Intelligent Design

James Clerk Maxwell’s bright line

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In my last post, I cited 31 great scientists who made scientific arguments for the supernatural, and in so doing, flouted the tenets of methodological naturalism. One of these was the Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, who propounded the theory of electromagnetism.

I was surprised that Maxwell’s violation of methodological naturalism generated so little comment among commenters on my last post, so I have decided to re-post it. The interesting thing is that Maxwell himself had a firm conception of the kinds of questions that science should and shouldn’t concern itself with – only his conception was quite different from ours. And the bright line he drew between science and non-science didn’t rule out talk of a Creator; it merely ruled out discussion of his modus operandi. Let me hasten to add that Maxwell was no Darwin-dissenter: he never criticized Darwin’s theory of evolution, and his article, “Atom,” for the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1875, Vol. III, p 48) indicates that he was probably an evolutionist, for after observing that each individual “either survives and propagates its species, or dies early, accordingly as it is more or less adapted to the circumstances of its environment,” Maxwell remarks that “it has been found possible to frame a theory of the distribution of organisms into species by means of generation, variation, and discriminative destruction” (the latter being a clear reference to natural selection). Readers who are curious about Maxwell’s views might like to peruse Ian Hutchinson’s highly engaging article, James Maxwell and the Christian Proposition.

James Clerk Maxwell and the supernatural

Who was Maxwell, and what was he famous for?

James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE, was a Scottish physicist and mathematician, whose greatest achievement was the formulation of classical electromagnetic theory, which united all observations, experiments and equations of electricity, magnetism and optics into a single, consistent theory. Maxwell’s equations explained how electricity, magnetism and light could all be understood as manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field.

How did Maxwell violate the principle of methodological naturalism, in his writings?

He argued that the matter of the universe must have been created, and that the hydrogen molecules we find in stars must have had a supernatural cause.

Where’s the evidence?

Maxwell argued that while science cannot tell us about the creation of matter out of nothing, science can tell us that molecules of matter were made, and that they were not made by a natural process.

(a) Maxwell’s scientific argument for the existence of a supernatural Creator

Maxwell put forward a scientific argument for the existence of a supernatural Creator in the concluding paragraphs of his famous Discourse on Molecules, delivered before the British Association at Bradford in September 1873:

But in the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other that no material thing can ever have passed from one to another; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds as those which we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time.

Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the double royal cubit of the temple of Karnac.

No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules [here Maxwell is talking about molecular evolution, not Darwinian evolution – VJT], for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, of generation or destruction.

None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to any of the causes which we call natural.

On the other hand, the exact equality of each molecule to all others of the same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article, and precludes the idea of its being eternal and self-existent.

Thus we have been led, along a strictly scientific path, very near to the point at which Science must stop, – not that Science is debarred from studying the internal mechanism of a molecule which she cannot take to pieces, any more than from investigating an organism which she cannot put together. But in tracing back the history of matter, Science is arrested when she assures herself, on the one hand, that the molecule has been made, and, on the other, that it has not been made by any of the processes we call natural.

Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limits of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created. It is only when we contemplate, not matter in itself, but the form in which it actually exists, that our mind finds something on which it can lay hold. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

What Maxwell is proposing here is an interesting design argument for a Creator, on scientific grounds: the fact that molecules are perfectly identical to one another suggests that they were manufactured according to an intelligent plan. What he had in mind was a “uniformity intended and accomplished by the same wisdom and power of which uniformity, accuracy, symmetry, consistency, and continuity of plan are … important attributes…” as he wrote in a letter to a friend. (See E.Garber, S.G.Brush, and C.W.F.Everitt, (Eds) Maxwell on Molecules and Gases, 1986, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 242.)

 

(b) Maxwell on the dividing line between science and religion

Note that the dividing line between science and religion is quite different for Maxwell than it is for modern scientists. For Maxwell, science could not explain the modus operandi of the Creator (especially the creation of matter out of nothing). But Maxwell felt quite confident in pronouncing, as a scientist, that certain entities (hydrogen atoms) did not have a natural origin. Today, proponents of the cosmological version of Intelligent Design have refined Maxwell’s position somewhat: they would argue that the laws of nature describing the behavior of hydrogen atoms do not have a natural origin.

How did readers respond to Maxwell’s argument for a supernatural Creator, in my last post?

The most substantive response to Maxwell’s scientific argument for a supernatural Creator came from Professor Joshua Swamidass, who recently interviewed Professor Ted Davis on the subject of methodological naturalism. He wrote:

We [i.e. Professor Ted Davis and I – VJT] would also emphasize that many scientists agree with you (and for example Lord Kelvin) in making an inference to design in our philosophical reflections of science, even today. Maxwell’s argument is a great example. I can, in principle, agree with him (it is a type of fine tuning argument), and I can see why he makes it to his colleagues. However, it reads to me as a “science inspired” argument not a “science” argument. He appears to be philosophically reflecting on meaning of scientific discoveries, not doing science per se. Similarly, Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, and myself are all critics of the ID movement, but make design inferences regularly outside of science in the same way. None of us are violating methodological naturalism (and neither is Maxwell in your quote).

In short: Professor Swamidass argues that Maxwell wasn’t putting forward a scientific argument in his 1873 Discourse on Molecules; he was simply engaging in philosophical reflections on the science of his day. I have to say I don’t buy that. Let’s have a closer look at Maxwell’s words:

None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to any of the causes which we call natural.

That sure sounds like a scientific argument to me. I can find no mention of philosophy in this passage, and while it is true that Maxwell alludes to the atomic theories of certain Greek philosophers earlier on in his discourse, he firmly sets aside philosophical speculation regarding the nature of matter when he adds: “Our business this evening is to describe some researches in molecular science, and in particular to place before you any definite information which has been obtained respecting the molecules themselves.” In addition, the magisterial language Maxwell uses in the above paragraph (“We are therefore unable…”) suggests that in this discourse, he is speaking on behalf of a group of eminent people. Since Maxwell never wrote any books on philosophy, but published quite a lot on the subject of science, I am forced to conclude that he must have been speaking as a scientist, and not as a philosopher.

Later on, Maxwell adds:

Thus we have been led, along a strictly scientific path, very near to the point at which Science must stop, – not that Science is debarred from studying the internal mechanism of a molecule which she cannot take to pieces, any more than from investigating an organism which she cannot put together. But in tracing back the history of matter, Science is arrested when she assures herself, on the one hand, that the molecule has been made, and, on the other, that it has not been made by any of the processes we call natural.

