"The single most incompetent logical argument ever made"

David B. Hart has written a favourable review of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution over at First Things, but has some pretty strong passing comments of Richard Dawkins’ previous work:

[W]hat makes The God Delusion so frustrating to any reader who has a shred of decent philosophical training and who knows the history of ideas is its special combination of encyclopedic ignorance and thuggish bluster. Repeatedly, Dawkins discusses such issues as Thomas’ “five ways” (which he, as many do, mistakes for Thomas’ chief “proofs” for the “existence” of God); but he never bothers to consult anyone who could explain these issues to him. And he is desperately in need of such explanations, given how utterly bewildered he is on every significant point. He cannot distinguish questions regarding the existence of the universe from questions regarding its physical origin; he does not grasp how assertions regarding the absolute must logically differ from assertions regarding contingent beings; he does not know the differences between truths of reason and empirical facts; he has no concept of ontology, in contradistinction to, say, physics or evolutionary biology; he does not understand how assertions regarding transcendental perfections differ from assertions regarding maximum magnitude; he clumsily imagines that the idea of God is susceptible to the same argument from infinite regress traditionally advanced against materialism; he does not understand what the metaphysical concept of simplicity entails; and on and on. His own pet proof of “why there almost certainly is no God” (a proof in which he takes much evident pride) is one that a usually mild-spoken friend of mine (a friend who has devoted too much of his life to teaching undergraduates the basic rules of logic and the elementary language of philosophy) has described as “possibly the single most incompetent logical argument ever made for or against anything in the whole history of the human race.”

That may be an exaggeration. My friend has spent little time among theologians. But that is neither here nor there. All of these failings would be pardonable if Dawkins were capable of correction. But his habitual response to any concept whose meaning he has not taken the time to learn is to dismiss it as meaningless, with the sort of truculent affectation of contempt that suggests he really knows, at some level, that he is out of his depth.

Read the whole thing.

Hart is the author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

For a collection of reviews of The God Delusion, visit this page.

(Source: Justin Taylor)

44 replies
  1. Bill Williams
    Bill Williams says:

    This post piqued my curiosity, but left me with nothing but questions. It is loaded with assertions, but no rationale. It accuses Dawkins of making “the single most incompetent argument ever,” but this post is not an argument. It’s an empty rant.

    Since you are criticizing someone else of faulty reasoning, how using reason to support your assertion, i.e., show why your reasoning on this issue is superior to his. Make your specific claim and then support that claim with valid reasons. As any good argument should do, please include rebuttals to the strongest reasons that Dawkins offers to support his argument.

  2. Simon
    Simon says:

    Hehe, another very important quote from that generally fine review is the following…

    The purpose of the book is simply to lay out, as clearly as possible, the evidence for the truth of special evolution. It recently occurred to him, he says, that over the years he has written about evolutionary theory but never taken the time to provide his reasons for believing in it for those who have not had the benefit of his training. And this is what he does here, very well, proceeding by discrete steps: the observable plasticity of plant and animal species, the verifiability of macro-evolution, the geological record of the earth’s age, the fossil evidence (including the wealth of fossil remains of intermediate special forms), observable and experimental mutation, morphology, genetics, and so forth. In short, The Greatest Show on Earth is an ideal précis of the evolutionary sciences and the current state of evolutionary theory that can be recommended for the convinced and the unconvinced alike.

    It would also be good if the writer gave even a hint of substance as to his accusations about Dawkins’ other reasoning in The God Delusion. In fact it’s weird he includes all that in this review of another book.

  3. Jason
    Jason says:

    Bill and Simon,

    Hart is merely summarizing the critique that he and many other philosophers have already offered of Richard Dawkins’ book. If you’re interested in that critique, either check out his book (Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies) or one of the many others, (for example: Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors, Edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig) or read some of the reviews that I have linked to, which go into greater depth.

    As for the “logically incompetent argument” that the professor is referring to, this is Dawkins’ central argument found on pages 157-158 of The God Delusion:

    1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

    2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.

    3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.

    4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.

    5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.

    6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

    Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

    Which is clearly invalid: no interpretation of the logical rules of inference will allow you to get that conclusion from those premises.

  4. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    I agree with much of this except:

    he clumsily imagines that the idea of God is susceptible to the same argument from infinite regress traditionally advanced against materialism

    This is nonsense. You can’t just invent concepts (‘necessary being’) to conclude what you want to.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    Who do you think invented the concept?

    Also, that God is a necessary being is intrinsic to the very definition of God. This idea can be found in any standard dictionary on the Philosophy of Religion. You can deny the idea has applicability, but denying the concept of God as a necessary being is, frankly… idiocy.

  6. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    I see that the art of “Dawkins-bashing” is still very much alive and well. I am really curious what exactly it is about Dawkins that causes people to lose their nerve and write down rants as the one in the OP.

    On the substance of the OP (as little as there is), I will put forth a daring conjecture:

    Dawkins has heard of terms like “necessary being” before, but STILL considers god’s existence to be unlikely! Gasp! How could THAT possibly be???

    Maybe, just maybe it has to do with the fact that Dawkins, being a scientist, is not overly impressed with inventing a concept and using it in an argument without the slightest shred of evidence that the concept’s referent actually exists.

    This is what I envision the problem-situation to look like from Dawkins’ POV:

    When investigating the biosphere, we find organisms which show a remarkable degree of complexity. How do we account for this complexity?

    Some people argue that the existence of complex entities can only be explained by deliberate intent, i.e. a “designer” has created them on purpose. But wait, says Dawkins, this “explanation” has merely pushed the problem back one step: while we now have an “explanation” for the complex entities of our biosphere, we need a new explanation for the (at least equally complex) designer.

    Oh no, say the design proponents while leaning back with a satisfied smile, the designer does not need any explanation since he/she/it is eternal/necessary/un-created/ (insert philosophical buzz-word of choice here).

    Dawkins, mildly disgusted, notes the following: we have NEVER observed an eternal/necessary/un-created entity with a high degree of complexity. Thus, it is an ad-hoc move of gargantuan proportions to introduce it here out of thin air and believe this qualifies as an “explanation”.

    OTOH, what we HAVE observed is how through gradual build-up, tremendously complex things can result from very simple initial states. In fact, this is the only mechanism we have ever found (apart from human actions) to account for the formation of complex entities. Therefore, according to our present knowledge the existence of an entity like the Christian god is unlikely.

    This is why Dawkins can regard all this vitriol and condescension levelled at him with utter tranquility. Unless and until those philosophers/theologians and their supporters who are poncing on about “metaphysical necessity”, “divine simplicity” or whatnot actually come forth with some tangible evidence that their pet “concept” is meaningful and has a referent in reality, his argument remains valid.

    P.S.: Jason, the summary of Dawkin’s argument you present in your post is incomplete. Why am I not surprised that it was copied one-to-one from Craig’s website?

    Tell me, did you even read the book in question, let alone the pertinent pages? Here is the part you left out from point 6:

    “But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.”

    IOW, Dawkins argues that god’s existence is unlikely because

    a) invoking his existence to “explain” apparent design in the universe is a dead end and merely pushes the problem back one step while ultimately collapsing into an infinite regress; and

    b) a superior alternative exists, rendering the (ad-hoc) postulate of his existence superflous by employing the only viable mechanism we have discovered thusfar regarding the origin of complex entities.

  7. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Who do you think invented the concept?

    Thinkers who wanted to avoid infinite causality.

    Also, that God is a necessary being is intrinsic to the very definition of God. This idea can be found in any standard dictionary on the Philosophy of Religion. You can deny the idea has applicability, but denying the concept of God as a necessary being is, frankly… idiocy.

    I think that the idea and subsequent defining of god as being a ‘necessary being’ is almost certainly subsequent to the challenge that reality, and our necessarily empirical understanding of reality, poses: What caused God?
    But fine, yes. And wings are intrinsic to fairies.

  8. Gregory Anderson
    Gregory Anderson says:

    Infinite Causality? Que?
    What a twist. I’ll stick with lime, myself.

    IMO, To not know is no crime, to not care is no crime. But to say that you know when you only suppose is another story.

    I’ll let this speak for itself:
    (1) “When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.” – SJGould

    (2) “Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth.” – SJGould

    Every evolution theorist should trust SJG, I’m imagining such would be the case. When he talks like this, I as a Christian believe what he says. That’s why I do not debate. More power to those who feel called to do that.

    Infinite causality without a necessary Being? hmmm. I noticed the question by Stuart was not answered. I guess that goes to points 1 and 2 listed above in SJG quotes.

  9. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    Do you think that Moses was concerned at all about the problem of an infinite regress? Or how about the earliest Christian witnesses to the words of Jesus?

  10. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    I don’t know. I would imagine that, whoever it might be, upon pondering what a god-being would “look” like, would conclude that god didn’t have parents, for instance. Why? Because they relised perfectly well that if god had parents or a creator, that this would pose a problem.

  11. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    That wasn’t a problem for the polytheists of Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia, Babylon, etc. Why should dismissing the idea of God as a necessary being conclude atheism? If its true that the explanation of the universe needs an explanation, I don’t see how this gives not-theism. See next comment for further refutation.

  12. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Iapetus,

    Maybe, just maybe it has to do with the fact that Dawkins, being a scientist, is not overly impressed with inventing a concept and using it in an argument without the slightest shred of evidence that the concept’s referent actually exists.

    The point of the teleological argument is to show that the concept’s referent – God – more than likely exists, so claiming there isn’t the slightest shred of evidence is an exercise in hand-waving. I’ll later say something to the “inventing a concept” business. Here I’ll just restate that you can argue if the referent of the concept has applicability in reality – that God exists or does not exist – but you can’t dismiss the concept of necessity or self-existance which is an inherent and identifying characteristic of the concept – the concept which is accepted as standard in the Philosophy of Religion.

    When investigating the biosphere, we find organisms which show a remarkable degree of complexity. How do we account for this complexity?
    Some people argue that the existence of complex entities can only be explained by deliberate intent, i.e. a “designer” has created them on purpose. But wait, says Dawkins, this “explanation” has merely pushed the problem back one step: while we now have an “explanation” for the complex entities of our biosphere, we need a new explanation for the (at least equally complex) designer.

    In order to infer design, one does not need an explanation for an explanation.

    [continued from above…] Oh no, say the design proponents while leaning back with a satisfied smile, the designer does not need any explanation since he/she/it is eternal/necessary/un-created/ (insert philosophical buzz-word of choice here).

    Actually the design proponent would know that the teleological argument from the complexity in biological systems does not profess to prove a necessary being. That would be any cosmological argument. The teleological argument from the complexity in biological systems only professes to prove an intelligent mind with some power of causation.

    [continued from above…] Dawkins, mildly disgusted, notes the following: (1) we have NEVER observed an eternal/necessary/un-created entity with a high degree of complexity. Thus, (2) it is an ad-hoc move of gargantuan proportions to introduce it here out of thin air and (3) believe this qualifies as an “explanation”. [numbers mine]

    (1) To which any theist might well agree. For one God is an immaterial being, thus cannot be observed in the literal or scientific sense. For two, God is traditionally described as a being with the attribute of Simplicity. If you think about, an un-embodied mind is an extraordinarily simple being. Dawkin’s thinks that a designer must be as complex as its designs, but its clear he confuses a mind’s ideas with a mind itself.

    (2) The concept of a necessary being does not come out of thin air. Platonic forms are thought of as necessary. Some philosophers think of sets, logical laws, numbers, certain metaphysical truths, etc. Other Simon thinks he advocates Atheistic Moral Platonism, and would therefore believe that moral values and duties are necessary or self-existant. Before Big Bang Cosmology became popular, the traditional atheist considered the universe to be a necessary being.

    Also, the concept of a necessary being is confirmed by the conclusions of the cosmological argument and ontological argument. Further still, confirmed by the revelation purportedly given by the necessary being himself. Even if you don’t think the Pentateuch and Exodus 3:14 inspired, you should at least acknowledge its c. 15th Century B.C. date of authorship. Or the first century date of authorship of the gospels, where Jesus professes to be the same “I AM,” and to share the nature of the eternal God (John 3:16, John 5:26).

