Balkinization  

Thursday, May 31, 2007

No, Sam Brownback Doesn't Believe in Evolution

JB

Sam Brownback's essay in today's New York Times is an op-ed written by a skillful politician, trying to make the reader believe that he is merely attacking the materialistic and deterministic emphasis in science without doubting evolutionary processes, when in fact the real problem is that he just doesn't believe in evolution at all. The key passage is here:

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Brownback is denying that humans have a common ancestor with other species, because he only agrees to small changes within a species. The rest of the discussion, about materialism and determinism distracts from this central point. It offers a false dichotomy. One might think that the hand of God is involved in evolution in some way and still believe that mankind evolved from previous forms of life. It is this latter point that Brownback wishes to deny, because he wants to insist that mankind is special. As a result, he is willing to acknowledge only that species might experience "microevolution," i.e., small changes, without evolving into new species.

Brownback's views are clever political sophistry, claiming to reject a false choice, but in fact offering his own false choice. He is not a defender of faith against science. He is a defender of ignorance.

Comments:

Oh, goody. Today I get to watch Bart DePalma defend the Republican orthodoxy on creationism. Let me go fetch my popcorn.
 

I can never understand why the position that McCain took during a recent Republican debate is not more popular. To paraphrase:

"I believe in evolution but I also believe that God is manifest in everything on this earth including evolution."

I just never understand why people think that this is some sort of blasphemy.
 

Jack Balkin has revealed, once again, that he is allied with the forces of roundearthism, gravitationalism, heliocentrism, and all the other soulless atheist doctrines perpetrated by the secular elites of this country. Accepting the Copernican revolution is the first step on the path to the communist gulags!
 

Oooh a spoof DePalma! Wait until the esteemed esquire finds out
 

"I just never understand why people think that this is some sort of blasphemy."

One reason -- and I think I'm approaching the question from an angle that isn't necessarily yours -- is that evolution can be tough to square with the concept of god, higher power, whathaveyou. Daniel Dennett's book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" attempts to show why the two concepts -- God and evolution -- are mutually exclusive. That is, if we believe in evolution, it seems pointless to believe in God because what function does God really serve at that point . . .
 

Daniel Dennett's book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" attempts to show why the two concepts -- God and evolution -- are mutually exclusive.

And fails miserably, I might add, having read & moderately enjoyed that book.

As Mr. Terbeek says, Dennett sees no explanatory function that God serves. The book of Job is an excellent primer on the fallacy of expecting God to explain anything.
 

"He is not a defender of faith against science. He is a defender of ignorance."

There's a difference? To the extent that faith won't yield to scientific evidence, it IS ignorance, and willful ignorance at that.
 

Tough to square? Really?

I had a fantastic Sunday school teacher that put it like this: the world is a car, evolution's the engine, but God's still at the wheel.

I think wine was the gas, the seraphim were bobbleheads, and Christmas trees were air fresheners...needless to say, the metaphor broke down quickly. But the underlying point that "God works in mysterious ways, including evolution" wasn't lost on me.

That said, I'll shower anyone who claims that evolution is limited to small changes within a species with hearty gales of derisive laughter. I've seen the evidence to support that position a thousand times, and each time it is based on old data and misunderstandings of taxonomic practices. I think Jack hits the nail right on the head: anyone who continues to push this point is defending ignorance, rather than defending faith.
 

I think JB is reading this entirely wrong.

Brownback, it seems to me, is purposefully not addressing what exactly he believes in. JB's assertion that Brownback "is denying that humans have a common ancestor with other species, because he only agrees to small changes within a species" is simply a mistake in logic. Brownback offers his view on two "theories of evolution", but his view on these, unfortunately for JB, don't tell us anything at all about his view on whether humans have a common ancestor with other species.
 

Brownback offers his view on two "theories of evolution", but his view on these, unfortunately for JB, don't tell us anything at all about his view on whether humans have a common ancestor with other species.

If Bayes' theorem holds at all, the fact that Brownback restricts the "good" evolution to microevolution within the species is a sufficient indicator of his view on whether humans have a common ancestor with other species. It's a common thread in the latest presentation of intelligent design, and given other comments of his, it's not a stretch to say that Brownback is likely a member of that camp.

Similarly, if I were to drop the word "proletariat" in a discussion, you could probably infer the way I think about social structure without me having to spell it out for you.
 

"Raised as a Methodist, Brownback later joined a nondenominational evangelical church, and in 2002 he became Catholic. He joined the Catholic Church through Opus Dei member Father C. John McCloskey in Washington DC. Brownback himself, however, is not a member of the Opus Dei organization." - wikipedia

the main problem i have with religion, any organized religion, is that one, definitely opportunistic, maybe spiritual, individual harnesses the natural wonder and spirituality felt by those around him to a single orthodoxy that tends to grant great power, political, financial, you name it, here on earth, to the "founder."

organized religion = spiritual slavery to a questionable doctrine
 

McCloskey feels right at home. The 49-year-old priest is a native of the nation's capital, has an Ivy League education and worked for Merrill Lynch and Citibank on Wall Street before seeking the priesthood through the often-controversial Opus Dei movement. He arrived at the Washington center in 1998.

In addition to winning prominent converts, McCloskey has bluntly criticized the American Catholic establishment's powerful progressive wing, tossing out quotations like this zinger: "A liberal Catholic is oxymoronic. The definition of a person who disagrees with what the Catholic church is teaching is called a Protestant."

Many disagree. Slate.com commentator Chris Suellentrop bluntly said that while the urbane priest's style appeals to many Washingtonians, ultimately he is offering "an anti-intellectual approach. All members of the church take a leap of faith, but McCloskey wants them to do it with their eyes closed and their hands over their ears." - Terry Mattingly, On Religion, 5/28/2003

In a matter of days, Father C. John McCloskey III will quietly perform rites in which two more converts enter the Roman Catholic Church.

This latest ceremony at Catholic Information Center will not draw the attention of the Washington Post. But that happened last year when Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas entered the fold. Some of McCloskey's earlier converts also caused chatter inside the Beltway -- columnist Robert Novak, economist Lawrence Kudlow and former abortion activist Bernard Nathanson. - Terry Mattingly, On Relgion 5/28/2003
 

Prof. Balkin:

Brownback's views are clever political sophistry....

It's not "clever ... sophistry". It's old worn and tired sophistry, and has been the standard 'rationalisation' for quite some time with apologists for the anti-evolutionary view.

We miss Stephen Jay Gould, I know, but I also miss the great J.B.S. Haldane. Asked at dinner by a cleric about what he could divine of the nature of God from his biological studies, Haldane replied, "An inordinate fondness for beetles." (perhaps a fifth or so of the world's animal species are beetles)

Cheers,
 

Calvin Terbeek:

That is, if we believe in evolution, it seems pointless to believe in God because what function does God really serve at that point...

Even before/without evolution, I would have asked the same question.

Cheers,
 

To my mind, the science of the proponents of intelligent design and evolution are both partially correct. The fossil and biologic record plainly shows that life evolves over time. However, it is also nearly impossible for life itself to have been created by accident. The chance that the most elementary DNA of the lowest form of life was created by a random event is billions to one.

I do not see a conflict between the propositions that God (or pick your intelligent designer) created life and that man's physical body evolved from lower forms as part of that creation. Indeed, you can make a reasonable argument that it is essentially impossible for evolution to take place by chance. More likely, our genetics provide living things with the ability to evolve.

This combination of propositions actually matches pretty closely the creation account in the Quran. Christians who believe the series of parables in Genesis are literal historic truth are the ones who have a problem with evolution.

What separates man from the animals under Islam/Judaism/Christianity is that God gave man an immortal soul. There is nothing special about the physical vessel which contains that soul during life. Thus, I am not insulted by the fact that man's physical vessel may have evolved from lower forms.
 

That is, if we believe in evolution, it seems pointless to believe in God because what function does God really serve at that point

Perhaps I shouldn't go so far as to say that's bad theology, but it's extremely limited. Paul Tillich has an excellent discussion of ancient and medieval non-interventionist theology in his History of Christianity.
 