Again, no mention of philosophy here. On the contrary, Maxwell explicitly declares that he has been led “along a strictly scientific path.” He then discusses how far science can go, and it is worth noting that Maxwell thinks scientists may legitimately conclude that molecules were made, but not by any natural process. In other words, science can take us to a supernatural Creator. Although he does not use the word “Creator” in his discourse, Maxwell must have believed in the existence of such a Being, for he adds: “Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing.” By definition, creation implies a Creator.

Another commenter, named Seversky, argued that Maxwell’s argument for a supernatural Creator did not violate methodological naturalism [MN], because the Creator didn’t figure in any of his scientific hypotheses:

James Clerk Maxwell was by all accounts a devout evangelical Presbyterian. He believed the universe was created by God. But unless his equations include a term for divine intervention then there is no violation of MN. Scientists can believe whatever they like about the origins of life, the universe and everything but, as long as their hypotheses and theories don’t include explanatory gaps labelled “Here there be Miracles” then there is no violation of MN.

The trouble with this argument is that it either proves too much or too little. For that matter, Intelligent Design researchers don’t include “a term for divine intervention” in their equations. Would Seversky claim that ID proponents adhere to the tenets of methodological naturalism? Very interesting!

If, on the other hand, it is the presence of an “explanatory gap” that constitutes an infraction of the cardinal principle of methodological naturalism, and if ID proponents are charged with violating this principle when they conclude that unguided natural processes are incapable of explaining life, in all its rich variety, then how is that different from Maxwell concluding that no natural process can explain the origin of molecules? If the former is an “explanatory gap,” then so is the latter.

Professor Swamidass and Seversky were the only commenters on my last post who addressed Maxwell’s argument for the supernatural. What do other readers have to say?

Two topics for discussion:

Is Maxwell’s “bright line” between science and religion more rationally defensible than the one invoked by today’s methodological naturalists?

When was Maxwell’s “bright line” replaced by the one we use today, and why? Are there any historians of science who can answer this question?

And now, over to you.

39 Replies to “James Clerk Maxwell’s bright line

  1. 1
    Jon Garvey says:

    Vincent

    The same kind of argumentation as Maxwell’s appears in the evolutionary writings of Alfred Russel Wallace in The World of Life, which apart from anything else are closer in time to us (c 1910) and therefore bring any change in MN discourse closer to us.

    I was struck in your piece on Maxwell about his claim to be working entirely from scientific principles, for that is the same claim that Wallace makes when he argues for an organising mind behind the process of evolution.

    We therefore appear to have the situation where, if these two leading scientists were actually doing philosophy based on science, they were apparently totally unaware of it, and thought they were arguing scientifically.

    It’s more likely than not that they shared their own generation’s conception of scientific methodology than that they were outliers, and so I conclude that to draw a distinction between their science, ruled by methodological naturalism, and their philosophy, which they kept in a separate intellectual compartment, is anachronistic.

    Clearly, there has been a change in what is considered scientific methodology since their time, as you set out to show. One might be able to argue that that’s a good thing, but it seems to me wrong to argue that it’s the way things have always been.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, Maxwell is in the all-time first rank of physicists, with electromagnetic theory his major breakthrough, compressed into his famous four equations that often appear on tee-shirts; sometimes with, “And God said . . . [the eqns: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell%27s_equations#Formulation_in_SI_units ] . . . and there was light.” It is noteworthy that Einstein’s first paper on relativity is about e-m: On the electrodynamics of moving bodies. Another point of interest is that part of Maxwell’s thought background for e-m, evidently, was the concept of the trinity as triune. And of course Faraday has honourable mention here. Hertz’s spark-gap experiments built on Maxwell and led directly to the world of radio-based telecommunications technology. KF

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    JG, where methods change, they can change again, especially on considerations of the nature of induction. Where also it is notorious that demarcation and dismissal arguments at the core of scientism, have failed. No, there is no one size fits all and only definition of science and its methods, guaranteeing them a higher degree of warrant than other forms of knowledge; cf here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-614439 . KF

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, Maxwell’s usage of molecule obviously extends to atoms and particles, also pointing to cosmological fine tuning. KF

  5. 5
    mw says:

    “The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable… Only then can we defend science from attack.”
    http://www.darwinthenandnow.co.....l-society/

  6. 6
    mw says:

    “And there will be no night there. And they need no lamp, or light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light” (Revelation 22:5). Therefore such light cannot be physical.

    Clearly, that light is of God.

    The great possibility arises; “Let there be light” was of supernatural origin. http://creation.com/light-life.....ory-of-god

    It is written, “I am the Light of the world,” said Jesus, and through Him all things were created.

  7. 7
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    A mentor in my electrical engineering work in radionavigation and communication always used to say, “Let’s go back to Maxwell’s equations.” What he meant was that first principles of the world, elegantly described by Maxwell, are the bedrock for everything else that scientists and engineers design. Starting from there, and progressing in a systematic and testable way, we can maximize the effectiveness of our design, most fully understand the anomalies we see, and minimize the opportunity for and probability of error. It was his own version, I suppose, of Kronecker’s famous dictum, “God created the integers; all else is the work of man.”

    As a Christian and electrical engineer, Maxwell is my hero.

    VJT, I wouldn’t be surprised by a dearth of comments on any particular part of your 31 scientists post. It was so large and weighty (really) that it may be dwarfing more pedestrian replies, kind of like the battlefield immediately after the detonation of a massive weapon, either conventional or otherwise.

    mw @ 5, If “science” retained an appropriate level of humility and open-mindedness about truth beyond its borders, it would be easier to take this seriously. But its refusal to do so, and its arrogance in assuming itself as the only arbiter of Truth, makes this difficult. In the case of ID, an inference to the best explanation should be treated with gravity and respect even if it is not directly testable. In that case, the lack of testability should not diminish the phenomenon or its most likely Source; it should instead cause scientists to reaffirm their own smallness, inadequacy, and desperate need for humility.

    The two most direct paths to such a proper attitude are gratitude and worship.

    Maxwell got this exactly right, as evidenced by the Biblical passage he had inscribed on the doors of the first Cavendish Laboratory, in Latin: Magna opera Domini exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus’, meaning ‘The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all them that have pleasure therein’. (Psalm 111:2). The new Cavendish laboratory shares this motto, which was proposed by a graduate student and adopted, apparently, without objection.

  8. 8
    mw says:

    Maxwell, no doubt was a brilliant scientist and faithful Christian.

    Dean_from_Ohio, I totally agree with what you say.

    There is human brilliance: Genius in fact, and there is divine brilliance.

    “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Matt 17:2)

    On the 6th Aug, the Transfiguration is remembered in the Catholic Church.