    (3) Even if one grants it is an ad hoc explanation, this single criteria for the best explanation could well be outweighed by the other criteria for the best explanation, for instance, a designer may have more explanatory power or explanatory scope, etc., and therefore have comparative superiority to other naturalistic hypotheses. But as I don’t grant that a necessary being is ad hoc for the reasons given in (2), the teleological argument, both from biological complexity and the fine-tuning of the cosmos, remains strong.

    OTOH, what we HAVE observed is how through gradual build-up, tremendously complex things can result from very simple initial states. In fact, this is the only mechanism we have ever found (apart from human actions) to account for the formation of complex entities. Therefore, according to our present knowledge the existence of an entity like the Christian god is unlikely.

    Your point is betrayed by your own parentheses. The force of your conclusion then – if it was a valid inference to begin with, which it is clearly not – is voided. That’s not to mention the wild speculation you turn into fact: that (without intelligent agency) observation confirms a movement from simplicity to complexity.

    Richard Dawkins: [as quoted by Iapetus: # 19 January 2010 at 5:50 am “But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.”

    Iapetus: IOW, Dawkins argues that god’s existence is unlikely because

    a) invoking his existence to “explain” apparent design in the universe is a dead end and merely pushes the problem back one step while ultimately collapsing into an infinite regress; and

    b) a superior alternative exists, rendering the (ad-hoc) postulate of his existence superflous by employing the only viable mechanism we have discovered thus far regarding the origin of complex entities.

    I don’t see how this addition to point six adds anything to the 6 points already in the outline of Dawkins argument. Your (a) is covered by (3). Your (b) is confirmed with respect to biology in (4) but with respect to physics contradicted by Dawkins’ admission in (5) and (6).

    Even if you disagree with everything I have written here, as the conclusion that Dawkins draws from the premises is an obvious non-sequiter, it remains a incompetent logical argument.

  13. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that (somehow?).

    I’m not saying that dismissing the idea of a necessary being-god should conclude atheism necessarily; I’m just not trying to prove that; I’m just looking at the concept ‘necessary being’. And I’m just saying that I think the concept of a necessary being came about as a patch-up to the problem of regression.

  14. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    I would say that the God of Judaism and Christianity presented himself, and it was discovered that this fixed the problem of the impossibility of an infinite regression. Or if you don’t like that, the concept of God as a necessary being was presented through Judaism and Christianity and discovered that it solved the problem. Not the other way round, as you have it: the problem existing and then some invention of an idea to patch up problem. You have the uncomfortable position, if your point is to be maintained, of dealing with the history of the conception of God on the Judeo-Christian view (which can be traced back to at least the middle of the fifteenth century B.C) and the comparative history (whatever that is) of the problem of the impossibility of an infinite regress. A problem, moreover, that is not solved on an atheistic view.

  15. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    The point of the teleological argument is to show that the concept’s referent – God – more than likely exists, so claiming there isn’t the slightest shred of evidence is an exercise in hand-waving. I’ll later say something to the “inventing a concept” business. Here I’ll just restate that you can argue if the referent of the concept has applicability in reality – that God exists or does not exist – but you can’t dismiss the concept of necessity or self-existance which is an inherent and identifying characteristic of the concept – the concept which is accepted as standard in the Philosophy of Religion.

    I disagree here. Like Dawkins I am not impressed at all with non-empirical-speak. It is the philosophical arguments which are hand-waving; those who have no evidence always resort to them.

    In order to infer design, one does not need an explanation for an explanation.

    There is not an exemplar in the entire history of man to which the question “What is the explanation for that explanation” is invalid.

    To which any theist might well agree. For one God is an immaterial being, thus cannot be observed in the literal or scientific sense….. but its clear he confuses a mind’s ideas with a mind itself.

    Wonderfully convenient isn’t it.
    There has never been an example of a mind without a physical medium, much less an idea without a physical mind, much less evidence of an immaterial being (And if there is no evidence by virtue of that beings immaterialism, then any-the-hell-thing could exist!)

    The concept of a necessary being does not come out of thin air. Platonic forms are thought of as necessary. Some philosophers think of sets, logical laws, numbers, certain metaphysical truths, etc. Other Simon thinks he advocates Atheistic Moral Platonism, and would therefore believe that moral values and duties are necessary or self-existant.

    I would be quite scared if your second and third sentence is true here, Stuart!
    I believe that morality exists like planets exist. This is anything but self-extant.

    15th Century B.C.

    Heh. 5th century (Wiki)

    Your point is betrayed by your own parentheses.

    Then it’s settled. God was born into existence like all humans.

    Even if you disagree with everything I have written here, as the conclusion that Dawkins draws from the premises is an obvious non-sequiter, it remains a incompetent logical argument.

    Our knowledge then, being largely empirical and inductive, would all be non-sequiturs to you, Stuart. You seem to want a rock-hard argument to prove things absolutely and once and for all. But that is not how our knowledge works. Almost everything, if not everything, is empirical, inductive, and tentative. It is the absolute knowledge that you crave which is exceedingly, exceedingly unlikely (from empiricism) to be correct.

  16. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    Stuart,

    The point of the teleological argument is to show that the concept’s referent – God – more than likely exists, so claiming there isn’t the slightest shred of evidence is an exercise in hand-waving.

    Not at all.

    The “inference” of the teleological argument is an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered and which is not entailed in its premises. Thus, you need to show evidence that such an entity can exist and how we can reliably gather information about it before it is reasonable to accept such a postulate.

    This would be true even if there were no compelling alternative available as it is these days in the form of the theory of evolution. However, since we have such an alternative available, the teleological argument is dead in the water.

    Here I’ll just restate that you can argue if the referent of the concept has applicability in reality […] but you can’t dismiss the concept of necessity or self-existance which is an inherent and identifying characteristic of the concept […]

    Which is exactly what I have said: people talking about “metaphysical necessity”, “self-existence” or whatnot need to provide evidence that what they are talking about is meaningful, has a referent in reality and can be known by us.

    Anybody can invent a “concept”. Unless you show that it refers to reality, all talk about it is a pointless exercise which does not enhance our knowledge.

    In order to infer design, one does not need an explanation for an explanation.

    Straight out of Craig’s playbook. How surprising.

    So this is the problem-situation:

    We look around and see many entities in our biosphere that exhibit a remarkable degree of complexity. “Their existence seems to be rather improbable. We need an explanation for it!” say the design proponents. Who then proceed to come up with an “explanation” involving an entity which is at least as complex, if not more so, and therefore even more improbable, than the entities whose existence was supposed to be explained by it.

    Can you really not see that this sort of “explanation” not only merely shifts the problem back one step, but actually exacerbates it?

    Actually the design proponent would know that the teleological argument from the complexity in biological systems does not profess to prove a necessary being. […] The teleological argument from the complexity in biological systems only professes to prove an intelligent mind with some power of causation.

    I see. Strange that Dawkins was widely ridiculed in Christian circles for conceding the possibility of the first lifeforms on Earth having been brought here by an advanced race of aliens. Also strange that this sort of argument is widely used by Christian apologists.

    Be that is it may, invoking an “intelligent mind” achieves nothing but shifting the starting question to another area. The overall problem-situation remains unchanged.

    For one God is an immaterial being, thus cannot be observed in the literal or scientific sense. For two, God is traditionally described as a being with the attribute of Simplicity

    And here you start to wander off into the deep end.

    Please provide me with an example of an “immaterial being” and how we can gather knowledge about it, e.g. that it is “simple”.

    You see, these are just assertions, or if you prefer, “concepts”. If I were to take the contrary position and declare any deity to be “complex”, how do you propose to adjudicate between these possibilities?

    If you think about, an un-embodied mind is an extraordinarily simple being.

    If I think about it, I note that no human being has ever observed an “un-embodied mind”. Unless we do, I consider any talk about it to be pure speculation.

    “Dawkin’s thinks that a designer must be as complex as its designs, but its clear he confuses a mind’s ideas with a mind itself.”

    According to biblical descriptions, the Christian god is a conscious entity. He possesses emotions. He can take in and process information.

    Now, results both from neurological research as well as computer science tell us that any entity capable of such tasks needs to have a minimal degree of complexity. Unless you can give tangible evidence that something like a disembodied mind which is simple yet nonetheless able to perform the above tasks can exist, you are again in the realm of pure speculation.

    The concept of a necessary being does not come out of thin air. Platonic forms are thought of as necessary.

    We have no tangible evidence that Platonic Forms exist independently of human beings.

    However, even conceding for the sake of argument that they do, said Forms are utterly different in important respects to a god.

    For one, they are fundamentally SIMPLE, which is why I wrote in my previous post that we have never observed a necessary, COMPLEX being. And as argued above, according to our best knowledge the Christian god can not be completely simple.

    Second, they are conceived as causally inert, i.e. not able to exert any influence on anything.

    Before Big Bang Cosmology became popular, the traditional atheist considered the universe to be a necessary being.

    Think about this sentence. What are you actually saying here?

    You are saying that human beings can answer the question whether the universe, i.e. everything there is, might as well not exist. Based on what? It can not be our unaided, speculative reason, since Kant showed that we can come up with “proofs” for opposite, mutually contradictory conclusions regarding these matters.

    And we also can not rely on our experience, as we have no possibility to step outside the universe and determine its necessity (or lack thereof).

    This is one of the things that Other Simon is trying to get you guys to understand: when you hold forth about “a spiritual realm”, “disembodied minds”, “non-physical cause of the universe” etc. you are using terms where we can not be certain whether they are meaningful and if so, whether it is within our capabilities to reliably generate knowledge about their referents.

    Now, I am no hard-nosed empiricist or positivist, which is why I do not consider all of metaphysics to be meaningless. However, one should be careful not to engage in wheels-within-wheels talk that may sound profound, but actually accomplishes nothing.

    Also, the concept of a necessary being is confirmed by the conclusions of the cosmological argument and ontological argument.

    Nobody who has not accepted the conclusion in the first place is convinced by these arguments.

    Further still, confirmed by the revelation purportedly given by the necessary being himself.

    This is circular. You can not depend on the authority of the bible to prove god’s existence on the grounds that it was authored by god without massively begging the question.

    Even if one grants it is an ad hoc explanation, this single criteria for the best explanation could well be outweighed by the other criteria for the best explanation, for instance, a designer may have more explanatory power or explanatory scope, etc., [..]

    How can it have more explanatory power and scope when it merely pushes the question back one step and furthermore introduces an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered?

    Your point is betrayed by your own parentheses. The force of your conclusion then – if it was a valid inference to begin with, which it is clearly not – is voided.

    How so?

    Since humans were not around for most of life’s history on Earth, they can not be used as an explanation of its origin and development. Thus, the only viable candidate is its slow, evolutionary build-up over geological timescales.

    That’s not to mention the wild speculation you turn into fact: that (without intelligent agency) observation confirms a movement from simplicity to complexity.

    We have ample empirical data to support the conclusion that the biological complexity we see today naturally emerged from a starting point of low complexity. The onus is on you to show why this massive amount of data we have accumulated would warrant a different conclusion.

    I don’t see how this addition to point six adds anything to the 6 points already in the outline of Dawkins argument.

    Which again confirms to me my suspicion that both you and Jason have never actually read the book you are critiquing here.

    Dawkins discusses the classical arguments for a god like the ontological argument and finds them wanting. He then introduces the teleological argument as the one that he considers to be the most persuasive and proceeds to argue against it.

    So the situation for Dawkins is this:

    except for the teleological argument, all classical arguments for the existence of a god are not persuasive. The teleological argument wrt biology is both rendered obsolete due to the superior alternative of the theory of evolution as well as shown to collapse into an infinite regress of designers that have to be explained. The same reasoning applies to the teleological argument wrt physics.

    Thus, all major arguments for the existence of god are discarded, rendering the likelihood of his existence low.

  17. Gregory Anderson
    Gregory Anderson says:

    Even if one were to grant what has been outlined and agrees with the statement that the odds are low, isnt that an odd thing to use as a counter argument for theistic belief in special creation and God as the necessary Being?

    The odds of origin of life according to every evolutionist I’ve read is exceedingly low.

    What am I missing about this?

    Stuart, anyone out there willing to help this Christian understand the validity of the argument used (of which I am resonding to?)
    thanks.

