CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

As noted in Part I of this brief series, The Evolving Nature of Evolution: "Properly Taught", the American Geophysical Union made the following statement in response to President Bush's comments of three years ago that both sides of the Darwinian Evolution v. Intelligent Design debate ought to be properly taught" so that "people can understand what the debate is about":

"Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification," Spilhaus says. "The President has unfortunately confused the difference between science and belief. It is essential that students understand that a scientific theory is not a belief, hunch, or untested hypothesis."

With respect to the statement that "Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification," I would really like someone to explain exactly what "testing and repeated verifications" Darwinian evolution has undergone.

Let me be clear here: I am not saying that there is no evidence that evolution occurs. Certainly, one can look at the fossils that led to the drawings which appear to demonstrate that the horse evolved and reasonably conclude that the horse did, in fact, evolve. We can look at finches beaks (as Darwin did) and reasonably conclude that there have been adaptations. We can look at micro-organisms and their propensity to change from generation to generation in response to the conditions of their environments as further evidence of evolution. But what about the central claim of Darwinian evolution: that all life evolved from single-celled organisms into the vast diversity of life that exists today? Where exactly has that been tested?

In researching testing of evolutionary hypotheses, I came across an article by Dr. Leon Higley that was originally posted on the University of Nebraska Lincoln website (which has now been partially preserved on the Marine Insects Homepage for the University of Nebraska Kearney) discussing the testing of the evolutionary hypothesis by asking why insects haven't succeeded as well in water as on land. While being a strongly pro-evolution paper, it made several points that I found very interesting. Here's what Dr. Higley said (emphasis added):

A scientific hypothesis is an explanation that’s a guess. The value of any hypothesis is how well it accounts for what we know to be true. There’s nothing wrong with wild hypotheses, but their longevity depends on how well they stand up to facts. If they don’t fit the facts, they die (as they should).

Testing hypotheses is big business for scientists. When you do experiments, where you (at least in principle) control every factor except the one you are examining, hypothesis testing usually involves using statistics. Statistics are important, because they provide a mathematical statement based on probability theory of how likely a given outcome is. By convention, scientists tend to say that unless an experimental result could have occur [sic] only 1 time in 20 (5% of the time), it probably is not a real effect.

Unfortunately, given that we don’t have planets and hundreds of million of years to experiment with, we have to take a different tack with the marine insects question. Here, as in much evolutionary argumentation, we try to form plausible hypotheses, and then try to find evidence that supports or disproves these guesses. Once a hypothesis is formed, we look for current examples that would contradict it. For example, the argument that insects can’t survive in the ocean because of water pressure doesn’t seem so good when you realize one insect species survives at a depth of 1,300 meters! This is a form of counter example. Because at least one species can survive a great depth, it implies that other insects could have evolved to do so. Eliminating hypotheses by counter examples is a powerful approach in assessing hypotheses.

Counter examples are a type of comparison (comparing one species’ biology with what might be possible for the group). Often comparison provides a mechanism for supporting a hypothesis. In our marine insects example, we compare insects in the oceans with insects in fresh water. We find that lots of insect species live in fresh water, but almost none do in the oceans. Compare: what is different about the two habitats? If it isn’t something physical (such as salinity or water pressure), maybe it has to do with biology. There are lots of small crustaceans in the ocean, but not so many in fresh water. OK, maybe the crustaceans beat out the insects. Is there any other evidence? Well, the fossil record shows that the crustaceans appeared many millions of years before insects. Like shopping for Tickle-Me Elmo (or whatever is the current faddish toy), those who get there first, win. And, if the crustaceans are out-competing insects, this fits with another theory (a type of strong hypothesis), the competitive exclusion principal. [sic] (Competitive exclusion is an ecological theory that two species can’t both have identical ways of making a living [occupy identical niches], because one will inevitably displace the other.) Competitive exclusion really isn’t evidence for or against our competition hypothesis with marine insects, but it does show our hypothesis doesn’t contradict a widely held principal, which is good. Does any of this prove competition with crustaceans is the reason for the lack of marine insects? Not really, but (to us) it is the best explanation to fit all the available facts.