Actually, contrary to our esteemed host, I don't think the big question is Brownback's view of evolution, but rather his broader stance on science. The whole reason why we care what an elected official thinks about evolution is because it is a sign of what he thinks about science generally. We won't be facing any major policy questions about how the human species ought to originate -- the time for that vote is past. Instead, we'll be facing zillions of other questions where a clueful understanding of science is important. The really key passage of Brownback's op-ed is at the end:

"While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. ... Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected ..."

In other words, although science should leave no stone unturned, Brownback already knows what will be under the stone, and if in fact the stone should have anything surprising under it, then Brownback will firmly reject it. That attitude is what should be scary in an elected official, completely independent of the origin of our species.
 

Ahh, Bart revealing himself to be a moronic gasbag: it is also nearly impossible for life itself to have been created by accident. The chance that the most elementary DNA of the lowest form of life was created by a random event is billions to one.

That would be perfectly sensible, if the theory of abiogenesis was that DNA was created by a "random event". First, abiogenesis is a separate theory from that of evolution. Second, theories of abiogenesis do not include "elementary DNA" being formed by a random event. All theories of abiogenesis and early evolution precede DNA by RNA world, which has it's own evolutionary history. The data on early RNA evolution is still spotty, with such options available as clay interfaces for structuring early RNA.

But nobody, nobody, nobody is simply implying that DNA "jus grew like Topsy"! And of course a claim that some other intelligence "designed" the early systems just pushes back the problem - now we have the added problem of explaining the existence of the "intelligent designer". Panspermism is a much more respectable position than magical fairies who came and started it all. What are the odds that the magical fairies just popped into existence?

And by the way, even if the out-of-ass number of billions to one were to be accurate, how many planets exist in the universe similar to the earth? If there are 10 to the 21'st power of stars Ask an Astrophycist, and only a small fraction, say one in a 100 have earth-like planets, that's 10^19 earths. So, we can calculate the probability of one of those planets having life: P = 1 - (1 - 1/10^9)^(10^19) = 100%. The probability of life arising by chance on a planet is one in a billion; the chance of life not arising is 1 - 1/billion. The chance of life not arising on any planet is the chance of life not arising on one planet, multiplied 10^19 times. The chance of life arising on at least one planet is 1 minus the chance of life never arising on any planet.

So even by Bart's model, the odds of life arising at least once purely randomly with a probability of one in a billion is certainty.
 

The whole “debate” about Darwinism vs. creationism is shot through with bad faith – on all sides, but especially the liberal-left, which is hypocritical here as most elsewhere.

On the one hand, liberal-leftists (and yes, I’m generalizing so don’t remind me that I’m generalizing) will screech from their high horses that the Darwinian theory of natural selection is irrefutable, but then turn around and propose anthropological and sociological theories that are, in their essence, creationist (ie. That there are no differences between the sexes, that human behaviour is infinitely mutable, etc.). These same spokespeople for scientific truth will fight like holy warriors to have natural-selection theory accepted into the curriculum, but then call; any attempt to make people more free as “social Darwinism.” I doubt, if you asked many of them, to explain just what Darwin’s theory is all about, that they would be able to explain it to you, even in basic outline….

And don’t even get me started on the assertion that Republicans and conservatives generally are “at war on science”…

This comes from someone who does not believe in God, the divinity of Jesus, Christian ethics, that God created the world in 3,196 BC or whenever.
 

roundhead,

you're simply not paying enough attention. your strawman hypotheses are more rhetoric than fact.

no one who believes in the scientific method believes Darwin's evolutionary theories are irrefutable. they do insist that it is the best THEORY we have now.

if EVIDENCE surfaces that contradicts the THEORY, the THEORY will shift to accomodate the EVIDENCE.

that is the difference between religion and science. Science acknowledges the legitimacy of provable phenomena and adapts to incorporate it. Relgion refuses to acknowledge provable phenomena if it contradicts previous dogma.

your social theories are far too generalized to reach your remaining, critical, conclusions.

i do heartily applaud your appreciation of reality.
 

roundhead said:

the Darwinian theory of natural selection is irrefutable

theories are refutable, but there has not been significant evidence countering this one, yet. It's last main opponent thought that biological changes brought on by the envrionment were heritable, and natural selection has shown to be a more robust theory.

but then turn around and propose anthropological and sociological theories that are, in their essence, creationist (ie. That there are no differences between the sexes, that human behaviour is infinitely mutable, etc.).

I think most of us are well aware of the differences between the sexes. As to the mutability of human behavior, any species that can run the Gamut from Mother Theresa to Catherine the Great, and Ghandi to Charles Manson has a very wide range (if not infinite).

These same spokespeople for scientific truth will fight like holy warriors to have natural-selection theory accepted into the curriculum, but then call; any attempt to make people more free as “social Darwinism.

Who are you arguing with, here, and what is your argument? Please restate a cogent line of thought.
 

"The chance that the most elementary DNA of the lowest form of life was created by a random event is billions to one."

And what are the odds that God was created by a random event? To attribute an event to God is synonymous with saying, "I don't know what the cause of an event was and I don't care, so I'll call the cause 'God' and pretend that the matter is settled."
 

By the way, for Bart's argument to hold water, he'd have to argue that the odds against life spontaneously arising are 1 in a billion billion - yup, 10^-18.

And ain't it grand when someone will make a probabilistic argument, but can't be bothered to actually use a calculator? What does that say about either the good-faith of their argument, or their inability to cogently argue?
 

yes, obviously garth and whomever, i don't have time to write a book... or even a paper about it.

most of the individuals writing here at least imply that Darwinism is beyond dispute (and I actually believe so myself).

As for the liberal-leftists who hold what is essentially a creationism view of sociology, Lawrence Summers could tell you an awful lot about them...

thanks
 

Roundhead,

Please advise me on these "liberals" who are unaware of genitalia. I would most definitely not want to be associated with folks who claim that penises and vaginas do not exist, or that they are indistinguishable.

Ah, somebody who identifies with puritan extremists, and then wants to claim that he's "not religious" and isn't taking sides - you'd think he'd be clever enough to not use a handle that unmasks him.
 

also to "Fraud Guy"

some people think that Mother Theresa was more akin to Charles Manson, than not, but I won't quibble...

As Joseph Schumpeter said, in human nature as well as in nature, sympathy and antagonism are both part of human instinct, and are quite related... wrap your head around that (I doubt it)

thanks
 

well "random sequence", as you handle yourself, my concern was more so with human behaviour as a result of sex differences (which again generalizing, most liberal-leftists regard as "mere plumbing").

fyi, i'm against puritans all around - as I smoke my big fat joint and have another brew - be they Sam Blackbrown or whomever the hell he is, Al Gorey or the "politically correct" neo-Stalinists who have carved out empires in our universities, human rights tribunals, governments, etc. etc.

I guess "nuance" isn't your strong suit.
 

And, once again, it's not "Darwinism" that is no longer disputed - it's neo-Darwinism, the synthesis of genetics with natural selection. If you're going to argue about something, or claim to support it or be against it, at least learn the jargon. It's like saying "formalisticism" instead of "formalism" - it marks you as not knowing what the hell you're talking about.

Roundhead, have you come up with these no-genital "liberals", or are you just spouting idiocies and meaningless generalizations while you make empty contemptuous comments? Just another empty-headed "libertarian" who's read three books and now is an expert on human society!
 

i'm not no "libertarian" (ugly ugly word) - I'm not behold to any of your pseudo-scientific jardon, either...

and no, I'm going to bother naming any leftist - I've already said, Lawrence Summers could name you many who hold a creationist view of sociology.
 

Influential psychologist Steven Pinker defended the legitimacy of Summers' January remarks. [that women may be under-represented in engineering and other hard science professions because of brain differences]

When asked if Summers' remarks were "within the pale of legitimate academic discourse," Pinker responded "Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa. [...] There is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously." Summers also had stronger support among Harvard College students than among the faculty.


with that said roundhead, what does this have to do with this post?
 

RoundHead - I understood your intention perfectly. It was just that it was a stupid, unnuanced statement. It didn't identify particular liberals, or particular trends within liberalism, but was a slash-and-burn insult intended towards everyone who is a "liberal". As such, it is a generally untrue statement, akin to saying that "Christians" support terrorism because there exist sects who believe that violence is justifiable against abortion providers. That would be a sign of cognitive difficulties, and unsupported arrogance.

Maybe you shouldn't light your joint until after you've finished putting down your thoughts.

