Intelligent Design

Comparing Evolution to Empirical Observations Such as Gravity

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In evolutionary thought there is a stark contrast between its scientific ambiguity and its metaphysical certainty. There are all kinds of problems in explaining how the world could have arisen on its own, and yet at the same time evolutionists constantly assure us that evolution is a scientific fact. For example, while Philip Ball urges his fellow evolutionists to admit that we don’t fully understand how evolution works at the molecular level he simultaneously presents the idea as a fact and bemoans those who doubt this new truth. But how can we be so certain the species originated spontaneously when our best attempts to explain how this could have happened continue to fall short? When I pointed this out an evolutionist rebuked me for making the elementary mistake of conflating the details of a theory with its truth value:  Read more

25 Replies to “Comparing Evolution to Empirical Observations Such as Gravity

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    CH:

    Serious point.

    Easy to do, once you dominate the institutions and are perfectly willing to beg a few questions before the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. Ask Lewontin:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [ “Billions and billions of demons,” in NYRB, January 1997. And if you swallow the usual dismissive talking point that this is somehow “quote mined” kindly cf. the more detailed excerpt and comments at the linked.]

    See, nothing to it.

    (And if you think that is an idiosyncrasy, go tot he linked and keep reading on through several other cases in point including major Academies and associations.)

    Johnson’s retort was well-deserved and tellingly apt:

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

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

    KF

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Your comment on the gravity example is worth clipping:

    Evolution standard bearer Stephen J. Gould once compared the certainty of evolution with that of gravity:

    Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

    Gould was not the first evolutionist to compare evolution with empirical observations such as gravity. Such comparisons date back practically to Darwin and they have not ceased since then.

    This is remarkable because these arguments are fallacious and bankrupt. They tell us much more about the state of evolutionary thought than the supposed truth of evolution.

    Whether the comparison is to gravity, or to cancer, or to any empirical observation, we consider it to be a fact because we can observe it. Whether or not we can explain it, and to what degree we can explain it, has no bearing on the observation itself. So Gould is correct that gravity does not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain it.

    But we do not observe humans evolving from apelike ancestors. That is the claim of evolution, and it is a claim that suffers from substantial scientific problems. That is not a comment on evolution, it is a scientific fact.

    Yes evolutionists do debate rival explanations for how the species originated, but there is no observation of evolution that “doesn’t go away” during the debate. There is no fact of evolution to fall back on while evolutionary explanations encounter scientific problems.

    This fallacy in the evolutionist’s comparison with empirical observations is not subtle. In fact the fallacy is so trivial one is embarrassed for evolutionists. And yet there it is.

    The root of such ideological question begging is imposition of an a priori, as Johnson pointed out.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Since Quantum Mechanics provides the most complete picture as to how particles behave, I wonder why neo-Darwinists never claim that evolution is as well established as Quantum Mechanics?

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

    Perhaps its because,,,

    Why Quantum Theory Does Not Support Materialism – By Bruce L Gordon:
    Excerpt: Because quantum theory is thought to provide the bedrock for our scientific understanding of physical reality, it is to this theory that the materialist inevitably appeals in support of his worldview. But having fled to science in search of a safe haven for his doctrines, the materialist instead finds that quantum theory in fact dissolves and defeats his materialist understanding of the world.
    http://www.4truth.net/fourtrut.....8589952939

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    “And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” – Dawkins

    He means, sort of lending itself to empirical confirmation of its a priori truth….? I see.

  5. 5
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    From the OP:

    “Yes evolutionists do debate rival explanations for how the species originated, but there is no observation of evolution that “doesn’t go away” during the debate. There is no fact of evolution to fall back on while evolutionary explanations encounter scientific problems.”

    To the materialist, the fact that doesn’t go away is that organisms exist. From this incontrovertible fact it’s concluded that life evolved from a universal common ancestor, which came from some first protocell formed by an as-of-yet-undiscovered material process. This altogether is the presumed “fact” that must be addressed.

    Neo-Darwinism has failed to account for this “fact”, at least as it must progress from the UCA. In this video, Denis Noble explains why he thinks the theory is entirely defunct (HT: lifepsy). This one is definitely worth watching.

    This fallacy in the evolutionist’s comparison with empirical observations is not subtle. In fact the fallacy is so trivial one is embarrassed for evolutionists. And yet there it is.

    Well said.

  6. 6
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Axel @4, good quote. I found a reference for it here: The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism – Phillip E. Johnson.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    Chance, no names, no pack-drill, but science is driven by belief – and it matters…!