    What is significant about the Transfiguration, is that Jesus speaks to Moses, whom He, in the Essence of the Holy Trinity, at Sinai, gave divine law, of which He said, as “the truth” (Jn 14:6), He fullfiled to the letter (Matt 5:17-19).

    What is significant about human Genius, is that evolution theory has difficulty to explain in incremental steps how a Genius is born.

    Surely it is a free gift from God. Meaning, God, in various ways, is directly involved in human direction within the limits of humankind. Including Personally giving Divine Law.

  9. 9
    mw says:

    ps, It was the God of Sinai, as God-Man, (“I am”) who was Transfigured on Mount Tabor. So we may believe.

  10. 10
    groovamos says:

    Not being on the same philosophical level as many on here, I’ll put my brute force proposition that Maxwell was demolishing scientism more than MN. In short he could have been implying something that I believe, and that is there is no sharp dividing line between what can and cannot be studied by science, but that there are regions beyond the reach of science. Somewhere in the fuzzy regions, there are phenomena which are within reach of science but outside of regions where MN is of any use. An example would be in the field of conciousness research, where MN is a hindrance. Such studies can include the best data available, being repeatable, accessible with the use of mind expanding substances and which can bring experiences to the subjects which are beyond the “Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm” as Stan Grof would put it, which he labels the “transpersonal experiential realms”. Again why I consider this science is because it is repeatable across a wide variety of subjects, and the icing on the cake is that astounding therapeutic results are generally achieved in the subjects, which provides some validity to the reports by the subjects on what they have experienced.

    But even in consciousness research, given tha MN has been left out, there are regions where science cannot go. For example the questions “Why do I have weird dreams” or “Why do weird dreams make me feel good” might be considered as forever unanswerable. Which would demolish scientism.

    BTW for the edification of UD people I’m commenting here on KF’s Maxwell is in the all-time first rank of physicists, with electromagnetic theory his major breakthrough, compressed into his famous four equations that often appear on tee-shirts….

    Yes those 4 equations are called Maxwell’s equations but did you guys know that there was a period where there was contention on whether to call them Maxwell’s equations or Heaviside’s equations?

    Here is why: Maxwell’s equations were 12 in number, and were built using what are called quaternions. These were systems of equations with 2 x 2 matrices that were widely used in the 19th century, and with 4 terms, could of course accommodate 3 dimensions. The fact that they required 12 equations is maybe even a further testament to Maxwell’s genius.

    However had Maxwell been born a few decades later he would have been able to take advantage of magnificent strides in mathematics which included the developments in vector calculus.

    The polymath and original electrical engineer Oliver Heaviside not only mastered Maxwell but mastered vector calculus which, with its new symbology he could compactly express the original 12 equations as the 4 equations we call Maxwells equations, not the Heaviside equations that used to be so-called, since it was Heaviside that “compressed” them into the “famous four”.

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Quaternion.html

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    Groov, Heaviside was a heavy-weight too; though perhaps not of the rank of Newton or Archimedes or the like. KF

  12. 12
    Robert Byers says:

    The Victoria league had many scientists who opposed evolution. i think rutherford almost became a member.

  13. 13
    Seversky says:

    Another commenter, named Seversky, argued that Maxwell’s argument for a supernatural Creator did not violate methodological naturalism [MN], because the Creator didn’t figure in any of his scientific hypotheses:

    James Clerk Maxwell was by all accounts a devout evangelical Presbyterian. He believed the universe was created by God. But unless his equations include a term for divine intervention then there is no violation of MN. Scientists can believe whatever they like about the origins of life, the universe and everything but, as long as their hypotheses and theories don’t include explanatory gaps labelled “Here there be Miracles” then there is no violation of MN.

    The trouble with this argument is that it either proves too much or too little. For that matter, Intelligent Design researchers don’t include “a term for divine intervention” in their equations. Would Seversky claim that ID proponents adhere to the tenets of methodological naturalism? Very interesting

    I have absolutely no objection to ID proponents pursuing research into the subject following the principles of methodological naturalism. In fact, I suspect we both remember instances where scientists have urged them to do just that. If they were able to develop a means of identifying the fingerprint of design such that they could reliably distinguish artifice from nature, that would be a great achievement in itself.

    Let me say that my own version of naturalism in a sense is founded on the principle or law of identity, which Wikipedia describes thus:

    In logic, the law of identity is the first of the three classical laws of thought. It states that “each thing is the same with itself and different from another”. By this it is meant that each thing (be it a universal or a particular) is composed of its own unique set of characteristic qualities or features, which the ancient Greeks called its essence. Consequently, things that have the same essence are the same thing, while things that have different essences are different things

    So what makes a thing itself is the set of properties or attributes that are unique to that thing. The Greeks called it “essence”, I call it the thing’s nature although the name doesn’t really matter. Science, as a means of understanding the world, engages in the methodical study of the natures of the things of which it is composed. This obviously means that anything that can be held to exist at all – be it ghost, God or intelligent designer – thereby has a nature which, at least in principle, makes it a fit subject for naturalistic investigation.

    On this basis, I see no use for a concept or domain of the “supernatural” other than as a repository for those phenomena which might forever be beyond the reach of science or which some people would prefer to be beyond that reach. I don’t see Maxwell’s “bright line” as marking the outer limit of science so much as the boundary between what we have some knowledge of and what we have no knowledge of – yet.

  14. 14
    Jon Garvey says:

    Science, as a means of understanding the world, engages in the methodical study of the natures of the things of which it is composed.

    Apart from being a non-standard definition of science, this is full of problems.

    History has no nature, but can be studied – though not scientifically.

    Information exists, but does not consist of things, so cannot be studied naturalistically (although information theory can say something on the broad nature of information itself, it can say nothing about the information content).

    Consciousness exists, but is intriniscally subjective so cannot be studied objectively by deficition.

    God is not made of things, so cannot be studied by science. Nor even angels.

    Quite apart from that, science has eschewed the study of formal causes since Bacon: which makes your concept of universal “natures” (which are universal forms) problematic.

    Apart from that, your definition of science will do quite well.

  15. 15
    mw says:

    Vjt, quoting Galileo; “The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ernatural/

    (Presumably, that sentiment stands for all the scientist’s you highlight?)
    ______________________________________________________

    If so; yes, in relation to physical laws, but no in relation to miracles, as the Divine Nature was not ordered by nature, or is subject to nature and the flesh.

    The Bible is a book of truth. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit; it reveals the Divine Law; it says the main protagonist are “the truth,” of the Father (Jn 17:17), Son (Jn 14:6) and Holy Spirit, whom the Son sends from the Father (Jn 15:26) and (Jn 16:13).

