Intelligent Design

The Materialist “Extraordinary Claims” Double Standard

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Materialist Carl Sagan is credited with the phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  The dictum is known as the “Sagan Standard,” but it should be known as the “Extraordinary Claims Fallacy,” as explained very well in this article.

Materialists often use the Sagan Standard as a cudgel against theistic claims.  For example, as pointed out in the article, they may assert that people do not ordinarily rise from the dead, and therefore the claim that Jesus rose from the dead must be supported by something more than ordinary evidence; it must be supported by some vaguely defined standard of evidence they call “extraordinary evidence.”

My purpose here is not to debunk the Sagan Standard.  That has been done many times.  See the article linked above and here and here.  No, my purpose here is to note the hypocritical double standard in the way materialists employ the Sagan Standard.

Let’s take the example above.  People do not ordinarily rise from the dead.  True enough, but the claim that nonliving matter spontaneously organized itself into living matter is even more extraordinary.  There is no evidence (much less “extraordinary evidence”) to support the claim that it did.  As Franklin Harold has admitted, “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

Yet every materialist believes the claim as a matter of course.

Matter does not ordinarily spontaneously organize itself into a sophisticated self-replicating code, and there is good reason to believe it is impossible to do so.

Yet every materialist believes the claim as a matter of course.

Staggeringly sophisticated systems such as the blood clotting cascade are not ordinarily assembled through the accretion of random errors.

Yet every materialist believes the claim as a matter of course.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.  For the materialist the rule of the day is “extraordinary evidence is required for thee, but not for me.”

Update:  The wishful speculation quotation was erroneously attributed to James Shapiro.

46 Replies to “The Materialist “Extraordinary Claims” Double Standard

  1. 1
    Aeneas Pietas says:

    ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ is an extraordinary claim for which extraordinary evidence has not been provided. It is self-contradictory and therefore false.

    Claims require evidence that they are true on the balance of probabilities. That is all.

  2. 2
    J-Mac says:

    Nuh… It all depends on who is in power or who is running the show in the so-called science business currently controlled by the bullies from the materialists faith…

    Though to be fair, when the science was run by the religious first, it was pretty much the same thing… though no objector the the materialists’ faith in burned alive or subjected to torture…

    I often wonder what I would do to the people who object, deny and plainly refuse simple, and obvious truths about the design… I have many, many friends who do that…

    I wouldn’t hurt them to make them see the truth…
    What would the Designer of the Universe do? If I had done what I know about what He did, I would most likely be overwhelmed with calm confidence… If anyone of you play individual sport like tennis or rocket-ball, you may know what I’m talking about…

    I hope you missed me…

  3. 3
    mahuna says:

    From a History point of view, a challenge to the orthodox explanation of what happened and why it happened generally requires a big gob of new data, typically followed by a bar fight that lasts for a generation or so.

    In 1999, Robert Stinnet released the book “Day of Deceit” in which he provided new evidence, found in the US National Archives and untouched for more than 50 years, that Franklin Roosevelt not only knew that the Japanese Navy had left Japan and was headed to Pearl Harbor, but that Roosevelt and his fellow conspirators (apparently including CNO Admiral King and Army Chief of Staff Marshall) had spent an entire year (November 1940 through November 1941) intentionally provoking such a Japanese attack.

    Stinnet’s research was of course condemned because it COULDN’T be true. For if it were true, than Roosevelt and King and Marshall and their associates were guilty of a Treason so foul as to make Benedict Arnold a mere school boy. The evidence includes copies of messages (telegrams) from Naval Intelligence with distribution to the White House.

    No counter evidence has been provided over the intervening 20 years. What we have instead are blanket denials that any of the messages could possibly mean what they clearly say.

    So, Historians will have to wait for at least 1 more generation of Mainstream Historians to DIE before the Evidence for the Extraordinary Claims can even be discussed, very much like Evolution.

  4. 4
    rvb8 says:

    Barry,

    “People do not ordinarily rise from the dead.” (?)

    ‘Ordinarily’? I disagree. Now if you say ‘never’, then you are approaching the real round number of times this ‘beyond ordinary, or extraordinary, or beyond natural, or supernatural event has occured, (Biblical evidence not withstanding);’0’!

    Kairos will now arrive with a slew of unsupportable, ‘eyewitness’ testimony. As if police ever trust those witnessess without the corroboration of the physical evidence.

    Then you say; “True enough, but the claim that non-living matter spontaineously organized itself into living matter is even more extraordinar.” Huh?

    1.) Time moves forward not backward, for the dead to rise a former state of existance must be achieved, i.e. travelling backward in time. In organic chemistry no former state is required, it does not outrage the movement of time.

    2.) Organic molecules do form with only naturally occuring elements, and naturally occuring forces. The dead rising has never occered naturally, (unless on HBO.)

    3.) OOL science is scientifically conceivable, the dead rising is not, that goes against nature.