Oh, and Lawrence Summers is an asshole, who advanced his own unscientific anecdotal statements. These "gender differences" are a long way from being understood at all scientifically - making statements ex-cathedra as if these issues were obvious is clearly a basis for dismissal for scientific policy makers. Precious little research has been done cross-culturally, so the little bits of MRI's and anatomical studies that show differences are completely insufficient to distinguish inherent gender differences and developmentally based gender differences, much less understand the psychological implications of these gross differences. Since "Dr." Summers couldn't distinguish what the studies actually mean, in my book he's at the level of ID proponents who mutter jargon without understanding science - not a great rec for leader of an elite institution.

A good scientist knows that he doesn't know, and withholds judgment until there is sufficient evidence.
 

I was of course only kidding about the joint thing - I guess I was thinking of what you (random) must be doing about this time.

Your remarks about Lawrence Summers pretty much rests my case - asshole.

"Garth" - my point was the hypocrisy of the liberal-left (I'm not going to identify any, so don't botehr asking) who attack those who don't believe in Darwin, and then propose theories that are directly in contrast to the theory of natural selection - which once again, I actually understand and do believe in.

(not to mention, others on the left who tolerate such unscientific crap as "Afrocentric science" or whatever, "women's ways of knowing", etc. etc.)
 

Garth, for God's sake, Summers is an economist expounding on biology, as a policy maker! It may be perfectly reasonable for a psychologist to make claims on inherent gender differences. It may be within the realm of academic freedom for an economist, even with no evidence, to discuss such hypothesis, but it's crazy for someone with no expertise acting as an administrator to start muttering about controversial viewpoints. He didn't lose his academic position - he lost his political position.

It would be perfectly reasonable for a biologist to study differences in gene frequencies across populations that may have some effect on cognitive development. It would be quite another for a University president to then start suggesting that blacks are under-represented as faculty in economics because they lack "economics genes". The number of confounding factors... Just a statement along those lines would make me doubt their scientific competence.
 

@roundhead: my point was the hypocrisy of the liberal-left (I'm not going to identify any, so don't botehr asking)

Translation: I'm not going to make any verifiable claims, but just meaningless generalizations and slanders. But please, treat me seriously!

Asshole.
 

randomsequence,

i agree with you that summer's comments were not presented with any degree of rigor and were poorly understood by him.

"as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor?"

he got canned because he was an arrogant asshole who couldnt get along with his colleagues or keep from expounding in public on controversial topics inappropriately and in a way that reflected poorly on dear Hahvahd.

[i was just trying to prod roundhead to make some sort of relevant point]
 

I gesso random, that's what it is...

listen to your buddy Garth
 

as i said, i don't have time to write a book... I notice your remarks are generalization as well (asshole)

but i did bring in reference to "afrocentric science" or "womens ways of knowing", which you entirely ignored...
 

and you're right that as President he should not be offending people left and right.

it's just not good policy.

[the students liked him though because he tried to push some of the tenured prof's to start teaching some damn classes!]
 

if summers got canned for "being an arrogant asshole", he got canned for daring to question (even tenatively) the left-liberal orthodoxy that says that there are no differences between the sexes, which was exactly my point in the beginning...

how's that for specific, randomy guy (or girl - somehow I doubt it though)
 

Bart writes:To my mind, the science of the proponents of intelligent design and evolution are both partially correct.

ID, while interesting, is really just creationism dressed up to look something like science. It lacks a predictive element based on observable criteria consistant from observer to observer.

Its little more that a last ditch effort for religion to exert influence in a world quickly outgrowing it.

As for brownback passively rejected the appearence of a new species from an existing one, its not necessary to look farther than the story of Johny Appleseed to see observe such a phenomenon right in front of our very eyes.

Prior to the introduction of the apple tree to north america, the hawthorn fly had a life cycle based on hawthorn fruit. After johnny appleseed spread apple trees throughout north america, the apple maggot fly appeared. The two population don't interbreed, and genetically, the apple maggot fly as a species came directly from the hawthorn fly.

How would ID have predicted such a change? Was there an indication from god notable and consistant from multiple observers that the event was going to happen? Even original darwinism had an objective basis to make such prediction.

Thats why science is science and religion is religion. The only way the two overlap is if scientists wanted to study the phenomemon of people believing in a god and how it affects their behaviour.
 

@roundhead: Your remarks about Lawrence Summers pretty much rests my case - asshole.


Wow, what a zinger! What a well-thought out argument! Let's follow the logic - Summers belongs to my political wing (implicit). Someone said something nasty about him. Everyone who doesn't like him is therefore an evil enemy.

It's hard to find someone on the right with an ounce of sense or good-faith nowadays. It's not fun to argue with someone who is an evidence-free partisan. Roundhead is strong evidence of how the political dialectic is broken - it's like arguing with a 50's style Stalinist.
 

OK, roundhead.

I too join you in condemning those pesky libruls that believe in Darwin, but are just too darn PC when it comes to social/gender issues.

darn those PC libruls who just won't admit men are biologically stronger, faster, smarter, more gifted in the arts, leadership positions and ambition.

darn those libruls, WHOEVER, i will not name them, WHEREEVER, i cannot locate them, and WHENEVER, i cannot predict time, THEY REAR THEIR SNEAKY LIBRUL HEADS!

now that we've joined common cause can we get back to the topic please?
 

well, i never made any claims as to the exact differences between men and women - i actually think that women are, in toto, superior to men.

Nice stereotyping, though - the acceptable kind, which makes fun of `white trash' (I'm sure that's what you call anyone whom makes under us$100,000)

Now, what about Afrocentric scientific or women's different ways of knowing? Got anything to say about that? No
 

It's hard to find someone on the right with an ounce of sense or good-faith nowadays. It's not fun to argue with someone who is an evidence-free partisan

Name one.
 

@roundhead: if summers got canned for "being an arrogant asshole", he got canned for daring to question (even tenatively) the left-liberal orthodoxy that says that there are no differences between the sexes, which was exactly my point in the beginning...

Ah, roundhead tries! Get those neurons working - it's like a muscle, if you don't use them, they lose em.

First he didn't get "canned". He kept his academic position. He just lost his political position. The "orthodoxy" isn't that there is no differences between the sexes. Academia and the left is pretty heterodox on that point. The "orthodoxy" is that there is no compelling information on what those differences are, what genetic and cultural mechanisms lead to cognitive differences, what the level of plasticity is, and what an appropriate political response is.

It's as if Summers suddenly started saying that plasma cosmology is superior to the current consensus cosmology - he has no standing in the argument, and he shouldn't be involved in the politics or funding of the field. He'd be an incompetent ass for even stepping into the minefield without expertise and then discuss it from his political position. The same for racial differences, or whether "junk DNA" is really junk.

It's clear that you have a dogma on this issue. The fact that issues of human development are the hardest on the planet don't deter you! The conservatism of science be damned, you have a political hobby horse.
 

you have a political hobby horse.


I sure do: the hypocrisy of assholes like you who treat Darwin like orthodoxy but really don't believe in... that is what angers me so muhc about the "Republican war on science" crap
 

@roundhead: well, i never made any claims as to the exact differences between men and women - i actually think that women are, in toto, superior to men.

Nice stereotyping, though - the acceptable kind, which makes fun of `white trash' (I'm sure that's what you call anyone whom makes under us$100,000)

Now, what about Afrocentric scientific or women's different ways of knowing? Got anything to say about that? No


You can't even be bothered to be consistent. If women really do function psychologically differently from men, then there would be "women's way of knowing". If you argue the former, you have to argue the latter. It's the sign of a stupid partisan: throw everything in the same basket from the "other side", whether or not there are logical connections between those arguments.

Bother to think! Not everyone who is your enemy are friends. Because some people are your enemy on some issues, it doesn't mean you disagree with them on all issues. But ready-made enemies lists are so much easier than actually breaking the logic down of arguments...
 

"Bart" DePalma:

To my mind, the science of the proponents of intelligent design and evolution are both partially correct. The fossil and biologic record plainly shows that life evolves over time. However, it is also nearly impossible for life itself to have been created by accident. The chance that the most elementary DNA of the lowest form of life was created by a random event is billions to one.

"The poster citing to an authority to make an argument, not the reader, has the responsibility to link to that authority if possible."

