Balkinization  

Monday, June 11, 2007

Did Republicans Evolve From Earlier Forms of Life?

JB

A new Gallup poll reports that most members of the party don't believe the theory of evolution, and therefore are quite sure that they did not:

The majority of Republicans in the United States do not believe the theory of evolution is true and do not believe that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. This suggests that when three Republican presidential candidates at a May debate stated they did not believe in evolution, they were generally in sync with the bulk of the rank-and-file Republicans whose nomination they are seeking to obtain.

Independents and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe in the theory of evolution. But even among non-Republicans there appears to be a significant minority who doubt that evolution adequately explains where humans came from.

The data from several recent Gallup studies suggest that Americans' religious behavior is highly correlated with beliefs about evolution. Those who attend church frequently are much less likely to believe in evolution than are those who seldom or never attend. That Republicans tend to be frequent churchgoers helps explain their doubts about evolution.

The data indicate some seeming confusion on the part of Americans on this issue. About a quarter of Americans say they believe both in evolution's explanation that humans evolved over millions of years and in the creationist explanation that humans were created as is about 10,000 years ago.

The last paragraph suggests that there may also be something wrong with the survey questions. I certainly hope so. It would be very depressing to think that the quality of science education in the United States has become so degraded that half of the public rejects one of the most central pillars of modern biology.

Following the launch of Sputnik, the United States invested considerable sums in science education and research both at the university level and in elementary and secondary schools in order to create a generation of young scientists and promote scientific research. The primary motivation for these reforms was to assist space and military research, but the long term benefits of the fifteen or so years while the Sputnik-era reforms lasted were considerable. Not only did these reforms produce more scientists and more innovation, but it also led to more Americans from all walks of life understanding and respecting the achievements of science and technology. Unfortunately, the money and political will for scientific education began to dry up after men first landed on the Moon. The result was predictable: a slow and steady degradation in the average American's understanding of science, and a reduction in resources and preparation for young people to become scientists. Luckily we have benefited from people from other countries who have come to America to do university research. But it seems clear that we cannot adopt this strategy of importing well-educated students from other lands forever. We must attend to our own children's education.

You may think that this Gallup poll is only about the subject of evolution and its relation to the current culture wars. It is not. It is a symptom of a much larger concern: the increasing ignorance of the American public about basic features of how the world works. (It is perhaps no accident that one of the latest TV game shows on the Fox Network is called "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader," in which contestants routinely demonstrate that they are not.) It is quite possible for Americans to disagree about issues of culture and secularism and still be educated in basic facts about science. Religion itself is not to blame for these results. The real culprits are wishful thinking, political opportunism, anti-intellectualism, and above all poor science and education policies.

Perhaps we need another Sputnik-like event today, something to shock us into recognizing that our failure to educate our children will ultimately undermine our ability to compete on the world stage. We Americans have become far too insular and flabby-minded in our thinking. It is time to do something about it.

Comments:

Ha ha -- very funny -- so, if my answer to the question is "no" you have to go with "yes" right?
 

Next question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?"
 

I couldn't agree more, but it does seem that current issues with Islamic extremism might only further cement fundamentalist Christian thought in America as a counterweight (no matter what Dinesh D' Souza might wish for).
 

No. If your answer to the question is, "No. Republicans did not evolve from earlier forms of life," I would ask why do you believe that.

Do you think Darwin inapplicable to the development of man?

Do you think we were created whole, like Adam and Eve?

I am more interested in why you do not believe that man kind did not evolve from earlier forms of life.
 

I thought they evolved from Whigs.
 

antiquated tory,

you misspelled pigs ;)
 

Actually,

I thought the more direct descent was through the Know-Nothing Party, with the Whigs further up the line.
 

nod to arne...
 

That's right, Garth, I think we were created whole, like Adam and Eve.
 

If the wording of the poll stated that evolution means "... that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life," it already contains a scientific misstatement. Darwin's theory of evolution and its successors say nothing about whether humans are more "advanced" than, say, chimps.

The late lamented Stephen Jay Gould often said in his public lectures that evolution was a fact, i.e., something observable in the geological record, a fact for which various explanatory theories could be constructed, Darwin's among them. In the question sessions afterward, the question of "belief" in evolution always came up; Gould typically interrupted the questioner to ask if he also did not believe in gravity. The analogy is a good one: there have been many theories of gravity over the ages, but anyone who acts on his disbelief in gravity as a fact is in for a hard landing.
 

"But even among non-Republicans there appears to be a significant minority who doubt that evolution adequately explains where humans came from."

Might be a bit misleading, if what they are asking is whether if they think that evolution is the whole story. Many believe that evolution is happening, but also believe that Gawd might be steering it, might have set it in motion, or that evolution may be part of Gawd's plan and method.

Cheers,
 

charles,

i don't entirely disagree with you. i think it is plausible that modern man evolved from a species similar to but not identical to apes, chimps and the like.

there are many grey areas that have not yet been adequately documented in the evidence, but it is the most convincing theory we have and almost certainly contains some measure of truth.

but i would caution you against adopting beliefs inconsistent with observable phenomena and the best scientific/reasoned thought.

reason is a bright line rule.
 

we almost certainly were not created whole. we had to have developed from a simpler organism.

to believe otherwise requires more faith than reason.
 