    4.) Materialists do not, ‘believe’ OOL as a matter of course. Belief and faith are your spheres. They do however, ‘accept’ the evidence; which is only growing by the way.

    I’m sorry, I can not get over the way phrases such as, “do not ORDINARILY rise from the dead.” are tossed adout at this site. You must understand how completely at cross purposes with science such a statement is? And if not, then you must concede why ID is not considered in any way, ‘science’.

    I am no ‘shill’ for TSZ. I merely point out that opponents of evolution there are not only given unmolested access, they also have ‘posting’ rights. (I’m not requesting posting rights BTW, your own efforts are sufficient.)

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    But we all know, though, don’t we, that ‘the rule of the day’ for the materialists, is that for them, there are no rules.

    ‘Well, whoda thunk ? Isn’t evolution full of surprises… ?!?! I guess that gives us another insight into it’s marvels. Evolution must be that ‘beauty, ever ancient, ever new’, Augustine of Hippo talked about…..’

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    rvb8, wake up to yourself, for crying out loud.

    How do you explain, how can you BEGIN to explain how, with the slogan : ‘Take up your cross and follow me’, a bunch of largely slaves and poor folk developed a religion that created a culture which eventually propelled European countries to the forefront (by a distance) of scientific, technological and social progress ? Europe, the non-pareil hegemon of the continents.

  7. 7
    groovamos says:

    RVB: Materialists do not, ‘believe’ OOL as a matter of course. Belief and faith are your spheres.

    Of course you do because no scientific school of thought I know “believes” life always existed. I postulate that you “believe” as all materialist do, that the first life form spontaneously poofed itself into existence with a fully and perfectly functioning replication apparatus at the ready, just like you think nature poofed itself into existence. Because you know what is allowed in nature and what is not allowed, you tell yourself and everybody. So therefore you do “believe” in a kind of magic, because magic goes ‘poof’ just like you like it.

    OOL science is scientifically conceivable, the dead rising is not, that goes against nature.

    Oh you an expert in “scientifically conceivable” whatever the hell the phrase means if anything. Oh and BTW there are plenty of reports of people reviving from the dead, in coffins and in morgues.

    ID is not considered in any way, ‘science’
    That’s really funny. Somehow what is ‘science’ is a story a 19th century non-scientist came up with in order to justify his philosophical materialism, securing his place as a cult figurehead for materialists. And the story? Atoms have a built-in drive to arrange themselves into life, intelligence, artworks, music, buildings, cities, and other achievements including the words to describe them. Oh and while we’re at it, the story is unfalsifiable, a big problem for calling it ‘science’. No true believer such as yourself will admit to a conceivable falsification scenario for the Darwinist faith. This is the definition of faith.

    They do however, ‘accept’ the evidence; which is only growing by the way.

    Funny how many PhD scientists study the ID literature and are converting away from the 19th century religion. Seems there must be some evidence in there somewhere. Here is the latest, read about the latest blow for your religion:

    https://www.evolutionnews.org/2017/02/german_paleonto_1/

  8. 8
    LocalMinimum says:

    RVB8:

    1) The immediate dead are at least as close to a living configuration as any of your choice of bags of chemicals, is really the point. To say their state has a different direction of evolution than your most favored bag of chemicals is to appeal to a nature you can only postulate.

    3) I would ask you define “scientifically conceivable”. I would assume you mean it can be achieved by naturalistic mechanisms.

    If we assume there is nothing supernatural about life (your view, correct?), what is to prevent us from raising the dead once we have sufficient bio-scanning and editing technology? Does it “go against nature” because we never observe it happening? We have yet to observe any sort of OOL event. Does it go against nature simply because we don’t understand how it could happen? Likewise for OOL events.

    Meanwhile, what reason do we have to believe that chemicals will evolve to ever higher peaks of non-equilibrium on their own? Even a toy like Conway’s Game of Life suggests that complex states evolve into simpler ones; at best you can establish a perpetually self-preserving oscillation (which makes it more favorable than chemistry in a small way, at least, as entropy is not practically guaranteed).

    I do not understand your issue with the use of the phrase “do not ORDINARILY rise from the dead.” I would assume the statement is not in any way logically contrary to your expectations? Furthermore, if rising from the dead were a thing one could expect to happen every now and then, just because…then how could we know that Jesus’ resurrection was divine? Clearly, there is no conflict in expectation here?

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    Sagan was a strong supporter of SETI and in the 1980’s during and after his Cosmos series was actively campaigning for U.S. taxpayer funding of SETI research to the tune of millions, if not over time, billions of dollars. But what scientific evidence do we have that extraterrestrial intelligent beings (ETI’s) exist anywhere in the universe?

