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Christian fiddle-dee-dee against design in nature

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Further to: A prof has resigned from Bethel College. Can’t affirm Adam created directly by God: This from (formerly Bethel’s, currently BioLogos’) Jim Stump’s review of An Introduction to Design Arguments, by Virginia Tech’s Benjamin C. Jantzen: in a magazine for churches no one goes to any more (As if anyone cares*).

Anyway, here:

The idea of irreducible complexity has had remarkable intuitive staying power among ID followers, but when the intuition is converted into an argument, it has considerably less persuasive force. First, almost all biologists think Behe is wrong about the specific examples of structures that he says are unexplainable by evolution. But most people’s intuition is guided by a caricature of how evolution works. They think that each structure or trait develops in isolation. In reality, natural selection operates on combinations of traits, not merely on isolated structures. Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water. Contrary to the ID claim about irreducible complexity, you don’t have to get the whole thing at once.

Stump does not seem to understand the problem at all, or want to. Only a designed system could function the way he describes.

Of course, there are many things we don’t yet understand about evolutionary history. So if Behe were to produce an example of an irreducibly complex structure for which scientists had no compelling evolutionary account, would that be enough to generate the conclusion that it must have been designed? No, says Jantzen; there is another problem with the argument. When Behe claims that irreducible complexity is best explained by a designer, Jantzen reminds us that best is a comparative term and can only mean “best among the known explanations.” If history is any guide here, we should expect that we don’t yet know all the possible explanations, so Behe’s claim is considerably weakened. More:

The fact that we don’t know all possible explanations has never prevented anyone from honestly making a reasonable judgment. Unless they have already decided that metaphysical naturalism and mindless materialism must be true regardless of the state of the evidence.

And Behe will, of course, never produce any evidence that tenured Darwinprofs would accept, no matter its merit. The world is changing around them all anyway.

We can already rule out natural selection acting on random mutation as a source of massive amounts of complex, specified information. Such theories should have the same level of credibility as the White House hiding space aliens.

* See also: As if anyone cares? Well, see If anyone cares, Biologos (Christians for Darwin) will now actually review Darwin’s Doubt

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35 Replies to “Christian fiddle-dee-dee against design in nature

  1. 1

    The visual system; eye, optical nerves, brain, brain to muscular system etc. — is but one example of many within our own body of Irreducible Complexity. The cell itself and all it contains is another good example.

    To isolate just one part such as the eye or the flagellum, is to lose sight of the Massively Complex Synchronicity contained in all living things — it’s all irreducibly complex.

    My own take on the eye is as follows:
    https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/the-eye-a-biological-miracle-but-of-what-sort/

  2. 2
  3. 3
    cornucopian says:

    We are back to Kenneth Miller’s definition of “function”.
    Dr Miller thinks all objects have mass therefore, they all can function as a paperweight. A dead iphone is useless to me but they can be used as paperweight. The same argument is being made here.

    Behe has never claimed wings are irreducibly complex. What function do the various parts in a flagellum provide by themselves? Paperweights? The Darwinist understanding of the word function is bizarre.

    Instead of making grand statements on what natural selection can do (arguments from unrestrained imagination), why don’t they just show how this structure came in a step by step process?

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    ID has no need to go beyond anything more complex than single-celled organisms. HGT? Really?

  5. 5
    Upright BiPed says:

    The idea of irreducible complexity has had remarkable intuitive staying power among ID followers, but when the intuition is converted into an argument, it has considerably less persuasive force.

    Jim Stump is the Biologos moderator that repeatedly (and fully) removed my comments from Biologos when I tried to raise the issue of IC being fundamentally required to translate genetic information into physical effects, and this being a necessity in organizing the heterogeneous living cell.

    And he is an all-in soldier of the protectorate. And a bit of an ass.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Why Most Atheists Believe in Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows

    Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows – music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-xWhG4UU_Y

