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G.K. Chesterton’s Doubts about Darwinism

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Following are some insightful extracts from G.K.Chesterton that still ring true.
Doubts About Darwinism by G. K. Chesterton, 17th July 1920

. . .I am confronted with a very reasonable retort that I know nothing about the subject. . .it would be equally true if I ventured to throw out the suggestion that the Kaiser has suffered a defeat. If I were to insinuate that the armies of the German Empire were ultimately out-manoeuvered and forced to a surrender, it might be said that I was wholly ignorant of the technical strategy of soldiering, . . .But these cases alone will be sufficient to suggest, to anybody of the smallest commonsense, that there is a fallacy somewhere in the simple argument that only an expert in detail can perceive that there is a difficulty, or declare that there is a defeat.

Now, I will roughly arrange in order the facts of common knowledge that seem to me to support my conclusions as a matter of common-sense. First of all, there is something that will be very suggestive to anybody with a sense of human nature; I mean the tone of the Darwinians themselves. . . . the critic . . .added the very singular and significant phrase: that the Darwinian hypotheses was still “that most sound at bottom.” In short, this Darwinian is already on the defensive, . . .

. . .I will take the instances selected in order to expound the hypothesis, . . .If you were explaining to a child, for instance, you would take things like the horn of the rhinoceros or the hump of the dromedary. In fact, you would give a correct and scientific version of the “Just-So Stories.” . . . But these horns and humps, these high outstanding features of variation, are exactly the things that are generally not chosen for examples, and not explained by this universal explanation. And the truth is that it is very often precisely these obvious things that the explanation cannot explain. . . .

But if you will call up the Darwinian vision, of thousands of intermediary creatures with webbed feet that are not yet wings, their survival will seem incredible. A mouse can run, and survive; and a flitter-mouse can fly, and survive. But a creature that cannot yet fly, and can no longer run, ought obviously to have perished, by the very Darwinian doctrine which has to assume that he survived. . . .

The Darwinians have this mark of fighters for a lost cause, that they are perpetually appealing to sentiment and to authority.. . .God condescended to argue with Job, but the last Darwinian will not condescend to argue with you. He will inform you of your ignorance; he will not enlighten your ignorance.
. . .when men have a real explanation they explain it, eagerly and copiously and in common speech, as Huxley freely gave it when he thought he had it. When they have no explanation to offer, they give short dignified replies, disdainful of the ignorance of the multitude.

I highly recommend his full article.

With thanks to Martin Ward for his excellent collection:G.K. Chesterton
Ward’s source: G. K. Chesterton, Collected Works, Volume XXXII, The Illustrated London News 1920-1922, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1989. Pages 55-59.

26 Replies to “G.K. Chesterton’s Doubts about Darwinism

  1. 1
    nullasalus says:

    On a note similar to what Chesterton is asking here, I was wondering if someone would be able to answer a simple question for me.

    Is it true that in the archaeological record, there are some/many instances of particular creature/species retaining the same form and structure for long periods of time – millions, or tens of / hundreds of millions of years? I seem to recall sharks being like this.

  2. 2
    Clive Hayden says:

    “I do not know the true reason for a bat not having feathers; I only know that Darwin gave a false reason for its having wings. And the more the Darwinians explain, the more certain I become that Darwinism was wrong. All their explanations ignore the fact that Darwinism supposes an animal feature to appear first, not merely in an incomplete stage, but in an almost imperceptible stage. The member of a sort of mouse family, destined to found the bat family, could only have differed from his brother mice by some minute trace of membrane; and why should that enable him to escape out of a natural massacre of mice? Or even if we suppose it did serve some other purpose, it could only be by a coincidence; and this is to imagine a million coincidences accounting for every creature. A special providence watching over a bat would be a far more realistic notion than such a run of luck as that.” –G.K. Chesterton, “On Darwinism and Mystery”

    http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mwar.....tml#ESSAYS

    “It is that the Darwinian version of evolution is, in the most emphatic sense of the phrase, not like life. It is impossible to believe that life has been so completely separated from will as it is implied in the notion of natural selection producing all the varieties of nature. It is far too much of a fortuitous concourse of animals like a fortuitous concourse of atoms. In that sense, every chapter of the “Origin of Species” may be precisely described as a chapter of accidents. Natural selection is the most unnatural thing we can conceive. It is an eternal coincidence. But it is not only that the natural selection is not natural at all; it is the whole point of it that it is not selection at all. Nobody selects; and nothing cannot select. It seems to me in the largest and most luminous sense a matter of commonsense to say that, if there was not a clear design from above, then there was some sort of design from below; and it is quite possible, of course, that there was both. All this preliminary part of the preface and the argument is sound and on solid ground; because it is dealing with a definite theory and giving reasons for differing from the theory.” –G.K. Chesterton, “The Persecution of Religion”

    http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mwar.....ligion.txt

  3. 3
    DLH says:

    nulasallus at 1

    Indeed. See:
    Texas Board Chair Gives a Science Lesson
    Anika Smith

    Click here to listen.

    Last week, the Texas State Board of Education met to consider a draft of their new science standards. At the meeting, the Board’s Chair, Dr. Don McLeroy did a remarkable thing – he gave the rest of the Board a science lesson, which began when McLeroy proposed a new standard regarding evolution. Listen in to this episode of ID the Future as Dr. McLeroy lays out a compelling case for the existence of scientific controversies over evolution.

  4. 4
    JT says:

    All their explanations ignore the fact that Darwinism supposes an animal feature to appear first, not merely in an incomplete stage, but in an almost imperceptible stage. The member of a sort of mouse family, destined to found the bat family, could only have differed from his brother mice by some minute trace of membrane; and why should that enable him to escape out of a natural massacre of mice

    It seems there does exist find gradations of leaping/flying ability in rodentia – you have flying squirrels, with very imperfect membranes, that still seem to aid them somewhat in transforming leaps into borderline flying. That all starts with rodents having leaping ability in general. Of course, this is probably glossing over seemlingly impassible barriers at the microscopic level. Polar bears have membranes between their toes that aid in swimming and yet can mate with grizzlies who don’t have this with no problem.

    I’ll transition into another current thread, where someone brought up the avian lung and how there is no transition between it and a mammalian lung. When I read that yesterday, I started wondering whether the penguin lung differed significantly from other avians, and while not able to answer that question immediately, did run across a quote that said that up until a certain point of prenatal development, mammalian lungs and avian lungs are identical, both being outgrowths of the digestive system, but then there is a point where they start to diverge. And this got me to thinking about the whole prenatal/juvenile phase of mammalian life, which is a phase in which no competition has to take place, and this seems to be relevant to those who would demand that any evolutionary change has to confer immediate benefits.

