Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Wish More Christians Were So...Rational

Rachel Held Evans had a choice while growing up in Dayton, Tenn., site of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Believe the Bible or believe evolution.

"I was taught that if you don't interpret Genesis 1 and 2 literally, then you don't take the Bible seriously," said Evans, 29. "I held on tightly to that for a long time."

Evans says creationism — the belief that God created the earth around 6,000 years ago in six days — was commonplace in her town. Unable to reconcile science with her faith, Evans embraced evolution.

"I learned you don't have to choose between loving and following Jesus and believing in evolution," she said. She chronicled her personal journey in a new memoir Evolving in Monkey Town.

Evans is part of a movement of mostly Protestant writers and scientists trying to reconcile faith and science, 85 years after the trial ended. Instead of choosing sides, some prefer the middle ground of intelligent design, which claims God designed how life evolved. Tennessee gubernatorial candidates Ron Ramsey, Zach Wamp and Mike McWherter all advocate teaching intelligent design in schools.


Respectfully, so-called intelligent design does not teach that "God designed how life evolved." Rather, it holds that the broad biodiversity observed upon the earth and in the fossil records resulted from specific, separate acts of creation and not by evolution from common ancestors. It teaches that the species are "immutable"--that is, that one species cannot evolve into another.

And yet, as was recognized by a conservative, Bush-appointed, Christian judge as recently as 2007, intelligent design is not science. This is not a statement of opinion or dogma, but of demonstrable fact. As I have previously noted, science is that body of knowledge which results from application of the scientific method. Intelligent design, as an explanation for biodiversity, cannot be science because it cannot be falsified or, said another way, it does not make any testable predictions.

UPDATE:> Stephen Jay Gould explains further in his essay Evolution as Fact and Theory.

18 comments:

Human Ape said...

"I learned you don't have to choose between loving and following Jesus and believing in evolution," she said.

Do you agree with that?

Please notice that Jeebus knew nothing about evolutionary biology or any other branch of science. He was a know-nothing preacher, as worthless and as stupid as today's preachers.

The facts of evolutionary biology, more than any other branch of science, have made the god hypothesis unnecessary, therefore every god ever invented should be thrown out.

I'm not sure if you are a Christian or not. If you are, that might be a nice hobby for you, but when you are part of an organization infested with drooling morons who are constantly attacking science education, you are part of the problem.

Even if I was an extremely moderate Christian, I would be ashamed to admit it, because Christian has become another word for idiot.

Sean King said...

@Human Ape--I agree with you that the God hypothesis is logically unnecessary to explain the universe and our existence. Those who insist that the beauty and grandeur and order observed in the universe require a divine explanation are just kicking the can down the road. For if beauty and grandeur and order were "created" then they must themselves represent some aspect of the creator. In other words, the creator must himself/herself/itself be beautiful and grand and orderly.

And so, if beauty, grandeur and orderliness are proof that something was created, the how do we explain these attributes in the creator? By our own logic, the creator must also have been created, as must his/her/its creator, and so on. Pursuing this line of reasoning leads to an endless regression that explains nothing.

So, no observable aspect of "creation" can logically stand as evidence of a creator. On that, I think, you and I would agree. But, and this is critical, this fact does not mean that the universe wasn't created. Those who insist that there is not creator are being just as dogmatic as those who insist there is.

It is unscientific to claim that there is a creator, because such an hypothesis cannot be falsified. But, it is just as unscientific to say that there isn't, because that hypothesis likewise cannot be tested. The Big Bang may explain the universe, but then what explains the Big Bang? Again, we are stuck in an endless regression.

If we are honest, we must admit that we cannot know whether the universe was created or not. But, what we can say with certainty is that the creation accounts provided via the world's religions are false when taken literally. They do lend themselves to being tested through observations and they all fail miserably.

Read more of my blog and I think you'll find that I'm definitely not "part of the problem".

mynym said...

She chronicled her personal journey in a new memoir Evolving in Monkey Town.

The story of the provincial fundamentalist who goes on a journey and finds answers to their religion in Darwinian creation myths is so common that it is provincial itself. People who create stories like this for themselves never seem to question their mythologies of progress.

mynym said...

Please notice that Jeebus knew nothing about evolutionary biology or any other branch of science. He was a know-nothing preacher, as worthless and as stupid as today's preachers.

Yet aren't your own brain events generally the product of things like natural selection operating on the reproductive and excretory organs of ancient ape-like creatures? Apparently everything you say reduces to blind and ignorant processes of a similar sort, so why do you imagine that you are knowledgeable or intelligent?

...Christian has become another word for idiot.

It's ironic that progressives have made a fetish out of intelligence given their arguments about knowledge based on brains shaped by ignorance. But isn't it true that evil geniuses exist? And if so, then is intelligence really the most important thing to measure people by as the eugenics movement held?

mynym said...