    Why Most Atheists Believe in Pink Unicorns – May 2014
    Excerpt: Given an infinite amount of time, anything that is logically possible(11) will eventually happen. So, given an infinite number of universes being created in (presumably) an infinite amount of time, you are not only guaranteed to get your universe but every other possible universe. This means that every conceivable universe exists, from ones that consist of nothing but a giant black hole, to ones that are just like ours and where someone just like you is reading a blog post just like this, except it’s titled: “Why most atheists believe in blue unicorns.”
    By now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, but I’ll say it anyway. Since we know that horses are possible, and that pink animals are possible, and that horned animals are possible, then there is no logical reason why pink unicorns are not possible entities. Ergo, if infinite universes exist, then pink unicorns must necessarily exist. For an atheist to appeal to multiverse theory to deny the need of a designer infers that he believes in that theory more than a theistically suggestive single universe. And to believe in the multiverse means that one is saddled with everything that goes with it, like pink unicorns. In fact, they not only believe in pink unicorns, but that someone just like them is riding on one at this very moment, and who believes that elephants, giraffes, and zebra are merely childish fairytales.
    Postscript
    While it may be amusing to imagine atheists riding pink unicorns, it should be noted that the belief in them does not logically invalidate atheism. There theoretically could be multiple universes and there theoretically could be pink unicorns. However, there is a more substantial problem for the atheist if he wants to believe in them and he wants to remain an atheist. Since, as I said, anything can happen in the realm of infinities, one of those possibilities is the production of a being of vast intelligence and power. Such a being would be as a god to those like us, and could perhaps breach the boundaries of the multiverse to, in fact, be a “god” to this universe. This being might even have the means to create its own universe and embody the very description of the God of Christianity (or any other religion that the atheist otherwise rejects). It seems the atheist, in affirming the multiverse in order to avoid the problem of fine-tuning, finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. The further irony is that somewhere, in the great wide world of infinities, the atheist’s doppelganger is going to war against an army of theists riding on the horns of a great pink beast known to his tribesman as “The Saddlehorn Dilemma.”
    https://pspruett.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/why-most-atheists-believe-in-pink-unicorns/

  7. 7
    daveS says:

    “most atheists”

  8. 8
    Dr JDD says:

    In reality, natural selection operates on combinations of traits, not merely on isolated structures. Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water.

    Ah yes, well supported by all those fossils we find of intermediate forms of animals displaying such features.

    Basically, this is evolutionary science: “because I can conceive of a function for a step by step process to a complex feature, it must have happened like that.”

    Silly IDers, wanting some real evidence for those intermediate forms and that. Who knew, conjecture rules!

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    The remaining atheists who don’t believe in pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows?

    Quote:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    The fact that the constants of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true, we observe,,,”
    (Weinberg then comments on the multiverse conjecture of atheists)
    “No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. I mean,, the (multiverse) theory would be speculative, but we don’t even have a theory in which that speculation is mathematically realized. But it is a possibility.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video

    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

  10. 10
    daveS says:

    The remaining atheists who don’t believe in pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows?

    Weinberg, as usual, makes a totally reasonable statement. But it’s a little short of “Atheist Physicists Prove God”.

    Back to the original point: I would like to see the percentage of atheists who hold the belief that this pspruett character describes. For one thing, the multiverse is a minority view among actual physicists, so I would be surprised if it’s a majority view among atheists. This alone would nullify pspruett’s argument.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS,

    Terminator 3 – TALK TO THE HAND.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ6m8ztEzfA

    Hilarious dog chasing its tail
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcRf0y5-_Uw

    Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows [10 hours]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky3Ordfqn88

  12. 12
    daveS says:

    Another devastating rebuttal!

  13. 13
    ppolish says:

    Richard sure looks uncomfortable in that BA77 vid link. Might be hemorrhoids.

    The 10^120 is a lowball estimate. I’ve listened to a Nima Arkani Hamed lecture where he said it could be 10^500 or 10^10,000. Fine tuning keeps getting finer & finer.

    And that is just for an overall fine tuned universe. The evidence that Earth is in a special location within the fine tuned universe (see BA77s links on cosmic “Axis of Evil”) adds an additional level of fine tuning that cannot be explained away by the multiverse.

  14. 14
    ppolish says:

    Any which way you look at it – we are infinitely lucky to be here. Some are thankful, others not so much. I’m one of the thankful ones. Fearfully thankful:)

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DS

    I would like to see the percentage of atheists who hold the belief that this pspruett character describes. For one thing, the multiverse is a minority view among actual physicists, so I would be surprised if it’s a majority view among atheists.

    Atheists need some explanation for the origin of everything. Aside from a multiverse, what other option is there?

  16. 16
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Atheists need some explanation for the origin of everything. Aside from a multiverse, what other option is there?

    I don’t have such an explanation, unfortunately, and I doubt I ever will.

  17. 17
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    What I was driving at was that without a multiverse ‘explanation’ (which is faith-based) there really isn’t anything else for the atheist position. This would suggest that most atheists accept the multiverse – thus the pink unicorns.

    There is more abundant evidence in support of the existence of God is stronger than that of the multiverse.

  18. 18
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    daveS

    What I was driving at was that without a multiverse ‘explanation’ (which is faith-based) there really isn’t anything else for the atheist position. This would suggest that most atheists accept the multiverse – thus the pink unicorns.

    Well, certainly not in my case. I’ve been an atheist all my life (several decades now) and only heard of the multiverse “theory” in the past few years. In my view, the multiverse doesn’t explain anything.

