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Evolution Basics: Artificial Selection and the Origins of the Domestic Dog

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April 4, 2013 Tags: Genetics, History of Life
Evolution Basics: Artificial Selection and the Origins of the Domestic Dog

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: This series of posts is intended as a basic introduction to the science of evolution for non-specialists. You can see the introduction to this series here. In this post, we examine how artificial selection shaped the dog genome during the early domestication process.

In the last post in this series, we looked at how artificial selection played an important role in Darwin’s conception of natural selection. One example of artificial selection that Darwin drew upon was the domestication of dogs – a process that has recently been greatly informed by genomics comparisons between dogs and their closest wild relatives, wolves. 

(Slowly) becoming man’s best friend

The domestic dog has the distinction of being the only known animal to be domesticated by humans prior to the advent of agriculture. As such, dogs are not only man’s best friend in the animal kingdom, but also his oldest one. Though the precise origin of dogs was a mystery in Darwin’s day, Darwin drew on them as an example of artificial selection that would be familiar to his readers, since the practice of shaping breeds over time was familiar to his audience:

But when we compare the dray-horse and race-horse, the dromedary and camel, the various breeds of sheep fitted either for cultivated land or mountain pasture, with the wool of one breed good for one purpose, and that of another breed for another purpose; when we compare the many breeds of dogs, each good for man in very different ways… We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed, in several cases, we know that this has not been their history. The key is man’s power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to make for himself useful breeds.

Note that Darwin is careful to point out that the variation itself is due to heredity: while humans can “add up” variation over time through selective breeding, they cannot produce the variation upon which they act. This point was important for Darwin to make, since he would later argue that natural selection also acts on that same heritable variation over time in a cumulative way.

Darwin’s use of dogs as an example was hindered, however, by his not knowing whether all dogs were descended from one ancestral species or if different breeds had been independently domesticated from different species. Darwin (erroneously, as we will soon see) suspected the latter, perhaps in part because of the dramatic morphological differences between dog breeds. He does, however, contemplate the possibility that some widely divergent dog breeds were derived from a common stock, and notes that, if demonstrated, such a finding would be significant evidence that “closely allied” species in nature were, in fact, related:

When we attempt to estimate the amount of structural difference between the domestic races of the same species, we are soon involved in doubt, from not knowing whether they have descended from one or several parent-species. This point, if it could be cleared up, would be interesting; if, for instance, it could be shown that the grey-hound, bloodhound, terrier, spaniel, and bull-dog, which we all know propagate their kind so truly, were the offspring of any single species, then such facts would have great weight in making us doubt about the immutability of the many very closely allied and natural species—for instance, of the many foxes—inhabiting different quarters of the world. I do not believe, as we shall presently see, that all our dogs have descended from any one wild species; but, in the case of some other domestic races, there is presumptive, or even strong, evidence in favour of this view…

The whole subject must, I think, remain vague; nevertheless, I may, without here entering on any details, state that, from geographical and other considerations, I think it highly probable that our domestic dogs have descended from several wild species.

As it turns out, Darwin was wrong on this point—we now know that all dog breeds are derived from only one wild species, the gray wolf (Canis lupis). Genome sequencing studies place dogs and gray wolves as extremely close relatives, which is hardly surprising, since they remain fully capable of interbreeding. Beyond establishing wolves as the closest wild relatives to dogs, genome comparisons are also beginning to reveal how human artificial selection brought dogs into being.

Teasing out the genetic basis for the domestication process has become increasingly possible now that the dog genome has been completely sequenced (published in 2005). This complete sequence allows for detailed comparisons between dogs and gray wolves, as well as comparisons between dog breeds. Both studies shed light on how artificial selection shaped dogs over their shared history with humans. Comparisons to wolves allow us to determine what selection steps took place during the early domestication process, whereas comparisons within breeds allow us to examine the selection steps that gave each breed its unique suite of characteristics.

From wolf to dog: the early domestication process

Though the wolf and dog genomes are overwhelmingly similar to one another, there are subtle differences between them. Recent research has sought to identify regions of the dog genome that were selected for during the domestication process. These regions are expected to show less variation than what is seen in the rest of the dog genome at large. Recall from our prior discussion that selection reduces the variation in a population by picking out certain variants and favoring their reproduction over others. As we scan through the dog genome, we can thus look for regions that show very little variation (i.e. all, or almost all, dogs have the same sequence in that area) in contrast to other regions where dogs, as a population, have more variation present. We can also then compare these putative selected regions with the wolf genome, to find the regions that not only have reduced variation within dogs but also differ from what we see in wolves (since we are interested in regions that contribute to the differences we see between wolves and dogs). Having found the regions of the dog genome that meet these criteria, it is then possible to examine the sorts of genes found in them, and generate hypotheses for why selection on those specific genes may contribute to the morphological and behavioral differences we observe.

The results of this analysis were striking in that the main category of genes found in such “candidate domestication regions” were genes involved in nervous system development and function. These results support the hypothesis that the primary focus of the early domestication process was selecting for behaviors, such as reduced aggression and willingness to submit to an altered, human-dominated social structure.


Image from Webster’s New Illustrated Dictionary, published 1911.

Small genetic changes add up

At both early stages of dog domestication (and as we will see, at later stages of breed creation), similar conclusions can be drawn: small changes at the genome level can have very large effects on morphology and behavior for the organism as a whole. We have discussed this point before in the context of comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes, and drawn the same conclusion—small perturbations to a complex system can effect substantial change over relatively “short” timescales. (By short, I mean short from a geological perspective.) Dogs and wolves have been in the process of separating for about 100,000 years, meaning that the dog domestication process and the subsequent creation of dog breeds occurs in a blink of an eye geologically speaking. If future paleontologists were to find a dachshund in the fossil record, it would seem to appear out of nowhere and have only a distant relationship to wolves, despite the fact that we know dogs and wolves are part of the same species (with all the inherent “fuzziness” that the term “species” entails).

Selection, artificial or natural, is selection

The power of artificial selection was a useful argument for Darwin in the 1850s, since it demonstrated the remarkable flexibility a species could have under differing selective environments, and revealed the inherent variation within populations that could be acted on to drive significant change over time. Here in the early 21st century we are beginning to see the genetic underpinnings of artificial selection at a genome-wide level, and the results are absolutely in keeping with Darwin’s ideas: that populations contain significant diversity, and that artificial selection can act on that diversity over time to promote the reproduction of certain variants over others, and thus shift average characteristics of a population. And just as Darwin drew parallels between artificial and natural selection, so to can we: the evidence we have suggests that natural selection acts in essentially the same way as artificial selection—by favoring the reproduction of certain variants over others.

In the next post in this series, we’ll examine how artificial selection shaped the creation of specific dog breeds, and examine how natural selection has also shaped the dog genome during the domestication process.  

For further reading:

Lindblad-Toh, K., et al. (2005). Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature 438; 803 – 818 (link).

Axelsson, E., et al. (2013). The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature 495; 360 – 364 (link).

 

Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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hanan-d - #79640

May 7th 2013

Also from Jerry Coyne’s site is this comment. Very much geared toward Beaglelady and Melanogaster

A God indistinguishable from random chance is not worth attacking. Also not worth believing in or worshipping.

OUCH!!! But this commentator is absolutely right. Beaglelady, doesn’t  this comment relflect accuratly your belief? A God that left things up to chance?

beaglelady - #79646

May 7th 2013

You have a problem upstairs, cyber-stalker.

hanan-d - #79648

May 7th 2013

Maybe you should start doing a better job explaining what yo.u man by your vague responses then. That comment seems to describe your theology pretty well. Is it wrong?

beaglelady - #79651

May 7th 2013

Of course it is wrong.    Why do you have to be so angry and aggressive?   

hanan-d - #79655

May 7th 2013

Maybe aggresive, but I don’t think there is anger. 

hanan-d - #79667

May 7th 2013

beaglelady, 

Had that commentator said that to you…..what would your reply had been to him?

melanogaster - #79673

May 7th 2013

“That comment seems to describe your theology pretty well. Is it wrong?”

It doesn’t. What makes you think that it does describe my theology?

“Had that commentator said that to you…..what would your reply had been to him?”

The more appropriate question is for you: why are you so relentless about making attributions and lumping people together?

hanan-d - #79687

May 8th 2013

>It doesn’t. What makes you think that it does describe my theology?

Huh? I wasn’t talking to you. It said beaglelady. Unless you are both the same person. 

>The more appropriate question is for you: why are you so relentless about making attributions and lumping people together?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with saying that her belief system (the one she vaguelly tries to describe) is aptly described by that comment from Jerry Coyne’s blog. I have given ample attempts at getting her to be more specific then just saying nothing more than “chance”

beaglelady - #79694

May 8th 2013

Except that I don’t just say “chance.”   You have difficulty reading for meaning.   I can’t seem to get through to you that evolution isn’t random.  

hanan-d - #79702

May 8th 2013

When you say evolution is not random…..what are the implications of that?

melanogaster - #79703

May 8th 2013

“Huh? I wasn’t talking to you. It said beaglelady. Unless you are both the same person.”

That’s odd, since you prefaced it with:

“Very much geared toward Beaglelady and Melanogaster”

Did you forget already?

“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with saying that her belief system (the one she vaguelly tries to describe) is aptly described by that comment from Jerry Coyne’s blog.”

There is clearly something wrong if you aren’t describing her belief system accurately. You might want to consider the possibility.

hanan-d - #79711

May 8th 2013

>There is clearly something wrong if you aren’t describing her belief system accurately. You might want to consider the possibility.

Then then she can for once respond for clarification. It has only been asked a dozen times. If you tell me chance is involved and why does it have to be an either/or in relation to Can or Will, then you are only leading your audience to believe you don’t believe in guided evolution (especially to the question of mankind). All you have to do  is go back and read the comments. 

melanogaster - #79721

May 8th 2013

“If you tell me chance is involved and why does it have to be an either/or in relation to Can or Will, then you are only leading your audience to believe you don’t believe in guided evolution (especially to the question of mankind).”

Nope. As I said, I can disprove your claim even if we stipulate that God wrote every base of our genomes. If you have trouble grasping that, it means that all of your flailing about evolution and who says what is irrelevant.

Again, we are discussing your claim: if some process has a random component, no matter how small, God only knows what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. Is that correct?

We are evaluating the veracity of that claim, as everything else you are asserting about evolution is dependent on extrapolating from it.

To repeat: I stipulate that God wrote every base of our genomes. Therefore evolution is not relevant to my refutation of your claim, so bringing it up, or what anyone says about it, is an evasion.

“All you have to do is go back and read the comments.”

Going back, the first thing I see in the comments is my unanswered question: Did you forget already?

beaglelady - #79696

May 8th 2013

What was your reply to him?  Oops, I forgot, I’m not allowed to ask any questions.  

hanan-d - #79715

May 8th 2013

I wouldn’t have a reply to him. Don’t you get it already? I come to you, because I trust your knowledge in this field and therefore want to see if you can refute it. I want to know that there IS a refutation. You don’t get that I want to be on your side. I want to know that one can believe in a theistic God and evolution at the same time. But before I get there, there are some philisophical issues that need to be resolved. So you think I am being hard on you for some sick thrill. No. That is the farthest of my intentions. I want to see if you can respond because it affects my crisis of faith. Maybe to you, all this is just exciting sciency stuff. But to me, it’s not. It’s more than that. You don’t understand how much I have put into this. I am hoping that TE is coherent and with that, I can move and raise a good family. But you don’t know how frustrating this has been when you haven’t answered anything and the answers you do answer sound as if you are deist. Responding that evolution is not random doesn’t address anything as I have constantly shown you the trouble with that statement. 

But BL, hey, I don’t want you to feel attacked anymore. This can be the last comment to you.

beaglelady - #79805

May 10th 2013

Are you asking God to help guide you on your journey of faith? I think that’s important. And stop expecting easy answers.   Easy answers are for fundamentalists and cult members.

Eddie - #79814

May 10th 2013

I’m against easy answers, too.  But I can’t think of any answer easier than simply caving in to “consensus science” and modern humanistic morality on virtually every issue and reinterpreting the Bible and rewriting Christian theology in order to make them conform with those things.  Which is what liberal Christians these days do.  And what many TEs do as well.

hanan-d - #79818

May 10th 2013

>Are you asking God to help guide you on your journey of faith?

Your statement is just begging the question. If I had strong faith in God I would not need his help since I already believed in him.

Im asking YOU. Hence, my questions to YOU. So when I ask you how you would respnod to a commentator like that (above) I mean it. 

hanan-d - #79819

May 10th 2013

>And stop expecting easy answers.

How about AN answer.

I mean, if I was to put you in a debate against an atheist, and he said (in criticism of TE)

A God indistinguishable from random chance is not worth attacking. Also not worth believing in or worshipping.

 What would you tell this person?
hanan-d - #79997

May 13th 2013

Well beaglelady, what WOULD you answer that commentator. 

And to answer your old question regarding my beliefs on Christianity, perhaps you don’t recall, but I mentioned that I am Jewish. 

melanogaster - #79669

May 7th 2013

I’m trying to explain to you why I don’t agree with it, but you relentlessly try to ignore what I’m saying while expanding the quite limited scope of “random chance” in biology.

beaglelady - #79698

May 8th 2013

The really sad part is that he’s not carefully studying Venema’s excellent series on evolution, and chooses instead to scream about God rolling dice,  while having a hissy fit and breaking furniture over my head.

melanogaster - #79670

May 7th 2013

Me: “...a system that randomly generates variation leads to something YOU empirically view as certain—in real time. No theory, entirely empirical.”

“What on earth does this have to do with the theological issue?”

Everything!

“This is actually no different than any atheistic biological statement.”

I think you’re not reading carefully. Let’s take it from the top.

Your thesis is that if something has a random component, no matter how small, that God only knows what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. Is that correct?

“Did I deny we can see variations empirically?”

This has nothing to do with my point, with which I am directly addressing your theological thesis. What anyone says is irrelevant to your and my points, especially Dawkins. Please do more thinking and less lumping.

“The theological question is, was there a plan for this “system that randomly generates variation” to eventually “generate” a human being? Was this God’s plan?”

I understand. Try to grasp that my response it is much more general. May we stipulate that if YOU purposefully employ any “system that randomly generates variation” to do something, that this was YOUR plan?

“This is where “God knows what WILL” happen is different than “God knows what CAN” happen. Obviously something CAN happen.”

I am addressing precisely that distinction. So if YOU employ a “system that randomly generates variation,” do YOU merely know what CAN happen or what WILL happen?

May I be so bold as to presume that if you know that something will happen, that God knows that too? We are stipulating that God is more aware than you are, aren’t we?

melanogaster - #79671

May 7th 2013

Above is addressed to Hanan, of course.

hanan-d - #79690

May 8th 2013

>Your thesis is that if something has a random component, no matter how small, that God only knows what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. Is that correct?

Right.

>May we stipulate that if YOU purposefully employ any “system that randomly generates variation” to do something, that this was YOUR plan?

Absolutely. If that is my plan, then that is my plan. But….

>I am addressing precisely that distinction. So if YOU employ a “system that randomly generates variation,” do YOU merely know what CAN happen or what WILL happen?

......If I employ a system that randomly generates variation and the results may have been different, then I can only know what CAN happen. If, again, you are talking about total and true randomness that is blind and navigates by chance (using beaglelady’s term), then yes, me as the creator of this system could only know what CAN happen. As any good biologist would say, Evolution is mindless and blind. No goals. It cares nothing for progress and if we rewound the watch, things would be different. 

>May I be so bold as to presume that if you know that something will happen, that God knows that too? We are stipulating that God is more aware than you are, aren’t we?

Only if I know something WILL happen. But if the system is blind and moves towards no goal with randonmess being part of the process then how can you get a WILL?

beaglelady - #79695

May 8th 2013

If, again, you are talking about total and true randomness that is blind and navigates by chance (using beaglelady’s term)

Where did I say that? STOP MAKING THINGS UP


hanan-d - #79700

May 8th 2013

You have said chance is involved, did you not?

beaglelady - #79701

May 8th 2013

But I didn’t say what you accused me of saying

hanan-d - #79704

May 8th 2013

So if you say chance is involved, what am I supposed to extrapolate from that then? That it is guided? Look, everything we say have imlications without it actually being said. 

1) You say evolution is not random. Ok What is the implication of that

2) Yet you say chance is involved and the mutations are random. Ok. What is the implication of that?

3) You send me to read on Evolution on the berkley site yet there they very clearly say the empirical evidence shows evolution is blind and mindless. 

4) YOu asked Eddie if God put Earth in the habitable zone. Was that sarcasm? Was it random chance that led earth here then? What was the point of that question then?

5) If evolution is NOT random as you are saying, then would the same things happen if we went back in time to do it over again? Obviously, from an evolutionary standpoint, NO! Why, because mutations are random, correct? 

And here is therefore the imporant part ******** Saying evolution is NOT random seems to be a meaningless statement. Why? Because the RESULTS are random.********

Let me give you an analogy. kind of weak, but perhaps it will do:

Is a driver heading north on a straight highway driving randomly? Well, technically no. If the driver is driving on that particular road he MUST drive in the direction that is layed out before him. This is where this fits into your “evolution is not random.” The car=selection

But wait, even though the direction the driver is driving is not random, THAT HIGHWAY  being built like that WAS random. Was that highway SUPPOSED to be built there and in such a fashion? No. It could have been built one mile eastward and slightly more curved. It could have been built more inland with many off ramps. Hell, it may not have been built at all. The highway = mutation. 

The RESULTING existance of this highway and its makeup is random. It didn’t HAVE to exist. 

Yes, I know it is not perfect, but I think it helps. 

hanan-d - #79705

May 8th 2013

beaglelady, you don’t have to reply, obviously. But if you do, kindly reply to those five parts, and not just a single sentence that doesn’t really say anything. Even Melanogaster responds to particular points, which I appreciate. 

melanogaster - #79707

May 8th 2013

“So if you say chance is involved, what am I supposed to extrapolate from that then?”

NOTHING.

Instead, apologise for your relentless misrepresentations of the writings and beliefs of others.

