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Naturalism is a priori evolutionary materialism, so it both begs the question and self-refutes


The thesis expressed in the title of this “opening bat” post is plainly controversial, and doubtless will be hotly contested and/or pointedly ignored. However, when all is said and done, it will be quite evident that it has the merit that it just happens to be both true and well-warranted.

So, let us begin.

Noted Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin inadvertently lets the cat out of the bag in his well-known January 1997 New York Review of Books article, “Billions and Billions of Demons”:

. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . .   the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth . . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that

we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Emphases added.]

No wonder, a few months later, noted Intelligent Design thinker Philip Johnson aptly rebutted, in First Things:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

The matter is actually as simple as that.

In the end, that’s why there is so much heat and smoke rather than light in the controversy over Evolution, Creation and Design. For, much is at stake institutionally, educationally and culturally, and yet it turns on something so simple and obviously fallacious as aggressive materialist ideology-driven begging of worldview questions presented under the false colours of science.

Now, them’s fighting words, so let us justify them by citing what the US National Academy of Science wrote in the 2008 edition of their long-running pamphlet, Science, Evolution and Creationism:

In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, p. 10 Emphases added.]

Observe that ever so subtly loaded imposition: science “must” explain by natural causes. That is, by matter, energy, space, time, their spontaneous interactions on chance and mechanical necessity, thence what plausibly derives from that on the evolutionary materialist narrative, including life and intelligence.

Immediately, we should ask: just what is “natural”? And, right after that: why is it contrasted to “supernatural” (instead of say, “artificial”)? [More . . . ]

Instead, we can be the voice of reason. We therefore go back to basic scientific methods, 101. We point out that -- once we set aside overheated rhetoric about "natural vs supernatural" -- it is quite obvious that we routinely observe and distinguish on reliable signs, causal factors tracing to chance, necessity and intelligently directed configuration. There is a valid explanatory filter, that guides us in constructing scientific explanations:
a: mechanical necessity --> natural regularities [dropped heavy objects fall] b: chance processes --> high contingency statistical, probabilistic distributions [scatter in experimental results] c: design or art --> functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, that put objects into configurations that would otherwise be utterly unlikely or unexpected
So, we are scientifically entitled to trust the same reliable signs when we explore evidence of the remote past of origins. This is the same uniformity of nature principle -- a sophisticated form of "like causes like" -- used by Newton in the 1680's to analyse remote star systems we cannot directly explore, and by Lyell, Darwin and Wallace when they pioneered geological and biological reconstructions of the remote past on earth that we likewise cannot directly explore. Of course, the findings of such research are provisional, and are less easily checked than things we can directly observe and measure. But, that does not mean that we should ignore evidence we do have and where it does point. Just, when we see more evidence, we will keep an open mind, and change our theories and models in light of evidence. Also, we must not make question-begging assumptions that block us from doing that. The mistake Lewontin et al are making. When we look again at the evidence we do have for the past of life, we see that cell based life is based on a complex, specifically functional, digitally coded information system that stores hundreds of thousands to billions of bits of information. Such dFSCI strongly points to intelligent design of life, and of major body plans. Similarly, when we look at the organisation of our cosmos, we discover that the cosmos is at a finely tuned operating point that sets up a suitable habitat for C-chemistry, cell-based life. Again, we see a strong sign of intelligently directed configuration, this time of the very physics that serves as the universe's operating system. Without that finely tuned physics, the geology, chemistry and biology of life would not be possible. Again, design. But, design of a cosmos as a suitable habitat for cell-based C-chemistry life points to an extra-cosmic, highly knowledgeable, intelligent and sophisticated designer. Even, in the context of suggested, speculative multiverse models. If a lone fly on a length of otherwise clear wall gets swatted by a bullet, good reason we infer to a hidden marksman. That holds, even if there are other stretches of wall elsewhere that are so carpeted with flies that any bullet hitting at random there would swat a fly. Our observed universe is that lone fly swatted by a very precisely aimed bullet. And, that is how we can even be here to debate origins science. So, it is time to clean house and sweep out the question-begging, self-refuting impositions on our thought on origins science that come from imposing a priori materialism, however disguised by phrases such as "in science we must explain natural phenomena by natural causes." Sorry, in the world of observation, we see and reliably distinguish causal factors tracing to chance, necessity and intelligence. So, no a priori censorship should be allowed to block our science form being what it is at its best:
an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive, provisional pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, analysis, theorising and modelling, as well as free discussion among the informed.
We ought not and cannot sacrifice truth seeking to please the leaders of an a priori, ideological materialistic agenda. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Null, CY, SB, Above (et al): The basic issue is epistemological, not metaphysical. That is, until we have hammered out a mutual understanding of credible methods of reliably (albeit provisionally) warranting claimed truths about the world of observables, unbridled metaphysical a prioris will dominate conclusions. That is, the question will be begged. That is why the original post BEGINS with the exposure of a censoring, Lewontinian a priori evolutionary materialism. Let us see what Lewontin -- here backed by the NAS, NSCE, etc etc -- so directly declared:
we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Thus, Philip Johnson was precisely correct to rebut:
For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses.
