Intelligent Design

Baker’s dozen: 13 questions I’d ask an aspiring atheist politician

Spread the love

Jeffrey Tayler has written an article in Salon, titled, Make them shut up about God: The right-wing’s religious delusions are killing us—and them, in which he lists some questions he’d ask politicians of faith:

Sample questions to be put to pietistic contenders for the White House: What makes you believe in God? Do you hear voices? See visions? Do you believe God answers your prayers? If so, please provide objective evidence. Why is, say, the Bible or the Torah better than the Quran? Does not the eternal hellfire the supposedly merciful Jesus promised sinners epitomize Constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment? If you consider the Bible a reliable guide for your personal life, may I ask if would you slaughter your child on God’s command (as Abraham was prepared to do)? Would you stone your daughter to death for not being a virgin on her wedding night? If not, why not? What scriptural authority can you cite for following your “Holy Book” in some cases, but not in others?

And what about Balaam’s jabbering donkey? Please explain how 21st century humans are to take such a tale seriously.

Before I say how I’d answer those questions, here are thirteen questions I’d ask an aspiring atheist politician:

1. Do you believe that a universe of matter and energy, containing bodies behaving according to well-defined mathematical laws, can pop into existence without a cause? If so, please supply objective evidence.

2. If you reject God as an explanation for the fine-tuning problem, then do you believe in the existence of an infinite multiverse, containing all manner of universes, including one with a carbon copy of you and me in it? If so, please supply objective evidence for the multiverse. By the way, do you think a carbon copy of you would necessarily hold the same opinions as you? Why or why not?

3. Do you believe that unguided natural processes (natural selection, random variation, or unknown laws) can give rise to highly organized structures which not only replicate, but which also embody a built-in digital code, as well as programs regulating their metabolic activities? If so, please supply objective evidence.

4. The symbols you use in everyday life (e.g. hand gestures, logos and writing) have the meaning they do because of social conventions: people have assigned them that meaning. Your thoughts, by contrast, are meaningful in their own right: you know what they mean without anyone having to tell you. So my question is: do you believe that material processes, such as neuronal firings in the brain, are capable of possessing a meaning, in their own right? If so, please explain how. If not, then how do you explain your ability to entertain thoughts (e.g. “I do not believe in God”) which are meaningful in their own right?

5. Do you believe that science is the only way of knowing, and that propositions which cannot be verified scientifically are meaningless? If so, why? If not, what other ways of knowing do you recognize?

6. Do you believe that ethical propositions can be verified scientifically? In other words, can you derive an “ought” from an “is”? If not, then do you regard moral norms as a collection of widely shared inter-subjective preferences, without any objective basis?

7. Do you believe that all of our decisions are ultimately determined by circumstances beyond our control (such as our genes and our social environment), however willingly we might make those decisions? And if so, do you believe that we should be held morally responsible for our actions? (I’m not talking about legal responsibility here: I presume that you believe in that, or you wouldn’t be running for office.)

8. How would you answer the following moral dilemma, posed by philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson? “A trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?”

9. Do you believe that newborn babies are persons, with just as much of a right to live as you or I?

10(a) If you were in charge of a rescue squad, and you had to choose between sending a team of rescue workers to rescue a baby trapped in a burning building, and sending that same team to rescue 1,000 animals from a zoo that was in danger of being burnt to the ground, would you rescue the baby or the animals?

10(b) Do you believe that infanticide should be illegal at all times and places?

(H/t Sean Samis, who alerted me to the duplication in the numbering. – VJT)

11. If you answered “Yes” to question 10, then would you be prepared to revise your answer in the light of contrary scientific evidence? For example, suppose that at a future date, scientists came to a consensus that a newborn baby was no more sentient than (say) a rat, would you still be in favor of outlawing infanticide? What if a worldwide convention of ecologists arrived at a consensus that Earth’s maximum sustainable population was 2 billion people, or about four times less than the current level? Would you then be in favor of legalizing infanticide, as a stopgap measure?

12. Do you believe that pro-life politicians, whose stated aim is to overturn Roe vs. Wade should be allowed to run for office, and do you believe that individuals who are pro-life have the right to express their views in public? (If so, where and when?) Do you believe that the people who took the Planned Parenthood videos had the right to post them on the Internet?

13. Imagine it’s the year 2045. Artificial Intelligence has made giant strides, and the Supreme Court rules that there is no good reason to prevent a human being from marrying a robot, and that any laws outlawing human-robot marriages will be henceforth invalid. One clerk refuses to comply. Should she be fired from her job?

And now, here’s how I’d answer Tayler’s questions.

1. What makes you believe in God?

Right off the top of my head, here are three compelling reasons.

First, there’s the cosmological argument. The universe appears to be completely contingent in every respect: there is nothing about it which has to be the way it is. The best way to explain the universe is to say that it’s the product of a free choice, made by a Being Whose existence is necessary. (For a powerful and persuasive defense of this argument, I’d recommend Professor Robert Koons’ 1997 essay, “A New Look at the Cosmological Argument” (American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (2):193 – 211) (see here for a handy summary and here for some background on the argument) and also Job Opening: Creator of the Universe — A Reply to Keith Parsons (2009) by Professor Paul Herrick.)

Then there’s the argument from the existence of order in the universe: only a personal God can guarantee that the laws of Nature will continue to hold in the future. For either the laws of Nature are generalizations which describe events occurring in our cosmos (in which case there’s no particular reason for them to hold in the future – the old problem of induction) or they’re norms which prescribe how things ought to behave – which implies the existence of a Cosmic Prescriber who makes the rules that hold in our cosmos. Since science presupposes that we can rely on these laws holding (either always or on the vast majority of occasions) in everyday life, it follows that scientific knowledge presupposes the existence of God.

Finally, there’s the argument from cosmic fine-tuning. As cosmologist Luke Barnes has cogently argued, the fine-tuning of the cosmos is real, whatever Victor Stenger might have told you. What’s more, there are five good scientific arguments against the multiverse, and eminent physicist Paul Davies has recently pointed out that the multiverse would imply that our universe is probably a fake universe with fake physics – i.e. a simulation set up by aliens. As we’ve seen, there are also independent philosophical arguments for the existence of a personal Creator. It seems reasonable to conclude, as Dr. Robin Collins does in his essay, The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe, that the cosmos was designed by an intelligent being in order to support life. (Dr. Collins also argues that a multiverse, if it exists, would also need to be designed.)

That’s just three reasons. There are many more: C.S. Lewis’s argument from reason (which actually comes from Arthur Balfour), the astronomically low odds of abiogenesis, and Godel’s version of the ontological argument are also arguments that merit consideration, in my view.

2. Do you hear voices? See visions?

No, I don’t, but I don’t like to make fun of people who do. Here’s a true story for you. My own grandmother heard a voice from out of the blue, once, and it saved her life. She was in the habit of walking straight ahead, without looking to her left or right, and one day, she was about to step off the kerb and cross the street. Suddenly she heard a voice yell out “STOP!” and she did. That action saved her life: had she not stopped, she would have been run over by a large vehicle. She looked around to see who had called out to her, but could see no-one. Now, you might try and explain that away by supposing that she was subliminally aware of the oncoming car and that triggered a warning from her subconscious, or by suggesting that the warning came from an anonymous stranger who quickly scurried away because he didn’t want to be thanked, but your explanations sound mighty contrived to me, and there’s not a scrap of evidence to support them. If that had happened to me, my first impulse, after marveling at my good fortune, would be to thank the Almighty, and I’d consider it impious to do otherwise.