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    I must have been misled by reference to Dawkins’ hilarious dismissal of the foundation of empiricism, namely, ‘the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.’ – Dictionary.com

    It just all APPEARS to have been designed (by a genius with the omniscience and omnipotence of an almighty god). Thanks for the link. Must have a look.

  9. 9

    The comparison of evolution to gravity is so absurd.

    Every single person on the planet sees hundreds of confirmations of gravity every second of every minute of every day.

    In contrast, not a single individual, ever, has actually witnessed any of the larger claims of evolution coming to pass through evolutionary processes — the formation of new organisms, new body plans, new molecular machines, new biological functions.

    Yet there are forms of “evolution” that are well documented. Not nearly as well documented as gravity, mind you, but still quite well documented. Things like fluctuations in gene frequencies, general change over time, and the like.

    And that is precisely where the rhetorical game of evolutionary theory is played: pointing to trivial changes in existing organisms and arguing that because it is “evolution,” then evolution is therefore proven true as an observable fact. And once the unsuspecting observer agrees to that “fact of evolution,” then we’ll sneak in through the back door and pretend that we have thereby proven all the other forms of “evolution,” including the grandiose, outrageous, and wildly-speculative meanings behind the word.

  10. 10
    Optimus says:

    Excellent post! It gets right to the core of a shortcoming that afflicts many who argue for Neo-Darwinism: the basic inability to draw distinctions between empirical knowledge and that which is merely conjectural. That this manner of sloppy thinking predominates in academia is depressing indeed.

  11. 11
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Eric @9, spot on, especially your last paragraph. Thanks. Do you think that has any correlation to the putative relationship between micro and macro evolution, which according to some, is merely a difference of time scale?

  12. 12
    Robert Byers says:

    Rightly it is about the merits of the evidence.
    Evolution is not witnessed in its glory or at all really.
    Gravity is witnessed and presently operating.
    Is evolution operating as we speak?
    Is biology from working evolution going on right now or from PAST evolution that went on. A past process.
    Gravity is all about the present performance.

    its not obvious Mr Gould we are related top apes.
    its just a conclusion from like form.
    There are other options that exclude biological relationship.
    Anyways it still would just be a line of reasoning and not a line of biological evidence.

  13. 13
    billmaz says:

    For the past nearly 100 years the biological sciences have practically neglected the entire field of quantum physics and have continued to simply tinker with a purely mechanical model as if quantum physics never even existed. Of all the sciences, biology seems to be the most backward in this respect. Now things may be changing, albeit slowly.

    In an online BBC article Quantum Biology, three areas where quantum physics has been shown to be important in biology are discussed: photosynthesis, magnetic field sensing used for navigation by European robins, and quantum tunneling effects in the mechanism of smell. Penrose and Hameroff (Quantum Computation in Brain Molecules, 2009) have proposed quantum effects on neuronal microtubules as the basis of consciousness.

    In 2012 the European Science Foundation began its Farquest Programme to define the European research in quantum biology. And the Defense research agency, DARPA, has been running the Quantum Effects in Biological Environments program since 2010.

    Finally, biology can come out of the 19th Century!

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    semi-related:

    Einstein’s Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet – Apr. 25, 2013
    Excerpt: A newly-discovered pulsar — a spinning neutron star with twice the mass of the Sun — and its white-dwarf companion, orbiting each other once every two and a half hours, has put gravitational theories to the most extreme test yet.,,,
    “We thought this system might be extreme enough to show a breakdown in General Relativity, but instead, Einstein’s predictions held up quite well,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142250.htm

    and again the burning question:

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

  15. 15
    Axel says:

    Thanks for the brilliant link @6, Chance. Particularly brilliant in combination with the link, ‘Why QM Doesn’t Support Materialism’.

    He’s some character that Lewontin, isn’t he? I love his, ‘… to the uninitiated.’

    ‘It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.’

    … and do you see how, through their use of the misnomer, ‘counter-intuitive’, when they mean ‘irrational’, they get away with conflating empirically-proven paradoxes with the oxymoronic or plain garbage conjectures of their own devising.

    I’d been on about that risible misnomer for a while, but hadn’t foreseen or realised how useful it was to atheists, who, in the indigence of their empirical findings, their ‘deposit of faith’, are obliged to purvey garbage of the first water.

  16. 16
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Axel, glad you enjoyed it.If you haven’t read Johnson’s book, Darwin on Trial, it’s insightful and a pleasure to read, not to mention iconoclastic.