“******** Saying evolution is NOT random seems to be a meaningless statement. Why? Because the RESULTS are random.********”

That’s pure speculation that you are falsely presenting as fact. I’m trying to explain to you why it is false.

Shall we proceed with no extrapolations? No analogies?

hanan-d - #79709

May 8th 2013

Lead the dance. But to say once should not extrapolate anything is ridiculous. At one point empiricism actually ends, you decide what said date means. 

hanan-d - #79710

May 8th 2013

should read: 

At one point empiricism actually ends, and you decide what said data means. 

beaglelady - #79761

May 9th 2013

But wait, even though the direction the driver is driving is not random, THAT HIGHWAY  being built like that WAS random.


What????  Highways are built randomly?  I was simply lucky that I287 went over the Tappanzee Bridge, allowing me to drive to New Jersey?

hanan-d - #79767

May 9th 2013

Sure.  My point was the result. The resulting bridge did not have to exist. 

beaglelady - #79774

May 9th 2013

Unless you want to cross the Hudson

hanan-d - #79770

May 9th 2013

And to add, the highway didn’t have to look the way it does. It didn’t HAVE to have the amount of lanes it does. It could have zigzaged slightly. It could have been built slightly to the left and curved later back to the right. 

beaglelady - #79776

May 9th 2013

There are certainly a lot of factors involved in  designing and building  highways, and a lot of choices to make,  and you do have some leeway,  but highways aren’t built randomly.   For one thing, a highway has to go somewhere.    If you’re building the interstate system,  you have to connect existing roads.  And you can’t have I287 simply end at the banks of the Hudson.

hanan-d - #79778

May 9th 2013

Hey, I said the analogy is not perfect. 

>Unless you want to cross the Hudson

Well yes. And once built, the vehicle (=selection) has but one way to go once that road is built. The vehicle must drive in the designated lanes (=non random selection). But that bridge or highway did not need to be there, even if you do want to cross the hudson. So chance was playing a part here (in the philosophical sense) in deciding to build a bridge. That bridge is not an objective truth that must exist. If the bridge was not there the vehicle (selection) would not be there.

beaglelady - #79780

May 9th 2013

Not a good analogy.

melanogaster - #79706

May 8th 2013

“......If I employ a system that randomly generates variation and the results may have been different, then I can only know what CAN happen.”

No, now you’re weaseling. We’re simply talking about a system that “randomly generates variation” and even that randomness is random in only one limited respect. Nothing more.

You’re still desperately trying to pretend that just because a very limited part of the system generates random variation that is acted upon by selection, you can claim that the whole thing is random. I’m trying to show you that your claim is false in the real world using purely empirical criteria.

“If, again, you are talking about total and true randomness that is blind and navigates by chance (using beaglelady’s term),”

No, you know full well that we aren’t talking about systems that are *totally* random. There’s just a part of the system that generates heritable variation—ONLY RANDOM IN ONE RESPECT—that is acted upon by selection. Now, if something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?

And you are being completely sleazy, because Beaglelady didn’t say that. You are putting words in her mouth.

“… then yes, me as the creator of this system could only know what CAN happen.”

Stop. Just. Stop.

We’re not stipulating that you’re the creator, Hanan. We’ve already covered that—TWICE. As I said, this theological argument is valid even if we stipulate that God dictated each individual base in the genome. Shall we proceed under that stipulation?

There’s no weasel room. Why don’t you listen and think theologically?

“As any good biologist would say,…”

You’ve firmly established that you’re not a trustworthy transcriber about what people say, and my point has absolutely nothing to do with what anyone says. I can see why you’d avoid engaging and prefer the security of the sophistry you’ve constructed.

“Evolution is mindless and blind. No goals. It cares nothing for progress and if we rewound the watch, things would be different.”

You’re assuming the antecedent, which I am going to prove is wrong. Why don’t you listen and learn instead of asserting with no evidence?

Me: >May I be so bold as to presume that if you know that something will happen, that God knows that too? We are stipulating that God is more aware than you are, aren’t we?

“Only if I know something WILL happen.”

Golly, I think that’s what “if you know that something will happen” means, don’t you? Let’s see…yep, the only difference is your capitalization. Sheesh!

“But if the system is blind and moves towards no goal with randonmess being part of the process then how can you get a WILL?”

Why don’t you engage and learn instead of denying and putting false words in the mouths of others? I am using much more precision than “blind.”

You said that you had an open mind, but you don’t.

hanan-d - #79708

May 8th 2013

Have you noticed that you are simply using ad hominems and stating I am wrong and not listening yet not showing why I am wrong with anything. YOu simply destroy, but you don’t build. 

Have you noticed that you I have answered everything you asked me yet you just repeat that I am not listening or thinking without actually stating anything?

melanogaster - #79714

May 8th 2013

“Have you noticed that you are simply using ad hominems and stating I am wrong and not listening yet not showing why I am wrong with anything.”

No, I haven’t. For example, reread the following:
“No, you know full well that we aren’t talking about systems that are *totally* random. There’s just a part of the system that generates heritable variation—ONLY RANDOM IN ONE RESPECT—that is acted upon by selection. Now, if something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?”

No ad hominem and a clear explanation of why you are wrong. I noticed that you didn’t answer the question, a tacit admission that you were wrong.

“YOu simply destroy, but you don’t build.”

Hilarious.

“Have you noticed that you I have answered everything you asked me yet you just repeat that I am not listening or thinking without actually stating anything?”

No, I haven’t. Where was the answer to this question: “Now, if something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?”

hanan-d - #79716

May 8th 2013

>No ad hominem and a clear explanation of why you are wrong. I noticed that you didn’t answer the question, a tacit admission that you were wrong.

I did answer that as can be seen. 

hanan-d - #79717

May 8th 2013

Let me be specific. I answered it, and answered in a way that shows the premise of that question is fautly. You say it is random in one respect. My answer is: That might be, but the real-world implication is far greater than you give due. 

melanogaster - #79743

May 8th 2013

“Let me be specific. I answered it,…”

Not until after I had pointed out that you hadn’t.

“… and answered in a way that shows the premise of that question is fautly.”

No, you showed no such thing. You just keep reasserting your extrapolation.

“You say it is random in one respect. My answer is: That might be, but the real-world implication is far greater than you give due.”

And I say that you refute yourself on completely empirical grounds with a behavior you exhibit when your own child’s life may be at stake. That’s as real as it gets.

Again, this is true even if we stipulate that God personally wrote every letter of our genomes, so nothing you bring up about evolution is relevant.

hanan-d - #79712

May 8th 2013

I have a favor to ask you. Stop talking to me like I am your fellow geneticist. I am not. I am a simple guy. Let’s go on. 

>Now, if something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?

Did I not ask you earlier that if we were to do this again, would selection have taken the same route? Your response was “I don’t know.” Now, if it is only random in one respect, then why should things have been different? Meaning, those small random aspects play an important part and the RESULTING LIFE on this earth could have been much different. This is what I believe you are missing and not addressing. You can speak of selection as non-random from a scientific POV, but how does that affect the resulting earth. If the resulting earth that is the issue because if it could have been something different than how can we say anything is guided (TE). It is irrelevant if it is random only 10% or 60% or 90%, if the results would be different each time. 

>You’ve firmly established that you’re not a trustworthy transcriber about what people say, and my point has absolutely nothing to do with what anyone says. I can see why you’d avoid engaging and prefer the security of the sophistry you’ve constructed.

Of course. I am way off base when biologists say evolution is blind, mindless with no goals. Totally made up. 

>Sheesh!

Don’t sheesh me. You want to have a robotic conversation? Go find someone else. Conversations with humans will have repetitions for simple clarification. 

>You said that you had an open mind, but you don’t.

This is where you turn into that Jerk. See, I answered everything you asked me. You don’t like the WAY in which I reply because it didn’t exactly match to what you wanted or I may have gone off a tangent or whatever, THEREFORE, I don’t have an open mind. Maybe you are the one extrapolating incorrectly. GASP! Don’t accuse me of putting falsehoods in other people’s mouths. You give yourself a green light to be frustrated with me (or Eddie or anyone else), but I dare not have any against beagelady for her deflecting or ignoring very specific questions? You have some gall. 

melanogaster - #79718

May 8th 2013

“Did I not ask you earlier that if we were to do this again, would selection have taken the same route?”

You didn’t answer the question, did you: if something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?

“Your response was “I don’t know.” Now, if it is only random in one respect, then why should things have been different?”

Many possible reasons. You clearly don’t understand the meaning of “random,” even as used by laypeople. Here is an empirical, non genetic example: A die yields a random number between 1 and 6. I have loaded another die with a weight so that the number 3 comes up half the time.

1) Does the loaded die yield a random number, or is it now directed?
2) Do I know what number will come up on every throw?

“Meaning, those small random aspects play an important part and the RESULTING LIFE on this earth could have been much different.”

That is your assertion. If you ever open your mind and answer questions, we might be able to discuss it—or more importantly, the false assumption underlying it. We don’t have to discuss evolution to falsify your assumption.

“This is what I believe you are missing and not addressing.”

Your empty assertion is precisely what I am addressing, in particular the underlying assumption that if something has a random component, no matter how small, that God only knows what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. Isn’t that your claim?

“You can speak of selection as non-random from a scientific POV,”

It’s nonrandom from any rational POV.

“…If the resulting earth that is the issue because if it could have been something different than how can we say anything is guided (TE).”

I’m trying to show you how. Your eyes are firmly closed. Stop the relentless labeling. It clouds your mind.

“It is irrelevant if it is random only 10% or 60% or 90%, if the results would be different each time.”

There’s simply no such thing as “random only 10%.” Again, if you can concentrate and avoid rash extrapolations, I will show you how with an empirical example. What’s sad is that I can tell you that Biologos has covered this in detail, but you can’t set aside your ego long enough to actually THINK about it.

“Of course. I am way off base when biologists say evolution is blind, mindless with no goals. Totally made up.”

The point was that you attributed to Beaglelady was totally made up.

“Don’t sheesh me.”

Sheesh!

“You want to have a robotic conversation? Go find someone else.”

You’re plenty robotic! You robotically reassert your conclusion without reasoning.

“Conversations with humans will have repetitions for simple clarification.”

Fine.
1) Does the loaded die yield a random number, or is it now directed?
2) Do I know what number will come up on every throw?

3)If something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?

Answer the simply clarified questions, please. Note that these are nongenetic.

Also try to wrap your brain around the fact that for the purposes of this discussion, I stipulate that God personally wrote every last base of our genomes as individuals. Therefore, your attempts to deflect by going on about what biologists say (or what you wish they say) about evolution is completely irrelevant in this discussion.

I don’t think you can resist.

hanan-d - #79720

May 8th 2013

>What’s sad is that I can tell you that Biologos has covered this in detail, but you can’t set aside your ego long enough to actually THINK about it.

If you continue being rude, our conversation is over. Don’t accuse me of not thinking about anything just because you don’t like what I extrapolate. 

>1) Does the loaded die yield a random number, or is it now directed?

It is still random even though you weighted it. Meaning, you have weighted it so that the chances or more geared to the 3, but you still can’t be sure what will come out at any given moment.

>2) Do I know what number will come up on every throw?

No. You only know statistically what is more likely now that it has a weight, not what will come out.

>If something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?

Leaving evolution out of the picture for now??? In total, no. I will leave the “but” out of it for now. 

 

>“Your response was “I don’t know.” Now, if it is only random in one respect, then why should things have been different?”

>Many possible reasons.

I want to come back to this. 

hanan-d - #79727

May 8th 2013

 >What’s sad is that I can tell you that Biologos has covered this in detail

The science or theological implication?

The former is true, but the latter has been met with much silence when we ask the posters about how it relates to theology. 

melanogaster - #79744

May 8th 2013

“Don’t accuse me of not thinking about anything just because you don’t like what I extrapolate.”

I’m accusing you of not thinking because you keep repeating your extrapolation while avoiding evaluating the underlying assumptions from which you derived it.

“It is still random even though you weighted it.”

No, that’s not what “random” means. It means “governed by or involving equal chances for each item.” You keep moving the goalposts because you’re clinging to randomness as though it will magically win every argument if you apply it indiscriminately enough.

“Meaning, you have weighted it so that the chances or more geared to the 3,..”

Therefore it is no longer random.

“… but you still can’t be sure what will come out at any given moment.”

But I know the result is not random. Still, my refutation of your claim doesn’t depend on that distinction. Isn’t that great?

Me: “>If something is only random in one respect and not others, can a rational person claim that the randomness is total?”

“Leaving evolution out of the picture for now??? In total, no.”

Good! Thank you for finally answering.

“I will leave the “but” out of it for now.”

We are talking about universals. Remember, you’re the one who loves extrapolation so much!

Me: “>What’s sad is that I can tell you that Biologos has covered this in detail”

“The science or theological implication?”

Both. I’m trying now to present it in terms that you’ve used.

“The former is true, but the latter has been met with much silence when we ask the posters about how it relates to theology.”

The poster related it to theology quite thoroughly. Shall we proceed?

Since you like repetition for clarity:

1) If some process has a random component, no matter how small, God Himself is limited only to knowing what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. This is your position, correct?

2) We agree that your limitations are at a minimum those of God’s, such that if you employ a “system that randomly generates variation,” no matter how minor the random component, you can only know what CAN happen, never what WILL happen.

3) We stipulate that for the purposes of discussion, evolutionary theory is false and God has personally written every base of every person’s genome. This means that any mention of evolution is a diversion from our purpose. We’re going all empirical here.

Agreed?

hanan-d - #79760

May 9th 2013

>No, that’s not what “random” means. It means “governed by or involving equal chances for each item.” 

Fair enough. So maybe I should use the term “chance” instead. Afterall, though it is not random anymore, there is still chance it will fall on something that you don’t necassarily want.

>Therefore it is no longer random.

Right.

>But I know the result is not random. Still, my refutation of your claim doesn’t depend on that distinction. Isn’t that great?

I don’t think it is great because it’s that distinction that is critical to me. But let’s go on for now. 

>The poster related it to theology quite thoroughly. Shall we proceed?

I disagree, but let’s proceed.

 

>Agreed?

Agreed.

And just for sakes of clarification, let me explain #1. The reason is simply because even a small component leads to other small components and so forth. In Dennes Venema’s latest posts, he uses the example of a flip book. The differences from one page to another is quite small almost unnoticable. But as it accumulates, you can see the differences. 

The size of the component should be irrelevant.

hanan-d - #79806

May 10th 2013

melanogaster….you there?

melanogaster - #79820

May 10th 2013

Sorry, very busy day.

1) If some process has a random component, no matter how small, God Himself is limited only to knowing what CAN happen, not what WILL happen.

2) We agree that your limitations are at a minimum those of God’s, such that if you employ a “system that randomly generates variation,” no matter how minor the random component, you can only know what CAN happen, never what WILL happen.

3) We stipulate that for the purposes of discussion, evolutionary theory is false and God has personally written every base of every person’s genome. This means that any mention of evolution is a diversion from our purpose. We’re going all empirical here.

“The size of the component should be irrelevant.”

That’s what “no matter how small” means in #1, I’m pretty sure.

A) The generation of functional immune cells involves generation of diversity through something called V(D)J recombination between gene segments. That’s all you need to know.

B) Neither one of us has been exposed to measles.

C) We infect human cells in a dish with measles virus and isolate, separately, immune cells from you and from me that interact with the viral proteins on the surface of the infected cells (this is how it works in vivo).

D) Will ANY of our immune cells interact with the measles-infected cells?

melanogaster - #79821

May 10th 2013

I’m not expecting you to know, just to guess.

Eddie - #79824

May 10th 2013

Fruitfly wrote:

“If some process has a random component, no matter how small, God Himself is limited only to knowing what CAN happen, not what WILL happen.”

That depends entirely on what is meant by “random.”  Many TEs and atheists insist that “random” is a technical description of certain mathematical patterns, and has no implications for the ultimate reality behind the events.  Thus, some TEs will say that what is random as far as our natural science is concerned may still be planned from God’s point of view; God could know everything that is going to happen.

On the other hand, if “random” means something like “an event which is governed by no causal antecedent, and therefore might just as well happen tomorrow as ten billion years from now, with no reason assignable in either case” then even God could not plan for any random event to happen, and the quoted statement would be correct.

But of course, the matter is further complicated by the conception of God that one operates under.  If God thinks about causes and future events like a human, he (with his infinite calculating power) will be able to predict all future events that are law-determined, but not those which are “random” in the latter sense.  But if God is not entirely like a human, if he is not merely a superior calculator to humans but has a basis for his knowledge that does not depend on calculation, he may well be able to see future random events as clearly as future law-determined events.

But it gets more difficult still, since God is often represented in both the Bible and the tradition as not only foreseeing but even determining future events, including, it appears, “random” ones.

Beaglelady deliberately substitutes “can happen” for “will happen” because she thinks of God as a super-calculator who cannot see future events of a “random” nature, but only of a law-bound nature.  And having been taught by her natural history museum tours and NOVA TV specials and popular science essays that evolution is partly “random” (the mutation part), she imagines that the outcomes of evolution cannot be entirely known by God, and that he could at most sense the vague general direction in which it would likely head.

It never occurs to beaglelady to take a university course in theology, or even to pick up Augustine or Aquinas or Luther or Calvin and read their primary works, and then read top-notch academic commentaries on those works, to make sure that she has understood the Christian tradition regarding God’s knowledge, foresight, determination, action, etc. correctly.  She prefers to just “wing it.”

The result is an “a la carte” Christian theology, where you make up, according to taste, your God, giving him so much foresight, so much predetermination, allowing him to interact with nature (if at all) only in ways that you personally deem fitting, etc.  

Of course, “a la carte” Christian theology is nothing new.  It has been practiced with increasing frequency since the Enlightenment by Christian theologians and clergy.  It’s the standard practice among the leaders of the mainstream Protestant churches (e.g., Episcopalian, UCC), and it’s the standard approach to Christian theology among most leaders of the contemporary TE movement as well.  Such people accept only the Christianity that their modern conceptions of “science” and “history” and “morality” permit them to accept, rather than reshape their understanding of science and history and morality in light of the Bible and the tradition.

