Intelligent Design

Expert, Smexpert

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IN A RECENT THREAD VJTORLEY WRITES:

Here’s a question for everyone: when is it rational NOT to believe an expert? That’s a difficult one. The following is a (by no means exhaustive) list of “warning signs” which indicate that what an expert says may be open to legitimate doubt:

(1) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the known facts are dwarfed by the unknowns, as much remains to be discovered. In that case, even if the expert knows a LOT more than you do, he/she is about as much in the dark as you are.
(Here’s a concrete mathematical illustration: if you know 0.01% of everything that could be known in the relevant field, and the expert knows 100 times more than you do, that’s still only 1%, which means that he/she is 99% in the dark, while you are 99.99% in the dark. That’s not much of a difference.)

(2) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the relevant uncertainties have not been adequately quantified.

(3) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the predictions made by the dominant scientific model are based on mechanisms whose causal adequacy to generate the effects predicted has not been established – in other words, where the capacity or efficacy of the mechanisms has not been adequately quantified.

(4) The expert makes a claim which strikes you as prima facie outrageously implausible, but is unable to demonstrate that the dominant scientific model upon which he/she relies is adequate to support that claim – in other words, the expert can’t prove to you that his/her model is at least capable of getting you from X to Y.

(5) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the predictions made by the dominant scientific model are highly sensitive to the initial assumptions which are input, so that a tiny revision in these assumptions dramatically alters the predictions made by the model.

(6) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the predictions appear to accord well with the data, but the mechanics of the phenomenon itself are poorly understood, so that the currently accepted model, while plausible, is not necessarily the only possible way of explaining the phenomenon – in other words, another model may supplant it in the future.

(7) The question in dispute relates to multiple disciplines, in several of which you have a limited degree of expertise, whereas the expert you are listening to has a great deal of expertise in just ONE of these disciplines.

(8) The expert in question has a track record of making bad judgements on other subjects with which you are familiar, and most of these judgements tend to betray a common cognitive blind-spot.

(9) The expert in question is very dogmatic about his/her claim, even though other experts in the same field have contrary opinions, or are considerably less certain about the claim.

(10) The claim itself appears to be ideologically motivated to some degree – i.e. it is accompanied by snide put-downs of alternative world-views which are held by many people, but not by the expert.

(11) The expert has been financially rewarded or has obtained fame or promotion by promoting his/her claim, but would not have been so rewarded had he/she promoted a contrary claim.

(12) The expert’s claim is asserted hotly and with great vehemence, accompanied by moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim.

Can anyone think of any other warning signs? If so, please feel free to add to the list.

As an exercise, readers might like to check the boxes for neo-Darwinian evolution (as opposed to common descent) and the hypothesis of dangerous anthropogenic global warming.

Regarding global warming, I think it’s best to be prepared. Personally, I’m skeptical that anthropogenic global warming is likely to be dangerous on a global scale over the next 100 years. But of course, I could be completely wrong. The good news is that even if anthropogenic global warming does pose a real threat to the biosphere, we have a feasible action plan that won’t cost the earth, that won’t line the pockets of the bureaucrats, and that will solve all our energy problems:

Sustainable Nuclear Power by Professor Barry Brook.

The following articles show (I hope) why it remains rational to doubt the claim that anthropogenic global warming is likely to be dangerous in the foreseeable future.

Why I am a Global Warming Skeptic by Dr. Doug Hoffman.

The Crumbling Pillars of Climate Change by Dr. Doug Hoffman.

The Grand View: Four Billion Years of Climate Change by Dr. Doug Hoffman.

Could Human CO2 Emissions Cause Another PETM? by Dr. Doug Hoffman.

A Demonstration that Global Warming Predictions are Based More On Faith than On Science by Dr. Roy Spencer.

Connecting the Dots: Theoretical and Observational Evidence for Negative Cloud Feedbacks by Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. William Braswell.

Global Warming Skepticism 101 by Dr. Roy Spencer.

A Climate of Belief by Dr. Patrick Frank

103 Replies to “Expert, Smexpert

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Here’s another warning sign: The expert refuses to share data or otherwise make his work transparent and instead exhibits a “bunker mentality” in response to criticism.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    When is it rational NOT to believe an expert? Is it when the “expert” actually has less credibility than a fortune teller?

    Is evolution pseudoscience?
    Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other?pseudosciences — astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many.
    http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience

  3. 3
    StephenB says:

    Here is yet another warning sign: When the expert declares that there are no standards of right reason by which his/her claims can be evaluated.

  4. 4
    bevets says:

    When the expert contradicts the Word of God.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    So you question the reliability of expert opinion and then cite a list of works by experts who are presumably more reliable because their opinions accord with your own?

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    As for vjtorley’s little list, they could apply to all disciplines, including philosophy, theology and intelligent design.

  7. 7
    bevets says:

    Regarding global warming, I think it’s best to be prepared. Personally, I’m skeptical that anthropogenic global warming is likely to be dangerous on a global scale over the next 100 years. But of course, I could be completely wrong

    The following articles show (I hope) why it remains rational to doubt the claim that anthropogenic global warming is likely to be dangerous in the foreseeable future.

    Seversky @ 5

    So you question the reliability of expert opinion and then cite a list of works by experts who are presumably more reliable because their opinions accord with your own?

    For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done. ~ Charles Darwin

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    bevets @ 4

    When the expert contradicts the Word of God.

    “Tis a dangerous thing to engage the authority of scripture in disputes about the natural world in opposition to reason; lest time, which brings all things to light, should discover that to be evidently false which we had made scripture assert.”

    Telluris theoria sacra, Reverend Thomas Burnett (1635-1715)

  9. 9
    bevets says:

    Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind. ~ Augustine

    Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. ~ Augustine

  10. 10
    Seversky says:

    If it’s Augustine you want:

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [My emphases]

  11. 11
    gingoro says:

    7. The question in dispute relates to multiple disciplines, in several of which you have a limited degree of expertise, whereas the expert you are listening to has a great deal of expertise in just ONE of these disciplines.

    Is certainly true for me with respect to my skeptism about AGW as I have a lot of experience in programming, grad and under grad courses in numerical analysis and some course and work experience in statistics, and some software engineering expertise and many courses in SE. My initial take was not to trust the models as I have done some modeling and analysis of variance and it is hard to validate that one is getting the right answers. I also wondered how they debugged their programs? What did they check against. Not current weather records. They only added data that allowed them to do forecasts for a year in the future, long after the infamous hockey stick was drawn. My guess was that most of the models were programmed by grad students although AFAIK some have been done by professionals with I hope the right set of skills but frankly I doubt they had statisticians, numerical analysts and good software engineers and so on as well as climatologists. I also looked at some of the raw data and read blogs and all of that added to my growing unease with their predictions.

    10. and 12. are also very minor reasons why I reject ID, although the main reason is point 7 as I also have some knowledge of information theory as well as the fields I listed above. Unfortunately some on both sides in this dispute can be very acerbic.
    Dave W

  12. 12
    Clive Hayden says:

    Seversky,

    Of course your quote of Augustine begs the question doesn’t it, for it presumes (in your mind) that whatever it is still under discussion between the Christian and the others is already known, and that the Christian is already known to have been in error, but this is the very thing that is being debated, and it won’t do as a conclusion to assume the answer is already given, when it isn’t. If an argument over evolution or the like were really settled, your quote would be appropriate, but since it is still in debate, the argument (as you intended from this quote) is to beg the question.

  13. 13
    bevets says:

    For though God formed man of the dust of the earth, yet the earth itself, and every earthly material, is absolutely created out of nothing: and man’s soul, too, God created out of nothing, and joined to the body, when He made man. City of God 14.11

  14. 14
    tribune7 says:

    Experts who are self- (or incestuously) proclaimed should be treated with extreme skepticism.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    This study is interesting:

    Even When Wrong, Political Experts Say They Were ‘Almost Right’
    Excerpt: In one part of this study, Tetlock asked experts years ago to predict outcomes on seven different issues. In 1988, for example, he asked 38 Soviet experts whether the Communist Party would still be in power in 1993; and he asked 34 American political experts in 1992 whether President Bush would be re-elected later that year.

    After the events occurred, Tetlock then re-contacted the experts to ask them about their predictions. In all seven scenarios, only slightly more than half of the experts correctly predicted the events that occurred. Still, even those who were wrong had been quite confident in their predictions. Experts who said they were 80 percent or more confident in their predictions were correct only 45 percent of the time.

    Not surprisingly, experts who were correct credited their accuracy to their sound reading of the basic forces at play in the situation, Tetlock said.

    “More surprisingly, experts who were wrong were almost as likely as those who were right to believe their reading of the political situation was basically sound,” he said. When asked to rate how confident they were in their analysis of the issues involved, experts who were correct gave average ratings of 6.6 to 7.3 on a nine-point scale.