Not to mention, WTF is this "a random event" crapola?!?!? "Bart" is not only not a scientist, he didn't even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night....

I do not see a conflict between the propositions that God (or pick your intelligent designer) created life and that man's physical body evolved from lower forms as part of that creation....

Why introduce unnecessary and unhelpful elemets?

... Indeed, you can make a reasonable argument that it is essentially impossible for evolution to take place by chance.

Go ahead. A Nobel Prize awaits you. Perhaps an Ig Nobel, but hey, a Nobel is a Nobel, and maybe you'll get a free dinner too.

... More likely, our genetics provide living things with the ability to evolve.

Imagine that. The genetics we see due to evolution is capable of evolution. It's these stellar powers of observation and deduction that keep us all on the edge of our chairs around here....

This combination of propositions actually matches pretty closely the creation account in the Quran. Christians who believe the series of parables in Genesis are literal historic truth are the ones who have a problem with evolution.

A gratuitous 'Islamofascist' slur tossed in for free. What next? Say, "Bart", perhaps we ought to tell your neighbours about your heresies....

What separates man from the animals under Islam/Judaism/Christianity is that God gave man an immortal soul....

That weighs seven grams, I've heard. LOL.

... There is nothing special about the physical vessel which contains that soul during life. Thus, I am not insulted by the fact that man's physical vessel may have evolved from lower forms.

So you won't mind too much if we do with it (including yours) as we please, then?

Cheers,
 

roundhead,

i don't know why you are making unwarranted assumptions about how i view society.

and as for Afro-centric studies or women's "ways" of knowing things, i don't know. let's see if we can define them in ways that make sense.

Afro-centric studies could merely provide an Afro-centric viewpoint on say AMERICAN affairs. Slave studies. Integration studies. Studies of the impact of various presidencies on black people.

Or maybe it could be defined as the study of African history?

How do you define it?

A woman's "way" of knowing may be nothing more than folklore, with it's kernal of truth residing in the fact that women may be more emotionally attuned to their mate's tics, reactions, or tells.

Perhaps you could define it?
 

roundhead got "smoked" at volokh (who has a post about this topic which links to balkinization) with the "name one" bit and then tries it here! yes! best new commentator since charles007!
 

roundhead:

On the one hand, liberal-leftists (and yes, I’m generalizing so don’t remind me that I’m generalizing) will screech from their high horses that the Darwinian theory of natural selection is irrefutable,....

On the contrary, one of its major strengths is that it is refutable (which is why you don't see "liberal-leftist" "screech[ing]" the opposite. Go for it; a Nobel awaits you too.

Cheers,
 

roundhead:

yes, obviously garth and whomever, i don't have time to write a book... or even a paper about it.

You misspelled "sense". No charge.

Cheers,
 

"However, it is also NEARLY impossible for life itself to have been created by accident. The chance that the most elementary DNA of the lowest form of life was created by a random event is billions to one." - Bart DePalma

AH HAH! so you do admit it's NOT impossible.
 

@Roundhead:

What's the ...? You really don't even have the slightest understanding of science, do you?

It's not about what people "believe". It's about evidence. Neo-Darwinism has a hundred years of evidence behind it. It is a well-worked out body of knowledge, with strong theoretical underpinnings. No confounding evidence has been found yet. The consensus is firm.

Gender differences is an immature field. The ability to image live brains is a recent development. The theory linking differences at a genetic level up to an anatomic level, and linking hormonal signaling to early development, and from early experience to hormonal signaling, has barely been started. We have no cross-cultural data that is relevant; at best we have anthropological works that didn't research biological underpinnings.

So? We don't know. We may not know for a century or more. Anyone who claims they know is the intellectual equal of an 'intelligent design'er. In the face of ignorance, the best policy is to assume that the differences are cultural, since any existent cultural differences can be remedied, and we know that some of the difference is cultural.

See roundhead? Science is about evidence, and waiting for sufficiently strong evidence before making deep theoretical claims. There's a difference between hypotheses and theories. You can't level the playing field and claim that a few MRI studies are the equivalent of Neo-Darwinism, unless you want to show yourself as an ignorant buffoon.
 

@Garth,

By Bart's numbers (1 in a billion) not only is it possible, it's a certainty. See my argument upthread.
 

-I wasn’t smoked on VK because I already said I wasn’t going to name anyone. The idea that there are no sex differences between men and women is left-wing orthodoxy, as again, L. Summers found out
-I know about science, I actually believe in it, which is more than many on the liberal left can say (and no, I’m not going name to anyone), with their “creationist” sociology
-the science of sex differences is not “immature” – it is well established
-with regard to “Afrocentric” science (here’s something specific), it is the contention that “African” (or Hispanic or whatever) science is difference from the “dominant Western paradigm” that is a bunch of horsesh*t, but enters nowhere into a narrative about a “left-wing war on science”


Oh, I wish I could find that quote from the Jeremy Campbell book about Grammatical Man in which Chomsky expresses his doubts about the verity of Darwinian evolution…
 

randomsequence:

Please advise me on these "liberals" who are unaware of genitalia. I would most definitely not want to be associated with folks who claim that penises and vaginas do not exist, or that they are indistinguishable....

In the main, yes ... but even in nature there's quite a bit of fuzziness, such as pseudohermaphrodism.... (nature provides plenty of examples of true hermaphrodism too; marine life seems to actually almost prefer such an approach, even across phyla).

Cheers,
 

Roundhead, you keep insinuating at something, but refuse to say what you are insinuating at. This makes it very hard to engage in any reasonable discussion with you. You say you are angry at "the hypocrisy of assholes like you who treat Darwin like orthodoxy but really don't believe in... (sic)." Well, how can we possibly debate "..." if you won't tell us what "..." is?

You seem to indicate that there are immutable differences between men and women as part of our genetic makeup, but you refuse to say what those differences are, which makes disucssion of their innateness impossible. Certainly women's social role and activities have recently expanded in ways undreamed of in past generations, ways that past generations would have considered impossible and contrary to nature, yet here we are.

You have also hinted that it is hypocrisy to believe in biological Darwinianism, but use "social Darwinism" as a slur to describe extreme free market policies. However, you have not been clear enough on this point for anyone to tell whether are actually making it.

The one positive point you have made is that you do not approve of Afrocentrism or "women's way of thinking" as serious academic pursuits. You then imply, with no evidence whatever, that the entire liberal left endorses these things.

So, please, if you want anyone to take you even remotely seriously, please at least let us in on what the hell you are talking about.
 

roundhead:

I sure do: the hypocrisy of assholes like you who treat Darwin like orthodoxy but really don't believe in...

I think you need to cite to instances where anyone here has ever done either of these things ... or sit down, apologise, and then STFU and listen to what the people here are saying. If you want to address someone else, somewhere else, that has said the things you accuse people here of, I think it would behoove you to go there and "explain" it to them (in the Ring Lardner fashion, as seems to be your wont...)

Cheers,
 

poor roundhead.

No. Chomsky does not support you on this. He simply believes, based on years of reasearch into language and how it develops, that natural selection cannot account for our language ability.

He offers nothing but wild theories and his own understanding of language.

However, he is hardly an authoritative source on this topic.
 

roundhead:

I know about science, I actually believe in it

I'll just leave it at that.
 

arne - i don't think you're an asshole this is reserved for random which is what he called me initially...

I guess my point is, doubt about natural selection theory does not reside on the so-called religious right...
 

Can we get Rudy Giuliani to write an op-ed saying that he thinks the speed of light in a vacuum is usually fixed, but that there might be exceptions, and that he abhors the "either/or" of dogmatic physics?
 

roundhead:

-the science of sex differences is not “immature” – it is well established....

So is phrenology. They had it worked out over a hundred years ago. And don't even get me started on astrology and necromancy.

Cheers,
 

"fraud" appropriate handle...

Out of context: my point was that many on the left profess belief in science, but really don't believe in science at all...
 

And I hasten to add is open to persuasion on the subject.

His concerns maybe valid and he's free to pursue them.

that's how the scientific method works.

No one here is part of your liberal-leftwing orthodoxy.
 

indeed, phrenology and mcuh else is old and already discredited.
 

"No one here is part of your liberal-leftwing orthodoxy."

how can you make such a claim? Have you polled everyone as to their political beliefs.