And so, if beauty, grandeur and orderliness are proof that something was created, the how do we explain these attributes in the creator? By our own logic, the creator must also have been created, as must his/her/its creator, and so on. Pursuing this line of reasoning leads to an endless regression that explains nothing.

Any sort of awareness of reality leads to problems of infinite division or infinite regresses, that doesn't mean that reality does not exist or must be infinite. One could say that your brain events caused you to say that here and now, and they caused by chemical reactions, which are caused by atoms and so on. "Pursuing this line of reasoning leads to an endless regression that explains nothing." Not at all, instead if one could reach the end of it then you would have found the explanation for everything and that search is part of science.

As Aristotle pointed out, it's likely that an unmoved Mover exists.

Sean King said...

@mynym--All my comment above was intended to do is demonstrate that, contrary to the claims of some, we can't demonstrate as a matter of logic that an unmoved mover exists.

That being said, I'm not suggesting that there is no first cause. There may be, but logic itself doesn't require it.

For instance, for an unmoved mover to have moved anything, he/she/it would first have had to conceive the idea of movement. And yet, the act of conceiving is itself movement.

Continuing with this line of reasoning, to create consciousness requires the first cause of consciousness to have first conceived the idea of consciousness. And yet, conceiving of consciousness requires one to be conscious (i.e., requires a subject, the conceiver, and and object, the idea of consciousness).

As demonstrated, if a unmoved mover exists, he/she/it can't be known by logic. That's all I'm saying.

mynym said...

As demonstrated, if a unmoved mover exists, he/she/it can't be known by logic. That's all I'm saying.

As Aristotle pointed out, that's part of the reason that logic points to the existence of an unmoved Mover. This view seems consilient with other knowledge about our ignorance.

E.g.In a piece of mathematics that stands as an intellectual tour-de-force of the first magnitude, Gödel demonstrated that the arithmetic with which we are all familiar is incomplete:
‘…that is, in any system that has a finite set of axioms and rules of inference and which is large enough to contain ordinary arithmetic, there are always true statements of the system that cannot be proved on the basis of that set of axioms and those rules of inference. This result is known as Gödel’s First Incompleteness Theorem.
Now Hilbert’s Programme also aimed to prove the essential consistency of his formulation of mathematics as a formal system. Gödel, in his Second Incompleteness Theorem, shattered that hope as well. He proved that one of the statements that cannot be proved in a sufficiently strong formal system is the consistency of the system itself. In other words, if arithmetic is consistent then that fact is one of the things that cannot be proved in the system. It is something that we can only believe on the basis of the evidence, or by appeal to higher axioms. This has been succinctly summarized by saying that if a religion is something whose foundations are based on faith, then mathematics is the only religion that can prove it is a religion!
(God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God
by John Lennox :52)


It's actually quite important in science to have a knowledge of ignorance, especially given that the greatest barrier to knowledge is not ignorance but illusions of knowledge. As I said, the story of a provincial rube going on a journey of discovery and supposedly attaining knowledge is so common that it is provincial itself. Yet simplistic mythologies of this sort (e.g. Scopes) are common to progressives and they are the first to be "overwhelmed" by the illusions of knowledge typical to Darwinism.

Sean King said...
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Sean King said...

Fair enough, mynym. Just don't include me among those who are overwhelmed by illusions of knowledge. I am perfectly willing to admit the limitations of science, for instance, science cannot prove anything to be true, it can only show what is false. Science progresses via nullification. A scientific truth is merely an hypothesis that has not been falsified yet. Any honest scientist must admit as much. Darwinism is such an hypothesis.

I am perfectly willing to admit that no human tool, be it logic or science, can conclusivsely prove anything to be true. It can only show conclusively that some things are false.

Respectfully, you are the one who suffers from illusions of a knowledge. You argue that the limits of human knowledge, by there very existence, means that there is a God. Respectfully, that's a nonsequiter. If our knowledge is limited as you admit, then it is limited both ways. God may very well exist, but as Godel's work suggests, he can't be known or conclusively proved rationally.

Respectfully, Godel didn't say that there are TRUE statements that can't be proven, only that there are statements that can be proven. If they cant be proven (falsified), then we cannot now whether they are in fact true or not. Again, this is my point. I'm perfectly willing to admit my lack of ability to know. You seemingly are not.

mynym said...

You argue that the limits of human knowledge, by there very existence, means that there is a God.

Where did I argue that? The fact that we can know that we do not know is consilient with theology.

You are the one arguing that everything that does not comport with rationalism is not knowledge while other rationalists play pretend that anything which falls outside their worldview is the equivalent of all superstition, magic, etc. Ironically the main reason that pagan magick and superstitions were done away with historically was monotheism, i.e. a worldview that contains a rationale for rationality. Yet now we come full circle to the rationalists and naturalists, whose beliefs often seem oddly similar to the beliefs of the nature based pagans of old.