    However, even experts who were wrong continued to give average confidence ratings of 6.3 to 7.1. “It is striking that forecasters who had been incorrect managed to retain nearly as much confidence in the fundamental soundness of their judgments as the forecasters who had been correct,” Tetlock said.
    ,,, he said the results do show how difficult it is for people to let go of their beliefs, even in the face of contrary evidence.
    http://www.scienceblog.com/com.....02734.html

  16. 16
    warehuff says:

    Clive, I think Augustine is giving a general warning against attempting to give mere human opinion the authority of Scripture because it reduces the authority of Scripture if that human opinion turns out to be wrong.

    Here’s another question to ask: How many of the criteria above fit ID? I count at least 7:

    (3) The question in dispute relates to a single discipline, in which the predictions made by the dominant scientific model are based on mechanisms whose causal adequacy to generate the effects predicted has not been established – in other words, where the capacity or efficacy of the mechanisms has not been adequately quantified.

    I’ve never even seen an ID mechanism offered for consideration.

    (4) The expert makes a claim which strikes you as prima facie outrageously implausible, but is unable to demonstrate that the dominant scientific model upon which he/she relies is adequate to support that claim – in other words, the expert can’t prove to you that his/her model is at least capable of getting you from X to Y.

    Same as 3.

    (8) The expert in question has a track record of making bad judgements on other subjects with which you are familiar, and most of these judgements tend to betray a common cognitive blind-spot.

    Off the top of my head: Approval of the Bible Code, HIV denial.

    (9) The expert in question is very dogmatic about his/her claim, even though other experts in the same field have contrary opinions, or are considerably less certain about the claim.

    (10) The claim itself appears to be ideologically motivated to some degree – i.e. it is accompanied by snide put-downs of alternative world-views which are held by many people, but not by the expert.

    (11) The expert has been financially rewarded or has obtained fame or promotion by promoting his/her claim, but would not have been so rewarded had he/she promoted a contrary claim.

    Buy my book.

    (12) The expert’s claim is asserted hotly and with great vehemence, accompanied by moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim.

  17. 17
    Aleta says:

    tribune7 adds another criteria: “Experts who are self- (or incestuously) proclaimed should be treated with extreme skepticism.”

    But, as with warehuff’s point at 16, this is quite true of ID.

    And I’d like to add a comment on (12): “The expert’s claim is asserted hotly and with great vehemence, accompanied by moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim.”

    “Moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim” of ID is a very common reaction here.

    So I think the opening thread is definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  18. 18
    jerry says:

    Rather than get into any list of criteria as to why an expert may not be an expert, I will list just one criteria for the current experts on evolution.

    We would probably all agree that Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are considered experts on evolution. But are they? They study it, publish on it and are widely referred to when questions of evolution come up. Some others have obviously achieved similar recognition in the past but as of today, these two would serve as experts in the field. If you wanted to have a definitive conference on evolution, these two would easily be considered a top representative.

    Yet each of them has failed to show a mechanism whereby macro evolution (definition used on this site) has taken place. They have both published books in the last couple years that were supposed to be definitive summations of what is known about evolution. Yet each has failed to answer the most basic question there is, namely what is the origin of new information in the genomes that govern the origin of novel complex capabilities.

    Given that piece of information, then we would have to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an expert on evolution. Oh, there might be experts on micro evolution and genetics but there is no one who is an expert on macro evolution. Such a person does not exists.

    So one criteria for an expert in any field is the ability to explain phenomena in a causal sense. When that criteria is missing, the person in question is not an expert. And since no one on the planet can explain macro evolution in any causal sense, there are no experts in this particular field.

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    —-warehuff: “Clive, I think Augustine is giving a general warning against attempting to give mere human opinion the authority of Scripture because it reduces the authority of Scripture if that human opinion turns out to be wrong.”

    Augustine was arguing that if a Christian makes a fool out of himself in the presence of an expert on a matter unrelated to religion, he will lose credibility as a careful thinker on ALL matters and [a] his attempts to interpret the Bible will not be taken seriously [b] Christianity itself will be devalued and undermined because its ambassasadors will appear to be uneducated fools who accept myths as reality.

  20. 20
    Aleta says:

    This gets right to the heart of the matter. The vast majority of people with enough training to be called an expert, as well as all the people who trust the scientific consensus of those experts, would definitely feel that young-earth creationists fall into this category, and most would feel that those who deny common descent do also.

    Irrespective of the strong feelings of those who think those experts are wrong, those standing apart from the fray, including many young people, are skeptical about religion because of those who stand in opposition to mainstream science, and in doing so, to use Stephen’s terms, lose credibility and devalue and undermine Christianity.

  21. 21
    vjtorley says:

    Seversky (#5)

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    So you question the reliability of expert opinion and then cite a list of works by experts who are presumably more reliable because their opinions accord with your own?

    First, my post was written in defense of the legitimacy of doubting an expert, not denying what he/she has to say. There’s a big difference.

    Second, I have no idea whether the “experts” I cite who doubt that Anthropogenic Global Warming is dangerous are any more reliable than the “experts” who insist that it is a real threat. All I know is that the objections raised in the articles I cited above have not yet been answered online. The problems with AGW which the authors discuss are not minor quibbbles like the size and global extent of the Medieval Warm Period or the best way of measuring Antarctic sea ice. Rather, the articles deal with fundamental problems relating to AGW models. As such, they deserve a thoughtful, intelligent response. Until one is forthcoming, I reserve my right to remain skeptical.

    Regarding St. Augustine: I am of course familiar with the quotation you cited. However, I suggest you read Book 15 of his City of God (especially the last chapter, where he responds to common skeptical objections to the Deluge) and then tell me what you think. See
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120115.htm . It seems to me that he was pretty literalistic in his interpretation of Scripture.

    By the way, here’s what Augustine wrote on the “waters above the firmament” described in Genesis 1: (De Genesi ad litteram ii, 5)

    These words of Scripture have more authority than the most exalted human intellect. Hence, whatever these waters are, and whatever their mode of existence, we cannot for a moment doubt that they are there.

    I should add that Augustine tended to favor the common-sense interpretation that the “waters above the firmament” refers to that part of the atmosphere where clouds form, to fall on the earth as rain. In De Genesi ad litteram ii, 4, he writes: “I consider this view of the question worthy of all commendation, as neither contrary to faith nor difficult to be proved and believed.”

    Here’s Augustine on the age of the human race, in his City of God Book 12, available online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120112.htm

    Chapter 10

    …They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.

    Chapter 12

    …[A]ccording to Scripture, less than 6000 years have elapsed since He [man – VJT] began to be…

    And here’s what Augustine writes on the question of whether Paradise (the Garden of Eden) was literal or allegorical in his City of God, Book XIII, chapter 21, available online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120113.htm :

    Allegorical interpretations may be suitably put upon Paradise without giving offense to any one, while yet we believe the strict truth of the history, confirmed by its circumstantial narrative of facts.

    As you rightly note, believers should indeed take care that skeptics never “find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well.” However, a mistake is one thing; the rejection of “consensus science” is quite another.

    Finally, here’s another article that might interest you:

    http://creation.com/augustine-.....reationist

  22. 22
    vjtorley says:

    Jerry (#18)

    Excellent post! Well said.

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    “and most would feel that those who deny common descent do also.”

    Until a mechanism for common descent can be discerned one can legitimately question common descent. Remember, common descent is not the same thing as common ancestry which is a localized phenomena in the sense that is restricted to certain subsets of organisms. So those who postulate common descent must provide a mechanism for it or else they are like flat earthers, speculating on the non observable or even on the impossible.

  24. 24
    Aleta says:

    The topic here is not whether you think a mechanism for common descent can be discerned. The topic is the role of experts, who in this case do believe that such mechanisms have been discerned, and that large amounts of evidence support that belief. On what grounds, other than your own disbelief, do you think a relatively impartial observer would reject the consensus view of the mainstream experts? Why would one think that all those people, working within a system which has brought us many other theories that are accepted as valid, would be wrong about common descent, and that Jerry, whoever he is, is the person we should listen to?

    Note – I’m not talking about why you think common descent is wrong, and that no mechanism for it is known: I am asking why, in general, we should listen to you rather than the experts who communicate the consensus.

    Think about all the theories out there that you, and virtually everyone, accept without really knowing all the evidence or understanding all that has gone into making them the consensus: the atomic theory of the structure of matter, the theory that the liver takes out toxins in the body, the theory that all the elements beyond helium were forged in stars which later exploded those materials into space, the theory of the causes and history on plate tectonics, and so on. I accept the consensus view on those topics. Am I to be just as skeptical of them as you are about common descent, or is it more reasonable to accept what they say about common descent. What is a person who isn’t an expert, which is virtually all of us, supposed to do when told the results of mainstream science?

  25. 25
    jerry says:

    “What is a person who isn’t an expert, which is virtually all of us, supposed to do when told the results of mainstream science?”

    I pointed out above that there are no experts on this topic so who are you listening to? Common descent requires a mechanism to be a reality. What is that mechanism? Without it, one is just being gullible to say it actually happened. It may have happened but it is not likely based on the evidence currently at hand. No one has ever witnessed common descent happening. One can ascribe to common ancestry because it can be witnessed and shown by genomic analysis to be very logical.