3. Do you believe God answers your prayers? If so, please provide objective evidence.

Yes, I believe God ansewers prayers, but if you want objective evidence for God answering prayer, you might like to try here for past miracles, and here for present-day ones.

4. Why is, say, the Bible or the Torah better than the Quran?

The Bible contains records of many publicly attested miracles; the Quran doesn’t even claim to provide such miracles. Jews frequently employ the kuzari argument, which basically says that since you can’t fool all the people all the time, and since the Jews have an oral and written tradition of miracles being witnessed by the entire Israelite people in the Sinai desert, the only rational explanation of this tradition is that these miracles actually occurred. Christians typically argue that the Resurrection was witnessed by a large number of people, on several occasions, rendering alternative hypotheses (e.g. hallucination) astronomically unlikely, and making belief in the Resurrection reasonable.

5. Does not the eternal hellfire the supposedly merciful Jesus promised sinners epitomize Constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment?

Hell would be cruel if it were a punishment arbitrarily imposed by God, but in reality it is a self-inflicted punishment. Let me quote C.S. Lewis on Hell, in his book, The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

In The Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote, “The doors of Hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of Hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”

6. If you consider the Bible a reliable guide for your personal life, may I ask if would you slaughter your child on God’s command (as Abraham was prepared to do)?

The question about Abraham is silly, as we don’t know what went through his mind as he bound his son, Isaac, to the altar. Perhaps he was hoping that God would deliver him at the last second – which is precisely what happened. In any case, the point is that God did not allow Abraham to slay his son, and elsewhere in the Old Testament God clearly expresses His utter detestation of child sacrifice, in vivid language, so the question is moot.

7. Would you stone your daughter to death for not being a virgin on her wedding night? If not, why not?

Of course not. See John 7:53-8:11 (the parable of the woman caught in adultery): “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” I might add that as far back as the 1st century A.D., Judaism had tightened the conditions for handing down a death sentence so such a degree that capital punishment was virtually non-existent: because the standards of proof were so high, it was well-nigh impossible to inflict the death penalty.

8. What scriptural authority can you cite for following your “Holy Book” in some cases, but not in others?

That’s a dumb question. Obviously, if I didn’t believe in following Scripture in all cases, then I wouldn’t cite Scripture as an authority for doing so. I’d cite what I believed to be a higher authority.

I might add, however, that not all Scriptural passages carry equal weight. Christians would say that the New Testament supersedes the Old, although rules such as the Ten Commandments are still binding. The Golden Rule, in particular, has always been accorded a special status.

Look, I know there are lots of troubling passages in Scripture. Rather than answer your silly “gotcha” questions on these passages, I’ll just mention three ways in which Christians might respond to them.

The first is to believe in the mysteries of Christianity (e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Atonement), but to reject the doctrine that every single word of the Bible is inspired. That’s the option that Christian apologist C. S. Lewis took.

The second option is to interpret the passages allegorically, just as Mahatma Gandhi interpreted the bloody opening chapters of the Bhagavad Gita as an allegory of the soul’s struggle against evil desires.

The third is to say that the rules imposed by God upon the Israelites made sense back then, given the extraordinary conditions that they lived under, but that these rules no longer make sense today. The rules apply to a one-off, unrepeatable situation.

Any of these options is fully compatible with what C.S. Lewis referred to as “mere Christianity.”

9. And what about Balaam’s jabbering donkey? Please explain how 21st century humans are to take such a tale seriously.

Gee, Jeffrey, didn’t you watch Mr. Ed as a kid? Appearing to make sounds come out of a donkey’s mouth should be a cinch for a supernatural Being. The only question is whether such a Being would want to do such a thing. I see no inherent reason why not. The miracle would strike us as comically absurd today, but it may not have seemed so ridiculous to people living back then.

END

Well, I’m sure that readers have questions of their own, which they’d like to ask aspiring atheist politicians and/or politicians with religious faith. Over to you.

43 Replies to “Baker’s dozen: 13 questions I’d ask an aspiring atheist politician

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, Well said. The most dangerous aspect of the rampant accusatory skepticism of our day is its arrogant presumption of cornering the market on reason and knowledge, thence competence, projecting that people who take God seriously are delusional. Given the sort of things that have emerged in recent weeks right here at UD, of skeptics being unwilling to acknowledge even self-evident first truths of reason or reckon soberly with eyewitness testimony and record that is fair on face and of reasonable chain of custody/repository, that is even more of a warning sign. I think we need to wake up and think again about what we have let loose and/or are tolerating. KF

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: On the voices in the head insinuation, I think a few words need to be said.

    1: When I read text, I typically hear an inner voice saying the text accurately, which my Readak instructor said was a defect but it has never gone away.

    2: Quite often, when I think, I hear a similar voice and can see images in an inner 3-D chalkboard so to speak.

    3: There is that nagging little voice of conscience, often as a sense of prompting.

    4: Likewise I often hear what I understand to be the voice of God by way of scripture serving as a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,that I may not sin against my Lord.

    5: Then, there is the voice of reason that points to the root of moral reality as being the root of general reality too. As in, the roots of matters moral and ontological, which lead me to the conclusion that the best on balance explanation is the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of the reasonable service of doing the right in accord with my nature.

    6: And in matters of prayer, absent a miracle of guidance to the doctor who saved my life, I simply would not be here now. I take that to be pretty objective evidence.

    And, I think such are not uncommon.

    As to the subtext of contempt to the Christian faith, I suggest here on as a start point at 101 level: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....l#u1_grnds

  3. 3
    EvilSnack says:

    “Would you slaughter your children if God commanded it?”

    “Are you pro-choice?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then you, believing that there is no God to give such a command, are already willing to slaughter your own children. Pot, meet kettle.”

  4. 4
    EvilSnack says:

    “Why is, say, the Torah or the Bible better than the Quran?”

    “The Torah and the Bible are the word of God. The Quran is not.”

  5. 5
    EvilSnack says:

    “What scriptural authority can you cite for following your ‘Holy Book’ in some cases, but not in others?”

    “The Holy Book itself tells me which passages are binding on me and which ones are not.”

  6. 6
    EvilSnack says:

    “Would you stone your daughter to death for not being a virgin on her wedding night? If not, why not?”

    “No. That commandment was given to the Israelites, living under the law of Moses. I am a Gentile. The law of Moses never applied to Gentiles, and we were never commanded to obey it.”

  7. 7
    EvilSnack says:

    “And what about Balaam’s jabbering donkey? Please explain how 21st century humans are to take such a tale seriously.”

    “With God, all things are possible.”

  8. 8
    EvilSnack says:

    “Do you believe God answers your prayers? If so, please provide objective evidence.”

    “What do you mean by ‘answer’?”

  9. 9
    EvilSnack says:

    “What makes you believe in God?”

    “The complete philosophical, moral, and intellectual bankruptcy of atheism, that’s what.”

  10. 10
    EvilSnack says:

    “Does not the eternal hellfire the supposedly merciful Jesus promised sinners epitomize Constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment?”

    “If that bothers you, you will be pleased to know that even as president, I will not have the authority to send people to Hell.”

  11. 11
    EvilSnack says:

    “Do you hear voices? See visions?”

    “I hear voices all the time. I kinda wish I could stop hearing yours.”

  12. 12
    Axel says:

    ‘The miracle would strike us as comically absurd today, but it may not have seemed so ridiculous to people living back then.’

    Or maybe, VJT, it was intended to seem absurd, to emphasize Balaam’s folly.

  13. 13
    vjtorley says:

    Hi EvilSnack,

    Your responses were fantastic. Some of them had me laughing out loud:

    “If that bothers you, you will be pleased to know that even as president, I will not have the authority to send people to Hell.”