If you beg the question and censor out otherwise credible alternatives, you lock up the discussion to an "ideologically correct" answer that has nothing to do with the real question of what is credibly true about the deep past of origins, and how can we set out to learn and be confident of that truth based on real-world observational evidence. Null, if someone is determined to beg questions and stick to a mind-closing, hostility-inducing ideology like that, there is little we can do to stop them. But, we can expose them before the public, especially when they set out to indoctrinate our children under false colours of science education. And, sooner or later, a critical mass of the public will wake up and will demand accountability over such deception. Them when they feel the heat sufficiently, the evo mat magisterium will act out of fear of loss of control over the tax money spigot. Actually, that is already happening, which is why they are so shrill and so determined to shoot the messenger. (Look at what is happening over in the coming clean thread with Mr Paul Burnett. That sort of over the top, arrogant, slanderous extremism is ever more and more tending to be only persuasive to the indoctrinated in their PT fever swamp. But the true believers will swallow the hostility-inducing lies hook, line and sinker: "Dembski and the other whores at the Dishonesty Institute are trying every bit as hard as the Taliban and Al Qaeda to destroy Western civilization. They must not be given any break – any quarter – at all." [Does this person understand that "no quarter" means massacre of those who surrender or are helpless? THAT is what we are dealing with. Talk about hate speech and -- frankly -- slanderously poisonous lies!]) [ . . . ] kairosfocus
CannuckianYankee, Well, you're getting into issues I didn't touch on here (the 'what if ID is falsified' stuff). Nor do I think that these problems come up merely by asking the questions. Like I said, I have no problem at all with arguing 'these processes and mechanisms are incapable of accomplishing the tasks in question'. The worry is when 'these processes and mechanisms' are regarded as materialistic, or non-teleological, or unguided, etc. Science doesn't demonstrate that, and science frankly can't in principle. Again, this was (at least I take it to have been) Barr's point in the Behe-Barr debate, and it seemed to be a point Behe agreed with. Recall, by the way, that Behe used to be a TE and saw no conflict between evolution and his faith. Go ahead, make the arguments about the processes. I'm not criticizing that at all here. All I'm saying is that you don't need to regard those processes as unguided, without purpose, lacking teleology, etc to make your argument - and in fact regarding them as such is a concession to the people you're arguing against. Now, if you happen to really believe that evolution couldn't be guided even in principle, or that these more mundane processes are not themselves instances of design or available as tools for a designer, that's another thing. But everyone seems to deny holding that view so far, so it's put aside. nullasalus
StephenB, Null, others, I too am having a similar problem with Null's thinking (and Null, you have obviously put a lot of thought into this, but we differ on specifics). From earlier discussions, I think the whole issue stems from his concerns with limiting metaphysical assumptions in science. In that respect his caution seems valid, but I don't think it applies necessarily to ID. I will have to leave that to another discussion, however. Here's his basic argument as far as I've been able to understand (I want to go back to some earlier issues in the discussion, because I think they are less hampered down with side issues): Darwinists bring a lot of metaphysical assumptions into play when they claim that random chance mutations can account for complex biological systems. (I think we all agree). ID proponents have often challenged Darwinists to demonstrate how random chance mutations can achieve CSI. Null is of the opinion that even asking the question is indirectly conceding to the idea that purely natural processes apart from teleological influences are involved in nature. It's conceding because that's how the Darwinists will view such a challenge if in their minds, they are able to demonstrate it. Null is also of the opinion that neither teleological nor random natural processes can be demonstrated scientifically, since they are both metaphysical issues. While teleology is the more parsimonious of the two, it is so based on reason's rules, and not on science. (again, I think we all agree to some extent - in the sense that we view evidence from ID as an implication of a designer, and we don't find that the implications actually identify the designer). So he's cautioning against the danger of Darwinists being able to demonstrate (actually or in their own prejudiced opinion) purely natural processes for CSI, and thus, further advancing the assumption of metaphysical materialism. So he sees the challenge as a very dangerous bluff for ID. In other words, we're so certain that such processes will never be able to be demonstrated, that if they are (even in the minds of materialists), we've given up the game to the materialists, because he views that even such seemingly undirected chance processes are not in fact evidence on the side of materialism, but that the materialists, due to their a priori metaphysical commitments, and also due to their poor application of reasons' rules, will equate it with evidence on their side. So asking Darwinists who are committed to metaphysical materialism to demonstrate something is not relevant to whether ID is valid, or is science. We should stick to the facts, and allow the facts to speak for themselves - regardless of whether they support our metaphysical leanings, or regardless of whether they seem to contradict materialism. It's sort of like KF's caution to BA at post 128 (sorry KF, BA, I wanted to lend some relevance to BA's post) :) - it will set the materialists off on an irrelevant tangent (just like they did with Behe's mousetrap). Am I understanding you adequately so far, Null? I may have further comments and questions after you respond. CannuckianYankee
above, Exactly. All you ever can see is 'some existing thing' or 'some event'. You never observe this utter nothingness, this complete lack of a cause. nullasalus
@null So what you're saying is, since it's impossible even in principle to empirically verify an uncaused thing/event, talk of empirical observation is utterly irrelevant. The square example did it for me. Something clicked... :) above