    Then today I started to think about they saying “Birds of a feather flock together” and how universal a truth this is in the biological world and was wondering if this exists even at a cellular level – i.e. do cells that are alike invariably “flock together”, and is there a straightforward chemical explanation that also accounts for this behavior even at the highest developmental levels of biology.

  5. 5
    Tim says:

    A bit more Chesterton . . .

    “Most modern histories of mankind begin with the word evolution, and with a rather wordy exposition of evolution, for much the same reason that operated in this case. There is something slow and soothing and gradual about the word and even about the idea. As a matter of fact, it is not, touching these primary things, a very practical word or a very profitable idea. Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even if you only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’ For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.”

    G.K. Chesterton, “The Everlasting Man”

  6. 6
    JT says:

    [Nothing earth-shattering in the following – just felt compelled to clarify my personal position a little bit.]

    I need to revise my previous comment [4] to acknowledge something I tend to forget: Most people in I.D apparently do accept some sort of common descent, some sort of natural mechanism wherein biological life unfolded on this planet. (Correct me if I’m wrong). However they would characterize the establishment position (I believe) as saying it all happened at random, with no direction, whereas I.D holds that there had to be “intelligence” behind it all, that it had to conform to an overall plan of some intelligent being.

    The problem is that intelligence is not some abstract commodity that everyone understands and accepts the existence of.

    Here’s how I look at it:

    Imagine some previous state of you in the recent past, maybe a few seconds ago. You could say that that previous state plus physical laws resulted in whatever phsyical state you’re in now. You needn’t assert that change in state could only be explained by the existence of intelligence. You could have been sitting in a wagon and a fairly strong gust of wind blew you forward a few inches. But there are innumerable ways that physical forces sans “intelligence” (whatever that is) could account for a transition by you from a previous state to a subsequent state. You could take it back further and say that a microscopic cell was you in a previous state, and how physical laws of cell division ultimately resulted in you. But even when a change in state involved what some might characterize as conscious intelligent choice, break it down in a systematic way, and you start seeing urges and impulses and imperatives and limitations surrounding that choice and ultimately very much dictating that choice. At least it can be very easily broken down and understood this way, and those who refuse to acknowledge this just are not being honest with themselves.

    OK, lets look at all of biology on this planet now in its totality, and now lets go back to a time on this planet before life, at least as we can perceive it today, existed. So all you have is a barren planet and some forces out there in the universe, perhaps not understood at all now, plus some other fortuitious set of circumstances (think “Priviledged Planet”). Please understand the following: there is no need to bring an ill-understood abstract concept of “intelligence” into the picture at all, for there to be an understanding, at least potentially, of how we got from some prelife set of circumstances to where we are with life today. You had some previous state where life wasn’t visible, but forces and circumstances that ultimately resulted in life did exist. Now what must be understood, is that such conditions that preceded life but resulted in life would equate to life on a logical level, but that doesn’t mean that would be in the same form at all. The way I look at it is, that the entire universe out there, the stars, the planets etc, all that is like a mirror image of us, or rather us in a different form, transformed into us by straightforward physical laws. You don’t have to bring ultimate causes into the picture to potentially understand all this scientifically.

    And all this could be stated much better, and I’m sure has been. And the fact is, if you do believe in God, you should have no problem with the above.

  7. 7

    nullasalus wrote:

    Is it true that in the archaeological record, there are some/many instances of particular creature/species retaining the same form and structure for long periods of time – millions, or tens of / hundreds of millions of years? I seem to recall sharks being like this.

    Here’s a funny one: the coelacanth.

    The scientific consensus up until 1938 was overwhelming that it had gone extinct 65 million years ago. Then some lucky rube who probably knew nothing about Darwinian evolution happen to catch one while trawling for other less controversial (and probably more tasty) fish.

    Maybe Scott Adams was right about extinct species after all.

  8. 8
    JT says:

    That was some really awful writing in [4] and [6] by me (e.g. a 69 word run on sentence with five commas in [4]). I apologize for that. A result of no sleep.

  9. 9
    russ says:

    Hope you get some rest JT.

    The problem is that intelligence is not some abstract commodity that everyone understands and accepts the existence of.

    Do accept the existence of Intelligence? Do you have to understand it to recognize it when you see it? Maybe “Intelligent Agent” makes more sense to you since it implies volition, intent and logical reasoning?

  10. 10
    JT says:

    russ, if you limit the discussion to animals or higher animals, then to me intelligence refers to complexity of behavior, which is directly tied to how finely grained an animal’s perception of his environment is, and how much can he store for future reference. The more storage capacity in terms of memory and the more discriminating his sensory capability, the more complex his picture of his external environment will be and thus the more complex his behavior and the more difficult it is to predict it. This, to me, is intelligence, and it has everything to do with physical things that can be quantified. And to me, nothing could be simpler.

  11. 11
    JT says:

    I think all animals have really basic fundamental goals – even humans. It all comes down to food, safety, procreation, and maybe rest and diversion. The only difference is how complex their behavior is in achieving those fundamental goals.

  12. 12
    SeanSean says:

    Strange how old some arguments are. Didn’t think that “well you’re not an expert, so you can’t say anything informed on the subject of Darwinism!” was so old.

  13. 13
    bFast says:

    JT:

    The way I look at it is, that the entire universe out there, the stars, the planets etc, all that is like a mirror image of us, or rather us in a different form, transformed into us by straightforward physical laws.

    JT, your view of what goes on in biology is so simplistic. Do you have any idea just how complex the simplest form of life on earth is? Do you understand that scientists have found no pattern of reduction wherein they can reduce the thing to fewer than about 300,000 nucleotides long. Attempts to find a simpler pre-DNA solution have produced all manner of exaggerated reports of minor success. Albiet, finding a pattern that gets to DNA based life from any pre-DNA model has not been shown. There seems to be about 200 million years at the most to get from a world cool enough to not cook everything, to a world teaming with life. However, the amount of difference between that simplest life-form described above and non-living matter is greater than the difference between that life form and you or me. In other words, there’s not all that much “deep time” available to pull of DNA based life.

    To get a deeper view of the workings of life, check out the article DaveScot posted above this one — the one where he suggests that the Australian doesn’t have a clue. (He’s lying.)

    We didn’t just happen. If we did, then miracles just happen.

  14. 14
    Barb says:

    SeanSean at 12 and 13: “Strange how old some arguments are…”

    Indeed. That is an example of a logical fallacy (attacking the person, or ad hominem). Consider an example from the Bible. Jesus Christ once endeavored to enlighten others regarding his coming death and resurrection. These were new and difficult concepts for his listeners. But rather than weigh the merits of Jesus’ teachings, some attacked Jesus himself, saying: “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to him?”—John 10:20; compare Acts 26:24, 25.