    Sure it possible that ETI’s exist but it is also possible that Bigfoot exists. At least with Bigfoot we have some evidence that such a cryptozoological species exists: big footprints, hundreds of eyewitness sightings even some movie footage. I remain skeptical but still isn’t some evidence better than absolutely no evidence as we have for ETI’s? (Unless you want to consider the Roswell, Area 51 alien abduction stuff etc. Sagan of course was highly skeptical of such claims, as am I.)

    My point is that Sagan was more than willing to drop the so-called “Sagan Standard” when it came to his own pet projects. If he didn’t take it that seriously, why should we?

  10. 10
    tertiumquid says:

    Actually Sagan and others got the saying from one of the co-founders of CSICOP, Marcello Truzzi– who was later shown the door for believing that naturalism was itself an extraordinary/grand claim, and also for pointing out that they were inconsistent with their standards of evidence. Truzzi wrote an amazing review of Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things that I think should be required reading for philosophy of science. Truzzi was largely agnostic about all extraordinary claims but believed they should be given a fair hearing. His former colleague and debunker-at-large Paul Kurtz later referred to him as “the skeptic’s skeptic” and this was true in more ways than one.

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    groovamos,

    ‘Funny how many Phd scientists study the ID literature..’

    ‘Project Steve’, as of late Dec 2016 1,400 scientists, only Biologists or related fields, only Steve, or female and foreign derivatives. Imagine if they allowed all scientists from every field, with any name?

    Dembski’s, and the DI’s, ‘A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism’, languishes. Actually don’t read the Wiki section on those scientists that were mislead by the DI statement, and have since recanted, it would be depressing.

    Also, ID literature? You mean books usually stocked in the religious or cultural studies sections of libraries and book stores?

    LocalM,

    in answer to your first question. Nothing I suppose, as long as our nano-engineering tech were sufficiently advanced. We would have to break down the organic chemicals to their constituent elements and then reassemble them minus the naturally occuring aging errors.

    Why bother? Nature has done it already, we are the product.

    Local; ‘rising from the dead….just because…’?

    Your explanation, ‘just because’, is even more absurd than, the dead, ‘do not ordinarily’, rise from the dead.

    Actually ‘just because’, is the explanation my 4 year old niece gives, for absolutely everything she can’t explain.

  12. 12
    groovamos says:

    RVB: ‘Project Steve’, as of late Dec 2016 1,400 scientists, only Biologists or related fields, only Steve, or female and foreign derivatives. Imagine if they allowed all scientists from every field, with any name?

    Yes the dissent from Darwinism contained the joining of over a thousand PhD’s from all sciences including mathematicians and engineers – which is germane because those NOT in the life sciences are less likely to lose their jobs for signing it. Guess what – I’m going to say it again for the young ones reading – the dissent from Darwinism project was terminated because a number of researchers in the life sciences were themselves terminated for signing it. TERMINATED by radical true believers with the same religion as yourself. One of those terminated was Doug Axe after publishing calculations of the truly astronomical odds against just a single protein arising by chance that folds into a correct shape for utilization and “selective advantage”. TERMINATED he was, as in shown the door, in the UK where the 19th century cult hero has garnered especially high status. You should read Dr. Axe’s book and get that story for yourself.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, Selective Hyperskepticism, in the form of Cliffordian Evidentialism, cf here. KF

    PS: RVB8 above fails the test of addressing warrant of history, and is pointed here on.

    PPS: Simon Greenleaf, a founding father of anglophone theory of evidence, also has a bit of counsel on selective hyperskepticism vs reasonable standards of warrant (especially that involving moral evidence):

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in such contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. ] [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, you are unconsciously imposing your worldview’s requisites a priori, ending in w/v level grand question-begging. I suggest, again, you need to start here on to understand worldview alternatives. Our contingent world requires a necessary being root and that we are morally governed in that world requires that that NB root be also an IS capable of grounding OUGHT. There is but one serious candidate after centuries of debates, as can be seen readily by inviting a second one that does not rapidly self-destruct: __________ . The non-pareil? The inherently good Creator God of ethical theism; a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature [i.e. I point to a discernible law of our nature]. Back to input-output analysis and the macroeconomics of capital investment tied to modern forms of Solow’s growth model. KF

  15. 15
    Macauley86 says:

    rvb8 @ 4

    Let me see if I can parse what you are saying.

    “People never rise from the dead” = non-life cannot turn into life

    “OoL science is scientifically conceivable” = non-life can indeed turn into life

    Do you see the problem? Not yet?

    In the former scenario, an intelligent being is believed to turn non-life into life because he is the engineer who created chemistry, and can turn non-life into life quickly because he’s acting knowledgeably and with purpose. But you don’t think this explanation makes sense or squares with the evidence at hand.

    In the latter scenario, purely materialistic random processes are believed to turn non-life into life very slowly because they are not acting knowledgeably and with purpose. And you believe this explanation does make sense.