StephenB, Well, fair enough. But let me just say: If you think I'm rolling in here with an anti-ID argument, that's incorrect. If you think I'm arguing that ID requires certain assumptions that conflict with other important metaphysics (Thomism, say), that's also incorrect. This isn't some kind of cryptic attack on ID from me. I'm making a point about the limits of what we can extract from science divorced (as much as possible, anyway) from metaphysics, and how an inability to empirically detect design or intention (particularly an inability that results due to the limits of the methods and conditions we're investigating with) does not give us warrant, much less empirical warrant, to say 'this thing was unguided, and not designed'. And again, maybe that's not what's being said here. Maybe there's confusion on my part. I'm trying to sort that out myself. But again, this isn't some kind of weird, roundabout attack on ID or ID proponents as ID proponents. If it helps, think about how Barr objected to atheistic claims of 'non-designed' or 'unguided' even in his own field (physics), and even about, as kairosfocus noted, some fairly mundane and well-verified processes. nullasalus
above, No problem at all. I'm just being very specific and careful here to avoid confusion - no apologies necessary. As a result, neither through reasoning nor through our empirical experience as of yet is there any evidence that there is such a thing as an uncaused thing/event. Would you agree? What's holding me back here is that it sounds like you're saying it's possible in principle that some result of our empirical experience could suffice to make us say 'oh, that was an uncaused thing/event'. That I wouldn't agree with, because it makes it sound as if our thoughts about causality are determined by empirical results, when they actually come before the entire scientific project. So the lack of observing something coming from total nothingness utterly uncaused not a 'so far' or 'as of yet' thing. It's similar to claiming there exists a square circle. It doesn't seem right to cast that as 'So far, we have not seen any square circles, and that's why we say they do not exist.' The problem with square circles is disconnected from observation. But maybe I'm misunderstanding you. nullasalus
nullasalus, I have gone over your writings a number of times, and I confess that I just do not understand the substance of your objections. Perhaps the problem is not with your means of expression but rather with my capacity to understand what you are getting at. I have tried to probe your thoughts, but your answers never seem to align themselves with my questions. Perhaps someone else can crack the code and explain it to me. Thank you for a lively discussion. StephenB
@null Thanks for the reply. That's pretty much how understood your words. I just wanted to be sure. And yes, I did understand your claim to be that it's ‘impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events’. I just stated the question wrong. Apologies for the confusion. To sum up, I would say that I agree that it is ‘impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events’ due to the reasons mentioned by you, me, kairosfocus and Stephen. I would also say that given our experience in the world through our empirical investigation, which is of course subject to the principles of right reason for interpretation, as of yet all aspects of reality (that are subject to human inquiry) seem to have causal relations. As a result, neither through reasoning nor through our empirical experience as of yet is there any evidence that there is such a thing as an uncaused thing/event. Would you agree? above
above, Do you mind elaborating a little on that? I find that claim to be very intriguing but I am having a little difficulty visualizing it. I’m not disagreeing, I just want to understand how you’ve reached that conclusion so I can visualize the notion a little better. Simply put, how would you justify that it is EMPIRICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to demonstrate that there are uncaused things? It’s the impossibility of its empirical demonstration that I am having some troubles with. Well, let's be clear. I'm not saying it's 'empirically impossible to demonstrate that there are uncaused things', if by that you mean 'all things that exist or begin to exist are caused, and this is empirically demonstrated'. I'd say it's 'impossible to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused things/events'. Think of it this way. Suppose a pocketwatch (or anything else) suddenly appeared in front of you. One second there's no watch, the next second there is. You saw no one place it there, etc. Let's say you saw this happen 100 times. 1000 times. As many as you like. Did you just see the watch pop into existence utterly uncaused from absolute nothingness? Well, no. All you see is a watch suddenly appearing - and that's all you can ever see. Was it put there by a cause of some kind? Some immaterial cause? Some unknown natural cause? Good questions all. You can investigate, and try to come up with a causal story. But you never, not even in principle, observe 'the watch pop into existence utterly uncaused from absolute nothingness'. Arguably, you can't even imagine this. (It's been argued that at best you can imagine 'watch popping into view' and you slap the label 'uncaused' over it, and that that's not the same thing.) In trying to understand what nullasalus was talking about, I thought that the impossibility of demonstrating causelessness might arise due to the fact that one needs to presuppose causality in order to engage in empirical research in the first place… Therefore, denying causality would in effect be a reductio ad absurdum. Well, there's that too. How do you do science if causality is optional? StephenB's gone over this a number of times, and as far as I read his thoughts on that mirror my own. Sure, it's a reductio ad absurdum, but I've also learned that (in the context of trying to convince someone) such things are only useful if a person isn't willing to believe absurd things. I've been surprised at how many people are so willing. nullasalus
StephenB, Because the explanatory filter analyzes the relationship between LAW/CHANCE/AGENCY, some events in the universe are assumed to occur as a result of chance and are, therefore, unguided and undirected. See my response just now to Kairosfocus, as I think that and my previous response to him best encapsulates where I'm coming from. My objection has nothing to do with the explanatory filter, and I'm putting ID claims about flagellum and such utterly aside. These are ground-level concerns about very mundane processes and mechanisms, and how they are described with an eye on science and empirical observation. nullasalus