    “I hear voices all the time. I kinda wish I could stop hearing yours.”

    Priceless. I loved this exchange, too:

    “Would you slaughter your children if God commanded it?”

    “Are you pro-choice?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then you, believing that there is no God to give such a command, are already willing to slaughter your own children. Pot, meet kettle.”

    That really hits the nail on the head.

  14. 14
    vjtorley says:

    Hi kairosfocus,

    Thank you very much for your kind comments. I hadn’t thought about the various voices one hears like that before. Much food for thought there.

    Don’t believe what your Readak instructor told you. There’s a good reason why you hear that “inner voice” when you read:

    http://www.scotthyoung.com/blo.....ding-redo/

    Subvocalization is necessary to read well.

    I’m afraid I can’t really see images in an inner 3-D chalkboard, as you can. 2-D would be more like it. I’m sure 3-D must come on handy when you’re doing physics.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, I had my doubts then and since these forty or so years but never had a good answer; felt I just had to live with a “bad” reading habit that did not stop me from reading at 500 – 600 wpm, and that did double rate, so the programme did me good — apart from the study skills and especially SQ3R. BTW, the superfast read speeds I always took to be a skim technique, which I sometimes use to catch key words and points then zoom in for slow working through, often with note taking. And I have come to respect concept/mind maps and close kin tree diagrams for semi-graphical analysis and visualisation. Which, I strongly believe in. Thanks. G

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, visualising 3-D is important and extending in time too. I suspect it can partly be learned through drawing and working with 3-d graphics, also closing eyes and walking into the “holodeck” helps, I bet you dream and day-dream in 3d . . . does our skeptic wish to imply if you dream, you are mad? And dreams are of course a sort of vision with a walk-in component. Push in a grid for axes and there you go. N dimensional stuff in my experience, go to vector-matrix stuff and play out what is happening. KF

    PS: I was once told I am rather right brained, i.e. visual and non-linear.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, I should add that vectors capturing buses of variables feeding matrix-blocks, in a complex block diagram array as is used in control systems analysis and in computer architecture and digital signal processing, is inherently n-dimensional in variables and functional, transformational relationships. And, visual in an architectural way. KF

  18. 18
    sean samis says:

    Although I am not an atheist (I’m a doubter) here are my answers to your “13 questions” (there are actually 14):

    1. No I don’t and neither does science.

    2. I reject God as a SCIENTIFIC explanation for the “fine-tuning problem”; even theists should do that.

    No one knows what preceded the creation of our universe, Multiverse theorIES (there are more than one) are the most plausible scientific explanations. Multiverse Theories do not assert that an identical universe to our own must exist. It is not excluded because that is still far too speculative to worry about.

    3. You ask for “objective evidence” objective evidence is evidence you can examine and evaluate for yourself. Notice this does not mean evidence that objectively establishes the thing in question.

    I believe that claiming our genome is characterized by “digital code” is off base.

    We know that unguided natural processes can in very short time create ordered structures in vast quantities (from snow-flakes to amino acids)

    We know that we have not found a barrier to the natural creation of structures as complex as life.

    We know we have no “objective” alternative.

    4. I reject your premise. Our thoughts have the meaning they have because they represent how our minds respond to the information it receives; there is no objective evidence that thoughts are meaningful “in their own right”. If you think there is, please supply objective evidence. I see no value in positing some supernatural agent as necessary to thought.

    5. Science is a method of evaluating evidence to learn about the world; it is not an artificial construct but merely a formalized version of what ordinary people do ordinarily. Knowing gained by other means may be valid, but it is not as reliable and cannot be relied on by others. Anything which cannot be verified scientifically or otherwise is not meaningless, just unreliable or suspicious.

    6. I can derive an “ought” from an “is”; I have done so on this site. Some moral norms have an objective basis (founded in reason and facts).

    7. No. Some impulsive acts are not in our control or just barely are, others are based on information and reason, or ought to be. We are all morally responsible for our voluntary, knowing, freely made decision.

    8. The trolley problem. Hypothetical problems merit hypothetical answers. Hypothetically, I’d make the decision at the time I needed to. But since it’s a hypothetical and improbable situation, the truth is I don’t know what I’d do. Anyone who says they do is trying to make a point at the expense of honesty. You can say what you think you should do, but not what you will do.

    In truth, the Trolley problem was not meant to be answered, but to start a discussion about moral issues.

    9. Of course.

    10. Another extraordinary hypothetical. Are these 1000 animals the last living pairings of certain critically endangered species? Why would I need to send an entire crew to do either task?

    Your desire is for me to proclaim that even one human life is worth more than all the animals in the world, or something to that effect. But are not other creatures products of the same creation that made us (whether by a God or by nature)?

    10. Do you believe that infanticide should be illegal at all times and places?

    This is the 11th question, you miscounted. It happens to us all.

    I cannot think of a reason that infanticide should ever be legal.

    12 (your 11). Every rational person must be prepared to change their mind if new evidence is presented. The examples of “new information” you propose are not sufficient to change my answer in either of your # 10.

    13 (your 12). Yes and Yes. No one has a right to “express their views” in a time or place that intimidates or interferes with the rights of others. Otherwise they are free to express their views.

    The people who took the videos have a LEGAL right to post them on the internet; but they have a MORAL obligation to post them unaltered and with full disclosure about how they were obtained, including admission to any misrepresentations.

    14 (your 13). Your HYPOTHETICAL does not specify any other legal changes, so I must assume the law will otherwise be then as it is now. Under the US Constitution, the Judiciary Branch (headed up by the Supreme Court) has the authority to hear and decide all controversies of law.

    Article 3; Section 2: The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–…;–between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

    If after hearing a proper case the Court comes to the conclusion you HYPOTHESIZE, then the law IS what the Judiciary says it is, until the Amendment process is completed to change the Constitution. This is because of this:

    “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.”

    Marbury v. Madison, 1803

    What is missing from your HYPOTHETICAL is a legal basis for claiming robots have any legal rights. Since you have provided no details, I must assume the Court had good reason to say they do, though I don’t have a clue what that might be; I’m not sure that sentience is enough.

    Clerks are public officials; Public officials are oath-bound to OBEY THE LAW. If a Clerk is unable to do so, the Clerk must resign or violate the moral law against oath-breaking.

    Not all Clerks can be fired, but a Clerk who can be fired could be fired for good cause in this situation.

    sean s.

    p.s.: John 7:53-8:11 is not a parable about a woman caught in adultery, it is presented as an actual event. The provenance of this passage is disputed; it is not found in the very oldest Greek texts.

    ss.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    Do you know what the meaning of the word is, is?

  20. 20
    bFast says:

    EvilSnack, I noticed your name recently in the comment log. Glad I had chance to read your comments. (With a handle like yours, I thought you were on the other side.)

    I’m with VJ on the “pro-choice” comment. That was a dilly!

  21. 21
    bFast says:

    sean samis, “I believe that claiming our genome is characterized by “digital code” is off base.”

    Please explain. I am a software engineer of some note. I know what digital code looks like. It looks like DNA. I could use DNA to write my own programs with, or I could encode the information held in DNA into my own computer. There is a clear syntax to the DNA -> protein and DNA -> RNA processes. There are a bunch of other activities that go on in DNA for which I don’t know the syntax, but I know that the syntax is there. Convincing me that DNA = “digital code” is off base will be a tall order.

    sean samis, “Multiverse Theories do not assert that an identical universe to our own must exist.” Oh yes they do! The theory that multiverse theories explain fine tuning is the theory that there are an infinite supply of ’em. If there are an infinite supply of ’em and one in a gazillion is the same as ours, well, infinity / a gazillion is still infinity. There are, therefore, an infinite number of universes that are identical to ours, and an infinite number that are just a wee bit different.