  18. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Gregory Anderson,

    If you are referring to Dawkins 6 step argument, which he calls his central argument and is outlines above, then, in logic terms, it is formally invalid. Which means the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It is also unsound as some premises are incorrect.

    I think your right about the origins of life being an extraordinary improbable event, and so as a counter to the hypothesis of an intelligent designer it is a weak one. Incredibly improbable scenarios such as undirected abiogenesis lend weight to a designer as the best explanation.

  19. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    I have typed up my response to Iapetus’ last comment and it is almost sentence to sentence. if just needs the spelling checked and the grammar to be made as clear as possible. The length is also shockingly long, so I’m also thinking if I am able to get the main points across in a more accessible manner. In the meantime, its worth noting that Iapetus himself does not affirm or deny that Dawkins argument is logically formally invalid, which I think should be clear for anyone.

  20. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Iapetus,

    The “inference” of the teleological argument is an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered and which is not entailed in its premises. Thus, you need to show evidence that such an entity can exist and how we can reliably gather information about it before it is reasonable to accept such a postulate.

    That is false by at least two scores.

    First, the inference of the teleological argument is a being with some intelligence, volition and causal power, exists. Such a description is consistent with a broad range of beings that we do know about.

    Second, one does not need to know anything about how an intelligence could exist or a reliable way to gather information about said intelligence to make the inference that there was an intelligence. Imagine finding an arrowhead and shards of broken pottery on a small ledge on a cliff-face, high up in the most inhospitable climate in the Himalayas. You’d be justified in inferring an intelligence capable of design, even if you had no idea how such a person, or tribe of people could survive, or come to be there in the first place, or had no way at all to gather any more information about them.

    [continued from above] This would be true even if there were no compelling alternative available as it is these days in the form of the theory of evolution. However, since we have such an alternative available, the teleological argument is dead in the water.

    You seem to be under the impression that the teleological argument is “dead in the water” because one particular facet of design (the appearance of design) has an alternative naturalistic explanation, namely Darwinian evolution by natural selection. You should know that this is not a compelling alternative for the origin of life, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the fine-tuning of the solar-system. Darwinian evolution by natural selection, if true or even partly accurate, explains at most the diversity of life on earth.

    You say “This would be true even if…”, but it is not true to begin with. Further, in the total absence of compelling alternative naturalistic explanations, it is an exercise in hand-waving to automatically rule out supernatural explanations.

    Stuart: In order to infer design, one does not need an explanation for an explanation.

    Iapetus: Straight out of Craig’s playbook. How surprising.

    That’s true, Craig does use this line. But I’m surprised you’d even say such a thing, given that is not a refutation. It doesn’t matter who said something, it matters if the idea is true or accurate. Lines like this, Iapetus, border on ad hominem and make it seem like your indulging in ridicule as a substitute for refutation.

  21. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Iapetus: So this is the problem-situation:

    We look around and see many entities in our biosphere that exhibit a remarkable degree of complexity. “Their existence seems to be rather improbable. We need an explanation for it!” say the design proponents. Who then proceed to come up with an “explanation” involving an entity which is at least as complex, if not more so, and therefore even more improbable, than the entities whose existence was supposed to be explained by it.

    Can you really not see that this sort of “explanation” not only merely shifts the problem back one step, but actually exacerbates it?

    That is not the problem-situation. A design proponent would not say “Their [complex entities in our biosphere] existence seems to be rather improbable. We need an explanation for it,” then posit an explanation involving an entity at least if not more complex.

    First, all design proponents that I am aware would not consider complexity (and/or improbability) alone as an adequate hallmark of design.

    Second, God is not a complex entity. Again, as an immaterial mind, God is a remarkably Simple being. Simple because, lacking a material substance, he has no component parts. If God is everywhere-present and non-physical, he is indivisible. God then does represent a reduction of complexity… whatever that’s worth for the inference to the best explanation.

    Stuart: Dawkin’s thinks that a designer must be as complex as its designs, but its clear he confuses a mind’s ideas with a mind itself.

    IapetusAccording to biblical descriptions, the Christian god is a conscious entity. He possesses emotions. He can take in and process information.

    Now, results both from neurological research as well as computer science tell us that any entity capable of such tasks needs to have a minimal degree of complexity. Unless you can give tangible evidence that something like a disembodied mind which is simple yet nonetheless able to perform the above tasks can exist, you are again in the realm of pure speculation.

    Good to see you doing some biblical theology. Did you know the idea that God possesses emotions is not a consensus opinion among Christian theologians? Did you know that no one who takes Christian theology seriously would say that God takes in and processes information? One of the entailments of omniscience is that God knows all information there is, completely and all at once, from eternity. So I can agree readily with your observations of what neurological research and computer science shows, but the Christian conception of God doesn’t fit the description you give, and a divine designer is not in that category.

    Then there is the sticky point that an explanation of a product needs to be more simple than the product, in the first place. I don’t see why that need be the case. I agree that a move toward simplicity should be preferred, but this needs to be weighed against the other criteria for the best explanation.

    I agree that if we are using only the teleological argument to talk about the nature of the designer, and go beyond those minimal attributes that are implied by a designer, then we are in the realm of speculation. Simplicity and necessity are not something the teleological argument can give us. But what the teleological argument does entail is enough to shake the ground of the naturalistic objector, and strengthen the case for theism. When chance and physical necessity are ruled out as improbable, the alternatives to design are exhausted. Then it is justified in concluding design and a designer whose nature is largely unknown, apart from the what we do know about designers: they have existence that is antecedent to their work, with intelligence and power enough to be the cause of their products.

  22. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Stuart: The concept of a necessary being does not come out of thin air. Platonic forms are thought of as necessary.

    IapetusWe have no tangible evidence that Platonic Forms exist independently of human beings. However, even conceding for the sake of argument that they do, said Forms are utterly different in important respects to a god.

    For one, they are fundamentally SIMPLE, which is why I wrote in my previous post that we have never observed a necessary, COMPLEX being. And as argued above, according to our best knowledge the Christian god can not be completely simple.

    Second, they are conceived as causally inert, i.e. not able to exert any influence on anything.

    The point was not to show that a necessary being exist, but to show that the concept does not come out of thin air. To do that, one does not need to find a one to one correspondence, such as a necessary being with causal power. There are many things that are conceived of a necessary beings, and so the idea that God is a necessary being is less ad hoc as a result.

  23. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Stuart:Before Big Bang Cosmology became popular, the traditional atheist considered the universe to be a necessary being.

    Iapetus:Think about this sentence. What are you actually saying here?
    You are saying that human beings can answer the question whether the universe, i.e. everything there is, might as well not exist. Based on what? It can not be our unaided, speculative reason, since Kant showed that we can come up with “proofs” for opposite, mutually contradictory conclusions regarding these matters.
    And we also can not rely on our experience, as we have no possibility to step outside the universe and determine its necessity (or lack thereof).

    Actually that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that is what the traditional atheist thought the universe to be – necessary in its existence. On that score, I’m willing to be proven wrong, it makes not big difference as it was only one example. Kant of course preceded Big Bang cosmology, and if the inverse had a beginning that would indicate that the universe is not necessary. But I don’t think I am wrong. Consider the words of Bertand Russell;

    “The universe is just there, thats all.”

    or Carl Sagan;

    “The universe is all there is, and all that ever will be.”

    In other words the universe has no explanation for its existence: it exists out of a necessity of its own nature.

    Stuart: Also, the concept of a necessary being is confirmed by the conclusions of the cosmological argument and ontological argument.

    Iapetus:Nobody who has not accepted the conclusion in the first place is convinced by these arguments.

    This is evidently false. Such statements beg some sort of proof. Perhaps you intend this response as hyperbole. I’d encourage you to write your reasons why you think these outer arguments for God’s existence are unacceptable to reasonable people, but I think we should just stick to the teleological arguments here, so I won’t.

    Stuart:Further still, confirmed by the revelation purportedly given by the necessary being himself.

    Iapetus: This is circular. You can not depend on the authority of the bible to prove god’s existence on the grounds that it was authored by god without massively begging the question.

    That’s not what I was doing. I was not trying to prove God’s existence. I was showing the concept of God as a necessary being was not ad hoc as it has perviously been revealed in scripture, and – as I said above – concluded from the premises of the cosmological and ontological arguments.

  24. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Stuart: Even if one grants it is an ad hoc explanation, this single criteria for the best explanation could well be outweighed by the other criteria for the best explanation, for instance, a designer may have more explanatory power or explanatory scope, etc., […]

    Iapetus: How can it have more explanatory power and scope when it merely pushes the question back one step and furthermore introduces an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered?

    For any explanation to have more explanatory scope, all it needs is to do is explain a wider range of data than the alternatives. God, for instance, is an explanation that posits a single, simple entity that explains, the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the fine-tuning of the solar-system and planetary environment for intelligent life, morality, the possibility of rationality, Jesus’ unparalleled ministry and especially his resurrection from the dead, the working of miracles today, fulfilled biblical prophesy, etc. Any naturalistic set of answers would comparatively fall short of attaining the explanatory scope that a theistic view can achieve.

    Now if positing God does in fact “push the question back” and “introduces an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered” that would not mean that God, as an explanatory option lacks explanatory scope.

    For any explanation to have more explanatory power, all it needs to be is more epistemically probable than rival hypotheses. If God is a necessary being as the Judeo-Christian tradition has always affirmed, this would be a solution to the problem of the inevitable infinite regress of explanations that the naturalistic viewpoint should naturally struggle with.

    So in actual fact positing God does not “push the question back,” it offers a halt to the infinite regress of “pushing the question back”. Does the conclusion of the teleological argument introduce an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered? I struggle to see why that consideration should be cause to not accept such an entity if the teleological argument succeeds in ruling out rival hypotheses according to the full scope of criteria for the best explanation. The designer has to be some sort of being, and if an unknown variety is more plausible than a known one, so be it.

  25. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Iapetus: OTOH, what we HAVE observed is how through gradual build-up, tremendously complex things can result from very simple initial states. In fact, this is the only mechanism we have ever found (apart from human actions) to account for the formation of complex entities. Therefore, according to our present knowledge the existence of an entity like the Christian god is unlikely.

    Stuart: Your point is betrayed by your own parentheses. The force of your conclusion then – if it was a valid inference to begin with, which it is clearly not – is voided.

    Iapetus: How so?

    Since humans were not around for most of life’s history on Earth, they can not be used as an explanation of its origin and development. Thus, the only viable candidate is its slow, evolutionary build-up over geological timescales.

    Your point is betrayed because you admit in the parenthesis that human actions, i.e., the actions of intelligent agents, are observed to be responsible for increased complexity from simplistic origins. The options you put forth are (1) the evolutionary schema and (2) human intelligence. You rule out human intelligence as responsible for this emergence of complexity in the biological systems we find today, and rightly so. But what reason was there to rule out intelligence altogether? There is no reason given why an unobserved intelligence could not be responsible. No good reason that is, for if Dawkins is willing to consider alien intelligence as responsible for the origin of life, (which also “pushes the question back” and “introduces an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered”) why can’t the Christian posit a divine intelligence that solves not only the life’s origin, but also the appearance of design, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, etc.?

  26. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Stuart: That’s not to mention the wild speculation you turn into fact: that (without intelligent agency) observation confirms a movement from simplicity to complexity.

    Iapetus: We have ample empirical data to support the conclusion that the biological complexity we see today naturally emerged from a starting point of low complexity.

    I disagree. For one, the “low complexity” turns out to be tremendously complex. For two, there is no observed empirical data that demonstrates that complex life emerged from simple life. That evolutionary conclusion is inference made with naturalistic assumptions.

  27. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Which again confirms to me my suspicion that both you and Jason have never actually read the book you are critiquing here.

    I am critiquing his arguments, and the arguments of those who have sympathy for Dawkins central argument. Not the book – which I’ll admit to flipping through but not reading. That flip through was enough to confirm my suspicion that the philosophy was popular-garbage and I try not to read trash. If you think my understanding of the argument is less than it should be feel free to fill in the gaps. But I’m pretty sure I have it right, and the information you filled in for the outline does not significantly alter the fallaciousness of the argument.

  28. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Dawkins discusses the classical arguments for a god like the ontological argument and finds them wanting.