Hanan is rightly questioning the propriety of this sort of freely-constructed religion and freely-constructed God.  And I’m with him.  And indeed, that, more than its acceptance of outdated neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, is my main objection to modern TE.  Modern TE is (with a few exceptions) theologically offensive to me.  Not because it holds to evolution as God’s means of creation, but because its way of understanding God’s relationship to evolution makes a joke out of God.

beaglelady - #79830

May 11th 2013

I’ve already said that God sees the future.   I think that you are obsessed with me because to you I represent the things you hate the most. And there is no end to the things you hate. And this whole thing just gets more and more bizarre! 

Eddie - #79832

May 11th 2013

Yes, you have said that God “sees” the future; but seeing is passive, not active.  You have denied (sometimes only implicitly, but other times explicitly) that God determines, plans, or designs the future.  Thus, you have effectively denied that God plays any active role in the evolutionary process.  That is why your view is not Christian.

There is nothing “bizarre” about my line of questioning, or Hanan’s.  You have an implicit theological position regarding evolution; we are trying to get you to make it explicit; yet you deliberately, willfully, knowingly evade, obfuscate and block all our efforts in this direction.  Every question you are asked, you divert with other questions, so that it may be require fifty exchanges and several weeks before you actually answer the question—if you ever answer it at all, which you usually don’t.  We have amongst ourselves exchanged tens of thousands of words when a few hundred could have done the job.  And the responsibility for that waste of time and energy is yours.  You could have saved everyone involved—not least yourself—immense effort by simply talking straight with us.  

If you want the monkey off your back, why not stop playing defensive verbal games, and give direct, straightforward answers to the theological questions you are asked, ending all doubt about what you believe?  

beaglelady - #79833

May 11th 2013

I’m not allowed to ask questions of my own, and that’s not fair.  

Eddie - #79857

May 11th 2013

False, and disingenuous.  No one has said that you should not ask questions of your own.  The complaint is not that you ask questions in addition to providing answers; the complaint is that you ask questions in place of providing answers.

You know this.  You know that your standard technique of response to questions that you do not want to answer is to pose questions to the questioner.  And when it comes to your personal views on theology, just about every question is a question you do not want to answer.

The evidence of hundreds of replies leads inescapably to one conclusion:  you are deliberately concealing your beliefs about God’s action (or rather, lack thereof) in the evolutionary process, the origin of life, and the origin of the natural world generally.  The only consistent explanation for this behavior is that you fear that your beliefs cannot withstand examination from a Biblical and orthodox point of view.

You’ve been given hundreds of opportunities to throw this conclusion back in my face by clearly and non-evasively expounding your view and showing that it is Biblical and orthodox.  Your silence therefore confirms that my conclusion is sound.

There is one way, and one way only, that TE can win the hearts and minds of orthodox, Biblical, evangelical Christians.  Its defenders must lay out their theological position without fear and without evasiveness.  If their theology, however novel and un-traditional, is the correct one, in the long run the Holy Spirit will guide the Church to accept it.  And if their theology is a bad one, the sooner the Church knows how bad it is, the better, so that the error can be rooted out before it spreads.  Therefore, any TE who honestly believes that his or her theology of creation is genuinely Christian will therefore advocate it fully, firmly, without apology, without equivocation, and without concealment, and let God decide upon its fate.  Only those TEs who know, deep down, that they are selling a theology of creation that is not truly Christian have any motivation for being less than 100% candid about it.  Or for not answering honest questions asked in good faith.

melanogaster - #79861

May 11th 2013

“Fruitfly wrote:

“If some process has a random component, no matter how small, God Himself is limited only to knowing what CAN happen, not what WILL happen.”

No, Eddie, try reading for comprehension.

I am repeatedly stating Hanan’s position so that there is no misunderstanding. I DISAGREE WITH IT. I am refuting it with real-time, real-world empiricism.

So we can take your diatribe as directed against Hanan’s position, right?

Eddie - #79863

May 11th 2013

Fruitfly:

The quotation I took was from #79820, a post which has your name on it, not Hanan’s.

The words quoted did not have quotation marks around them, and, as they were underneath your name, the reader would naturally take them to be your view, unless you prefaced them with words such as:  “Let me summarize your view, Hanan”—which you did not—at least, not in the post I’m talking about.  You may have given such an indication in an earlier post to Hanan, but I have not followed the entire conversation.  

My reply was not a “diatribe” but an “exposition and critique”—you should learn to use a good dictionary, since you frequently misuse words—but regarding your question:

I stated exactly where I agreed and where I disagreed with the quoted statement.  So you and Hanan, depending on your own views of the quoted words, can draw your own conclusions about where I would agree and disagree with each of you.

I add that the whole discussion of “randomness” here is red herring.  The word “random” didn’t have to be used at all in the context of Hanan’s original challenge to beaglelady, and I wish he hadn’t appealed to it.  He has asked her whether God planned or designed any part of creation, and if so, which part(s).  And she refuses to answer.  Your involvement in the debate—cavilling over real or imagined confusions in Hanan’s use of “randomness”—has only served to distract readers from beaglelady’s evasiveness.  But of course your own position on what, if anything, God designed, is just as elusive as hers, so it is not surprising that you should wish to come to her rescue.  I find that in any forum dominated by TEs, the theologically vague always rush to the defense of the theologically vague when theological clarity is asked for.

hanan-d - #79866

May 11th 2013

> I find that in any forum dominated by TEs, the theologically vague always rush to the defense of the theologically vague when theological clarity is asked for.

Very true. I don’t know how many times I have asked BL to explain how ‘chance’ plays into the idea of God knowing or more importantly, intending what will happen specifically in the question of mankind.

but…

I think the issue of randonmess is quite important to the overall question that was geared toward BL. So Melanogaster has offered to go step by step to answering the question of how could God know and intend, when things (even small things) are random. Let’s see if any light will be shed. 

Jon Garvey - #79868

May 12th 2013

I’m watching the exposition with interest, hanan-d. After 700+ posts the explanatory steps seem to be rather Brobdignagian and involve questioning you more than answering you.

I think the point being made is that if a deck of cards is shuffled but you get to hold on to any good cards you get dealt, the whole process is not random. Which is true, but doesn’t answer the question of whether the dealer intended you to get 4 aces or not - which I take to be the gist of your enquiry.

Sorry to be brief - I should probably have spread that over a dozen or so posts to expose your incomprehension…

hanan-d - #79869

May 12th 2013

melanogaster - #79945

May 13th 2013

No, that’s not the point. In fact, I am addressing the question. 

But I greatly appreciate for once that you qualified your misrepresentation of my point. That’s a rare thing for you to do.

Eddie - #79892

May 12th 2013

Hi, Hanan.  I agree that beaglelady and others here have often said things about “randomness” that are connected with the issue you are raising—whether or not God is really involved in the evolutionary process.  So I’m not faulting you for seeing a connection there.  But as you can see, any real or apparent error in your discussion of “randomness” will be seized upon by both beaglelady and Fruitfly, and used as a club to beat you with, allowing them to duck the question they always duck, which is whether or not God controls all or some of the outcomes of evolution.  That’s what I meant by saying I regretted your discussion of randomness.

If you can induce Fruitfly to actually reveal something of his view of divine action in evolution through your dialogue with him, my hat’s off to you.  No one else has succeeded in doing so.  In any case, I respect your intentions.

melanogaster - #79876

May 12th 2013

“The quotation I took was from #79820, a post which has your name on it, not Hanan’s.”

So what? The fact is that you went on a rant against Hanan’s position, not mine.

Either we agree that Hanan is wrong, or you’ve just revealed that your positions have no rational basis.

Which is it, Eddie?

Eddie - #79891

May 12th 2013

Fruitfly:

I commented on words which you have since claimed to be a fair summary of Hanan’s view.  I make no statement on whether they do in fact represent Hanan’s view.

My comments indicate in what respect I consider your “paraphrase of Hanan” correct, and in what respect incorrect.  So you know what I think about ideas expressed in the passage in question.  Whether they are your ideas, Hanan’s ideas, or someone else’s is immaterial.  I was making a comment on the ideas, for the purposes of clarifying the issues they raised.

Hanan has frankly admitted to not having studied much biology, and it is quite possible that he has on one or two occasions used the word “random” or “randomly” in ways that a biologist would not use it.  If he has done so, you can correct him.  But his position regarding beaglelady’s views is not wrong.  He has asked her whether God is in control of evolution or not, and she has equivocated.  He is right to point out where she has equivocated.  In that respect he has made no error.

As for you and beaglelady, your lack of human sympathy for someone (Hanan) who has indicated that he is going through a faith crisis is duly noted.  You are both busy trying to catch him out on “errors” instead of giving him some assurance that God is indeed real and actually does something in evolution.  Your modelling of Christian compassion in this matter will doubtless occupy a unique place in the annals of charity.

hanan-d - #79865

May 11th 2013

>This means that any mention of evolution is a diversion from our purpose. We’re going all empirical here.

Well, I’m not anti-evolution. So going empirical and going evolution is not in contradiction to me. But let’s go on. 

>The generation of functional immune cells involves generation of diversity through something called V(D)J recombination between gene segments. That’s all you need to know

Did I mention I got a D in high school biology? LOL. You write that as if THAT is supposed to make sense to me. 

>Will ANY of our immune cells interact with the measles-infected cells?

Seems so no? If neither of us have been exposed before, it seems they would now. Just throwing some sort of guess.

melanogaster - #79877

May 12th 2013

“Did I mention I got a D in high school biology? LOL. You write that as if THAT is supposed to make sense to me.”

All that matters is that it is a genetic change that can be observed in real time.

Me:
”>Will ANY of our immune cells interact with the measles-infected cells?”

“Seems so no? If neither of us have been exposed before, it seems they would now. Just throwing some sort of guess.”

I’m sorry, but I can’t tell whether your guess is yes or no. “Seems so no” is pretty perfectly ambiguous…

hanan-d - #79889

May 12th 2013

>I’m sorry, but I can’t tell whether your guess is yes or no. “Seems so no” is pretty perfectly ambiguous…

Meaning, yes.

melanogaster - #79943

May 13th 2013

See the end…

hanan-d - #79764

May 9th 2013

>or what you wish they say

wish they say? Where was i wrong in their assesment that evolution is blind and goal less

Lou Jost - #80004

May 13th 2013

I would like to add two things. The first is that many physical systems are “chaotic”: arbitrarily small uncertainties in the system’s initial state get magnified through time, until eventually the state of the system is completely unpredictable from the initial conditions. Now a super-calculator could still predict the course of events, if the system is deterministic, but only if the uncertainty in the initial conditions is exactly zero.

This brings me to the second thing: quantum mechanics tells us that the uncertainty in the initial conditions (say, the location and momentum of each particle in the system) can never be zero. This is not due to our ignorance but to the fundamental nature of quantum reality. Even a super-calculator can’t do anything here.

These two things, taken together, tell us that the universe is not foreseeable or predictable.

Also, the path of evolution is particularly dependent on inherently random quantum events, since many mutations are caused by a single  particle or photon affecting a DNA base. This was experimentally proven by Muller in the 1920s-1930s. The particles or photons are naturally emitted by nuclear reactions in the sun or stars and they have a large quantum uncertainty. I calculated that it should be impossible even for a super-calculator to predict which DNA base such a particle will hit, if any. So the time course of evolution has some quantum mechanical uncertainty built into it.

Lou Jost - #80038

May 14th 2013

“Not foreseeable or predictable” in the sense of long-term predictions based on early initial conditions. Short-range predictions are of course possible.

Seenoevo - #79678

May 7th 2013

 melanogaster,

 beaglelady has answered me, so I’m going to ask you.

Did God “make” man in a way similar to how I “made” The Godfather?  (ref.  #79578)

melanogaster - #79689

May 8th 2013

No.

Now why don’t you explain how you could assert that the tree in Fig. 1 of the coelacanth paper is an artist’s rendition, and not the sequence data clearly stated with the scale bar?

melanogaster - #79944

May 13th 2013

Hanan at 79865,

You replied yes to the question, “Will ANY of our immune cells interact with the measles-infected cells?”

Great. Your guess is correct. Two more (independent) guesses now:

1) If the frequency of interacting cells from your sample is 1000 of 1000000 cells tested (or one per thousand), what should my frequency be?

2) If you catch the measles or are vaccinated, what will happen to your frequency if we take samples from you every 3rd day for 3 weeks?

hanan-d - #79996

May 13th 2013

>what should my frequency be?

It should be the same as mine.

>if we take samples from you every 3rd day for 3 weeks?

Well, from what I am understanding, it should increase. The more time that goes by, the more interaction taking place. 

melanogaster - #80045

May 14th 2013

Great!

Let’s continue each of those threads, numbered from my post above.

1) a) If we go in and get the sequences of those V(D)J junctions in 10 cases from you, will the sequences be identical or different? Put more simply, would you guess that only one genetic rearrangement worked or that many did? The math tells us that there are 10^14 to 10^15 possible ones.

    b) If we do the sequencing for my samples, will they be identical to yours, or different?


2) I’ll wait for your answers on #1 before going further on #2.

hanan-d - #80048

May 14th 2013

>Put more simply, would you guess that only one genetic rearrangement worked or that many did? 

Hmmm.. I guess, that only one genetic arrangment worked, initially, but then after that, certain variations occured that kept that ability to work. (probably a bad guess)

 

>If we do the sequencing for my samples, will they be identical to yours, or different?

It should be different. From what I understand, there should be some variation as the time progresses. 

melanogaster - #80082

May 14th 2013

“Hmmm.. I guess, that only one genetic arrangment worked, initially, but then after that, certain variations occured that kept that ability to work. (probably a bad guess)”

Yes, but at least you’re engaged and thinking.

At the beginning, they’ll all be different. This is an important concept. God has designed the system to randomly, with respect ONLY to fitness, recombine to generate new receptors. With 10^14 possibilities, there’s sufficient coverage to catch everything in nature and anything we can design outside of nature!

Here’s one of multiple ways we know that the system is random wrt fitness: this system also generates a lot of receptors that recognize our own proteins. These have to be eliminated by negative selection (when this process goes bad, we get autoimmune diseases).

Any questions?

“It should be different [between people].”

Correct. What about between identical twins?

“From what I understand, there should be some variation as the time progresses.”

Actually, the frequency of positives will increase exponentially but you’ll find many duplicate rearrangements among them. Can you see why?

Eddie - #80089

May 14th 2013

Fruitfly wrote:

“God has designed the system to randomly, with respect ONLY to fitness, recombine to generate new receptors.”

God has designed?  Oh, really, now?  Is that what you personally believe?  So why didn’t you chastise beaglelady in this discussion, when she refused to acknowledge that God had designed anything?  And why is this the first time in 3 years we’ve heard you speak of God designing anything?

And what do you mean by “the system”?  The system of multicellular life?  Of cellular life?  The triplet codons?  What exactly did God “design”?  And are there things about life that God did not design?  Be clear.

And while you are at it, tell us whether God’s design is something you affirm purely on the basis of faith, or has some rational or empirical basis in the facts of nature.

Or is this another of your hypotheticals, i.e., “I’m only positing God as designer to play along with Hanan’s line of argument; it’s not something I’m affirming myself”?

If it’s the latter, you are just wasting everyone’s time with an insincere exercise.  But if you really believe that God designed something, you may well be an ID proponent in all but name, depending on how you understand the word “design.”  And that would be amusing, because then you’d have to defend yourself against both Lou and beaglelady, who deny that there is design anywhere in nature.

Any clear and honest answer to this post, I will sincerely pursue.  Polemics, ad hominems, defensiveness and evasions, I will ignore.

beaglelady - #80093

May 14th 2013

Where do I claim that God has never designed anything?

Eddie - #80097

May 15th 2013

When pressed with the question repeatedly (in language that was constantly reclarified for you when you feigned not understanding what was being asked), you made explicit or implicit denials that God designed (or even “planned”—a word I substituted in deference to you) the first life, man, modern elephant species, and even the basic elephantoid type.  I showed that your denial that the elephant type was designed implied (given your reasons for the denial) that the other orders were also not designed, and you did not deny that implication when I asked you to comment on it.  When asked what families, orders, phyla etc. God planned or intended, you repeatedly gave only the vague general answer that God wanted a universe “abundant with life” or the like.  I repeatedly charged you with affirming that God didn’t much care what came out of the evolutionary process, as long as there was lots of life, and you did not challenge the charge given multiple opportunities to do so.  Finally, you indignantly rejected the word “design.”  All of this is documented over the past month or two on this site, so you can’t deny any of it.  

Are you now repudiating your claims?  Are you now saying that word “design” is perfectly OK for you—that designing is something that God does?  If so, you were just yanking my chains all along, i.e., arguing entirely insincerely to get a rise out of me, and you should be ashamed of yourself for sub-adult behavior.  But be that as it may, tell me exactly what God, in your view, designed.  If you won’t be specific, if you continue with your line of “a world with lots of life, and some sort of creature (whatever it might turn out to be) capable of fellowship with God,” then I will take it that you deny that God designed any of the results of evolution, and left the outcome to the roll of cosmic dice.  (And don’t bother repeating what you’ve already said, i.e., that God knows the future; I already answered that.  The Christian doctrine is that God not only knows but also determines the future—at least as far as decisions not involving human free will are concerned.  If you believe that God only foreknew what would come out of evolution, but did nothing to ensure the results, your God is not a Creator but only a passive observer, and hence not the God of the Bible or the Episcopal Prayer Book.)

beaglelady - #80109

May 15th 2013

I never claimed that God designed nothing at all.   I never said that God  doesn’t care about the evolutionary outcomes.  God intended a fruitful universe, knowing that it would produce intelligent, self-aware, God-aware, creatures who would respond to him.    We might look like something else, and there might be other intelligent creatures in the universe.  Theologians have wondered about this, and have wondered if Christ died for them also, or if Christ would have to take on their flesh also.

If you have the exact spec for man I’d like to hear it.

It’s not an easy task isolating actions due to man’s free will from what God “determines.”   Don’t you think that we can affect evolution? 