    But common descent has neither logical or empirical backing. So it is faith based but one that may have less going for it empirically than the Resurrection does. I am the last one to question your faith on something and so will support your right to have faith in common descent or belief in it if you want to express it that way. A lot of what I personally believe is equally faith based but on science I tend to be empirically based and so does most of the ID community. And common descent has no empirical backing.

    Darwin postulated it and that is the main reason it is still around but it is certainly not science. It is also postulated by some based on religious reasons but again that is not science.

  26. 26
    Toronto says:

    jerry @25,

    “What is a person who isn’t an expert, which is virtually all of us, supposed to do when told the results of mainstream science?”

    I pointed out above that there are no experts on this topic so who are you listening to?

    Aleta at comment 24 is speaking in the abstract.
    Why would you listen to expert group A speaking about subject X but disregard expert group B speaking about subject Y?

    In other words, why don’t you challenge the creation of stars as well as evolution since no human being has physically witnessed either?

  27. 27
    Collin says:

    I got my undergrad in psychology and I can tell you that the experts of yesterday, in this field anyway, are held in derision by experts of today. Furthermore (and maybe this is unique to psychology) there is so much disagreement in the field now (among behaviorists, cognitivists, humanists, feminists, Freudians and neuro-psychologists) that it is difficult to not be skeptical of everybody.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    —-Aleta: “The topic here is not whether you think a mechanism for common descent can be discerned. The topic is the role of experts, who in this case do believe that such mechanisms have been discerned, and that large amounts of evidence support that belief. On what grounds, other than your own disbelief, do you think a relatively impartial observer would reject the consensus view of the mainstream experts?”

    No, the topic is the criteria by which one discerns whether those who claim to be experts really are experts. Let’s look at the definition of an expert:

    Expert–“Having, involving, displaying special skill or knowledge or training derived from training or experience.”

    Evolutionary biologists do not “have” nor can they “display” any knowledge concerning their main claim about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution. They are not, therefore, experts.

    What they are displaying is not expertise but “solidarity.” The two words are not synonyms.

  29. 29
    Aleta says:

    You’re just playing with words here, guys, but carry on.

  30. 30
    Aleta says:

    Back to the main point: why should I, or anyone, believe the pronouncements of Stephen or Jerry over the consensus view of mainstream science.

    Sure, Stephen and Jerry want to define “expert” as “someone who agrees with Stephen and Jerry”, but that really doesn’t work – you just don’t get to pervert the meaning of language that way.

  31. 31
    jerry says:

    “why should I, or anyone, believe the pronouncements of Stephen or Jerry over the consensus view of mainstream science.”

    Yes, this is true if the consensus can justify itself by evidence. Darwin wrote his book for the masses, not the privileged few who supposedly according to you could only understand the intricacies of evolution. It turns out that the science is understandable at the layman’s level so the layman is quite capable of learning the science and in fact most high school students learn the science. Nearly everyone here has gone deeper than that into the science and are quite capable of understanding arguments for or against something in this particular field.

    When the high priests of the discipline do not explain the basis for their beliefs, then one has to question whether they are in fact experts or not or if they are honest. Dawkins and Coyne do not address the essential question of evolution in their so called comprehensive books on the topic. A prominent evolutionary biologist, Will Provine, has admitted it is all based on faith. It is easy to conclude something from this. Why should anyone listen to Aleta when he himself cannot explain why it is true nor point to anyone or anything to back up his beliefs.

    So I am afraid your arguments are at best shallow and I bet you know it. The interesting thing is that to a person, the anti ID person goes to the wall with bogus arguments. Interesting phenomena.

  32. 32
    Morgentau says:

    It does no use to say that common descent does not need a mechanism. It does need a mechanism, and it does not have one.

    Sometimes evolutionists say that intelligent design does not have a mechanism. They are wrong, though. The mechanism is intelligent agency. That is observable all around us.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “Back to the main point: why should I, or anyone, believe the pronouncements of Stephen or Jerry over the consensus view of mainstream science.”

    Which “consensus” are you talking about? Is it the consensus that once preferred Aristotle’s outdated cosmology over Galileo’s observations, or the consensus that defended Paley’s design arguments against Darwin’s naturalism, or the consensus that defended Newton’s traditions over Einstein’s innovations, or the consensus that now seeks to protect Darwinism from intelligent design? Here is a clue: All true progress in science comes from the original thinkers, better known as the minority, and not from the uncreative, dutiful little worker bees, better known as the majority.

    With respect to the former, almost a thousand prominent scientists now question the Darwinistic formula. I, for one, am not asking anyone to believe me; I simply point them to the scientists in question. Also, you are using the “argument from authority,” a rather elitist tactic that only works with those who cannot read a scientific report. As it turns out, I know how to do that and I am sure Jerry does as well. Translation: Darwinists are bluffing, which explains why they feel the need to persecute, slander, and “expel” anyone who questions their ideology posing as science. That’s not the kind of behavior that inspires confidence from anyone.

    —“Sure, Stephen and Jerry want to define “expert” as “someone who agrees with Stephen and Jerry”, but that really doesn’t work – you just don’t get to pervert the meaning of language that way.”

    I took my definition right out of the dictionary. If anyone is trying to twist the meaning of language it would be the one who sneers at the accurate definition of a word and characterizes its faithful application as a perversion.

  34. 34
    faded_Glory says:

    morgentau, the proposed mechanism for common descent is reproduction with variation plus natural selection.

    Both of these elements have been observed in nature.

    What is your alternative for common descent? What is your proposed mechanism for that alternative? Has that mechanism been observed in nature?

    Thanks,

    fG

  35. 35
    jerry says:

    “the proposed mechanism for common descent is reproduction with variation plus natural selection.”

    This is a proposed mechanism for common ancestry, not common descent. Common ancestry is a localized phenomena.

    We have been down this road many times before. This is a very useful mechanism for life but extremely limited in what it can do.

  36. 36
    Aleta says:

    And the alternative explanation for the origin of different kinds of organisms is what? “Poof” by an unknown intelligent designer using an unknown mechanism that defies the laws of physics.

    And tell me why this is a more likely explanation?

    And you’re still playing with words, Stephen. Of course you took the definition right out of the dictionary. You then unilaterally declared that since you didn’t believe the views of those the world considers experts, they weren’t really experts.

    Of course there are doubters, but your 1000 signees of the DI’s statement is less than 1% of the comparable group of knowledgeable people – the fact that only such a small minority are doubters is itself strong evidence that the experts are right.

  37. 37
    gingoro says:

    “We would probably all agree that Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are considered experts on evolution.”
    As an EC I would consider them popularizers with a very large new atheist ax to grind, not unlike Henry Moris of the ICR from a different religious position. In the past it appears that both Dawkins and Coyne were likely experts in their respective fields but given their obvious bias I don’t expect to read them in the future. When someone needs a particular view on science to be true to support their world view, I tend to get very suspicious.

    In terms of information content required, Randy Isaac has been arguing that the only kind of CSI that we know is only produced by intelligence is abstract information. I find his arguments compelling.
    http://www.asa3online.org/Book/

    None abstract CSI can be produced by either intelligent or none intelligent sources. For example consider the information produced in a feedback system. The info being fed back is both complex and specified and although often in analog form it could be easily digitized as Shannon information or compressed as algorithmic info. Of course this does not imply that the information in the first cell did not come directly from God but continues to leave the question open. Ignoring OoL much of the information in evolution is extracted from the environment by natural selection. Please note I said much and could be argued into a position of saying some but I strongly doubt that all the information can be generated from the environment.

  38. 38
    Aleta says:

    Jerry, you believe that “reproduction with variation plus natural selection” is a localized phenomena that explains common ancestry within kinds or families or whatever you want to call them, but that it doesn’t explain common descent (and by common descent I mean that all organisms are biological related through parent-child relationships back to the beginning of life.)

    Could you clarify your position by answering this question: do you believe that common descent is true, but that intelligent agency is a necessary part of the explanation, or do you believe the common descent is not true? That is, do you deny the mainstream explanation for common descent but accept common descent itself, or do you also deny common descent.

    And I’d be interested in Stephen’s answer to this question, and anyone else who would like to chime in.

  39. 39
    vjtorley says:

    Aleta (#26, 36)

    Thank you for your post. You wrote (#26):

    Think about all the theories out there that you, and virtually everyone, accept without really knowing all the evidence or understanding all that has gone into making them the consensus: the atomic theory of the structure of matter, the theory that the liver takes out toxins in the body, the theory that all the elements beyond helium were forged in stars which later exploded those materials into space, the theory of the causes and history on plate tectonics, and so on. I accept the consensus view on those topics. Am I to be just as skeptical of them as you are about common descent, or is it more reasonable to accept what they say about common descent. What is a person who isn’t an expert, which is virtually all of us, supposed to do when told the results of mainstream science?