    Furthermore, I really doubt that anyone, theist or atheist, has a good explanation for the ultimate origin of everything. I’ve asked several theists about this (including my wife), and at some point in the conversation, am always told that the answers to the questions I pose cannot be understood by us in our current circumstances, but perhaps after we die, God will grant us that knowledge. Whatever the answer is, I think it could very well be beyond human comprehension.

    There is more abundant evidence in support of the existence of God is stronger than that of the multiverse.

    I probably agree with that, however I don’t believe the evidence for the existence of God is strong.

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that the universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”
    Anthony Flew – world’s leading intellectual atheist for most of his adult life until a few years shortly before his death
    The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel (Nov. 25, 2012) – video
    http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/ee32d/

    The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole.
    Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics – co-discoverer of the Cosmic Background Radiation – as stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation

    “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
    George Smoot – Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    “Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
    Robert Jastrow – Founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute – Pg.15 ‘God and the Astronomers’

    It is also very interesting to note that among all the ‘holy’ books, of all the major religions in the world, only the Holy Bible was correct in its claim for a transcendent origin of the universe. Some later ‘holy’ books, such as the Mormon text “Pearl of Great Price” and the Qur’an, copy the concept of a transcendent origin from the Bible but also include teachings that are inconsistent with that now established fact. (Hugh Ross; Why The Universe Is The Way It Is; Pg. 228; Chpt.9; note 5)

    The Uniqueness Of The Bible Among ‘holy books’ and Evidence of God in Creation (Hugh Ross) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjYSz1OYG8Y

    What Properties Must the Cause of the Universe Have? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SZWInkDIVI

  20. 20
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DS

    I’ve asked several theists about this (including my wife), and at some point in the conversation, am always told that the answers to the questions I pose cannot be understood by us in our current circumstances, but perhaps after we die, God will grant us that knowledge. Whatever the answer is, I think it could very well be beyond human comprehension.

    I’m sure you hear this occasionally when attending church with your wife, but I’ll just say it anyway … the question of whether God exists or not and if so, the nature of His creation and communication with his creatures is of the very highest importance. It’s not something we can be indifferent about because it really has huge implications on one’s life.

    I will admit that weighing the evidence is difficult, at the same time. But quite a lot can be done with some answers, even if we don’t have all the answers.

  21. 21
    ppolish says:

    “Atheists need some explanation for the origin of everything. Aside from a multiverse, what other option is there?”

    I’m not sure if Atheists need (or want) an explanation. But if they do, it comes down to a choice between chance, multiverse, God, or a God/Multiverse combo.

    Modern science has eliminated chance. So the only choice for an atheist is multiverse. Sorry DaveS, it’s a choice between God and a non god multiverse. Or refuse to make the choice. I guess non choice is still a choice?

  22. 22
    ppolish says:

    “only heard of the multiverse “theory” in the past few years. In my view, the multiverse doesn’t explain anything.”

    DaveS, you have not heard of it because it has only recently come into vogue. To explain the fine tuned cosmological constant that was discovered in the late 90’s.

    The multiverse explains everything. Even if you feel it does not explain anything.

  23. 23
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    I’m sure you hear this occasionally when attending church with your wife, but I’ll just say it anyway … the question of whether God exists or not and if so, the nature of His creation and communication with his creatures is of the very highest importance. It’s not something we can be indifferent about because it really has huge implications on one’s life.

    Could be, but over the decades I’ve come to the conclusion that theists don’t necessarily have better answers to these questions than I do, so my interest in exploring in that direction is dimming a bit. Always keep an open mind, though.

  24. 24
    daveS says:

    ppolish,

    Modern science has eliminated chance. So the only choice for an atheist is multiverse. Sorry DaveS, it’s a choice between God and a non god multiverse. Or refuse to make the choice. I guess non choice is still a choice?

    I don’t think it’s been established that those are the only options. Not in the world beyond UD, in any case.

    (Edit: I’m not sure how the multiverse could possibly be an explanation for “the origin of everything” anyway.)

    As to “making choices”, why do we have to choose sides regarding questions that have stumped philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years? I find it more intellectually honest to simply admit that I don’t know the answer.

    DaveS, you have not heard of it because it has only recently come into vogue. To explain the fine tuned cosmological constant that was discovered in the late 90’s.

    And this is consistent with my original objection to bornagain77’s post on pink unicorns.

  25. 25
    ppolish says:

    “I find it more intellectually honest to simply admit that I don’t know the answer.”