  15. 15
    DLH says:

    JT
    Encourage you to think over how you get to computer programming, computers and writing this blog from the four basic forces of nature plus random events.

    How do you get design information from randomness and physical laws?

  16. 16
    Mats says:

    “How do you get design information from randomness and physical laws?”

    Faith!

  17. 17
    Paul Giem says:

    JT,

    We should make allowances for your being sleep-deprived during at least comments #4 and #6. But when you do your revision, it is good to keep a couple of things in mind.

    First, be careful about saying,

    The problem is that intelligence is not some abstract commodity that everyone understands and accepts the existence of.

    It is fair to argue that we really don’t understand exactly how intelligence works. But denying the existence of intelligence has certain unavoidable self-referential consequences that you may not appreciate.

    Secondly, you comment about how to get from 5 minutes ago to now does not need to require intelligence, but can be accounted for physical forces without intelligence. You extend that to the fertilized ovum, then say,

    But even when a change in state involved what some might characterize as conscious intelligent choice, break it down in a systematic way, and you start seeing urges and impulses and imperatives and limitations surrounding that choice and ultimately very much dictating that choice. At least it can be very easily broken down and understood this way, and those who refuse to acknowledge this just are not being honest with themselves.

    So let me be ‘dishonest with myself’ for a little bit. How can we easily break down and understand Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik into some “urges and impulses and imperatives and limitations surrounding that choice” that ultimately dictate that choice? After all, we are supposed to do that “easily”.

    Your overarching claim seems to ignore that at present, there is a great deal of difference between even the simplest life and the most complex known non-living system. There are no known examples of the latter giving rise to the former, even with human intelligence assisting, let alone without it. And yet the scenario you seem to be accepting requires this to happen without intelligent assistance.

    I am going to take you through a different permutation of the explanatory filter. Let’s suppose we eliminate intelligence. Then we have chance, law, and some combination of the two as possibilities.

    Pure chance rather obviously founders. The probability of lining up the appropriate bases in DNA, to say nothing of having DNA (or RNA) in the first place, is so small as to be negligible. The fact that assisted chance might possibly be credible should not cause us to forget that unassisted chance is not.

    Pure law is not much better. If there is any law that governs this question, it is the law that life comes only from life. Thus neither pure chance nor pure law can explain the existence of life.

    But the traditional combination of chance and law, random variations and natural selection, now has tight constraints. Dembski’s universal probability bound is actually too high. 10^50 is 100,000,000 times the number of bacteria that can reasonably have existed on earth, and thus is fairer as a probability bound. But if we use it up explaining the origin of life, we must then assume that the rest of life required minimal probabilistic resources. That means that there must be an easily explored mutation-by-mutation Darwinian pathway to every major protein from some other protein, except for the “minimal” set that was in the first organism. Furthermore, this Darwinian pathway must be demonstrable in at least some circumstances.

    If someone cannot demonstrate how one can get myoglobin, and rhodopsin, and collagen, and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and every other protein, from other proteins by step-by-step Darwinian processes, this process does not at present explain the origin of present-day life. And yet, it is not just a matter of missing pathways for one or two proteins. A step-by-step Darwinian pathway has not been discovered for any protein, with the possible exception of the specialized rhodopsins required for color vision.

    It might be argued that we may never be able to prove the exact pathway from one protein to another. But at least I would not demand that. I would simply ask for one viable pathway. Two or 500,000 pathways would be fine, and if we cannot determine which of those 500,000 pathways was the actual one, the existence of those 500,000 pathways would support the process even if they could not reconstruct the precise one used. But if there really are 500,000 pathways, surely that means that finding one of them is that much easier.

    Either life develops with a lot of law and a little chance, or a lot of chance and a little law, or a lot of both. If there is a lot of law, we should be able to demonstrate some of that law, and the failure to do so suggests that law is not a major part of the explanation. But if there is a lot of chance, then the various critiques of chance as being way too unlikely apply. If both are required in massive quantities, then both critiques apply. Given how complex and tightly specified life is, it would appear that the failure to show that law forms the major component of the formation of life is fatal to the theory. Thus it would appear that the rejection of intelligence in the formation of life is premature.

    The only rational argument I have seen against intelligence is that the person arguing does not like the intelligence proposed. Then the logical procedure would be to believe, as Antony Flew now does, that there is a brilliant and powerful intelligence, but refuse to identify (at least at present) this intelligence with the God of any particular religion.

  18. 18
    JT says:

    BTW, I reread my comment in [4] and [6] and must have been sleep-deprived when I apologized for them, because they seem O.K. now.
    (Actually, they seem better than what I’ve written below.)

    [bFast:]JT, your view of what goes on in biology is so simplistic. Do you have any idea just how complex the simplest form of life on earth is?

    You won’t find anyone anywhere who says life is simplistic. OTOH it is the job of science to clarify, and demystify and to make the complicated comprehensible, so in effect to simplify.

    finding a pattern that gets to DNA based life from any pre-DNA model has not been shown.

    So are you saying that there was never a time that DNA did not exist? Or the only way you could get to DNA is by magic or the supernatural?

    [DLH:]Encourage you to think over how you get to computer programming, computers and writing this blog from the four basic forces of nature plus random events.
    How do you get design information from randomness and physical laws?

    To DLH and bFast, think of it this way: You could look at a new-born baby, and if you were not aware of the process involved, then according to the explanatory filter you could say it was the result of “Intelligent Design”. You could probably do so now legitimately as well, but even more so in an era when that process was not understood. David did so in the Psalms when he said,

    (Psa 139:13) For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

    (Psa 139:14) I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

    We could rightfully have the same attitude today, even though we understand that whole mechanism much better than David did.

    Furthermore, we understand that the preexisting conditions in this mechanism, i.e a single fertlized embryonic cell, equated to the end result, i.e. David, so we’re not threatened by someone’s mechanistic explanation that David came from that cell, because you’re just pushing back what needs to be explained.

    This obvious fact can be stated in a formalistic way by the following: if f(x) = y then f(x) is an alternate encoding for y itself, that is f(x) and y equate (where f is some process and x is some set of initial conditions that influence f and y is the result.)

    But suppose for a moment that prior to the existence of DNA or life on this planet there were indeed a state of initial physical conditions plus natural laws that resulted in the mechanistic production of DNA and life on this planet. Don’t you see how those preexisting conditions would in effect equate to life itself? That is not to say they would have to be in any remotely similar form to life at all. You can think about how all sorts of things in our modern era are digitized, transformed, sliced and diced, sent through the airways, and then retransformed somewhere else in a precise form they were in previously.