    But when we look at the evidence, can you show me why I should reach the conclusion that purely materialistic and random processes can BETTER explain why our universe has been governed from the first instant of its life by a very precise subset of mathematical and chemical parameters, AND how the highly sophisticated base-4 digital code that turns non-life into life came about in the first place (https://ds9a.nl/amazing-dna/) AND how consciousness AND intellect arose, AND why such conscious intellects, whose brains have evolved for survival and not for truth, have the epistemological basis to trust that their materialistic conclusions are true?

    It is not that ID is against science; on the contrary, science is at all possible ONLY BECAUSE there are constant RULES of mathematics, physics, and chemistry, the origins of which are better explained by an intelligent designer. And that is why modern science is rooted in theism.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method_and_religion

    It is your scientific materialism that is myopic in only seeing the physical universe given to you by theism, without reaching the proper conclusion that a caused universe governed by precise laws and sporting a sophisticated digital code that assembles complex, self-healing, conscious life forms MUST necessarily require a non-rational cause.

    You are a Hamlet who refuses to believe in the existence of Shakespeare because you can’t see him in the pages and ink of your story, believing instead that ink and paper are all that is or was or ever will be, and then doggedly looking ONLY for purely random and materialistic explanations for the origin of paper, ink, English poetry, and printing press, trusting all along that such material byproducts of the explosion of the print shop have given you an intellect whose rational insights you can trust.

    Myopic indeed.

  16. 16
    LocalMinimum says:

    RVB8:

    I suppose my language was too subtle. Surely, people don’t just raise from the dead by natural means. So, just like predicting thousands of years of history or a tiny Middle Eastern nation shaping the destiny of humanity, such an event would point towards something beyond nature as we know it.

  17. 17
    rvb8 says:

    LocalM,

    “or a tiny Middle Eastern nation shaping the destiny of humanity,..”

    I think you mean, ‘shaping the destiny of a PART, of humanity.’ China, with its magnificent past, and India, with its longer history than your truly, ‘tiny Middle Eastern country’, are cultures unaffected by the events in that backward, sheep herding, dusty, non-event land.

    And which Middle Eastern nation? Saudi Arabia, and the shannanigans of one, Muhamid? Iraq, and northern Lebanon, and the doings of Abraham? Judea, Samaria, and the sandal wearing preaching of Jesus?

    Be specific; which Intelligent Designer do you choose? All I know is that, a part of ‘humanity’, has been suffering from one and all of these idiocies for 2000 years.

    Actually, once ‘humanity’ began to understand that these, Middle Eastern ‘histories’, were actually man made, we began to improve our lot.

    Macauley86,

    “‘People never rise from the dead’=non-life cannot turn into life.'”

    No! It means organic living organisms, once their organs have been so damaged, cannot reanimate those life giving organs. The fly, rodent, fish, bacteria, human is dead, and cannot reanimate. You know this, and watching far fetched movies or HBO, does not provide counter evidence; Mel Gibson is still an anti-semite, and his acting and movies will not magically improve.

    However, their constituent, nonliving molecules, and elements, can become the building blocks for another living organism. Your carbon and hydrogen is non-living, you are, (to some degree, apparently).

    “‘Ool is scientifically conceivable.’=non-life can indeed turn into life.’ Do you see the problem? Not yet?”

    No! It is conceivable. We are made out of the elements that make up this universe. There is more than enough energy to shape these chemicals into complex life; more than enough energy.

    Not enough energy however to drive time backwards and reanimate dead tissue. Which once dead joins the eternal cycle of nature, and is recycled into the next God wishing ID supporter.

  18. 18
    LocalMinimum says:

    RVB8:

    No! It is conceivable. We are made out of the elements that make up this universe. There is more than enough energy to shape these chemicals into complex life; more than enough energy.

    I don’t really think issue is simply that of an energy cost. Surely there is enough energy in a hydrogen bomb to create life from non-life? Can it?

    Not enough energy however to drive time backwards and reanimate dead tissue. Which once dead joins the eternal cycle of nature, and is recycled into the next God wishing ID supporter.

    It seems you’re able to come to terms with the arrow of time as defined by entropy in this aspect, at least; you just don’t seem to be able to come to terms with the possibility that it could similarly work against abiogenesis.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, the rise of Christianity in China over several decades is a global megatrend. KF

  20. 20
    Granville Sewell says:

    I agree that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, see the 11:30 mark of this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_nlfaXU46Y

  21. 21
    News says:

    Readers may also wish to note: David Deming: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” misused due to ambiguity

    It probably doesn’t matter what the state of the evidence is because the naturalist will just change the rules. Brush wars against objectivity, falsifiability, Occam’s razor, and the ability to engage n reality-based thinking are commonplace now.

  22. 22
    Allen Shepherd says:

    It is CONCEIVABLE that a dead person could be raised from the dead, one can conceive of it as Macauley86 did at 15.

    RVB8 Re Abiogenesis:

    “No! It is conceivable. We are made out of the elements that make up this universe. There is more than enough energy to shape these chemicals into complex life; more than enough energy.”