kairosfocus, On the case of micro-evo, Darwinist mechanisms are valid and empirically supported [e.g. resistance to drugs or to insecticides, ability to digest nylon]. So, there is no need to invoke proximate design for the outcomes, though of course the system may have a design built in that allows that to happen. I grant that mutation and selection are tremendously helpful concepts when it comes to explaining antibiotic resistance, etc. Absolutely. If by 'proximate design' you mean 'there's no need to invoke a designer actively and particularly sticking a hand into that process to secure the outcome', again I agree. It's logically possible, sure, but as with the demons, it's not required for the model. But the reason there is 'no need to invoke proximate design' is due to a limitation of the method (empirical demonstration) and the investigators (us). Was the world set into motion according to a fully deterministic plan by a mind and thus this event (say, developing nylon digestion) proximately designed? Sure, as far as the empirical can inform us that's possible. Does a designer intervene at each moment to determine the particular outcome of every probablistic process? Again, possible. Only sometimes? Possible once more. Never and everything is some kind of wholly unplanned event? Also possible. So yes, 'there's no need to invoke a designer'. There's also 'no need to invoke purposelessness, non-guidance, or a lack of design'. They both get sliced by the same razor empirically, and both are questions which extend beyond the science. We're stuck with "Answer not available." on the question of design or minds or their lack in that context. And this is the case even for the mundane examples you list. I bring this up because this positive claim, the positive lack of any guidance or design, is exactly what many Darwinists claim A) is the case, B) is wholly scientific to claim, and C) is demonstrable in a lab. This is every bit as much of an injection of metaphysics and science-superfluous claims as the 'little demons' idea. It also happens to be, if I take them right, something both Barr and Behe objected to in their debate as an injection of metaphysics into science. And it's what I'm principally objecting to here. When the only answer available given empirical observation and the limits of science is "answer not available", that's simply that. It should not be allowed to be morphed into another answer due to a metaphysical commitment, or by smuggling metaphysics into science. (I would add, this goes doubly in the case of evolution if only because 'selection' is something minds are demonstrably capable of via artificial selection. For all we know, for all science can show, absolutely every case of selection is ultimately artificial selection.) nullasalus
*I want to trace his line of thinking... above
@Vivid + Kairosfocus Thanks for your responses. I'm definitely with you on the importance and primacy of right reason. Data needs to be interpreted otherwise it’s worthless. But I think there might be something more to it than that. In trying to understand what nullasalus was talking about, I thought that the impossibility of demonstrating causelessness might arise due to the fact that one needs to presuppose causality in order to engage in empirical research in the first place... Therefore, denying causality would in effect be a reductio ad absurdum. I’m not sure if this was the route nullasalus was trying to take though, which is why I wanted him to elaborate on it a little bit more. I was to trace his line of thinking because I think he might be on to something I may not have thought about yet. above
nullasalus: Thank you for hanging in there with me. Tell me if this summarizes your objection: Because the explanatory filter analyzes the relationship between LAW/CHANCE/AGENCY, some events in the universe are assumed to occur as a result of chance and are, therefore, unguided and undirected. StephenB
Above and Vivid: Slightly tangential but related. For, causality and the claimed causal closedness of "nature" [= the matter-energy, space-time world we observe] is a big part of the definition of "naturalism." (the "supernatural" is locked out as being causally isolatred, and is dismissed, including by the way the concept of an immaterial mind. [Cf discussion here.) "Cause-less-ness" has to be clarified itself. That starts with the various ways factors can be causal: contributory, necessary, sufficient, necessary and sufficient. Each of heat, fuel and oxidiser is necessary, and the three are jointly sufficient, for a fire. Something like a dash of kero may contribute further to the fire. So, the key point is that once we acknowledge that there are necessary causal factors -- remove them, and no effect -- then events in the physical, observable world will not be causeless. As, such an event would have to come out of nothing, nowhere (or anywhere), anytime, for no reason and with no constraints. If that were happening, we would be living in a chaos, not a cosmos. This even obtains for quantum events, which are constrained by the driving forces of their physics, e.g. think of radioactive decay and quantum tunnelling that helps explain it. No RA atom, no instability in the atom, and no decay. Sure, we do not know the sufficient conditions that make a particular atom in a particular location decay at a particular time, but that is not the whole story. And, we also see how connecting data points and experiences into intelligible sequences implicitly assumes the experienced fact of conscious mindedness that works by the first principles of right reason. Nor can we escape by suggesting that the world of things in themselves is utterly separate from the inner world of perceived and interpreted phenomena. the denial of the possibility of accurate knowledge of the external world, is it self a knowledge claim about that world, and so since it explicitly denies what it implicitly depends on, it is self-refuting. And, again, right reason rides to the rescue, courtesy yet another reductio on its rejection! GEM of TKI kairosfocus
BA: I appreciate the thought. I am only expressing concern that this might get the thread far off on a tangent, and asking that it not be allowed to do so. G kairosfocus
above "In one of your previous posts where you were addressing Stephen you said that it would be practically impossible for anyone to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused events. (I think the notion of uncaused events is absurd btw)" Hi above if you dont mind I would like to jump in here. Well I guess I am jumping in here even if you do mind LOL. Anyway how would one go about emperically demonstrating that there are no uncaused events? This takes me back to what I wrote previously empirical observations tell us nothing unless informed by reasons rules ( thanks stephenb). Empirically all we can say is that every observation we have is that effects always have causes ( I want to ignore QM to simplify things). What does that tell us about the next effect we observe? Just because we have only observed white swans does not mean there are no black swans out there. Empirical observation tell us nothing, the best one could say is that all we have are data points. I would go so far to say that even that is an overstatement. They are not even data points really since to say they are data points can only be deduced through the rules of right reason. All we have is some kind of sensory input, thats it!! Its what comes after the sensory input, the employment of rules of right reason that makes sense of the sensory input. Thats why those who put emperical observation above rules of right reason really havent thought very deeply about what they are saying. We do not empirically demonstrate that all effects have causes we get there through the employment of self evident rules of right reason. I look forward to hearing from null. Vivid vividbleau