Eddie - #80121

May 15th 2013

beaglelady:
 
You say “I never claimed that God designed nothing at all.”  Yet when asked point-blank what God did design, you AGAIN plead the Fifth.  You don’t mention a single thing that he “designed.”  You don’t even mention any specific creature or biological feature that he “intended.”  All you will say is that he “intended” two very broad, very vague outcomes.  So he “intended” fuzzy outcomes and “designed” nothing?  If that’s your position, you are just confirming my conclusions.
 
I ask you again:  what are examples of creatures and/or features of living things that God designed?  I don’t want an exhaustive list, just some examples.  But if you will not give me a single example of something which in your view God designed, I will take it that you believe that God designed nothing.  “I believe that God designed something, but I can’t think of any examples” is not an acceptable answer. 
 
Your buddy Fruitfly has just said that God designed “the system” so that evolution could take place.  He hasn’t yet narrowed down what he means by “the system.”  But he is one up on you, in that he now seems to be saying that something in living nature is designed by God.  If that’s his genuine view, and not another hypothetical for the sake of arguing with Hanan, his view is closer to the traditional Christian view than yours is.
 
beaglelady - #80158

May 16th 2013

God brought the whole magnificent universe into being,  which is beautiful and huge beyond comprehension.   Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars!  And we’re finding more planets all the time.   Mind-boggling!

Eddie - #80169

May 16th 2013

I agree with this statement entirely!

However, for God to have “brought the whole magnificent universe into being” he would have to have designed something.  If he did not design individual stars, he at least had to design the physical systems which bring stars into being.  And if he did not design individual species, he at least had to design the evolutionary process which produces species.  And he could not have designed the evolutionary process without designing the first life upon which evolution depends.  And that has been the problem all along in these discussions—the unwillingness to acknowledge directly that God designed anything.  I’ve tried to make the case that God cannot be a Creator in the Biblical and Christian sense unless he is also a designer of at least a few very specific features of the universe.  But I now rest my case.

Still, we can end this long discussion on a note of agreement.  God is the Creator.  That’s good Christian doctrine.  Best wishes.

Eddie - #80098

May 15th 2013

Correction to above, second paragraph:

then I will take it that you deny that God designed any of the results of evolution, and that you affirm that God left the outcome to the roll of cosmic dice.”

melanogaster - #80135

May 15th 2013

Eddie does it again!

“God has designed? Oh, really, now? Is that what you personally believe? So why didn’t you chastise beaglelady in this discussion, when she refused to acknowledge that God had designed anything? And why is this the first time in 3 years we’ve heard you speak of God designing anything?”

Eddie, you’re pathetic.

“3) We stipulate that for the purposes of discussion, evolutionary theory is false and God has personally written every base of every person’s genome. This means that any mention of evolution is a diversion from our purpose. We’re going all empirical here.”

You responded to that comment, you goof!

For more, use your browser’s find function to search for “stipulate.” It can’t be more clear. For example:
“As I said, I can disprove your claim even if we stipulate that God wrote every base of our genomes.”

“To repeat: I stipulate that God wrote every base of our genomes.”

Shall we just start calling you Emily Litella?

“And what do you mean by “the system”?”

The adaptive immune system, which is clearly the subject of my theological discussion with Hanan. Hanan claims that any degree of randomness renders God unable to know the outcome, remember? That’s the claim that we adults are discussing using the adaptive immune system as an example. Evolution has been removed.

At least Emily Littella had the basic decency to say, “Never mind.” I’m predicting that you won’t.

“Any clear and honest answer to this post, I will sincerely pursue.”

Not much chance of that. I think you’ll only continue to pursue your tail.

Eddie - #80139

May 15th 2013

As I suspected (though I hoped I was wrong), your apparent sudden endorsement of divine design was not what it seemed to be.  So that ends that line of inquiry.

For the record, I’m not the slightest bit interested in what you are willing to stipulate; I’m interested only in what you believe — which, whatever it is, does not appear to be the orthodox Christian understanding of Creation.

And as I guessed you would do (if it turned out that I had misinterpreted your remark about God and design), you’ve descended into verbal savagery again.  Further discussion is pointless.

 

hanan-d - #80358

May 20th 2013

Melanogaster,

I am confused as to how this connects to the greater question at hand. Intent vs. random outcome in terms of God’s creation. 

melanogaster - #80373

May 21st 2013

There’s a much more specific question at hand:

Me: “>Your thesis is that if something has a random component, no matter how small, that God only knows what CAN happen, not what WILL happen. Is that correct?”

You: “Right.”

Your claim is that any randomness in a process renders the outcome of that process to be random, even to God. I am pointing out the falsehood of your claim.

But if you’re going to take 6 days off just to try to disengage, particularly when your last comment was a diversion, I doubt we’ll ever get there and suspect that you’re not very serious about discussing this theological point.

hanan-d - #80385

May 21st 2013

Excuse me, but last week was a Jewish holiday, so I could not go on the internet. Then there was the Sabbath. On top of that, I am busy (like you) and making up work I missed. Please don’t accuse me of not being serious.

Anyways, you said you pointed out my falsehood. Your last comment said this:

 

At the beginning, they’ll all be different. This is an important concept. God has designed the system to randomly, with respect ONLY to fitness, recombine to generate new receptors. With 10^14 possibilities, there’s sufficient coverage to catch everything in nature and anything we can design outside of nature!

Here’s one of multiple ways we know that the system is random wrt fitness: this system also generates a lot of receptors that recognize our own proteins. These have to be eliminated by negative selection (when this process goes bad, we get autoimmune diseases).

 

Can you please explain how this shows I was false? Remember to dumb it down for a non-scientist. From what you I understand, you are trying to use the immune system as a specific micro example, and then we can extrapolate from that example, toward the greater evolutionary system. Now, for me to agree that I was false, I have to understand what all this means in layman’s term. Meaning, I answered your questions, but I am failing to understand the implication of those answers. 

My last comment was not a diversion (please give others the benefit of the doubt even when you don’t agree), but trying to understand how this corresponds to how random mutations (meaning everything being equal) would equal a specific intent as to what God has in mind. 

melanogaster - #80390

May 22nd 2013

“Please don’t accuse me of not being serious.”

You’re not answering my questions. What should I think?

“Anyways, you said you pointed out my falsehood.”

No, I said that I AM pointING out the falsehood of your claim.
 
“Can you please explain how this shows I was false?”

Alone, it doesn’t but we’re getting there. It shows that the process has a random component, does it not?

hanan-d - #80420

May 23rd 2013

>No, I said that I AM pointING out the falsehood of your claim.

Right, which I am failing to comprehend. 

melanogaster - #80432

May 23rd 2013

That’s because you stopped answering questions.

At the beginning, the responding immune cells will all be different. This is an important concept. God has designed the system to randomly, with respect ONLY to fitness, recombine to generate new receptors. With 10^14 possibilities, there’s sufficient coverage to catch everything in nature and anything we can design outside of nature!

Here’s one of multiple ways we know that the system is random wrt fitness: this system also generates a lot of receptors that recognize our own proteins. These have to be eliminated by negative selection (when this process goes bad, we get autoimmune diseases).

Any questions?

“It should be different [between people].”

Correct. What about between identical twins?

“From what I understand, there should be some variation as the time progresses.”

Actually, the frequency of positives will increase exponentially but you’ll find many duplicate rearrangements among them. Can you see why?

hanan-d - #80444

May 24th 2013

>Any questions?

Yes. You keep on talking about fitness as if it some exception. Why is the randomness of fitness something unique that shows  how I am false? Let me go back to your original example of the weighed die. We agreed it is no longer random. In fact, it would be rigged toward a more possible outcome. I thought you were going to show me the same here. Obviously, that is not the case since we agree it is fitness is random (meaning it could go in equally different directions). So how does Fitness change anything? 

 

>Correct. What about between identical twins?

My understanding was that they are indentically genetically, but my guess would be there would be some change.

>Can you see why?

No. I can’t because I have to totally understand what you just said. Maybe you need to go back to your die example. Sorry

melanogaster - #80462

May 25th 2013

“Yes. You keep on talking about fitness as if it some exception.”

It’s the only way in which this is random.

“Why is the randomness of fitness something unique that shows how I am false?”

It’s the first step.

“So how does Fitness change anything?”

I’m simply explaining that the variation is random, establishing the random component relevant to your claim.

“My understanding was that they [twins] are indentically genetically, but my guess would be there would be some change.”

They’ll show different V(D)J rearrangements. That’s just more evidence that the system was designed (I’ve stipulated by God) to produce variations that are random with respect to fitness.

So now we’ve established that the process has a random component. According to your hypothesis, God can only know what CAN happen with this process, not what WILL happen.

Before we proceed, have I misrepresented anything?

hanan-d - #80508

May 28th 2013

>I’m simply explaining that the variation is random, establishing the random component relevant to your claim.

Right. But I have yet to understand how even though only fitness is random, how does that not cause a sort of “ripple effect” that contributes to the final product (species) being random as well? 

>They’ll show different V(D)J rearrangements. That’s just more evidence that the system was designed (I’ve stipulated by God) to produce variations that are random with respect to fitness.

Let’s not stipulate anything. If we are going solely empirical here, let the evidence take us where it may and see if the conclusion can show us any hint of “intent.”

>Before we proceed, have I misrepresented anything?

No.

melanogaster - #80743

June 4th 2013

“Let’s not stipulate anything. If we are going solely empirical here, let the evidence take us where it may and see if the conclusion can show us any hint of “intent.””

I think that the stipulation that God designed the adaptive immune system is extremely important theologically, after you see your error.

I’ve flipped your quotedresponses for clarity.

“Right. But I have yet to understand how even though only fitness is random, how does that not cause a sort of “ripple effect” that contributes to the final product (species) being random as well?”

Let’s go with this case and see!

You’ve stated that you are a parent. Has your child been immunised for measles?

hanan-d - #80061

May 14th 2013

Melangostar,

As i side question, you said this:

“Therefore, your attempts to deflect by going on about what biologists say (or what you wish they say) about evolution is completely irrelevant in this discussion.”

Forgetting our current discussion, was I wrong to say that biologists view evolution as goalless and blind? As Jerry Coyne says:

 

But evolution is, as far as we can tell, purposeless and unguided.  There seems to be no direction, mutations are random, and we haven’t detected a teleological force or agent that pushes it in one direction.  And it’s important to realize this: the great importance of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is that an unguided, purposeless process can nevertheless produce animals and plants that are exquisitely adapted to their environment.

To those who disagree I say, “Sorry, but that’s the way things appear.” We have to live with unguided evolution, unpalatable as it may be to the faithful, in the same way we have to live with the unpalatable knowledge of our own mortality.

He IS looking at science purely empirical is he not? Or, the other way around, looking at science and the evolutoinary results point to either NO God, or a God that does absolutely nothing (which is rather pointless)

 

melanogaster - #80081

May 14th 2013

I think you’re missing a key concept, even though it appears several times in the quote:

“as far as we can tell”

“seems to be no direction”

“we haven’t detected”

“the way things appear”

You do realize, don’t you, that there’s no empirical way to prove a negative?

melanogaster - #80140

May 15th 2013

“You may know a great deal about medical or pharmocological genetics.”

Hi Eddie,
We were discussing your claim that “substituting and rearranging parts” accounts for the physical changes between whales and their closest relatives. As these papers show, no substituting and rearranging parts is going on in two major examples.

“However, your knowledge of evolutionary theory per se seems close to nil.”

Yet when you requested “a hypothetical series of “transformations” between artiodactyl and whale, and specify the mechanism underlying these “transformations,” I did that for two of the most important ones, yet you frantically moved the goalposts, bizarrely complaining that they didn’t count because the authors presented them exactly as you requested: “as hypothetical or possible rather than demonstrated or sure.”

“Your comments appear to betray the typical arrogance of the geneticist who thinks that, because he understands genetics, he is an expert on evolutionary theory, as if evolutionary theory is little more than a subset of genetics.”

No, Eddie, I gave you exactly what you requested and you moved the goalposts.

“That kind of arrogant imperialism has been typical of geneticists who talk about evolution since about 1930, but fortunately it has been challenged in recent decades by discoveries in molecular biology, information theory, etc. which are now showing that evolution requires much more than genetics to understand and that a purely genetic account is seriously misleading in many ways.”

Eddie, I gave you exactly what you requested and you moved the goalposts. The Christian response would have been, “Thank you.”

“You might actually learn something about evolutionary theory if you would read Shapiro, a man who knows far more about the subject than you do—and far more about it than any columnist who has ever posted here.”

Shapiro quit doing any full-tilt work years ago. His musings inspire neither him nor you to do real work. He’s just repeating the same old change to terminology. Why don’t you apply to the U of Chicago grad school to work with him? Or as a postdoc?

“You seem to next to nothing about the scientific discussion around the origin of life, based on what you have written here.”

How would you know, Eddie? Do you have anything to offer other than lame ad hominems?

“Your lack of perception of the conundrum posed by the protein-DNA system…”

Yet you just wrote, “I already implicitly agreed to drop the exact phrase “protein-DNA cycle” as possibly confusing,” how many days ago? How does “protein-DNA system” improve it?

To which of the following 4 papers are you referring, exactly?
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=“protein-DNA+system”

“…shows that you don’t understand even the problem, let alone possible solutions to the problem.”

How are amino acids bound together to make proteins, Eddie? It’s an enzyme called peptidyltransferase, and it is made of what, exactly?

“I’m not going to argue with you any longer, Fruitfly.”

Promises, promises…

“You know more about genetics than I do, but you’re clearly a dabbler in evolutionary theory and origin of life theory, and I don’t see why I should waste my time with dabblers.”

Why don’t you apply to the U of Chicago grad school to work with Shapiro? Or as a postdoc?

“I want to hear from people who are actually working in these fields. And that doesn’t include you.”

Ah, the genetic fallacy. How fitting! We both know that my expertise has nothing at all to do with the simple fact that I supplied you with exactly what you demanded.

Do you realize that 100% of your rant was ad hominem?

Eddie - #80153

May 16th 2013

Ad hominem remarks are appropriate when they are employed, not as substitutes for arguments about scientific matters, but to address serious defects in the manners or dialogical style of one’s opponent.  There is pretty nearly universal consensus here that your manner of addressing people with whom you disagree is frequently abrasive and condescending and in many other ways leaves much to be desired.  There is also the problem that you pronounce in magisterial tones—apparently hoping the tone will bluff the other person into submission or at least silence—on matters concerning fields of biology in which you have no expertise.  These difficulties cannot be addressed without speaking at least to some extent to the person rather than to the scientific questions.  Someone has to tell people to stop being abrasive, stop being condescending, and stop faking universal knowledge of all fields of biology.  The way to avoid such ad hominem criticisms is to stop being abrasive, stop being condescending, and stop posing as the oracle of all biology (and the spokesperson for “science.”)  You’ll notice that Merv and Sy don’t receive much ad hominem criticism here, whereas you tend to get a lot.  A little soul-searching would perhaps tell you why.  And that’s my last word on this subject.  I’m moving now to other articles.

beaglelady - #80166

May 16th 2013

D. Melanogaster’s contributions to this site have been invaluable. 

melanogaster - #80495

May 27th 2013

Hanan, see 80462.

hanan-d - #80611

May 31st 2013

FYI, I replied above. 

melanogaster - #80744

June 4th 2013

I’ll replicate mine at the bottom. Sorry for the delay, I had given up and only checked today.

melanogaster - #80745

June 4th 2013

Hanan in 80508:

“Right. But I have yet to understand how even though only fitness is random, how does that not cause a sort of “ripple effect” that contributes to the final product (species) being random as well?”

Let’s go with this case and see!

You’ve stated that you are a parent. Has your child been immunised for measles?

hanan-d - #80788

June 6th 2013

> I had given up and only checked today.

Sorry for my delays as well. 

 

>I think that the stipulation that God designed the adaptive immune system is extremely important theologically, after you see your error.

OK

>Has your child been immunised for measles?

Yes, my kids are immunized. 

melanogaster - #80804

June 7th 2013

Great! 

2-3 weeks following the immunization, did you demand that they be tested to show that they had the desired antibodies and T-cells directed against measles before exposing them to other kids?

hanan-d - #80810

June 7th 2013

nope.

melanogaster - #80831

June 8th 2013

There’s no reason to, because this process, that requires the generation of genetic variations that are random wrt fitness, produces a very predictable functional outcome—the generation of an immune response.

According to your hypothesis, if a mechanism has a component of random variation, God can only know what CAN happen with this process, not what WILL happen. So if puny you and I know what will happen when we immunize our children, which has a clear component of real-time genetic variation, why can’t God know what we know?

And keep in mind that this is not trivial—our children’s very lives depend on a consistent outcome, yet we’re so confident we don’t bother testing for it.

So how does the genetic variation underlying evolution prohibit God from knowing its course? What’s mechanistically different?

hanan-d - #80870

June 10th 2013

But explain to me how in THIS case, it is random. Afterall, WE are not leaving this to blind chance, we are tinkering with the mechanism to get a specific outcome, are we not? 

Let us go back for a second to my hypthesis. I said if any component is random, God can only know what CAN not what will. I pose that given mutation is random,(yes wrt to fitness), species will evolve in the direction that fitness pushed them (is this wrong?). Had something NOT been fit, it would not evolve at all or may have evolved to something else if fitness pushed it a different direction. So even though it is ONLY fitness that is random, it is still a driving force, no?

That was my hypothesis. So how does the immunization system, that man is tinkering with contradict that. Yes, it is predictable. But is it not predictalbe because WE are tinkering with it for a given result?

hanan-d - #80872

June 10th 2013

In this video, the instructor responds to a question of why are there mutations (watch 52:00)

http://media.hhmi.org/hl/05Lect1.html

 

He simply says mutations are random because there are errors when the DNA are copying. He didn’t say anything in relation to fitness. Would you somehow ammend what he says?

melanogaster - #80894

June 11th 2013

“But explain to me how in THIS case, it is random.”

Because when we measure it, while we get the same low frequency of reactive clones (i.e., those with a good fit) from person to person, the sequences are different from person to person, even between identical twins. The system is just generating rearrangements that are random with respect to fitness—in this case, the binding affinity for the viral antigens. Put another way, the system generating variation has no information on which variants will work better.

“Afterall, WE are not leaving this to blind chance, we are tinkering with the mechanism to get a specific outcome, are we not?”