    That’s a very good question. Personally, I accept the view that all living things sprang from a common stock, although I do not believe (as neo-Darwinists do) that a combination of natural selection and random variation suffice to explain how that common stock developed into the diverse array of life-forms we see around us today. However, you are quite right to point out that most of our scientific beliefs about the world rest upon the say-so of experts. So why should we not be skeptical of all scientific theories? What’s so special about neo-Darwinian evolution?

    It might be tempting to say: lack of a known mechanism. But that is not quite right. We still haven’t detected gravitational waves, but that does not prevent us from accepting Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Until a few decades ago, we did not know how the continents moved, but that did not make it irrational to accept continental drift.

    The reason why it makes sense to accept the scientific theories of gravity and continental drift, even in the absence of a mechanism, is that we know that gravity works (apples do, after all, fall from trees) and we can actually measure the rate at which continents drift. Given a sufficient amount of time, it is easy to show, by simple extrapolation, how Africa and South America could have drifted to where they are today. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity has not yet been reconciled with quantum theory, but that does not tell us that it is false, but only that it is incomplete.

    Neo-Darwinian evolution is different from these theories for three reasons.

    The first problem with neo-Darwinian evolution is that it purports to be a complete, all-embracing theory: its success stands or falls on whether it can explain all of the variation we see among living organisms today. “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” – Theodosius Dobzhansky. Of course, he meant neo-Darwinian evolution. If NDE is merely a partial theory that explains some of the variation we observe in living things, then it is no longer a fundamental theory.

    The second problem with neo-Darwinian evolution is that it claims that extrapolation of the evolutionary changes scientists have observed to date, over vast periods of time, is sufficient to explain the diversity of living organisms that we see today. But we don’t see any numerical calculations to support this claim. For instance, why is four billion years sufficient time to get from a one-celled prokaryotic bacterium to a human being? Why don’t we need forty billion years? And why isn’t four hundred million years enough? Contrast this with continental drift, where geologists can calculate how much time it should have taken Africa and South America to drift apart, based on known rates of drift, and verify that this calculation is correct by dating the ocean floor sediments lying between the two continents.

    The third problem with neo-Darwinian evolution is that it resorts to emotional blackmail of the scientific community: anyone who questions the theory is not a scientist at all, but a religious nut. You don’t see scientists who defend General Relativity or continental drift talking like that. The shrillness and the ferocity with which some biologists defend NDE is astonishing. They really need to take a cold shower. If they were intellectually honest, they would put their theory forward as a tentative working hypothesis, admit that there is little evidence supporting the theory’s controversial “extrapolation claim,” and roll up their sleeves and get to work looking for evidence to back up that claim, even if takes centuries to uncover. That’s what a real scientist would do, if he/she were inclined to accept the truth of NDE.

    Later on, you wrote (#36):

    And the alternative explanation for the origin of different kinds of organisms is what? “Poof” by an unknown intelligent designer using an unknown mechanism that defies the laws of physics.

    We don’t know that the Designer contravenes the laws of physics, and we don’t know that the Designer goes “poof.” As Professor Michael Behe explained in his book, The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, paperback, 2008, pp. 231-232), it’s possible to envisage the Designer as an “uber-physicist” who carefully fine-tunes the initial conditions and constants of nature in such a way that life in all its diversity emerges as the universe unfolds naturally, without any need for interference. Such a universe would still be designed.

    But suppose you’re right, for argument’s sake; let us imagine that there is no scientific alternative to neo-Darwinian evolution that is currently available. Does that mean we are bound to accept it by default? No. I profoundly disagree with the slavish mindset that says, “Any hypothesis – even a bad hypothesis – is better than no hypothesis at all.” No. A bad hypothesis is still a bad hypothesis, and if we suspect a hypothesis is bad, we should reject it, regardless of whether there are alternatives available. Until we find a good one, we simply need to do more research and collect more data. Sometimes, patience is a virtue.

  40. 40
    gingoro says:

    “do you believe that common descent is true, but that intelligent agency is a necessary part of the explanation”

    As an EC, who has been branded at athiest on this site, I think that common descent is true with a high degree of probability. I also think that intelligent agency (God) also likely played a part beyond sustaining and originating creation. But I would not claim to know for certain that intelligent agency was directly necessary in producing life, as we know it. Unlike many of the writers of the main posts on this site who claim to know for certain. IMO as Christians we all need to admit that we see through a glass darkly and do not posses absolute knowledge which is the result of both our finitude and also that all portions of our being are affected by the fall into sin.

  41. 41
    Aleta says:

    Pardon my not knowing, but what is an EC?

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    “That is, do you deny the mainstream explanation for common descent but accept common descent itself, or do you also deny common descent.”

    I am on record and I believe the only honest answer to this is that it is a mystery. By the way that is the term that Behe once used to assess this. Certainly, an intelligence could have made it happen but I am not saying that is the answer for sure. It is certainly more probably than natural means.

    What the current evidence shows is that there is no natural mechanism known that has or could have created all the novel functional capabilities that have appeared at various times since the first appearance of life on the planet about 3.5 billion years ago.

    All the following I consider as honest answers or assessments:

    A. It is highly improbable that life could have appeared naturally.

    B. It is highly improbable that all the novel functional capabilities could have appeared naturally.

    C. Life probably appeared just once and it was highly probable the occurrence was due to an intelligent intervention. If it was a natural occurrence, then I would have expected it would have appeared more than once. By the way some evolutionary biologists believe it did happen more than once.

    D. It is likely that most of the life forms on the earth appeared as a result of natural processes but not all. Personally, I think “most” to be way above 99% but definitely less than 100%. This small percentage that did not appear by natural means could be the source of common ancestry which we see everywhere.

    E. The mechanism for the appearance of novel functional capabilities is unknown but is extremely unlikely to be a natural one for all or even most of these occurrences. An intelligence could certainly make this happen but just how is certainly unknown. There is a lot of speculation by people and some have said it was through quantum events or some other means of steering variation in gametes. Such events if they were the mechanism would never be visible or traceable. But natural processes would be traceable and the reason they are rejected is because there are no traces.

    F. If a natural process can be shown to create the novel functional capabilities then the likely assessment is that it may have happened this way. More than one of us here who support ID would assent to such a proposition if a likely process were ever discovered and proved likely.

    Again, as far as I am concerned the only honest answer is that it is a mystery. So I judge the honesty of others by how they assess the issues. If they are adamant then that immediately says something about their honesty in this debate. Too many are ideologically driven and unless they can give empirical evidence to back their views I consider them faith based and nothing more. And at present anyone who firmly believes in common descent is doing so based on faith alone and not evidence. That is not saying that common descent is false, just that it is far from a proven concept let alone a “slam dunk.”

  43. 43
    Morgentau says:

    faded glory, you ask me “What is your alternative for common descent? What is your proposed mechanism for that alternative? Has that mechanism been observed in nature?”

    I say that intelligence is observed in nature yes, as we humans are part of nature. We do not know that there was no intelligence before life just as we do not know there was variation and natural selection before life. Therefore intelligence is as reasonable as evolution for a mechanism. Maybe it is more so.

  44. 44
    Aleta says:

    Thank you for your answer. I appreciate the thoroughness and clarity which which you answered.

  45. 45
    StephenB says:

    —“Aleta: “And you’re still playing with words, Stephen. Of course you took the definition right out of the dictionary.”

    Yes, I defined my terms. If only you would do the same. The theme of the thread is this: When is it rational to dispute the claims of an “expert?” Naturally, it makes sense to define the word under those circumstances. Darwinists do not like definitions because it forces them to focus on the subject matter without moving goal posts in the middle of a discussion.

    —“You then unilaterally declared that since you didn’t believe the views of those the world considers experts, they weren’t really experts.”

    No, I said they were not experts because they cannot SUPPORT those views, which means that they obviously do not possess the knowledge and skill that experts need in order to be called experts. If you think differently, that is, if you think they can provide that support, all you have to do is produce evidence of that fact. This, by the way, is why ID advocates define their terms and Darwinists refuse to undergo that same discipline. According to the official meaning of the word, Darwinists are not experts since they assert as fact that their mechanism can do something that it cannot do. Not only do they not have the necessary knowledge and skill required by the term “expert,” they dogmatically remain in their ignorance, misinterpreting their adversaries’ arguments and building an institutional wall around themselves for the sole purpose of preserving their ignorance. Experts don’t do that.

    Since you have not defined the term expert for yourself, I will do it for you.

    Aleta: An expert is someone who believes in and follows the majority opinion. [If you want to improve on your definition, feel free.] Meanwhile, I will use my own formulation of your definition until you discipline yourself to do it on your own.

    —“Of course there are doubters, but your 1000 signees of the DI’s statement is less than 1% of the comparable group of knowledgeable people – the fact that only such a small minority are doubters is itself strong evidence that the experts are right.”

    Once again, you ignored that answer to that. I explained that science progresses on the shoulders of the creative minority, not from the majority of uncreative worker bees. I also provided a brief history of the failed attempts of the majority to hold on to an obsolete position, and how the minority of insightful scientists rescued them from that obsolescence. I explained further that an argument from authority is not a persuasive argument.