    Actually he finds a mockery of the ontological argument and then calls it stupid. Had he comported himself in a more gentleman-like manner, and taken the care to find the best ontological argument as defended by a serious philosopher, then one might be persuaded that he was a diligent professional scholar with something noteworthy to say.

  29. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    Stuart,

    First, the inference of the teleological argument is a being with some intelligence, volition and causal power, exists. Such a description is consistent with a broad range of beings that we do know about.

    And which beings would that be, apart from humans?

    Second, one does not need to know anything about how an intelligence could exist or a reliable way to gather information about said intelligence to make the inference that there was an intelligence. Imagine finding an arrowhead … [snip]

    I expected something like this. Your very example proves you wrong.

    First you talk about “intelligence”, while immediately switching to “people” in your next sentence (quite rightly). And why can you make the justified inference that pottery shards or arrowheads were produced by humans and not by natural forces?

    Well, because we KNOW that humans are capable of such tasks and furthermore because we KNOW that humans are present on Earth today and were present here in the past. Thus, in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, we are justified in making this inference.

    However, the situation is completely different when it comes to complexity within the biosphere. No human being has ever seen a “designer” conceive of and produce complex biological entities. No human being has ever looked upon a “designer’s” blueprint for doing so. Thus, unless you can give tangible evidence for such a being, an inference like this is problematic at best. Given the superior alternative we have available in the theory of evolution, it becomes unreasonable.

    You seem to be under the impression that the teleological argument is “dead in the water” because one particular facet of design (the appearance of design) has an alternative naturalistic explanation, namely Darwinian evolution by natural selection. You should know that this is not a compelling alternative for the origin of life, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the fine-tuning of the solar-system.

    This shot-gun approach wrt design does not really help you, since the structural problem of the argument remains unchanged. Nobody has ever seen a universe-/solar system-/first replicators-designing entity. Unless you give tangible evidence that such an entity exists, it remains and unwarranted ad-hoc postulate.

    Furthermore, the failure of the teleological argument regarding biological complexity coupled with the fact that there are naturalistic competitors available concerning all the issues you mention should make you wary.

    Further, in the total absence of compelling alternative naturalistic explanations, it is an exercise in hand-waving to automatically rule out supernatural explanations.

    First, as already alluded to, naturalistic explanations are available for all the issues you raised. Of course, you will not find them compelling, but that is not relevant here.

    Second, I do not categorically rule supernatural explanations out. I am asking for substantiation that the entity(ies) you are postulating for your explanations are real and how we can reliably generate knowldege about them.

    That’s true, Craig does use this line. But I’m surprised you’d even say such a thing, given that is not a refutation. It doesn’t matter who said something, it matters if the idea is true or accurate. Lines like this, Iapetus, border on ad hominem and make it seem like your indulging in ridicule as a substitute for refutation.

    If you read the passage directly following your quote, you will see that I addressed the argument. Furthermore, I never said or insinuated that the argument is false because Craig uses it. So the charge of ad hominem is baseless.

    First, all design proponents that I am aware would not consider complexity (and/or improbability) alone as an adequate hallmark of design.

    I am interested to hear other hallmarks of biological design…

    Second, God is not a complex entity. Again, as an immaterial mind, God is a remarkably Simple being. Simple because, lacking a material substance, he has no component parts. If God is everywhere-present and non-physical, he is indivisible.

    You are again just asserting here. Please give me an example where we have observed an “immaterial mind” that is “simple” and has no “component parts”.

    Here is my counter-assertion: god is an “immaterial mind” of infinite complexity with an infinity of different “mind parts”.

    Show me that your assertion is correct while mine is false.

    Did you know the idea that God possesses emotions is not a consensus opinion among Christian theologians?

    I really had to laugh at that one. As far as I can see, there is no “consensus opinion” on ANYTHING among Christian theologians. It comes with the subject matter…

    Nevertheless, I am relying on what your holy book tells me, e.g. god unleashing his WRATH on some poor Middle Eastern tribe or that he LOVED us fallen creatures so much that he sent his only son to be slaughtered so that he can FORGIVE us.

    Without god having emotions, these passages do not make much sense to me. Are you worshipping a celestial robot?

    Did you know that no one who takes Christian theology seriously would say that God takes in and processes information? One of the entailments of omniscience is that God knows all information there is, completely and all at once, from eternity.

    Once again, mere assertions. No intelligent entity we have ever encountered does not take in and process information. The capability of doing so is one of the defining hallmarks of intelligence.

    Furthermore, while this notion might somehow be made intelligible in a timeless and static realm, it becomes virtually untenable when interacting with our universe. Consider god talking to abraham or job. He knew exactly what they would say and what they would do, down to the last detail. However, knowing and conceptualizing THAT and HOW something will happen is different from EXPERIENCING it. Unless god has a 1:1 replica of the universe running in his mind, the actual experience of interacting with our reality will necessarily have imparted additional information.

    But even granting for the sake of argument that he does not take in any new information, the notion take he could have any mental activity at all without at least somehow processing the information he has is completely preposterous. He would have the mental capacity of a stone.

    But what the teleological argument does entail is enough to shake the ground of the naturalistic objector, and strengthen the case for theism.

    No, all it would do is strenghten the case for a designer. Its nature is, by your own admission, more or less undetermined.

    When chance and physical necessity are ruled out as improbable, the alternatives to design are exhausted. Then it is justified in concluding design and a designer whose nature is largely unknown, … [snip]

    Apparently, you are really incapable of seeing the flaw in this. My guess would be that is because it allows you to justify a conclusion which you already started with. But I will try one last time:

    According to the teleological argument, the existence of biologically complex life forms is improbable. We need an explanation for it. So you propose the existence of an intelligent “designer” who brought them about on purpose.

    And voilá, all we have achieved is a shift of the problem back one step, since according to the very same reasoning said “designer” is at least as, if not more improbable than what it was supposed to explain.

    Thus, you are on the horns of a dilemma: either you accept an infinite regress of designers or you arbitrarily decree the designer to be exempt from the reasoning that led you to postulate him in the first place, thereby introducing an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered.

    OR, you can accept an explanation which avoids getting impaled on either horn, since it provides a mechanism to achieve complexity from simple (and therefore more probable) starting conditions involving entities and regularities of which we can be reasonably confident that they exist now and existed back in the past.

    The point was not to show that a necessary being exist, but to show that the concept does not come out of thin air.

    The fact that somebody has invented a “concept” and that other people have spent (sometimes considerable) amounts of ink discussing said “concept” does not make it plausible. IOW, introducing the concept of a “necessary being” is not ad hoc because you are the first to dream it up, but because it is introduced here solely to solve the otherwise inevitable descent into an infinite regress of designers.

    I’m saying that is what the traditional atheist thought the universe to be – necessary in its existence. […] In other words the universe has no explanation for its existence: it exists out of a necessity of its own nature.

    I think you misunderstand Russell (I don’t know about Sagan; my guess would be that he did not concern himself with these philosophical ruminations). The fact that the universe has no explanation or reason for its existence would be compatible with both its necessity or contingency. It does not help us to answer the question whether the universe might as well not exist, since it might exist out of necessity or be a contingent, brute fact.

    And my point (and, I believe, Russell’s) is that there is now way we can reliably answer a question like this, since it would require the possibility to step outside the universe (or multiverse), which is impossible.

    For any explanation to have more explanatory scope, all it needs is to do is explain a wider range of data than the alternatives. God, for instance, is an explanation that posits a single, simple entity that explains, the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, … [snip]

    Your “explanation” posits an entity that is unlike any other we have ever encountered. You have yet to provide tangible evidence that it exists, let alone that your claims with regard to its simplicity are in any way justified. You have no mechanism to reliably generate knowledge about it. You have no idea how this entity causes its purported effects. So I utterly fail to see how you have any explanatory scope at all here.

    So in actual fact positing God does not “push the question back,” it offers a halt to the infinite regress of “pushing the question back”.

    And it does so because it was DEFINED to do precisely that.

    We have been over this before at Open Parachute, Stuart. You are again falling for a pseudo-solution of a problem.

    You rule out human intelligence as responsible for this emergence of complexity in the biological systems we find today, and rightly so. […] There is no reason given why an unobserved intelligence could not be responsible. No good reason that is, for if Dawkins is willing to consider alien intelligence as responsible for the origin of life, (which also “pushes the question back” and “introduces an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered”) […]

    EXACTLY.

    This very same point is made by Dawkins. EVEN IF we grant the theoretical possibility of an advanced species of aliens having seeded the Earth with the first replicators on purpose, we still have to explain THEIR origin. Ultimately, we will have to come up with an explanation that accounts for the emergence of the improbable from the more probable. In Dawkins’ words: we need a crane and not a sky-hook. In his view, the theory of evolution provides this crane.

    […] why can’t the Christian posit a divine intelligence that solves not only the life’s origin, but also the appearance of design, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, etc.?

    Because this “solution” suffers from the problems I have expounded above.

    I disagree. For one, the “low complexity” turns out to be tremendously complex. For two, there is no observed empirical data that demonstrates that complex life emerged from simple life. That evolutionary conclusion is inference made with naturalistic assumptions.

    Since this post is already ridiculously long, I will refrain from going out on another tangent. If you do not want to accept the scientific consensus on this topic, nobody can force you to.

    Regarding Dawkins and his book, I find it a dubious intellectual attitude to just “flip through” it and then proceed to critique its content based on isolated tidbits and what other people write about it.

    I consider many of Craig’s arguments to be shockingly lame, but I would not publicly critique those I have not read in his own words.

    Finally (in case anyone is still reading this), my impression is that the obsession with the form of an argument is frequently used as a convenient way of avoiding its content. Dawkins is no philosopher, writes for a lay audience and did not intend to publish in an academic journal. Nevertheless, anyone who puts a little bit of effort into it should be able to understand the thrust of his argument.

  30. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Well Iapetus, that must have taken some time to compile. Thanks for the effort and cordial nature of the post. I did manage to get through it and gave you careful consideration. I also have given Dawkins a lot of careful consideration.

    The problem I have is that while evolution does cover mutations and changes in allele frequencies, it appears incapable of building new complex functionality, unless that complex functionality can be reached by a series of single (each advantageous in its own right) mutations. Such a progressive chain appears totally absurd to me when considering the bundles of complex interacting interdependent protein machinery required to effect a single function. Even if we allow dual mutations where the middle mutation is not advantageous, the climb from single cell to this immense variety of complex interacting machines, and processes all around us, still appears impossible. It is not that I don’t find the naturalistic explanation compelling. I find it as wildly improbable as the reason for requiring it – the existence of biological life. In short, I do not believe evolution is the reasonable explanation that it is claimed to be in explaining the existence of biological life.

    Yet this point is moot on the existence of a designer if the designer has made their presence known. I believe that the grand designer has done this, repeatedly. It is not in holy books (a subtle slur), it is within history books that this is evident. It is another topic if we were to cover the reliability of accounts. Suffice to say, if you approach the topic requiring all unexplained phenomena to be eventually naturalistically explainable, there will never be any evidence convincing enough for God. It is the religious belief and faith in naturalism that blinds a person to the supernatural.

    The allowance Iapetus gave for the universe to exist as a brute fact, is exactly where the theist holds God to exist. The “complexity” of God is not explainable or required to be explained for God just is, and whatever “just is” cannot be called improbable. It does not require any explanation or source. As science has hesitantly embraced the conclusion that the universe did have a starting date and that it is not eternal, it should not therefore be considered a brute fact. If it did not exist at some stage, it needs an explanation – just like biological life.

    Given the reasoning employed earlier to reject the God concept, it appears very hypocritical to grasp at multi-verses or dark matter etc. I concur with Iapetus that anything beyond our universe is well beyond our ability to examine.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share Iapetus.

  31. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathon,

    I do not believe evolution is the reasonable explanation that it is claimed to be in explaining the existence of biological life.

    Super. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion but if I was thinking about taking what you’ve said here seriously, how would you back up your opinion in terms of education and inquiry? How many years have you spent studying biological systems to reach this conclusion?

    I think I am justified to ask this when you’re going directly against the opinion of nearly all those who have dedicated their lives to investigating change in biological systems.

    Do you also hold strong opinions on the nature of chemical bonds? Thermodynamics? Perhaps you’re a bit skeptical about modern medicine’s views of how the heart valves function?

