    So apparently for evolutionists, saying that something like the human eye happened by ‘sheer chance’ is even more scientific than them saying natural selection produced a trait??? But wasn’t natural selection originally suppose to be the ‘Designer substitute’ that could explain the ‘apparent design’ of something like an eye without resort to a Designer? i.e. without resort to God?

    Student: Where did the eye come from?
    Teacher: By sheer chance.
    Student: What about God?
    Teacher: Don’t be unscientific, it happened by sheer chance.

    (With the adoption of the ‘neutral theory’ of evolution by prominent Darwinists, and the casting aside of Natural Selection as a major player in evolution),,,
    “One wonders what would have become of evolution had Darwin originally claimed that it was simply the accumulation of random, neutral variations that generated all of the deeply complex, organized, interdependent structures we find in biology? Would we even know his name today?
    What exactly is Darwin really famous for now? Advancing a really popular, disproven idea (of Natural Selection), along the lines of Luminiferous Aether?
    Without the erroneous but powerful meme of “survival of the fittest” to act as an opiate for the Victorian intelligentsia and as a rationale for 20th century fascism, how might history have proceeded under the influence of the less vitriolic maxim, “Survival of the Happenstance”?”
    – William J Murray

    “Darwinism provided an explanation for the appearance of design, and argued that there is no Designer — or, if you will, the designer is natural selection. If that’s out of the way — if that (natural selection) just does not explain the evidence — then the flip side of that is, well, things appear designed because they are designed.”
    Richard Sternberg – Living Waters documentary
    Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson – (excerpt from Living Waters video)

    Supplemental notes:

    “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
    Richard Dawkins – The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.1

    “Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.”
    Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 21
    quoted from this video – Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video

    Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought By Ernst Mayr – November 24, 2009
    Excerpt: Every aspect of the “wonderful design” so admired by the natural theologians could be explained by natural selection.

    “The real core of Darwinism,,,, the ‘design’ of the natural theologian, by natural means.”
    Ernst Mayr

    “Darwin’s theory of natural selection accounts for the ‘design’ of organisms, and for their wondrous diversity, as the result of natural processes,”
    Francisco J. Ayala – Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer – May 2007

    “Organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 30

    “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 138 (1990)

    living organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”
    Richard C. Lewontin – Adaptation,” Scientific American, and Scientific American book ‘Evolution’ (September 1978)

    “This appearance of purposefulness is pervasive in nature…. Accounting for this apparent purposefulness is a basic problem for any system of philosophy or of science.”
    George Gaylord Simpson – “The Problem of Plan and Purpose in Nature” – 1947

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: The situation calls to mind a widely circulated cartoon by Sidney Harris, which shows two scientists in front of a blackboard on which a body of theory has been traced out with the usual tangle of symbols, arrows, equations, and so on. But there’s a gap in the reasoning at one point, filled by the words, “Then a miracle occurs.” And the one scientist is saying to the other, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.”
    In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”

    “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’”
    Wolfgang Pauli

    The Universal Determinism Dichotomy (UDD) – David L. Abel – 2015
    Excerpt: We sometimes appeal to yet-to-be-discovered laws when trying to explain what appears to be chance phenomena. Most theorists, however, attempt to reduce Chance Contingency to unknown and/or very complex physical causation, as summarized by Peale.12 Thus Chance Contingency as a true cause may be only “apparent.”
    Sproul argues effectively that chance is not a cause of anything. Chance is nothing more than a statistical description of unknown or complex physical causation. Chance, therefore, cannot have any physical effects, since it is not a physical cause. 13,,,
    13. Sproul RC. – Not a Chance: the Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books; 1994

    “By calling the unknown cause ‘chance’ for so long, people begin to forget that a substitution was made. . . . The assumption that ‘chance equals an unknown cause’ has come to mean for many that ‘chance equals cause.’”
    – Robert C. Sproul:

    “To personify ‘chance’ as if we were talking about a causal agent is to make an illegitimate switch from a scientific to a quasi-religious mythological concept.”
    Donald M. MacKay – biophysicist

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

  6. 6
    wrossite says:

    I agree SA. Wouldn’t the easier (and more rational path) be to argue that DE is fundamentally insufficient (or even mistaken)? Rather than find some way to make God’s action possible, but entirely indistinguishable from full-on naturalistic theses, why not suggest that naturalism is insufficient in explaining evolution?