Since I don't think God "evolved" from a simpler organism, why would He create Adam and Eve ("in His Image") using evolution?
 

"Religion itself is not to blame for these results. The real culprits are wishful thinking, political opportunism, anti-intellectualism, and above all poor science and education policies."

I don't quite understand. What wishful thinking is involved other than a wish that the Bible be literally true? What political opportunism is involved other than pandering to the religious right? If what you mean is that religion does not have to entail disbelief in evolution, that is true. But for many people it does, and that is the problem.
 

Henry:

Of course, God is God, so He could have created Adam and Eve using evolution -- I'm not denying that is possible -- He says that He is unchanging though.
 

charles-

can you hear yourself? allow me to reproduce your words for a second listen:

"He says that He is unchanging"

and so you conclude that god (whatever sort of entity you think "He" might be) could not have evolved. apart from the circularity of your reasoning, I find another problem: even if God were ‘unchanging’ and not a product of evolution, there is no reason to discard the theory of evolution as a viable explanation for life on earth. forget, for the moment, god/religious text and simply consider the vast wealth of empirical facts you invalidate with a claim like:

“I think we were created whole”.

to make such a claim not only takes “faith”, but also an genuine dislike for facts. i’m surprised to see someone as anti- intellectual as yourself perusing a site like this.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

"He says that he is unchanging."

ummmm, where exactly does "HE" say this?

I think "HE" would be more effective if he took out a superbowl commercial.

Of course, money would be no object.

Maybe "HE" is just waiting for Fox Sports to get the rights again.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways and tonight HE needs your car.
-some forgotten country tune

I don't care if it rains or freezes 'long as I have my plastic Jesus...Ridin' on the dashboard of my car....
 

That's right, Garth, I think we were created whole, like Adam and Eve.

# posted by Charles : 6:35 PM

I dig Eve. She's the "opposite" sex, right? Or the other/"better" half?

'Kay.

I'm not into Adam.

But by now both are dead, so they are irrelevant to the equation. Except to religiosmut peddlars and their suckers.

Now, wanna talk reason, or wanna defend unreason -- unfounded faith based upon only the right to believe anything you want, regarldess how loony?

As a legitimate alternatie to thought?
 

Republicans as absolute certitude -- ?

That which is called "ultimate ground of being" by those who haven't a clue as to the immensity and meaning of "ultimate" --

And of "ground".

And "being".

"of"?

"And"! (Nah: that suggests sexual reproduction.)

Let's try a different approach:

Language is a utilitarian tool everyone on the planet (with a small minority of exceptions -- there are no absolutes, except that there are no absolutes) uses every day. Day in and day out.

Even at night.

Yet no one has a clue where "language" comes from.

But why babble about any of that? If "God" is perfect and infinite, as alleged, then He (who knows? no one; so guess) can only also be perfectly and infinitely nasty.

Consider:

"We" are "made in God's image" it is alleged by those to whom "God" once talked. "They" said so, and we all know "they" is -- or is it "are"; can't know: a"they" is anonymous.

The ultimate source of anonymous truth.

No taxononmies done, with their scientific particularities and autopsies, we find what?

Well, you are looking, right? Seeker? ("There's a seeker born every minute" -- Firesign Theatre.)

Okay, so you are perfectly the image of "God". That includes your inevitable imperfection; which leads ineluctibly to error -- by you.

Your screw up is "God"'s imparting to you: free will. It's your fault, not "His" -- even though he made it impossible to do otherwise.

"We have no choice: we must accept free will."

". . . or the universe is random. Absurdity is God. Or God is absurdity. Which has yet to be determined, regardless the most determined efforts of the [D]eterminists."

So, where are "we" (hypothesizing -- some individuals insist that everything is "one," so there are no individuals).

And when you fuck up -- "sin" -- "God" bashes the shit out of you -- even though "He" knew in advance not only that you would fuck up, but that "He" (who says? "Who"?) designed you to do exactly that.

The universe is a cannibal.

Guess based directly, with absolute certitude for the monment, upon leaving-slipshod-well-enough-alone.

Mmmm. Were I not so lazy I could found a churchj on all or any part of that. Begin with "babble". Church of Babble in the Cannibal Universe.

Good. Here I pass the plate . . .
 

"Evolution" is not necessarily limited to biology alone, it also encompasses the intellect, sociology and anthropology of people as well.

I believe that scientific and philosophical incuriosity, and anti-intellectualism in general, may actually stunt a people's evolving process.

Unfortunately, I am becoming convinced that here in the US the general population is devolving...

~A
 

Ignorance of science is not limited to one side of the aisle. I saw a poll somewhere a few years ago where a majority of Democrats thought that nuclear plants significantly contribute greenhouse gases and create global warming (sorry, couldn't find a cite).
 

It's certainly possible to believe both in a "young universe" and in evolution. Consider: if god created the universe whole in seven days, and if what we have here with us today is the same universe, then we can infer that he created it with the evidence of evolution already in it. Since advancement of biological science seems to presume evolution, evolution is a useful tool for us to analyze the world and project the future. A kind and good god would want his children to learn and advance, right? So creating the world whole with evolution built into nature is perfectly logical, and that the fossils and other "ancient earth" evidence are there to enable us to learn about nature. That means it is possible to believe both that god created a young earth whole, and that evolution is a fact, but not that we descended from lower forms of life. And there is nothing necessarily anti-scientific about it.