This last point is very important. Theories are really hypotheses that have stood the test of close examination and time. It is possible to disprove theories, but in most instances it is not logically possible to prove a scientific theory. We can get close, but that is not the same as certainty. Consequently, the (ignorant) argument that something (like evolution) is "only a theory," ignores how the entire business of science works.[sic]

One other way we can test hypotheses is by making predictions. This is harder with evolutionary questions, because typically we can’t look at evolutionary processes over the long term. However, we might design small experiments where we look at competition among fresh water crustaceans and aquatic insects, and in these experiments we can predict how competition should produce different results. Again, such experiments wouldn’t prove or disprove our hypothesis, but they might support aspects of it or cause us to modify our ideas. In a nutshell, that’s science.

I personally find Dr. Higley's article to be informative in several respects, but more interesting in what it shows about the nature of research into evolutionary science. First, it notes that evolution has not been directly scientifically confirmed by testing -- and we shouldn't expect that it ever can be. Rather, when dealing with evolution, scientists try to find "evidence that supports or disproves" the "plausible hypothesis." Keep in mind that the plausible hypothesis is itself simply a reasonable "guess" (Dr. Higley's word) about what happened in the distant past that led to the state of nature that we find. In other words, evolution is simply a framework or model which scientists posit to explain what is observed.

Does the fact that Darwinian evolution is not directly testable mean that the evolutionary theory is necessarily wrong? Of course not. As Dr. Higley points out, science has observed many things that correspond with what one would expect if evolution were, in fact, true. These consistencies do bolster the case that evolution is more than the means adopted by atheists to make them intellectually fulfilled (using the words of the bombastic Richard Dawkins).

But what about when the evidence doesn't fit the theory? In many cases, the evidence we find is inconsistent with what we would expect if the evolutionary framework were true, like finding that although insects evolved and have been highly successful on land, they have been entirely less successful in water for no apparent reason. In fact, the reason most commonly given (that they don't survive in high water pressure) has been demonstrably shown to be false -- as noted by Dr. Higley. So, when something doesn't fit as predicted by evolutionary theory, does it disprove evolution? No. Rather, it simply means that scientists need to adapt the framework to fit the new data. In Dr. Higley's case, it means adopting a different idea of "first arriving wins" to the competition between crustaceans and insects. Never mind that "first arriving wins" doesn't seem to actually be the rule in nature as demonstrated, using one example, by the fact that Africanized honeybees are apparently displacing the earlier arrived domestic honeybees as they move northward from South America.

Let me say once again that this in no way shows that Dr. Higley is ultimately wrong. He may be absolutely right that evolution occurred and the fact that crustaceans arrived first is the reason that they have been more successful in salt water environments than the later arriving insects. But Dr. Higley's example also shows that Darwinian evolution is like Jell-O -- infinitely malleable. The theory itself is evolving much more quickly than the animals it contends evolved, and trying to demonstrate that the underlying theory is wrong is like nailing Jell-O to the wall because it will simply change shape to move away from the nail.

In Darwinian evolution, if the evidence doesn't support the theory, the theory simply changes to adapt to the new information. Scientists, wedded to the pre-conceived but unproven notion that evolution is true, conclude that such inconsistencies merely mean that some of the details of the theory were not necessarily accurate while the underlying theory remains untarnished. But this evolving nature makes it impossible to actually test the theory using the examples and counter-examples cited by Dr. Higley. After all, these examples and counter-examples only affect parts or details of the overriding theory which has not and cannot ever be tested.

Next time: Two analogies

20 comments:

Bk,

What kind of evidence would be sufficient for you to accept the evolution and common descent as a fact?

Evolution - simply put it's change in species' makeup over time.

Consider these facts:
- Species existed in the past that do not exist now (See the fossil record)
- Species exist now that did not exist in the past (as shown by their absence from the fossil record or at least their the older parts of it.

Therefore the species present on the earth have changed over time, therefore evolution has occurred. QED.

Bill,

Was this article about acknowledged problems in testing for b.e.t. (compared to Spilhaus' statement that evolution has survived extensive testing and repeated verification)? Because some readers seem to think the article was about evolution being something we shouldn't believe in. Whereas, I recall you saying in part 1 that there was plenty of scientific evidence in favor of evolution as a process, and in large portions of the theory at least. Clarification for the gallery?


Malcolm,

Not that I should feel especially comfortable quoting Richard Dawkins on much of anything {g}, but even he thinks that the fossil record is a "higgledy-piggledy" jumble and has to spend time explaining why it fits into biological evolutionary theory anyway.