I think i can make a general cliam about the belief-tendency here, just as you can about the scientific beliefs of conservatives...
 

"Out of context: my point was that many on the left profess belief in science, but really don't believe in science at all... " - roundhead

Well that's just stupid!
 

thanks everyone - good debate I'd say!!!

You can't say I'm not for debate can you, fraud, garth, random, norwegian guy?

I think I got you thinking about my point anyway. You won't agree but debate is good.
 

roundhead:

arne - i don't think you're an asshole this is reserved for random which is what he called me initially...

I guess my point is, doubt about natural selection theory does not reside on the so-called religious right...


I feel much better now. I was feeling a bit chagrined that we were guessing at your point, but I see we're in good company. ;-)

Now would you please follow my suggestion above and leave? Thanks in advance.

Stay here, and I can guarantee you I can accommodate your ... uh, apparent "needs"....

Cheers,
 

"how can you make such a claim? Have you polled everyone as to their political beliefs." - roundhead

unlike you, they are frequent posters and i have had ample opportunity to judge their views on the reality based community.

i don't need to know how much they make, where they live or what they do.

i use my powers of reason.
 

roundhead,

Based on your numerous, garrolous, and inane statements, I got to the point, exactly.
 

Roundhead - Is that you Lawrence Summers? Since he is the one I called an asshole, and you took it as a personal slur, I bet it is. And Lawrence, if this is the level of your discourse, you shouldn't have just lost your job as Prez - they should pull your Ph.d.

And: -the science of sex differences is not “immature” – it is well established....

Once again, great argument! "It is well-established"! Thank-you, Oh Wise One! Other than the fact that our genetic knowledge is between 50 and 10 years old, that our knowledge of hormonal signaling systems is incomplete to a high degree (we don't know what most estrogen receptors even do yet), MRI technology is a maturing field that has only recently been applied, no studies have been done looking cross-culturally at biological gender differences, no longitudinal studies looking at infant biological cognitive differences, child-raising practices and mature cognitive differences has been done...

Nice job roundhead. "Believe in science" - the true sign of someone who doesn't have the slightest clue about how science works. Debate is good with a worthy debater - but you are just one more worthless propagandist who wastes people's time with debunking. Fortunately, I'm trying to avoid some work...
 

At last, we have an example of the difference between a troll and a true-believer vandal, roundhead being the former, Bart being the latter.

Don't feed the troll. I was shocked to see this thread made it to over 50 comments, but now I see why.
 

I do not care if you challenge my faith. However, the reasoned basis for my faith (an ordered universe) is far more substantial that the cosmic crap shoot you have to assume in order to believe that life is a product of random chance.

Show me just one instance - with supporting evidence - of any complex substance like DNA or RNA being created by random chance.
 

@Robert:

In this case, the troll was actually a good example of the kind of PC pseudo-science driving the ID movement and Sam Brownback's idiotic comments. A significant portion of the population doesn't understand science, and get pulled in by "common sense" interpretations of spotty data, and are then unable to distinguish that from well-supported, theoretical sound constructs.

It's all the same - science training in this country is crap, probably because our training in making sound arguments is crap. It's all about people having a "right to their opinion" seeming to imply that their opinion is worth a damn and should be respected, despite it's internal contradictions or lack of evidence. Horsepuckey!
 

Bart: Show me just one instance - with supporting evidence - of any complex substance like DNA or RNA being created by random chance.

Show me just one instance - with supporting evidence - of any complex substance like DNA or RNA being created by magical fairies. Then explain where the magical fairies come from.

And Lord, do I hate it when someone brings up that "random chance" crap. No one argues "random chance" - they argue a stochastic process. Big difference. If you can't understand the idea, how can you argue it?
 

Since this thread has already far surpassed it's value and should have long since crumbled under its own weight, I'll add the following from the link I offered in my last comment:

A classic rule of thumb has ever been: do not feed the trolls, and many a new user has been regaled with this adage in the face of an inflammatory poster; the problem is, few persons are willing to heed this familiar warning. One might note similarities in this attitude to that of Americans in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon; when confronted with the premise of ideological terrorism, it is the typical human response to fight fire with fire, trade blow for blow. In mediums of the ideological, textual, and memetic, however, fighting back against malicious phantasms is unproductive. When one is literally “swinging at spirits”, these spirits gain power and substance they hitherto do not possess. It is through opposition and response that they gain validity, become “real” enough to cause the stir and scenes they aim to make.

Now, it's true I think Dawkins is a fool who should have considered the principle of ontological parsimony, but the bit, above, about not always wanting to fight fire with fire is spot on (I hear water and sand both work well.) It's a level of nuance that can't be expected of a grunt. Nor a politician who must pander to the semi-literate masses in order to get re-elected. But here, in a venue like this, well, I'd like to think there's room for such thinking. "...fighting back against malicious phantasms is unproductive." Amen. Every encroachment on our liberties, every person we torture in pursuit of the "war" on terror does more to aid the perpetrators of nine-one-one than it could ever do to prevent future such criminal acts. C'est la vie.
 

Random: "It's all the same - science training in this country is crap, probably because our training in making sound arguments is crap. It's all about people having a "right to their opinion" seeming to imply that their opinion is worth a damn and should be respected, despite it's internal contradictions or lack of evidence. Horsepuckey!"

I see this all the time in my classroom. All of my students say, "Philosophy class is hard!" Well, perhaps it sort of is in some ways, but it wouldn't be if we taught people better (and earlier) how to recognize and make inferences and arguments.
 

randomsequence: It's all the same - science training in this country is crap, probably because our training in making sound arguments is crap.

Fair enough, although I personally tend to think the decline of logical competence and critical thinking skills at a time when we enjoy such wonderful literacy levels can probably be traced to commercial forces. Advertising is sophistry. If we teach our people to see through same it's harder to sell them soap, tooth-paste, wars of aggression. $.02, as they say.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Show me just one instance - with supporting evidence - of any complex substance like DNA or RNA being created by random chance.

Show me just one instance - with supporting evidence - of any complex substance like DNA or RNA being created by Gawd (or FSMs or faerie pixies). I'd say that there's more support for random (and not-so-random; think snowflakes) events happening; in fact we observe such all the time (perhaps in abundance in your posts).

Cheers,
 

Bart: ...the reasoned basis for my faith (an ordered universe)

You really should stick to getting the town drunks out of the pokey or whatever else you may actually be competent to do.

Ordered universe? Oi.

What amazes me is that folks like this can tentatively, grudgingly admit that the Earth goes round the Sun more meaningfully than the other way around and yet still maintain their completely untenable ethno-species-centrism. Order? Ever hear of quanta? Are you really so thrilled about order in a universe so large and enduring that all your dearest hopes and fears are less than what a grain of sand is on the grandest beach?

Be a grown-up and take your faith as faith. But don't waste pixels trying to reason your way there. Better men than you have tried and failed; all you manage is to further embarrass yourself.
 

@Robert: Are you really so thrilled about order in a universe so large and enduring that all your dearest hopes and fears are less than what a grain of sand is on the grandest beach?

They know it, somewhere back in their consciousness. That's why they have to cling to the dregs of the traditional universe which stretched just out to the forest, as far as the eye can see and no more. Unfortunately, few nooks are left for them to hide in, and they grow more ill-fitting every day.

"Damnit! The universe must all be about me, me, me!" cries they toddler.
 

The idea that there's a "left-liberal orthodoxy" that promotes the idea that men and women think alike is completely absurd. To call it an "anthropological theory" is even more absurd. Cites please!
 

@PMS:

No, no, it was even better. Roundhead both asserted that "women's thinking" isn't distinct, that that is a kooky liberal idea, while asserting that liberals believe that there is no difference between men and women. And then he asserts that it is well known that men and women are inherently psychologically different.

The mind reels at the inchoate mass of inconsistent positions across the panoply. And then he positions himself as a defender or science. Sometimes, right-wing though is an oxymoron.
 

RandomSequence said...

And Lord, do I hate it when someone brings up that "random chance" crap. No one argues "random chance" - they argue a stochastic process. Big difference. If you can't understand the idea, how can you argue it?

:::chuckle:::

The other term for "stochastic process" is "random process." The theory has been used to explain processes driven by intelligence such as stock markets and exchanges.