@Nullasalus In one of your previous posts where you were addressing Stephen you said that it would be practically impossible for anyone to empirically demonstrate that there are uncaused events. (I think the notion of uncaused events is absurd btw) Do you mind elaborating a little on that? I find that claim to be very intriguing but I am having a little difficulty visualizing it. I’m not disagreeing, I just want to understand how you’ve reached that conclusion so I can visualize the notion a little better. Simply put, how would you justify that it is EMPIRICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to demonstrate that there are uncaused things? It's the impossibility of its empirical demonstration that I am having some troubles with. I hope my question is not confusing. above
Thanks kf, sorry for being way off topic, but I thought Book-DVD may be of interest to you. I agree with you to 'test all things', especially in this spiritual area, since so much has been ans is being falsely asserted (New Age etc.. etc..) Yet, I have payed close attention to this one testimony over the last few years and I find his testimony extremely consistent and trustworthy. i.e. the thing is true! bornagain77
BA: Interesting video. Not my usual focus of thinking, or cognitive style [I acknowledge the possibility of revelatory visions, but am careful indeed about testing specific claimed cases], but interesting. Many connected issues, cf here, here, here and here, but way off-topic for this thread. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Null: Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think we are looking at two different ways of addressing the issue. Notice, how I specifically start from observable facts in the small, and go out and up from there. On the case of micro-evo, Darwinist mechanisms are valid and empirically supported [e.g. resistance to drugs or to insecticides, ability to digest nylon]. So, there is no need to invoke proximate design for the outcomes, though of course the system may have a design built in that allows that to happen. Going upwards to proposed body-plan evo, we run into the Behe edge of evo. And, there are indeed no observational data points to support darwinian mechanisms. So, proximate design comes in, however effected, e.g. front-loading or even viri designed to trigger a new stage when the earth reaches a certain degree of "terraforming" would work, etc. So would a super-Venter lab, with teams of scientists busy at work on the project. One could even go on to connect these with ideas like angels and even gods or daimons. Or, it could be God. Onwards, when we see there is a need to account for simultaneous metabolism and a von Neumann self-replicating facility that codes to reproduce the metabolic automaton, we hit roadblock. Codes/language, algorithms, expression in molecular storage units, implementation using molecular nanomachines, all in a self-replicating entity. Design full stop: thermodynamics simply will not allow anything less than that, the islands of function are just too deeply isolated in far too big a space for our cosmos. The only alternative is a quasi-infinite multiverse, and that raises the question of he cosmos-baking factory, which will have to be pretty carefully set up to produce subcosmi with appropriately varying parameters and laws. So, step by step, stsaring with what is acknowledged and accepted, we come to the point where we are led to see that the design of the cosmos is a very plausible view. But, back down at he level of chance processes and mechanical laws, that is not immediately obvious. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
kairosfocus, I've added 10 minutes to the end of the Bill Wiese video here: Bill Wiese - 23 Minutes In Hell - High Quality http://vimeo.com/16155839 kairosfocus, I highly recommend the book and DVD combo to you. His writing style is meticulous much like yours. I was impressed by his attention, and 'neatness', to detail in the book: (p.s. the book DVD combo is only $10 23 Questions About Hell--Book and DVD By: Bill Wiese http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?p=1142787&event=AFF&isbn=9781616380274 bornagain77
kairosfocus, First, thank you for the civil exchange. I want to stress that I've meant no offense here, and even though I feel passionate about this subject I strive to moderate myself and remain civil if firm in my arguments. I understand your point a bit better now, and I'll try to keep my replies concise. This has been going on, after all. Re: 1, yes, we absolutely do have very successful stochastic models. I certainly don't deny that. 2, 3 and 4 is where problems start to come in, and I'll try to explain why I think so concisely. To come to the conclusion I think you're coming to, this question has to be asked: "What pattern should these phenomena (gas particles, diffusion, etc) have in a universe that is completely unguided versus guided?" But empirically, here is the only answer available: "Answer not available." The answer is not available for a number of reasons. Empirically (and empirically alone) we can't determine whether the universe, in whole or in part, is guided. By the same token, empirically alone we can't determine whether the universe, in whole or in part, is unguided. This applies even these phenomena you mention. Now, what we can do empirically is find patterns - come up with equations that describe the phenomena, and so on. Even stochastic equations. However, we're not 'discovering these things are unguided' by doing so - we're coming up with predictive models based on our observations. We test the models, and if they work, wonderful. And if they fail to work sometimes, perhaps it was an exceptional case or we missed something. Models don't get thrown away at the first violation. Now, you make the point about the possibility of 'little demons pushing', and yes, that's superfluous. But it is so because it adds nothing to the predictive end - do the calculations while assuming the demons are pushing everything, and everything still works. You still get the same pattern. But that's the problem - with or without the demons, the pattern is the same. So, Occam's razor slices the demons. Now, here's the trick: This doesn't get us to (and Occam never suggested that sort of reasoning should get us to) 'unguided' or 'unintelligent'. That's a positive claim, and notice: It has the exact same status as the little demons. It adds nothing to the model or the prediction. You may as well say 'pushed by mindless little demons'. Occam's razor slices unguided and without purpose too. Back to "Answer not available". Empirically, both the explanation with guidance of a sort, and the positive lack of guidance, get scrubbed. Rather like how if you're on Let's Make a Deal, if you simply don't know what's behind Door #3, when Monty Hall asks you 'What's behind Door #3?', your lack of information doesn't lead you to say 'nothing'. If you don't know - if you can't determine the answer - you don't know. This is why I've been saying that 'unguided' or 'not designed' and so on should not be conceded, but I haven't been arguing that (in the case of science) 'guided' or 'designed' should be asserted in its place. It's also why I've been stressing that 'Darwinism' is engaged in a smuggling game here: 'Darwinists' manifestly do not accept 'Answer not available.' They smuggle in the positive claim of 'Not designed.' as an article of faith, and try to pass it off as demonstrated because that view is 'compatible with the theory'. Little demons causing mutations is also compatible with the damn theory. As I said in the other thread, compatibility is a shockingly low bar. Hopefully you see now where I'm coming from on this. nullasalus