    On the view Plantinga presents in his debate with Dennett, the materialists have data that suggests no intentionality or design (i.e., the assumption of the sufficiency of DE being driven by random mutations). That is, there is no “apparent guidance.” For the sake of his argument, Plantinga accepts this apparent absence of guidance. Yet, he believes that the materialist can’t conclude that there is actually no guidance (metaphysically).

    Conversely, it was the atheists who were/are saddled with “apparent design” in biology. They didn’t cook up some logical game to demonstrate why, given “apparent design,” they could assume no design. They had/have to demonstrate why the apparent design is not real design. So, why don’t we have to demonstrate why the absence of apparent guidance isn’t really the absence of guidance?

    Isn’t it logically possible that, given apparent design, there is no actual design? Or, for that matter, isn’t it logically possible that the Spaghetti Monster made the creamer in my coffee look like the face of Jesus? It seems to me that we could always introduce some “logically possible” proposition that could save us from any seeming contradiction. Sure, the lottery appeared unguided when Sam won it last week. But, isn’t it logically possible that his wife used her psychic powers to dictate which numbers were chosen? I suppose so.


  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    additional notes

    “It is difficult (if not impossible) to find a genome change operator that is truly random in its action within the DNA of the cell where it works. All careful studies of mutagenesis find statistically significant non-random patterns”
    James Shapiro – Evolution: A View From The 21st Century – (Page 82)

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Fully Random Mutations – Kevin Kelly – 2014
    Excerpt: What is commonly called “random mutation” does not in fact occur in a mathematically random pattern. The process of genetic mutation is extremely complex, with multiple pathways, involving more than one system. Current research suggests most spontaneous mutations occur as errors in the repair process for damaged DNA. Neither the damage nor the errors in repair have been shown to be random in where they occur, how they occur, or when they occur. Rather, the idea that mutations are random is simply a widely held assumption by non-specialists and even many teachers of biology. There is no direct evidence for it.
    On the contrary, there’s much evidence that genetic mutation vary in patterns. For instance it is pretty much accepted that mutation rates increase or decrease as stress on the cells increases or decreases. These variable rates of mutation include mutations induced by stress from an organism’s predators and competition, and as well as increased mutations brought on by environmental and epigenetic factors. Mutations have also been shown to have a higher chance of occurring near a place in DNA where mutations have already occurred, creating mutation hotspot clusters—a non-random pattern.

  8. 8
    wrossite says:

    Makes me wonder what impact non-random patterns might have on neutral theory (along with DE). Again, it feels like Plantinga chased down the wrong rabbit hole (on this particular point). He accepted physical randomness as a descriptor, then tried to find compatibility. Instead, perhaps it should be Darwinian evolution that gets modified for the sake of compatibility with the evidence.

    Still, even if we’re talking about a process driven by “spontaneous mutations occur[ing] as errors in the repair process for damaged DNA,” we’re really not looking at something that appears directed, are we?


  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Douglas Axe makes a great point in his Undeniable (I just started it) …

    When we see a breakfast tray, or a shoe, or a house, or we see the bed neatly made – we always conclude design.

    But then in biology, we see things vastly most sophisticated, ordered, complex, precise, harmonic and functional – and evolutionists tell us: “not designed”.

    So, this is a radical exception to everything we know on a daily basis. It is so bizarrely counter-intuitive that even evolutionists can’t describe organisms without using design language.

    But aside from all of that, evolutionists do not offer the kind of amazingly compelling arguments that would be needed to go against all our common experience. They “make no serious attempt” to refine our intuitions.

    Instead, “we’re expected to ignore the discrepancy”.

    In order to accept evolutionary claims, we have to entirely “abandon our prior understanding of how things” come into existence.

    That’s what evolutionists demand of everyone.

  10. 10
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Yes, I’m amazed that such a good philosopher as Plantinga would fear to simply propose that Darwinian Evolution is false.

    But that’s a statement about the power of evolutionism within academia. Good scholars are afraid to even suggest that Darwinism is false. It goes back to the movie Inherit the Wind and before that.

  11. 11
    Silver Asiatic says:


    They didn’t cook up some logical game to demonstrate why, given “apparent design,” they could assume no design.

    Yes, that’s the paradox I was getting at in 9.

    They start by assuming no design, when this is the most counter-intuitive assumption. Beyond this, as you say, there’s no logical basis for this as the first premise.