While it's true that the fossil record (such as it is) testifies to the prior existence of species which don't seem to be around anymore (though artistic and cultural evidence strongly indicates some of them survived into nearly modern times), the state of the fossil record is not terribly good for indicating there were no such other species around at the time of depositing. (On the contrary, it isn't altogether unheard of for paleontologists to have to discount 'anomalous' finds in the record.)


I should probably add here that I grew up solidly believing in evolution and that there weren't any problems at all in it (much less serious ones in the mechanics of it), because that was what I had been taught by my parents (who are solidly Christian btw) my teachers (largely ditto) and stuff on TV and magazines. I was the first person in my family to express doubts about the mechanics involved (micro and macroscale.)

I still think it's a pretty good theory in places, and I'm still pretty sure that it's largely true. But that doesn't mean I don't notice the problems, either. And I think its popularizers are being rather too underreporting about the status of the data (especially for what's supposed to be ideologically neutral science.)

JRP

"evolution has not been directly scientifically confirmed by testing -- and we shouldn't expect that it ever can be."

I think this misrepresents the case; there is no way to do one single test that confirms the theory as a whole, but the accumulation of many smaller tests which each confirm different aspects of the theory make for an even stronger case for confidence in the theory as a whole.

"when dealing with evolution, scientists try to find "evidence that supports or disproves" the "plausible hypothesis."

That's how all science works, not just evolution...

Peter,

You ask: "What kind of evidence would be sufficient for you to accept the evolution and common descent as a fact?"

That's really hard to say. The only answer that I can give right now is that, as my blogs in this series are seeking to point out, the evidence presented thus far isn't it.

I mean, I could ask a similar question back at you: "What kind of evidence would be sufficient for you to accept that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh as a fact?" If you're honest, you won't know where that line exists. You may be able to identify clear cases, but not the dividing line.

Malcolm,

As I said, I think that it is entirely reasonable (in the sense that a person does not have to be illogical or out of his mind) to conclude that evolution is true based on what you identify. But being reasonable and being in fact true are not the same. There are reasons to doubt the evolutionary paradigm, and the point of this post is that not only has evolution not been proven, but the evidence does not even get to the point of proving evolution. Rather, it shows how scientists can justify facts in light of a preconceived notion.

Jason P.,

Yup, you got it. I have only pointed out thus far that Spilhaus' is doing what all evolutionists tend to do: assume that evolution is proven and has been tested. The simple fact is that evolution hasn't been tested. The next part of this series will demonstrate that with two analogies.

Hermit,

Here's the question: what test or combination of tests have proven the theory? My point is that the limited actual testing we have don't really prove evolution at all. Rather, most of evolutionary theory looks at facts (fossils, similarities) and explains them in light of a preconceived notion about how they came to be without ever really testing the preconceived notion.

I agree that the evidence that has been built up in support of the theory of evolution is quite impressive. But at the same time, it doesn't establish that evolution is true. It establishes that scientists are really creative people who can think of interesting theories that shoehorn the facts into the theory.

And let me reiterate what Jason P already pointed out. I am not saying that evolution may not be true. It very well may be. But my point is that it hasn't been proven, and no one is really testing evolution.

You say,

[quoting me] when dealing with evolution, scientists try to find "evidence that supports or disproves" the "plausible hypothesis."[end quoting me]

That's how all science works, not just evolution...


Yup. Glad we're in agreement with at least this much.

Blogger BK said...

"Here's the question: what test or combination of tests have proven the theory? My point is that the limited actual testing we have don't really prove evolution at all. Rather, most of evolutionary theory looks at facts (fossils, similarities) and explains them in light of a preconceived notion about how they came to be without ever really testing the preconceived notion..."

I'm sorry, but to me this represents a profound ignorance of the evidence. There's been 150 years worth of research by literally thousands of biologists confirming speciation by adaptation over time; everything from the fossil record to DNA only serve to strengthen the theory.

It's been thirty years since Dobzhansky made his famous declaration: Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Time to catch up...;-)

Herm,

{{It's been thirty years since Dobzhansky made his famous declaration: Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution}}

Even back then, the complexity had long been daunting some pro-NDT proponents (including among the original synthesizers). We've only been discovering more and more layers of complexity since then, adding to the time-constraints necessary for any plausible account of purely accidental development (assuming purely accidental development is even possible.)

Also, the IDers aren't the ones who are trying to disprove speciation by adaptation over time. (Heck, even the YECists aren't necessarily trying to disprove that.) ID, per se, is a conclusion (right or wrong) about the absolute lack of intentionality being claimed about the process in most circles (especially anti-religious ones): namely that this absolute lack of intentionality is wrong; there's some level of intentional design in the process instead.