    Do you always ignore refutations to your arguments and continue on a sleek as ever? Or, do you ever address them?

  46. 46
    Aleta says:

    No, you said they were not experts because you don’t think they can support those views, which is entirely different. I have no reason at all to consider you knowledgeable on these issues, much less an expert, so your belief that their views are not supported is relatively inconsequential.

  47. 47
    gingoro says:

    41 Aleta

    Pardon my not knowing, but what is an EC?

    EC == Evolutionary Creationist or the old term is Theistic Evolutionist.

    Someone wrote:”An expert is someone who believes in and follows the majority opinion.”

    No what you are describing is someone who adopts the consensus position. IMO an expert is someone who is highly knowledgeable in a particular area and who seriously engages critics of their work or does something like shipping a working product that incorporates and demonstrates their knowledge. An expert may or may not adopt the consensus position but he does understand it in depth.
    Dave W

  48. 48
    Aleta says:

    Thanks – that makes sense. I known theistic evolutionists who argue, and rightfully so in my opinion, that the term “theistic evolutionist” put the emphasis in the wrong place, and who prefer evolutionary creationist. Thanks for explaining.

    And it definitely wasn’t me that wrote “an expert is someone who believes in and follows the majority opinion.” I agree for the most part with how you described an expert. I particularly like your point that even if an expert does not agree with the consensus he understands it in depth.

  49. 49
    Clive Hayden says:

    vjtorley,

    I profoundly disagree with the slavish mindset that says, “Any hypothesis – even a bad hypothesis – is better than no hypothesis at all.” No. A bad hypothesis is still a bad hypothesis, and if we suspect a hypothesis is bad, we should reject it, regardless of whether there are alternatives available.

    Amen to that.

  50. 50
    Morgentau says:

    But we do have an hypothesis — design. So we do not need to choose between a bad hypothesis and no hypothesis. Also design is a mechanism. Just because we do not know how design works does not mean we do not have a mechanism.

    It is like the automobile. A man says “How did that automobile come to be that way?” and we say “it was designed,” and that is true. If a man “was it made by robots or humans” we may not know the answer. But knowing robots or humans is like knowing the mechanism of the mechanism, not the mechanism.

  51. 51
    gingoro says:

    49 Clive Hayden vjtorley

    It depends. If the bad hypothesis explains and predicts some of the data then it is better than having no hypothesis, although a hypothesis can explain too much and be close to useless. Sure God may have done it but the real question for me is how did he do it.

    For example we know that general relativity is “wrong” as it is in conflict with quantum mechanics but for now we have nothing better. In debugging programs we often make a hypothesis and in trying to prove or disprove that hypothesis we often stumble across the correct cause of the bug. With no hypothesis we have no where to start looking. Believe me when the size of the program in 100,000 lines of more having no hypothesis is not a good situation to be in.
    Dave W

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “No, you said they were not experts because you don’t think they can support those views, which is entirely different.”

    No, I said they are not truly experts because they cannot support their claims, which they cannot. That is not simply my opinion. That is a fact. If you disagree, provide even one example [or cite someone else who can provide an example] of a Darwinist showing that their mechanism can do what it claims it can do.

    Also, I presented three arguments refuting your notion than the Darwinst argument [and your argument] from authority doesn’t work. You have yet to respond to any of them. Thus, I must conclude that you have no response. Having completely and conveniently ignored them, you may have lost track, so if you need a summary, just let me know.

  53. 53
    Aleta says:

    Stephen writes, “No, I said they are not truly experts because they cannot support their claims, which they cannot. That is not simply my opinion. That is a fact.”

    No, it is your opinion.

    Also, Stephen writes, “Also, I presented three arguments refuting your notion than the Darwinst argument [and your argument] from authority doesn’t work. You have yet to respond to any of them. Thus, I must conclude that you have no response. Having completely and conveniently ignored them, you may have lost track, so if you need a summary, just let me know.”

    No I have not forgotten them Also, just because I haven’t responded to them doesn’t mean you can conclude that I have no response. My time is limited, as is everyone’s, and in these threads people make many more points than any one can have time for, so each of us chooses which issues are worth pursuing.

    So I am choosing to focus on one topic first: that you, just a person on the internet, as I am, claim to declare that the world’s experts in biology (defined by any reasonable sense of the word) are not really experts because you happen to disagree about a major consensus conclusion they have reached.

    I don’t have a problem with you disagreeing with the consensus view of the experts, but I do think it is fairly silly – that really is the word that applies, I think, to be playing these semantics games.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: And I’d be interested in Stephen’s answer to this question, and anyone else who would like to chime in [common descent].

    I think ancestral common descent is likely true and that universal common descent is likely not true, but well within the realm of possibility. On the other hand, I hold that it is not within the realm of anything reasonably possible that naturalistic forces could explain universal common descent. Thus, any theory that claims otherwise is not only a bad theory but an unreasonable theory.

  55. 55
    Aleta says:

    Thanks for the clear answer to that question. As with Jerry, I appreciate knowing what is and isn’t at issue in this regard.

  56. 56
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “No, it is your opinion.”

    [Evolutionary biologists cannot support their claims that naturalistic processes can explain all of life.]

    I have been around long enough to issue the challenge many times on this site and I have witnessed countless others making that same challenge. Also, I have read enough of the relevant literature to know that no one has ever succesfully taken it up, though one or two “non-experts” have conceived imaginary schemes which they quickly discarded when subjected to a modicum of scrutiny. So, I don’t think it is too bold of me to declare as fact that they cannot meet the challenge.

    Is it your opinion that they can support their claims or are you simply disagreeing with me for the sake of disagreement?

  57. 57
    Aleta says:

    Stephen, I would never bother to disagree with you simply for the sake of disagreement. First: that would be a waste of my time, and second, there are way too many things that I do disagree with you about for me to create extraneous disagreements.

    The subject of this thread is experts. As I said above at #24, virtually all of us accept the general conclusions of the experts in many fields. However, if you wanted to deny that the heavier elements were not made in stars that later exploded, or that the liver processed toxins in the body, or that Antarctica was once adjacent to Australia, I would not be able to present all the evidence that would convince you even though I am sure of those things. I trust that the scientific process, which has involved countless people digging deeply into the original data and debating the meaning and cause of that data, has given us the best explanations we have at this time, and therefore I trust the experts who describe those explanations.

    Now you give some reasons why we perhaps shouldn’t trust the experts.
    “All true progress in science comes from the original thinkers, better known as the minority, and not from the uncreative, dutiful little worker bees, better known as the majority.”

    Skipping right over your gratuitous insult of thousands of people who have helped provide us with the wonders of science, I’m reminded of the old saying, “they laughed at Einstein, but they laughed at Bozo the Clown, too.”

    Sure, much scientific progress starts out with someone taking a minority position, and doing the work that helps eventually convince enough people that we have a new minority consensus. But for every such minority position that eventually has an impact, there are many more minority positions which stay minority positions until they just fade away because they are wrong.

    So, in syllogistic form, the fact that all scientific progress starts with a minority position does not imply that all minority positions lead to scientific progress.

    So if the minority position of ID manages to have an impact and become a part of mainstream science, I will embrace it, but there is no reason at all to embrace ID just because it is a minority position.

    So I’ll stick with believing that mainstream science is as right as we can be right now – I’m willing to trust the mainstream experts on the nature of evolution. (And to avoid the silly argument about the meaning of expert, I’ll be specific: the faculty in the various departments of the world’s 100 most prestigious universities in fields related to biology, included paleontology, genetics, ecology, geology, etc.)

  58. 58
    Aleta says:

    Correction, paragraph 5 in 57 above:

    “Sure, much scientific progress starts out with someone taking a minority position, and doing the work that helps eventually convince enough people that we have a new majority consensus.

  59. 59
    jerry says:

    “the faculty in the various departments of the world’s 100 most prestigious universities in fields related to biology, included paleontology, genetics, ecology, geology, etc”

    But not one of these people can provide a coherent defense of naturalistic evolution. If Dawkins and Coyne cannot do it, why does anyone think these people could. If one had a coherent argument it would be adopted by everyone. But there is only radio silence.

  60. 60
    Aleta says:

    My answer to you is the same as my answer to Stephen: you don’t think it’s coherent, but what weight does your opinion have in comparison to the experts? Why should anyone take your opinion seriously but not take the consensus opinion of all those experts seriously?

    That is the question at issue here, not your personal lack of belief.

  61. 61
    vividbleau says:

    “My answer to you is the same as my answer to Stephen: you don’t think it’s coherent, but what weight does your opinion have in comparison to the experts?”

    Well you obviously do not share in their opinions but it does not serve you well to engage in fallacious arguments. Rather than make an appeal to authority ( a fallacy)share with us why we should change our opinions or better yet give the evidence that refutes Stephen’s claim that

    “Evolutionary biologists cannot support their claims that naturalistic processes can explain all of life.] ”

    On what basis do you cling to your opinion that Stephens claim is false, and please do so with out making an appeal to authority.