God may very well exist, but as Godel's work suggests, he can't be known or conclusively proved rationally.

Not to mention the fact that you might not be able to fit God in a test tube. You're the only one implying that rationalism is the be all, end all of knowledge. But at any rate, this is more interesting:
Darwinism is such an hypothesis.

What sort of organism could be observed which would falsify Darwinism? Is it true that every single organism that has ever been observed verifies Darwinism?

Sean King said...
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Sean King said...
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Sean King said...
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Sean King said...

If you want to continue our discussion, I'd be grateful if you'd address your comments to the points that I make rather than those offered by "progressives", "rationalists", and "naturalists" somewhere else. I don't speak for them, and they certainly don't speak for me. Bringing them into our conversation merely serves as a distraction.

I'm afraid I'm confused. Unless I misunderstand you completely (which is possible), you seem to be arguing that it's reasonable/rational to accept the existence of an unmoved mover as TRUE. Over a couple of posts, I then argued that:

1) Reason/rationality can't prove whether there's a unmoved mover or not; and

2) Humans can never know what is true, only what it untrue.

And that, given these two things, it's best to simply admit that we don't "know" whether an unmoved mover exists or not rather than insisted that one does.

You seemingly disagreed with at least the first of these points, citing Aristotle. I then showed how it is impossible to logically prove the existence of an unmoved mover (or to disprove it, for that matter), and you then responded (if I understand you correctly) by apparently conceding my original point (that logic can't prove God's existence), and then arguing that I'm still wrong because humans can "know" things other than by reason/rationality. For instance, you say "you're the only one claiming that rationalism is the be all, end all of knowledge."

Are you suggesting that there is such a thing as irrational knowledge? Please do explain what such knowledge would look like, how it can be gained, and most importantly how we can distinguish in a principled way proponents of such "genuine" but irrational knowledge from frauds and nut cases.

Darwinism could be falsified in a thousand different ways. For instance, as Darwin himself admitted, if creatures didn't inherit traits from their ancestors, Darwinism would be falsified. If offspring were always perfect copies of their parents (i.e, no possibility of mutations or changes), Darwinism would be falsified. If geology or plate tectonics or chemistry (carbon dating) or the study of ice cores or any number of other scientific disciplines showed the world to be only a few thousand years old, Darwinism would be falsified (for there wouldn't have been sufficient time to account for all the various observed species). If the geologic record showed a progression from more advanced to less advanced creatures over time (rather than the other way around), Darwinism would be falsified. If human footprints were ever found next to a dinosaur's, Darwinism would be falsified. If we observed higher rates of evolution during times of environmental stability and lower rates during times of environmental chaos, Darwinism would be falsified. If rates of mutation were too infrequent to explain the diversity that we observe in nature, Darwinism would be falsified. If modern day organs and appendages could be shown to be something other than adaptations of bodily structures that once served completely different purposes, Darwinism would be falsified. If birds appeared in the fossil record before dinosaurs, or mammals before reptiles, our current understanding of Darwinism would be falsified. If there were a seemless transition between animals such that it was impossible to group them by species or genus, Darwinism would be falsified. If the oldest layers of rock contained anything other than the most basic forms of life, Darwinism would be falsified.

I could continue, but I won't.

mynym said...

Bringing them into our conversation merely serves as a distraction.

Not at all, it serves as an illustration of common patterns of thought.

1) Reason/rationality can't prove whether there's a unmoved mover or not;

Which is exactly what one would expect if a rationale for rationality existed. The rise of science (As well as its decline in certain cultures.) historically indicates that a reasonable foundation for reason gives rise to science as we know it. You and other rationalists are the only people saying that if "rationality" cannot prove something then it can be disregarded as the equivalent of mere superstition. Ironically, if that is so then rationality is a superstition because it relies on a foundation and cannot prove itself.

2) Humans can never know what is true, only what it untrue.

That is false.

And that, given these two things, it's best to simply admit that we don't "know" whether an unmoved mover exists or not rather than insisted that one does.

Even if your premises were true it's not clear why that would be best. Given the centrality of the issue of an unmoved Mover in philosophy and knowledge, the foundation of science, the historical rise of science and so on it's not clear why it would be best.

Are you suggesting that there is such a thing as irrational knowledge?

The ratios of rationality themselves speak to the fact that there is knowledge outside of the rational. Is that conclusion irrational? Does rationality therefore lead to irrationality?

Please do explain what such knowledge would look like, how it can be gained...

It would look like sentience and acts of will. It would be gained through the communication of language from one mind to another. Recall the "human ape" that was commenting here, a little circus show prancing around speaking of knowledge. "Rationally"/mechanistically everything they said reduced to the biochemical state of their brain at the time, which supposedly traces back mechanistically through things like natural selection operating on the excretory organs of ancient ape-like creatures. Ironically the beliefs of "rationalists" who reject the limitations that the language of mathematics itself speaks to lead to irrational conclusions, naturally.