    Therefore, the Bible in relation to miracles, provides much documented observed evidence of an unknown super-science which overrides or can operate through natural laws. The Bible does indeed show, as a statement of truth, that in the miraculous beginning, how the heavens went: the means of communication, itself a miracle at Sinai. The heavens go according to the truth set in divine law; stemming from the miraculous into the natural.

    At that point, at Sinai, God set down once and for all in Divine Law how heaven and earth were born in six days. It is a belief because it cannot be given to humans any other way. We cannot test the power of God.

    Looking back over the scientists that you invoke vjt, with some material cited from creationists who believe in “a Designer of Nature,” you say you believes in “an old universe” and “common descent;” fine. I believe tested are ideas and stretched when we respectfully engage with alternative views.

    Nevertheless, skimming through the evolution of evolutionism (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_evolutionary_thought ); what struck me was that, there are only two basic ways to understand how life formed, the prime way, as given in Divine Law at Sinai, supernaturally, and the other, induced through human thought and now evolution theory, agreed by scientific consensus; but not by testable, repeatable, or reproducible law.

    It seems to me, evolutionism in some form has existed from ages past, it is humanities default position against Verbatim Divine Law. Once the Divine Law of the Judaeo-Christian God is cast out, as Darwin did, basically, the only alternative left is that life must come via some form of materialistic naturalism, including from other planets; or combined with some form of theistic evolutionism.

    Eugenie Scott said:
    _______________________________________________________
    “The scientific definition of evolution makes no mention of theological issues such as whether God created. Science as practised today is methodologically naturalistic: it explains the natural world using only natural causes. Science cannot explain (or test explanations about) the supernatural.” http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/M.....naturalism
    _________________________________________________________

    In a deliberate self-limiting and self-restricted sense, ID is making a theological claim. Fine, it combines such strengths and weakness with science.

    Nevertheless, the scientists highlighted by you vjt provide sound theories and laws while sharing belief. Such belief may have helped fashion their theories and laws, just as the contrived theology of Darwin did when he rejected Divine Law.

    Yet, it is scoffed at when the Creator of those scientists provides sound law on simple aspects of miraculous creation. Yet, we do not even know how a particle of the spirit is place in flesh at the creation of the soul.

    If we but admit, we cannot understand the science of the laws of miracles.

    God guides us from the beginning, in truth.

    The Catholic Church placed Galileo on a charge of heresy because of his belief that the earth rotates around the sun. The Bible never states in Divine Law about any such relative rotations. From Sinai, pointing back to Genesis; implied, created was the earth before the sun and moon, all within six days; and that is all.

    Heresy of a type is now what God is ‘charged’ with by many fallen men/women. Of course, not in so many words, and not face to face with the Divine. His words are politely dismissed as mainly ‘cuckoo,’ judged against the Big Bang Theory and Darwinism.

    Such can only lead on way. Some miracle is needed for God to save His word. Inevitably it seems, linked with Divine Justice.

    All of the Creation must revolve around one truth: the axis of truth. It was set in stone. If every person on earth was a scientist from now to judgement day, we could not prove or disprove God created in six days.

  16. 16
    bill cole says:

    VJT
    I really enjoyed this post.

    science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limits of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created. It is only when we contemplate, not matter in itself, but the form in which it actually exists, that our mind finds something on which it can lay hold.

    I agree with this reasoning and think we can extend this reasoning to sequences or biological information.

    There are certainly disagreements to where the edge of science is and I don’t think where that edge is, is as important as a consistent definition of science.

    If Science is restricted to a hypothesis that tests a mechanism then ID does go away, but also so does most of the TOE.

  17. 17
    Seversky says:

    Jon Garvey @ 14

    Apart from being a non-standard definition of science, this is full of problems.

    I agree it’s not standard but then what is? They all have problems. This is one of the things that keeps philosophers of science gainfully employed.

    History has no nature, but can be studied – though not scientifically.

    History is just the name of the discipline. Science can certainly study the past of the phenomena that make up the universe to some extent. If it’s observable, even if only through fragmentary clues left behind, then it can be studied.

    Information exists, but does not consist of things, so cannot be studied naturalistically (although information theory can say something on the broad nature of information itself, it can say nothing about the information content)

    That depends on what you mean by information. What we commonly think of as information is embodied in – and transmitted by – things which science can study.

    Consciousness exists, but is intriniscally subjective so cannot be studied objectively by deficition

    Again, it’s observed as a property or attribute of physical beings with physical brains. How the two are related is undoubtedly proving a tough nut to crack. Maybe we can’t crack it but we’ll never know unless we try.

    God is not made of things, so cannot be studied by science. Nor even angels.

    You can’t get something out of nothing. If God and angels exist, they are something, not nothing. They are made of something and, being ordered, they have a nature. Science can study that nature, if only in principle.

    Quite apart from that, science has eschewed the study of formal causes since Bacon: which makes your concept of universal “natures” (which are universal forms) problematic

    Maybe, or maybe the idea was discarded too soon.

  18. 18
    Jon Garvey says:

    Maybe, or maybe the idea was discarded too soon.

    In other words, science can study natures if it changes to another kind of science from the methodological naturalism that only studies “repeatable material efficient causes”.

    Sounds like you’re in alliance with the Discovery Institute on that, then, against established science.

    That definition catches most of your other points, too.

    History consists of unrepeatable causes, so cannot be reduced to the abstractions of science (Marxist theory of history was wrecked on that rock).

    Information indeed must be embodied to be utilised – but is definitionally formal causation, for it cannot be reduced to the material as information. And formal causation, like the hylemorphic human soul – also an information concept – was excluded from science since Bacon. No science can fully explain the information in this post, however much of the process it can describe. The same description would apply to a post on yorkshire terriers or cooking.

    The point on consciousness here is that the idea of studying it objectively is conceptually impossible. If you’ve not read Nagel on bats, you should. It’s like plugging away at proving something that Godel’s Incompleteness theorems have proven already to be unprovable.

    As for God, you clearly have no concept of God either philosophically or theologically. As First Cause he is what all things derive from, so cannot be made from them. But less controversially, science itself excluded God from study by restricting itself to repeatable (God is unique) material (God is not material) efficient causes (God has no efficient cause as First Cause).

    On your final point, should you get your way and have formal causes re-introduced to science, you would then have to ask where universals come from if not God the First Cause. In fact that problem exists already in explaining why there should be the universals called “physical laws” without a lawmaker: how do you propose science should “explain” (rather than simply assuming) the existence of laws?

    And in any case, if you once abandon science’s exclusion of formal causes, you have to justify the exclusion of final causes (teleology), which Bacon made on very similar grounds.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    Over at “The Skeptical Zone” admin and moderator “Patrick” claimed:

    Creationists aren’t interested in science except where they can use the terminology to incorrectly and often dishonestly give the impression of providing support for their anti-science beliefs.