    It amazes me that with this gargantuan universe of ours, people would say that there is just no way that life emerged mechanistically from some set of preexisting condtions and laws that we don’t fully understand now. I am personally by no means wed to some traditional understanding of an incredibly slow and incremental process which may or may not be borne out by what we understand today. Nor do I think we have to assume that only Newton’s laws of motion is all that could be involved. There is a further problem with traditional Darwinism and its emphasis on mutations because those are by definition purely random, and pure randomness is not something that even Dawkins accepts as an explanation.

    But as a Christian I personally am not threatened in the least by the contention that life arose as a result of natural laws in this universe My thinking is, why does the universe exists if it really has nothing to do with us? [There probably is a substantial random component as well but the actual proportion I don’t know.]

    Paul Giem:

    How can we easily break down and understand Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik into some “urges and impulses and imperatives and limitations surrounding that choice” that ultimately dictate that choice?

    What about his overbearing father forcing him to practice all day long every single day from the time he was two?

    Have you ever listened to a mockingbird? It is utterly amazing. Mozart never wrote anything comparable. A mockingbird will sing endlessly, for what seems like half an hour without stopping, going from one exhuberant theme to another, there never being an exact repetition of any one theme. All of his songs are composed from the songs of other birds he has heard. But in his genius, he incorporates them all in unique ways. All these enumberable songs he has heard are catalogued by him and can be retrieved instantaneously on a whim, sliced and diced and fused with other songs.

    A mockingbird does not have some special sauce called “intelligence”. A mockingbird is a chemical machine.

    So was Mozart.

    So are you.

    And me (IMO).

    Your overarching claim seems to ignore that at present, there is a great deal of difference between even the simplest life and the most complex known non-living system. There are no known examples of the latter giving rise to the former, even with human intelligence assisting, let alone without it.

    You could have probably stated the above better, because taken literally, there are thousands of counterexamples. Complex life coming from simple life? That happens all the time (see my example of David above.)

    I am going to take you through a different permutation of the explanatory filter. Let’s suppose we eliminate intelligence. Then we have chance, law, and some combination of the two as possibilities.
    Pure chance rather obviously founders.

    I would agree, but then so does everyone.

    Pure law is not much better. If there is any law that governs this question, it is the law that life comes only from life. Thus neither pure chance nor pure law can explain the existence of life.

    When I say ‘law’, I’m thinking in terms of a program or mechanism. I by no means limit my thinking to Newton’s laws of motion, nor should anyone.

    Think about computer games and how incredibly complex and lifelike they are, and their rapid increase in sophistication year by year. What is a computer game? It is law and chance. (chance being the component of it generated by random numbers). (And no one has demonstrated that humans are not law and chance either.)

    You could say, “But look how incredibly complex the laws of a computer game are in comparison to the laws of nature.” Well, we don’t know how complex the laws of nature really are. Furthermore, when I think about God, I think about him being able to do something really elegantly and that somehow, maybe all of life does really come from laws that are elegant, compact but incredibly powerful. And that plus the probablistic resources of the universe, plus its energy, were just sufficent enough to result in life on one lonely planet (Although I guess there probably are aliens as well). And then we could at this point rehash the whole fractal discusson as well.

    That means that there must be an easily explored mutation-by-mutation Darwinian pathway to every major protein from some other protein, except for the “minimal” set that was in the first organism. Furthermore, this Darwinian pathway must be demonstrable in at least some circumstances
    I would simply ask for one viable pathway.

    There may not be viable pathways in the judgment of someone like Behe, I don’t know. If they’re neutral pathways, it seems their pathways. If all the pathways are incredibly virulently harmful, I guess that’s something else. As I’ve said, what is extant in life now may be reflective of something extant in the physical universe but in a much different form. I have no trouble saying that FSC in humans is reflective of FSC intrinsic somehow in the universe. Also, I tend to think that all the true innovations took place at the level of single-celled organisms (when rapid generations could be exploited), so when multicellular organisms started appearing, there was great functionality already latent in them. IOW, I would assume that a lung is somehow an analog for something that exists in a single cell somewhere.

    Either life develops with a lot of law and a little chance, or a lot of chance and a little law, or a lot of both. If there is a lot of law, we should be able to demonstrate some of that law, and the failure to do so suggests that law is not a major part of the explanation.

    It has to be primarily law or there is no coherent explanation. To say that until you prove there is a comprehensible explantion I will assume its supernatural is not only an argument from ignorance. It is the quintessential argument from ignorance.
    Just an observation but It would seem to me that your views diverge substantially from someone like say, DaveScot.

  19. 19
    DLH says:

    JT
    “But as a Christian I personally am not threatened in the least by the contention that life arose as a result of natural laws in this universe.”

    Why should I not consider that an oxymoron? cf John 1:3

    “we don’t know how complex the laws of nature really are.”
    It is precisely because of what we DO know about now low is the complexity of the laws of nature compared to the astronomical complexity of the genome and biological systems, that comes the inference of design information in nature.

    You do not appear to grasp or address either the astronomically small probabilities involved, nor the logical difficulties of design information from randomness.

  20. 20
    JT says:

    DLH:

    Its ironic to me that it is says in the beginning was the Word, which is almost an analog for Law, which is what I.D. tends to denigrate, the power of law to do anything.

    But if you’re saying that there is just no way for the physical universe to be an intermediary between the eternal God and us such that we can trace the emergence of life to condtions in the phyiscal universe, I would say there is no way you can show that.

    Its incredible to me that you cannot consider the possibility that prior to the emergence of life, that physical conditions existed that could account for that emergence. Possibly not account in an ultimate sense, if you’re looking for ultimate answers, but as a direct and proximate explantion.

    I would also ask, that considering Man’s place in the universe, a supreme place that can be directly inferred from everything in scripture, starting with the fact that God has been manifested as a MAN, if the entire universe of which we are an incredibly miniscule component, if that universe has NOTHING TO DO with our existence or emergence, then why does the universe exist?

    I do also understand perfectly well that we can’t expect pure randomness to create anything, and to the extent that any current evolutionary theories equate to that (which is debatable) they are pointless as any theory that invokes the supernatural.

    I have no inclination to be argumentative on all these points. Thanks for the opportunity to post here.

  21. 21
    DLH says:

    JT
    “the Word, which is almost an analog for Law, which is what I.D. tends to denigrate, the power of law to do anything.”

    “The Word” is far more than “Law”.
    ID does not “denigrate” the power of law. Rather ID explicitly recognizes the capabilities of natural law.

    Based on all known empirical data and scientific knowledge, we have no evidence that “law can do anything”. Rather the contrary.

    Appealing to semantics does not make it so.