...and most importantly how we can distinguish in a principled way proponents of such "genuine" but irrational knowledge from frauds and nut cases.

It's little wonder that people are drawn toward rationalism. Indeed, some seem to have a fetish for the very word just as they do for science. Yet your dichotomy between rational and the irrational/"ignorance" seems simplistic. Is knowledge of a work of art "irrational knowledge"? Is knowledge of a singularity "irrational"?

mynym said...

Darwinism could be falsified in a thousand different ways. For instance, as Darwin himself admitted, if creatures didn't inherit traits from their ancestors, Darwinism would be falsified.

Darwinism might be, evolutionary creation myths would not be. I point this out because every time an element of Darwinism has risen above the level of the unfalsifiable hypothetical goo typical to evolutionary creation myths and been falsified it has been said that evolution, whatever it is, is still true. In this way every verification of "evolution" can be counted, overwhelmingly so, and every falsification discounted. It's also interesting how the mythology inevitably verifies itself because even when it cannot be verified or when it is falsified it can still be said that it will be inevitably verified in the future thanks to progress.

If the geologic record showed a progression from more advanced to less advanced creatures over time (rather than the other way around), Darwinism would be falsified.

Yet the geologic record does not show a progression from less advanced to more advanced creatures and that usually is not counted as a falsification.

If human footprints were ever found next to a dinosaur's, Darwinism would be falsified.

Numerous anomalous fossils have been found and discarded, in fact Gould argued that the "primary signal" of the fossil record has been found and discarded so it's not clear what difference a few mere anomalies would make.

mynym said...

If modern day organs and appendages could be shown to be something other than adaptations of bodily structures that once served completely different purposes, Darwinism would be falsified.

It's impossible to falsify what some imagine about the past. Even biologists occasionally recognize this in disagreements among themselves, e.g.: The viewpoint of Coyne et al. (1988) is one in which past events are argued to explain, in a causal sense, the world around us. Such explanations cannot be verified or tested, and the only biological observations they require are that variation and differential reproduction occur. This is not a caricature, as a reading of Coyne et al. will verify. In keeping with this general viewpoint, proponents claim that species are explained with reference to history. Important characters are hence “mechanisms” that have established and maintained the separation between diverged lineages of an ancestral population. According to Coyne et al., even the adaptive purpose of the changes that resulted in these mechanisms is irrelevant.
We would ask where biology enters into this schema. The answer is that it does not. Rather, biology is interpreted in terms of a range of historical processes, including selection of variation over time. This could, with equal relevance, be used to understand any nonbiological phenomenon such as the development of the automobile, agricultural methods, culture, or men’s suits (Lewontin, 1976).
(Points of View
Species and Neo-Darwinism
By C. S. White; B. Michaux; D. M. Lambert
Systematic Zoology, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1990), :400-401)


Notice how Darwinism can be used to "explain away" things that we know came about based on sentience and design. The most ridiculous example being that of Ken Miller explaining away mouse traps by exaptation, i.e. imaginary events in the past. We already know that mouse traps came about as a result of the impact of knowledge on matter, yet here he is showing how Darwinian thought can be used to show the opposite. If it can be used to come to the wrong conclusion about mouse traps one can only wonder what other incorrect conclusions it might lead to.

If birds appeared in the fossil record...

Again, if the "primary signal" of the fossil record can be missed by Darwinists as Gould argued then it's not clear how the fossil record could falsify Darwinism, especially given that Darwinists are interpreting and recording it.

If there were a seemless transition between animals such that it was impossible to group them by species or genus...

Darwinism might be falsified but evolutionary creation myths would not be. And the elimination of or refutation of Jewish creation stories is the primary concern of many, so pretty much any evolutionary creation myth will do.

Sean King said...

For what it's worth, I'm not saying that if we can't prove something rationally that it can be discarded as mere superstition. What I am saying is that, absent reason and rationality, there is no way to distinguish it from mere superstition. It may very well be true, but we can never know whether it is or not absent reason. Without reason, we cannot distinguish or judge one unfalsifiable claim from another. Absent reason, the Jewish creation myth has equal standing with the Hindu one or the evolutionist one (whatever that means).

Other than the above, you get the last word, primarily because I cannot refute arguments that I don't even understand.

For instance:

Important characters are hence “mechanisms” that have established and maintained the separation between diverged lineages of an ancestral population. According to Coyne et al., even the adaptive purpose of the changes that resulted in these mechanisms is irrelevant.

What does that even mean? And what is a "primary signal"? Or an "evolutionary creation myth"? Or "ratios of rationality"?

Once gain, it seems that your argument really isn't with me as I never raised any of these issues (at least not by name).