    I offered in rebuttal, James Clerk Maxwell.

    Patrick then claimed that he did not mean what he said.

  20. 20
    tjguy says:

    Very thorough and well researched article as always. Here is another article which adds some good information about Maxwell.

    From the article:

    We are fortunate to have a great deal of original source documents on Maxwell, thanks largely to his biographer and lifelong friend, the Rev. Lewis Campbell, who collected many personal letters, essays, anecdotes and tributes into his excellent 1882 biography, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, co-authored by William Garnett, one of his Cambridge colleagues. In addition, Cambridge University (where Maxwell was a distinguished scholar) has recently (1990, 1995) published two thick annotated volumes of Maxwell’s collected scientific papers and letters–including even his postcards–and a third volume was just completed in late 2002. Yet in spite of these resources, few have even heard of James Clerk (pronounced Clark) Maxwell and his work, because these books are rare and costly. The biography, long out of print, can only be found on dusty shelves of large libraries, and the new volumes of his collected papers cost $300 apiece. But now, a Maxwell devotee software engineer has put the whole Lewis Campbell biography online, so Maxwell’s personal life story, the kind you never get in the textbooks, is accessible again (see sidebar, right). We will include some choice examples here, but if there is one of the great scientists in this series you would pick to study in more detail, try this one. You’re in for a treat, because Maxwell’s personality is as captivating as his equations. He was the kind of fellow you would want to chat with over dinner every chance you could. No matter what the subject, he would keep you entertained and fascinated for hours.

    Most important, Maxwell’s Christian faith was the core of his being. It guided his life’s work and personal habits, and motivated him to search out the laws of the great Lawgiver with diligence, as a mission from God. Thoroughly versed in classic literature and philosophies ancient and modern, Maxwell was uniquely qualified to speak to science, theology, and philosophy–and he did. He was a true Christian in heart as well as mind; he loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all his heart, mind and soul. And, he knew his Bible inside and out.

    crev.info/?scientists=james-clerk-maxwell

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    Jon Garvey @ 18

    In other words, science can study natures if it changes to another kind of science from the methodological naturalism that only studies “repeatable material efficient causes”.

    Sounds like you’re in alliance with the Discovery Institute on that, then, against established science.

    The Discovery Institute is opposed to established science where it is held to be in conflict with its camouflaged theological commitments. There is nothing, however, to prevent it from conducting naturalistic investigations into intelligent design but, if it wants to introduce so-called “supernatural” elements, it is bound to describe them and justify any claim that they provide additional explanatory power.

    History consists of unrepeatable causes, so cannot be reduced to the abstractions of science (Marxist theory of history was wrecked on that rock).

    If the principle of uniformitarianism holds then past events are comprised of the same phenomena and processes subject to the same laws as current events, so we can investigate them to that extent. We may not be able exactly re-create the Battle of Gettysburg down to the smallest detail but we have enough data from and about that period which, combined with our observations of current events, yields a reasonably accurate account of the battle and its context

    Information indeed must be embodied to be utilised – but is definitionally formal causation, for it cannot be reduced to the material as information. And formal causation, like the hylemorphic human soul – also an information concept – was excluded from science since Bacon. No science can fully explain the information in this post, however much of the process it can describe. The same description would apply to a post on yorkshire terriers or cooking.

    Information, as we know, has a number of different meanings, none of which is necessarily more right than any of the others. If you are arguing that descriptions of the semantic information that is allegedly a property of this post are incomplete, I would agree provisionally. But an incomplete explanation is better than no explanation at all.

    The point on consciousness here is that the idea of studying it objectively is conceptually impossible. If you’ve not read Nagel on bats, you should. It’s like plugging away at proving something that Godel’s Incompleteness theorems have proven already to be unprovable

    I agree that we may never know what it is like to be a bat without being a bat just as I will never know what it is like to be you without being you. That doesn’t mean I can’t infer anything useful about your consciousness based on my own conscious experience and the observation of others.

    All we are saying here is that our knowledge of the world and even ourselves is necessarily incomplete. Inductive inferences must always lack the certainty of deductive necessity. That doesn’t mean we can never know anything about ourselves or the world I which we find ourselves, just that we must be satisfied with less than full confidence in it.

    As for God, you clearly have no concept of God either philosophically or theologically. As First Cause he is what all things derive from, so cannot be made from them. But less controversially, science itself excluded God from study by restricting itself to repeatable (God is unique) material (God is not material) efficient causes (God has no efficient cause as First Cause).

    As an atheist I have no concept of God other than what is provided by believers. Since there appears to be some variation in the concepts on offer, how am I to choose between them?

    The assumption of a First Cause is driven by dissatisfaction with the prospect of an infinite causal regress. The problem with a First Cause is that if you cannot get something from nothing and if nothing precedes a First Cause by definition then the First Cause must always have existed, which brings us right back to an infinity that the First Cause was intended to prevent.

    On your final point, should you get your way and have formal causes re-introduced to science, you would then have to ask where universals come from if not God the First Cause. In fact that problem exists already in explaining why there should be the universals called “physical laws” without a lawmaker: how do you propose science should “explain” (rather than simply assuming) the existence of laws?

    I’m not denying that there is a profound mystery concerning the origins of the Universe and the laws by which at appears to be governed. I find I am in the unsatisfactory position of having to be content with not knowing. That ignorance means that I cannot rule out the possibility of a God or some other form of Intelligent Designer but neither are they necessarily entailed by it.

  22. 22
    jdk says:

    Good post, Severesky.

  23. 23

    mw @ 8&9: Amen! See Matthew 16:17.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    The Sev’s post is an exercise in hypocritical semantics. Only someone who wanted to deny the truth would find it to be a ‘good post’.

    For instance, in his first sentence, the Sev states:

    The Discovery Institute is opposed to established science where it is held to be in conflict with its camouflaged theological commitments.

    It is the height of hypocrisy for a Darwinist to accuse IDists of camouflaged theological commitments.