  22. 22
    Paul Giem says:

    JT (#18),

    Thanks for your response. Some of it is new and fresh and gives hope that a little more than just repeating talking points can go on.

    For example, you call yourself a Christian. Presumably that means that you believe in a God, specifically the God that Jesus Christ believed in. You also believe that we could “rightfully” and “legitimately” have the attitude that David did that fetal growth was the result of “Intelligent Design”.

    You still have some misunderstandings. You say,

    It amazes me that with this gargantuan universe of ours, people would say that there is just no way that life emerged mechanistically from some set of preexisting condtions and laws that we don’t fully understand now.

    That, of course, would be front-loading, and most people here grant that it is a possible mechanism for ID. For some here, it is their favorite mechanism. So your concern seems misplaced.

    You also seem to misunderstand the motivation of many (most?) ID advocates. It is not that they are “threatened” by the idea “that life arose as a result of natural laws in this universe”. It is just that they don’t see significant evidence that this is what happened, and plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Look at Behe, who believed like Ken Miller did once, and whose theology can still accomodate a Miller-like stance. It is the scientific evidence that persuaded him. Look at Antony Flew, who had to change his theology to accommodate the evidence.

    Your comments about Mozart are juvenile. There are plenty of overbearing fathers who do not produce little Mozarts. To reduce Mozart to this kind of cardboard figure is not worthy of you. Nor is the assertion that a mockingbird can rival Mozart. Please.

    Your assertion that Mozart was a “chemical machine” is bluster. You don’t know this. In fact, it is not clear that your assertion that you are a chemical machine is not self-referentially absurd. The “best” that can be legitimately argued is that it is possible that we are chemical machines.

    You quote me,

    Your overarching claim seems to ignore that at present, there is a great deal of difference between even the simplest life and the most complex known non-living system. There are no known examples of the latter giving rise to the former, even with human intelligence assisting, let alone without it.

    and say,

    You could have probably stated the above better, because taken literally, there are thousands of counterexamples. Complex life coming from simple life? That happens all the time (see my example of David above.)

    Did you even read what I said? There are no known examples of even complex non-living systems giving rise to even the simplest life. I said nothing about simple life giving rise to complex life. Maybe you need more sleep.

    I’m glad you agree that pure chance cannot produce life. It should be obvious, but I have had several people argue with me on this point with a straight face (well, maybe not, as I couldn’t actually see thier faces over the internet 😉 )

    Your objection to pure law being ruled out misunderstands what pure law is. Pure law is like what happens to an object in a gravitational field in a vacuum and electric neutrality. It will retain its spin, and fall in the direction of the field, every time, regardless of what it is made of. I know of no law that says “If you put carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in a test tube, heat it to x degrees, and irradiate it with ultraviolet, you will create life.” In fact, the evidence we have at this time rather argues for the reverse.

    You make a rather egregious mistake when you say,

    What is a computer game? It is law and chance.

    We have a few people here (myself included–see “Hunt the Wumpus” 😉 ) that have created computer games, and I can assure you that even the simple program I wrote did not write itself. Nor do I think that hailstones or rockslides are capable of writing the program. Even my parrot, who is a very smart African Gray, cannot write the program. You may argue that once it is written, it almost plays itself. It does, with input from the player. But the origin of the program is quite different from how it is played, and we are talking about the origin of life, and secondarily the origin of complexity, not how life continues now.

    You have a nice theological position about God being able to do something elegantly. And that seems to be the essence of your argument. It is a theological argument, which reinforces my impression that this whole argument is about science versus theology, with ID having the science and you arguing from theology.

    What amazes me is that you maintain that God exists, and that aliens exist, and yet in the face of apparent design that has to be constantly resisted by the likes of Francis Crick, and no good evidence that unguided evolution is adequate for the job, especially in the origin of life, you apparently continue to insist that it must be unguided evolution all the way.

    Speaking of the (historical) development of life, you say,

    It has to be primarily law or there is no coherent explanation.

    This makes no sense. What is the explanation of this post with these arguments? Is it law? Or is there no coherent explanation? One can argue that the post itself is not perfectly coherent. But surely the coherence it has is explained by someone who can think. Surely your own posts are that way. Whether or not we are determined, if our thoughts are determined but not by logical inferences from the evidence, they are worthless.

    You seem to be claiming that I say that

    until you prove there is a comprehensible explantion I will assume its supernatural

    I don’t believe I ever said any such thing. If I did, please quote me. Otherwise, either show that I meant it anyway, or else retract it, or at least stop asserting it, because I am specifically denying it.

    One final misconception should be corrected.

    You won’t find anyone anywhere who says life is simplistic. OTOH it is the job of science to clarify, and demystify and to make the complicated comprehensible, so in effect to simplify.

    Einstein said it best: “the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.” Or as it is sometimes paraphrased, Keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler. Otherwise, the scientist does in fact distort instead of clarify.

    I am encouraged that you believe in God, and probably in aliens. Now if you can only be willing to recognize when there is good evidence that some non-human intelligence has been active on earth, maybe you can become an ID adherent also (as it is usually considered).

  23. 23
    DLH says:

    Paul Giem at #22
    Thanks for your patient clear response.

  24. 24
    Paul Giem says:

    JT has not made a further comment here, but in a presently closed thread (#59) he quoted me from this thread and commented

    Whether or not we are determined, if our thoughts are determined but not by logical inferences from the evidence, they are worthless.

    An extremely prevelant idea in I.D. is that if thinking is the result of law then it is worthless and incapable of ascertaining truth. You will find this idea repeated over and over again in I.D. circles, even by very intelligent people. A few week ago, Denyse discussed this guy with a doctoral degree, and in his article she linked to, he repeats the same argument.

    He goes on to argue that automatic algorithms are used to determine truth all the time, both by people and by computers, and also by animals.

    I cannot respond to him there, and so will respond here.

    Some people do indeed use the argument he decries. I very carefully did not, and it is too bad that he did not he did not read me carefully. My sentence was set up to (1) disregard ultimate determinism, and in the process obviate in advance his criticism, (2) set up a hypothetical, namely, thoughts determined, but not by logical inferences from the evidence, and (3) pronounce such thoughts invalid. This is not the same as declaring all determined thoughts invalid, as he seemed to infer.

    It does seem reasonable that if one’s thoughts are determined by something other than evidence and logic, that one’s thoughts are invalid. If my appraisal of some scientific theorem is determined by my desire for grant money, or for someone of the opposite (or same) sex, or professional jealousy, or how much pizza or beer I had last night, and not by the internal consistency of the theorem or the evidence that it matched the real world, my assessment is worthless. This seems unexceptionable.