  32. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Ahh Simon, I do have an opinion on the nature of chemical bonds. And indeed, thermodynamics as well. Strangely enough, my opinion follows the experimental evidence obtained through science – as it does in the field of biology. And yes, the documented functionality of the heart valve as a functional process is good. Why would I be skeptical? And why would you raise this, other than to slur me by trying to make it look like I reject proven science? I do not.

    Jonathan wrote:
    I do not believe evolution is the reasonable explanation that it is claimed to be in explaining the existence of biological life.

    Simon wrote:
    … how would you back up your opinion …

    I have already backed up this opinion, by first running through the reason why I hold the opinion, and then summarising this reason (in what you quoted). Did you miss the reason? Why did you choose to ignore it? Let me repeat it for you:

    Jonathan wrote:
    The problem I have is that while evolution does cover mutations and changes in allele frequencies, it appears incapable of building new complex functionality, unless that complex functionality can be reached by a series of single (each advantageous in its own right) mutations. Such a progressive chain appears totally absurd to me when considering the bundles of complex interacting interdependent protein machinery required to effect a single function. Even if we allow dual mutations where the middle mutation is not advantageous, the climb from single cell to this immense variety of complex interacting machines, and processes all around us, still appears impossible.

    This is well known in microbiology and why research is directed into areas like the look-ahead effect of phenotypic mutations. There are huge problems just trying to explain the development of protein-protein binding sites, let alone the complex functionality built on top of them. It appears that you may be committed to evolution as the explanation for the appearance of all biological life from a single cell. I understand that a belief in naturalism restricts you to such. I do not have that limit.

    If evolution is how the diversity of life arose then I will accept it. I am saying that at present, the science alone has not convinced me. Yes I accept mutations, gene replication, adaptation, variation, and natural selection. Yes, that fully describes the term evolution. And yes I believe the examples given in biological textbooks. But they do not explain the appearance of new biological functionality when multiple (non-advantageous) changes are required to get from one point to another. Maybe we will gain a better understanding and discover new processes over the next few years. I wait with anticipation.

    One of the things that science has been very useful in teaching me is that appeals to authority are inadmissible. It is reason, observation, evidence and repeatable experimentation that count in science.

    Simon, the next time that you choose to avoid my reasoning, embark on insults and launch an appeal to authority, please excuse me if I fail to respond. No, I am not upset or offended. Such actions simply show that you are not interested in engaging in the issue and I have no real need to defend myself. You are free to look at the evidence and make up your mind, as I am. You are not required to agree with me and I would encourage you to not just believe someone because they say, “I am an expert in this field”. Best wishes to you.

    PS: A gravatar would be a handy thing to add to your identity

  33. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    Hello Jonathan,

    I just saw your post. Since most of the topics have already been discussed, I will merely address some aspects I find interesting.

    The problem I have is that while evolution does cover mutations and changes in allele frequencies, it appears incapable of building new complex functionality, unless that complex functionality can be reached by a series of single (each advantageous in its own right) mutations. Such a progressive chain appears totally absurd to me when considering the bundles of complex interacting interdependent protein machinery required to effect a single function. Even if we allow dual mutations where the middle mutation is not advantageous, the climb from single cell to this immense variety of complex interacting machines, and processes all around us, still appears impossible.

    I have read such an argument many times, and every time I struggle to understand it since routinely there is no compelling reason given for this statement of incredulity, merely an expression of the belief that biological structures CAN NOT have come about on their own. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we are so used to associating complexity with intentional agents bringing it about that we instinctively refuse to accept any other origin.

    You stated that you accept all major tenets of the modern version of evolutionary theory, e.g. the fact that genetic material can mutate, duplicate, cross-over etc. to result in novel genes and proteins. You further accept the concept of natural selection. If this is so, I fail to see what prevents you from acknowledging that such a process is capable of building complex entities and functionalities from simpler precursors. What exactly is lacking here?

    Is this the problem:

    But they do not explain the appearance of new biological functionality when multiple (non-advantageous) changes are required to get from one point to another.

    Why not?

    Natural selection will only cull those mutations that are harmful to the organism’s ability to propagate its genes into the next generation. If the mutation is neutral (or only slighly harmful) in this regard, said mutation can persist and become co-opted in the future for an entirely different functionality. IOW, it is not necessary to postulate an evolutionary advantage for a mutation in order for said mutation to not get deleted from the gene pool.

    In addition, a precursor for a given biological structure could have had an entirely different function in the past (see the bacterial flagellum and the type III secretion system), which is why it is hard to differentiate in retrospect between a non-advantageous and an advantageous mutation.

    For two nice examples (among many) of research into the emergence of complex functionalities, see here:

    Bridgham JT, Carroll SM, Thornton JW (2006). “Evolution of hormone-receptor complexity by molecular exploitation”. Science 312 (5770): 97–101

    Evolution of Hormone Signaling in Elasmobranchs by Exploitation of Promiscuous Receptors.
    S. M. Carroll, J. T. Bridgham, and J. W. Thornton (2008)
    Mol. Biol. Evol. 25, 2643-2652

    Generally, where do you set the limit of what genetic mutations, culled and shaped by natural selection, can achieve? Where exactly is the point at which the “designer” has to interfere because the process has hit the wall?

    Suffice to say, if you approach the topic requiring all unexplained phenomena to be eventually naturalistically explainable, there will never be any evidence convincing enough for God. It is the religious belief and faith in naturalism that blinds a person to the supernatural.

    I am not a friend of labels, especially this popular natural/supernatural dichotomy. Inevitably, when I ask people to define these terms, I either get back something incoherent or something completely remote from my view. Personally, I refrain from attaching any label whatsoever onto reality and demand that it can only be thus.

    Here’s the deal:

    You believe that you have an explanation for an hitherto unexplained phenomenon? Fine, I am willing to examine it. However, if it involves any kind of postulated entity, you will have to provide support that said entity in fact exists and how you have attained your knowledge about it.

    The allowance Iapetus gave for the universe to exist as a brute fact, is exactly where the theist holds God to exist. The “complexity” of God is not explainable or required to be explained for God just is, and whatever “just is” cannot be called improbable. It does not require any explanation or source.

    This analogy is highly problematic, since our level of confidence that the universe exists is tremendously higher than our confidence that a deity (let alone the specific, Christian one that is preferred here) exists. The fact that the theist “holds god to exist” is fine and dandy, but billions of people around the world “hold that he does not exist”. For very good reasons, the number of people denying the existence of the universe is somewhat smaller.

    Thus, it remains an ad hoc move to introduce such an entity in any kind of argument.

    Given the reasoning employed earlier to reject the God concept, it appears very hypocritical to grasp at multi-verses or dark matter etc.

    This passage reads very odd, as if the whole motivation of cosmologists and astronomers is to find a way of denying a god.

    Concepts like “dark matter” (which is supposed to be very much within our local area of the universe, anyway) or a “multiverse” are not conceived to anger the theist. They arise from our ongoing quest to understand reality. Unless and until they are empirically verified or falsified, they remain hypotheses and do not became part of the scientific worldview.

    I concur with Iapetus that anything beyond our universe is well beyond our ability to examine.

    Actually, this is not exactly what I said.

    IF the universe (or multiverse) encompasses all of reality, we can not hope to step out of it to determine its necessity/contingency, because the very idea of stepping “outside” of reality is nonsense.

    BUT, if the part of reality we have observed thusfar constitutes only a fraction of a larger whole, and furthermore if said larger whole is or was in contact with our part so that it leaves or left a detectable signature, why should we not be able (at least in principle) to find out about this? In fact, several pre-Big Bang models predict precisely this.

  34. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Iapetus

    Thank you for taking the time to reply again. I do appreciate it.

    You posed a lot of questions in your response. If you can bear with me, I would like to expand on some of the points you raised and hopefully explain them better. Kicking off from a topical quote:

    Generally, where do you set the limit of what genetic mutations, culled and shaped by natural selection, can achieve? Where exactly is the point at which the “designer” has to interfere because the process has hit the wall?

    Those are great questions to be asking. Let me just quickly set the scene before addressing the questions. As you already know, the theory of evolution with natural selection is an outworking from the “incredulity” that matter can just bump together and form complete animals. It is also far too incredible to expect random chemicals to just bump together and form a working cell. The argument of “incredulity” is actually a valid summary of a valid position. There have always been atheistic views on the origin and development of life. As well as a reason to reject something, incredulity is a valid reason to be looking for a viable explanation. Simply throwing that label at someone is not a justifiable way to dismiss a position – well, to me at least.

    The questions for me are entirely around what the limits of evolution may be. Things do change and vary. It is much easier to break some functionality to form new functionality (as you referred to) than it is to add new coded functionality (which of course, is not impossible). So my issue is fully centred on: does a series of multiple, non-advantageous changes push the progression of life beyond the reach of evolution? This was the central reason for requiring natural selection in the first place. We had to rule out those fluky events where a large number of changes are required to just happen for a particular development. No one is promoting this as a solution. It is a valid rejection of the development process – by the reason of incredulity. Thus a solution (which you highlighted) is proposed: If each intermediate change is somewhat neutral, then why should not each change occur individually over a period of time?

    The answer to this specific claim is that it has the appearance of a solution rather than an actual solution. We are no longer taking about something that we observe happening, just something that is physically not impossible. It is not physically impossible for a multitude of atoms to randomly join and form a living mouse, yet that is no sort of convincing argument. There are reasons why we say that this cannot happen and it has to do with the complexity and balancing state of biological cells.

    A neutral (required) change is just as likely to be changed again as it is to be left in waiting for the other (required) changes to occur. Without the advantage of natural selection to hold the change in place, a series of individual changes is practically no different from the scenario where all the changes are required to occur at the same time. Dawkins is right to repeatedly emphasise that natural selection acting on variation is the only viable solution. Chance is not an option. Once you take natural selection out of the equation in a naturalistic solution, you only have chance. When you start allowing neutral changes again, you have returned to the allowance of chance. And the question is precisely how large a gap can chance jump? It cannot jump from a bag of grain, mud and gasses to a mouse. But it can jump a single mutation on a genome sequence that confers some sort of advantage. It can also jump a dual mutation where the intermediate is a neutral. Though without natural selection, this scenario is a lot rarer and more difficult. There is a fuzzy line of reality somewhere in there between those two extremes.

    We are not sure how far the human long jump record will go. Yet we are pretty safe in saying it will never reach 42 meters. A lot of people can jump 4 meters. Fewer people can jump 8 meters but it is still possible. Maybe we can triple jump over neutral mutations to 18 meters. But the valid point is that there is a gap that does remain impassable. It is important for us to try and identify the size of this gap and possible ways to cross it.

    These gaps create islands where we see evolution flourishing. Whatever is in easy reach, whatever is just a single advantageous mutation away is discovered at some point. The ebb and flow of these changes is displayed within the variety of types and variation within a species, ie variation and adaptation. This is where the examples and proof of evolution abound. Of course, the difficulty in jumping these larger gaps could very well account for the rarity of occurrence and lack of proof. Once one of these rare jumps is made a subsequent flourishing of the new island (being all the variation within easy reach of the latest jump) would be expected. There is some sort of conceptual similarity with sudden appearance and stasis here. Some sort, but not total, and design fits the symptoms better.

    After making this conceptual allowance, it still appears practically ridiculous to me to suggest that a single cell can evolve and eventually reach all the life that we witness today, and all the life that has gone. This statement is based on the mechanical nature and structure of cellular components. Yes it is a statement of incredulity in line with what I was mentioning before. Coopting existing functions for a new purpose is a solution that tends to obscure the massive complexity involved in such actions. It also fails to account how the initial coopted function itself was created.

    Of course, this is exactly where a person’s worldviews will kick in and demand allegiance. Naturalism requires faith that these gaps will be closed. It has no other option. One hundred and fifty years ago, the gaps were in the fossil record. Science has since been identifying micro functionality and making the gaps larger. If design is the actual truth and a person chooses to hold to the claim that future science will prove what looks impossible now, how can they ever be corrected? That chosen position totally prevents any change.