  22. 22
    bFast says:

    1. What makes you believe in God?

    Right off the top of my head, here are three compelling reasons.

    Wow, you miss my first reason — my personal experience. My experience is unlikely to convince another as it was tailored for me, I do find it to be the most compelling case by far!

  23. 23
    anthropic says:

    “Jeffrey Tayler has written an article in Salon, titled, Make them shut up about God: The right-wing’s religious delusions are killing us—and them”

    Looks like the shooter in Oregon found a way to make Christians shut up.

  24. 24
    Andre says:

    And Sean Samis contradicts himself in post 18 point 2 and 3 telling us about the multiverse and then talking about verifying something. Can you verify that there is such a thing as a multiverse? If you can’t then why accept it?

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    SS, 18:

    I believe that claiming our genome is characterized by “digital code” is off base.

    We know that unguided natural processes can in very short time create ordered structures in vast quantities (from snow-flakes to amino acids)

    We know that we have not found a barrier to the natural creation of structures as complex as life.

    We know we have no “objective” alternative.

    DNA is highly contingent and in respect of protein synthesis (the best understood, widely acknowledged code in it) it is functionally specific and complex. There is a start convention, an elongation add type-X amino Acid in the Ribosome, and algorithmic halting, the stop codes. Algorithms are step by step specific sequences of actions that carry out a process. And there are some twenty odd known dialects.

    The fact that you are forced to deny what was recognised from the outset by Crick in 1953, that sequence acted in the way letters do in text, is inadvertently revealing. Crick, March 1953 in a recently auctioned letter to his son:

    Now we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another) . . . .

    It is notorious that the Genetic Code was elucidated across the following years, with Nobel Prize winning work.

    Next, you insist on substituting order for functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information, FSCO/I for short. For example, snowflakes classically show six-fold symmetry, with variability due to micro-atmospheric conditions showing high contingency. The result is that one aspect shows the order the other the high contingency. And BTW, in principle, speaking about the star-shaped ones, we could in principle control and use the variability of the arms to for example encode keys.

    FSCO/I is different, where in one aspect of a system, the wiring diagram organisation is directly connected to function, as with DNA. Here is J S Wicken in 1979, a bit after the first full wave of molecular biology stood revealed:

    ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]

    The specific contrast between crystalline order and functional, specific, wiring diagram organisation should be noted.

    Six years before that, Orgel went on record:

    . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . . .

    [HT, Mung, fr. p. 190 & 196:] These vague idea can be made more precise by introducing the idea of information. Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure. [–> this is of course equivalent to the string of yes/no questions required to specify the relevant “wiring diagram” for the set of functional states, T, in the much larger space of possible clumped or scattered configurations, W, as Dembski would go on to define in NFL in 2002.] One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the q’s to be answered are Y/N, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions. [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . . . Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content, for they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes. [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189, p. 190, p. 196. Of course, that immediately highlights OOL, where the required self-replicating entity is part of what has to be explained (cf. Paley here), a notorious conundrum for advocates of evolutionary materialism; one, that has led to mutual ruin documented by Shapiro and Orgel between metabolism first and genes first schools of thought, cf here. Behe would go on to point out that irreducibly complex structures are not credibly formed by incremental evolutionary processes and Menuge et al would bring up serious issues for the suggested exaptation alternative, cf. his challenges C1 – 5 in the just linked. Finally, Dembski highlights that CSI comes in deeply isolated islands T in much larger configuration spaces W, for biological systems functional islands. That puts up serious questions for origin of dozens of body plans reasonably requiring some 10 – 100+ mn bases of fresh genetic information to account for cell types, tissues, organs and multiple coherently integrated systems. Wicken’s remarks a few years later as already were cited now take on fuller force in light of the further points from Orgel at pp. 190 and 196 . . . ]

    Of course, both of these hoped that “selection” and “evolutionary processes” would account for the FSCO/I in life forms, and many firmly believe in the magic of “natural selection.”

    However, we are not dealing with the onward incremental changes of existing C-chemistry, aqueous medium, metabolising, code-using life forms, but their origin in Darwin’s warm little pond or other more current scenarios.

    The massive functional organisation to achieve self-replication based on code is what is to be explained, and — per adequacy of observed cause, i.e. vera causa — it needs to be explained in the first instance on observationally verified chemistry and physics, not biology. If reference is made to formation of amino acids, the sorting into homochiral chains to form functional proteins and similarly for R/DNA chains has to be addressed cogently, and to the preservation of sufficient concentrations of the right clusters in the right places and the chaining to achieve relevant FSCO/I, with encapsulation etc in hand. Recall, until you have a von Neumann Kinematic Self-Replication facility tied to wider metabolic networks (themselves astonishingly complex and integrated functionally) and encapsulation with smart gating, you do not have a reasonable account of OOL.

    Hypothetical RNA worlds that are themselves problematic are not an adequate answer.

    Then, on selection works magic, once you have reproduction, there is the problem of the deep isolation of viable clusters of configs to work as proteins and especially enzymes — hundreds, minimum, as Hoyle pointed out — in AA sequence space, where that is in turn a subset of the wider space of possible amino acids and similar compounds, types of bonding and wider organic chemistry that cannot be dismissed in that pond or whatever. Not to mention what he thermodynamics points to on uphill processes in uncontrolled environments. That, notoriously, is what is the obvious context for just how tightly controlled the cell’s internal environment is, and why it is encapsulated with smart gating.

    In short, you have bluffed and the bluff is called.

    On the other hand, the OOL issue is riddled with a characterisable phenomenon as just described and shown in its modern idea roots, which led to the descriptive summary FSCO/I. (Cf here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ty-design/ )

    On trillions of cases in point, there is just one credible, observationally justified source for FSCO/I. One, backed up by the implications of the needle in haystack search in seas of non-function to get to islands of function . . . which notoriously are turning out to be rugged not smooth . . . illustrated in the just linked.

    This justifies us in inferring that design (= intelligently directed configuration), the observed source of FSCO/I and the needle in haystack search plausible source, is the best current (and frankly, prospective, given trajectory of the evidence) explanation of the FSCO/I that is an integral feature of observed cell based life.

    In this context, it would be amusing, if it were not so sad, to notice how a side that boasts of its skepticism, clings to any straws in the wind that cold possibly help keep its preferred origins narrative afloat.

    Remember, you are here on the side of those who are sharply challenging even self evident first principles of reason.

    Now, too, the FSCO/I challenge obtains with redoubled force for origin of body plans, as these now require not the maybe 100 – 1,000 b kbases of a first cell, but credibly 10 – 100+ mn. Just for the DNA.

    That, plausibly, is why the UD pro darwinism essay challenge remains effectively unanswered. After several years.

    So, there is an objective alternative, to the demanded blind chance and mechnical necessity working on matter and energy in space and time, across the range from hydrogen to humans. Namely, we may not only revert to chance and necessity as possible causes, but to the ART-ificial, working by design, which has been on the table ever since Aristotle pointed it out in the Laws Bk X, 2350 years past.

    In an inductive, scientific context, where one deals with what one cannot directly inspect or observe at close hands but must use traces or emanations etc, the relevant concept is the vera causa principle as championed by Newton and acknowledged by Lyell and Darwin et al. Namely, that when we causally explain such traces, we should refer to causal factors shown to be adequate to give rise to the like effect.