No, we are not tinkering with the mechanism at all. I don’t know where you are getting that idea.

“Let us go back for a second to my hypthesis. I said if any component is random, God can only know what CAN not what will.”

And I have falsified it by showing you a mechanism with a random component for you know what will.

“I pose that given mutation is random,(yes wrt to fitness), species will evolve in the direction that fitness pushed them (is this wrong?).”

What you wrote makes no sense at all, Hanan. Fitness is a quality of an organism or a genotype. It does no pushing. Selection does the pushing.

“Had something NOT been fit, it would not evolve at all or may have evolved to something else if fitness pushed it a different direction.”

Only populations evolve, and fitness is a quality of individuals. Therefore, what you wrote makes no sense.

Can you try again with more attention to terminology? Is “something” a population? A species? Fitness doesn’t push anything. Do you mean selection? If so, the answer is yes.

“So even though it is ONLY fitness that is random, it is still a driving force, no?”

Again, this makes no sense. Fitness is neither random nor nonrandom. Fitness is a characteristic of individual organisms or genotypes under certain conditions. When I write that mutations are random ONLY with respect to fitness, I am in no way writing that ONLY fitness is random, which makes no sense.

“That was my hypothesis. So how does the immunization system, that man is tinkering with contradict that.”

Because there’s no tinkering in the relevant process. The process is the same if your child acquires measles naturally. I only chose it because you chose the immunisation and you know the outcome.

“Yes, it is predictable. But is it not predictalbe because WE are tinkering with it for a given result?”

Not at all. Even if your child dies from acquiring measles naturally, the system works predictably—most of the disease is the immune reaction to the virus, not the virus itself!

“He simply says mutations are random because there are errors when the DNA are copying. He didn’t say anything in relation to fitness. Would you somehow ammend what he says?”

Yes. It gets a bit tedious to repeat it. Notice that even though I have repeated it many times, you somehow transformed “mutations are random ONLY wrt fitness” into something different, “it is ONLY fitness that is random.”

hanan-d - #80900

June 11th 2013

>Put another way, the system generating variation has no information on which variants will work better.

Right, so that is random. Yet, we are saying it is predictable? 

 

>No, we are not tinkering with the mechanism at all. I don’t know where you are getting that idea.

Ok. so the mechanism is doing what it is doing. We are artificially immunizing based on a mechanism that already exists. 

>What you wrote makes no sense at all, Hanan. Fitness is a quality of an organism or a genotype. It does no pushing. Selection does the pushing.

Right, right, but selection will work based on what has been mutated. If organism X mutated, selection will push it in a certain path. If organism x doesn’t mutate, selection may push it to another path. But as Sean B. Carrol said, all mutations are, are errors in the copying of DNA. So for every thousand generation, there will be a mutation. So that is random. Though the function of copying is what organisms are doing, the mutation that has occured was random. It may have happened. It may not have happened. Yes, it will affect fitness, but who is to say that mutation was supposed to occur?

 

 

>you somehow transformed “mutations are random ONLY wrt fitness” into something different, “it is ONLY fitness that is random.”

That’s what I meant. I was just not being as specific as you are.

 

Let me go back to that video and see how that helps in this whole discuss. We are saying mutations are random ONLY in relation to fitness. Ok. In that video, when the soil became charred and black due to the volcanic eruptions and the yellow mice evolved into black ones, is that an example of a characteristic of “fitness”? If so, was that mutation that led to black mice, supposed to have happened? Extrapolate this, to the larger question of whether humanity was supposed to evolve in the first place or not. 

(did I just go off on a tangent? Maybe, but I think this is critical)

melanogaster - #80918

June 12th 2013

“Right, so that is random. Yet, we are saying it is predictable?”

We are KNOWING that it is predictable. Therefore, any God worthy of the name knows that and more.

“Ok. so the mechanism is doing what it is doing. We are artificially immunizing based on a mechanism that already exists.”

And it’s a microcosm of evolution, occurring in real time, yet we know the outcome in advance.

“Right, right, but selection will work based on what has been mutated.”

NO, NO, NO, NO!

Selection works on the variation you see all around you. No new mutations are needed! That’s why the emphasis on “random mutation,” mostly on the creationist side, but also a bit on the science side is so intellectually dishonest.

Repeat after me: individuals vary and some of that variation is heritable. That’s all you need for evolution. The source of the heritable variation can be easily separated.

“If organism X mutated, selection will push it in a certain path.”

No, no, no. “Organism X” doesn’t have to “mutate” (organisms don’t mutate anyway) at all!!!! Organism X is genetically different from other organisms in the same population. That’s all we need for selection to work. Stop insisting that the mutations must be new and things will become much clearer to you.

“If organism x doesn’t mutate, selection may push it to another path.”

This is nonsense. There is a huge pool of existing variation that would be sufficient to support evolution for a very, very long time.

This is an important concept to grasp, as it will allow you to think clearly. We are not waiting around for mutations to happen. Every time any cell in your body divides, on average three mutations occur. But there’s absolutely no requirement for selection to “wait” for a new mutation. None. Zip. Nada. Free your mind of this idiocy, please.

“But as Sean B. Carrol said, all mutations are, are errors in the copying of DNA. So for every thousand generation, there will be a mutation. So that is random.”

No, only wrt fitness!

“Though the function of copying is what organisms are doing, the mutation that has occured was random.”

Only wrt fitness!

“It may have happened. It may not have happened. Yes, it will affect fitness,…”

No, it almost certainly won’t. Your insistence on new mutations is blinding you to reality.

“… but who is to say that mutation was supposed to occur?”

Apparently God does.

“That’s what I meant. I was just not being as specific as you are.”

No, it’s clear that you don’t understand the basic concept.

“Let me go back to that video and see how that helps in this whole discuss. We are saying mutations are random ONLY in relation to fitness. Ok.”

Then do yourself a favor and stop claiming that they are generally random, OK?

“In that video, when the soil became charred and black due to the volcanic eruptions and the yellow mice evolved into black ones,”

The mice don’t evolve. The population does. Until you grasp this basic concept, you won’t understand.

” is that an example of a characteristic of “fitness”?”

The relative fitness of the black allele changed because the environment changed.

“If so, was that mutation that led to black mice, supposed to have happened?”

Black is recessive to agouti, the normal color. There are plenty of black alleles in any mouse population, I’m pretty certain, as natural selection can’t completely eliminate recessive alleles from a population. Are you getting the idea that there’s already a huge pool of variation and we’re rarely waiting for mutations to occur?

“Extrapolate this, to the larger question of whether humanity was supposed to evolve in the first place or not.”

That depends on God’s definition of “humanity,” which He has not shared with me.

What we do know is that your assertion of God’s inability to know the product of a process that involves genetic variation that is random wrt fitness is false. Does that change anything in your mind, Hanan?

hanan-d - #80944

June 12th 2013

>And it’s a microcosm of evolution, occurring in real time, yet we know the outcome in advance.

But see, this is where I get lost. And I think I am getting lost, perhaps because I am looking at this more in general terms, and you are looking at this in more particular terms. It’s not because I am purposly being difficult and trying to give you a hard time. 

You say that this is a microcosm of evolution but I just don’t understand it for the following reason. When I look at evolution, I look at the whole picture. Imagine us going back in time millions of years ago with all of our current understanding. Would we be able to know the outcome? How could we? There are so many factors that dictate if one branch is successful or whether it hits a dead end. 

So I understand that mutations are not needed for selection to occur. I did not mean to imply that there must be mutations. That is why I said if mutations don’t occur, selection can take it another path (maybe i should be more careful in how how I write what I am thinking) The point was, there ARE mutations that occur when there is an error copying. So if there are, selection will do it’s thing. The point is…...those mutations occuring, on a random scale. 

>Stop insisting that the mutations must be new and things will become much clearer to you.

I don’t think I am. I am simply talking when mutations occur after all. 

 

>No, only wrt fitness!

Arghhhhhhhhhh! What does that even mean??? The DNA is replicating is it not? For every thousand generation there is a copying error….. That physical error in the duplication was random was it it not? What does that have to do with fitness? That DNA doesn’t know concepts of fitness. It’s just duplicating and duplicating and duplicated, and then, oooops, an error. 

 

>Then do yourself a favor and stop claiming that they are generally random, OK?

But how can I not? That process of an error appearing was random.

 

>The mice don’t evolve. The population does. Until you grasp this basic concept, you won’t understand.

A population consists of individuals. The individual is the one that needs to evolve till there is enough for something of a “population” to exist no?

 

>Black is recessive to agouti, the normal color. There are plenty of black alleles in any mouse population, I’m pretty certain, as natural selection can’t completely eliminate recessive alleles from a population. Are you getting the idea that there’s already a huge pool of variation and we’re rarely waiting for mutations to occur?

I don’t exactly understand your question. 

 

>That depends on God’s definition of “humanity,” which He has not shared with me.

That’s a copout. A “humanity” exists. Your assertion from my understanding is that God in fact DOES know the product even if the process involves variation wrt to fitness, so why back down now? If you are saying he hasen’t shared with your his defintinion that sounds like you are asserting that what exists today may or may not be the intent of God.

 

>Does that change anything in your mind, Hanan?

I just can’t grasp this concept of random wrt to fitness being some sort of key to all of this. I mean, in my head, when the rubber hits the road, the mutations that are occuring are because of the error in DNA duplication. How is THAT error (ie mutation) NOT random?

melanogaster - #80995

June 13th 2013

“But see, this is where I get lost. And I think I am getting lost, perhaps because I am looking at this more in general terms, and you are looking at this in more particular terms. It’s not because I am purposly being difficult and trying to give you a hard time.”

OK. You made a general claim about Divine impotence if a random component is involved. I falsified your hypothesis with a very specific, empirical case. Randomness isn’t the theological problem you seem to desperately want it to be.

“You say that this is a microcosm of evolution but I just don’t understand it for the following reason. When I look at evolution, I look at the whole picture.”

I would say you’re doing anything but!

“Imagine us going back in time millions of years ago with all of our current understanding. Would we be able to know the outcome? How could we? There are so many factors that dictate if one branch is successful or whether it hits a dead end.”

1) I don’t know.
2) If we could know, God could know.
3) I just gave you an ironclad case in which we know.

“So I understand that mutations are not needed for selection to occur. I did not mean to imply that there must be mutations.”

It’s a huge barrier to understanding.

“That is why I said if mutations don’t occur, selection can take it another path (maybe i should be more careful in how how I write what I am thinking)”

But that’s irrelevant because mutations always occur. There’s existing variation. Selection doesn’t care where it came from. I can say that if God stopped mutation, you wouldn’t notice it evolutionarily for a long, long time.

“The point was, there ARE mutations that occur when there is an error copying.”

There are many other sources of variation, which is why I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture!

“So if there are, selection will do it’s thing.”

No, there’s no dependency there. Heritable variation exists. Therefore selection will do its thing, new mutations or not.

“The point is…...those mutations occuring, on a random scale.”

Huh? How can a scale be random?

“I don’t think I am. I am simply talking when mutations occur after all.”

You are. I am trying to explain that your obsession with mutations is misplaced.

>No, only wrt fitness!

“Arghhhhhhhhhh! What does that even mean???”

Mutations are NOT random wrt where they occur in the genome.
Mutations are NOT random wrt directionality. For single substitutions, the frequencies of A->G changes are orders of magnitude higher than A->T changes.
Tandem repeats (such as those that cause Huntington’s) can expand or contract, but mostly they expand. Therefore those changes are NOT random.

“The DNA is replicating is it not?”

It is, but that’s not the point about randomness.

“For every thousand generation there is a copying error…..”

It’s much higher than that!

“That physical error in the duplication was random was it it not?”

It was not.

“What does that have to do with fitness? That DNA doesn’t know concepts of fitness. It’s just duplicating and duplicating and duplicated, and then, oooops, an error.”

That’s why we say that it is random wrt fitness.

“But how can I not? That process of an error appearing was random.”

Nope. The chance of an error occurring in the replication of repeats is orders of magnitude higher than for non repeats.

>The mice don’t evolve. The population does. Until you grasp this basic concept, you won’t understand.

“A population consists of individuals.”

Correct.

“The individual is the one that needs to evolve till there is enough for something of a “population” to exist no?”

Not even close. Only populations evolve. That’s the big, basic picture that is eluding you.

>Black is recessive to agouti, the normal color. There are plenty of black alleles in any mouse population, I’m pretty certain, as natural selection can’t completely eliminate recessive alleles from a population. Are you getting the idea that there’s already a huge pool of variation and we’re rarely waiting for mutations to occur?

“I don’t exactly understand your question.”

Selection doesn’t eliminate deleterious recessive alleles from a population, like black on a light background, even though it eliminates homozygous individuals. You likely have 7-10 recessive lethal alleles in your genome. This is why it’s a bad idea to procreate with your cousins. This is why it is so important to understand that only populations evolve.

>That depends on God’s definition of “humanity,” which He has not shared with me.

“That’s a copout.”

No, it’s honesty.

“A “humanity” exists.”

Only one does. No other ones do outside of fiction or history.

“Your assertion from my understanding is that God in fact DOES know the product even if the process involves variation wrt to fitness,…”

No, my assertion is that your assertion that God CANNOT know because of a random component is false. There’s a big distance between CAN and DOES, no?

“… so why back down now? If you are saying he hasen’t shared with your his defintinion that sounds like you are asserting that what exists today may or may not be the intent of God.”

Correct. Either way, your assertion is false.

>Does that change anything in your mind, Hanan?

“I just can’t grasp this concept of random wrt to fitness being some sort of key to all of this. I mean, in my head, when the rubber hits the road, the mutations that are occuring are because of the error in DNA duplication. How is THAT error (ie mutation) NOT random?”

In many ways. See above.

hanan-d - #81008

June 13th 2013

>There are many other sources of variation, which is why I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture!

What are other variations? And ok, there other variations. But I am talking about mutations. 

>Huh? How can a scale be random?

Meaning, those errors in replication are…..well…..errors. Remember in that video where the student asks how mutations occur? Sean Carrol responds that replication is not perfect. So DNA replicates and replicates till ther was an error. Error=mutation. So how is THAT mutation….that error in replication not random? What was Sean Carrol trying to tell that student?

>It is, but that’s not the point about randomness.

How is it not? Remember your die example? The die is NOT random if you somehow weigh it for a particular outcome. So is the DNA somehow weighed?

>It was not.

Argh! How? How was it not random? If a mutation is an error in copying, than that must mean it was random….or else how would he call it an error?

>That’s why we say that it is random wrt fitness.

I am still trying trying to comprehend what this means. Because to me, that moment when Mr. Dna “decided” to replicate itself and oooops, there was an error….that error was not meant to be there. It happened by chance. 

>Nope. The chance of an error occurring in the replication of repeats is orders of magnitude higher than for non repeats.

This sounds important. But you just called it an “error.” Error to my ears implies lack of intent. Meaning, that DNA was not supposed to have an error. And if selection is going to do what it does with that error, and slowly and gradually make a new species how would we ever say there was foreknowledge.

>Not even close. Only populations evolve. That’s the big, basic picture that is eluding you.

We are going in circles. A population consists first of individuals. How do you get to a stage of a population evolving if not the individuals?

From page 28 of Francis Collins book:

...But this kind of “ant altriusm” is readily explained in evolutionary terms by the fact that the genes motivating the sterile worker ants are exactly the same ones that will be passed on by their mother to their siblings they are hel;ing to create. That unusually direct DNA connection does not apply to more coplex populations, where evolutionists now agree almost universally that selction operates on the individual, not on the population.

 

Am I simply misunderstanding Collins?

melanogaster - #81051

June 14th 2013

“What are other variations? And ok, there other variations. But I am talking about mutations.”

Recombination is a huge one. If you’re only talking about mutations, you can’t be talking about the whole picture.

>Huh? How can a scale be random?

“Meaning, those errors in replication are…..well…..errors….”

AFAIK, randomness is not a quality that is associated with scales. Am I wrong?

“Remember in that video where the student asks how mutations occur? Sean Carrol responds that replication is not perfect.”

Is the “imperfection” in the replication machinery or in chemistry for the most common mutational mechanism?

“How is it not? Remember your die example? The die is NOT random if you somehow weigh it for a particular outcome. So is the DNA somehow weighed?”

Yes, as I wrote above:

Mutations are NOT random wrt where they occur in the genome.
Mutations are NOT random wrt directionality. For single substitutions, the frequencies of A->G changes are orders of magnitude higher than A->T changes.
Tandem repeats (such as those that cause Huntington’s) can expand or contract, but mostly they expand. Therefore those changes are NOT random.

Did you not bother to read that?

“Argh! How? How was it not random?”

See above.

“If a mutation is an error in copying, than that must mean it was random….or else how would he call it an error?”

You’re not making sense. You’re also taking metaphors more seriously than data.

“I am still trying trying to comprehend what this means. Because to me, that moment when Mr. Dna “decided” to replicate itself and oooops, there was an error….that error was not meant to be there. It happened by chance.”

Waaay too anthropomorphic. Is the “imperfection” in the replication machinery or in basic chemistry for the most common mutational mechanism?

“This sounds important.”

Life and death as I noted, but you ignored that.

“But you just called it an “error.” Error to my ears implies lack of intent. Meaning, that DNA was not supposed to have an error.”

You’re inferring far too much from metaphors. Is the “imperfection” in the replication machinery or in chemistry for the most common mutational mechanism? If the latter, how can “supposed to” enter the picture?

“And if selection is going to do what it does with that error, and slowly and gradually make a new species how would we ever say there was foreknowledge.”

You are so far from the big picture, Hanan. We are not claiming that one mutation ends up causing speciation. Look at the bigger picture.

“Am I simply misunderstanding Collins?”

Yes. He’s writing that to address a different question than yours. WRT your question, it’s more accurate to say that selection acts at the level of an individual’s contribution to the population (offspring).

beaglelady - #81058

June 14th 2013

Forgive me for interrupting, but perhaps it would be helpful for hanan to think of a copying “error” as simply a variation.   

melanogaster - #81073

June 14th 2013

Excellent suggestion, particularly since we are now learning that most inherited diseases are caused by combinations of variations, most of which are insufficient to cause disease alone.

hanan-d - #81223

June 20th 2013

Sorry. Got into some deadlines.