    The most logical thing would be to accept that if something appears to be designed, we start by assuming that it is unless proven otherwise.

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:


    the proper null hypothesis posits that it is a result of neutral evolution: that is, it survives by sheer chance

    As you said, BA – Darwin used the idea of natural selection in order to avoid having to claim that it was all just lucky chance outcomes, since to say that was too absurd for anyone to take seriously.

    Now Koonin can bluntly say this and nobody in academia can even laugh at it anymore.

  13. 13
    Origenes says:

    Silver Asiatic @4

    SA: However, the situation is very complex since we have to consider “modern science” as merely a functional component of the scientistic/materialist worldview, which it does not need to be.
    Plantinga and Barr seem to accept this worldview as a given. Then they try to fit religion into it.

    Such compliance is so very ‘twentieth century’ — a payoff from the nonsensical propaganda by Dawkins & co. Today everybody knows, or should know, that evolutionary theory is a total mess.

    SA: But this is a huge error because the real problem they should be addressing is this: “Is science compatible with materialist atheism”?


    SA: The answer is, of course, no. Science is a contradiction to evolutionary materialism. Science, a product of rational thought, depends on theistic principles in order to make any sense at all.

    Indeed again. For one thing, science presupposes a free rational agent to do science. Materialism can ground neither freedom nor rationality.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    The false presupposition that undergirds all of this is the false materialistic presupposition that mutations to DNA, whether random or directed, will generate new body plans. Yet Darwinists, nor any other flavor of evolutionists, has ever shown that mutations to DNA have the capacity to generate new body plans:

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    Excerpt: A technique called “saturation mutagenesis”1,2 has been used to produce every possible developmental mutation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster),3,4,5 roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans),6,7 and zebrafish (Danio rerio),8,9,10 and the same technique is now being applied to mice (Mus musculus).11,12 None of the evidence from these and numerous other studies of developmental mutations supports the neo-Darwinian dogma that DNA mutations can lead to new organs or body plans–because none of the observed developmental mutations benefit the organism.

    Stephen Meyer states “you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter”

    ‘Now one more problem as far as the generation of information. It turns out that you don’t only need information to build genes and proteins, it turns out to build Body-Plans you need higher levels of information; Higher order assembly instructions. DNA codes for the building of proteins, but proteins must be arranged into distinctive circuitry to form distinctive cell types. Cell types have to be arranged into tissues. Tissues have to be arranged into organs. Organs and tissues must be specifically arranged to generate whole new Body-Plans, distinctive arrangements of those body parts. We now know that DNA alone is not responsible for those higher orders of organization. DNA codes for proteins, but by itself it does not insure that proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, will all be arranged in the body-plan. And what that means is that the Body-Plan morphogenesis, as it is called, depends upon information that is not encoded on DNA. Which means you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter, because in the best case you are just going to find a new protein some place out there in that vast combinatorial sequence space. You are not, by mutating DNA alone, going to generate higher order structures that are necessary to building a body plan. So what we can conclude from that is that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is grossly inadequate to explain the origin of information necessary to build new genes and proteins, and it is also grossly inadequate to explain the origination of novel biological form.’
    – Stephen Meyer – (excerpt taken from Meyer/Sternberg vs. Shermer/Prothero debate – 2009) (52:57 minute mark)
    – Functional Proteins and Information for Body Plans – video

    Moreover, Jonathan Wells goes one step further and states that “It’s the organism controlling the DNA, not the DNA controlling the organism”, as is presupposed in Darwinian thought:

    Ask an Embryologist: Genomic Mosaicism – Jonathan Wells – February 23, 2015
    Excerpt: humans have a “few thousand” different cell types. Here is my simple question: Does the DNA sequence in one cell type differ from the sequence in another cell type in the same person?,,,
    The simple answer is: We now know that there is considerable variation in DNA sequences among tissues, and even among cells in the same tissue. It’s called genomic mosaicism.
    In the early days of developmental genetics, some people thought that parts of the embryo became different from each other because they acquired different pieces of the DNA from the fertilized egg. That theory was abandoned,,,
    ,,,(then) “genomic equivalence” — the idea that all the cells of an organism (with a few exceptions, such as cells of the immune system) contain the same DNA — became the accepted view.
    I taught genomic equivalence for many years. A few years ago, however, everything changed. With the development of more sophisticated techniques and the sampling of more tissues and cells, it became clear that genetic mosaicism is common.
    I now know as an embryologist,,,Tissues and cells, as they differentiate, modify their DNA to suit their needs. It’s the organism controlling the DNA, not the DNA controlling the organism.