    This counsel of prudence is a control on speculation taking scientific explanation ideological captive. Which is an obvious problem here in our day of insitutional dominance by a priori evolutionary materialism and/or its fellow travellers, which is even being question-beggingly inserted into redefinitions of science and its methods backed up by threats by major institutions.

    One last issue, the question as to what objectivity is, should be taken up.

    AmHD offers a useful definition of what this term normally means in contexts like this one (and that it refers to medicine in a context where a root setting is Dr Ben Carson and attempts to discredit him makes it even more relevant):

    ob·jec·tive (?b-j?k?t?v)
    adj.
    1.
    a. Existing independent of or external to the mind; actual or real: objective reality.
    b. Based on observable phenomena; empirical: objective facts.

    2. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic. See Synonyms at fair1.

    3. Medicine Relating to or being an indicator of disease, such as a physical sign, laboratory test, or x-ray that can be observed or verified by someone other than the person being evaluated.

    FSCO/I is an objective, observable, in principle quantifiable information-bearing entity, as Orgel pointed out since 1973. The information content of DNA has been known to at least order of magnitude since that epoch, starting with simply the fact that a four-state string structure entity with four states per base gives 4^n chemically relevant possibilities for n bases. Just as ASCII-coded text runs to 128^n, as can be confirmed for text in this thread of comments etc.

    That already shows us the magnitude of the space to be searched.

    Going on to the pattern of redundancies etc imposed by practical coding, we will have less than two bits per element on average and statistical studies can capture that, though implicitly imposing that we are there looking at successful cases, not the wider search space.

    Next, the codes in view are for proteins, that at 20 states per AA typically (yes there are a few oddities) have a similar capacity of 4.32 bits/character. We are of course suppressing the many other possible AAs, leaving off chirality and leaving off wider chemistry and thermodynamics that are adverse to the formation of such uphill entities under uncontrolled circumstances.

    A typical protein or enzyme runs to 300 AAs or so.

    Hundreds to thousands are plausible for a first cell, many more for the elaboration of tissue types and the like to form a multicellular creature with a body plan, hence the 10 – 100+ mn bases, where AAs are encoded at 3 bases per character in a well known code with variants.

    All of these are well known observed facts highly relevant to an information-functionality analysis in the context of needle in haystack search with finite resources of matter and time in the observed cosmos. The only actually observed cosmos.

    Nope, I did not forget the multiverse notion.

    If you wish to inject it while wearing a lab coat, understand that you are here bringing in an inherently metaphysical entity. Never mind the lab coats. At that point, the rules of the game shift to philosophy, and to comparative difficulties across competing worldview options that sit at the table as of right not grudging sufferance.

    And in that context, a relevant start point is that nothing, non-being has no causal capacity. So, if utter nothing ever was, such would forever obtain, contrary to the world around us.

    If you doubt this, kindly show an observed case: ______________

    Likewise, the multiverse: ________________

    This, by the logic of possible vs impossible being, points to the root of the world being in an unconditioned, necessary being. If something now is, something always was, and of adequate causal capacity to bring the world that we observe into being. Including our experienced world of mind, conscience, morality, purpose, design and more.

    Ir is seriously arguable that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on matter, energy, space and time as observed, are not credibly adequate to account for the actual world. On many grounds, some of which have been outlined above in contexts that are accessible to medical practitioners such as Dr Carson, but which will be such that there is no way they will be reducible to a few talking points or sound bites or power point slides for public rhetoric.

    (I actually suggest, on the contrary, using the power point slide show as what is not fashionable: an updated chalkboard.)

    Indeed, it is seriously arguable that a priori evolutionary materialism reduces to self referential incoherence in accounting for mind and morals, cf here in context.

    Remember, we are here directly dealing with the context of shut-up rhetoric, denigration of Christians as ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, and their openly proposed exclusion from responsible public posts and discussions.

    That, SS, is what you are enabling.

    We are not overlooking that.

    Going on, it is reasonable to look at the FSCO/I rich cosmos and world of life around us and ask, how did this and how did we come to be as minded, en-conscienced, morally governed, rational creatures hungering for understanding.

    Design is a serious option starting with the world of life. That is not a cosmological inference, a high tech molecular nanotech lab could in principle account for what we see, projecting Venter et al several generations down the road and projecting computer science and technology as well as nanotech and manipulation systems a similar range. Likely within this century we credibly will be there ourselves.

    (BTW, a major ethics challenge, the potential for destructive abuse is enormous. Which is a material factor in choice of major political leaders. And, medical practitioners with strong ethical principles are a very good pool for the sort of leadership we are going to need in coming decades with that on the table.)

    Now, a necessary being is such that if X is a serious candidate, it will be either be impossible or possible. If the former, it will be incoherent in core characteristics, similar to a square circle. That can be shown by identifying such a contradiction as that requisites to be squarish and circular cannot be realised in the same entity in the same circumstances and time etc.

    On the other hand if such an entity is possible, it would be in some possible world, but also by virtue of necessity of being being tied to the roots of any possible world, to any actual world. That is, if a serious necessary being candidate is possible, it will be actual in any world, as it is inextricably tied to the possibility of a world existing.

    For very simple case in point, try to imagine a world in which two-ness does not exist, or can cease from existing, or began to exist at some point along the line.

    Not possible.

    As a further expansion, consider the set that collects nothing then follow:

    {} –> 0

    {0} –> 1

    {0, 1} –> 2

    etc.

    This is also tied to the point that once distinct identity (say A) exists, we have a world partition:

    W = {A | ~A}

    From such immediately first principles of right reason that are self evident follow, LOI (A is itself), LNC (A is not at the same time and circumstances also ~A), excluded middle (Any x in W will be in A or else in ~ A, not both or neither}. And just to communicate using text or speech or hand signals etc, we must revert to this. So it is foundational to any serious analysis or argument, and to argue against it or to try to dismiss it is futility self-referentially undermining.

    Not that that has prevented many from doing just that.

    All of this is reasonable, and based on objective considerations, it is not inherently ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

    But it is patent that such leads to the issue that one serious candidate for the relevant necessary being is the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    Ethical Theism is a serious worldview option.

    Where the challenge is that as God is a serious candidate necessary being, he will either be impossible or actual. And there is no credible reason to hold that a being as described is impossible.

    So, arguably, the reasonable man will incline to ethical theism at this level. As a first basic point. God is maker and sustainer of all things in our world, and we inhabit therefore a Creation; as morally governed accountable creatures. Hence the voice of conscience as the candle of the Lord within, reflecting the core law of morality written in our hearts.

    Yes, this is a worldview option, but once you put the multiverse on the table this is what is open. You moved beyond the world of nature, physis, to metaphysics.

    In that context, the prophetic-apostolic tradition rooted in the Hebraic Scriptures and the C1 Christian ones of the founding era of the Christian faith is a viable candidate for a real-world tradition that embeds this sort of responsible outlook.

    Thus the significance of the following 101 level link on the historical grounding of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in its Christian form: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....l#u1_grnds

    In short the view that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and crucified, risen Lord and Saviour is a responsible view with a reasonable evidential basis.

    In that context, the Sermon on the Mount lays out the core Christian ethical tradition, with Rom 13:1 – 10 giving guidelines on civil society leadership and citizenship pivoting on duties to justice and neighbour-love that does no harm but instead good. Deliberately, there is a tension that highlights that mercy and concern must temper justice even while justice must prevail to restrain the chaotic impacts of evil. And responsible tax policy and support for government are explicitly set in that context. (Cf here.)