12 --> In that context, to try to debate at metaphysical levels will most likely be futile. But, we can start from the factual evidence we can observe and follow up the implications of empirically credible, reliable signs of intelligence. 13 --> In that context, we are dealing with credibly highly contingent phenomena, so chance/accidental circumstance vs design are the critical alternatives. (Even in cases of sensitive dependence on initial circumstances, it is accident of tiny variation in initial conditions that leads -- through nonlinear dynamics -- to the vast differences on outcome often typified by the butterfly effect.) 14 --> And, we have identified and tested signs that detect the key difference. 15 --> Signs that are linked to the related analytical point that we have islands of function in vast seas of in principle thermodynamically possible but non-functional configurations, so that it is not plausible on the gamut of the observed cosmos to credibly get to shores of initial function for a metabolising entity with a von Neunamm self-replicating facility on undirected chance plus necessity. 16 --> That is, we have discredited the chemical evolution, pre biotic scenarios. This is why neither the metabolism first nor the genes/rna first schools of thought are credible. 17 --> The only empirically observed source of the required functionally specific organisation, codes, algorithms and executing machines, is proximate cause by direct action of an intelligence. 18 --> Thus, the warrant for the objection to a priori question-begging Lewontinian censorship, that arbitrarily prevents a live option from sitting to the table of comparative difficulties. 19 --> Similarly, for embryologically feasible novel body plans to emerge, we repeatedly jump over the 500 - 1,000 bit plausibility threshold for chance configurations to be even marginally plausible. This again points to design as proximate cause. (Of course, within an island of function, chance plus selection forces can move one towards peaks of function, but that is AFTER we have to get to the shores of function first. Observe, how Weasel and kin consistently beg this question, and how evo mat advocates react with rage, slander and wider abusive selectively hyperskeptical rhetoric when it is pointed out. Methinks he doth protest too much.) 20 --> At this stage, simply by insisting on facing ALL the empirical facts, and allowing ALL major empirically warranted alternatives a voice at the table, we see a very different picture of the balance of plausibility on scientific explanation for the origins of life and of body plans. Intelligent design makes sense. 21 --> Now, go for the jugular. Can we properly insist that designers be confined to an ontology of matter and energy, i.e. embodied entities within the observed cosmos or multiverse extensions thereof? 22 --> That is where the cosmology issues come to bear. Again, origins science. And, again, full of signs of intelligence: our complex world is based on a sophisticated pattern of physics that sets us to a fine-tuned operating cosmological point that accommodates C-chemistry, cell based life. 23 --> The quasi-infinite multiverse is of course proffered and championed, but notice: there is no empirical support for it, other than the proposal of an ad hoc explanation to save the phenomena for a materialistic worldview. (And this does not get away from the John Leslie point that the best explanation for an isolated fly on a stretch of wall being swatted by a bullet is a skilled marksman, not an accident, even if other sections of the wall may be literally carpeted with flies so that a bullet hitting at random will hit some fly or other.) 24 --> So, it is a serious option to see that an observed cosmos at a fine tuned operatng point is best explained on an intelligent, powerful, knowledgeable designer. On which, physics itself -- including laws and dynamics of chance and necessity and key parameters -- is designed. 25 --> A programmed cosmos, if you will, physics being the operating system for the cosmos, with chemistry and biology as increasingly higher level applications. 26 --> And, science on this view would be thinking the designer's cosmos- creating and sustaining thoughts after him, essentially the classic view of the founders of modern science. _____________________ At no point is there any granting of claims to materialists, just an insistence on sitting to a level table of comparative difficulties and assessing on the merits of empirically warranted fact, logic and cogency of explanation. And, the typical reactions of the advocates of methodological naturalism show that the system of origins scientific thought they have, deeply embeds a priori evolutionary materialism. So, it is question-begging. And, going further [as I went on to point out on page 2], it is self-referentially incoherent in many, many ways. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Null: A further clarification is in order. For, I think you have -- understandably, this topic is complex and riddled with underlying worldview issues -- misread what I have argued, and how I have argued: 1 --> It is a commonplace in physics, that we have stochastically based, more or less random processes: gas molecules, diffusion, the basis of temperature, etc etc come to mind. Indeed, statistical thermodynamics is based on large collections [~ 10^22 or so] of micro particles, randomly going to particular states and interacting with one another. A highly successful discipline. 2 --> In this context, no appeals are made to intelligent direction of the microparticles, and that random models work so well leads to the conclusion that such phenomena do not need to be explained on proximate, intelligent interventions. (Cf Maxwell's demon as an interesting side-topic.) 3 --> What happens here is that parsimony, Occam's principle, is being brought to bear: the simplest explanation of the facts is the most apt to be right. Of course, in principle it is logically possible for a large enough congregation of little demons to push around the gas molecules to present the appearance of what a random process model predicts. But such is superfluous, ad hoc, and not warranted on other evidence. [Cf Laplace's famous remark to Napoleon that he has no need of a specifically intervening God as a scientific hypothesis, on having solved the perturbation problem and eliminated Newton's suggestion of angelic adjustment of planetary orbits.] 4 --> Thus, we come to the infamous -- and often highly persuasive -- God of the Gaps rhetorical barb. 5 --> By way of a mirror image parallel, on the assertion of a sufficiently large multiverse, everything that seems to be lawlike or designed can be assigned to a random chance outcome. (Which becomes just as patently absurd.) 6 --> So, the best path of reason is to recognise that from our experience, lawlike necessity, chance and intelligently directed configuration are all empirically credible causal factors on the gamut of the observed cosmos, and we need a reasonable filter to distinguish them. 7 --> That filter recognises that the factors may interact, but heir effects are empirically distinguishable, and may be addressed on taking a phenomenon apart analytically, aspect by aspect. Then,