However, before you can use this theory to explain the random creation of life, you first have to provide an example of the random creation of life to explain.
 

At last, we have an example of the difference between a troll and a true-believer vandal, roundhead being the former, Bart being the latter.

Don't feed the troll. I was shocked to see this thread made it to over 50 comments, but now I see why.


The corollary to this is "don't debate creationists". Doing so gives them a passport to credulity which their fabrications don't deserve.
 

Mark Field said...

The corollary to this is "don't debate creationists". Doing so gives them a passport to credulity which their fabrications don't deserve.

Why is it that leftists are afraid to debate a whole variety topics with the weak ass excuse that they do not want to give those who disagree with them a "platform?" In the market place of ideas, the entire world is a platform for those who have something worthwhile to sell.
 

Bart said:

Why is it that leftists are afraid to debate a whole variety topics with the weak ass excuse that they do not want to give those who disagree with them a "platform?" In the market place of ideas, the entire world is a platform for those who have something worthwhile to sell.

If you would debate, as opposed to state and leave, your statement might mean something. There are seven or eight recent threads here where you made a claim which was refuted, but instead of answering you merely brought the same claim again on the next thread. You have something to sell, all right, but worthwhile? About as likely as your estimation of the chance of the random creation of life.
 

As annoying as I find this, I feel I am obligated to defend Bart in this instance. While much has been madem of his views concerning an ordered universe, I am reminded that a fair number of theoretical physicists have been wondering about that very question. Of particular concern is: why is the universe able to support life in the first place?

There are between two and three dozen variables that govern the possibility of life even exsisting, and these include such things as the mass ratio between electrons and protons, and also the ration between neutrons and protons. Also, the relative stregth of weak nuclear forces, gravity and so on. In some scenarios, stars would never be able to form at all...or they would simply expend their fuel and burn out in a matter of months.

Some of this is explained in detail in "The Elegant Universe"
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/

Simply put, our universe is strangly and unaccountably attunned to support life, despite a seeming insurmountable array of odds against the possibility.

How, then, to account for this?

One current proposition holds that there is an infinite set of universes, and each represents a possibility determined by the variables that scientists have identified. each universe is self contained and unapproachable from any other unvesre. Hence, we can deduce the possibility they exsist, but we can never know for sure. Still, with an infinite set to choose from...you end up with our happy circumstance where life is fruitful and multiplys.

Or, you can posit the idea that there is, in fact, one universe and that an underlying order does exsist. That order may derive from a supernatural or other entity, such as God, or may be understood to be a natural function of a universe that has been born...expanded and contracted...and born again. Each time the universe comes into exsistance it is "informed" by the previous universe, and life is not only possible but becomes probable.


(see the excellent book "Science and the Akashic Field)
http://www.amazon.com/Science-Akashic-Field-Integral-Everything/dp/1594770425

I happen to agree with Bart here, in that I ascribe our universe and its' underlying order to God.
Indeed, attepts to use Occam's Razor against the possibility of God are doomed to failure, given the extreme and unknowable nature of the alternatives

Given that any other possibility is not only unprovable but requires a level of complexity that is staggering...God becomes the simplest explanation to the defined problem
 

In my haste and enthusiasm to post, I notice a number of spelling errors regrettably slipped past me. Apologies to all.
 

very simply, telos and evolution, are not mutually exclusive. some are willing to make some pretty big (or utterly simple and unsupported) leaps as the the Who or What is behind the "direction" that does inhere in nature; or, conversely, to utterly deny "direction."

to dig up a chesnut, from William Irvin Thompson:

[I]f you look into the role of imagination in scientific discovery, and look into the kinds of people who do the discovering, then you find that many of the great scientists were mystics and visionaries. The litany of Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg is not a roll call of scientific materialists but of mystics and Pythagoreans.

for those who land themselves fixedly on one side of this fence or the other, this is not an either/or situation we find ourselves in, my friends. it is both/and.

Ken Wilber on evolution:

Evolution has a direction, yes, a principle of order out of chaos, as it is commonly phrased. In other words, a drive toward greater depth. Chance is defeated, meaning emerges -- the intrinsic value of the Kosmos increases with each unfolding. Evolution has a broad and general tendency to move in the direction of: increasing complexity, increasing differentiation/integration, increasing organization/structuration, increasing relative autonomy, increasing telos.

This doesn't mean that regression and dissolution don't occur -- they do. And it doesn't mean that every short-term development must follow those directions. As Michael Murphy says, evolution meanders more than it progresses. But over the long haul, evolution has a broad telos, a broad direction, which is particularly obvious with increasing differentiation -- an atom to an amoeba to an ape!

All of [the] scientific descriptions [of evolution] can generally be summarized as: the basic drive of evolution is to increase depth. This is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos -- to go beyond what went before, and yet include what went before, and thus increase its own depth.


be cool! have fun!
 

Fraud Guy said...

Bart said: If you would debate, as opposed to state and leave, your statement might mean something. There are seven or eight recent threads here where you made a claim which was refuted, but instead of answering you merely brought the same claim again on the next thread.

I make my arguments and they speak for themselves. Repeating the arguments does not make them stronger. When I do so, it is usually when I am literally spending hours here addressing these so called "refutations."
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Bart: The other term for "stochastic process" is "random process."

Again, you cowardly, lying cheat, I'd encourage you to stick to what you know, like how many 40 ouncers a 250 pound red-neck can safely admit to drinking before he gets in the car.

In particular, it is refreshing to see you once again try to erase the existence of nuance in hopes of scoring some kind of rhetorical point. But before you hurt yourself chuckling let me ask: Can you explain the difference between random and arbitrary? I'm guessing not. And if you lack even that small level of ability to deal with precise language of technical matters, why on Earth should anyone listen to you on something as subtle as the difference between random and stochastic?

Now, not everyone on the thread should feel responsible for knowing the difference, but since you claim to be qualified to judge the usage then you indeed should be held accountable for that knowledge. Here's a quick look at what you are missing:

Hypertext Webster Gateway: "stochastic"
From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 (gcide)
Stochastic \Sto*chas"tic\ (st[-o]*k[a^]s"t[i^]k), a. [Gr. stochastiko`s, from stocha`zesqai to aim, to guess, fr. sto`chos mark or aim.]

1. Conjectural; able to conjecture. [Obs.] --Whitefoot. [1913 Webster]

2. random; chance; involving probability; opposite of {deterministic}. [GG]

3. (Statistics) of or pertaining to a process in which a series of calculations, selections, or observations are made, each one being randomly determined as a sample from a probability distribution.

Note: Where physical phenomena are modelled as a stochastic process, each subsequent calculation of a series may depend on the result of the previous calculation, as in the modelling of the process of diffusion of molecules. Many series may be calculated, and the results averaged, to estimate the most likely result. See also {Markov chain}. [PJC] -- {sto*chas"tic*al*ly}, adv. [PJC]


Bart, it really is just like you to go for the easy version, entry two, above. But in the context of science, at least for grown ups, one needs to be a little more precise. It's entry three, above, which applies in the current conversation, and please do try to understand the note before wasting any more of our time prattling about things you not only don't understand but don't even understand well enough to look up.

Bart: However, before you can use this theory to explain the random creation of life, you first have to provide an example of the random creation of life to explain.

Actually, no. No credible person claims life came to being "randomly", that's merely a favored straw-man of philosophical infants. By definition, within the scientific view, life is a patterned arrangement of interacting physical items. Science honestly and without dismay says, "If we start with these observations and work backwards we can reason back about so far." Science does not claim to have all answers, certainly not all the final answers. Such arrogance about the ability of an infinitesimally finite creature to in any meaningful way understand or impact the larger universe is reserved primarily for crackpots such as yourself.

Om.
 

Bart:

I make my arguments and they speak for themselves. Repeating the arguments does not make them stronger. When I do so, it is usually when I am literally spending hours here addressing these so called "refutations."

The problem is, Bart, that I may rarely agree with you (as in this thread, when you allow that faith can exist with science/evolution), but in other threads our many disagreements end up as monologues. I may question your logic and the basis for your position, but then you (as you stated above) merely stick to your point. It doesn't move, and while that may be good in some cases, when attempting to convince people in public dialogue, it stops you cold. If you don't want to convince people, and instead conduct a monologue, I guess it's fine.
 