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    Excerpt: The Origin supplies abundant evidence of theology in action; as Dilley observes:
    I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):
    1. Human beings are not justified in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.
    2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.
    3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.
    4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.
    5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.
    6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.
    7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.
    8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.
    9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.
    10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    Charles Darwin’s use of theology in the Origin of Species – STEPHEN DILLEY
    Abstract
    This essay examines Darwin’s positiva (or positive) use of theology in the first edition of the Origin of Species in three steps. First, the essay analyses the Origin’s theological language about God’s accessibility, honesty, methods of creating, relationship to natural laws and lack of responsibility for natural suffering; the essay contends that Darwin utilized positiva theology in order to help justify (and inform) descent with modification and to attack special creation. Second, the essay offers critical analysis of this theology, drawing in part on Darwin’s mature ruminations to suggest that, from an epistemic point of view, the Origin’s positiva theology manifests several internal tensions. Finally, the essay reflects on the relative epistemic importance of positiva theology in the Origin’s overall case for evolution. The essay concludes that this theology served as a handmaiden and accomplice to Darwin’s science.
    http://journals.cambridge.org/.....741100032X

    Contrary to popular belief, Charles Darwin was NOT one of the “greatest scientists who has ever lived.” Far from it. Darwin was primarily a liberal theologian who practiced bad theology rather than a great scientist who practiced good science. (In fact population genetics has cast Natural Selection, which was supposedly his greatest contribution to science, under the bus)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-611818

    Methodological Naturalism: A Rule That No One Needs or Obeys – Paul Nelson – September 22, 2014
    Excerpt: It is a little-remarked but nonetheless deeply significant irony that evolutionary biology is the most theologically entangled science going. Open a book like Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True (2009) or John Avise’s Inside the Human Genome (2010), and the theology leaps off the page. A wise creator, say Coyne, Avise, and many other evolutionary biologists, would not have made this or that structure; therefore, the structure evolved by undirected processes. Coyne and Avise, like many other evolutionary theorists going back to Darwin himself, make numerous “God-wouldn’t-have-done-it-that-way” arguments, thus predicating their arguments for the creative power of natural selection and random mutation on implicit theological assumptions about the character of God and what such an agent (if He existed) would or would not be likely to do.,,,
    ,,,with respect to one of the most famous texts in 20th-century biology, Theodosius Dobzhansky’s essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1973).
    Although its title is widely cited as an aphorism, the text of Dobzhansky’s essay is rarely read. It is, in fact, a theological treatise. As Dilley (2013, p. 774) observes:
    “Strikingly, all seven of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. In fact, without God-talk, the geneticist’s arguments for evolution are logically invalid. In short, theology is essential to Dobzhansky’s arguments.”,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89971.html

    Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of theology? – Dilley S. – 2013
    Abstract
    This essay analyzes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous article, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” in which he presents some of his best arguments for evolution. I contend that all of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon sectarian claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. Moreover, Dobzhansky’s theology manifests several tensions, both in the epistemic justification of his theological claims and in their collective coherence. I note that other prominent biologists–such as Mayr, Dawkins, Eldredge, Ayala, de Beer, Futuyma, and Gould–also use theology-laden arguments. I recommend increased analysis of the justification, complexity, and coherence of this theology.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890740

    If you disagree that Darwinism is one of the most theologically entangled sciences going, and is really ‘just science’, you are more than welcome to present a rigid demarcation criteria to test against so as to ‘potentially’ falsify it as a scientific theory.

    Deeper into the Royal Society Evolution Paradigm Shift Meeting – 02/08/2016
    Suzan Mazur: Peter Saunders in his interview comments to me said that neo-Darwinism is not a theory, it’s a paradigm and the reason it’s not a theory is that it’s not falsifiable.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....84812.html
    Peter Saunders is Co-Director, Institute of Science in Society, London; Emeritus professor of Applied Mathematics, King’s College London.
    Peter Saunders has been applying mathematics in biology for over 40 years, in microbiology and physiology as well as in development and evolution. He has been a critic of neo-Darwinism for almost as long.

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr – 2004
    Excerpt: biology (Darwinian Evolution) differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don’t know exceptions so I think it’s probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences.
    ,,, And so that’s what I do in this book. I show that the theoretical basis, you might call it, or I prefer to call it the philosophy of biology, has a totally different basis than the theories of physics.
    http://www.scientificamerican......-ernst-in/

  25. 25
    velikovskys says:

    Ba:
    It is the height of hypocrisy for a Darwinist to accuse IDists of camouflaged theological commitments.

    I think that is not a denial.

  26. 26
    jdk says:

    Only someone who wanted to deny the truth would find it to be a ‘good post’.

    You can disagree with me if you wish, but accusing me of being someone who wants to “deny the truth” is baloney. No one has cornered the market on truth when it comes to many matters. I suggest a little less arrogance.

  27. 27
    bornagain77 says:

    jdk, the only thing that is arrogant baloney is Darwinists insisting their theory is scientific when it is nothing of the sort. Darwinian evolution is a nothing but a non-falsifiable pseudo-science that refuses to submit itself to rigorous testing as all other scientific theories submit themselves to rigorous testing.

    The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness – David L. Abel
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”
    If only one exception to this null hypothesis were published, the hypothesis would be falsified. Falsification would require an experiment devoid of behind-the-scenes steering. Any artificial selection hidden in the experimental design would disqualify the experimental falsification. After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided.
    The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction:
    “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    https://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/The_Law_of_Physicodynamic_Incompleteness

    The Origin of Information: How to Solve It – Perry Marshall
    Where did the information in DNA come from? This is one of the most important and valuable questions in the history of science. Cosmic Fingerprints has issued a challenge to the scientific community:
    “Show an example of Information that doesn’t come from a mind. All you need is one.”
    “Information” is defined as digital communication between an encoder and a decoder, using agreed upon symbols. To date, no one has shown an example of a naturally occurring encoding / decoding system, i.e. one that has demonstrably come into existence without a designer.
    A private equity investment group is offering a technology prize for this discovery (up to 3 million dollars). We will financially reward and publicize the first person who can solve this;,,, To solve this problem is far more than an object of abstract religious or philosophical discussion. It would demonstrate a mechanism for producing coding systems, thus opening up new channels of scientific discovery. Such a find would have sweeping implications for Artificial Intelligence research.
    http://cosmicfingerprints.com/solve/

    Evolutionary Computing: The Invisible Hand of Intelligence – June 17, 2015
    Excerpt: William Dembski and Robert Marks have shown that no evolutionary algorithm is superior to blind search — unless information is added from an intelligent cause, which means it is not, in the Darwinian sense, an evolutionary algorithm after all. This mathematically proven law, based on the accepted No Free Lunch Theorems, seems to be lost on the champions of evolutionary computing. Researchers keep confusing an evolutionary algorithm (a form of artificial selection) with “natural evolution.” ,,,
    Marks and Dembski account for the invisible hand required in evolutionary computing. The Lab’s website states, “The principal theme of the lab’s research is teasing apart the respective roles of internally generated and externally applied information in the performance of evolutionary systems.” So yes, systems can evolve, but when they appear to solve a problem (such as generating complex specified information or reaching a sufficiently narrow predefined target), intelligence can be shown to be active. Any internally generated information is conserved or degraded by the law of Conservation of Information.,,,
    What Marks and Dembski prove is as scientifically valid and relevant as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in mathematics. You can’t prove a system of mathematics from within the system, and you can’t derive an information-rich pattern from within the pattern.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....96931.html

  28. 28
    jdk says:

    My remark had nothing to do with evolution. Seversky made a number of points about the nature of knowledge that I thought were good points, and well-stated.