I: we identify mechanical necessity from low contingency outcomes on a given initial condition and release for dynamics to play out II: we recognise chance/random processes from statistical scatter patterns, and from similar patterns in the "accident" of having particular initial conditions among reasonably plausible alternatives III: we recognise designed actions from dFSCI, associated functionally specific complex orgqanisation unlikely on the other source of high contingency, chance, and similar signs
8 --> Now, as I noted and as you clipped out, evolutionary Materialists (including many Darwinists) hold that the origin and body plan level diversity of life as we observe, can be adequately accounted for on reasonably likely chance initial configurations of matter in our solar system, the resulting undirected chemical and thermodynamic processes in a warm little electrified pond or the like, and random mutuations [etc] plus natural selection across the past 3.8 BY, and especially the past 500 - 600 MY. 9 --> So, on their view, no intelligent direction is necessary, and such a suggestion is a dubious attempt to inject a God of the gaps into science. (Thus, too, the natural vs supernatural dichotomy they so often emphasise; to dismiss the latter. Notice, naturalists get their name from identifying reality as "natural" -- in praxis, fitting into an evolutionary materialistic cosmology, whatever gilding of the lily may be indulged -- and objecting to anything that may be seen as "supernatural.") 10 --> In response, modern, scientific design thought has highlighted that necessity, chance and design are ALL empirically observed processes, that have characteristic and reliable observable signs. So, as a basic duty to face facts we must not censor out empirically credible possibilities ahead of time. 11 --> Thus, the different and more justifiable contrast that has been on the table at least ever since Plato: natural [= chance/accident + necessity] vs artificial [= intelligently directed configuration]. [ . . . ] kairosfocus
StephenB, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask one last time. Can you tell me specifically what language is being used, who is using it, and why you interpret it to mean what you say it means. Stephen, I have pasted - more than once - direct quotes of the language in question, from yourself, someone else, and Kairosfocus showing the sort of language that worries me. When I did, you insisted I was 'reframing' and that those things did not mean what I took them to mean. It's incorrect to suggest that you've been asking for quotes and I've been refusing to supply them. That I've supplied them and you disputed my reading is the case. But I'm more than willing to repeat these quotes, and to be thorough in laying out - in some cases, again - just where my problems came in. And if I'm being exceptionally hair-splitting and pedantic here, it's because I feel as if that's required of me. Yourself: The capability of natural processes to accomplish these things is the Darwinists [and the Theistic Evolutionists] main claim, asserted, I might add, in the name of science. I think it is vitally important to know if it is true or untrue. Based on current evidence, we can safely say that it is likely untrue. If it is untrue, teleology is back on the table. This sounds as if science itself can take teleology writ large off of the table. In fact, it sounds like you think it has already done so, and ID will change matters. And at a first reading, it comes to me across as if you think natural processes themselves are not purposeful, teleological. Again, you said I was reframing, and you denied my reading was right. Fine, I'm willing to accept your word. But if you cannot see any reason I would wish you to clarify these words - why I may, at the least, worry - then all I can say is this: I hold even natural processes to be teleological, even while agreeing that particular processes and mechanisms may be incapable of producing certain results. I hold that science never has taken teleology off the table - nor can it unless it's being infused with metaphysics. And I do not hold so on the grounds that, say, 'mutations and selection can't make the flagellum or certain other biological artifacts', even while admitting that these processes and mechanisms may be wholly inadequate for the tasks in question. Mutations and selections, both the incidents we're aware of and in any hypothetical, are best conceived of as teleological, purposeful, and yes - even guided processes and mechanisms. The Darwinian graft of ateleology and unpurposefulness - and that's really what it is, a purely metaphysical grafting on of a position about nature that is disconnected from the very processes being proposed - is something I reject. If I think that's what's being said, or even if there's a chance of it being said, I will express my concern. If my fears are unfounded, so be it. If not, it's something I'll discuss. Yourself: I would surely echo those who challenge Darwinists [and TEs] to show how solely naturalistic forces can drive the macro-evolutionary process. I brought this up because, again, it sounded previously as if you granted that natural processes themselves lacked teleology, or guidance, or purpose, or direction - 'naturalistic forces' being a stand-in for 'natural processes'. And the fact that you're specifying 'macro-evolutionary' made me additionally wonder if you already conceded that 'microevolutionary' events were lacking teleology, guidance, or purpose - worse, that science and observation demonstrated this lack. Before I go on: You denied this apparently, and again, I take you at your word. But you've demanded I explain what I read and what worried me, so I'm following suit. If you insist I'm wrong, I'll be pleased - I don't want ID proponents to give up the ground I'm speaking of. Kairosfocus: And, we have very strong reasons linked to the statistical foundation of the second law of thermodynamics to see that it is not credible to see undirected chance configurations and changes acting with equally undirected forces of mechanical necessity on the gamut of our observed cosmos, spontaneously getting us to the sorts of islands of function that are needed to have metabolising, self-replicating cell based life using DNA, RNA and effecting machines. Now, again. 