Bart, the "marketplace of ideas" metaphor fails to provide a useful picture of rationality and the practice of giving reasons. It presumes that ideas that gain wide currency do so because they are inherently more deserving of belief, in much the same way that in an ideal free market with ideally rational consumers (in the economic sense of "rational," that is, value maximizers), the most valuable products (in whatever sense of value prevails in a ideally rational market) would also be in the most demand.

Aside from the debate over how closely any actual economic market approaches this ideal, giving reasons for an idea doesn't work like this. An idea might gain wide currency, not because it conveys the truth, but because large groups of people find it useful to believe the falsehood. (This seems to be the perspective of meme theory, as far as I understand it.)

Also, you seem to apply a burden of proof to scientific explanation that doesn't really exist. I hear you saying that you won't feel comfortable with evo-devo until it can point to some "crucial phenomenon" it can explain so well as to literally rule out all alternative explanations. But scientific explanation has never worked like that; no scientific explanation definitively rules out all alternative explanations. (This is called the Duhem-Quine thesis, after the philosophers and historians of science that first stated it.) Explanatory success in science is only partly a function of ruling out alternative explanations; there's explanatory power (applicability to a wide range of phenomena), parsimony (appeal to fewer hypothetical entities or processes), etc. On all these counts, evo-devo is wildly successful.

I suggest that the certainty you seek is a philosophical ideal, not a scientific one.
 

arrrrrrhhhhhhh

I'm Lawrence Saunders arrrrrr
I'm back from the dead to avenge my lynching!!!!!!!
 

My final point.

Faith is not about certainty. Faith is based on doubt. If you are certain of something based on your faith, you're missing the point.
 

hey randomy

I'm the "right-wing" guy who believes

1. the welfare state was a great innovation
2. marijuana shold be immediately legalized
3. industrialization has hardly ever occurred at the behest of the free market
4. the car and TV are about the worst innovations that humankind has come up with
5. that religious people (be they Xian, Muslim or Marxist) should go and f*ck off

btw, it's not all "contradictory" to uphold "women's ways of knowing" (as forwarded by Carol Gilligan) as a bunch of anti-scientific crap - that is never criticized by left-liberals defenders of science like random - and suggesting that women and men are not exactly identical in terms of ability, aptitude etc. (and as I said, my own pov is that this is derogatory of men's abilities).

I know you'll never be able to understand my point, but I'll reiterate: left-liberals such as yourself and Garth claim to be the great defenders of science against Conservatives, but it's horsesh*t because you don't defend science against the absurd claims of social-engineering ideology (not to mention the garbage that comes out of organizations such as Centre for Science in the Public Interest)...

I'll go smoke my joint now, if a puritan like you isn't offended.
 

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(couldn't resist)

roundhead,

I couldn't help but notice how cavalierly you painted your opponents with a very broad brush, but then don't defend any of your arguments with any detail. Keep that up, and you'll end up like charles here.
 

but alas, fraud guy -

This was done to me by yourself and your friends - First, I was a "fundamentlist" who doesn't believe in God; then I became a "libertarian" whose only read three books; then I'm the "right-wing" guy who doesn't believe in laissez-faire...

You and randomy just have to pidgeonhole that's all - you're not comfortable unless you have your tropes:

"Republican war on science"
"Neocon who's only beholden to Israel"
"Heroic liberal who stands up for everything that's shiny, good and beautiful..."

Ps: since some people think I'm Lawrence Summers, I wanted to make a point about your defence of his lynching.

When the left-wing professoriate of Harvard were grouping for their picnic, they didn't say:

"That Summers, an economist who's poking his nose into the biological sciences! How dare he! We have to get rid of him!"

or

"Lawrence Summers didn't use the appropriate scientific rigour when he made his remarks! That's gonna cost him his job..."

They were looking to lynch him for even making the suggestion AT ALL, that women and men may be different - THAT, to reiterate (though I know you'll never get it) is what I consider to be the hypocrisy of those on the left who supposedly are the ardent defenders of science in the U.S., in my country, Canada, and elsewhere in the Occident...

thanks
 

@Roundhead: Once again with the broad generalization. How do you know what the "left-wing types" were saying? Are you a professor at Harvard? Did you go to the faculty meetings? Or are you again just talking out of your ass like the esteemed Bart without any evidence to support your position? Just trolling, ain't ya?

@Bart: "market place of ideas"!! How about a market place of genes? We should stop inoculating people and let "the market place" of gene exchange settle the matter. Just another sign of a simpleton: grabbing a metaphor and just beating it to death. You do realize that it's just a metaphor, right?

And once again, you show the evidence of your bad-faith. You advanced the argument that abiogenesis is absurd if the probability of life "randomly" starting is one in a billion. I actually worked out the math for you, something you couldn't bother, or were too incompetent, to do. Any response? Any apology? No, you continue saying that it's crazy to say that abiogenesis is "random" after having it pointed out that both a) No one is arguing such a thing b) even if it were the case, life would still be highly likely. As Arne says, you are a cowardly lying cheat. A functioning marketplace of idea would have eliminated you and your ilk long ago, like a rotten peace of meat in the intestinal tract.
 

Roundhead said:

This was done to me by yourself and your friends

I think the quote is "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Your first comment began like this:

The whole “debate” about Darwinism vs. creationism is shot through with bad faith – on all sides, but especially the liberal-left, which is hypocritical here as most elsewhere.

On the one hand, liberal-leftists (and yes, I’m generalizing so don’t remind me that I’m generalizing) will screech from their high horses


And by the way, I never resorted to the name calling you claim of me (although I did call your statements numerous, garrolous, and inane)

Not out of context at all.
 

I'm just responding to you and Garth's defence of the lynching of Lawrence Summers (that's me!!!!), Random.

Perhaps I'm wrong, I followed that controversy quite closely, and I don't remember anyone saying that they were miffed as to Summers' alleged lack of credentials as an economist, for becoming involved in a debate about genetics - I don't recall that was offered in the debate...

Nor yet that Summers wasn't following "proper scientific rigour", never heard that one...

He was canned because he expressed an opinion that goes against left-wing orthodoxy.

Which, of course, goes back to my point (that you're too dense to get I guess) that left-wingers (and yes, I'm generalizing about this group of people, don't ask me to "name one") are hypocrites in so far as they let Summers be lynched and yet jump out of thier shoes when some nobody presidential candidate decides that he doens't believe in evolution by enviornmental selection.

As for trolling, well I guess that's what I am.

I reserve "troll" for someone who goes on a comments or other web site, puts in some obviously phoney name with no link, a phoney email address, so that no one can contact him or her direclty.

I have, on the other hand, linked to my admittedly crappy blog, and placed my email in my name... which means that you or Garth or Arne the Norwegian may email me as much as you want, go on my piece of crap blog and tell me it's a piece of crap - and I won't delete your message, I promise...

do you have the guts... i didnt' think so.
 

well, fraud prevention fellow, I'm not the one who thinks generalization is inherently bad, as you obviously do.

You asked for specifics, and I did provide them to you.

Your response to Lawrence Summers (that’s me) was to allege that he was fired “for not following proper scientific rigour”, to which I’ve already replied: BS.

I’ve mentioned Carol Gilligan and her anti-scientific findings, which now form the basis for much of educational policy, all to no objections to the heroic liberal-left defenders in the “war against science”

I’ve mentioned the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, the speciality of which is to promote scares against various consumer products, again no objections from the defenders of science on the left…

There is the entire disgrace of so-called post-modern thought, which holds that science is merely an expression of the “dominant Western paradigm” – the intrepid defenders of science on the left AWOL

Don’t even get me started on the idiotic “precautionary” principle….

thanks
 

celticdragon:

As annoying as I find this, I feel I am obligated to defend Bart in this instance. While much has been madem of his views concerning an ordered universe, I am reminded that a fair number of theoretical physicists have been wondering about that very question. Of particular concern is: why is the universe able to support life in the first place?

There are between two and three dozen variables that govern the possibility of life even exsisting, and these include such things as the mass ratio between electrons and protons, and also the ration between neutrons and protons. Also, the relative stregth of weak nuclear forces, gravity and so on. In some scenarios, stars would never be able to form at all...or they would simply expend their fuel and burn out in a matter of months.