That being said, I agree there's nothing wrong with testing a process in view of abductively confirming (if possible) a hypothesis about the process. Increasing levels of confirmation in the inductive (not deductive) sense could be the result. IDers, though, think the shared pool of data points (and increasingly so) to a similarly inductive disconfirmation of one particular element of the hypothesis: total non-intentionality involved in the biological process.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...
"Even back then, the complexity had long been daunting some pro-NDT proponents (including among the original synthesizers). We've only been discovering more and more layers of complexity since then, adding to the time-constraints necessary for any plausible account of purely accidental development (assuming purely accidental development is even possible.)"

You know, this complexity argument has never made sense to me; as someone who does a bit of design work I understand that simplicity, not complexity, is the hallmark of good design. It seems to me that the apparently unnecessary complexity of the natural universe tends to argue against, not for, the existence of an Intelligent Designer being behind it all. If there is one she's a lousy designer...;-)

"ID, per se, is a conclusion (right or wrong) about the absolute lack of intentionality being claimed about the process in most circles (especially anti-religious ones): namely that this absolute lack of intentionality is wrong; there's some level of intentional design in the process instead."

And it's a conclusion which has absolutely no empirical support; there's just nothing evident in the data or the literature that suggests any intentionality in the process, so why would we teach it in a science class? .

Anon,

{{You know, this complexity argument has never made sense to me}}

Really? Which complexity argument was I reporting? To recap: “We've only been discovering more and more layers of complexity since then, adding to the time-constraints necessary for any plausible account of purely accidental development (assuming purely accidental development is even possible.)

It seems, however, that you were thinking of a different kind of complexity argument:

{{It seems to me that the apparently unnecessary complexity of the natural universe tends to argue against, not for, the existence of an Intelligent Designer being behind it}}

Whatever may be said about this anti-theistic argument, pro or con, it isn’t really a reply to the complexity argument I was reporting about. It would be a rebuttal (maybe) to a complexity argument along the lines of ‘Look how complex Nature is!--that kind of complexity in itself requires a Designer!’

I could probably find some IDers making that argument, too, but it isn’t the technical argument I was reporting on. Whether complexity or simplicity in themselves are gauged to be hallmarks of design (or the lack thereof)--and in my own estimation as both a designer and an artist I don’t personally find any correlation between design and either simplicity or complexity--this is completely irrelevant to the question of how long we can plausibly expect random copy-errors to take to build up effective biomechanism systems (intercellular, intracellular, interspecies and intraspecies) through an unguided process (even assuming the mechanics themselves are not an issue, though they’re an issue, too.) If it plausibly takes 60 billion years to develop an elephant from a protomammal by unguided random copy-errors, to borrow an epic-fail example referenced earlier {g}, and we only have 100 million years at the outside to get it done, (not to say only 6 billion years in the history of the natural universe at all), then that’s too long. Something needs adjusting in the theory somewhere. Or added to it (like a catalyst).

On the other hand, there is a whole other set of ID arguments drawing on information theory, which also has to do with complexities of particular sorts--a set of arguments not to be confused with the kind I was talking about, or the kind to which you were (apparently) replying. That’s a whole other ball of wax again; and as usual the theorists are drawing on the common pool of data contributed to by everyone doing research work in the field. Whether they’re doing so competently or not is another question, of course.

{{And it's a conclusion which has absolutely no empirical support}}

Keeping in mind, this is from someone who basically just ignored what kind of complexity argument I was reporting about... {s} That kind of argument, as well as information theory arguments, absolutely rely on empirical support--they wouldn’t even have been able to get going for suggestion and discussion without empirical data to be debating about. (If it comes to that, even the more amorphous ‘But it’s all just so complex’ argument implicitly refers to empirical data for support--where did they get that notion of complexity? From the data.)

{{so why would we teach it in a science class?}}

Bill explained very clearly, I think, that he (and Pres Bush) was talking about discussing it in science classes, or teaching about it, simply so that “people can understand what the debate is about”. That doesn’t necessarily involve favoritism or even parity. An analogy would be discussing Lamarckism and inductive heredity in comparison and contrast to neo-Darwinism; in order to have a discussion about them, or even to properly criticise them in favor of NDT, one has to be able to teach about them accurately. For example, they aren’t the same thing as each other--Darwin rejected one while supporting the other--the NDT synthesizers rejected both of them while supporting development by random mutational error which Darwin had rejected--here’s why Darwin and neo-Darwinists rejected Lamarckism--here’s why Darwin accepted hereditable induction and rejected random copy errors--here’s why the NDT synthesizers and scientists today reject hereditable induction but accept random copy errors, etc. No one anywhere supports Lamarckism or saltationism, but it’s still important to teach about them fairly and accurately.