I don't think I buy this theory, but it's hardly barbaric or anti-intellectual.
 

Boldface @ 9:02 am: This "instrumental" use of theory is exactly how the Roman Catholic Church attempted to accommodate heliocentric (Copernican) astronomical theory in the 17th century. It's a useful tool for making astronomical calculations easier, they said, but we shouldn't take it as providing a literal description of the universe as it really is. Galileo was put under house arrest by the church, not for teaching heliocentric theory per se, but for refusing, after being given MANY opportunities by his ecclesiastical patrons, to adopt this purely instrumental view of it.

This isn't a barbaric attitude (although I seriously doubt it's the attitude of very many of the people who responded in the poll JB references in his post). I think it's subtly anti-scientific, though, for two reasons. The first is that it reduces science to a prediction-generating game: Whatever scientists are doing, it's not describing the real universe, but merely coming up with a hypothetical one whose utility is purely that it helps us make predictions. I doubt many scientists would view what they are doing as exclusively a matter of predicting, though; they would say that they are also trying to say something about nature as it is.

The second reason is that it sends the message that scientists aren't who we should go to for the real truth about nature. They tell us interesting things, perhaps, but the REAL story is the one being told by the religious authorities. Plus, it sends the message that even God thinks this: it smacks of the belief that God puts those pesky fossils in the dirt to test our faith and delude those poor souls who trust their lying eyes (and their lying carbon-14 atoms) over what the Bible says. By poring over those pesky fossils, those scientists are just ignoring the real truth and don't trust God enough.
 

And there is nothing necessarily anti-scientific about it.

# posted by boldface : 9:02 AM


This theory would defy all the evidence we have found for the origin of the Earth, and there isn't a shred of evidence to support it. That sure seems anti-scientific to me.
 

And there is nothing necessarily anti-scientific about it.


The problem is, boldface, that theory can lead to this problem:

How do you know that the universe wasn't created this morning, with everyone's memories intact, along with all of the geological and astrophysical and other scientific evidence?

Indeed...how do you know it wasn't created 5 seconds ago?
 

Yes, basically what is being described by boldface is the Omphalos hypothesis as put forth by Gosse in the 19th century - God creating the universe as a "going concern" with all previous history in place. Wikipedia has a brief discussion here, which does describe the problems with "last thursdayism". It is not inconsistent, but is unfalsifiable and is certainly not the most parsimonious explanation, and is related to the problems of an " all-powerful deceiver God" (in which case all bets are off.).

Me, I just think the world would be a better place if every morning, everyone woke up and reminded themselves that: I am an animal and that is OK. 'Cuz it is.
 

Guys, as I said, I'm not sure I buy it. But the objections you raised aren't fatal to the view.

For one thing, Paul is right - we don't know for sure that the universe wasn't created just 5 seconds ago with all our memories already in it. Lots of abstract philosophical discussion centered around whether our memories are real or delusional, whether we really exist, etc etc etc.

But even if that were so, it wouldn't be anti-science because science wouldn't change. It would still be presuming that the information we can glean from the physical world tells us certain things. If it indicates that evolution brought us to where we are, that's what it tells us. That would imply that we will evolve into higher forms of life, and who knows, we just might.

I view the issue of whether we were created whole or actually evolved to be almost irrelevant so long as the science is proceeding on the basis of evolution being the valid narrative for scientific purposes. We could have philosophical discussions about the nature of existence from today until doomsday, and many people have had such discussions and still do. I'm just pointing out that the perceived tension isn't necessarily required.

I know lots of people are heavily invested in the idea that people who disagree with them have to be mocked. In my view, that impulse needs to be resisted.
 

This reminds me of the religious question of free will. If there is no free will, why are we having the discussion (unless we suppose that God wants to play an extremely complicated game of solitaire)?
 

The evolution of man has also been the evolution of the fears that inflict mankind.

Originally, there were tangible things to fear, like that leopard behind that bush over there, or the bigger guy with the bigger rock.

Then humans invented weapons to protect themselves from leopards and language to talk the guy with the rock out of murder. (Think "thou shalt not kill.")

The fears became less tangible, more inchoate, but -- being human -- we're programmed to fear, so we do. The best we can do is try to prioritize our fears, try to develop protections from the worst real dangers and those we can protect ourselves from, and try to keep the rest from bothering us too much.

We developed rational capability to help us in dealing with our enemies, and fear is an enemy. Not everyone is rational, everybody is capable of a close cousin to rationality -- I speak, of course, of rationalization.

It resembles rationality so closely that many, perhaps most, people cannot tell them apart, and it works (although not as well as rationality) as a defense against fear.

Rationality says to us "there is no knowable God." Rationalization says "So what? Pascal's wager!"

Rationality says "runaway global warming may be catastrophic." Rationalization says "God" or "Technology" (another name for God) "won't let that happen."