    To now address the questions you posed:
    1) Generally, where do you set the limit of what genetic mutations, culled and shaped by natural selection, can achieve?
    I set the limit, when natural selection is culling and shaping, to the probing area. Can you get from a complex machine to a different complex machine by changing little bit after little bit and having each change (between the machinery) provide some sort of advantage while not destroying the original machinery function (if it is necessary to the cell). But this is not what we were discussing. The limit I have been talking about (and you outlined) is when natural selection is not available due to a gap between one advantageous configuration to next. The lab experiments show that just two such mutations occurring are going to cause the jump to be rare. The odds blow out after that.

    2) Where exactly is the point at which the “designer” has to interfere because the process has hit the wall?
    I don’t know. The most sensible thing would be to seek out the designer to answer that. Such possible limits are being investigated. Examples are great in helping us flesh out the actual ability of evolution and thanks for providing some.

    My personal view stems out of the revelation of God, but as you fail to accept this basis, there is not much point in elaborating further. What can be elaborated on with agreement, even from our opposing positions, is what is valid within a particular paradigm.

    This passage reads very odd, as if the whole motivation of cosmologists and astronomers is to find a way of denying a god.

    Certainly I was not promoting anything like this as the motivation of scientists. What I was highlighting is the tendency to grab totally unsubstantiated positions and present them as possible realities. Is there a shred of evidence for ‘multiverses’? I would love to see it. My understanding is that this is a proposition to deal with the apparent fine-tuning of the universe, or the concept that the universe had a beginning. Is there any evidence for dark matter? And again, an examination of the idea finds absolutely no evidence. It is purely a proposition plucked from thin air to accommodate the otherwise unexplained phenomena involving the orbit of stars and the expansion of the universe.

    What I was hoping to convey is, “Why must intelligence be prohibited from propositions?” Given that I have heard many a dismissal of God based on the idea that, “There is no scientific evidence”, it is ironic to me that the very same people would then cling to other concepts that also have absolutely no scientific evidence. A multiverse is a very similar concept to a spiritual dimension, but without any personal implications. I do not mind consistency, but I cannot interact with hypocrisy. Why vehemently deny the very possibility of God and then describe in a genuine manner how one may exist in a parallel universe, with a green moustache to boot.

    Thus, it remains an ad hoc move to introduce such an entity in any kind of argument.

    This comment was in regard to my claim that God does not need an explanation or cause because God is a brute fact. Well, no matter how complex something appears, if it is eternal and self-existent, it does not require and indeed, it could not have any explanation. Further, brute facts have no measure of improbability. They just are. I was hoping for a better response than a dismissal based upon the number of subscribers to a view. The accusation I was addressing was that, “God is not a solution for the source of life (and matter) because God must therefore be more complex. We are trying to explain something complex (life) and thus it is not feasible to postulate something even more complex.” It was an argument that you indicated and the central Dawkins argument against God. I would place it as fully relevant to the OP.

    To show you that I have been paying attention, your comment (a ways back) in anticipation of such a move (God is a brute fact and not improbable at all) was that I just impaled myself on the second horn of introducing an entity unlike any other we have ever encountered. Okay sure. As long as we can agree then that God, being eternal and absolute, does not actually need any explanation, and the argument of “the designer is too complex to be a solution as it introduces more necessary explanation” is a false argument – I will agree to impale myself on your second horn.

    Now that I have this horn through my chest, I will mention that this God entity was not introduced by me. The introduction of the entity was by the entity itself. There is no way that I could ever find or invent such a solution. For all of recorded history, this entity has been directly interacting with humanity and making itself known. And I might also mention that this entity turns out to not be entirely foreign. Sure, it does not have a matter-based form or is subject to matter-based laws, but it has always shown the characteristics of intelligence, morality, free choice, love, justice and trust. Items that we identify with at our core. Items that also do not readily fit into the naturalistic paradigm.

    Either God is real and a brute fact or He is a very convenient invention and sustained delusion through thousands of years of history where people have claimed direct interaction and positive proof. And right from the start they appear smart enough to have defined God as a Spirit (external to matter) only knowable in spirit and in truth, to avoid a future physical proof requirement? They were smart enough to define God as eternal, to avoid any future infinite regress arguments. They were smart enough to define God’s characteristics by all the items that do not quite fit into a mechanically organised and programmed world of biological automation, without even knowing that the matter based world was exactly that. They were smart enough to define God as the cause of the universe without even knowing that the universe had a start, a big-bang moment. They were smart enough to define God as the designer without even knowing the intricate and mind blowing appearance of design exhibited by DNA storage media and protein machinery to read, protect, duplicate and build from those instructions. They were smart enough to define God’s character as good, to make good an attribute of a singular God without realising the justification this gives “right” against the future backdrop of naturalistically invented “right” being whatever we make it. They were even smart enough to claim that God made different “kinds” without knowing how perfectly it fits into the evidence of natural selection and evolution. And finally, they were smart enough to claim that information about God only comes through revelation from God himself, avoiding the possibility that we could locate God on our own. Pretty cluey guys, or quite possibly as I suspect, just reporting the truth.

    Ok, I do think that this dual horn involving the “introducing an entity unlike any we have ever encountered” was a false tautology. Anyhoo, I am not opposed to our arriving here through the full evolutionary story from a single cell, but the science appears to say, “No, that is not viable.” My knowledge of God does allow me to hold Him as the Designer. If my understanding of how He designed is wrong then I will be corrected eventually. I am open to being wrong and the future may well prove me wrong. My judgement is made by what we scientifically know and I am given room to hold this position by the revelation of God. Finally, I agree with the OP, Dawkins makes terribly inept arguments against God. He is great at presenting biology, and story telling though.

    I trust this explains where I sit a little better for you. And I hope you have not been too put off my my mention of God. Cheers.

  35. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    I raised those issues in a provoking way of your opinion on other scientific areas for this reason: your views go against the large majority of professionals who have spent their life studying this field. Therefore, I feel I’m justified in asking for your credentials – this is what I meant by “backing up your opinion” – more like, who are you to say this as opposed to what paragraph-sized summary you give.

    It’s naive to think that we don’t appeal to authority on things we’re not personally an expert in. We trust the professional opinions from doctors to accountants to lawyers. It is near impossible to be an expert in any more than a few fields these days, so we must rely on the work of others. Now this isn’t to say we take one professional’s opinion for absolute truth, we shop around, get multiple opinions, see what the actual consensus is, and of course see if the available evidence matches this to the best of our ability. Moreover, we actually literally can not help ourselves to alter our perception of information depending on what we think of who communicates it.

    This topic is not one that can be easily speculated on by armchair scientists – certainly at a detailed level. Like nearly all fields these days, it’s so complex as to require years of dedicated study and includes many common pitfalls for the layperson.

    So I didn’t miss your reason and I wasn’t trying to insult, I was asking for something else. Hopefully this makes sense to you. So, could you answer my original enquiry?

    (I’m also not saying what you’re saying is instantly worthless because you may not be a biologist…it’s just another angle of what you’re saying which is important – we can still discuss, later, the actual content of your argument after we’ve got this bit out of the way – although lapetus seems to have picked that up.)

  36. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    I did not want to leave such a well-structured and cordial post unacknowledged. Well done Simon. As previously mentioned, I did not take any offence or insult and I understood what you were asking for. While your cutesy goes a long way to gaining a hearing (and I’d encourage you to keep it up), my response is the same.

    An opinion from authority is interesting and most likely valid, but I want reason. Science does not recognise authority, it only recognises proof. Feel free to dismiss anything I wrote that did not have a viable reason. (You can probably find a lot) Yet, I did attempt to explain where my reasoning resides. You are free to decide on that.

    I will be a keen follower of your posts if you keep up such a friendly manner. Cheers mate.

  37. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    So, after some busy few days I finally have the chance to respond.

    After reading through your post, I tend to agree with Simon in his assessment that you are arguing against the common consensus in a scientific field based on an incomplete picture of the science involved.

    Let’s look at a few examples:

    So my issue is fully centred on: does a series of multiple, non-advantageous changes push the progression of life beyond the reach of evolution? […] A neutral (required) change is just as likely to be changed again as it is to be left in waiting for the other (required) changes to occur. Without the advantage of natural selection to hold the change in place, a series of individual changes is practically no different from the scenario where all the changes are required to occur at the same time.

    As written, this is factually problematic (or at least too simplified), since it erroneously makes out natural selection as the one and only evolutionary factor.

    A neutral genetic mutation is defined as a mutation which results in a negligible impact on the fitness of the organism, e.g. by causing the use of a different (but often chemically similar) amino acid. This stochastic process is very pronounced during genetic drift (or genetic shift). If genetic drift is the only (or at least major) effective evolutionary factor, e.g. in cases of low population size, we can calculate the probability of any given allele to get either fixed in the population or get lost, based on the frequency of said allele in the population. We furthermore know that neutral and slightly harmful mutations can be preserved in small populations by counteracting or even by virtue of genetic drift overshadowing selective pressures.

    In the case of a bigger population size, we see interplay between genetic drift and natural selection. While the former acts on the genotype, the latter exerts its influence on the phenotype.

    This topic of the so-called “neutral theory of molecular evolution” is discussed widely in the scientific community. For a good overview of past and current research, see here:

    Wagner A. “Neutralism and selectionism: a network-based reconciliation”. Nature Reviews Genetics 9 (12): (2008), 965–974.

    Wagner A. “Robustness and evolvability: a paradox resolved”. Proceedings of the Royal Society 275: (2007), 91–100.

    Furthermore, as already alluded to in an earlier post, we have ample empirical evidence for the fact that new functionalities arose by the exploitation and amendment of advantageous precursor molecules/sub-systems in an organism.

    Much more could be said about the role of neutral mutations on evolvability, but this would probably lead too far and is covered in the respective literature anyway. The bottom line is this:

    You have not shown that science has detected the limits of what evolution can achieve and furthermore that even if such limits existed, they were breached by any particular structure/functionality/organ/organism on Earth. Thus, your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, you are arguing from a position of personal incredulity here, which is always a weak position, against the common scientific consensus.

    Co-opting existing functions for a new purpose is a solution that tends to obscure the massive complexity involved in such actions. It also fails to account how the initial co-opted function itself was created.

    The latter sentence is a classic example of “moving the goalposts”.

    I trust you read the papers I mentioned in my last post. The authors give powerful, empirical evidence how a complex functionality arose from a more primitive precursor system. Thus, in this particular instance we have absolutely no need for a “designer” to explain the complexity we see today.

    Now you demand an explanation for the precursor system. To which the perfectly reasonable answer is: in all likelihood it arose in the same or highly similar fashion from an even more primitive precursor. If you want to dispute that this is possible, the onus has shifted onto you to explain why the mechanism which was shown to produce the high-complexity functionality we see today should suddenly be unable to produce the lower-complexity precursor system.

    Generally, epistemic justification for the acceptance of the theory of evolution does not require being in possession of a complete molecular family tree of every molecule, functionality, organ and organism on Earth. Such an amount of empirical support is completely unreasonable and not required for any other scientific theory. All that is required is for the proposed mechanism to be capable of bringing about today’s biological complexity in principle, which was shown time and again in countless, concrete examples.

    In this regard, I find it telling (and highly typical) that you, being neither an astronomer nor a biologist, latch onto one scientific theory (the Big Bang theory), relying on the current expert consensus in the field, while being ultra-sceptical towards another scientific theory (the theory of evolution) and simultaneously deriding the fact that it enjoys an even more unanimous support in the scientific community as an “appeal to authority”. This is a blatant double standard. And the reason for this is obvious: you believe that one theory supports your religious convictions, while the other one challenges them.

    The lab experiments show that just two such mutations occurring are going to cause the jump to be rare. The odds blow out after that.

    Please provide me with the literature reference that underlies this claim.

    If design is the actual truth and a person chooses to hold to the claim that future science will prove what looks impossible now, how can they ever be corrected? That chosen position totally prevents any change.

    I already told you that I am not ruling anything out. All I am asking for is a way to support/validate/falsify your design hypothesis.

    But apparently, this will not be forthcoming, since:

    The most sensible thing would be to seek out the designer to answer that. […] My personal view stems out of the revelation of God [snip]

    Which leaves it dead in the water as a rational, let alone scientific endeavour.