    Let me clip Rom 13:4:

    Rom 13:4 for he [the civil authority] is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. [ESV]

    So, while something like this is hardly amenable to a world of sound bites, gotcha rhetoric journalism and multimedia slide talking points, it is a serious and responsible view.

    And, responsible people should be willing to acknowledge that, instead of resorting to patently angry, hostility and contempt laced shut-up rhetoric as we see in the headline for the Tayler article at Salon that is the context for VJT’s response:

    Make them shut up about God: The right-wing’s religious delusions are killing us—and them

    This headline, per fair comment, is unreasonable, accusatory without reasonable justification, and reflects unwarranted hostility and demonising contempt: delusions, killing us and the like.

    That such can now be brazenly put on the table in the general context of trying to disqualify Christians from responsible office is a sobering sign.

    It is time, more than time, to soberly reconsider where such “shut-up” agendas would lead our civilisation.

    KF

    PS: Initial details emerging on the mass murder at Umpqua suggest a nut with IRA fantasies and fantasies of mass murder. Why he reportedly targetted Christians for head shots is an open question, if confirmed. I note that while guns are convenient, we also have waves of suicide bombing etc, and we have even had mass knife attacks and the Rwanda murders with essentially agricultural implements such as machetes. In a 3-d printer, drugs smuggling era, the hope that banning guns will stop mass murder is ill-advised. I suggest a far more fruitful line of approach is to address the rising issue of violent insanity and revisit the reason why many of the insane were institutionalised. Terrorism and organised crime will need to be dealt with as being campaigns against the civil peace of justice — in effect war by means of piracy for ideology or profit.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Hitherto I had only heard of Umpqua in a fly fishing context. As in Feather Merchants. This must be a sad day for that community. KF

  27. 27
    drc466 says:

    Regarding Taylor’s #4: Prophecy. Despite being a common contrivance in fantasy novels, there is no other book in history that can match the Bible for prophecy. The Dead Sea scrolls hit many atheist “scholars” very hard…

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    DRC:

    Yup, 1 Cor 15, c 55 AD as Paul reports to objectors in Corinth trying to inject typical Greek ideas that are hostile to the body etc, and in so doing gives a summary of the testimony of the 500 dating to c 35 – 38 AD (and says, most of the witnesses are alive go check them out):

    1 Cor 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:

    that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

    4 that he was buried,

    that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

    5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

    6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

    7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

    . . . 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

    In short, the core emphasis is, this fulfills scripture that prophesied, and it was seen by the 500. Isa 52 – 53 c 700 BC is perhaps the most significant such prediction. And indeed two copies of Isaiah were found in the Dead Sea deposits.

    Then, here is Peter, contemplating judicial murder on Nero’s false charge of arson for the July 18, 64 AD fire at Rome:

    2 Peter 1: 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,[h] to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

    16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

    17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

    19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.

    21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    Peter, of course, was chief eyewitness.

    KF

  29. 29
    sean samis says:

    bFast @21:

    sean samis, “I believe that claiming our genome is characterized by “digital code” is off base.”

    Please explain. I am a software engineer of some note. I know what digital code looks like. It looks like DNA. I could use DNA to write my own programs with, or I could encode the information held in DNA into my own computer. There is a clear syntax to the DNA -> protein and DNA -> RNA processes. There are a bunch of other activities that go on in DNA for which I don’t know the syntax, but I know that the syntax is there. Convincing me that DNA = “digital code” is off base will be a tall order.

    I am not a software engineer of any note, but I have been writing code since the punch-card/machine code days. I wrote my share of “pregnant programs”!

    DNA has a similarity to digital code, but it is not digital code. Resemblance is not identity. I am sure you could simulate DNA’s behavior on your computer; but then I have built homes in mine. I never thought to move into any of them. My kids have built rockets and put them into orbit on theirs (after blowing a few up and leaving a few new pockmarks on the moon.)

    But most people are not software engineers. Maybe the phrase “off base” is not clear. Let me clarify.

    I think the reference to DNA being characterized by “digital code” was intended to mislead readers into thinking that DNA is a programming language. That is just wrong. DNA, as a “computing system” is more like a physical control system, like Jacquard looms; which go back to the early 18th century (and originated the punch-card).

    But in any event, the phrase does not weigh against evolution. I am confident that someday (maybe not so long from now) someone will demonstrate abiogenesis. When that is established, the jig will be up for irreducible complexity in all it’s forms.

    sean samis, “Multiverse Theories do not assert that an identical universe to our own must exist.” Oh yes they do! The theory that multiverse theories explain fine tuning is the theory that there are an infinite supply of ’em. If there are an infinite supply of ’em and one in a gazillion is the same as ours, well, infinity / a gazillion is still infinity. There are, therefore, an infinite number of universes that are identical to ours, and an infinite number that are just a wee bit different.

    You confuse a consequence with an assertion or a requirement.

    Multiverse theories do NOT ASSERT that an identical universe to our own must exist. Whether they do or not exist is irrelevant to the theories; they are not REQUIRED. The theories only ASSERT that there would need to be an undefinably large number of universes within the multiverse.

    The possibility of identical universes is merely a CONSEQUENCE of there being an undefinably large number of universes within the multiverse. If it turns out there is no other universe identical to ours, that would not disprove the theories, but only indicate a possible bound on the number of universes within the multiverse or perhaps indicate some exclusionary effect that prevents universes from being identical.

    sean s.

  30. 30
    sean samis says:

    Andre @24:

    Can you verify that there is such a thing as a multiverse? If you can’t then why accept it?

    Can we verify that there is such a thing as a multiverse? If the theory is correct; it should be verifiable. Astronomers and Cosmologists are working on observations to that effect even now. See: https://www.google.com/search?q=multiverse+test&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

    Multiverse theories have not been verified yet, does that mean they must be false? No. There’s no deadline on verification; it takes as long as it takes. It took nearly 300 years to verify Heliocentrism; multiverse theories are about 60 years old.

    Why accept multiverse theory? By that are you asking if I claim it is true or if I just claim it is possibly true? It should be the latter.

    I claim they are possibly true, at least one of them (there are several). Like any theory must, they explain a number of things (including fine tuning) and they are at least potentially verifiable/falsifiable. That is why I think they are possibly true.

    sean s.

  31. 31
    sean samis says:

    kairosfocus;

    I was going to reply to your numbers 25 and 26, but as I drafted my reply, I realized that everything I would write is something I’ve written before and you’ve already ignored. Why replow the same field? Your hostility has made you blind to everything I write.

    sean s.

  32. 32
    Virgil Cain says:

    Earth to sean samis- The genetic code is an actual code (in the same sense as Morse code). And as such is beyond the reach of mother nature. There is an offer of 3.1 million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate mother nature can produce such a code. So far no one has even responded to it. That should tell you all you need to know.

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    SS, kindly, take care that you are not projecting. A good point for you to start would be in the case where you dismissed the concept of DNA bearing a digital code. For me, that is a red flag as someone who has spent a fair amount of time dealing with machine codes and how such are processed. Notice, where when I headlined 25, I took time to clip a facsimile of Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter to his son, Michael. In so doing I noticed something that I don’t think jumped out at me before: “DNA is a code” has the is underscored . . . and it looks like italics is what I have to substitute. In short, Crick, from the outset, was emphatic. String data structures bearing algorithmically relevant register-level symbol clusters. Start with initiation here, load methionine, elongate in sequence, halting code triggering completion. Operating in molecular nanotech registers in the ribosome. Encoding, proper being in the tRNA, as Yockey highlighted. The Ribosome is a molecular nanotech numerically controlled discrete state controlled machine. Not is analogous to, is. In the same sense that grounds my favourite definition of Computer Architecture and ties it to Register Transfer Algebra: the assembly language view of a machine. Also, in conceiving the kinematic self-replicator, von Neumann proposed a prong height coding technique, much as with Yale type locks and keys. So, your comment at 18 red flagged itself and called forth my response at 25. This issue, to my mind is pivotal. KF

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    SS:

    Ironically, even were a multiverse to be confirmed, it would do little for the proponents in the context of overturning the design inference.