Rationality says "unless something really drastic changes, the GOP may come in behind the Green party in 2008." Rationalization says "Fred Thompson! Rasmussen poll says Congress dropped four points! Trouble ahead for the Democrats!"

Being attached to science and rationality, I'd like to believe that the GOP is evolving itself into an evolutionary dead end by adopting rationalization, rather than rationality, as its strategy.

But I don't know. The grand experiment will take time to produce results.
 

boldface:

For one thing, Paul is right - we don't know for sure that the universe wasn't created just 5 seconds ago with all our memories already in it. Lots of abstract philosophical discussion centered around whether our memories are real or delusional, whether we really exist, etc etc etc.

Yeah, solipsism is the last refuge of the guy that wants (for whatever purpose) to deny reality.

The problem is (amongst other things) that such an 'explanation' brins up more issues than it resolves.

If you ever want to come back to earth, let us know; we'll try to provide a soft landing....

Cheers,
 

Arne, I think you need to grow up and retire the mockery. This was a theoretical discussion, and unless you were sleeping through your college philosophy course, or didn't bother taking one, you would know that there has been "delusional" discussion by philosophers for thousands of years, including on such issues as to whether we really exist at all in the first place.

I know it makes you feel superior to fling mockery at others, but at some point adulthood has to beckon. Give it a try, you might find it rewarding.
 

Boldface, science in a universe which may be imaginary, to some unknown degree, is not really science. It is really more like a complex Easter Egg hunt.
 

boldface:

Arne, I think you need to grow up and retire the mockery. This was a theoretical discussion, and unless you were sleeping through your college philosophy course, or didn't bother taking one, you would know that there has been "delusional" discussion by philosophers for thousands of years, including on such issues as to whether we really exist at all in the first place.

Lighten up, willya. Yeah, I know that's happened. They even have names for the various schools of thought. It's just obvious to me that such 'speculation' (there's less kind words for it) hasn't given us one ounce of actual insight into how the world works. People like Popper and Kuhn (and even McLuhan) are far more insightful.

[boldface from upstream]: We could have philosophical discussions about the nature of existence from today until doomsday, and many people have had such discussions and still do. I'm just pointing out that the perceived tension isn't necessarily required.

True, but neither is the speculation, which in part is what makes it true.

I think we agree on some things. Where we seem to disagree is as to the value of such type "discussion". I'd rather it not be done ... at least here. I wish you wouldn't invite it.

Cheers,
 

boldface said: This was a theoretical discussion, and unless you were sleeping through your college philosophy course, or didn't bother taking one, you would know that there has been "delusional" discussion by philosophers for thousands of years, including on such issues as to whether we really exist at all in the first place.

I have to agree with Arne on this one. Solipsistic arguments are generally uninteresting because they ultimately must end with the conclusion of "well, maybe." Moreover, these arguments are anti-scientific because, by their terms, they can't be disproven through observation.
 

Solipsistic arguments are generally uninteresting because they ultimately must end with the conclusion of "well, maybe." Moreover, these arguments are anti-scientific because, by their terms, they can't be disproven through observation.

Plus, there's always the fear that solipsism might be contagious. :)
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Jake (and JNagarya):

Yes, I can you hear myself. As I set forth above, I do not discard the theory of evolution as a viable explanation for life on earth. I simply said IMHO there's a more likely explanation. Just think about this for a minute:

If, hypothetically, an unchanging God created Adam and Eve whole, how would that "fact" be a genuine dislike for facts?

I don't consider myself an "anti-intellectual" (I did graduate from law school and passed the California bar exam on the first try, so you never know). Are you saying that Christians are all "anti-intellectual"?

Adam and Eve were made in the image of "God" but, as JNagarya noted, with "free will" -- that was indeed "perfect" until, unlike God, they chose sin -- we have the "free will" to be perfect as well. It's not God's "fault" when we aren't, nor is it His Design. I take it neither of you have kids of your own? Yes, God knew we would fall which is why He sent His One and Only So, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. No, He doesn't want us to sin, any more than a parent wants a child to stumble, but sometimes realizes it will be better for them in the long run. Any more questions?

Garth:

"For I CHANGE NOT; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." Mal. 3:6

"Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away; but you are THE SAME, and your years have no end." Psa. 102:25-27

"Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Heb. 13:8

Also, I don't think having the best selling Book of all time is necessarily less effective than a superbowl commercial.

boldface (and Brian / JP Stormcrow):

Thank you very much for your posts. I believe God allows those who refuse to believe enough "reasons" to do so -- otherwise, it couldn't be called "free will" could it? I also believe that no one will be able to face God and say "You deceived me." Regardless of your beliefs, I agree with boldface, there should be no mocking.

Bartbuster:

One "shred" of evidence would be the Book of Genesis. I readily admit that does not fall within your definition of science.

Mark Field (and Arne):

Don't worry, I'm not contagious (although, that's what the TB lawyer said too . . .)
 

No one answered my question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?"
 

I readily admit that does not fall within your definition of science.


Then it's not evidence.
 

My apologies to JNagarya and Arne; I just now read your responses to me on the earlier threads, and I hereby retract any further posts and / or questions to you.
 

It's not SCIENTIFIC evidence, Bartbuster. There's also LEGAL evidence. Philosophically, evidence can include propositions which are presumed to be true used in support of other propositions that are presumed to be falsifiable. There's all kind of "evidence" out there.
 