>Is the “imperfection” in the replication machinery or in chemistry for the most common mutational mechanism?

Huh?

>Did you not bother to read that?

Yes I did. You said they are not random to where they happen in the genome and the direction. I think you are missing my point perhaps.  You can look at Dennis’s latest post on Genomes as Ancient Text. His metaphor is to understand it as a copiest making an error. Was that error in the manuscript intentional? No, of course not. But that error lead to a different kind of manuscript. Hence, my issue with mutations being just chance. So you are saying the the direction of the mutation is not random. I don’t truly understand it, but OK. But the very fact that the mutation occured is just a copiest error (like Dennis’s metaphor)

 

>You’re also taking metaphors more seriously than data.

Metaphors can help us understand complex ideas. Hence Dennis’s post. 

melanogaster - #81342

June 26th 2013

“Sorry. Got into some deadlines.”

No prob. I figured you had given up.

>Is the “imperfection” in the replication machinery or in chemistry for the most common mutational mechanism?

“Huh?”

It’s a question that will help you see that “error” is being used metaphorically. So is it the former, as you’re claiming, or the latter? Would you like a hint?

>Did you not bother to read that?

“Yes I did. You said they are not random to where they happen in the genome and the direction.”

Hence there is very heavy weighting and they are random in one sense only.

“I think you are missing my point perhaps. You can look at Dennis’s latest post on Genomes as Ancient Text. His metaphor is to understand it as a copiest making an error.”

Yes, but you’re taking “error” literally, not metaphorically.

“Was that error in the manuscript intentional? No, of course not. But that error lead to a different kind of manuscript.”

So, metaphorically, are the errors in DNA inherent to the copiest or to the paper itself, such that no copiest could ever perform (metaphorically) perfectly?

“Hence, my issue with mutations being just chance.”

But they aren’t just chance. If God designed us directly, He baked mutagenesis in. How do you handle that theologically?

“So you are saying the the direction of the mutation is not random.”

No, that was just one of the ways.

“I don’t truly understand it, but OK. But the very fact that the mutation occured is just a copiest error (like Dennis’s metaphor)”

Yes, but you’re taking “error” literally, not metaphorically.

>You’re also taking metaphors more seriously than data.

“Metaphors can help us understand complex ideas. Hence Dennis’s post.”

But they always break down, and you’re not grasping that the copiest is not the only metaphorical term he’s using.

hanan-d - #81688

July 5th 2013

>It’s a question that will help you see that “error” is being used metaphorically. So is it the former, as you’re claiming, or the latter? Would you like a hint?

I don’t want to take a hint if I don’t fully understand either concepts. 

>Yes, but you’re taking “error” literally, not metaphorically.

Well, he is using that metaphor for a very specific reason. He is using that metaphor for the purpose of saying “Just LIKE a copiest makes an error and is random to where he made that error, so too it happens in the genome”

>So, metaphorically, are the errors in DNA inherent to the copiest or to the paper itself, such that no copiest could ever perform (metaphorically) perfectly?

The POTENTIAL is inherent in the copiest. It doesn’t mean that a copiest can ever perform perfectly. But IF it happens, and WHERE it would happen is by chance. 

>But they always break down, and you’re not grasping that the copiest is not the only metaphorical term he’s using.

I guess I am not. 

 

PS- If I am not responding, it isn’t because I am ignorning you. Either work, or just trying to comprehend these things. 

beaglelady - #80902

June 11th 2013

Hanan,

You might want to watch all of the videos in that Evolution lecture series.  The very last video is a religious discussion.  You can even get it all on a DVD for free!  

hanan-d - #80904

June 11th 2013

Thank you beaglelady, but did you actually watch the last video? Honestly, what does it answer? Nothing. Our discussion on this blog has been much more specific and in depth to the topic of how to reconcile God and evolution.

hanan-d - #80905

June 11th 2013

Out of curiousity, I would ask you (and something that I wonder about) why only about 5% of biologists consider themselves theists? Pretty pathetic if you ask me no? What is it that 95% of biologists are missing when you say mutations are ONLY random in relation to fitness?

Lou Jost - #80907

June 11th 2013

The vast majority of biologists in the US are atheists, by the way, and biologists have higher atheism rates than most other scientists. These are the scientists who best understand how evolution works.

hanan-d - #80910

June 11th 2013

Right. And if these scientists are best at understanding evolution, are they just ignornant about God? Not think about the question at all? Or, do they simply say “Hey, look, we CLEARLY see mutations are random (wrt to fitness). Species development is clearly random and many are very poorly designed. There is no intent if the mechanism is all random. Studying evolution in depth clearly shows no purpose, no intent. Just a pitiless process”

Lou Jost - #80911

June 11th 2013

The latter.

There could still be a creator god, but if there was, he took a vacation after about the third or fourth day, and hasn’t returned to work.

beaglelady - #80931

June 12th 2013

Evolution is not random, and besides, science is not in the business of answering questions about a greater  purpose in the universe.  

hanan-d - #80941

June 12th 2013

>Evolution is not random,

I didn’t say it was. We were talking about mutations being random. You know, when there is an error in the DNA being copied. 

Error!!!!!???

Does “error” fit within a theistic notion of God, or God guiding evolution?

beaglelady - #80914

June 11th 2013

In the sciences it is physicists who have the highest rate of atheism.

beaglelady - #80915

June 11th 2013

Where do you get your figures?

Lou Jost - #80920

June 12th 2013

From memory, so I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I’ll try to find the surveys I read.

Lou Jost - #80923

June 12th 2013

Here is a result from the UK, somewhat weak because it pools biologists and medical researchers, and it pools chemists and physicists:

“Biologists tended to be significantly less religious than physical scientists: here’s the plot of their answers to the “God exists” question”

See the graph at

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/atheism-among-anglophone-scientists-ii-the-uk/

I have seen the US breakdown into specific disciplines. will keep looking for my soource as time permits.

Lou Jost - #80926

June 12th 2013

Here is one such survey, by Eklund and Scheitle, Templeton-funded so she misinterprets her data to paint scientists as not really so atheistic, but that is beside the point for this question of ranking disciplines:

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/why_are_scientists_atheists.html

Biologists win over physicists in this survey by a tiny, statistically insignificant margin, 41% to 40.8%. I think I have seen other surveys with wider margins. Will keep looking.

Lou Jost - #80930

June 12th 2013

In the Eklund study, 64% of scientists are atheists or think that if there is a god, it has no effect and we can never know.

Lou Jost - #80929

June 12th 2013

63.4% of the British scientists strongly disagree with the statement that a supernatural being exists or has existed. Among biologists, almost 80% strongly disagreed with that statement, while among physicists, slightly over 50% strongly disagreed.

Among all disciplines, almost all scientists (86.6%) disgreed or strongly disagreed with ths statement that there is a personal god who is concerned with individuals, sin, etc.

hanan-d - #80939

June 12th 2013

Beaglelady,

From this link:

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP06161163.pdf

 

Carroll claims that religion and science can co-exist without opposition. He also claims that a large percentage of scientists adhere to mainstream religious beliefs. In our view, the principles of science not only directly oppose faith and superstition, but also are used to generate rational, evidence-based answers for phenomena that were once thought to be miracles. With regard to the religious beliefs of scientists, Larsen and Witham (1998) report the results of a survey in which they asked 517 members of the National Academy of Science about belief in a personal god. A paltry 7% of the surveyed members reported belief in a personal god, whereas over 90% rejected or doubted the existence of a personal god. When Larsen and Witham considered the beliefs of scientists by their field of expertise, a mere 5% of biologists reported belief in a personal god. More recently, Graffin and Provine (2007) invited 271 evolutionary scientists to share their views concerning religion and other topics. Of the 149 responses received, less than 5% reported theistic beliefs. Carroll’s two claims are inaccurate and misleading. 

Eddie - #80928

June 12th 2013

Hanan, Lou:

Regarding beaglelady’s “correction” which substitutes physicists for biologists, I offer no opinion.  I’m not convinced that the surveys from which these figures come are very representative.  But if we take a narrower group, i.e., “evolutionary biologists”—by which I mean those scientists whose special area of research is evolutionary mechanisms—who publish in that area, go to conferences in that area, teach graduate students in that area, etc.—it appears to me that the overwhelming number of people in the field would class themselves as atheist/agnostic.

One might reply, what about the theistic evolutionists?  Well, what about them?  When we look at the leading theistic evolutionists, we see that many of them aren’t evolutionary biologists at all, or even biologists, but astronomers or physicists or philosophy or English professors—Gingerich, Polkinghorne, Russell, Murphy, Giberson, Peterson, etc.  And those who are biologists are almost always primarily cell biologists or geneticists, not evolutionary biologists per se.  Most of the BioLogos and ASA biologists who champion TE are not now, and never have been, active researchers into evolutionary mechanisms.

Who are the active researchers into evolutionary mechanisms?  At one time, Dawkins and Gould and Margulis; currently, people such as Coyne, Shapiro, Newman, Jablonka, Lewontin, etc.  I can’t think of one of these people who has espoused Christianity or even theism.  So the question arises:  why is there such a close overlap between atheist/agnostic and evolutionary biology?

The TEs, in their official statements, would have us believe that it is just a confusion between science and scientism, i.e., that Coyne etc. go beyond scientific to theological or philosophical statements when they link evolutionary theory with unbelief.  But that simply doesn’t ring true.  I’m told that if we take the general run of scientists in the USA, even the general run of biologists, that something close to 1/3 say they believe in some sort of supreme being, however vaguely defined.  But of the specialists in evolution, it seems to be only about 1/20, if even that, who would say they believe in a supreme being.  Why should specialists in evolutionary theory be more prone to scientism than the average cell biologist or geneticist or physiologist?

So what is the cause of the correlation?  I think that BioLogos has shied away from this hard question for the whole duration of its existence.  The fact is that evolutionary biology, *as a scientific specialty*, has been almost ceded by Christians to the unbelievers.  All the popular lecturing in favor of evolution by Ken Miller, Darrel Falk, etc. cannot change this.   There must be a reason.  Nothing stopped Falk, Miller, etc. from deciding, back at the beginning of their careers, to specialize in evolutionary biology and mingle with the Coynes and Margulises and Lewontins and Goulds.  They chose not to do this.  They chose to become mainstream geneticists, cell biologists, etc. and admire evolutionary theory from afar.  Despite their professed love affair with evolution!  I’d like to know why.

Related to this question, I note that, while TEs are often found declaring that it’s a shame Christians fear evolution, because it keeps them out of “science” in general, I have never once heard a TE say that it’s a shame Christians fear evolution, *because we need more Christians who are specialists in evolutionary mechanisms*.  I hear TEs saying “Christians should accept evolution”; I don’t hear TEs saying:  “Christians should take evolutionary theory back from the atheists.”  And I don’t know any TE *model* of “taking it back from the atheists”—except possibly for Simon Conway Morris.  

Can anyone here name me 5 (five) full-time biologists *who specialize in evolutionary theory* (not in genetics with a popular side-interest in evolutionary theory) who are Christian?  And who teach, not in purely undergrad programs at little Christian colleges, but in graduate programs at Ivy League or other major universities, private or public?  And who publish, not semi-popular articles on faith and evolution in the ASA journal or on the Huffington Post, but technical articles on evolutionary mechanisms in the kinds of journals that Margulis, Shapiro, Coyne, Orr, Carroll, etc. would publish in?  And if no one here can name me 5 such scientists, isn’t that a big-time problem for anyone who claims that there’s absolutely no problem combining Christian faith with belief in contemporary evolutionary theory?  If there’s no problem, why are the Christian biologists shying away from the field?

Lou Jost - #80933

June 12th 2013

Hi Eddie,

You said “it appears to me that the overwhelming number of people in the field would class themselves as atheist/agnostic”. That is my experience too. I can’t remember the last time I met an active evolutionary biologist who believed in a personal god.

beaglelady - #80936

June 12th 2013

Can anyone here name me 5 (five) full-time biologists *who specialize in evolutionary theory* (not in genetics with a popular side-interest in evolutionary theory) who are Christian?  And who teach, not in purely undergrad programs at little Christian colleges, but in graduate programs at Ivy League or other major universities, private or public?  And who publish, not semi-popular articles on faith and evolution in the ASA journal or on the Huffington Post, but technical articles on evolutionary mechanisms in the kinds of journals that Margulis, Shapiro, Coyne, Orr, Carroll, etc. would publish in?

And are Protestants? And are left-handed? And are female?  So what makes you think that readers of  this religion blog would know of such people?  


Eddie - #80938

June 12th 2013

This is, or pretends to be, the premiere “evolution and Christian faith” blog on the face of the planet.   (I remember that a year or so ago it was boasting about its unsurpassed number of daily “hits.”)  Many of the columnists and many of the commenters here have expressed very strong opinions on many aspects of evolutionary biology, as if they know a great deal about the subject.  If they know so much, they must have read the writings of a lot of evolutionary biologists.  If no one here—neither columnist nor commenter—can find even 5 (five) Christian evolutionary biologists, then possibly there aren’t as many as 5 on the planet.  And if that’s the case, then Lou’s point is underscored:  the people who are by the standards of the scientific world the most competent in evolutionary biology don’t tend to be Christian.  And that raises uncomfortable questions that TEs should be trying to answer, but aren’t.

I’ve even given a suggestion for 1 of the 5.  Who can find 4 more?

Lou Jost - #80940

June 12th 2013

Possibly Ayala?

Eddie - #80954

June 12th 2013

Hi, Lou.

Ayala might have been an example at one time, but as of his last public statement on the subject of his faith (which was about 10 years ago or more, when he was an expert witness at one of the trials—I think maybe the Georgia evolution textbook sticker trial), he does not believe in a personal God.  His description of the ultimate reality sounds pantheistic at best, and vague.  And he has explicitly denied that there is any planning or designing of the evolutionary process.  Also, he now refuses to make any statement of his religious views, and no Christian would do that, since Christians are commanded to witness.  And given that he was originally trained as a priest, his silence on religious faith speaks louder than any words could.

(By the way, I recommend that you save this comment somewhere, as the previous management was very touchy about any remarks on Ayala’s religious faith, even when they were purely factual and documentable with direct quotations; I don’t know if the new management feels the same way, but if they do, this comment won’t last long, and I may be banned.  If so, I’ve enjoyed debating with you.  You’re one of the more thoughtful atheists I’ve encountered in the Darwin/ID wars.  Certainly a cut above Moran, Shallit, Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, Atkins, etc.)

Lou Jost - #80960

June 12th 2013

Thanks, I’ve enjoyed debating with you too; you pushed me to think hard about some things. But I can’t imagine they’d ban you for that comment above.

Eddie - #80967

June 12th 2013

Maybe not now, but you weren’t here under the old management.  I can document what I say with irrefutable evidence, but doing it publically, and here, would not be gracious or fair to the current management, who are not responsible for past management’s conduct.  But thanks for your generous acknowledgment.  Best wishes.

beaglelady - #80948

June 12th 2013

It’s still primarily a religious blog and the people who write articles have little or no contact with the commenters.    Why not ask BioLogos directly?

Eddie - #80964

June 12th 2013

The question has already been posed here by more than one person, back in the day of a more activist management which watched all the posts here like a hawk.  No answer was forthcoming at the time, from either management or columnists.  Nor did any of the TE commenters have any answer.

The question, to repeat, is:  (a) If modern evolutionary theory is so friendly to Christianity, or at least neutral toward it, why do the vast majority of practitioners of modern evolutionary theory not acknowledge this?  Why is it only the TEs, the vast majority of whom are not professional evolutionary theorists, who hold this view?  (b) If modern evolutionary theory is so friendly to Christianity, why have almost no Christian scientists become evolutionary biologists?  Why have almost all of them become physicists, biochemists, computer programmers, engineers, cell biologists, or geneticists, and avoided research careers that were open to them in evolutionary biology?  Especially given the mountains of praise they heap upon evolutionary theory as the great unifying notion of all modern biology, as the wondrous means of God’s creation, etc.  One would think that more TEs would want to dedicate their lives to working in that science, in order to discover more of the amazing mechanisms of evolutionary creation.  But they have ceded the territory of evolutionary theory almost entirely to the atheists.  That doesn’t add up.

Finally, given that this is a TE-friendly blog, where TE-committed commenters are constantly posting references to TE books, TE articles, TE speakers at churches, etc., and given that a good number of the Christian commenters here (Sy, PNG, etc.) have Ph.D.s in the life sciences and presumably would have some knowledge of full-time professional evolutionary biologists who were Christian if they existed, then, if there is any place on the planet where I could find a list of Christian scientists who are professional evolutionary biologists, it ought to be here.  If nobody *here* can name such people, I therefore conclude that there aren’t very many of them around.  And this appears to tally with the testimony of Lou who is an active scientific researcher.  I await contrary evidence, but I will hold my tentative conclusion until such evidence appears. 

hanan-d - #80946

June 12th 2013

Great comment Eddie and a great challenge no matter how much beaglelady tries to avoid the conclusions. 

Lou Jost - #80947

June 12th 2013

My comment wasn’t aimed specifically at TE. Those who work most closely with the evidence tend to reject religious explanations of any kind. This should challenge all who think the evidence favors supernatural explanations.

beaglelady - #80949

June 12th 2013

You can be a believer and reject supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.  Demon possession as an explanation comes to mind. 

hanan-d - #80953

June 12th 2013

>You can be a believer and reject supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. 

So if EVERYTHING has a natural explanation, and as you have often stated, the reality does not look like there is some purposeful design (i.e. evolutionary dead ends come to mind), then why believe in a God? You claim science is not in the business of purpose. But as Lawrence Krauss asks “What evidence do you have there is purpose”

beaglelady - #80971

June 12th 2013

So if EVERYTHING has a natural explanation, and as you have often stated, the reality does not look like there is some purposeful design (i.e. evolutionary dead ends come to mind), then why believe in a God?


I never said this, and would sincerely appreciate it if you would stop misrepresenting my views.    Without God NOTHING would be here.  God is at work in my life and I believe in him.   You are very welcome to believe whatever you want.

hanan-d - #80975

June 12th 2013

misrepresented? Everytime Eddie brings up intent in design you say otherwise.