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    “Seversky made a number of points about the nature of knowledge that I thought were good points, and well-stated.”

    And you and Seversky are both severely misguided in your atheistic delusions.

    Assuming naturalism as true leads to catastrophic epistemological failure of science itself.

    Atheistic Materialism – Where All of Reality Becomes an Illusion – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/1213432255336372/

    Contrary to popular belief, Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a foundation of quicksand that quickly engulfs our conception of reality itself into a quagmire of illusions and fantasy.

    First off, in regards to Darwinian Evolution, atheists hold that the design that we see pervasively throughout life is merely an illusion, i.e. merely an ‘appearance of design’. Richard Dawkins puts the situation this way.

    “Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.”
    Richard Dawkins – “The Blind Watchmaker” – 1986 – page 21
    quoted from this video – Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY

    Richards Dawkins is far from the only prominent atheists who seem to be afflicted with the mental illness of seeing the ‘illusion of design’ pervasively throughout life. The well known atheist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, seems to have been particularly haunted by this illusion of seeing design everywhere he looked in molecular biology:

    “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 138 (1990)

    “Organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 30

    Yet, despite the fact that, according to many leading atheists themselves, life gives the overwhelming ‘appearance’ of having been designed for a purpose, all the purported scientific evidence, that is suppose to demonstrate for us how this overwhelming appearance of design in life came to be by unguided material processes, turns out, itself, to be ‘illusory’.

    Franklin M. Harold, whom I believe is also an atheist, calls Darwinian accounts ‘a variety of wishful speculations’. Specifically he states:

    “,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    In fact, one of the main themes of many of Michael Behe’s talks is that all ‘grand Darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination’:

    “Grand Darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination”
    Dr. Michael Behe – 29:24 mark of this following video
    Evidence of Design from Biology. A Presentation by Dr. Michael Behe – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....fM#t=1762s

    Thus, since atheists themselves are self admittedly seeing the ‘illusion of design’ in life, and yet they have no experimental evidence whatsoever that unguided material processes can produce this ‘illusion of design’ that they are seeing, then of course the ID advocate would be well justified in saying that this ‘illusion of design’ that they are seeing in life not an illusion after all but the design they see is indeed real and that these atheists are not really suffering from some sort of a mental illness after all.

    “Darwinism provided an explanation for the appearance of design, and argued that there is no Designer — or, if you will, the designer is natural selection. If that’s out of the way — if that just does not explain the evidence — then the flip side of that is, well, things appear designed because they are designed.”
    Richard Sternberg – Living Waters documentary
    Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson – (excerpt from Living Waters video)
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1161131450566453/?type=2&theater

    In fact, I hold that Darwinists are ‘naturally detecting design’ because of the inherent ‘image of God’ that they have within themselves.

    Moreover, this illusory nature inherent to the evidence for atheistic naturalism gets worse for the atheist. Much worse! For instance, although reliable ‘observation’ of reality is a necessary cornerstone of the scientific method itself,,,

    Steps of the Scientific Method
    Observation/Research
    Hypothesis
    Prediction
    Experimentation
    Conclusion
    http://www.sciencemadesimple.c.....ethod.html

    ,,, Although reliable ‘observation’ of reality is a necessary cornerstone of the scientific method, the reductive materialistic foundation that Darwinian evolution rests upon undermines this cornerstone.
    That is to say, Given materialistic/atheistic premises, not only are our personal beliefs about reality held to be somewhat flawed, but even our perceptions/observations of reality itself is held to be untrustworthy and thus ‘illusory’ given the materialistic premises of atheism.
    Richard Dawkins puts the situation like this:

    Why Atheism is Nonsense Pt.5 – “Naturalism is a Self-defeating Idea”video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff-5rsrDRGM

    In the following video and article, Donald Hoffman has, through numerous computer simulations of population genetics, proved that if Darwinian evolution were actually true then all of our perceptions of reality would be illusory.

    Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? – Video – 9:59 minute mark
    Quote: “,,,evolution is a mathematically precise theory. We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems or more fit. A key notion in those equations is fitness.,,, fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes.,,, Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it is fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution. So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality. Others see just part of the reality. And some see none of the reality. Only fitness. Who wins? Well I hate to break it to you but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality, but are just tuned to fitness, drive to extinction that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those (accurate) perceptions of reality go extinct. Now this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?”
    https://youtu.be/oYp5XuGYqqY?t=601

    The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality – April 2016
    The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions.
    Excerpt: “The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.”
    https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160421-the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality/

    also see Plantinga’s ‘evolutionary argument against naturalism’ which preceded Hoffmans’s ‘evolutionary argument against reality’
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-613251

  30. 30
    bornagain77 says:

    Thus, in what should be needless to say, a worldview that undermines the scientific method itself by holding all our observations of reality are illusory is NOT a worldview that can be firmly grounded within the scientific method!

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.
    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.,,,
    Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.
    The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....94171.html

    Moreover, completely contrary to materialistic premises, conscious observation, far from being unreliable and illusory, is experimentally found to be far more integral to reality, i.e. far more reliable of reality, than the math of population genetics predicted. In the following experiment, it was found that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    Apparently science itself could care less if atheists are forced to believe, because of the math of population genetics, that their observations of reality are illusory!

    Moreover, as Nancy Pearcey alluded to in her ‘Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself’ article, given the materialistic/atheistic premises of Darwinian evolution, not only are our observations of reality itself held to be illusory, but even our sense of self, i.e. the belief that we really exist as real persons, which is the most sure thing we can know about reality, becomes illusory too.
    Thus, in what I consider to be a shining example of poetic justice, in their claim that God is not really a real person but is merely an illusion, the naturalist also ends up claiming that he himself is not really a real person but is merely an illusion. Francis Crick stated,,,

    “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
    Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    Per NY Times

    Atheistic Materialism – Does Richard Dawkins Exist? – video 37:51 minute mark
    Quote: “You can spout a philosophy that says scientific materialism, but there aren’t any scientific materialists to pronounce it.,,, That’s why I think they find it kind of embarrassing to talk that way. Nobody wants to stand up there and say, “You know, I’m not really here”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVCnzq2yTCg&t=37m51s

    At the 23:33 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins agrees with materialistic philosophers who say that:
    “consciousness is an illusion”
    A few minutes later Rowan Williams asks Dawkins
    ”If consciousness is an illusion… what isn’t?”.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWN4cfh1Fac&t=22m57s

    Thus, given materialistic premises, people become illusions whose observations of reality are illusory.