Charles @ 2:02 pm: "I believe God allows those who refuse to believe enough "reasons" to do so -- otherwise, it couldn't be called "free will" could it?"

This sounds like too negative a characterization of the matter. Can't we give naturalistic scientific realism a la Arne Langsetmo the benefit of being a positive belief, not just a "refusal" to believe in God?

boldface @ 1:51 pm: "But even if [the instrumental view of science's inability to settle the last-Thursday problem] were so, it wouldn't be anti-science because science wouldn't change."

Perhaps, given (once again) we persist in treating science purely as a prediction-generating enterprise and nothing else. Hence my response's suggestion that some commitment to scientific realism is part of the enterprise of science itself. Change that by the suggestion that the price of realism is that scientists must (but can't) settle the speculative questions you raise, and you change science.

I also find it more useful to describe the issue here as one of the presumptive preferability of naturalistic scientific realism, rather than one of falsifiability or even empirical content. Just because a theory has empirical content doesn't make it falsifiable; Popper had one hell of a time coming up with a precise notion of falsifiability for any theory, much less sophisticated ones, and the general consensus seems to be that no theory is falsifiable in any direct way. Empirical content doesn't cut it, either; vis-à-vis nature, creationism and evolution have the same empirical content. Proponents of ID sow all sorts of confusion by exploiting these problems. The problem with ID and creationism more generally is their refusal to view empirical reality as a constraint on their theories at all, and thus to mistake science for speculative metaphysics.
 

Bartbuster:

Art is NOT science. Love is NOT science. You really think something does not exist unless science has an explanation for it?
 

Brian:

First, I'm going to have to look up "naturalistic scientific realism" : )
 

To return to the more interesting matter raised by “boldface”, I’d like to comment on his attempt to reconcile evolutionary theory with a ‘young universe.’ As was previously mentioned, it is possible that the universe, along with all its contents, was created by God just 5 minutes ago. Now, why isn’t this likely? For starters, it raises the enormous question of why would God design the universe so as to deceive its human inhabitants of their own origin? In other words, why would God choose to ‘plant’ evidence of a 14 billion year old universe when, in actuality, the universe is only 5 minutes old? Certainly, such a deceptive God is not a good God. And certainly, any appeals to the incomprehensibly of God will get us nowhere. Without adequate answers to these questions, we are right to regard the theory of the 5 minute old universe as highly improbable - so improbable that the theory is not worth any real consideration. A ‘young universe’ - one that was created in six days some ten thousand years ago - seems equally improbable. Both theories are, then, equally irrelevant to any serious scientific discussion. Nevermind the fact that an ancient holy book endorses the ‘young universe’ theory. Such an endorsement should hardly count in its favor. After all, since when is a book so chalked full of inconsistencies and untruths a legitimate authority on cosmological questions?
 

Scientific realism is a view in the philosophy of science about the nature of scientific success, an answer to the question "what does the success of science involve?" The debate over what the success of science involves centers primarily on the status of unobservable entities (objects, processes and events) apparently talked about by scientific theories. Roughly put, scientific realism is the thesis that the unobservable things talked about by science are little different from ordinary observable things (such as tables and chairs).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_realism#Arguments_for_and_against_scientific_realism

How does "naturalistic" fit into that?
 

Jake:

I would agree that a "deceptive" God who "planted" evidence of a 14 billion year old universe when, in actuality, the universe is only 5 minutes old, is not a good God. How's that for compromise?
 

Charles @ 2:43: "How does "naturalistic" fit into that?"

It fits in like this: The warrant for scientific realism being what it is, scientific realism provides more warrant for naturalism-- the metaphysical claim that all that is the case is exhausted by the natural world treatable in principle by natural science-- than it does for anything else. So, science's success lends rational support to naturalism that non-naturalism (supernaturalism) not only fails to get from science, but that non-naturalism doesn't get in equal measure from any other source.
 

P.S. Jake (from the linked article above):

Pessimistic induction, one of the main arguments against scientific realism, argues that the history of science contains many theories once regarded as empirically successful but which are now believed to be false. Additionally, the history of science contains many empirically successful theories whose unobservable terms are not believed to genuinely exist.

For example, the effluvial theory of static electricy is an empirically successful theory whose central unobservable terms have been replaced by later theories. Realists reply that replacement of particular realist theories with better ones is to be expected due to the progressive nature of scientific knowledge, and when such replacements occur only superfluous unobservables are dropped. For example, Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity showed that the concept of the luminiferous ether could be dropped because it had contributed nothing to the success of the theories of mechanics and electromagnetism. On the other hand, when theory replacement occurs, a well-supported concept, such as the concept of atoms, is not dropped but is incorporated into the new theory in some form.

Also against scientific realism social constructivists point out that scientific realism is unable to account for the rapid change that occurs in scientific knowledge during periods of revolution. Constructivists may also argue that the success of theories is only a part of the construction. However, these arguments ignore the fact that many scientists are not realists. In fact, during what is perhaps the most notable example of revolution in science—the development of quantum mechanics in the 1920s—the dominant philosophy of science was logical positivism. The alternative realist Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics does not make such a revolutionary break with the concepts of classical physics.