Or again, borrowing a theological topic, it would be irresponsible not to teach about the Euthyphro Dilemma in regard to theistic ethics, and to teach about it accurately--whether or not it introduces crippling problems for theistic ethics, and whether or not a bunch of opponents to one kind of theism (who aren’t necessarily non-theists themselves though many of them are) happen to make a key use of the Euthyphro.

JRP

My apologies, I assumed you were making the usual ID argument (though I think my point is still a valid one regarding the nature of design. Design proponents need to explain all the examples of "bad" design in nature.)

The time constraints argument isn't much better though; as I've seen it presented it confuses probabilities of random occurrences with the probabilities of natural processes, which are not random.

Even at the rarefied level of information theory IDer's like Dembski make this ind of mistake; improperly conflating two different kinds of information theory to make things look less probable than they are in fact.

My point about the absence of empirical support for ID still stands. The kind of smoke and mirrors produced by people like Dembski and the DI just don't hold up to impartial review.

So, why would we teach this stuff in a science class? It doesn't have historical relevance to the subject, like Lamark does, and it has no real empirical support, so what's the point?

ID is not science; it's a political program and it's proponents produce propaganda, not evidence.

A Hermit said: Design proponents need to explain all the examples of "bad" design in nature.

Well, duh: evolution of course! The problem is this unproven notion that "evolution" can magically make better things out of nothing. It's easy to understand how random evolution could start with something good and mess it up.

(Of course, your whole notion of "bad design" completely misses the point: even if you could prove that some example of design were bad (which of course no one has -- how convenient!), "bad" design by definition requires a designer as much as "good" design does. To make your point you need to prove that evolution explains it all with NO design. Good luck with that.)

Anonymous: You know, this complexity argument has never made sense to me; as someone who does a bit of design work I understand that simplicity, not complexity, is the hallmark of good design.

I doubt it, unless you're saying that your work consists solely in "designing" blank sheets of paper. After all, a blank page is clearly "simpler" than a page with anything on it. But of course "simplicity not complexity" is just a slogan -- we all know what it really means is not too much complexity. Unfortunately, since you neglected to explain in your comment full details of life, the universe, and everything, we have no way to judge how much complexity would be "too much".

It seems to me that the apparently unnecessary complexity of the natural universe tends to argue against, not for, the existence of an Intelligent Designer being behind it all.

See, you almost hit upon the point there, but you pass right by it. "Unnecessary" complexity is the key. Oh, and you even admit that this alleged unnecessariness is just "apparent", so maybe the universe isn't too complex after all, even given your totally arbitrary cutoff point.

Anon--or Herm rather?

{{Design proponents need to explain all the examples of "bad" design in nature.}}

Not really, insofar as the conclusion is only about ‘design’. What you’re talking about is a whole other debate about the properties and actual intentions of the designer and the relationship to the evident system of nature. That’s extremely important, no doubt, but it isn’t the same kind of debate.

It’s also a whole other debate, what constitutes “bad” design, and whether what we see is even evidence for that. As an artist, I can aver that unnecessary complexity isn’t necessarily evidence of non-design; and what we might consider at first to be unnecessary complexity has a tendency, the more we study it, to turn out to have an understandable purpose after all. ‘Junk’ DNA, for example.

I will clarify here, however, that I do not expect all natural details to be perfectly elegantly formed design artifacts. Much the contrary; I expect a lot of it to be messy in various ways associated with non-intentional random process development. But: I reach that expectation by conclusion from metaphysical analysis, partly based on some basic observations of the evident system of Nature as a way of paring off various metaphysical possibilities. ‘Junk’ DNA didn’t bother me in the least back when people were promoting it. (Obviously super-complex usefulness for that DNA bothers me even less. {g} But I don’t use it myself for any theological conclusions. It does however magnify the time-constraint problem for merely random development that-much-more.)