    Where does one go once one has recognized this fact? It seems to me that one then must require two things about determined thought before one can accept its validity. First, one must know that the logic used is the correct logic. For example, a computer must be programmed correctly. Second, one must know that the data that is being fed in is in fact accurate data for the question at hand. This is often expressed in the computing community, in the negative, as GIGO, or “garbage in, garbage out”.

    So if our thoughts are determined, we must trust that (a) we are programmed well, and (b) that we are being fed the right information. Otherwise, our thoughts on the subject at hand are in fact worthless. Whether unguided nature can do this to us is debatable, but that is where the debate lies, not in whether determinism automatically disqualifies, or whether determinism by extraneous factors destroys the validity of thought.

  25. 25
    JT says:

    Paul Giem [22, 24]:

    In the following I’ve gone back and responded to some of your remarks from 22, before getting to your remarks from today in 24. In the past I haven’t really made a concerted attempt to respond to each and every remark of someone, but maybe I should.

    Let me preface my remarks with the following observations (which they don’t seem like you understand):

    Just suppose for the moment that prior to life existing on this planet, the state of the universe was such that physical condtions in it and whatever natural laws it contains (discovered or undiscovered) could indeed collectively account for the origination and formation of life on this planet. Don’t you understand how those physical conditions and laws would effectively equate to us, that is be a recipe for us, in exactly the same sense that a fertilized embryo + the machinery of epigenesis equates to a human being.

    So that’s why I’ve said previously that no one on the I.D. side of the argument should be particularly concerned if people attempt to articulate or detail some mechanism by which life came into being and subsequently formed. Furthermore it is hard to imagine why the universe exists, if it is essentially garbage with respect to man’s origins. Does it exist just so that man will have a kind of twinkly tableau in the background when going out at night? (Maybe you don’t understand my point here, either.)

    You did talk about front-loading at one point and said that this was uncontroversial and accepted by many in I.D, and implied I failed to understand that. Well thanks for making that clear, but then why should anyone in I.D. be concerned (I’ll retract “threatened”) by the idea of some physical mechanism being largely responsible for the unfolding of life. I thought that is what front-loading would be – Some initial set of conditions allowing some automated process to operate on its own from that point on. If you’re telling me that that is generally accepted in ID circles, I find it hard to believe, as even today Jerry has made comments to the effect that no mechanism has been shown capable of creating life (over in one of the threads where they’re talking about MacNeil’s website.) Also in that same thread people are jumping all over MacNeil saying in effect, “You’re examples don’t prove anything! They’re only microevolution!”

    But you would have thought that front-loading advocates (and everyone else frankly) would understand that there would have to have been some autuomated process by which life unfolded, so why would anyone be threatened by any conceivable scenario MacNeil proposed. Even if the physical process itself was largely stochastic, I thought front-loading advocates would be comfortable with this as well, with their implicit understanding that intial conditions had to nevertheless exist to allow for it.

    However, if what all it comes down to is ID saying that “intelligence” had to exist, and that when inteligence exists, all the seeming physical improbablities magically disappear – this is a completely bogus argument. “Intelligence” is not some metaphyiscal substance that makes all physical impossiblities vanish, and there is no proof that such a thing is what makes humans run for example.

    If you want to trace back some physical mechanism responsible for life to a point where no mechanisms precede it, then at that point my contention would be there are two alternatives: A) Those initial conditions must have always existed, or B) Those initial conditions did indeed come into existence purely by chance, for no reason at all. And in my opinion, the former option is the only one that is viable. So the reason we exist is that something equating to us has always existed. Maybe some think I’m splitting hairs to not just join ID and accept as self-evident the existence of a metaphysical force called intelligence and accept that this is what causes humans to function, and that in this respect we’re like God. But I don’t believe that.

    OK maybe I should try to answer your specific points now:

    [22]:

    Your assertion that Mozart was a “chemical machine” is bluster. You don’t know this. In fact, it is not clear that your assertion that you are a chemical machine is not self-referentially absurd. .

    You’re implying here that for me to say I’m a chemical machine is self-referentially absurd, but this is the exact observation (in a slightly different form) that BarrryA made, which was the motivation for my remarks which you respond to in 24. Thus you are saying (in spite of your denials in 24) that if man is a machine that reasoned thought isn’t possible. Or at least you hold that this seems to be a strong possibility.

    The “best” that can be legitimately argued is that it is possible that we are chemical machines

    It seems like you’re at least on the fence here, which is good. But not sure how to parse the above. Obviously, it would be a meaningful argument for someone to make that we are chemical machines. I can’t think of a logical reason why the qualifier “possible” would of necessity always have to be included.

    Did you even read what I said? There are no known examples of even complex non-living systems giving rise to even the simplest life. I said nothing about simple life giving rise to complex life. Maybe you need more sleep.

    You were talking about there being a vast difference between the simplest and most complex lifeforms. I guess I wouldn’t know what your point is, if its that complex things don’t give rise to simple things. That seems to be false as well, because complex things do give rise to things much simpler than themselves.

    Your objection to pure law being ruled out misunderstands what pure law is. Pure law is like what happens to an object in a gravitational field in a vacuum and electric neutrality. It will retain its spin, and fall in the direction of the field, every time, regardless of what it is made of. I know of no law that says “If you put carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in a test tube, heat it to x degrees, and irradiate it with ultraviolet, you will create life.” In fact, the evidence we have at this time rather argues for the reverse.

    You’re asserting to me that I don’t understand what laws are “like”. I.D. often alludes to intelligence, chance and “law-like” regularity. But doesn’t invocation of “like” or “law-like” sound like hand-waving to you? It screams it to me. Seriously, its like saying, “you must accept as self-evident some reductionist simplistic characterization of ‘law’ that suits I.D’s purposes and which they’re seeking to impose on you.”

    We have a few people here (myself included–see “Hunt the Wumpus” ) that have created computer games, and I can assure you that even the simple program I wrote did not write itself.

    A complex computer simulation operates strictly on the basis of laws. (Well, laws and some required degree of physical resources in terms of memory, space and energy and also a certain degree of randomness.) Add more laws or memory or more speed and the simulation becomes increasingly lifelike. And these computer games and simulations are becoming increasingly lifelike day by day, month by month year by year – incredibly so – all by virtue of law and physical resources.

    It an irrelevant diversion here, to shift the discussion to who wrote the game, because I was not talking about that, and it doesn’t change the fact that simulation itself operates via law, not ID’s “intelligence”. And furthermore, considering how lifelike computer games are continually getting, strictly on the basis of more laws, makes it increasingly unreasonable for someone to assert that there is just NO WAY that humans themselves don’t operate via law as well.