Another argument against scientific realism, deriving from the underdetermination problem, is not so historically motivated as these others. It claims that observational data can in principle be explained by multiple theories that are mutually incompatible. Realists counter by pointing out that there have been few actual cases of underdetermination in the history of science. Usually the requirement of explaining the data is so exacting that scientists are lucky to find even one theory that fulfills it. Furthermore, if we take the underdetermination argument seriously, it implies that we can know about only what we have directly observed. For example, we could not theorize that dinosaurs once lived based on the fossil evidence because other theories (e.g., that the fossils are clever hoaxes) can account for the same data. Realists claim that, in addition to empirical adequacy, there are other criteria for theory choice, such as parsimony.
 

Brian:

I am going to have to read that again, once I get a chance to slow down. Thank you for the reply. In the meantime, is that a picture of Cary Grant?
 

Cary it is.
 

Last one for Jake (for awhile at least):

A modern version of Descartes' skeptical view of universe is imagined in "brains in vats" hypothetical -- what if an evil genius, a scientist with the intention of deceiving you, without your knowing, removes your brain and puts it in a vat with the necessary chemicals to keep your brain cells alive -- then this scientist connects your nerve endings to a supercomputer in such a way that your brain has the "experience" that it is living an ordinary life with its smells, tastes, visions, etc.

Let's say that your illusion felt just as real. How could you know that you're a brain in a vat? How can you distinguish the illusion from what is real?
 

Art is NOT science. Love is NOT science. You really think something does not exist unless science has an explanation for it?

Art and love can both be explained by science. And I never said that something does not exist unless science has an explanation for it. I think it's silly to attribute to an invisible magic doer things that humans do not currently understand. I think it's willfully ignorant to attribute to an invisible magic doer things that humans do understand.
 

Charles, you wrote: “If, hypothetically, an unchanging God created Adam and Eve whole, how would that "fact" be a genuine dislike for facts?”

First, I’d like to ask, is the above statement a hypothetical for you personally? Or, do you really believe Adam and Eve were created whole, as products of divine invention rather than natural selection? If the latter, then I would say you do, rather clearly, discard the theory of evolution as a viable explanation for life on earth (or at least for human life in the case of Adam and Eve).

When you regard the creation story as the “more likely explanation”, I think you demonstrate a genuine dislike for (possibly ignorance of) certain biological facts. The wealth of evidence supporting the evolution of life on earth is astounding. I suggest you read a little on the subject. No faith will be required.

On Descartes ‘Brains in Vats’, you ask: “How can you distinguish the illusion from what is real?”

I would say you cannot. But the more important question is: why do we regard the notion of an evil genius controlling our minds as highly unlikely? The possibility that our brains might be in the hands of a mad scientist is so improbable that anyone who lived according to this theory would be regarded as insane (just as a person who lived their life according to the 5 min old universe theory would also be regarded as insane). The reason we do regard the ‘Brains in Vats’ scenario as highly improbable, and the reason we should regard creation theory as highly improbable, is out of what some have termed the ‘simplicity principle’.

The Simplicity Principle stipulates: given two theories it is unreasonable to believe the one that leaves significantly more unexplained mysteries. To account for our existence by postulating a mad scientist who controls our minds leaves a number of very significant unexplained mysteries. First, why the hell would a mad scientist want to simultaneously control the complex minds of six billion people as well as the minds of countless other mind possessing organisms? Second, how did this mad scientist manage to place all our brains in vats? How did he acquire the technology for mind control? Unexplained mysteries abound. A theory of our existence that does not postulate a mad scientist in control of our brains leaves significantly less unexplained mysteries. Thus, we believe the latter theory and disregard the former.

The Simplicity Principle applies well to the creation/evolution debate. On my calculation, creation theory leaves and inordinately greater number of unexplained mysteries when compared with evolutionary theory. I form my beliefs accordingly.
 

O.K., let's back up for a moment and determine WHICH theory we are talking about. Here's just one such example: while classical evolutionary theory presupposed earth's early atmosphere was a reducing atmosphere (devoid of any oxygen whatsoever), newer scientific evidence confirms what Bible scholars had previously suspected: the earth's ancient atmosphere probably contained an even larger fraction of oxygen than it does at present. It is even possible that photosynthesis in plant life was more efficient than it is currently. A warmer average climate in ancient times would also mean a higher rate of oxygen generation by the more numerous plant life. Are we going with the LATEST scientific evidence?
 

Charles-

I’m not at all sure what relevance your last post has to anything I’ve said. I suppose I would like to found my beliefs on the latest scientific evidence available because it would, presumably, be the most accurate. But there is no need to discuss particular strands of evolutionary theory in this current debate over creationism.

I’m still quite confused by your last comment. For instance, what is this supposed to mean:

“newer scientific evidence confirms what Bible scholars had previously suspected: the earth's ancient atmosphere probably contained an even larger fraction of oxygen than it does at present.”

I’d like to know a few things. What biblical scholars suspected this? Why does it matter that they suspected it (as in, does this prove anything)? Does the fact that a biblical scholar made a correct scientific prediction lend any credibility to the genesis story? I’ll help you out on this last question. The answer is no.
 