    Why that is so was long since highlighted by John Leslie:

    One striking thing about the fine tuning is that a force strength or a particle mass often appears to require accurate tuning for several reasons at once. Look at electromagnetism. Electromagnetism seems to require tuning for there to be any clear-cut distinction between matter and radiation; for stars to burn neither too fast nor too slowly for life’s requirements; for protons to be stable; for complex chemistry to be possible; for chemical changes not to be extremely sluggish; and for carbon synthesis inside stars (carbon being quite probably crucial to life). Universes all obeying the same fundamental laws could still differ in the strengths of their physical forces, as was explained earlier, and random variations in electromagnetism from universe to universe might then ensure that it took on any particular strength sooner or later. Yet how could they possibly account for the fact that the same one strength satisfied many potentially conflicting requirements, each of them a requirement for impressively accurate tuning?

    . . . . . . . the need for such explanations does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly. [Our Place in the Cosmos, 1998

    In short the local finetuning is what counts, the island of function effect.

    As the headlined version of 25 illustrates.

    KF

  35. 35
    sean samis says:

    kairosfocus @33:

    SS, kindly, take care that you are not projecting. …

    You as well. Remove the log from your own eye first.

    sean s.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    SS, when you have a cogent answer to just the very first issue, that trying to suggest that the genetic code is not a code involving discrete state elements is a basic error, then there will be something substantial to discuss. KF

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Perhaps, I should say a tad more. We live in a digital age where discrete state systems are ubiquitous, and readily recognised as being based on discrete state entities. Indeed, the alphanumeric symbols in this post and others are cases in point, and codes are routinely understood to be examples. Even before the full digital revolution, Crick explicitly described the genetic code as a code. Routinely, it is so characterised. It is easy to learn that the coded sequence in the mRNA string created from DNA, is used to control sequence of AAs in proteins, through the ribosome. And more. In that context, insistence on dismissing that such genetically coded information is a case of a discrete state code, a digital code, is a sign. Not, a good one. A sign that something is blocking acknowledgement of what is patent . . . echoing the pattern of recent weeks tracing all the way to resisting the basic reality and import of distinct identity and linked first principles of right reason. In short, this is not an isolated matter, it fits with a pattern, one clearly linked to current mindsets tied to evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers. And the rest of the remarks clipped from 18 go downhill from there.

  38. 38
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Sean Samis,

    Thank you for your comments, and thank you for pointing out the duplication in the numbering of my questions. I shall rectify it by numbering the two questions 10(a) and 10(b).

    I’m very glad to hear that you’re not an atheist.

    You are quite right to say that science does not claim that a universe can pop into existence without a cause. However, that is what an atheist must maintain, given that we now know that our universe began 13.8 billion years ago.

    You are right also in stating that the existence of a multiverse does not logically entail the existence of an identical duplicate of our universe. For example, there could be a multiverse containing a finite number of universes. However, if you want to guarantee the emergence of life – especially intelligent life – in some universe, then you would need an infinite multiverse. And if it’s infinite, then there would be a universe out there somewhere, identical to our own. To quote Wikipedia:

    A generic prediction of chaotic inflation is an infinite ergodic universe, which, being infinite, must contain Hubble volumes realizing all initial conditions.

    Accordingly, an infinite universe will contain an infinite number of Hubble volumes, all having the same physical laws and physical constants. In regard to configurations such as the distribution of matter, almost all will differ from our Hubble volume. However, because there are infinitely many, far beyond the cosmological horizon, there will eventually be Hubble volumes with similar, and even identical, configurations. Tegmark estimates that an identical volume to ours should be about 10^10^115 meters away from us.[9] Given infinite space, there would, in fact, be an infinite number of Hubble volumes identical to ours in the Universe.[37] This follows directly from the cosmological principle, wherein it is assumed our Hubble volume is not special or unique.

    [9] Tegmark, Max (2003). “Parallel Universes”. In “Science and Ultimate Reality: from Quantum to Cosmos”, honoring John Wheeler’s 90th birthday. J. D. Barrow, P.C.W. Davies, & C.L. Harper eds. Cambridge University Press. v.1 90 (2003).

    [37] Parallel universes. Not just a staple of science fiction, other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations.”, Tegmark M., Scientific American, May 2003; 288(5):40–51.

    In fact, Tegmark calculates that there should be “an identical copy of you about 10^{10^29} meters away.”

    That sounds a lot crazier than belief in supernatural beings to me.

    I should also point out that Dr. Robin Collins’ 2009 online paper, “The Teleological Argument,” demonstrates that a multiverse, even if it existed, would still need to be designed.

    Your argument that because natural processes can create ordered structures such as snowflakes, there is no reason in principle why they couldn’t create life, strikes me as very naive. There’s a huge difference between order and specified complexity – a point readily admitted by non-religious scientists such as chemist Leslie Orgel and physicist Paul Davies.

    You write: “Our thoughts have the meaning they have because they represent how our minds respond to the information it receives; there is no objective evidence that thoughts are meaningful ‘in their own right.'”

    Your argument assume that representations are meaningful (they’re not – otherwise reflections, projections and mappings of any kind would be meaningful – and that our thoughts are merely responses to information we receive. What about mathematical puzzles which we create, or mathematical proofs that logicians develop? Were these merely responses to our natural environment?

    Also, it seems to me that you confuse function with meaning. For instance, animal communication (e.g warnings of a dangerous predator, or messages about a newly identified food source) has a function, but that is very different from saying that it has a propositional meaning. It is generally agreed among scientists that language expressing a propositional meaning is unique to human beings. If you know of non-human animals that are capable of communicating propositionally, please supply objective evidence.

    Propositions are expressible in formal logical notation. That is enough to make them meaningful in their own right. I can make a meaningful proposition about unicorns (e.g. “Unicorns have one horn upon their head”), even though there aren’t any such creatures.

    I’m interested in your assertion that you have already shown how to derive an “ought” from an “is.” Would you be kind enough to supply a link.

    With regard to the trolley problem, you write that nobody knows what they’d do in such a situation. But the specific case I discussed was the “fat man” problem, where the only way to save five people from being run over was to push a fat man into the path of the oncoming trolley. And on this question, surveys show that there is a high degree of agreement among the general public that pushing a fat man into the path of the trolley would be wrong. The reason why was succinctly stated by a Kantian atheist named Robephiles in an online article titled, “Sam Harris and the Moral Failure of Science”: “In the case of the man being pushed in front of the trolley we are using another human being as a means to an end and that is unacceptable to most of us.”

    I am heartened to read that you are opposed to infanticide in all circumstances. However, you question whether one should save a newborn baby at the expense of 1,000 animals, (some of them endangered). This conclusion follows morally, once we grant that there is a difference not merely in degree but also in kind between humans and other animals. Notice that I’m not saying animals are just things, or that they are of purely instrumental value; on the contrary, I believe that they do matter in their own right. It’s just that I believe humans are on a higher plane of reality: we are, for instance, the only species that worries about what it should do, or that even has a concept of “should.”