    Vivid

  62. 62
    Aleta says:

    Hi Vivid.
    In this case, and many others, appealing to authorities (i.e., experts) is not a fallacy – it’s the reasonable thing to do, and we all do it all the time. I consulted the experts when I needed to get my house re-roofed last summer, I consulted the surgeon this week when my mother was in the hospital for a bowel obstruction, I consult my local mechanic when my car is making funny noises, and so on. No one would deride me for “appealing to authorities” if I told you that my decisions about what to believe in those situations was best was based on the generalized conclusions of those experts. In all these situations there are people have considerable factual knowledge and informed understandings, and I

    So, yes, I am “appealing to authorities”, because I think that in all these situations where there are people with considerable factual knowledge and informed understandings, they are in the best position to explain things to me, and that seems very much like the reasonable thing to do. The alternative – knowing enough about everything that I can make all my decisions without listening to any experts – is impossible. We should be grateful that we have experts, and unless we also are expert enough in a field, we should at least start our understanding with what the experts say.

    (By the way, I found it pretty ironic back in 33 when StephenB, in two successive sentences, called appealing to authorities an elitist tactic and then appealed to the authority of the1000 people on the DI’s dissent from Darwinism list.)

  63. 63
    vividbleau says:

    RE 62

    “In this case, and many others, appealing to authorities (i.e., experts) is not a fallacy – it’s the reasonable thing to do, and we all do it all the time”

    Unfortunately “this case” is an appeal to authority unless you can supply the evidence that indeed evolutionary biologists CAN support their claims that naturalistic processes can explain all of life. Ya see unless you can, to appeal to the experts as the evidence is a fallacy.

    Vivid

  64. 64
    StephenB says:

    A day in the life of a UD blogger:

    [A] StephenB states that evolutionary biologists are not authorities on the subject of evolution because they cannot cannot justify their position that naturalistic forces explain all of life.

    [B] Aleta claims that StephenB is wrong.

    [C] StephenB asks Aleta to show where he is wrong by providing just one example of an evolutionary biologist who can justify his claim.

    [D] Aleta refuses to show where StephenB is wrong but explains that StephenB must be wrong because evolutionary biologists are authorities on the subject of evolution.

    This is what I must deal with regularly folks!

  65. 65
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “So, in syllogistic form, the fact that all scientific progress starts with a minority position does not imply that all minority positions lead to scientific progress.”

    No one said that it did. What is it with all of these strawmen? What I said was that since the minority position is responsible for all progress, especially at the very time the majority disapproves of progress, the majority position cannot always be trusted. So, when I provide reasons why this is, indeed, one of those times that the majority cannot be trusted, it is an exceedingly silly response to ignore those reasons on the grounds that the majority can be trusted.

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “(By the way, I found it pretty ironic back in 33 when StephenB, in two successive sentences, called appealing to authorities an elitist tactic and then appealed to the authority of the1000 people on the DI’s dissent from Darwinism list.)”

    Another point spectacularly missed. The allusion to 1000 dissenters was not an argument from authority but rather a response to your statement that I was asking anyone to believe me on the strength of my word alone. If only Darwinists could follow the trajectory of their own questions.

    Better yet, if only they would answer questions put to them from other side, such as, “Can you provide one example of a Darwinist who can defend the proposition that naturalistic forces can generate all of life?”

  67. 67
    faded_Glory says:

    morgentau,

    In my view neither intelligence nor design are mechanisms.

    If you would ask ‘by what mechanism did Michelangelo decorate the ceiling of the Sixtine chapel’ and the guide replies ‘by using his intelligence’ or ‘by design’, would you consider your question adequately answered? I for sure would not. It may be true, but it doesn’t answer the question.

    So I will repeat my question: What is your alternative for common descent? What is your proposed mechanism for that alternative? Has that mechanism been observed in nature?

    fG

  68. 68
    Aleta says:

    StephenB writes, “So, when I provide reasons why this is, indeed, one of those times that the majority cannot be trusted,…”

    Well no, you haven’t provided any reasons. You’ve just declared that “Evolutionary biologists do not “have” nor can they “display” any knowledge concerning their main claim about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.” Assertions like that aren’t “reasons.”

    The focus of my comments has not been discussing the statement “the experts are wrong,” which is an opinion you are welcome to have, but rather the silly statement that “they are not experts because I think they’re wrong.”

  69. 69
    Toronto says:

    StephenB,
    In this thread, you are not providing me a good reason to change to your side.

    You are trying to get me to defend my brand, (evolution), instead of selling me yours, (ID).

    If I walked on to a Ford dealer’s lot and he insisted I defend my decision for buying Chevies, he’s going to lose a sale.

    You are trying to close the sale by arguing like a defense attorney instead of a salesman.
    Get me to switch sides by telling me what’s good about your product.

    Why should I accept ID?

  70. 70
    jerry says:

    “My answer to you is the same as my answer to Stephen: you don’t think it’s coherent, but what weight does your opinion have in comparison to the experts? Why should anyone take your opinion seriously but not take the consensus opinion of all those experts seriously?”

    The absurdity of this statement is that neither you or anyone else can point to the arguments that experts make other than assertions. If the ID people took such an approach as this, they would be laughed out of any forum. I point to books that the so called experts have written and which are considered comprehensive and say they do not contain a coherent argument. All you or anyone else would have to do is prove me wrong. So the ID people ask, why cannot this not be done. Your only answer is the experts say it is so but you cannot show why they say this.

    You have been providing the best defense of ID that we could hope for. You should also realize that we have little interest about you in the sense that we want you to understand our position. We know you understand our position. No one who comes here as anti ID has ever changed their opinion during a debate. Only honest people do and to be anti ID, one has to be dishonest. The people of interest are those out there that honestly want to understand the issue. They do not comment at first with an anti ID point of view but ask questions or they may never comment but just read to get information. You have been a foil to present our arguments and who when pushed comes to shove makes such inane and weak arguments that you end up as a poster child for ID. For that we thank you.

    You will end up if you stay here occasionally making irrelevant comments about peripheral things just to show your anti ID credentials but never contributing anything of substance. Because you cannot. No anti ID person can because they do not engage in an honest way. For an example of another stupid anti ID set of comments just follow whatever Faded Glory says. He thinks he is scoring points by pointing out that intelligence is not a mechanism. But his comments are nearly always as irrelevant as yours have been.

  71. 71
    Aleta says:

    Wow – “No one who comes here as anti ID has ever changed their opinion during a debate. Only honest people do and to be anti ID, one has to be dishonest.”

    From the OP: “(12) The expert’s claim is asserted hotly and with great vehemence, accompanied by moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim.”

    ‘Nuf said.

  72. 72
    Toronto says:

    jerry @70,

    Only honest people do and to be anti ID, one has to be dishonest.

    I am under-educated, (grade 10), at times stubborn, and many times wrong.

    What I am not, is dishonest.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “Well no, you haven’t provided any reasons. You’ve just declared that “Evolutionary biologists do not “have” nor can they “display” any knowledge concerning their main claim about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.” Assertions like that aren’t “reasons.”

    May the gift of rationality someday find its way into your mind. The REASON, which I stated at least five times, and which you ignored eact time, is that evolutionary biologists cannot support their claim that naturalistic forces can explain all of life.

  74. 74
    jerry says:

    “(12) The expert’s claim is asserted hotly and with great vehemence, accompanied by moral indignation and/or contempt towards those who question or reject the claim.”

    Again you are making our point. It is the expert who you are pointing to and we are contesting the experts with logic and data. And it is the pro ID people who are the target of moral indignation and contempt by these experts. Now if you would just admit that, then you would be an honest person but your reply just reinforces the dishonesty of your remarks.

    ‘Nuf said.

  75. 75
    Aleta says:

    That’s not a REASON, Stephen. It’s just a bald-faced assertion on your part.

    Also, by the way, you’ve moved the goalposts. You original statement was “Evolutionary biologists do not “have” nor can they “display” any knowledge concerning their main claim about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.” [My emphasis]

    This is quite different from your statement that they “claim that naturalistic forces can explain all of life.”

    I can just as easily claim that ID advocates have no knowledge whatsoever about the actual act of design that they claim happens. Would you accept my statement as a reason that ID is wrong?

  76. 76
    faded_Glory says:

    Jerry said:

    “For an example of another stupid anti ID set of comments just follow whatever Faded Glory says. He thinks he is scoring points by pointing out that intelligence is not a mechanism. But his comments are nearly always as irrelevant as yours have been.”

    Nice one, Jerry. Instead of cheap flaming, how about you have a go at my questions to morgentau:

    What is your alternative for common descent? What is your proposed mechanism for that alternative? Has that mechanism been observed in nature?

    fG

  77. 77
    jerry says:

    “What is your alternative for common descent?”

    Intelligent intervention.

    “Has that mechanism been observed in nature?”