    What amazes me is that you maintain that God exists, and that aliens exist, and yet in the face of apparent design that has to be constantly resisted by the likes of Francis Crick, and no good evidence that unguided evolution is adequate for the job, especially in the origin of life, you apparently continue to insist that it must be unguided evolution all the way

    “Unguided” – that’s another vague term continually employed in I.D. (along with “law-like”). What does that mean, “Unguided”? I can come up with my own definition at least: Something is guided if some template preexisted it that logically (i.e. algorithimically ) equates to it. In my way of looking at things EVERYTHING is guided because EVERYTHING is caused. (I don’t necessarily deny the existence of true randomness, but everything for which there exists an explanation was “guided”.)

    When people talk about a human being “guiding” something (as if it were some transcendent metaphysical process) what that actually means at an operational level is that a human had some template stored in their brain – an image for example – which they sought to duplicate as a physical object. This internal template could be something that had seen before, it could be a composite idea, taking parts from the creations of others, or whatever. (It would seem unnecessary and laborious to actually have operationalize the concept to this degree in order to demystify it for anyone but a child, but I.D. advocates apparently need this.)

    But its not only brains that can store templates. To repeat myself, you can think about some image you’ve downloaded on your computer – maybe an image drawn by a child – and point to anyone of numerous equivalent previous forms it was in between its source location and its destination on your computer, where anyone of those previous forms would correspond to, and be an explanation for, the image on your comupter, ie would be what was guiding the process of image formation on your computer. My writing ability is currently degrading through fatigue, but try to understand how any physical phenomenon had a cause and whatever the complete description of that cause is, it guided the process of creation in precisely the same sense as a human’s behavior is guided.

    It has to be primarily law or there is no coherent explanation.

    This makes no sense. What is the explanation of this post with these arguments? Is it law? Or is there no coherent explanation? One can argue that the post itself is not perfectly coherent. But surely the coherence it has is explained by someone who can think. Surely your own posts are that way. Whether or not we are determined, if our thoughts are determined but not by logical inferences from the evidence, they are worthless.

    The rest of this post concerns your above comment and your further elaboration on it today in [24]. (Although my own remarks will be brief as I’ve been writing for a long time.)

    Yes, “thinking” – but what is thinking? A computer game doesn’t operate by virtue of you “thinking” for it. You write laws dictating how it is to function and then it does very complex things you most certainly did not specifically plan for, solely on the basis of the laws by which it operates . Why would you invoke thinking above in the way that you do, unless you’re convicted its simply self-evident that its something entirely different from laws. This belies all your denials in 24.

    My sentence was set up to (1) disregard ultimate determinism, and in the process obviate in advance his criticism, (2) set up a hypothetical, namely, thoughts determined, but not by logical inferences from the evidence, and (3) pronounce such thoughts invalid. This is not the same as declaring all determined thoughts invalid, as he seemed to infer.

    It does seem reasonable that if one’s thoughts are determined by something other than evidence and logic, that one’s thoughts are invalid.

    It seems like there’s a good deal of backpedalling here (which maybe is good). But you have to think of “reason” as essentially equivalent to doing arithmetic. Its a purely computational process.

    You think: “I want to go to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, but I saw the bullies there not too long ago, and if they were there before, they could be there again. And if I go to the 7-Eleven they might beat me up and I don’t like pain, so maybe I shouldn’t go.” [Any depiction of any person living or dead is entirely coincidental. – i.e. happened by pure chance. and not design.]

    That’s a computational process. There is nothing transcendent about that process. There’s plenty of lines of reasoning we can’t follow because they’re too complex and we just don’t have the processing capability.

    And furthermore, it really does seem juvenile to imagine humans as some transcendantal truth-detecting machines, and not be able to understand how the reflections of the most venerated Deep Thinker of our kind would be viewed as infantile by more advanced beings. And furthermore, the Bible itself repeatedly disparages the imaginings of “The Wise” as foolishness in the sight of God. So we are not some magical truth-detecting machines. That’s why we are told to “believe”, and “lean not on your own undertstanding.”

    Where does one go once one has recognized this fact? It seems to me that one then must require two things about determined thought before one can accept its validity. First, one must know that the logic used is the correct logic. For example, a computer must be programmed correctly. Second, one must know that the data that is being fed in is in fact accurate data for the question at hand.

    Your requirement about the computer being programmed correctly, seems obvious and I would certainly agree with it. Except that its clear that the implication is “and we know that in all liklihood a programmer operates on the basis of Intelligence as defined by I.D.” Basically its the same dynamic as when I discussed how a computer simulation operates via law, and you shifted the discussion to how it was created, (i.e. by a human) and then said that the program did not come into existence by chance (as if I.D’s Intelligence was the compliment of chance, even though most people would say the compliment of chance is law.)

    My posts get progressively more negative the longer I write, and then I’m usually too burnt out by the end to come up with a nice neat positive sum-up of everything.

    Cheers.

  26. 26
    Paul Giem says:

    JT (#25),

    Thanks for your response. I will go over the specifics and then discuss the introduction.

    When I said that your assertion that Mozart was a “chemical machine” was bluster, what I meant was that you were saying something that you really didn’t know as if you did. You catch this in your second paragraph. The fact is, I do not know, and you do not know, and nobody knows at this point (besides God, assuming that He exists, which both you and I do IIRC) whether human intelligence can be accounted for by chemical and electromagnetic forces without residual. We are nowhere near being able to make the necessary measurements and calculations. Any such statement must be on the basis of faith. I say this as someone who was top in my class in neuroanatomy and in histology, and published in the field of senile dementia. I may lean one way or the other (I find Barry Arrington’s argument reasonable), but know how little we understand of brain function, and how complex the brain is, and doubt that we will be able to make the necessary calculations in our lifetimes.

    So it looks foolish to me to make the kind of statement you did, and then expect me to simply acquiesce and use this kind of totally unsupported statement to draw any further conclusions. If you wish to argue, and carry your audience, you need to argue from shared premises, or at least reasonably demonstrable ones, not simply bluster and expect us to fold.

    You quote me,

    Did you even read what I said? There are no known examples of even complex non-living systems giving rise to even the simplest life. I said nothing about simple life giving rise to complex life. Maybe you need more sleep

    and say,

    You were talking about there being a vast difference between the simplest and most complex lifeforms. I guess I wouldn’t know what your point is, if its that complex things don’t give rise to simple things.

    Here you need some serious improvement in reading comprehension.

    Let me go very slowly. The original paragraph was,

    Your overarching claim seems to ignore that at present, there is a great deal of difference between even the simplest life and the most complex known non-living system. There are no known examples of the latter giving rise to the former, even with human intelligence assisting, let alone without it.

    My original point was that life is much different from non-life. It is, among other things, more complex. Even the simplest life is far more complex and yet patterned than even the most complex known non-living systems. Other than the fact that we are here, and life must have originated somehow, (and how is under dispute), there are no known examples of life originating solely from non-living material. The point was about life originating from non-life.