    You have changed the issue here. What we need is the demonstration of OOL from non-life. It has not been demonstrated, so the two assertions, the possibility of dead to be raised and abiogenesis are both equally unproved in that regard. (Although some would assert that there is evidence for the former.)

    If you require conceivability both are conceivable. If actual observation is required, then both are equally non-demonstarted (again with the caveat that some have claimed to have seen the raising of the dead. No one claims to have seen abiogenesis).

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    Could I suggest a rephrasing, to point the way to responsible, reasonable warrant and responsiveness to such? Namely:

    extraordinary [–>truth/fact/moral etc] claims require extraordinary [–> adequate] evidence [ + to be properly regarded as warranted]”

    When we see: ” . . . claims require adequate evidence to be properly regarded as warranted,” we are in the province of open minded, responsible epistemological investigation, as opposed to the rhetoric of selective hyperskepticism. Which, makes all the difference in the world. KF

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Greenleaf was very wise:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in such contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. ] [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

  25. 25
    Macauley86 says:

    @ rvb8

    I assure you that I can more easily conceive the idea that non-life can be turned into life due to the purposeful act of a rational being than to the random effects of non-rational processes.

    And there’s no need to postulate that the former act necessarily requires reversing the course of time. The same constituent, non-living molecules — to use your words — can be used by an advanced scientist to “repair” the dead body and bring it from non-life to life.

    Think about it. You believe that the same constituent, non-living molecules can be assembled randomly to build life from non-life over long periods of time–this is your materialistic abiogenesis, towards which you are selectively not skeptical even though it’s still scientifically unproven (because the answer is forthcoming, right?).

    You also believe that intelligent human beings can use the same constituent, non-living molecules to clone life or repair damaged life forms to a certain degree.

    But you are selectively skeptical against the possibility that a being even more intelligent than humans can use the same constituent, non-living molecules to further the repair of a life form that is damaged by death beyond what we humans can repair.

    Why not? Is it not conceivable that even humans, in the future, might know enough about medicine and chemistry to repair or replace the damaged life-giving organs of a dead being and restore it back to life? If it is, is it not conceivable that an intelligent non-human can do the same?

    If the constituent, non-living molecules can indeed be assembled in a way to turn non-life into life, why on earth would you attribute this life-giving capability only to non-rational random processes? the elements and molecules are the same. Why exclude intelligence from the ability to build, repair, or restore life?

  26. 26
    Seversky says:

    Yet every materialist believes the claim as a matter of course.

    I think that goes too far. Some materialists might believe such claims are true but I think most would accept that, in the case of something like abiogenesis, we just don’t know at this time. All we can reasonably argue is that, if there was no intelligent agency involved, then some form of natural causation seems to be the only alternative. The problem for creationists is that positing an intelligence that is able to create life out of inanimate materials is to claim that life can be created out of non-living materials. The question then becomes, if it’s possible at the hands of a creator then why not through natural causation?

    As I see it, the burden of proof for a claim rests with the claimant if and only if they are concerned with persuading other of the merit of that claim. If they don’t care what others think then it doesn’t matter.

    Usually, however, the purpose of a claimant is to establish their claim as better than any alternative or counter-claims. That means that the arguments and evidence they have marshalled in support of their claim should outweigh that which supports any rival claims. This is where extraordinary claims and evidence comes in.

    The Biblical accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus is just such a claim. Apart from those stories there is, throughout recorded history, not one single, verified account of someone dying and then coming back to life. It does not necessarily make it impossible, but there is undoubtedly a vast weight of observational evidence that supports the claim that when people die they stay dead. To claim that some one can truly die and then come back to life is, by that measure, an extraordinary claim and you would need some pretty extraordinary evidence to back it up in the face of all the evidence to the contrary.

  27. 27
    Allen Shepherd says:

    Seversky:

    “I think most (materialists) would accept that, in the case of something like abiogenesis, we just don’t know at this time.”

    Abiogenesis has not been observed at any time. It would seem to me that it has to meet the same “extraordinary evidence” standard that resurrection has to meet. Belief in abiogenesis is just as much a faith claim as belief in the resurrection, except that there are some who have claimed to have seen a resurrection. Not a single individual has claimed to have seen abiogenesis.

    Seversky:

    “All we can reasonably argue is that, if there was no intelligent agency involved, then some form of natural causation seems to be the only alternative. The problem for creationists is that positing an intelligence that is able to create life out of inanimate materials is to claim that life can be created out of non-living materials. The question then becomes, if it’s possible at the hands of a creator then why not through natural causation?”

    That is just the point of the proponents of ID: There is no other possible explanation for life but intelligence. We know what intelligence does, it makes a plan determines the material at hand, then acts, and life has the look of the workings of intelligence. And we have never seen natural causation do such a thing. Without the hands of the creator (ID), nothing happens. Certainly we have not seen biogenesis by natural causes.