    Re robots having rights: once you grant that they are sentient (as some scientists argue) and intelligent, then I don’t see how anyone could deny them rights.

    Re your claim that clerks are bound to obey the law of the land, you might like to read Dr. Lydia McGrew’s essay, Kim Davis, metaphysics, and the public square for another perspective. Dr. McGrew argues that there are some areas in which you cannot create reality by judicial or legislative fiat, and that marriage is one of them.

    That’s enough for now.

  39. 39
    sean samis says:

    kairosfocus @36:

    … when you have a cogent answer to just the very first issue, that trying to suggest that the genetic code is not a code involving discrete state elements is a basic error, then there will be something substantial to discuss.

    I recognize the trap: by “cogent answer” you mean an answer you agree with. My answer was cogent, but not agreeable to you. There’s no reason I should I make the effort again to satisfy you when you make no effort to respond to what I wrote.

    In the past I wrote at length on topics, and your response was something like “you didn’t answer the question”.

    Sigh.

    sean s.

  40. 40
    sean samis says:

    vjtorley @38:

    You are quite right to say that science does not claim that a universe can pop into existence without a cause. However, that is what an atheist must maintain, given that we now know that our universe began 13.8 billion years ago.

    Actually no. Atheists, if they subscribe to scientific thought, can say that the likely explanation is something like a multiverse theory says: there was a pre-existent multiverse from which or in which our universe was created because of some cause (an event of some sort). No ex nihilo, no uncaused creation.

    … if you want to guarantee the emergence of life – especially intelligent life – in some universe, then you would need an infinite multiverse. …

    “Guarantee”? Do you mean 100% certainty? That’s not needed, all we need is a good chance, an overall 50/50 or better is quite enough.

    That sounds a lot crazier than belief in supernatural beings to me.

    It sounds no crazier to me than some of the things predicted (and demonstrated) in QM. Here is an important difference between you and I: if something sounds crazy to you, you treat that as evidence (or even proof) that something cannot be. I and other rationalists realize that such an impression is meaningless. The idea that the Earth is round seemed crazy once, as was the idea that the Earth is moving around the Sun. I don’t trust those kinds of intuitions; neither should you.

    I should also point out that Dr. Robin Collins’ 2009 online paper, “The Teleological Argument,” demonstrates that a multiverse, even if it existed, would still need to be designed.

    As you well know, for the rational mind, there is no Proof from Authority; and many Famous Thinkers (including Newton, Einstein, and Hawking) in the Pantheon of Famous Errors. Me? I’m waiting on the empiricists to weigh in on matters. Dr. Collins cannot “demonstrate” what you say without a lot more evidence than anyone has; the good Dr. can only make a SWAG.

    There’s a huge difference between order and specified complexity – a point readily admitted by non-religious scientists such as chemist Leslie Orgel and physicist Paul Davies.

    As above; Orgel and Davies statements are not evidence of anything a rational person cares much about. Whether any of life’s complexity is actually “specified complexity” or merely “very complex” is not demonstrated yet. Time will tell, not authorities.

    Your argument assume that representations are meaningful (they’re not – otherwise reflections, projections and mappings of any kind would be meaningful – and that our thoughts are merely responses to information we receive.

    The contrary argument assumes that meaning is so categorically different that it requires a categorically different explanation. Like any hypothesis, this needs more than arm-chair exercises to show.

    We’re talking about phenomena at the edge of what we know currently. I see no value in assuming there’s something supernatural going on; not yet. Contemporary ignorance is not proof of anything.

    What about mathematical puzzles which we create, or mathematical proofs that logicians develop? Were these merely responses to our natural environment?

    Sure. Why not? Mathematics is part of nature; a part humans discovered millennia ago and continue to explore.

    Also, it seems to me that you confuse function with meaning. For instance, animal communication (e.g warnings of a dangerous predator, or messages about a newly identified food source) has a function, but that is very different from saying that it has a propositional meaning.

    Warnings of a dangerous predator can be understood to convey meaning. Propositional meaning is yet another kind of meaning, but not so different that it demands a wholly distinct explanation.

    It is generally agreed among scientists that language expressing a propositional meaning is unique to human beings. If you know of non-human animals that are capable of communicating propositionally, please supply objective evidence.

    Since we cannot read the minds of other animals, we cannot say that humans are unique in their use of propositional meaning. Crows and squirrels have remarkable puzzle solving skills and demonstrate cooperative efforts; they seem to need some way of communicating propositions to make this happen. No one can say for sure that apes, dolphins and whales, or other animals do not engage in propositional communications. Lack of evidence is not meaningful in this area because we just don’t know what’s going on in the minds of other animals.

    I’m interested in your assertion that you have already shown how to derive an “ought” from an “is.” Would you be kind enough to supply a link.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ubjective/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-of-dooms/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-oxymoron/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....kes-right/

    However, you question whether one should save a newborn baby at the expense of 1,000 animals, (some of them endangered). This conclusion follows morally, once we grant that there is a difference not merely in degree but also in kind between humans and other animals. Notice that I’m not saying animals are just things, or that they are of purely instrumental value; on the contrary, I believe that they do matter in their own right. It’s just that I believe humans are on a higher plane of reality: we are, for instance, the only species that worries about what it should do, or that even has a concept of “should.”

    I’m curious. If we replace the 1000 animals with some number of humans who have severe mental illnesses, or are in comas, will the same problem remain? Assume these humans with mental illness are unable to worry about what they “should do”; perhaps they are in profound comas. Should I let some number of them die so I can save one infant? How many with mental illness have to be in peril before you can’t be sure who should be neglected in favor of the other? 1 infant versus 10 in a coma? 100 in a coma? Where would you draw the line?

    Certainly a fetus is unable to worry about what they should do; how many fetuses are worth one infant?

    There’s a reason they call this the Devil’s mathematics!

    Dr. McGrew argues that there are some areas in which you cannot create reality by judicial or legislative fiat, and that marriage is one of them.

    Legal recognition of same-sex marriage does not “create reality”; it recognizes the human rights of all persons (including their religious rights) and protects their rights from encroachments by others (including Clerks).

    sean s.

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    SS, nope, you are trying to turn warrant into perceptions and opinions, which is telling. Further to this, the issue is simple: the genetic code is based on four-state digital elements in a string data structure used to control algorithmic, step by step protein assembly in the ribosome. That is what you need to answer to, and in a context where that is what is on the table, you do have a significant burden of warrant to meet to conclude otherwise. At minimum, that will include showing why Crick was wrong and why it is wrong to hold the genetic code a code, and why it is wrong to hold that protein assembly is code controlled. Failing that you do not have a cogent case at the outset. In short, you have STARTED by asserting in 18 that to view DNA as a case of digital code is error. You need to substantiate that claim objectively, which it is increasingly clear you cannot. KF

    F/N: I am using cogency in the logical sense of a strong inductive argument.

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Following Lincoln, I am free to declare that the tail of a sheep is a “leg” and insist that sheep therefore have five legs. But if I then cut off a hind leg and see if the tail can serve in its office, then I would see the difference between extreme subjectivist nominalism and reality; might and manipulation cannot make reality, truth or right. Opinion is not reality and that is the exact context in which distinct identity and objectivty become so important.

  43. 43
    sean samis says:

    kairosfocus @41:

    In short, you have STARTED by asserting in 18 that to view DNA as a case of digital code is error. You need to substantiate that claim objectively, which it is increasingly clear you cannot.

    bFast challenged my comment in #18 and #21, and I replied in #29. You have said nothing but that you disagree. OK; so…?

    Here is where you should provide a cogent response.

    sean s.

Leave a Reply