    So ironically, after accusing the “naturalist” of relying on faith that the gaps in our understanding will be closed, you are left in the parallel but opposite position of hoping that they will NOT be closed. The difference being, of course, that the “naturalist” can actually carry on with doing science, while the “supernaturalist” is left standing on the sidelines, folding his arms while perpetually shouting “This is not enough! Explain how functionality XYZ came about!”.

    What I was highlighting is the tendency to grab totally unsubstantiated positions and present them as possible realities. […] What I was hoping to convey is, “Why must intelligence be prohibited from propositions?” Given that I have heard many a dismissal of God based on the idea that, “There is no scientific evidence”, it is ironic to me that the very same people would then cling to other concepts that also have absolutely no scientific evidence.

    I have clarified this misconception before, but I will say it again:

    Unless and until concepts like “multiverse”, “strings” or whatever produce empirically verifiable/falsifiable predictions, they do not become part of the scientific worldview.

    Here is how it works (simplified for the sake of brevity):

    We have one or more unexplained or poorly explained phenomena. People will come up with a host of different proposals of how to explain said phenomena. If they are not obviously defective (e.g. logically incoherent), said proposals will be allowed entrance into the club of scientific hypotheses, provided that they make predictions which are empirically testable. In case a specific hypothesis passes such an empirical test, it remains a contender for the truth. In case it fails the test, it gets evicted for good since it can no longer be a contender for the truth. The more tests a given hypothesis passes successfully, the higher our confidence that it is indeed correct, without ever reaching certainty.

    So, nobody is prohibiting “intelligence” from putative explanations. BUT, you need to devise a hypothesis which fits the criteria laid out above if you want sceptical people to start paying attention to you. Simply saying “Theory X fails to adequately explain phenomenon Y, therefore hypothesis Z is correct by default.” is insufficient.

    Now that I have this horn through my chest, I will mention that this God entity was not introduced by me. The introduction of the entity was by the entity itself. There is no way that I could ever find or invent such a solution.

    I already addressed this argument when Stuart raised it, so I can simply repeat it here:

    The fact that somebody has invented a “concept” and that other people have spent (sometimes considerable) amounts of ink discussing said “concept” does not make it plausible. IOW, introducing the concept of a “necessary being” is not ad hoc because you are the first to dream it up, but because it is introduced here solely to solve the otherwise inevitable descent into an infinite regress of designers.

    And I might also mention that this entity turns out to not be entirely foreign. Sure, it does not have a matter-based form or is subject to matter-based laws, but it has always shown the characteristics of intelligence, morality, free choice, love, justice and trust. Items that we identify with at our core.

    Yes, a very remarkable coincidence. Have you ever read Feuerbach?

    And right from the start they appear smart enough to have defined God as a Spirit (external to matter) only knowable in spirit and in truth, to avoid a future physical proof requirement?

    You can not be seriously suggesting here that the ancient Hebrews were the first and only people in history to posit unseen, ephemeral forces acting in the world, can you?

    I am tempted to address your other attempts to bolster the uniqueness of the bible, but I will abstain. The main reason for this is that the whole paragraph is ultimately an exercise in “The bible validates god – god validates the bible” question-begging which fails to provide independent support for the postulated entity.

    Ok, I do think that this dual horn involving the “introducing an entity unlike any we have ever encountered” was a false tautology.

    I think you mean “false dilemma”, since a tautology by definition can not be wrong.

    Moreover, you have not shown why it is a false dilemma. All you have tried to argue for is that your impalement on one of its horns is acceptable since the entity in question actually exists.

    Anyhow, I am not opposed to our arriving here through the full evolutionary story from a single cell, but the science appears to say, “No, that is not viable.”

    I have a hard time believing that you are really willing to accept the theory of evolution and what it entails for our place in the cosmos. Otherwise, why would you, as a non-expert, go against the near-unanimous consensus of experts in this field while accepting the verdict of experts in other scientific fields?

  38. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to me Iapetus. I appreciate the effort you put in and explanatory nature of your post.

  39. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Iapetus, to quickly tie it up;

    (A) The research that I used to make my statement on the rarity of dual mutations (with a neutral intermediate):

    1. Blount, Z.D., Borland, C.Z., and Lenski, R.E. 2008. Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A 105:7899-7906.
    2. Hall, B.G. 1982. Chromosomal mutation for citrate utilization by Escherichia coli K-12. J. Bacteriol. 151:269-273.

    (B) I already do accept the scientific definition of evolution and all it entails. There is change, but I do not see the sort a single cell to now, entails. (Yes, that is my opinion and it is built upon my understanding) I appreciate your attempts to convince me otherwise and I will keep reading and researching. And yes, it is my “religious convictions” that do allow me (not require me) to say this, just as an atheistic conviction would prompt me to say that evolution does account for all life. But that was my point all along, atheistic biologists will hardly be expected to say otherwise. (Very strangely, some do)

    (C) The dismissal of the Bible as a “religious text” hardly seems reasonable. It is a compilation of historical documents, poetry, letters and prophetic utterances. An account of history does not become invalid just because some people “religious-fy” it.

    if you want sceptical people to start paying attention to you. Simply saying “Theory X fails to adequately explain phenomenon Y, therefore hypothesis Z is correct by default.” is insufficient.

    So very, very true! Which is why I have been saying all along that God has made his presence known.

  40. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Oh Iapetus, if I could just temper a couple of your caricatures little bit.

    So ironically, after accusing the “naturalist” of relying on faith that the gaps in our understanding will be closed, you are left in the parallel but opposite position of hoping that they will NOT be closed. The difference being, of course, that the “naturalist” can actually carry on with doing science, while the “supernaturalist” is left standing on the sidelines, folding his arms while perpetually shouting “This is not enough! Explain how functionality XYZ came about!”.

    It is a funny picture but not reality. Why is a theist (a God follower) excluded from investigating how the creation of God works? Such is a great motivational factor for not only investigating the wonders of the physical world, but also for maintaining an unparallel standard of truth and integrity, even when truth puts oneself in most undesirable situations … like being wrong. Surely you know of the many Christians who have worked (and still do) in the area of science because of their love of God and desire to work out how the creation of God fits together. Science is a natural outworking stemming from belief in a rational God having creating the universe. It is no surprise that Christianity gave birth to modern science and no surprise that Christians can (and do) go on doing science.

    What you are complaining about, is that your “supernaturalist” is not trying to make evidence fit into the naturalistic explanation that evolution (after abiogenesis) can account for all of life. If you think very carefully about that, you will see that you have called something science which is not science.

    Secondly, questions about how something came about are very valid and important. The supernaturalist you refer to (not shouting on the sidelines, mind you) is asking the good questions.

    In this regard, I find it telling (and highly typical) that you, being neither an astronomer nor a biologist, latch onto one scientific theory (the Big Bang theory), relying on the current expert consensus in the field, while being ultra-sceptical towards another scientific theory (the theory of evolution) and simultaneously deriding the fact that it enjoys an even more unanimous support in the scientific community as an “appeal to authority”. This is a blatant double standard. And the reason for this is obvious: you believe that one theory supports your religious convictions, while the other one challenges them.

    It was all apparently lost. So one last try. I know how science works and science is the discipline that prohibits relying on authority. We don’t just believe someone in the know, we ask for rational reasoning and proof. Thus it is a simple step that people who only rely on science should also not make decisions by relying on authority. I only desire that an exclusively-scientific-analysis-has-all-the-answers person to be consistent with their paradigm (and possibly reject the reliance on the paradigm which itself is not scientifically obtained). Yet, when examining something scientifically, I am happy to do the same and exclude authority-based reasons.

    I have not latched on to the Big Bang theory due to relying on authority. I ‘latched on’ to it due to the observational evidence and law identification of thermodynamics and the expanding universe – logical deductions that satisfy my reasoning. All work results in energy lost through heat. Energy is not created from just nothing, and does not disappear into just nothing. (These are the reasons for rejecting the possibility of a perpetual machine) The physical universe is winding down which requires it to have had a beginning. The expanding (and accelerating) universe indicates a spatial and time source. That this scientific evidence lines up with the phrase, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” is quite neat, but the scientific evidence has not become “now acceptable” to me because it looks to be in line with a religion. (Need I repeat the authority-based exclusion?) I accept it because it is logical and reasonable.

    Similarly, I have accepted evolution (adaptation, genetics, mutations, natural selection, and other terms you may use like, genetic drift – which itself is just a result of variation acting within replication) because of my reasoning looking at the observational evidence and law identification. You keep providing me with evidence to back this up. Thanks. I did read the papers you linked. Yet our difference is not in the acceptance of the evidence. For I accept it as do you. I just do not accept the extension you are promoting. This is; an identifiable complex development can be extrapolated to say that all massively complex developments are therefore explainable. You should fully know that this is not a logical position to hold. One of the papers you referenced even quoted Darwin’s statement on how to scientifically disprove evolution, and all that is needed is one example of a complex function that cannot be reached in successive small steps.

    Given this is the only way to disprove the GEM scientifically, it appears very unreasonable that you would scoff at people who think such examples exist and who present them. Or worse still, pull out a different example (or a hundred different examples) and claim that all life could have arisen due to this example having occurred. The Darwin falsifying criteria only breaks the development and change within life into distinct groups. It does not falsify the scientific definition of evolution, which specifies that change over time occurs. Further just claiming that “One day we will be able to explain it!” does not provide any sort of adequate answer or valid rebut. All you have done is prevented a hearing and displayed an unerring faith in naturalism.

    you believe that one theory supports your religious convictions, while the other one challenges them.

    Is it possible that I can explain what I believe, instead of being told by you what I believe? Seems more reasonable that I would have a better chance of knowing this. How can I make this any clearer? I do not reject the evolution myth (ie evolution accounts for how all of life came about from the first cell) because of my religious convictions. My “religious convictions” are that God is the creator of the universe and has entered the universe. This conviction is based on positive proof not a “there is a gap in our knowledge that must be filled”. The “how” on this creation event is unknown to me! The workings of the universe are fascinating and we humans (collectively) are discovering the laws. Science is great. If the evolution myth turns out to be possible, then I am all for it. Yet, the scientific indicators are telling me that it is not possible. So how did God arrange life to appear? I do not know. But hey, let’s keep investigating.

  41. Iapetus
    Iapetus says:

    Oh Iapetus, if I could just temper a couple of your caricatures little bit.

    Try your best…

    What you are complaining about, is that your “supernaturalist” is not trying to make evidence fit into the naturalistic explanation that evolution (after abiogenesis) can account for all of life.

    No, what I am complaining about is that the “supernaturalist” has never ever offered a way of empirically validating or falsifying his “hypothesis”, but incessantly demands this from the “naturalist”.

    I keep repeating myself, but apparently it is necessary:

    You believe you have a hypothesis which explains an hitherto unexplained phenomenon? Fine. I (and any other scientist) am willing to examine and test it.

    But what do we get instead?

    The “supernaturalist” points to biological functionality XYZ, proclaims it to be so complex that it must have been designed and then stops. Or, which is even worse, further proclaims the “designer” to be a “supernatural” entity which brought about functionality XYZ by “supernatural” means.

    How is any of this empirically testable? What experiments do you propose to do, based on this mess? Why is it that all published “research” coming from creationists/IDists are “reviews” of actual research done by real scientists?

    If you think very carefully about that, you will see that you have called something science which is not science.

    Quite to the contrary. It is YOUR position that is unscientific, unless you come up with a hypothesis which is empirically testable and does not involve appeals to divine revelations.

    Secondly, questions about how something came about are very valid and important. The supernaturalist you refer to (not shouting on the sidelines, mind you) is asking the good questions.

    The question of how biological structures came about is one of the key questions in the biological sciences and vigorously researched.

    However, the fact of the matter is that the only people getting down and doing the work to come up with empirically testable ANSWERS to this question are the “naturalists”, while the “supernaturalists” have an “answer” which is not empirically testable and therefore unscientific. Thus, their only recourse is to point to perceived gaps in the explanatory framework of the theory of evolution in the hope of injecting their “explanation” into them. Their problem, of course, is that since said “explanation” is based on our current state of ignorance, it gets invalidated every time our scientific understanding grows and the gap is closed, forcing them to move on to yet another gap.

    I have not latched on to the Big Bang theory due to relying on authority. I ‘latched on’ to it due to the observational evidence and law identification of thermodynamics and the expanding universe – logical deductions that satisfy my reasoning.