    About a couple hundred billion times every day.

  78. 78
    jerry says:

    “I can just as easily claim that ID advocates have no knowledge whatsoever about the actual act of design that they claim happens. Would you accept my statement as a reason that ID is wrong?”

    Now, I will show you what an honest reply would look like.

    ID supporters claim that it is likely, not absolute, that there was an intelligent intervention somehow. An honest assessment.

    They have good data for such reasoning. An honest assessment.

    It is quite true that ID advocates have no knowledge whatsoever about the actual act of design. An honest assessment.

    People can speculate on various things but there is no definitive act that can be pointed to. An honest assessment.

    That does not make the ID point of view, that it is likely that some outcomes were due to intelligent intervention, wrong. That statement does not follow. An honest assessment.

    For example, people always thought the figures on Easter Island were man-made even though they didn’t know the mechanism for their appearance and arrangement. That did not stop the assessment as being wrong because they did not know the exact mechanism. An honest assessment.

    Try being honest sometime and you will be able to have a conversation. You are in a corner and do not like it but there are ways out and they involve honest discussion.

  79. 79
    Morgentau says:

    faded glory, you ask,
    “If you would ask ‘by what mechanism did Michelangelo decorate the ceiling of the Sixtine chapel’ and the guide replies ‘by using his intelligence’ or ‘by design’, would you consider your question adequately answered? I for sure would not. It may be true, but it doesn’t answer the question. ”

    That is a good Question. Suppose I am a Professor of Esthetics. For me in that case, “by design” can be a good answer.

    BUT suppose I am the famous Painter David Hockney. I have a theory that the Old Masters painted using a camera obscura. I expound on this theory in my book Secret Knowledge. The theory may be true or it may not be true. But some opponents say this “mechanism” of camera obscura imperils the Genius of these painters. I say no, they are still geniuses and the paintings are still great creations of Mind despite the material mechanism of the camera obscura. Is not the material mechanism pale next to the genius that makes it work?

  80. 80
    faded_Glory says:

    Jerry, ‘Intelligent intervention’ is not a mechanism. Michelangelo’s decoration of the ceiling of the Sixtine Chapel was intelligent intervention, but merely saying that throws zero light on how he actually did it.

    Let’s turn it round. If you ask an evolutionary biologist about the mechanism for common descent and he says ‘unguided flow of nature’, does that help you at all? Of course not. That answer is beside the point, just a metaphysical position, not a biological mechanism. That is why you won’t get that answer of course, but rather something along the lines of ‘imperfect reproduction modulated by natural selection’. Now *that* is a mechanism that actually explains the process.

    Can’t you really see the difference?

    fG

  81. 81
    faded_Glory says:

    morgentau,

    If you look at it in that light I don’t really disagree, but if we get back to the question of common descent, your professor of Esthetics would be a theologian or a philosopher, not a biologist. For a biologist that answer is beside the point and therefore unsatisfactory (even if it were true).

    fG

  82. 82
    jerry says:

    “Can’t you really see the difference?”

    I can easily see the difference and the answer is that there are billions of different types of intelligent interventions that are possible. Because we do not know the exact one does not undermine the proposition.

    You might want to look at my list of honest type answers and apply it to yourself.

    Here is a simple, honest answer. The answer that you give (imperfect reproduction modulated by natural selection) does not work. There is no evidence it ever did anything of consequence in the evolution debate so why make our case and point to it. It has been shown to be inadequate because they cannot point to any instances where it worked. Because they cannot point to any place where it has taken place, we question it. You use an example that supports ID to undermine ID. That is why it is a stupid argument (unless you are secretly and ID supporter and want to pose as an anti ID one.)

    Can intelligence do it? No one in the biology community believes that within a hundred years they will not have the capability to do so. They may be wrong but the anti ID side of the argument think intelligent intervention will work somehow. Do they have the exact mechanism. No, but they think one will appear or several will appear. Again an honest assessment.

    Try honest comments sometime instead of bringing up irrelevant comments.

    By the way, Michaelangelo used paint and brushes and scaffolding and it is described in several books. Or do you want the actual hand motions and touch he used to mix and apply the paint? Or do you want the mental neuron movements he generated to cause his hands and body to move?

  83. 83
    StephenB says:

    —Aleta: “That’s not a REASON, Stephen. It’s just a bald-faced assertion on your part.”

    @64 sums it up. Please never leave this site. We need examples like you.

  84. 84
    Morgentau says:

    StephenB, I do not want to sympathize with Aleta, but his claim in comment #75 seems partly meritorious. He says your claim has shifted from

    “Evolutionary biologists do not “have” nor can they “display” any knowledge concerning their main claim about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.”

    to

    [Evolutionary biologists] “claim that naturalistic forces can explain all of life.”

    Probably I have missed something. It is a long conversation and I have not been central to it.

  85. 85
    vjtorley says:

    fadedGlory (#67)

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    In my view neither intelligence nor design are mechanisms.

    In a sense, you are right. “Intelligence” is not the name of a kind of process, like photosynthesis. “Know” is not a modal verb.

    However, I question your implicit assumption that a scientific explanation of a phenomenon requires a mechanism.

    If I am looking at an interesting pattern, and I ask the question, “What kind of being produced that pattern?” then this question is surely a scientific one. And if the answer is, “An intelligent being,” then I respectfully submit that this is a genuinely informative answer, even if we know nothing about the being in question. For it means that in principle, I can understand why the pattern was produced, which is a much more interesting question than how it was produced. The “how” question might be harder to unravel: if the being is a lot smarter or more advanced than I am, then I might not be capable even in principle of understanding its modus operandi.

    You also write:

    What is your alternative for common descent? What is your proposed mechanism for that alternative?

    I believe in common descent; I just don’t believe that unintelligent processes can explain life in all its diversity today.

    ID is neutral on the subject of mechanism. Some ID theorists hold that very finely tuned initial conditions of the universe plus finely tuned constants of nature are all that is required; others posit one or more interventions. What unites us is a conviction that we have a reliable method for detecting patterns in nature that were unambiguously designed. (Of course, it can also be demonstrated that many other things in nature were designed too – e.g. its laws – but that’s a separate argument, relating to fine-tuning, and at a deeper level, the intentionality of the laws of nature.)

    Finally, even if there were no alternative to unguided evolution, that wouldn’t make it a good or even a viable hypothesis. The findings described in “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Dilemma” constitute very powerful scientific evidence that neo-Darwinian evolution is not a viable hypothesis. That’s why it should be rejected.

  86. 86
    StephenB says:

    —Morgentau: “Probably I have missed something. It is a long conversation and I have not been central to it.”

    Did you miss my summary @64 that preceded your questions. If you have any questions about that summary, let me know.

    Meanwhile, my two statements Aleta alludes to are answers to different questions, the former having to do with the definition of the word “expert,” which contains the words “have” and “display” and the latter having to do with the reasons why arguments from authority are not sufficient. The arguments are related, but they are not identical. Aleta treats them as if they were identical, conflates them, puts them on the same plane, and then seeks to do a comparison contrast. This is typical. As I have stated numerous times, Darwinists do not do well with context. To get the full flavor, you need to read the entire post, which, as you suggest, you have not done.

  87. 87
    Morgentau says:

    StephenB, I have now read the entire sequence of posts, as you suggested. I also looked closely at 64, and I am tryihg to be as they say Forensic.

    In 64 you write
    “[A] StephenB states that evolutionary biologists are not authorities on the subject of evolution because they cannot cannot justify their position that naturalistic forces explain all of life.”

    This refers to a previous moment, so I looked for it. In 56 you say this in response to Aleta in 53, which quotes you in 52. So you in 56 are summarizing you in 52 as saying
    “[Evolutionary biologists cannot support their claims that naturalistic processes can explain all of life.]”

    In 52 you said
    “I said they are not truly experts because they cannot support their claims, which they cannot. That is not simply my opinion. That is a fact. If you disagree, provide even one example [or cite someone else who can provide an example] of a Darwinist showing that their mechanism can do what it claims it can do.”

    It seems this was summarized as Darwinists saying Naturalistic forces were “explaining all of life.” I don not know why you summarize this way but it may be inaccurate to do so.

    Your 52 refers back to Aleta at 46, where he writes

    “No, you said they were not experts because you don’t think they can support those views, which is entirely different. I have no reason at all to consider you knowledgeable on these issues, much less an expert, so your belief that their views are not supported is relatively inconsequential.”

    This refers back to you in 45, where you say that “Darwinists are not experts since they assert as fact that their mechanism can do something that it cannot do.” (I think this is the relevant part.) Your comment quoes Aleta in 36, where he disagrees with you about the meaning of “expert.”

    The Statement about “explaining all of life” always seems to have referred to some previous Statement in the conversation. But I cannot find that Statement comes first, and I go back to the conversation about experts.

    I may have gone wrong. It is hard to follow the flow of a conversation in Time. If so could you please to tell me where?