Eddie - #80969

June 12th 2013

beaglelady:

What are you implying about the accounts of demonic possession in the Gospels?  That there were no demons?  Please be clear.  Hints are not helpful.  Statements are.

beaglelady - #80972

June 12th 2013

I believe that the seizures and other problems  that were attributed to demon possession were really caused by epilepsy and other diseases. But nevertheless Christ still healed them.   

Eddie - #80990

June 12th 2013

beaglelady:

I thank you for giving a non-evasive answer to my question.  If only you could use this answer as a model for your answer to the question “What, if anything, does God actually do in the process of evolution?”!

Let’s look at what you have said.  You have affirmed the miraculous action of Jesus in healing the people said to be afflicted by demons.  That Jesus healed is of course a traditional, orthodox understanding of the Gospel stories.  But while affirming this, you have imputed to the Gospel writers a gross falsehood regarding the cause of the afflictions which Jesus heals.  The Gospel writers attribute a good number of the afflictions to the activity of demons, and in many cases portray the demons personally, even reporting conversations of the demons with Jesus.  Nor can the reports of such conversations be regarded as an attempt of the writer to show the delusion of the afflicted person, i.e., to show that the person believed himself to be afflicted by a demon (but really was afflicted only by a natural disease).  For the Gospel narrator often reports in his own narratorial voice that the demon said something, or thought something, indicating that the Gospel writer understood the demonic possessions as real and supernatural events.

So, if we adopt your position, we are left with two options:

1.  The Gospel writers were consciously fabricating supernatural events (they knew that the demonic possessions and exorcisms that they reported did not in fact happen);

2.  The Gospel writers were not consciously fabricating, but their utter ignorance of causality as understood in natural science caused them to imagine things that did not happen, and impute conversations, thoughts and motives to demonic beings that did not exist (or at least were not the cause of the afflictions reported in the stories).

So the Gospels contain either willful fabrications, or gross intellectual errors.  They report things that are false.

The official policy statements of BioLogos that I have seen indicate that BioLogos management believes that the entire Bible (not just parts of it) is divinely inspired, authoritative, and true.  But you are saying that the Gospels are partly untrue.  So you disagree with BioLogos’s understanding of Scripture.

Official policy statements of most other evangelical organizations and institutions—and not just the “fundamentalist” ones—also vouch for the correctness of the entire Bible.  So you disagree with the understanding of Biblical truth held by most evangelical organizations and institutions.  You think that the Biblical writers teach some things that are false.

Presumably you would also disagree with the view of Scripture held in the Westminster Confession and other central historical Protestant documents.

I am not passing any judgment on your views.  I am trying to make them plain.  Is this your view, that sometimes the Bible, sometimes even the New Testament, reports events that did not happen, and invents the actions, speeches and motivations of beings that do not exist?  And that in order to appropriate the Bible for the modern world, we sometimes have to ignore or work around these false or misleading beliefs promoted by its authors?

If you believe this, you are not alone.  I suspect that 80% of those attending the Episcopal Church, and 95% of those attending the UCC, would hold this belief.  I suspect that a good number of professors at seminaries, even evangelical seminaries, would hold this belief.  I know for a fact that a good number of clergymen of all Protestant denominations hold this belief.  I suspect that many TEs, including some quite prominent ones, hold this belief.  I am not passing judgment on it.  I simply want it to be reported honestly.  We can’t debate about theology and science, faith and science, the Bible and science, etc., unless we know what the people in the conversation actually hold about the Bible.

beaglelady - #80998

June 13th 2013

You can believe in demonic possession if you want. Have you met any exorcists or people possessed by demons?  

In poor countries, belief in demonic possession can cause terrible suffering for the mentally ill who desperately need modern medicine.  For example, in Ghana the mentally ill are chained up in prayer camps because their illness is seen as a spiritual matter. 

See this video clip from Human Rights Watch.

 

  

Eddie - #81009

June 13th 2013

You are evading the question.  The question concerns what the Gospels teach and whether you accept what the Gospels teach.  The contents of your answer make clear that you think the Gospels teach something that is false.  And that is your right, to believe that the Gospels teach something false.  I just wanted to establish that, and I have done so.  

The question is why other TEs here do not object when you challenge the truth of the Gospels.  The general principle of “silence implies consent” would suggest that the TEs here do not find your view objectionable.  Yet had someone suggested, in the days of Calvin or Luther, or Wesley or Jonathan Edwards, or in the heyday of 20th-century American evangelical Protestantism, that the Bible speaks less than the truth when it discusses demons, the entire evangelical world would have angrily denounced the writer.  But here on allegedly evangelical BioLogos, casual dismissals of the Gospel accounts are taken in stride.  No TE says a blessed thing.  That’s very revealing about the faith of the community that supports TE.

beaglelady - #81011

June 13th 2013

I have not “challenged the truth of the Gospels.” Only a fundamentalist would say that, because fundies see everything in black and white. Do you believe that the firmament exists? Do you believe in a 6-day creation?

 I believe that Christ healed the sick. I only mentioned that what the biblical writers saw as demon possession was probably seizures or mental illness.  

Did you watch the video clip?  Do you think that poor man chained up for years in the prayer camp really might be demon-possessed? Or does he desperately need professional help and medication?

 

 

 

Eddie - #81016

June 13th 2013

I draw your attention to the Gospel of Mark:

5:12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
5:13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

According to your interpretation, almost every statement in this passage is false. No devil besought anything of Jesus; no devil said the words given; Jesus did not give leave to any devils; the unclean spirits didn’t go out of the man; the herd of swine never ran down into the sea. What happened was simply that Jesus cured a madman of his madness. The rest was the author’s fabrication.
 
You might try to rescue your interpretation by saying that the speeches of the devils were really just the speech of the madman, imagining that he was a legion of devils. But that interpretation cannot explain why the text says: “And Jesus gave *them* (plural) leave” (as if Jesus really thought he was talking to devils), instead of, “And Jesus said to the man that he gave them leave” (making clear that Jesus had no illusions of devils himself, but was merely humoring the man). It also cannot explain the action of the herd of swine, since, if there were no demons, the swine would not have destroyed themselves. (And further, if there were no demons causing the swine to rush to their deaths, then Jesus must have been the cause of their deaths, which would make him wantonly cruel, since it was not necessary to destroy two thousand of God’s creatures in order to cure the man.)
 
So, even if we try as hard as possible to adopt your reading, Mark’s story still contains statements that are false. It leads the reader to believe that certain things happened that did not happen. Mark cannot then be trusted as a narrator.
 
Now if you want to say that the whole story is fictional, or parabolic, or allegorical, then say so. But don’t say the healing was real history but all the stuff about demons and swine wasn’t. Mark’s account doesn’t give you that option. And this is true of a good number of other stories of demonic possession in the Gospels. They are either parables or myths of some kind, or they are true histories, or they are only partly reliable because they contain real history mixed with fabrications. As far as I can tell, your position is the latter.
 
So, to repeat: you believe that the Gospels include some falsehoods. That sets you against Protestant evangelical Christianity. It also sets you against the nominal position of BioLogos. That doesn’t make you wrong. But let’s call a spade a spade. You believe that the Bible contains some teachings that are false.
 
Genesis 1 is a completely different case. Neither you nor I understand Genesis 1 as a historical account. But you do understand the Gospels as a historical account (you’ve stated here that you accept the Gospel miracles as historical), and given that premise, you have no basis for excising the demons.
beaglelady - #81021

June 13th 2013

I just knew you’d go off on one of your rants against me. Perhaps demon possession is the best explanation for where your Suzan Mazur gets her “facts.”  

Eddie - #81045

June 13th 2013

I produced no “rant.”  I gave a cool, calm, logical analysis of the statements you have made, drawing out their implications.

Your statements imply that you think some things taught by the Bible are false.  But note that I went out of my way to assure you I wasn’t launching hostilities, twice indicating that I wasn’t judging you, but only trying to get a clear admission that I was right about your beliefs.

Your beliefs about demons may be quite correct.  My point is that they are out of line with traditional Reformation Protestantism (including traditional Anglicanism) and out of line with traditional American evangelical Protestantism (which both BioLogos and the TEs of the ASA claim to adhere to).  But if you want to say outright, “I believe in the Bible overall but I think it contains a number of errors and false teachings, e.g., about demons,” I have no problem with such honesty.  If you could manage such straightforwardness, you would be ahead of a few leading TEs I can think of.  Best wishes.

P.S. Why do you keep attacking Suzan Mazur, when you haven’t read her book and have no intention of doing so?

Eddie - #81046

June 13th 2013

P.S.:  Notice that my argument, the one you called a “rant,” rested on the interpretation of the Gospels.  I even analyzed a specific passage.  You are free to offer a counter-“rant”—but I’d rather have a counter-exegesis—to my Biblical interpretation.  It would be interesting to learn what influence, if any, the Bible has on your Christian theology.

beaglelady - #81072

June 14th 2013

If we take this story literally then…

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus does the bidding of the demons in this story? 2000 pigs destroyed, just because the demons requested it.  It’s nice to have connections.  Apparently this was more pleasant for the demons, but the pigs died,  and the owner’s property was destroyed.  Maybe he was even financially ruined with a loss like this.  

Nice.  

Eddie - #81074

June 14th 2013

beaglelady:

You are not seeing the point.  As I already indicated above, I have the same “objection” regarding the destruction of the swine as you do.  The issue is your hermeneutical principles.  As far as I can tell, you have only one such principle:  “If it is revolting to my spiritual or ethical or ecological or political sensibilities, or my scientific views, then it never happened that way, Jesus never said that, Jesus never did that; if it goes along with my sensibilities and views, then I accept that it happened as described.”

So Jesus heals a madman on the beach; you think that’s a nice thing, in line with your pre-conception of Jesus, so you affirm that it happened.  But in exactly the same narrative, written in the same Greek style, by (as far as we can tell) the same author, Jesus sends demons into pigs and kills 2,000 of them, and that doesn’t fit your conception of Jesus, so you say (or imply) it didn’t happen.  Can’t you grasp the problem here?  The story is a treated as a news report in some verses and as a fabrication in other verses, and you offer no plausible criterion to sort out which is which, other than what you are willing to tolerate morally.

The interpretive principle you are using would be laughed out of court in any academically respectable seminary or university in the world.  When you are interpreting a text (as opposed to assessing whether or not its teaching is true) you can’t add and subtract elements of the story based on your personal tastes.  You have to have a text-based reason if you are going to say “the author didn’t reallly mean that bit about the demons and pigs.”  

I’m not saying you have to believe that the story with the pigs happened.  You can say the author just made it up.  You can say it’s a barbaric story.  That’s fine.  But then you are saying the author tells lies or  conveys falsehoods.  And that’s fine, too.  It’s logically possible.  Lou would no doubt say the whole story with the swine is an invention, and not a particularly edifying one.  But Lou is not a Christian.  BioLogos, on the other hand, is on record as endorsing the view that the Bible is entirely (not only in part) inspired, authoritative, and true.  So where do you come down?  Do the Biblical authors sometimes “just make stuff up”?  Is the story of the swine and the demons one of those cases?  Should the Church have chopped that unedifying bit out of the Bible?

If you believe that, I don’t condemn you; but if the leaders of BioLogos ever said that, their evangelical funding sources would dry up faster than the Sahara Desert in July.

All I’m trying to find out is where you stand on the proposition that the Bible is completely true.  I think that if you were speaking frankly, to friends, in a non-confrontational setting, instead of here, to me, in view of Christian people whose admiration you seem to want to retain, you would say in no uncertain terms that parts of the Bible are just false, and that Christians no longer can, and no longer should, believe in those parts.  Am I right? 

Lou Jost - #81078

June 15th 2013

I don’t want to interrupt, but shouldn’t one’s interpretational principles respect the “noise level” of the texts? Here we have four accounts of the same events, and each of the four differ in fairly important details. So we know right off the bat that at least three of them contain some false statements. As we discussed before, that doesn’ t mean they are completely false, and indeed it shows they were not highly edited by later authorities. But it does show that the texts can’t be trusted at that level of detail. Anyone who claims  that every detail of all four texts is true would be wrong. Surely you both agree with that, right?

Eddie - #81085

June 15th 2013

Lou:

I can’t speak for beaglelady, but only for myself.  

I agree that the differences between the Gospels implies that all four of them can’t be fully accurate if understood as ancient news reports.  Thus, the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke can’t both be true, if their purpose is to be the equivalent of a state registry of births.

However, most of these differences are not important either to the story of Jesus’s life and teaching, or to the New Testament view of the world overall.  It doesn’t matter about Jesus’s ancestry; two of the four Gospels don’t even bother to supply a genealogy.  If it turns out that the genealogies are the free creation of the authors in question, tacked on to a well-established story of the historical Jesus in order to bring it into line with Old Testament material, the core of the Gospel teaching isn’t touched.  Nor does it matter if the exact wording of the inscription “This is Jesus King of the Jews” varies, or if the exact hour of the crucifixion varies.  

But what beaglelady and I are discussing is a belief that cuts across the gospels, is accepted by all the Gospel writers—a belief in demons, personal beings who can sometimes possess human beings and can be driven out by a powerful enough exorcist.  If there are no demons, then a major aspect of the New Testament world view is simply false.  And if anything major in the Gospel stories is shown to be false, then other major features of the Gospel stories are called into question.

The only way one can cut out the demons from the New Testament, without rendering the whole New Testament suspect as history, is to offer an exegesis of the passages with the demons which explains the events with a symbolic or psychological explanation of the demons.  But beaglelady hasn’t offered such an explanation for the passage in question, and even if she succeeded in one case, she would have to repeat the feat in every other case where demons and demon-possession are mentioned.  I’ve seen no such exegesis presented.

Further, as far as I can tell, her motivation isn’t exegetical in the first place.  It is not as if she is arguing:  “As a Biblical scholar, I think that for two thousand years we have misread these stories of demons, and by a close textual analysis, I have discovered that the demons were never meant to be understood as real beings who could possess people.”  She is arguing:  “We know from modern science that there are no such things as demons, or at least, if there are, they don’t possess people as described in the New Testament.  So I simply ignore those parts of the New Testament as without truth or authority and treat them as unnecessary for Christian faith.”

I think you will understand, Lou, even if beaglelady doesn’t, that I’m objecting to her procedure, not to her conclusions.  Her procedure has no methodological justification.  It simply picks the Christian doctrines it wants to keep, and wants to jettison, and cavalierly ignores elements in the text which don’t support the desired conclusions.

beaglelady - #81080

June 15th 2013

It also cannot explain the action of the herd of swine, since, if there were no demons, the swine would not have destroyed themselves. (And further, if there were no demons causing the swine to rush to their deaths, then Jesus must have been the cause of their deaths, which would make him wantonly cruel, since it was not necessary to destroy two thousand of God’s creatures in order to cure the man.)

Everyone knows that animals can get spooked and bolt or stampede.  And swine were considered impure and unclean, just like tombs.  

But let’s go with your very literal interpretation.  Jesus required pigs to get rid of demons, otherwise he would be wontonly cruel to destroy two thousand of God’s creatures in order to cure the man.  Please explain why he absolutely needed pigs to do this, and in this instance only.  Did he need pigs to cure others from demon possession?   I don’t think so, unless he made it a habit to travel with pigs.  Not likely for a Jewish rabbi, but hey….   Were they a special class of demons?    

Anyway, according to the story, taken literally, Jesus catered to the wishes of the demons, apparently caring more for them than for the swine, or their owner, or the swineherd (who probably got a pink slip).   

Eddie - #81084

June 15th 2013

beaglelady:

You are still not listening.  You are still doing what you always do—imputing some kind of literalist fundamentalism to me, instead of reading my actual words carefully, and responding to them.

I agree with you that there is no reason why Jesus should have needed to involve the pigs to cure the man of demon possession.  He could have cured the man directly.  So why did he do it the way he did?  The text gives the explanation:  the demons asked to be put into the body of the pigs, and Jesus complied.  If you believe in demons, you can explain the events in the story.  If you don’t believe in demons, the episode with the pigs doesn’t make any sense.  

I’m well aware that animals can stampede, but there has to be something that spooks them.  And there is nothing in the story that would have spooked them.  They would have heard people talking to each other, even angrily and excitedly, many times.  (They would have been used to the madman’s angry shouts, from living in the area.)  So why would they have stampeded at that moment?  The very moment that Jesus cured the madman?  Sheer coincidence?  How likely is that?

The point is that Mark tells you why the pigs stampeded.  He says it was because of the demons.  But you are saying that Mark is wrong, that there were never any demons in the first place.  You are saying that Mark didn’t know what he was talking about.

Now I repeat:  it is possible that Mark lied, misinterpreted, etc.  But then Mark would be in error.  His Gospel would contain an explanation that was false.  The New Testament would contain a mistake.  And I’ve told you several times that it’s OK with me if you believe this.  I just want you to say that you believe it.

Do you have the religious courage to say this?  That the New Testament contains statements that are false?  That it teaches things that are false, e.g., that there are demons, that they possess people, that they can be exorcised, etc.?

If you are not going to answer this question directly, if you are merely going to continue trying to deflect the question back to me, don’t bother to reply further.  I’m interested only in the answer to the question I have asked.

beaglelady - #81112

June 16th 2013

Animals can spook at sudden, loud sounds even when they have heard them before.  (Heck, so can people. ) The pigs didn’t live on the hillside; they were feeding there while being attended by a swineherd.    The sick man  came running to Jesus shouting at the top of his voice.  That’ll do it.

I think this is a very good example of an ancient understanding of mental illness in a historical account of healing.  

Please explain why Jesus caters to the whim of demons even if it means killing animals and ruining a man’s livelihood. 

Eddie - #81118

June 16th 2013

Beaglelady:

You aren’t paying attention to the Biblical passage at all.  It makes clear that the madman had lived in the area for some time and that he was well-known there for his violent behavior, which presumably included bellowings and ragings.  We can also reasonably assume that the pigs fed in that area on more than one occasion.  If your account were true, the swineherds would have lost herds of pigs before, on previous occasions where the man had insanely bellowed and startled them, and they would have stopped bringing their herds so close to the water, lest they lose even more pigs.  So obviously, this incident was unexpected by the swineherds.  They did not expect that the presence of the madman alone (whom they knew might pop down from the hills at any time) would be a problem.  And in fact, the text tells us that the problem for the pigs was the demons.  