    Good point about counterintuitive being used as a stand in for irrational. It’s as if we should reason that because heliocentrism replaced geocentrism, we should be willing to accept tall claims about the powers of blind nature. Yet, we still use the words sunrise and sunset despite their heliocentric inappropriateness. 😉

  17. 17
    Andre says:

    A few comments I’d like to add.

    Firstly objective truth is easy to prove, its not some mystical thing beyond our grasp.

    1.) Logic will still exist even if no humans exist. Example, the universe will still exist even if we get wiped by a meteor tomorrow.

    2.) 1 + X = Y will still exist even if no humans are around after the meteor hit earth. 1 apple falling on the floor next to 3 more will still be 4.

    Opinions which is what people have are based on beliefs and those beliefs are shaped by how we choose to interpret the evidence. As a 34 year long materialist, my opinion changed because I chose to change them based on my choice to accept all the evidence. This is a state of intentionality and they can only exist in a non-deterministic world.

    The first question anybody has to ask is this…. Does immaterial things exist objectively outside of the human subjective? The answer is clearly yes. Logic is an example of that so with that in mind I have to accept that if one immaterial thing can exist then all of them can, I am not in a position to accept some and discard others if I do I become illogical. The funny part is this; even if I choose that some immaterial things exist and others don’t it was still done so by free choice.

    The problem I have noticed with materialists is that they use the immaterial to deny that it the immaterial exist, or they choose to ignore that there is more to the universe than material things. without the immaterial the material world cannot interact and if the material world can not interact nothing can exist.

  18. 18
    Andre says:

    oops wrong thread

  19. 19
    Axel says:

    Interesting point, Chance. And geocentrism was a lot closer to the anthropocentrism that QM has established, wasn’t it.

    Unless the sun is seen in its aspect as our primary source of light, light seeming very numinous in itself now that it’s nature has been studied.

  20. 20
    Axel says:

    Now I’m going round in ever-decreasing circles and I’ll probably shortly be meeting KN on the way down and, exchanging a few words with him – his words only being decipherable by Mung, because of his special GPS Satellite Navigation system, I suspect.

  21. 21
    Axel says:

    That is all well and good Andre, but what you have uttered above makes good sense, and that was always the problem.

    Almost all materialists would be strangers to the very desire for truth, however elementary since it disposes of their sorry excuse for a worldview in rag-time; and they are not for shifting.

  22. 22
    billmaz says:

    #17 Andre,
    It is clear that you have not considered quantum physics. According to quantum theory, no, the universe does not exist, at least not in its present form but only as a quantum wave of possibilities, if consciousness does not exist to observe it.

    “The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.” (Physicist Bernard d’Espagnat, Scientific American, 1979)

    Johns Hopkins physics professor Dr. R.C. Henry says that “the universe is immaterial – mental and spiritual.” In the same article, he quotes Cambridge physicist Sir James Jeans as saying, “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter . . . we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (Henry, R. C. Nature 436, 29, 2005)

    I have many more quotes and discussion here if you are interested. http://blog.billmaz.com/

    The point is that material things don’t exist outside of consciousness, at least not according to quantum physics. What exists is a quantum wave of possibilities which either “collapse” into one reality when observed by a conscious observer or, if you go with the Many Worlds hypothesis, all possible choices you make are expressed in another universe. Materialism has been left behind by physicists almost a hundred years ago.

    Math is something else. Math is one thing that is not material, it is a thought, a concept. And thus it forms part of consciousness. Since physicists are now considering that consciousness may be the vital force from which all else emerges, including the universe, http://www.stanford.edu/~alinde/) math may simply be the consciousness matrix upon which the universe is built, at least this universe with these sets of laws. In a multiverse, each universe can have its own laws of physics (though, presumably not different laws of mathematics).

  23. 23
    Axel says:

    Bohr’s Wikiquotes page is full of fascinating insights into it, such as:

    ‘We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.’

    ‘There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature…’

  24. 24
    Axel says:

    I believe Andre was talking about the objective existence of the immaterial or abstract, though I believe you’re right, in that only in terms of mind could even abstract concepts be meaningful.

  25. 25
    DonaldM says:

    Has anyone ever read or heard a physicist claim that some law or theory of physics is as well established as evolution? Maybe with tongue firmly in cheek as a sarcasm, but as a serious comparison…I’ve never seen one. That should be a clue.

    Hunter is correct about this fallacy.

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