Well, Jake, I wasn't just backing up on your post about the Simplicity Principle but also Brian's about Scientic Realism and even Bartbuster's about the definition of "evidence." I note that you haven't even answered my very "simple" hypothetical question yet.
 

Here are those pending questions again:

1) If, hypothetically, an unchanging God created Adam and Eve whole, how would that "fact" be a genuine dislike for facts?

2) Are you saying that Christians are all "anti-intellectual"?

3) I take it neither of you have kids of your own?
 

1) If, hypothetically, an unchanging God created Adam and Eve whole, how would that "fact" be a genuine dislike for facts?

I thought I already addressed your dislike for facts. Allow me to refer you to a past post in which I said:

First, I’d like to ask, is the above statement a hypothetical for you personally? Or, do you really believe Adam and Eve were created whole, as products of divine invention rather than natural selection? If the latter, then I would say you do, rather clearly, discard the theory of evolution as a viable explanation for life on earth (or at least for human life in the case of Adam and Eve). When you regard the creation story as the “more likely explanation”, I think you demonstrate a genuine dislike for (possibly ignorance of) certain biological facts.

2) Are you saying that Christians are all "anti-intellectual"?

Of course not. I know several religious intellectuals, including Christians, with whom I disagree but nonetheless respect. I do, however, think it is anti-intellectual to believe creation theory without giving evolutionary theory due consideration.

3) I take it neither of you have kids of your own?

I don’t have kids. Why does this matter?
 

For anyone else still following along, I don't presume to understand all the statistics and "science" of what the world's population was from Adam and Eve until the Flood, and then from Noah to the current age, but this is one fascinating theory from one of those Bible scholars as well:

http://www.ldolphin.org/popul.html
 

Jake:

You can't ANSWER a hypothetical question with another QUESTION. I believe I have indeed given evolutionary theory due consideration (and, as I've stated several times now, it is indeed possible that is how God created us all). As for the question about children, it may seem "off the wall" to you, but it related to the question about "free will" parents not "wanting" their child to stumble, but sometimes realizing it will be better for them in the long run (see above).
 

Jake:

Without adequate answers to these questions, we are right to regard the theory of the 5 minute old universe as highly improbable - so improbable that the theory is not worth any real consideration.

I'm a bit more utilitarian. I'd say the main reason it's not worth discussing is that it's not particularly useful....

Cheers,
 

Charles:

Pessimistic induction, one of the main arguments against scientific realism, argues that the history of science contains many theories once regarded as empirically successful but which are now believed to be false....

Ummm, they were shown to be "empirically unsuccessful". Hope that clear up your confusion.

Cheers,
 

Charles:

For example, Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity showed that the concept of the luminiferous ether could be dropped because it had contributed nothing to the success of the theories of mechanics and electromagnetism.

"Michelson-Morley".

Cheers,
 

Jake:

First, why the hell would a mad scientist want to simultaneously control the complex minds of six billion people as well as the minds of countless other mind possessing organisms?...

Those other 5,999,999,999 people don't exist. They're just illusions of my corrupted sensory processes. Why am I talking to you? Go away, I have serious things to consider....

Cheers,
 

Charles:

Here's just one such example: while classical evolutionary theory presupposed earth's early atmosphere was a reducing atmosphere (devoid of any oxygen whatsoever),...

Evolutionary theory says nothing about the earth's "early" atmosphere.

Cheers,
 

Charles,

Your claim that scientists now think the early atmosphere had significantly more oxygen indicates significant confusion.

The currently-accepted level of oxygen in the original atmosphere of the Earth was effectively 0. (See: this

About 2.2 billion years ago, blue-green algae evolved the capability of photosynthesis, and also the ability to tolerate oxygen. This gave it a huge advantage over previous life, and the oxygen level started increasing, reaching levels comparable to current levels about 600 million years ago.

It wasn't a uniform increase, nor has the level been constant since then. Oxygen levels during the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago, got to 27 percent, then fell back to the current level.

None of this is either new or controversial. You seem to be confusing some recent science that discusses the correlation between the increase in complexity of organisms in the fossil record and the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

Other than theoretically allowing the success of much larger insects than can currently thrive, what this has to do with the argument at hand is very iffy.
 

C2H5OH (nee ethanol) said:

It wasn't a uniform increase, nor has the level been constant since then. Oxygen levels during the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago, got to 27 percent, then fell back to the current level.

None of this is either new or controversial. You seem to be confusing some recent science that discusses the correlation between the increase in complexity of organisms in the fossil record and the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

Other than theoretically allowing the success of much larger insects than can currently thrive, what this has to do with the argument at hand is very iffy.


At best, oxygen levels relate to paleobiology (and earth and planetary science).

Evolution per se says nothing about preferring oxygen-rich amospheres or reducing atmospheres, it simply describes (in part) what will happen under each of these.

Cheers,
 

Charles' comments about oxygen levels are parroted directly from the "Biblical Scholar" website he identifies. http://www.ldolphin.org/popul.html I doubt that he understands it any better than the rest of us.
 

As I stated, I don't presume to understand all the statistics and "science" of these alternative theories. I just noted there were alternatives. Next question?
 