    You have now misunderstood the point twice, once after the misunderstanding was pointed out. First you said,

    Complex life coming from simple life? That happens all the time

    Then you said,

    You were talking about there being a vast difference between the simplest and most complex lifeforms.

    No, I wasn’t. I was talking about life coming from non-life, not complex life coming from simple life. As I said last time, maybe you need more sleep.

    I am going to skip over your complaint about pure law, as it makes little sense to me.

    Your comments about computer games seems almost like I touched a nerve and you suddenly spewed out some slightly modified and irrrelevant boilerplate. I will readily concede that computer games are getting more lifelike, and that they operate on law, plus a little chance sometimes, although some fairly imaginative and elaborate initial conditions also have to be programmed in.

    I think I see why you said what you did. You are talking about how computer games operate, not how they were created. But you still left out a significant part of computer games. They do indeed have laws, and sometimes incorporate chance. But the more lifelike of them also have to have scenes programmed in, what would in real life correspond to initial conditions. That’s a distinction that you seem to have missed. Please read this carefully when you are awake.

    Also, try to react to me, not to ID advocates in general, or to others that you have interacted with. I did not say, and did not mean, that “there is just NO WAY that humans themselves don’t operate via law”. If I said that, without some specific reason proving it, it would be bluster, of the kind that you did when you asserted that we all are chemical machines. And so I avoid saying it.

    It sounds like you object to the word “unguided”, as in your mind everything is guided. Since you believe in God, it is tempting to take you to be saying that God set up the rules (laws) and the initial conditions, and in doing so essentially guided everything from the beginning. That would be front-loading. It does lead to questions about how we can be morally responsible for our actions, since they were programmed in from the beginning, but that is a theological concern. From a scientific point of view, there is no particular reason why you can’t be right. But what it means is that God knew exactly what He was doing when He set everything up, and it would be ridiculous to speak of a universe without design, as design would be literally everywhere.

    My comment in 22 was misunderstood by you. I don’t know why. Maybe you assumed that I think just like everyone else here, for there are some here who in fact could be fairly addressed by your comments. But I did no backpedaling, because I carefully stated only what I was willing to stand behind. Much of our thinking is in fact computational, as you put it.

    And I agree that it is juvenile to think of ourselves as transcendent truth-detecting machines. For one thing, if we are machines, it is difficult to imagine that we are transcendent. And our imperfections must surely be factored into any anaysis. But the thrust of what you say seems to be that we are to “believe” and “lean not on your own understanding.” Taken literally, it would seem that you are urging us to be skeptical of science, in which case your defense of the current scientific consensus makes no sense.

    You said,

    Your requirement about the computer being programmed correctly, seems obvious and I would certainly agree with it. Except that its clear that the implication is “and we know that in all liklihood a programmer operates on the basis of Intelligence as defined by I.D.”

    It would seem that you agree with the part about the fundamental requirement for correct programming. You just don’t like the implications you think I am drawing. Then, you need to reasonably show that the implications are incorrect, or else accept them. Don’t whine about my motives.

    You see, when I wrote the two conditions,

    It seems to me that one then must require two things about determined thought before one can accept its validity. First, one must know that the logic used is the correct logic. For example, a computer must be programmed correctly. Second, one must know that the data that is being fed in is in fact accurate data for the question at hand.

    I wasn’t carefully laying out an ID argument. I was merely making an observation, that was true for computers, and AFAICT for any mechanistic intelligence. The implications I saw were that if we were not programmed correctly, or if our data gathering was inaccurate or inadequate, that we could expect not to get the right answers. How a process such as RV&NS could have programmed us correctly and fed us the right data is not clear to me. Thus I have a major problem with a process that is not somehow guided by God so that we can rely on our senses and reason to at least a limited extent. I did not intend to shift the discussion in the direction you described, although now that you have brought it up, what reason, other than distaste, do you have for rejecting an intelligent programmer so that we can believe our own reason?

    The soliloquy that you begin with seems to be arguing that theists should be comfortable with a God Who starts the universe (a Watchmaker God!) and then does not interfere with it. What you don’t understand is that many of them were. The classic example, Michael Behe, was perfectly comfortable with precisely this scenario, until he started noticing that it didn’t really explain what it purported to explain. GilDodgen used to be an atheist, comfortable with the evolutionary myth, until he noted that it didn’t mesh with reality. Some of us came from a Christian background, but even those of us who did had to ask the question whether our faith really was consonant with the science. We’re not here because we need to shore up our faith. We’re here because we see what we (I think reasonably) consider objective, if you will scientific, evidence for design. All of your attempts to reassure us about the theological non-necessity for design will fall on deaf ears unless and until you show us how this reasonably could have happened mechanistically without specific foresight and intelligent input.

    Maybe I can help you with the front-loading part. The division between front-loading and mechanistic evolution is precisely this: You say,

    Just suppose for the moment that prior to life existing on this planet, the state of the universe was such that physical condtions in it and whatever natural laws it contains (discovered or undiscovered) could indeed collectively account for the origination and formation of life on this planet.

    If the laws can take a wide variety of initial conditions and produce life, then we have God setting up a universe where life will eventuate, (mechanistic) evolution can then do its job, and Francis Collins and the rest of the TE’s are right, and we have no need for ID. On the other hand, if the initial conditions, as well as the laws, need to be just right, then not only is there intelligent design, but it is statistically detectable. In that case, at least the front-loading variety of ID is correct, and TE is inadequate. It has, at least at this point, very little to do with theology and a lot to do with science, particularly the statistical branches. Furthermore, unless God (and let’s face it, only God can create those initial conditions deliberately to the accuracy required) were to deliberately make the same kind of conditions for us, we could not see the “spontaneous generation” of life experimentally, which makes it essentially a miracle in terms of reproducibility, whereas if the laws and a wide range of initial conditions could create life, we should be able to duplicate those conditions. At present, we are not able to, which argues that at least front-loading is going on.

    The question boils down to how special the initial conditions have to be. That is what differentiates front-loading from modern TE.

    I will not comment further about your lack of imagination regarding the purpose of the universe, or McNeill’s microevolutionary examples. I will only comment that if you believe that we can trace a mechanism to certain initial conditions, with no possibility of change based on intelligence, then we, including all our choices, are either determined, or if chance can be involved are determined by that chance (which presumably came from God) and law and initial conditions (which came from God), so God is completely responsible for our choices, and in an important way we are not; we are mere puppets. It is not clear why God should hold us responsible for our choices. Is this where you, as a theist, want to go? If not, you might want to reconsider your premises.

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