'Undirected and chance configurations', 'equally undirected forces of mechanical necessity'. This seems to me a claim that natural forces are undirected, unguided, without any teleology. You insisted I was incorrect, that that was not what was mentioned. Yet again, fine - if you say so, then sure, I'll accept it. I can misread someone. But I maintain, as I did with what you said, that it's possible to read those words and come away with the impression that it's being claimed that natural forces are not guided. If you disagree and say no such reading is possible, we're at an impasse. That's fine too - I'll have attempted to explain myself. I quoted another person earlier, but I withdraw that because he is not taking part in this thread and it doesn't seem proper to call up his quote given that. I hope what I've provided here is adequate. If it were necessary, I'd go through the intelligentdesign.org archives and the mailing list mails I've received to highlight similar language that has worried me (And I'll flat out say, there's also been plenty of entries on both I agreed with strongly, and which also took a difference stance on these processes and this language.) But that would be asking me to go on a fishing expedition of sorts - it shouldn't be necessary, and hopefully my explanations of my position, and the reason I read the quotes the way I did, will suffice. And before it gets asked of me: I'm not saying ID should be about making metaphysical arguments. That's apparently not of interest to ID proponents (at least, not an interest in having it be a part of ID itself), and that's fine. Nor am I saying that insisting teleology is evident in the 'natural processes' in question should be a universal requirement for ID proponents. But I am pointing out that, for those wishing to take on the institutionally hunkered-down 'naturalism' that exists, these points should not be conceded. Not even for the sake of argument, unless they themselves believe the natural world truly lacks guidance and teleology (which, one more time - I promised to be pedantic, remember? - you say is not the case.) The idea that nature is unguided, lacking teleology, without purpose, etc, even in these processes, is an idea which should be fought and disputed. I not only regard it as bad metaphysics and bad science, but bad strategy as well. If the NCSE and others want to present themselves as saying science can't rule on the presence or lack of design, guidance, purpose, or intention in nature, fine - hold their feet to the fire on the issue. Pressure them to release a statement saying that, for all science can tell, evolution is a guided and purposeful process - because if science really can't rule on those questions, that position naturally follows now doesn't it? Lay on the same pressure in discussion with those who take their line. And for the atheists who don't, refuse to grant them even that those processes are unguided or without purpose. Make them establish it, with science no less. They will be unable, and will choke in the debate. So there. Hopefully I've explained myself to your satisfaction. I stand by the legitimacy of my concerns, and if I'm wrong, so be it. Hallelujah, in fact, if I am. Because with at least a couple of Biologos' crew seemed more and more willing to say outright that evolution is a designed process (from top to bottom, even), I would hate to see some bizarro situation unfold where those guys - not exactly the most inspiring bunch - were the ones presenting the firmer front against inane atheist metaphysics. nullasalus
I guess my fear that this link would have died by now was, um, overblown, to say the least. KF - thanks for fishing link. I caught a couple of 2 pound blue cats and about 5 other not worth keeping. I relocated the two worth keeping to my part of the lake. :-) Fat lot of good it does... There has been so much going on and so much to talk about but I'd like to chime in with a couple of points. First, concerning naturalism, I agree with nullasalus and others that naturalism/materialism/physicalism (nmp) are virtually infinitely plastic and this only demonstrates the intellectual hypocrisy and/or degeneracy of these people. I remember being chastised once on a thread here some time ago for being rude for suggesting that nmp's were not willing to make intellectual commitments and live with the consequences. This was around post 40 or so. I replied that if she would tell me what her foundational intellectual commitments were I'd happily apologize. I think the thread ended at over 400 posts and guess what? Yes. No explication of foundational commitments. Arguing with these people is like trying to nail jello to the wall or grab smoke. They are like creatures out of a bad horror novel, shape shifters or something like that. I figure the lurkers are the real audience anyway so that's why I engage at all. I'm probably like everyone else in that regard. I did manage to find the time to read "Programming of Life" by Don Johnson (Ph.D.'s in Computer and Information Science and Chemistry) and Hawkings' new book, "The Grand Design." I guess the summary of "The Grand Design" is that there is no grand design. Sometimes it reads like Dawkins collaborated. It is amazing how otherwise brilliant men could possibly be so deluded. I highly recommend "Programming of Life." It wasn't an easy go for me at times (damn that mathematics past business calculus) but the case is devastatingly made that life and information are inseparable and that information only comes from mind. I've said before, maybe not here, that neo-darwinian evolutionary theory will one day be the epic scandal of science. The cat is out of the bag and since truth wins in the end I am certain that my grandkids, if I ever have any, will only read about the "modern synthesis" in history of science classes. That assumes, of course, that the U.S. hasn't destroyed itself with reckless borrowing and spending but that's definitely off topic so I will say no more about that. Johnson's book is amazing. Back to mnp for a moment regarding how difficult it is to pin them down. That's why I tried to define it the way I did. I think it covers everything that can be detected by our aided senses (i.e. "seeing" an electron trail in a cloud chamber). And I throw in math and the laws of physics for the naturalists. But I think a larger point needs to be made here and I think it was nullasalis who said: "Now, my own view is that neither design *nor its lack* can be demonstrated empirically, at least without bringing in metaphysics. I would say that nothing can be claimed without bringing in metaphysics, i.e. logic. Granted, "scientific" logic is inductive, or abductive, and not deductive, but it's still metaphysics. Without using logic to tell the story of the data all we ever have are data. There are no privileged truth claims and all truth claims ultimately are borne out, or not, by reason and evidence. Now may be a good time to say, with due credit to StephenB, "reason’s rules inform evidence; evidence does not inform reason’s rules." Empiricism is nonsense. It's late. What a great thread. tgpeeler
---"nullasalus, I am stating that I am at least seeing language used, repeatedly, which grants that there do exist processes which are blind, unguided, non-foresighted, etc." I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask one last time. Can you tell me specifically what language is being used, who is using it, and why you interpret it to mean what you say it means. StephenB
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