Charles:

As I stated, I don't presume to understand all the statistics and "science" of these alternative theories. I just noted there were alternatives. Next question?

"Next question." Oh, yes, where was I? Right, then: Why are you a cut'n'paste, contrarian troll, trying to hijack threads here? Extra credit for independent thinking.

Cheers,
 

I have no idea where YOU are, Arne. While it appears I am indeed the "contrarian" here (just as most of you would be at a Federalist Society meeting), every single post of mine above is on topic. Garth was the one who brought up Adam and Eve (still "on topic" to evolution, I will note).
 

Jake:

Are you still around? Question #1 is still pending.
 

Charles:

You have about as much 'standing' to discuss science as my old CrimLaw prof, Phil Johnson. Why do you? If you were asking questions, well and fine. But to spew ignorant stuff just muddys things up and we have to go clean up after you.

Cheers,
 

When pigs fly, Arne, when pigs fly.
 

When pigs fly, Arne, when pigs fly.

# posted by Charles : 1:29 PM


Given your limited understanding of science, I'm guessing that this is a prediction of some kind?
 

Charles wrote:Here's just one such example: while classical evolutionary theory presupposed earth's early atmosphere was a reducing atmosphere (devoid of any oxygen whatsoever),

Where do you get that? Evolutionary theory just addresses the forces and processes of change leading to speciation. However, if you've got a citation or link, that'd be revealing.

As to people having an issue with the theory of evolution, they all too often forget about observed instances of evolution, as when the hawthorn fly evolved into the apple maggot fly (the worm in the apple). Two separate species wherein one developed into the other and can't interbreed to produce fertile offspring, and exist as two distinctly different populations.

A number of very interesting strategies are often tendered to somehow make evolution disappear in a puff of 'logic' including questions which sound like 'what is real anyway' and 'the theory violates this other theory', and 'theories come and theories go, so will this one so why teach it', etc and etc.

The problem is that the main thrust seems either to get the theory of evolution somehow classified as a matter of faith and belief so it can be relegated outside of science, or as a byproduct of that front, get creationism (or ID, its second cousin) passed off as science and somehow offered as a viable alternative explanation.

All this is going to do is produce a crop of students who don't understand science. Creationism, in all its forms doesn't have a predictive function based on criteria consistent from observer to observer. Anyone who knows how can examine the genomes of the hawthorn fly and apple maggot fly and see the specific genetic mechanism that resulted in one species evolving into the other. And, since the only significant change in the hawthorn fly's food supply was the introduction of apple trees into north America, that is identifiable as the environmental pressure giving rise to the new species. It isn't really useful to discuss what's real and what isn't to clarify the data.

One could posit that the apple maggot fly appeared because an 'intelligent designer' made it happen, or a supernatural force was behind it, even if just to introduce apple trees or tip the hand of fate, but those explanations won't be consistent from person to person, or from sect to sect, or from religion to religion.

If, for example, one is an adherent to Norse Pantheism, then Odin did it, not Yahweh or Jehovah (or whatever name the judeochristian god goes by for a given individual). Such an approach offers neither consistence nor clarity, and as such won't server to assist genetic research. Not that those religions are 'bad' or 'anti-intellectual', only that such an approach won't by definition lead to consistent clarity with respect to research.

That's the other drawback of leveraging some form of creationism as a colleague of evolution. It hampers functional research.

Really, advocates of creationism/ID could at least offer a better biological theory as to how it is that new species develop from others, rather than go on about what constitutes a theory (not a substitute for a functional theory) or the process, historical and current, of theory formation, or what's real and what's not; all of which, while quite interesting, does not really address the issue of explaining the phenomenon - they appear to be used as distractions.

Again, an explanation in terms consistent from person to person that don't require one to subscribe to a particular faith, sect, or join some church or another.
 

If, hypothetically, an unchanging God created Adam and Eve whole, how would that "fact" be a genuine dislike for facts?

Charles, you've probably moved on to the new threat, but if you're still here, the reason no one takes this "hypothetical" seriously is that is a classic instance of begging the question.

There is an abundance of physical evidence (i.e., what most of us consider "facts") that contradict the account given in Genesis. To counter the physical evidence, you offer a scripture written well before most of the physical evidence known today was discovered, and before the scientific method was developed. You are asking us to "hypothetically" accept Genesis as factual and ignore the numerous physical facts suggesting otherwise.

This amounts to saying, "If, hypothetically, I am right, does that not force you to acknowledge that I am right." This isn't useful.
 

It IS useful in determining which people are not debating in good faith.
 

Charles wrote:It IS useful in determining which people are not debating in good faith.

Apparently it is.
 

Glad you finally agree.
 

Charles wrote:
Glad you agree



True - "If, hypothetically, I am right, does that not force you to acknowledge that I am right." - isn't an honest way to debate.
 

Good thing I then I didn't say: "If, hypothetically, I am right, does that not force you to acknowledge that I am right."
 

Charles wrote:
Good thing I then I didn't say: "If, hypothetically, I am right, does that not force you to acknowledge that I am right."


When enlightened layperson characterized your earlier posit in this way pointing out that it begged the question, he accurately described the substance of your argument.
 

Post a Comment

Older Posts
Newer Posts
Home