{{The time constraints argument isn't much better though; as I've seen it presented it confuses probabilities of random occurrences with the probabilities of natural processes, which are not random.}}

Actually, the whole point to copy-error mutation in NDT is that it is utterly random. But maybe you don’t think mutation is supposed to be a natural process? {g}

More likely you’re thinking of older critiques having to do with what amounts to single-step saltationism; which are admittedly off-target when discussing neo-Darwinian theory. Cumulative-step processes, though, are specially hampered in their own way by probabilities. Also, natural selection itself has a strong single-step random element to it, which is usually negative in its effect. E.g. a mutation (by random accident) happens to be actually beneficial and would help members of a species survive-to-breed better in an existant environment (without which its effect is neutral at best) if it could ever get established in the species pool; but it gets wiped out by effectively random accident before it can even get going. (Ronald Fisher recognized this long ago, not even counting species inertia already present in a well-adapted population of significant size, which through non-random natural selection would also tend to prevent even beneficial mutations from surviving to spread, unless they’re piggy-backing--completely by non-designed copy-error accident, per NDT!--on already-existant strongly significant survival traits.)

That being said, I have a suspicion that eventually we’re going to see a (reluctant) paradigm shift back over to environmental induction of characteristics (Darwin’s own original guess about where positive development was coming from), where the mutational changes are corresponsive to macroenvironmental characteristics in an adaptive fashion. This will give the information theorists (even) more ammunition, of course. But it will also have an immediate result of reassuring apologists who (understandably) want to minimize the amount of random accident in the natural processes and maximize the corresponsive effects of macro and micro environments: this would ease the probability constraints very significantly, in an already very-well-developed biosphere system.

Until then, though, NDT apologists are going to have a strong temptation to simply slur over or ignore the major amounts of purely random accident involved in the process (per NDT). Yes, there are non-random natural processes, too. But focusing on those to the exclusion of the other creates a whole other theory than NDT. (Similarly, when only mutation is focused on and natural selection is basically ignored, then a whole other theory than NDT is being talked about. Which is why analysts, when considering NDT pro or con, have to keep all the portions in mind.)

{{Even at the rarefied level of information theory IDer's like Dembski make this ind of mistake; improperly conflating two different kinds of information theory to make things look less probable than they are in fact.}}

Yep, that kind of thing happens, too. {s} Though of course multiple kinds of information would be, where extant, proportionately improbable by accidental development. There’s a difference between conflating types of information theory, and appealing to multiple categories of information. I will suppose you understand the distinction (though you didn’t mention it).

{{So, why would we teach this stuff in a science class?}}

It’s interesting that you keep putting it that way, as if this was what Bill was talking about. But I’ll suppose you only meant “teach about it”.

{{It doesn't have historical relevance to the subject, like Lamark does}}

So it doesn’t even warrant mention for rebuttal by contrast in a science class? I find that attitude to be completely amazing, even for an opponent. History isn’t only a topic from a couple hundred years ago.

{{and it has no real empirical support}}

Incidentally, I’ve been mentioning specific empirical support in this thread and (moreso) in the comment thread preceding this one, including why they count (or would be perceived to count, at least) as support. I haven’t seen actual discussion of those parts yet, as to why they don’t count as empirical data against the total exclusion of design represented by NDT.


Other-anon-but-not-Herm-accidentally-posting-once-as-an-anon,

{{The problem is this unproven notion that "evolution" can magically make better things out of nothing.}}

That’s rather oversimplifying the NDT position (and problems) I think. Evolution, NDT or otherwise, is a process in an already-existant system. How that system itself got into place is a whole other debate, which can’t be fairly critiqued in conflation with various biological evolutionary theories.

Also, I’m pretty sure Anon-who-seems-to-have-been-Herm-and-not-Anon-who-isn’t-Herm (this is why it’s best to append a signature at the end of comments, Anon {g}) was talking about elegance, not about mere simplicity per se. The white page retort would be fine against that, but not against elegance. I understand very well (from, again, being an artist and designer myself) that elegance is one typical goal of a designer. It isn’t the only possible goal, though; and various ontological factors may also come into play. Those are issues that have to be debated in a quite different discussion.

Again, I think Herm’s complaint is about “messy” complexity, so to speak, not about “too much”. He isn’t “almost hitting upon the point there”, that was his point from the beginning.

JRP

JRP wrote: That’s rather oversimplifying the NDT position (and problems) I think. Evolution, NDT or otherwise, is a process in an already-existant system. How that system itself got into place is a whole other debate, which can’t be fairly critiqued in conflation with various biological evolutionary theories.