    I agree, and in this case no one knows the answer. But some are looking for answers;
    1) Chance
    2) God
    3) Multiverse
    Per this short Susskind vid:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ata_player

  26. 26
    daveS says:

    ppolish,

    Notice that Susskind acknowledges your list is not exhaustive, with his option #4, which essentially states that the solution is unknown at this time. Presumably other people such as Peter Woit and Steven Weinberg also recognize this as a possibility.

  27. 27
    ppolish says:

    Susskind says #4 would be accident. Why not God?

    If there is some Master Equation that ties together all the fine tuned constants – that would be an “accident”? C’mon, like Susskind
    says – that strains credulity. It’s God or Multiverse. Or a God/Multiverse combo. Ooops will never be the answer.

  28. 28
    daveS says:

    Susskind says #4 is “who knows, maybe someday someone will figure it out”. The “fundamental equaton” they discuss is what he says would be partially accident.

    Anyway, given that according to current theory, we don’t even know what makes up 95% of the universe, I’m not confident that we can say the solution must be one of the three things on your list. Maybe the answer is indeed God, but you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t sign on just yet.

  29. 29
    ppolish says:

    If you ever do “sign on” DaveS, it will be done without proof. While God is knowable, God by definition is unprovable. Evidence yes, proof nope.

    2nd Coming of Jesus the Christ could be an alien reality TV stunt. Can’t prove its God. Never provable. God is special that way. Unique:)

  30. 30
    daveS says:

    ppolish,

    Agreed.

  31. 31
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    There are several things that we’ll never know – we’ll never be able to observe the origin of the universe or the origin of life on earth. But we can just that some speculations have more strength than others.
    With the existence of God, on one side there is the origin of rationality, morality, spiritual aspirations and a religious sense in humanity, fine-tuning, order, hierarchy of being, gradation of goodness and the origin of natural laws themselves (along with matter, energy, time and space).
    On the other side (non-God) there is simply existence that must be reducible to a purposeless cause of some kind – with chance accident as the only real proposal (but even chance can’t exist without some underlying order).

    Learning about God, at the same time, is not just a matter of collecting and understanding various concepts. In the same way, learning to ride a bike is not just reading a book about it. Eventually, you have to try it. With God, it’s trying to find Him – it’s a search, and actually more like an adventure. It’s like a scientific discovery but by using different tools. In this case, prayer is the primary tool for the task.

  32. 32
    Silver Asiatic says:

    ppolish

    There’s an excellent new book out (I just got it over the weekend) called Contemplative Provocations where the author’s premise is that one of the unheralded attributes of God is hiddenness. The author (who gave retreats for Mother Teresa) explains that in order to draw people out of themselves, towards something greater, and to never be complacent, God hides himself. We get glimpses and arrive at greater certainty. It seems like we have ‘proofs’ but there’s always something that slips away just a little bit.
    So God is unique that way. Even after a lifetime of belief – which grows more certain all the time, there’s always something more that we search for.

  33. 33
    ppolish says:

    “So God is unique that way. Even after a lifetime of belief – which grows more certain all the time, there’s always something more that we search for.”

    Amen to that:)

    And thanks for the heads up on the book. Going to read that one http://www.amazon.com/Contempl.....1586177338

  34. 34
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s good to hear you’re getting into that, ppolish. It’s teaching me that the goal is always seeking and to realize that we can get a glimpse of the glory which will seem like we reached the end of the search, but it’s really like we only just got started.

    It also struck me that the search is trying to know the nature of God, as much as possible. ID helps with that — thinking about attributes of design, the power of the designing intellect, the care that is evident throughout nature, the masterpiece of human beings and even of just a blade of grass. Eventually, it’s not just knowledge — we have to stretch our intellect to understand, but eventually we will have to love God because of the greatness of what we discover. That’s when it becomes personal. We were given life as a gift – we didn’t create it.

    Anyway, glad you’re interested.

    Hey – be careful, we might see you return to the communion line before long (I hope). With a stop-by in the confessional first. 🙂

  35. 35
    Axel says:

    cornucopian #3

    ‘Instead of making grand statements on what natural selection can do (arguments from unrestrained imagination), why don’t they just show how this structure came in a step by step process?’

    It would surely still be too sophisticated for IDers to understand… You have to be sufficiently sophisticated to understand how nothing could have produced everything.

    Incidentally, on a more serious note, I was thinking in relation to BA77’s words about the non-local source of particles – as also light photons, as I bang on about from time to time – that, together with the Big Bang, the scenario envisaged by NASA’s man, Robert Jastrow, has, in fact, been realised.

    Only a knave or an imbecile could say, ‘Well we don’t understand the Singularity at the Big bang, as if the former could do anything but lead to a being of infinite intelligence and power.

    Indeed, from time to time, I believe I hear the taunt of one of the more truculent, combative theologians and churchmen, ‘What kept you?’

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