"Asked and answered". And here. And here.

Cheers,
 

manonfyre [quoting Ken Wilber]:

Evolution has a direction, yes, a principle of order out of chaos, as it is commonly phrased. In other words, a drive toward greater depth. Chance is defeated, meaning emerges -- the intrinsic value of the Kosmos increases with each unfolding.

Nonsense. If "chaos" is more advantageous, "chaos" will win out (consider, e.g., mutations and mutability). Chance is not defeated, but is in fact perhaps necessary to what we see. There is no "drive" to "greater depth"; evolution can go either towards more complexity or more simplicity. The above quote is a load of non-scientific hogwash.

Cheers,
 

randomsequence: As Arne says, you are a cowardly lying cheat.

Sorry, that's me tossing around the asparagus. Arne's style is more cerebral, rather more dry.

(I wonder if anyone actually "gets" my malapropism for "casting aspersions". Sad world that I have to wonder...)
 

roundhead:

This was done to me by yourself and your friends - First, I was a "fundamentlist" who doesn't believe in God; then I became a "libertarian" whose only read three books; then I'm the "right-wing" guy who doesn't believe in laissez-faire...

Foortunately for me, at least, I didn't mischaracterise you. My first impression was that you're an annoying eedjit, and that seems to be borne out.

But I'd note that you are hardly the one to complain about stereotypy and prejudice in such a fashion.

Cheers,
 

@Arne:

Actually, I think that roundhead is actually ideologically a liberal. But that's a bad word socially, so he hates them. Of course, he has to make up who they are, because the real liberals mostly agree with him on points of substance. Strawman, strawman, strawman is the result.

He also has a problem when his principles come into conflict with his social group. That particularly pisses him off, as can be seen by his choice of targets. He needs to believe that his principles of autonomy somehow don't conflict with authoritarianism in practice - see his hysterical defense of Summers. So, when his own principles are applied, he goes nutzzz. He is lividly angry to confront that dichotomy of his buddies versus his beliefs.

It's a common disease. So many people who are anti-socialist, whatever that is, but then are pro-universal health care or such. It's all about group solidarity. The conflict makes them ravening madmen.
 

@Roundhead: trolling for page hits? Is that what this is all about, getting your google ad rate up? At least before I thought you were an insane moron - now I think your an insane and moronic weasel.
 

RandomSequence:

@Roundhead: trolling for page hits? Is that what this is all about, getting your google ad rate up? At least before I thought you were an insane moron - now I think your an insane and moronic weasel.

My thoughts too. Trolls are not the same as blogwhores (although they are not disjoint sets). But I'll say that what I've witnessed here gives me no motivation whatsoever to see what other miasmatic efflux he may have let fly elsewhere.

Cheers,
 

I don’t care if you come to my crappy blog or not. I invited you to come, you are free to turn it down. I know nothing about google ad rates (advertising, another spawn of the devil…)

I AM philosophical liberal, indeed, and I will tell it to anyone who asks – my gosh, this street-corner psychoanalysis, that’s really amazing – “group solidarity” and all that.

Just one thing: I’m Canadian, up here, it’s no crime to be called liberal. (I wonder how you will ridicule my nationality next, seeing as you got nothing else…)

The difference between myself and youse guys, is that I don’t treat my beliefs as a mark of tribal-kinship. If I think liberal-leftists are full of sh*t – which they are with respect to their holier-than-thou attitude toward some nobody who’s running for the president of the USA, I say that too. It’s too bad you don’t have the same courage.

With respect to my “hysteria” over Lawrence Summers (that’s me!), I put it out as an example of the left-liberal hypocrisy that Arne the Norwegian, Random and Fraud-Prevention Guy failed to account for, other than, “He didn’t adequately employ scientific rigour!” or “He was an economist dabbling in the biological sciences”, as if that was the reason he was fired. Again, BS, he was fired for departing from the left-liberal orthodoxy (ie. The religious beliefs of the modern left). I think someone being bounced from his job is of greater import than when some little Republican mouse emerges from his hole and declares his non-belief in evolution…

But of course, no reply with respect to scourge of so-called post-modernism, the disgrace of CSPI, or Carol Gilligan…

Now, I’m about to go smoke my joint and have illicit s*x with my receptionist (in the women’s bathroom). Anyone puritans here care to join me?
 

roundhead:

... I think liberal-leftists are full of sh*t...

I think Invisible Pink Unicorns are awesome to behold. Now that we've got that straight....

With respect to my “hysteria” over Lawrence Summers (that’s me!), I put it out as an example of the left-liberal hypocrisy that Arne the Norwegian, Random and Fraud-Prevention Guy failed to account for...

Why do we need to account for your hysteria?

I think someone being bounced from his job is of greater import than when some little Republican mouse emerges from his hole and declares his non-belief in evolution…

Sam Brownback is a U.S. Senator who votes on laws that affect all people in the U.S. (and aspires to even greater heights).

Why you persist in your "Hey, look over there, it's the Goodrich blimp"/Larry Summers/postmodernism/whatever your current panty-wetting nightmare is on this thread is a mystery to me. I wish you'd just STFU about it here, and keep your private horros to yourself and your own web page.

I don’t care if you come to my crappy blog or not. I invited you to come, you are free to turn it down.

Perhaps you'd be kind enough to take me up on my "invite" above.

Cheers,
 

"But of course, no reply with respect to scourge of so-called post-modernism, the disgrace of CSPI, or Carol Gilligan…"


What is your problem with Carol Gilligan?? I have read her book "In a Different Voice", and I have no idea why you keep ranting about her "unscientific" views. I see nothing terribly radical or threatening in the idea that women approach moral problem solving from a very different perspective then men. Did you read something entirely different?
 

Norwegian guy, Fraud Prevention man, Garth the Starlost, and Random:

You can call me all the names you want – what does it matter?

The fact that you return to call me names states that you really don’t believe these insults – that you believe I actually have a point.

This certainty is reinforced by the fact at least one of you has also attempted some street-corner psychoanalysis as to why a philosophical liberal would be so harsh on left-liberals.

This post against Sam Brownblack was intended to forward the narrative of a “republican war on science.”

Mr. Brownblack is a member of the Senate, which of course writes the laws of the United States – yes, he is one member of a 100-hundred member body, in the minority party of the U.S. upper house, who (I think everyone will agree) has zero chance of ever being nominated for the presidency of his party.

Some threat to science.

On the other hand, I have presented examples of other more serious threats to scientific discourse, these coming largely from the left of the political spectrum in the United States, which, as far as I can see, you have been unable to answer, or answer adequately.

Your “answers” came in the form of insults and sophistry – isn’t this what Fox News is accused of?

You have called me a troll, but when I invited to come on to my weblog to challenge me there, instead of one someone’s else’ blog (and I notice that a couple of you don’t have email addresses at which I could contact you directly).

So far as I know, none of you have bothered to put your money where your mouth is, and attempt a real debate on this matter.

Your responses tell me more than I need to know about a “left-wing war on science.”
 

re: "non-scientific hogwash"

arne, arne! would that i could pontificate with such utter authority!

i suppose, from a scientific viewpoint, one need allow that, suddenly, all with go wonky, and "chaos" will triumph, proving itself the most "adventageous" state of affairs. but there is yet no trace of "chaos" in recorded, geologic, or fossil history. rather, there is an observable "direction" to evolution toward, "increasing complexity, increasing differentiation/integration, increasing organization/structuration, increasing relative autonomy, increasing telos.[~KW]"

that the facts, jack.

to your point: "evolution can go either towards more complexity or more simplicity." is that another way of saying:

"This doesn't mean that regression and dissolution don't occur -- they do. And it doesn't mean that every short-term development must follow those directions. As Michael Murphy says, evolution meanders more than it progresses. But over the long haul, evolution has a broad telos, a broad direction, which is particularly obvious with increasing differentiation -- an atom to an amoeba to an ape!" [~KW}

hmmm?
 

I never understand why people think this is a kind of blasphemy.
When we play the runescape, we need the RS Gold to help us become more powerful, as the same, we also need the cheap tera gold to spend less money to get the gold. When we feel tired we need the game to relax, we need the eden gold to play the game and we did this just
for fun and don’t become addiction about it!
 

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