Sure, that's oversimplified ('cause it was a rather flippant retort to Hermit's rather flippant and oversimplified jab about "bad design"). But there's a serious point lurking underneath: there are people who point to limited individual pieces of evolutionary theory that are scientifically sound and then use a little oversimplifying sleight-of-hand to smuggle in a whole metaphysical system with it. Which comes back to BK's point in these articles of pointing out how the genuinely scientific part of evolution needs to be clearly distinguished from mere hypothesis or associated philosophical world-views.

Again, I think Herm’s complaint is about “messy” complexity, so to speak, not about “too much”. He isn’t “almost hitting upon the point there”, that was his point from the beginning.

Well, I was only replying to what Hermit actually said, not your highly charitable interpretation of what he probably meant! But either way, such a criticism depends on there being only one possible kind of design, and on knowing the exact goals and motivations of the designer (as you pointed out), not to mention knowing all the details of the designed thing itself.

Such a line of reasoning is entirely valid, of course (although not necessarily valid as science!), but if someone really is interested in pursuing that kind of criticism, he needs a more thoughtful and more detailed response than "Ho! I guess you never heard of TONSILS!"

A Nonymous

{{But there's a serious point lurking underneath: there are people who point to limited individual pieces of evolutionary theory that are scientifically sound and then use a little oversimplifying sleight-of-hand to smuggle in a whole metaphysical system with it.}}

That happens, too; and I agree that that’s wrong to do. But it doesn’t seem very relevant to Herm’s complaint about messy complexity being “bad design”. Nor is it particularly relevant to what anti-religious apologists are actually claiming about “evolution”; very few of them think that biological evolution brought effective systems into existence (particularly the system of biological evolution itself. {g})

In short, the anti-religious apologists aren’t saying that “evolution” makes things (better or otherwise) out of nothing. (Though on the other hand, I have to admit I’ve occasionally caught them literally explaining to me that the first thinking people were taught to think by their parents. Uh... yeah... but when I say that you diss me as making a recognizeably theistic statement... {ggg})

{{Well, I was only replying to what Hermit actually said, not your highly charitable interpretation of what he probably meant!}}

Which I derived based on contexts from reading him. But he’s welcome to correct me on my highly charitable interpretation if he likes. {s!}

JRP

JRP: Nor is it particularly relevant to what anti-religious apologists are actually claiming about “evolution”; very few of them think that biological evolution brought effective systems into existence (particularly the system of biological evolution itself. {g})

Probably not when put into those terms; but then when put into terms of genuine science, there isn't much controversy left. (Even a YEC could believe in "evolution" if it just means the limited sort of change that could be considered scientifically demonstrated so far!) What atheists need is a naturalistic theory that explains everything without God, including the origin of life. Evolution obviously can't do that in any sense of the word -- and yet you still hear things like "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist." That doesn't make any sense unless Darwin's theory (or its modern descendent) is supposed to be a complete alternative to Genesis 1.

But I guess you could respond that atheists know full well that evolution doesn't address the start of life, they just don't have a good grasp on the meaning of "intellectually fulfilled"...!

In short, the anti-religious apologists aren’t saying that “evolution” makes things (better or otherwise) out of nothing. (Though on the other hand, I have to admit I’ve occasionally caught them literally explaining to me that the first thinking people were taught to think by their parents. Uh... yeah... but when I say that you diss me as making a recognizeably theistic statement... {ggg})

Heh. Isn't the ability to swallow circular reasoning what got our ancestors out of the trees?!!


A Nonymous

{{Even a YEC could believe in "evolution" if it just means the limited sort of change that could be considered scientifically demonstrated so far!}}

True; in fact I mentioned somewhere in these posts that many YECs have no problem accepting natural selection and even limited speciation thereby.

{{and yet you still hear things like "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist."}}

Mr. D's standards of intellectual fulfillment are demonstrably pretty low. {g!}

And I swear I didn't look ahead to your next paragraph... {rofl!!}{bow!}

{{Heh. Isn't the ability to swallow circular reasoning what got our ancestors out of the trees?!!}}

In the defense of the particular guy I got that example-quote from (he doesn't post here, but he's well-known as a heavy hitter on the net and we have several articles critiquing him on various historical things--he and I used to debate a lot years ago in private), I think he came out of a church environment that emphasized circular reasoning. That's pretty normal, too.

JRP

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