    That is the power of ID. We know how intelligence works, because we do such work ourselves. I can tell you are intelligent by the nature of your posts. I know they are not the result of natural causes.

    Just so with life. It has the unmistakeable quality of design. Even the atheists admit it. That’s why ID it not such a leap of faith. Abiogenesis OTOH has never been observed, and no conceivable path has yet been devised to show how it could happen.

    ID thus has a better claim to reasonableness than materialism.

  28. 28
    LocalMinimum says:

    Seversky:

    The problem for creationists is that positing an intelligence that is able to create life out of inanimate materials is to claim that life can be created out of non-living materials. The question then becomes, if it’s possible at the hands of a creator then why not through natural causation?

    Cause and effect is the basis of our reasoning (without it, what do we have?) and the foundation of any sane form of materialism. Every configuration of matter evolves from a preceding configuration.

    In essence, every successive state must be modulated within the preceding. The more complex, specific, and unlikely the succeeding state, the more complex, specific, and unlikely the preceding state.

    We currently cannot produce life with our current technology. Though it may be there’s some way to do it with the tools we currently have; well, no one does yet. In any case, as far as we know, our most sophisticated biological laboratories, manned by our brightest bio-engineers, are not sufficiently sophisticated, specific states of matter to bring forth life. Even if we should find the process, how far could such a manufacturing process be streamlined? How crude could the machinery be? Can we print a proper general purpose CPU with a magnifying glass on a cam? Can we make an airframe with a volcanic eruption by placing a block of aluminum over a sequence of raw granite sieves?

    So, why should we expect that such a state existed on early Earth? How can we expect such a state to lie hiding within a mud puddle? Even if we could construct a sufficient Rube Goldberg machine out of the crudest processes, is there any reason to expect to find such a thing in nature?

    Even if we allow for infinite mud puddles, we must realize that the Earth itself was created by a precedent action. While you may allow yourself all possibilities given all mud puddles, it really depends on the “procedural algorithm” that produced the universe, and the Earth. If any such configuration lies outside of the codomain of this function, you won’t get it no matter how many puddles you make.

    Now, there is the abominable mystery of “randomness”. Randomness, like infinity, is, at its most basic, a simple idea that comes from and goes to places we simply cannot observe. Randomness, also like infinity, may simply be an artifact of human thinking. Matter, for all our knowledge, may simply be deterministic on a level we have not yet or simply can not observe, and all our randomness is just chaos, or mappings of functions whose results don’t contain symmetries that allow them to be sufficiently reduced to precisely predict with our tool set. But, even if we allow randomness, we still have to consider intervals, weighting, thresholds, resolution and granularization, etc. Of course, it seems this is not very well pondered in biology, and randomness just becomes a great big grab bag full of awesome stuff you can’t get anywhere else.

    TL, DR: Given what we know, it’s not necessary.

  29. 29
    Allen Shepherd says:

    LocalMinimum says:

    “In any case, as far as we know, our most sophisticated biological laboratories, manned by our brightest bio-engineers, are not sufficiently sophisticated, specific states of matter to bring forth life.”

    1. Those labs are some of the most designed places on the planet, so would not count as “natural causes.”
    2. And yet life creates new life continuously both with mitosis and meiosis in the microscopic cells (labs) of our bodies. The creator thus shows what he is capable of! it is not unreasonable to call it miraculous.

  30. 30
    Macauley86 says:

    Severski @ 26

    If the Christian claim to the resurrection is an extraordinary one (it is), what shall we make of the materialistic chain of claims, which must all be true for atheistic materialism to be true?
    – our universe was originated by a non-rational source
    – this non-rational source originated the precise subset of mathematical (http://physics.info/equations/) and chemical parameters that have been governing our universe for the first instant of its existence
    – this non-rational source further originated a supremely resilient, compact, and sophisticated base-4 digital code (https://ds9a.nl/amazing-dna/) capable of assembling sentient, environmentally-adaptable, self-healing, reproductive beings
    – Against mind-boggling odds, this non-rational source managed, at least one time, to assemble this digital code into living forms which, through random mutations and natural selection, evolved into increasingly more complex ones, finally churning out at least one species that is capable of intellectual inquiry.

    Each one of these claims is an extraordinary one (that’s an understatement), none of them has empirical verification, let alone unsupportable eyewitness testimony, each one flies in the face of sheer statistical probability, and yet they must all be true for materialistic atheism to be true.

    You see, the existence of an intelligent designer is self-evident and logically forced. And the more we discover about the universe, its laws, the sophistication of the genetic code, the more obvious the conclusion.

    We do not have the logical possibility of doubting the existence of a creator.

    The evolutionary hypothesis is always in the category of the logically absurd, as with a round triangle, or parallel lines that intersect; it is so patently absurd it is not even viable as a metaphysical possibility.