    To briefly back up the claim that body plans cannot be reduced to DNA sequences, or to any other material particulars, here are a few examples:

    What Do Organisms Mean? Stephen L. Talbott – Winter 2011
    Excerpt: Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin once described how you can excise the developing limb bud from an amphibian embryo, shake the cells loose from each other, allow them to reaggregate into a random lump, and then replace the lump in the embryo. A normal leg develops. Somehow the form of the limb as a whole is the ruling factor, redefining the parts according to the larger pattern. Lewontin went on to remark: “Unlike a machine whose totality is created by the juxtaposition of bits and pieces with different functions and properties, the bits and pieces of a developing organism seem to come into existence as a consequence of their spatial position at critical moments in the embryo’s development. Such an object is less like a machine than it is like a language whose elements… take unique meaning from their context.[3]”,,,

    “Last year I had a fair chunk of my nose removed in skin cancer surgery (Mohs). The surgeon took flesh from a nearby area to fill in the large hole he’d made. The pictures of it were scary. But in the healing process the replanted cells somehow ‘knew’ how to take a different shape appropriate for the new location so that the nose now looks remarkably natural. The doctor said he could take only half the credit because the cells somehow know how to change form for a different location (though they presumably still follow the same DNA code) . — I’m getting the feeling that we’ve been nearly as reductionist in the 20-21st century as Darwin and his peers were when they viewed cells as little blobs of jelly.”
    leodp – UD blogger

    Epigenetics and neuroplasticity: The case of the rewired ferrets – April 3, 2014
    Excerpt: Like inventive electricians rewiring a house, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reconfigured newborn ferret brains so that the animals’ eyes are hooked up to brain regions where hearing normally develops.
    The surprising result is that the ferrets develop fully functioning visual pathways in the auditory portions of their brains. In other words, they see the world with brain tissue that was only thought capable of hearing sounds.
    – per UD

    If DNA really rules (morphology), why did THIS happen? – April 2014
    Excerpt: Researchers implanted human embryonic neuronal cells into a mouse embryo. Mouse and human neurons have distinct morphologies (shapes). Because the human neurons feature human DNA, they should be easy to identify.
    Which raises a question: Would the human neurons implanted in developing mouse brain have a mouse or a human morphology?
    Well, the answer is, the human neurons had a mouse morphology. They could be distinguished from the mouse ones only by their human genetic markers.
    If DNA really ruled, we would expect a human morphology.”
    – per UD

    The Case for the Soul: Quantum Biology – (7:25 minute mark – Brain Plasticity and Mindfulness control of DNA expression)

    Thus in spite of all of this talk over whether mutations to DNA are truly random or whether they are being directed, the fact of the matter is that, as far as the empirical evidence itself is concerned, anyone who tries to explain the appearance of all of the diverse forms of life on earth by reference to mutations in DNA, or by reference to any other material particulars, in a ‘bottom up’ fashion, is barking up the wrong tree.

    Darwinists have yet to demonstrate the origin of a single gene and/or protein by unguided material processes. Yet even if Darwinists could demonstrate the origin of a single gene and/or protein by unguided material processes that still would not go one micrometer towards explaining how the approximately billion-trillion proteins of the human body ‘know’ how to form a human body.

    Talbott puts that ‘elephant in the living room’ problem that Darwinists, i.e. reductive materialists, never honestly address like this:

    Excerpt: “If you think air traffic controllers have a tough job guiding planes into major airports or across a crowded continental airspace, consider the challenge facing a human cell trying to position its proteins”. A given cell, he notes, may make more than 10,000 different proteins, and typically contains more than a billion protein molecules at any one time. “Somehow a cell must get all its proteins to their correct destinations — and equally important, keep these molecules out of the wrong places”. And further: “It’s almost as if every mRNA [an intermediate between a gene and a corresponding protein] coming out of the nucleus knows where it’s going” (Travis 2011),,,
    Further, the billion protein molecules in a cell are virtually all capable of interacting with each other to one degree or another; they are subject to getting misfolded or “all balled up with one another”; they are critically modified through the attachment or detachment of molecular subunits, often in rapid order and with immediate implications for changing function; they can wind up inside large-capacity “transport vehicles” headed in any number of directions; they can be sidetracked by diverse processes of degradation and recycling… and so on without end. Yet the coherence of the whole is maintained.
    The question is indeed, then, “How does the organism meaningfully dispose of all its molecules, getting them to the right places and into the right interactions?”
    The same sort of question can be asked of cells, for example in the growing embryo, where literal streams of cells are flowing to their appointed places, differentiating themselves into different types as they go, and adjusting themselves to all sorts of unpredictable perturbations — even to the degree of responding appropriately when a lab technician excises a clump of them from one location in a young embryo and puts them in another, where they may proceed to adapt themselves in an entirely different and proper way to the new environment. It is hard to quibble with the immediate impression that form (which is more idea-like than thing-like) is primary, and the material particulars subsidiary.,,,
    And then we hear that all this meaningful activity is, somehow, meaningless or a product of meaninglessness. This, I believe, is the real issue troubling the majority of the American populace when they are asked about their belief in evolution. They see one thing and then are told, more or less directly, that they are really seeing its denial. Yet no one has ever explained to them how you get meaning from meaninglessness — a difficult enough task once you realize that we cannot articulate any knowledge of the world at all except in the language of meaning.,,,

    Talbott also asks this very profound, yet simple, question

    The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings – Stephen L. Talbott – 2010
    Excerpt: Virtually the same collection of molecules exists in the canine cells during the moments immediately before and after death. But after the fateful transition no one will any longer think of genes as being regulated, nor will anyone refer to normal or proper chromosome functioning. No molecules will be said to guide other molecules to specific targets, and no molecules will be carrying signals, which is just as well because there will be no structures recognizing signals. Code, information, and communication, in their biological sense, will have disappeared from the scientist’s vocabulary.
    ,,, the question, rather, is why things don’t fall completely apart — as they do, in fact, at the moment of death. What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?
    Despite the countless processes going on in the cell, and despite the fact that each process might be expected to “go its own way” according to the myriad factors impinging on it from all directions, the actual result is quite different. Rather than becoming progressively disordered in their mutual relations (as indeed happens after death, when the whole dissolves into separate fragments), the processes hold together in a larger unity.

    Myself, I find it necessary to postulate a unifying ‘soul’ in order to answer Talbott’s question,, “What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?”

    Scientific Evidence That We Do Indeed Have A Soul

    Verse and Music:

    Mark 8:36
    What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

    Shatter Me Featuring Lzzy Hale – Lindsey Stirling

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:


    For one thing, science presupposes a free rational agent to do science. Materialism can ground neither freedom nor rationality.

    I’ve been following your discussion with daveS on this topic, and its a decisive and well-structured argument.

    Withdrawing assent by holding out for some unknown possibility of a cause is not an embrace of the strongest argument with the best evidence. It’s choosing a very weak argument and there’s no good reason to do that.

    I’d urge dave to take that step. Just embrace the strongest argument.

  16. 16
    Jon Garvey says:

    To say that evolution works by sheer chance, Koonin et al have to show that “chance” or “probability” is a cause of anything, which it isn’t. Ever.

    In a coin toss, the 50:50 probability does not cause a single result. Instead real causes (design of the system, strength and speed of toss, psychic influences(!), the providence of God and so on) dictate the probability distribution as well as each toss.

    Likewise, that 3% of Americans are vegetarians causes nothing whatsoever – human choices, instead, account for the entire probability distribution, and each individual diet.

    So to say “This biological change happened by chance” is to say nothing at all except “I don’t know what caused it.” It’s hardly a scientific discovery to discover you don’t know the cause. You didn’t when you started.

    To say that sheer luck (aka Epicurean chance) caused it is unscientific because it’s a (dubious) metaphysical claim to the effect that chaos produces order; and it’s anti-scientific because the very existence of probability distributions show that even unknown causes (chance) are orderly, not chaotic.

    Your choices are therefore natural laws (requiring investigation, not admission of ignorance – even then one needs an intelligence to explain why there are regular laws at all) or something or somebody making choices.

    Chance can be excluded confidently simply on the basis of its not being capable of causing anything, being a mere mathematical summary of actual causes.

    Edit: more detailed treatment here: http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.u.....of-chance/

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