  88. 88
    StephenB says:

    Morgentau, I will make it as easy and simple as I know how to make it:

    Evolutionary biologists are not true experts (my thesis)because they cannot defend their major proposition, namely they cannot explain (fact) how naturalistic forces can produce all of biodiversity. Hence, I have based my thesis on a fact.

    Aleta claims that the fact on which I base my thesis is not really a fact at all, that is is simply “my opinion.” I say that in all the literature available, no such explanation can be found, and if it had been found, the world would know about it. Therefore, it is a fact that they cannot defend their position. So, you either agree with me or you agree with him.

  89. 89
    Toronto says:

    StephenB @88,

    Evolutionary biologists are not true experts (my thesis)because they cannot defend their major proposition, namely they cannot explain (fact) how naturalistic forces can produce all of biodiversity.

    Then medical doctors aren’t experts either since they can’t explain all diseases.

    Using your definition of an expert, I claim that none yet exist since there is no scientific discipline where everything is known.

    You also put words in the mouths of the evolutionary biologists when you state that it is their claim that they can explain all biodiversity.

    That is a claim you made on their behalf.

  90. 90
    Seversky says:

    An expert is someone, usually a practitioner, who is reckoned to be fully apprised of the state of knowledge and thought in a given field. Merriam-Webster defines the word as:

    : one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject

    Note that the definition does not require them to be omniscient, only that within the limits of human fallibility, they know what is currently known.

    If we are sensible, we give greater weight to expert opinion as compared with that of the non-expert but we do not assume that it is infallible. This greater credibility is also only assigned to an expert commenting on his or her own field of expertise. For example, when vjtorley writes about Augustine I treat his opinions with considerable respect because my understanding is that this is his field of expertise. However, when he writes as above:

    Finally, even if there were no alternative to unguided evolution, that wouldn’t make it a good or even a viable hypothesis. The findings described in “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Dilemma” constitute very powerful scientific evidence that neo-Darwinian evolution is not a viable hypothesis. That’s why it should be rejected.

    I will heed it as the opinion of someone who highly-educated and well-read but not an expert in that particular field.

    Evolutionary biologists can be as much experts in biology as other scientists can be in their respective disciplines. The false claim that they are unable to offer an explanation of how life has evolved would not undermine that even if it were true.

    And if it were allowed that a lack of adequate mechanistic explanations would be sufficient to bar someone from being an expert, we would have to disqualify all theologians since none can offer a mechanism by which God created life, the Universe and everything.

  91. 91
    Morgentau says:

    StephenB, I agree with you that naturalistic forces cannot explain all of life. My only concern was that the claim about that had metamorphosed perhaps accidentally from an earlier and narrower claim about “naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.” You are I know anxious to keep your terms sharp.

  92. 92
    StephenB says:

    —“The false claim that they are unable to offer an explanation of how life has evolved would not undermine that even if it were true.”

    The claim is not that they don’t have an explanation but rather that they cannot support that claim with any credible evidence–and clearly, they cannot.

    —“And if it were allowed that a lack of adequate mechanistic explanations would be sufficient to bar someone from being an expert, we would have to disqualify all theologians since none can offer a mechanism by which God created life, the Universe and everything.”

    We are talking about science, which is supposed to provide theory based explanations based on data. Thus, the comparison to theologians is irrelevant because theologians are not in the business of offering mechanisms.

  93. 93
    pelagius says:

    It’s also worth pointing out that while there is overwhelming consensus among biologists concerning the truth of evolution, there is no such consensus among theologians, even on issues as fundamental as God’s attributes.

    When the “experts” can’t even agree on fundamental questions, their expertise doesn’t carry very much weight.

  94. 94
    Morgentau says:

    StephenB, I believe they have evidence but not evidence that would count for you and me. Their “evidence” comes from their Godless Worldview and so seems credible to them.

    It is these assumptions that drive the Atheist scientist. If one believes God is not, how easily all things show His absence!

  95. 95
    Aleta says:

    Oh my, how did “Godlessness” enter this discussion? Many of the experts that Stephen says aren’t experts are believers in God.

    The original claim (and I appreciate you getting us back to the original claim, Morgentau) was “about naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.” A belief that natural forces “generated macro evolution” is no more anti-God than a belief that natural forces generate any other aspect of the world. Theistic evolutionists, or evolutionary creationists (CE’s, as gingoro prefers to be called) believe in common descent through the mechanisms described by the experts in mainstream science and also believe that the flow of natural events manifests the will of God.

    This is not a God vs. no God issue, I don’t think.

  96. 96
    StephenB says:

    —Morgentau: “StephenB, I agree with you that naturalistic forces cannot explain all of life. My only concern was that the claim about that had metamorphosed perhaps accidentally from an earlier and narrower claim about “naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.”

    That is not exactly the issue on the table. The point is that evolutionary biologists cannot provide evidence to support that claim.

    —“My only concern was that the claim about that had metamorphosed perhaps accidentally from an earlier and narrower claim about “naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.”

    I did use more than one term throughout because evolutionary biologists think that their mechanism can explain all of them, but the term “all of life” was used consistently and without any variation at 56, 61, and 64, and 66, well before anyone claimed to be disturbed by a “shift.” So I am not buying the idea that there was any real confusion about terms.

  97. 97
    jerry says:

    “My only concern was that the claim about that had metamorphosed perhaps accidentally from an earlier and narrower claim about “naturalistic forces generating macro evolution.”

    Macro evolution is the essence of the debate. If no one can explain how macro evolution happened, then they cannot explain how all of life happened. So essentially to say macro evolution or all of life means the same thing. We can explain how a lot of life happened, just not all. The part they cannot explain is origin of life and origin of novel complex capabilities or what is commonly referred to as macro evolution here. No goal posts have been moved and the debate has not shifted.

    Many evolutionary biologist would be considered experts if they were honest but they are not. So in my book and my guess in anyone else’s estimation no one is an expert that lies about what they know. Anyone want to call someone an expert who lies about what is known in their field. I wouldn’t bet there would be too many who would do so.

  98. 98
    Toronto says:

    StephenB @95,

    ..well before anyone claimed to be disturbed by a “shift.”

    For those of us in the moderation queue, it is very frustrating that our comments may not appear for hours or never at all.

    You may never see a post from us where we point something like this out.

    I think it’s unfair to use an apparent silence as evidence that there wasn’t a response.

    This goes for all of us who are moderated, not just myself.

  99. 99
    StephenB says:

    —Morgentau: “StephenB, I believe they have evidence but not evidence that would count for you and me. Their “evidence” comes from their Godless Worldview and so seems credible to them.”

    No, their “interpretation” of the facts comes from their world view. That they have no real evidence to support their world view is a different matter.

    — “It is these assumptions that drive the Atheist scientist. If one believes God is not, how easily all things show His absence!”

    Learn from the wisdom of Aleta, who wrote,

    “This is not a God vs. no God issue, I don’t think.”

  100. 100
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky you stated:

    “we would have to disqualify all theologians since none can offer a mechanism by which God created life, the Universe and everything.”

    I would have to say advances in our understanding of quantum mechanics, which has shown consciousness and transcendent information to be foundational and dominate of 3-D material reality, have rendered your objection obsolete. Indeed it is 3-D material reality which has been completely undermined as a valid scientific hypothesis to postulate “emergence” from, which makes all grandiose claims of atheistic evolutionary scientists absurd from first premises of science.

  101. 101
    O'Leary says:

    A number of good warning signs re experts have been offered here, and much thanks.

    Here’s another one, from a little old hack: If advice doesn’t accord with your own experience, be careful.

    For one thing, if you have lived a number of decades in your own environment, you might know more than you think.

    You can’t put it into words, maybe, but that’s not the same as not knowing.

    Here is an example: Maybe you know that a given street is not safe to walk down at night, even though a local expert proclaims your neighbourhood a low-crime zone.

    Why doubt? Because you know that a local outlaw biker was recently parolled and has a squat on that street, where his “friends” visit him. But the expert doesn’t know, because he looks only at statistics, not immediate future events.

    An “immediate future event” is what will happen to you if you get rolled by the outlaw biker and his “friends”.

    But hey, you will get loads of sympathy from the emergency room nurses.

  102. 102
    Seversky says:

    Where was the expert wrong?

    According to you, he designated the area a low-crime zone not a no-crime zone. Even if you were unlucky enough to get rolled by the outlaw biker and his buddies the area might still be statistically a low-crime zone. The expert would still be right to that extent.

    Of course, if the biker gang were foolish enough to pull off a whole string of robberies in the immediate vicinity then the expert might have to re-classify the area. Then the police, if they are smart, will consult the expert about the crime stats and he will be able to advise them about where they need to deploy extra resources.

    Experts are not gods but they can be useful.

  103. 103
    O'Leary says:

    Seversky at 99, thanks for thoughts!

    The main thing for the local resident is to actually, really know what is going on, and avoid being a victim, and ignore statistics that do not represent reality – as many statistics do not, in a local area.

    Of course, the sympathy of ER nurses may be useful, if he is looking for a wife.

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