  31. 31
    LocalMinimum says:

    Allen Shepherd @ 29:

    1. They are very much designed, and my point was they remain insufficient; thus, we do not expect near as much from them as OOL hypotheses expect from puddles, pools, hydrothermal vents, etc.

    2. Indeed. The succeeding states, or new cells, are encoded within the preceding states of the parent cells. The origin of this information is miraculous.

  32. 32
    Seversky says:

    Allen Shepherd @ 27

    Abiogenesis has not been observed at any time. It would seem to me that it has to meet the same “extraordinary evidence” standard that resurrection has to meet. Belief in abiogenesis is just as much a faith claim as belief in the resurrection, except that there are some who have claimed to have seen a resurrection. Not a single individual has claimed to have seen abiogenesis

    Why should we expect to see abiogenesis happening before our eyes? We have very short lifespans compared to the timescales over which abiogenesis might have happened. We’ve only been dong the kind of science that might reveal it for a few hundred years at best.

    But I agree that abiogenesis is an extraordinary claim and should not be accepted as true without a well-constructed theory supported by compelling evidence on the table. The most we can say at the moment is that, if there was no creator, abiogenesis through some natural process is the only reasonable alternative.

    Just so with life. It has the unmistakeable quality of design. Even the atheists admit it. That’s why ID it not such a leap of faith. Abiogenesis OTOH has never been observed, and no conceivable path has yet been devised to show how it could happen.

    I agree but it’s also true that ID proponents have no more evidence for their putative designer than there is for abiogenesis. And the problem with the appearance of design is that the only intelligent design for which we have good evidence is what we do ourselves but we don’t have anything like the science and technology to create life or build universes from scratch. If there was a designer behind it all, it seems highly unlikely it was us or anything like us. That being the case, why should we expect its designs to look anything like what we design? Are we entitled to assume what we design is a reliable indicator of design on a cosmic scale?

    ID thus has a better claim to reasonableness than materialism.

    No, I think it’s still an open question. ID is a possibility that can’t be ruled out but it has as many problems as abiogenesis some of which are common to both, like the origin of the law-like regularities without which the universe could not exist.

  33. 33
    Seversky says:

    Macauley86 @ 30

    If the Christian claim to the resurrection is an extraordinary one (it is), what shall we make of the materialistic chain of claims, which must all be true for atheistic materialism to be true?

    Whether a/mat or believer, as I said before, we should require a well-constructed theory supported by good, solid evidence before accepting either abiogenesis or ID. There is a profound mystery about the origins of life the Universe and everything which a designer/creator doesn’t solve. It just pushes the problem back a stage as the question then becomes what is the origin of the designer/creator and, more importantly, what is the origin of the knowledge or information they must have used to accomplish their designs or creations?

  34. 34
    LocalMinimum says:

    Seversky @ 32:

    If there was a designer behind it all, it seems highly unlikely it was us or anything like us. That being the case, why should we expect its designs to look anything like what we design?

    Ahhh, but that’s the thing: biology doesn’t look like what we design. However, seeing as biology is right before us as inspiration, it shouldn’t be surprising if and when we should imitate it. As our engineering matures, we adapt more and more biologically inspired features into it.

    I like the artistic evolution of the android as a timeline of our enlightenment as engineers. Old school art androids are portrayed as hard metal frames, circuit boards, and wires. New school art androids are flexible, tissue-like synthetic polymer materials and even fluid transport mediums.

  35. 35
    john_a_designer says:

    Stating some key questions succinctly as possible will hopefully explain why I find atheistic naturalism/materialism not only unviable but incredible.

    How did the universe originate from absolute nothing?

    Why does the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, including advanced intelligent life?

    How did life originate from non-life?

    How did chemistry “create”** code?

    How did a non-teleological process, like Darwinian evolution, “create” things that are clearly teleological?
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-628507

    How did consciousness and mind originate from mindless matter and a mindless process?

    To answer any of these questions naturalistically, as far as I can see, requires the belief in what amounts to be a set of “naturalistic miracles.” How is a naturalistic miracle not an extraordinary claim?

    Footnote**: Does any kind of naturalistic evolutionary process actually create anything?

  36. 36
    Macauley86 says:

    Severski @ 33

    There is a profound mystery about the origins of life the Universe and everything which a designer/creator doesn’t solve. It just pushes the problem back a stage as the question then becomes what is the origin of the designer/creator and, more importantly, what is the origin of the knowledge or information they must have used to accomplish their designs or creations?

    The origin of the designer or information is irrelevant to the argument at hand. Hamlet does not have the logical possibility of doubting the existence of Shakespeare because he (Hamlet) cannot account for Shakespeare’s origin, for Shakespeare’s way with words, or even for the origin of the English language.

    The argument at hand is very simple.

    We have a whole universe that had a beginning, therefore a cause. This cause is either rational (a mind) or non-rational. Considering the evidence at hand (existence of time and matter, laws of physics, chemical elements and laws of their interactions, digital genetic code, complexity of life, intelligence and consciousness), which of the two causes is the more likely one, and by so many orders of magnitude as to render the other logically absurd?