    So you have examined and understood all the relevant experimental data and competing models and do not rely in the slightest on the verdict of experts in the field?

    Well then, are you satisfied with the way that issues like the horizon and flatness problem as well as the lack of magnetic monopoles were resolved by introducing the concept of inflation?

    What is your opinion on whether the Cosmic Microwave Background put a final nail in the coffin of Steady State models? Can fog-like effects of microscopic dust and iron particles to produce the isotropic energy distribution we see today really be discarded?

    Concerning the expansion of space: on what basis do you rule out the matter-generating C-field proposed by Steady-State-theorists, which would ensure that the density of the universe always remains the same?

    What is your opinion on the Quasi-Steady-State model by Hoyle, Burbidge and Narlikar and the way it deals with a “reset” of entropy during every oscillation?

    If you are truely capable of following the discourse on these matters in detail, I will accept that you do not rely on expert opinion in any way. But somehow, I doubt it.

    Similarly, I have accepted evolution […] I just do not accept the extension you are promoting. This is; an identifiable complex development can be extrapolated to say that all massively complex developments are therefore explainable. You should fully know that this is not a logical position to hold.

    The overwhelming majority of experts in the field does not share your opinion. And you have yet to give any tangible, scientific reason except your personal incredulity why anyone should accept said opinion.

    The research paper you cited is a case in point. I am completely at a loss how you can possibly see this as supportive of your position. What we have here is empirical evidence for the evolution of a new functionality within a species, which in all likelihood did not involve the reactivation of a cryptic functionality, but represents a genuine novelty. And all this within a period of time which is negligible on geological timescales and in an environment which is as primitive and artificial as it can possibly get. The authors even suggest that there is the distinct possibility of witnessing the emergence of a new species within the near future, based on the split between citrate-metabolizing and non-citrate-metabolizing bacteria that occurred.

    Concerning the origin of this new functionality, the authors clearly point out that a full genetic comparison between the different strains will be required before anything can be said about the mutation(s) which underlie the observed phenotypic changes. So I have absolutely no idea how you can derive a statement like this

    The lab experiments show that just two such mutations occurring are going to cause the jump to be rare. The odds blow out after that.

    from their paper. All that can presently be concluded is that, statistically, it is unlikely that a single point mutation was sufficient. However, we do not know whether 2, 3 or 10 additional mutations are involved and furthermore how many of these were beneficial/neutral/deleterious. And even if it were only two and took 30000 generations to evolve, how does this in any way, shape or form suggest a general evolutionary boundary?

    The more I look at this, the more I am reminded of M. Behe and his attempt to find The Edge of Evolution. Are you taking this line of argument from him?

    Regarding the required amount of empirical support, I have addressed this before:

    If you will suspend your acceptance of the theory of evolution (or some of its aspects) until we have a complete molecular family tree of every system/functionality/organ/organism on Earth, you will never accept it. Which is your personal choice to make, but completely unreasonable and not required for any other scientific theory.

    I (and the scientists active in this field) provisionally accept the theory of evolution and its account of the origins of biological complexity because (among a host of other reasons):

    1.) it makes verifiable/falsifiable predictions

    2.) it provides a testable mechanism which has been experimentally and observationally corroborated time and again

    3.) at present, it remains unfalsified.

    One of the papers you referenced even quoted Darwin’s statement on how to scientifically disprove evolution, and all that is needed is one example of a complex function that cannot be reached in successive small steps. [..] Given this is the only way to disprove the GEM scientifically, it appears very unreasonable that you would scoff at people who think such examples exist and who present them.

    I have no problem at all with people challenging an accepted theory. Scientists do it all the time, which is why the scientific discourse is healthy and robust.

    What I DO have a problem with is when people not only point out alleged problems within a theory, but try to insert their own, unscientific “hypothesis” as an alternative, without giving the slightest shred of empirical evidence or at least a putative way of empirically testing said hypothesis.

    I furthermore have a problem when the criticism is boringly repetitive in the sense that as soon as it is addressed, the critics move on to a new, similar topic without providing any kind of reason as to why the new case is fundamentally different from the previous ones.

    I do not reject the evolution myth (ie evolution accounts for how all of life came about from the first cell) because of my religious convictions. […] If the evolution myth turns out to be possible, then I am all for it. Yet, the scientific indicators are telling me that it is not possible.

    You keep repeating this sentiment, but have yet to lay out any kind of rational reason for it.

    Since you are only going by reason and evidence, while “authority” is anathema to you, how about providing some of this evidence?

    I have pointed you to scientific studies showing the emergence of complexity from simpler precursors. How about you providing evidence for your constant assertion that science has uncovered a fundamental limit to what evolution can achieve and furthermore that this limit has been exceeded by some entity in the biosphere?

    So how did God arrange life to appear? I do not know. But hey, let’s keep investigating.

    And exactly HOW do you propose to “keep investigating” how god “arranged life to appear”? Will it be a “naturalistic” or a “supernaturalistic” investigation? If the latter, what methodology should be employed?

    Finally, regarding your protestations that your religious convictions have absolutely no bearing on your view of specific scientific theories:

    If you say so, I will take it as true. But note that exactly the same position (Big Bang theory – sound; theory of evolution – dubious) is adopted by many religious people who make no secret of the fact that their religious convictions determine this assessment. So I am glad to hear that your case is different.

  42. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Iapetus. Thanks again for conversing with someone “entirely repetitive and boring”. Your very last sentence seems to acknowledge some tempering, so thanks. Your gladness is not what I have been after though.

    On the matter of authority, you would have got a much quicker acknowledgment that I accept issues based on authority if you mentioned that a view of the supernatural (and of what happens outside of the natural) is usually taken on authority. For example, I believe what Jesus said about life after death based on authority that I attribute to Jesus. I believe a lot about life, based on the authority of Jesus.

    On the matter of science, the distinction I was making is that in science, we do not accept something based on authority. We accept what an authoritative person may say because they can provide evidence. Evidence based on observation of physical laws. If we cannot understand the evidence, we must then employ some sort of faith or remain undecided on the position. There are scientific based inductions where I am undecided. I have not examined all the astronomical issues that you raised but I have previously examined some and my statements on what I hold were from the areas where I have examined the evidence.

    Interestingly enough, you referenced people who are promoting very different views of the universe (eg. steady state theorists vs the death of the steady state). If you are putting cases forward for both views then this tells me that we really have very little knowledge about what is going on, scientifically speaking. And in this case, encouraging one to trust merely based on a (or some) scientist’s authority is extremely problematic. I am going to stick with trusting what I can understand. And you have helped me lean slightly more towards not trusting it.

    The supernaturalist and naturalist have agreement that matter and energy exist and that these things follow specific laws. There is no problem with either of them using the scientific method to investigate the natural. As already mentioned, Christianity had a large hand in creating the scientific method. There is no conflict here. Of course, these different worldviews simply mean that the naturalist is expecting science to be able to explain everything, while the supernaturalist expects science to explain the functionality and operation of the natural world, but unable to comment on much, if anything outside of this.

    Your contention against me seems to be that naturalism will be able to explain everything and thus supernaturalism is purely mythology, a result of lucid imagination. The faith statement you bring to the table is that naturalism can explain everything. Surely it has not done so, but you take great heart in noting that science is explaining a lot of things. Well, a supernaturalist has no issue with this at all. They too expect the scientific method to be able to explain the workings of the natural world. So slurring someone with the label “supernaturalist” does little more than highlight your pre-existing worldview. At least it is informative in that regard.

    You may be partially right in saying that a supernaturalist will not research and look for proof on how all of life evolved from a single cell. You would be far more accurate to say that a person who believes that the different kinds of animals were created uniquely, is not going to research and look for such proof as this would be looking for something that they hold did not happen. Which makes not looking an entirely sensible thing to do. I highlight this because simply ‘being a supernaturalist’, is not adequate to distinguish between people who will do the looking and those who will not. A supernaturalist (who holds that more exists than only matter and energy) could certainly believe in evolution. The label is not enough to disqualify them. You seem to be a person who likes accuracy, so I would encourage you to take this up.

    In this same regard, rather than paint the picture of supernaturalists as being purely ‘gap dwellers’; I would encourage you to acknowledge that they claim positive evidence. This is more accurate. For a particular supernaturalist, the Christian, the long-standing evidence has been the life and resurrection of Jesus, the existence of morality and the appearance of design within nature indicating a designer. Of course, these things are all disputed by the naturalist who will say that the account of Jesus is fictitious, morality is an illusion as too the appearance of design in nature. This is being debated in many other discussions so there is no need to go into it here. The point I am trying to make is that there are positive claims that can be examined, not gap fillers.

    I keep repeating myself, but apparently it is necessary:

    You believe you have a hypothesis which explains an hitherto unexplained phenomenon? Fine. I (and any other scientist) am willing to examine and test it.

    Ah yes, the necessity of repeating yourself leads me to the necessity of further explanation. To place it in your language, how about the hypothesis that morality is real and science is unable to detect it? Or that intelligence exists beyond matter? Or, there are things that exist which the scientific method is unable to discover?

    I am not introducing new concepts or moving the goal posts as you have tried to accuse me of doing. Right back where we started to converse I attempted to point out that the worldview you bring to the discussion determines what you will accept as reasonable.

    Let me justify this with a simple example. Would gravity have ever been discovered if matter had the choice on whether it could obey gravity or not? If matter could choose, “Well, I like to be attracted to those atoms. I am going to avoid those ones. Some over there I might just hover around for a bit?” Ridiculous concept for us, but I put it to you that gravity would never have been discovered by the scientific method if it was an optional law. Science looks for observable, empirical and measurable evidence. If something breaks a hypothesis, the hypothesis has to change or the thing that broke it has to be explained. If morality is an objective standard of right and wrong that we can choose to follow or not, it is well beyond detection by the scientific method. If morality is just a belief we form in regards to what is useful for one purpose or another then it certainly fits into naturalism.

    In a naturalistic world of matter and energy, the idea of morality can be said to have evolved in response to one thing or another, but what you have is not an objective standard that should be followed because it is the “right” thing to do. You could easily charge me with now introducing a new concept of ‘morality’ into our discussion, but then you would have again missed my point. I am trying to give you an example that may show you there are conceptual things, which the scientific method could never discover.

    This relates directly back to my statements that the worldview you carry with you is going to determine what you believe. A naturalist is simply going to accept the evolution story as the valid account for where life comes from. A supernaturalist has the option to accept it or not. Appealing to the authority of the scientific community as mostly accepting the evolution story is not at all convincing to me in regards to its truthfulness. Evolution has been pushed as truth through the education system for the past fifty years. Every bit of evidence in favour hailed as irrefutable confirmation. Of course most people are going to believe it.

    So let me repeat again that I accept the scientific evidence and I have studied it in depth. I just do not see how this accounts for the building of all of life from the first cell. (We don’t even know how the first cell could have been formed on top of that.) I have been researching this area and I will continue to do so. My view is open to change. The more “scientific” description of my position is related to what the source of information could be. Yet you already know this and have apparently made up your mind on the issue. That is indeed a good thing, you should examine and decide for yourself.

    I am sorry to tell you that I think the scientific method is unable to uncover the truth … if life was indeed designed. The best I can give you is that there is sense in saying what looks designed is designed. There is sense in saying that as we have used our intelligence to modify and build biological components, it is reasonable to suggest that life could have an intelligent source. Secondly, I would suggest that morality is real (objective and prescriptive) and that this breaks naturalism. Thirdly, I would suggest that there is enough scientific evidence to demonstrate we have some sort of consciousness apart from our physical body, and this too breaks naturalism. And finally I would suggest that sole dependence on the scientific method to reveal truth is limiting, conceptually and practically. As such, I do not think the scientific method can uncover absolute truth. Don’t get me wrong, science is great and fantastic for uncovering physical laws. It can certainly show us how things operate, but it can not tell us why they operate or what we should do with them.

    So my answer to your repeated request is the same. Your frame of reference determines what you are able to discover and accept. I have been suggesting you change your frame of reference. I know this has departed from your area of interest and you may even find this somehow offensive or thoroughly disappointing for not meeting your request of scientific proof. For all these options, I hope we can part amicably and you are welcome to have the last word. I certainly appreciate and understand what you have said.

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