    And why in blue blazes should anyone trust what illusions having illusions have to say about reality?

    Finally, this unconstrained ‘illusory’ nature inherent to naturalism/materialism becomes even more acute when atheists try to explain the origin and sustaining of the universe, i.e. try to explain the origin, fine-tuning, and quantum wave collapse of the universe.
    That is to say, every time an atheist postulates a random infinity to try to get around the glaringly obvious Theistic implications of the Big Bang, fine-tuning, and the quantum wave collapse, of the universe, then the math surrounding that random infinity tells us that everything that is remotely possible has a 100% chance of existing somewhere in that random infinity of possibilities that the atheist had postulated. Even an infinite number of Richard Dawkins riding on an infinite number of pink unicorns becomes assured. Since that absurdity is epistemologically self-defeating, then the atheistic worldview is falsified as a coherent theory of knowledge. Scientific knowledge or otherwise.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-610687

    WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Infinity – Max Tegmark – January 2014 and Feb. 2015
    Excerpt: Physics is all about predicting the future from the past, but inflation seems to sabotage this: when we try to predict the probability that something particular will happen, inflation always gives the same useless answer: infinity divided by infinity. The problem is that whatever experiment you make, inflation predicts that there will be infinitely many copies of you far away in our infinite space, obtaining each physically possible outcome, and despite years of tooth-grinding in the cosmology community, no consensus has emerged on how to extract sensible answers from these infinities. So strictly speaking, we physicists are no longer able to predict anything at all!
    http://blogs.discovermagazine......OsRyS7cBCA

  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    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/

    Fine Tuning, Pink Unicorns, and The Triune God – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1145151962164402/?type=2&theater

    Too many worlds – Philip Ball – Feb. 17, 2015
    Excerpt:,,, You measure the path of an electron, and in this world it seems to go this way, but in another world it went that way.
    That requires a parallel, identical apparatus for the electron to traverse. More – it requires a parallel you to measure it. Once begun, this process of fabrication has no end: you have to build an entire parallel universe around that one electron, identical in all respects except where the electron went. You avoid the complication of wavefunction collapse, but at the expense of making another universe (and another you).,,,
    http://aeon.co/magazine/scienc.....a-fantasy/

    A Critique of the Many Worlds Interpretation – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_42skzOHjtA&list=UU5qDet6sa6rODi7t6wfpg8g

    Thus basically, without God, everything within the atheistic/naturalistic worldview, (i.e. sense of self. observation of reality, even reality itself), collapses into self refuting, unrestrained, flights of fantasies and imagination.

    I cannot fathom a more unscientific worldview than atheistic naturalism!

    Verse, Video and Music:

    2 Corinthians 10:5
    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1143437869002478/?type=2&theater

    Hillsong United – Taya Smith – Touch The Sky – Acoustic Cover – Live – HD
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyl34fHQi3U

  32. 32
    jdk says:

    One of the points Seversky made was this:

    I agree that we may never know what it is like to be a bat without being a bat just as I will never know what it is like to be you without being you. That doesn’t mean I can’t infer anything useful about your consciousness based on my own conscious experience and the observation of others.

    All we are saying here is that our knowledge of the world and even ourselves is necessarily incomplete. Inductive inferences must always lack the certainty of deductive necessity. That doesn’t mean we can never know anything about ourselves or the world I which we find ourselves, just that we must be satisfied with less than full confidence in it.

    Do you see anything wrong about that statement, BA?

  33. 33
    bornagain77 says:

    according to naturalism there is no seversky. Only an illusion.

    I’m done.

  34. 34
    jdk says:

    That’s definitely baloney. Where is our oil-filled strawman when we need him? 🙂

  35. 35
    jdk says:

    But, BA, do you as a theist see anything wrong with the statement of seversky’s I quoted?

  36. 36
    Jon Garvey says:

    But, BA, do you as a theist see anything wrong with the statement of seversky’s I quoted?

    Well, I do. Seversky’s original point was this:

    Science, as a means of understanding the world, engages in the methodical study of the natures of the things of which it is composed. This obviously means that anything that can be held to exist at all – be it ghost, God or intelligent designer – thereby has a nature which, at least in principle, makes it a fit subject for naturalistic investigation.

    On this basis, I see no use for a concept or domain of the “supernatural” other than as a repository for those phenomena which might forever be beyond the reach of science or which some people would prefer to be beyond that reach.

    Which, being roughly interpreted means that everything that actually exists can be investigated by science (duly redefined and broadened from its actual definitions), except what obscurantists only pretend to exist as “supernatural”.

    Having shown him a number of things that undoubtedly exist, and a number that if they do exist would be automatically beyond the reach of science, Seversky retreats to a humble agnostic stance and says we can’t know everything about the world.

    And that, in other words, means that many things even in the natural world are not, after all, accessible even to his idiosyncratic extension of the scientific paradigm, but that he’d rather remain ignorant of them all than accept that there are means of knowing beyond empirical, reproducible science.

    And that is simply to concede what he was denying at the beginning of the thread, and in effect to consign many of the most significant things in nature to a dustbin category of “supernatural.”

    Remember, that “supernatural” bin must even contain the meaning of semantic texts like this, of which he says:

    If you are arguing that descriptions of the semantic information that is allegedly a property of this post are incomplete, I would agree provisionally. But an incomplete explanation is better than no explanation at all.

    I hope his text contains semantic information more than “allegedly”, from his point of view, or it would be a waste of time my reading it here in England. But assuming he’s just being humble again, the fact is that science can’t give an incomplete account of the meaning of the text – it can say nothing about it at all.

    And if that makes literature “supernatural”, then welcome to the re-enchanted world, or stop pretending that only science provides understanding.

  37. 37
    ellazimm says:

    vj

    What happened to your review of Dr Axe’s new book Undeniable? The review appeared in my RSS feed but it’s not appearing on the Uncommon Descent site. When I try an follow the RSS link it can’t be found.

    I was hoping to discuss some of your points like the one you made near the end:

    Before I close, I’d like to give Dr. Axe a little tip which he might find useful in future: when writing a book, don’t ask your friends or people who think like you to read the manuscript and offer helpful comments; instead, ask tough-minded but fair critics, whose viewpoint is opposed to your own, to preview your book, and comment as they see fit.

    This seems to be a recommendation of some kind of peer review.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    Doug Axe, author of Undeniable, on The Dennis Prager Show
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLF4PPzNC20

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