  37. 37
    rvb8 says:

    Kairos @19,

    oh dear!

    I live in China. Sure I’m an NZer but I have lived here for the past eight years.

    I’m one of the few foreign teachers that is allowed to teach the history of Christianity and its pivotal importance to Western culture, because the local Communist Party secretaries know I am an atheist.

    I touch upon the origins of modern universities based upon monastic communities. The importance of Christianity in the development of western jurisprudence, medicine, scientific inquirey, poltical institutions, public libraries, hospitals, charity, and all that is good about our culture. And I also stipulate the impossibility of the divinity of Christ, as it goes against natural laws.

    I then go on to point out that following a blind man, once the lights are turned on, is really silly. I usually get a laugh here.

    So, in answer to your silly assertion that Christianity is sweeping through China? No, it isn’t. I have however been instrumental in getting several stupid evangelists evicted from my university.

    Religion is legal in China, proselytising isn’t. I think it’s a silly Chinese law (they have many), but I obey it as I am a guest. Any American, Brit, foreigner I catch breaking it, I immediately inform the authorities.

    It may be a silly law, but then so are many of the laws in the US and UK, disobeying them is arrogance I can not stomach; even for Jesus.

  38. 38
    LocalMinimum says:

    RVB8:

    Funny thing about natural law: it’s about nature. To use it to make a claim about divinity is to include divinity in nature. Funny thing is, I can’t think of any natural law that makes any claims about divinity. Divinity, with respect to natural law, remains undefined, which pretty much renders your claim against the divinity of Jesus nonsense.

  39. 39
    Axel says:

    Don’t confuse him, Local, there’s a good chap. Although how you can significantly confuse a completely, wilfully confused person, I dinnae ken.

  40. 40
    Heartlander says:

    Rvb8@37

    Religion is legal in China, proselytising isn’t. I think it’s a silly Chinese law (they have many), but I obey it as I am a guest. Any American, Brit, foreigner I catch breaking it, I immediately inform the authorities.

    Interesting – turning in others for proselytizing while toeing the party line and proselytizing atheism – must be a dream come true… I suppose you would also turn in pregnant women during the ‘silly’ one child policy … or do you just pick and choose the ‘silly’ laws you will follow?

  41. 41
    Macauley86 says:

    And I also stipulate the impossibility of the divinity of Christ, as it goes against natural laws.

    Right, while you believe it is entirely possible that these “natural laws” puffed themselves into existence. :8-/

    You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

  42. 42
    Macauley86 says:

    It may be a silly law, but then so are many of the laws in the US and UK, disobeying them is arrogance I can not stomach; even for Jesus.

    You would make Corrie ten Boom so proud.

  43. 43
    Armand Jacks says:

    KF:

    Our contingent world requires a necessary being root and that we are morally governed in that world requires that that NB root be also an IS capable of grounding OUGHT.

    Except for that inconvenient little fact that what we see around us every day, and what we have seen throughout recorded history, is what we would expect if there was no IS to ground OUGHT. Feel free to provide evidence that I am wrong.

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    Moral government is a readily observed fact (h’mm didn’t someone just imagine I am wrong and should be corrected?) and IS is not equal to OUGHT.

  45. 45
    Seversky says:

    Macauley86 @ 36

    We have a whole universe that had a beginning, therefore a cause. This cause is either rational (a mind) or non-rational. Considering the evidence at hand (existence of time and matter, laws of physics, chemical elements and laws of their interactions, digital genetic code, complexity of life, intelligence and consciousness), which of the two causes is the more likely one, and by so many orders of magnitude as to render the other logically absurd?

    We have some idea of the age of the Universe, of how it expanded and developed after it began. It’s still a very crude picture and there’s a great deal we don’t know but it’s also a lot more than we knew, say, 200 years ago so we seem to be making progress with a naturalistic account of origins.

    The only rational minds we know of are very impressive but they’re a long way from being able to create life and a vast distance from having the power and knowledge to create entire universes.

    You may find it impossible to believe that the Universe came about through natural processes and that a rational mind is the only logical alternative but that is effectively just the argument from incredulity. The reality is that we don’t know enough about minds and universes and the origins of both to be able to decide one way or the other. Like it or not, we simply don’t know at this point.

  46. 46
    Macauley86 says:

    You may find it impossible to believe that the Universe came about through natural processes and that a rational mind is the only logical alternative but that is effectively just the argument from incredulity.

    No. You are misusing the argument from incredulity. Unless we have a theory of how a non-mind can generate the information needed to build a universe and life, the only logically viable option behind the universe is a mind. Believing otherwise makes one at best gullible, at worst insane.

    Likewise, invoking purely natural processes within the universe as a means to explain away the mind behind it is nonsense because such natural processes also depend on information (therefore a mind) to operate.

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