As for you casual “that’ll do it” (as if you have great rural experience, which I greatly doubt), I challenge it.  If it were true, we would have scores of historical records of whole herds of farm animals rushing down inclines or over precipicies into the water at the sound of loud human voices.  I’m of course well aware that high-strung animals like horses can easily start when surprised by a noise.  But I’d like you to supply me with references from historical documents regarding times when  herds of animals other than horses, in particular herds of pigs, have been driven wild with panic merely by human shouting, and stampeded to their deaths.

But even if you could document pig stampedes, it wouldn’t make any difference.  Mark tells us what the cause of the pigs’s rush into the water was, and it wasn’t a loud voice.  It was the  possession of the herd by demons.  You believe that Mark was in error to say that. So why can’t you just say: “Mark, the writer of the Gospel, was wrong about this; he taught the readers of the Gospel something that was false”?

As for your last paragraph, I did not say that Jesus did anything.  I did not even say that the incident with the demons and the pigs happened.  I said that Mark says that it happened.  And you believe that Mark was wrong.  Now stop evading and say that Mark was wrong, and we can end this discussion.

By the way, you have not thought out the ethical issue as thoroughly as you think you have.  You made a big deal out of how the belief in demons does great harm in the modern age.  Yet the belief in demons was actively promoted by the New Testament writers.  Why would God “inspire” the New Testament writers to promote a belief in demons which he knew would later on lead to great human suffering?  Why didn’t God teach the New Testament writers the truth that there were no demons?  If you would find Jesus blameworthy for killing the pigs and leaving the farmers penniless, why do you not find God blameworthy for permitting the publication of a Bible which teaches destructive and harmful beliefs about demons?  Your reactions are entirely inconsistent.

beaglelady - #81168

June 18th 2013

As for you casual “that’ll do it” (as if you have great rural experience, which I greatly doubt), I challenge it

I do have rural experience, as I’ve spent summers on a farm as a kid.  My father was raised on a farm and had a lot of experience raising pigs. I checked with him, and he confirmed that pigs can get frightened and bolt.  (Now before you put him down as a country hick,  let me explain that he graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in textile engineering, and worked for years in New York City.)   

Eddie - #81172

June 18th 2013

No, I wouldn’t put down farmers as country hicks.  I don’t have the Blue State arrogance of thinking rural and small-town people are stupider than urban and university-educated people.  But for the record, I’m married into a farm family and that family raised pigs, along with other animals, so I’m not ignorant about animals, either.

However, the question is not whether pigs would bolt at the sound of a shout.  (Though there was a shouting of orders about the chores at the farm all the time whenever I visited, and I never saw the pigs stop their feeding and run anywhere as a result.)  The question is whether 2,000 of them would all bolt in exactly the same direction, and keep running until they fell or ran into the sea.  Very unlikely, in my view.

(There is another error in the story, by the way:  if the pigs had fallen into the sea, or run into it, they would not have drowned—at least, not all of them.  Pigs can swim.  My farmer relatives have seen them do it.  So even if you believe the pigs ran into the water, you still have to acknowledge that the story contains a falsehood.)

And finally, as I’ve shown—and as you refuse to acknowledge—Mark tells you that it wasn’t noise, but the demons, that made the pigs bolt.  You can try to evade all you want, but sooner or later you have to take a stand:  was Mark right or wrong?  If he’s wrong, the the Gospel teaches a falsehood.  Is that your position, that the Gospel teaches a falsehood at that point?

If you won’t give a clear answer—you can’t possibily misunderstand what I’m asking, after all these repetitions of the question—I’ll assume that you are unwilling to answer, and draw my own conclusions regarding why.

beaglelady - #81184

June 19th 2013

Actually it was Rhode Island School of Design Dad graduated from.

beaglelady - #81185

June 19th 2013

Oops! Actually it was Rhode Island School of Design Dad graduated from.

beaglelady - #81188

June 19th 2013

WHY does Jesus do the bidding of demons at the expense of humans?

Lou Jost - #81082

June 15th 2013

I was curious about what BioLogos officially believes. They say “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. ” Eddie, you know more than I do about how they interpret this sentence. I imagine it isn’t synonymous with “inerrant” though, since they don’t take Genesis literally. Surely nobody here takes the gospels as completely inerrant, right? At least three of them have to have factual errors, since they don’t exactly match.

Of course I can’t really understand how anything self-contradictory (one gospel contradicts another on details) can be the authoritative word of an omnipotent being who has the power to correct those errors.

Eddie - #81086

June 15th 2013

Lou:

“Inerrant” has many meanings.  Clearly the BioLogos people don’t believe that the Bible is “inerrant” in the mechanical, literalist way that many American fundamentalists think it is is inerrant.  But I think they have actually used the word “inerrant” in a broader sense; and even if they haven’t, they have spoken of the Bible as being inspired, authoritative, and true.  And I remember specifically a statement that said this applied to the whole Bible—every word of it.  So, while you can interpret some passages “symbolically” etc., you can’t simply ignore or throw out passages.

Now demon-possession is a major feature in the Gospel narratives.  So what does one do with it?  Either it’s real or it’s not.  And if it’s not real, then either those stories serve some spiritual purpose and their details can be explained in terms of a non-literal meaning, or the stories are riddled with lies or errors.  

Beaglelady is clear that demon-possession is not real.  She thus has to show either that the stories mean something different from what they have been taken to mean by most Christians for 2,000 years, or admit that the Bible contains errors, lies, or deliberate misrepresentations in relating these stories.

And this isn’t an issue just for beaglelady.  It’s an issue for BioLogos, and for all modern Christians who are inclined to “pick and choose” what they like out of the Biblical stories.  There have to be interpretive principles that govern such picking and choosing.  Otherwise, the picking and choosing will be governed by personal taste, which is no foundation for religious truth, or any other kind of truth.  

Can you imagine a physicist accepting three fundamental forces of nature, but not a fourth, on the grounds that something about the fourth force is morally  or aesthetically offensive, utterly ignoring the empirical evidence for the existence of the fourth force?  This seems to me to be the position of beaglelady on demons, and of many TEs on many other things in the Christian faith; they accept some parts of the Bible and tradition, and reject others, ignoring the empirical evidence (the actual words of the Bible, the actual words of Augustine, Calvin, etc.) in order to construct a Christianity they can be comfortable with.  But who says religious truth should make us comfortable?  It’s the arbitrariness of so many TEs, and so many liberal Christians, that I find irritating.

Lou Jost - #81093

June 15th 2013

The problem you see in this is the arbitrariness of it. Got it.

Someone could choose  the Augustinian principle that we should use our knowledge of reality to guide our interpretation. Then since  we know demons don’t exist,  we have to read those passages as parables or metaphors. But you might object that we really can’t prove the nonexistence of something, and furthermore this concept is fairly central, so we can’t discard it. And if we used the Augustinian principle consistently, we would get a theology that varied with time, and moreover one that would throw out things like the resurrection, ascension, etc.

I am curious how any principle can be consistent with cutting out those parts of Genesis that are clearly false, but not cutting out resurrections and ascensions. I think to a scientist, those are both equally false according to our current knowledge.

If the criterion is “We cut out impossible things when they are trivial but not when they are essential to our faith”, then this also is arbitrary. I for example might think the essence of the faith, the thing of real importance to a creator, is how we act. In that case I’d treat as parable everything that was impossible, including the resurrection and ascension. This wouldn’t entail atheism, it could still be that a god inspired Jesus, but it would dramatically change the landscape of faith. (I think it would change it for the better…)

A truly consistent principle of interpretation would be to interpret as parable everything that we know today to be impossible, whether central or not. This would produce a time-dependent theology but not an arbitrary one. That’s the path I followed for a while. And it does improve the book a lot!

 

Eddie - #81094

June 15th 2013

Lou:

My principles are even more radical and skeptical than the ones you are suggesting.  My principles involve interpreting the Bible without any reference to what we today think to be true.  You read the text, and, taking into account all that we know about the languages, the historical context, the literary genres, etc., you try to determine what the text teaches.  Only after that do you ask the question:  is this true?

So you read Genesis.  You make your best effort to understand what it teaches.  If you decide that it teaches that the world was created in six literal days, with light before the sun, etc., then you compare it with what we know about the world, and you say that Genesis is false.  But if you decide that the six days are a literary device for laying out the relationship between places and their inhabitants, fixity and motion, etc., then you have no problem with anything modern knowledge has to say.  But your decision what kind of literature Genesis 1 is has to be based on the features of the text, not on outside polemical or apologetic interests. 

It’s the same with the genealogies.  If you decide that they are meant as official state records, then the Bible teaches lies and errors.  But if you decide (and the decision must be based on textual criteria, not apologetical interests) that they are deliberate artifices, that the ages and numbers of generations serve a literary purpose, then there is no lie and no error.

Now the demon stories in the Gospels are tied in with particular miracles of Jesus.   If you decide, based on literary criteria, that the author of the story meant Jesus’s healing to be an accurate description of a past event, then you have no basis (given the same story, by the same author, in the same style) for excising words that occur within a couple of lines of the events you accept as historical.  

Can you say, the story of Jesus healing the madman is literal, but the bit about demons is symbolic with some deeper meaning?  What sort of literary genre mixes those two genres within a few words of each other?  None that I know of.  One would think that either the whole passage would be parabolic, symbolic, etc., or that the whole passage would be historical.  But beaglelady insists that parts are historical.  To cut out the demons, then, implies not that those references are symbolic, but that the author made an error; he imagined demons that do not exist.  

The consistent principle is:  interpret the text, and let the chips fall where they may.   If the text is clearly not intended historically, then one doesn’t need to worry about conflicts with past events, with science, etc.  But if it is clearly intended historically, one does.  And so the Bible is vulnerable to falsification in all passages that are meant historically.  

The inconsistent principle of interpretation is:  “I don’t want anything in the Bible to be false, so I will abandon the normal principles of interpretation employed by historians and philologists and adopt ad hoc principles so that I can keep the historical events I believe happened and throw out the historical events I don’t believe happened.”  And that’s what beaglelady seems to be doing, and what liberal Christians generally seem to do.  They aren’t willing to put their faith on the line, to take the necessary risks.  They try to read the Bible in a way that makes it unfalsifiable.  They read it governed by an apologetic agenda.

But they would never read Homer, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. in that way.  They would read those texts, figure out what they mean, and then decide whether they were true or false, based on the meaning.  But with the Bible, what they do is say:  ”Since the Bible cannot possibly be false, we must interpret this passage to mean ...”  But that produces academically and intellectually dishonest exegesis of the text.

And liberals as well as fundamentalists engage in exactly this same dishonesty.  The fundamentalists are sure that their narrow conserative interpretation is true, and beat the Bible into that shape; the liberals are sure that their loosey-goosey interpretation is true, so they beat the Bible into that shape.  The idea of listening to the Bible first to find out what it means, and holding off judgment on whether or not it’s true until its meaning is understood, is alien to the mind of both groups.

This is why both fundamentalists and liberals attack me, because I challenge the inadequate interpretive principle they employ.  And this is why beaglelady can’t figure me out; she thinks I’m a closet fundamentalist, but actually I’m as contemptuous of fundamentalist exegesis as of liberal exegesis.  They are both sub-academic, sub-scholarly, sub-literary approaches to the text, governed by apologetic agendas.

Lou Jost - #81095

June 15th 2013

Eddie, your way makes a very strong and I think unreasonable starting assumption, that a unit of text (a paragraph, or as you may be arguing, a chapter) can be classified as all reportage or all parable/poetry. Yet a lot of ancient literature is a mix of the two. Homer’s writing does have true historical statements right alongside ones that serve literary purposes.

Even for a single sentence, I don’t see that the choices are 1) literally true, 2) parable and 3) deliberate lie. This is a kind of fundamentalism. There is a fourth choice: honest reporting of sincerely-believed stories that happen to be false.

You would say that the Exodus is meant as real history. I would say it is a typical origin myth that incorporates elements known to be false. Both of us could be right. Whoever gathered together the legends and stories circulating at the time surely thought they were literally true, and thought he was writing a history. But the stories on which they are based might well have been transformed into myths long before they reached the author’s time.

We’ve already discussed how some elements of the gospels are clearly not historical, like the zombie march.

It seems to me important to make use of outside knowledge in the interpretation of the texts, because the authors, whatever genre they thought they were writing, can be wrong. It may well have been Luke’s intention to write a history. But he can misjudge the reliability of his sources. We might sometimes be able to do a better job of judging his sources than he himself was able to do, if we have access to knowledge (particularly scientific knowledge) that he did not have.

Lou Jost - #81096

June 15th 2013

I should add that I strongly agree with you that any methodology for interpreting the bible has to lead to potentially-falsifiable conclusions!! To asume it must be reasonable, and then interpret any unreasonable passage as metaphor, is to insulate it from falsification.

Eddie - #81100

June 15th 2013

Good.  That was the main point I wanted you to see.  And if we agree on that, then you should be able to see the application regarding demons.

Beaglelady doesn’t believe in demons, because she operates out of an essentially naturalistic world-view, in which everything, including the origin of most things (beyond the universe itself), is due to natural causes, except a handful of Biblical miracles which she accepts.  So any phenomenon attributed to demons, beaglelady will try to find a natural explanation for (mental illness, mass hypnosis, etc.).

So if the Bible attributes some events to demonic activity, beaglelady has only two choices:  (1) she can say that “demons” are not actually being proposed as causes, but are being used purely as a didactic device to teach something; (2) she can admit that demons are being proposed as causes, and then say that the Biblical writer is wrong to do so, because there are no such things.

Now I think she believes (2), but I don’t think she will ever say, in so many words, that she believes (2).  But if she believes (1), then she can now state that, and give me an interpretation of the Mark passage using (1).  Until she does, I stick with my view that, if Mark intended us to believe that Jesus healed the madman on the beach (i.e., if that part of the story is not meant parabolically or mythically, but as history or news report), then Mark also intended us to understand the demons as real causal agents who had a literal conversation with Jesus and caused the death of 2,000 swine.  That’s how I read the Greek of the passage, after prolonged and intensive study.

I’m open to correction from beaglelady, but she has to be willing to engage with me over the exegesis of the text, in a systematic manner, showing me how her interpretation explains the literary details better than mine does.  

beaglelady - #81114

June 16th 2013

Beaglelady doesn’t believe in demons, because she operates out of an essentially naturalistic world-view, 

Bollocks! Please show me where I say I don’t believe in demons.

Eddie - #81119

June 16th 2013

beaglelady:

You denied the Biblical accounts of demonic possession and exorcism.  It is therefore reasonable to infer that you don’t believe in demons, either.  But you can clarify if you wish.  Are you now saying that demons exist, and that they actually do something, but that they don’t possess people?  If so, what do they do?  Which Biblical stories of demons do you accept?

Your complaint about misrepresentation is somewhat unreasonable.  For months now I have been trying to get you to give some exposition of your theological views, i.e., to say what you believe and why you believe it.  In every case you have replied with silence, or rhetorical questions which avoid answering, or sarcastic comments like “Nice” (see one of your replies above).  So you can hardly complain when people have to infer your position.  If you want to make sure people don’t misrepresent you, the best way of doing that is to be forthright and clear and full in your statements, not evasive, cagey, or elliptical.

Eddie - #81101

June 15th 2013

Lou:

This is getting too skinny.  I’ll reply in a new sequence at the bottom.  But read 81100 below first.

Eddie - #81102

June 15th 2013

Lou:

This is getting too skinny.  I’ll reply in a new sequence at the bottom.  But read 81100 below first.

Eddie - #81103

June 15th 2013

Lou:

Whoops!  You nested your addendum underneath your own reply, instead of running it with a parallel indentation, and it threw me off.  I should have said, read 81100 above.

beaglelady - #81113

June 16th 2013

Beaglelady is clear that demon-possession is not real.  She thus has to show either that the stories mean something different from what they have been taken to mean by most Christians for 2,000 years, or admit that the Bible contains errors, lies, or deliberate misrepresentations in relating these stories.

The Bible reflects an ancient understanding of the causes of mental illness and epilepsy.  So the “possessed” guy was really healed, even if demons didn’t run out of him and go for the pigs.  

But if the Bible says that the earth is fixed and doesn’t move, and that there is a firmament separating the waters below from the waters below, with sun, moon and stars fixed in the firmament,   does the Bible contain errors, lies or misrepresentations?  

It’s this arbitrariness that I find irritating. 

Eddie - #81123

June 16th 2013

“The Bible reflects an ancient understanding of the causes of mental illness and epilepsy.”

That’s odd; traditional Christians thought that the Bible “reflected” the views of its authors—who were directly inspired by God.  So the Biblical teaching was God’s teaching, not the teaching of ancient culture.  That was the view of the Fathers, the Scholastics, the Reformers, etc.

But apparently you differ from the tradition on this point.  You think that the Bible is laced with errors caused by the infiltration of the divine message by human misunderstandings.  So the Bible contains a mixture of truth and falsehood.  Is that your position?

Again, I am not condemning you to perdition if that is your position.  I just want to know what your position is.  So please don’t be defensive; say straight out what you think.  Does the Bible teach some things that are false?  


beaglelady - #81127

June 16th 2013

You are passive-aggressive, putting words in my mouth while pretending you want to see where I stand.   

Eddie - #81129

June 16th 2013

No one would need to put words in your mouth if you would say where you stand.

beaglelady - #80950

June 12th 2013

And just what are your conclusions, hanan?

hanan-d - #80952

June 12th 2013

>And just what are your conclusions, hanan?

What Lou is talking about. The more one comes into contact with the evidence and nature of evolutionary biology, the more one leans toward there being no room or no need for a diety. Can you give your opinion as to why there is such a huge percentage of atheists amongst evolutionary biologists?

beaglelady - #80951

June 12th 2013

There is an even higher percentage of atheism among our top-tier scientists: those in the National Academy of Scientists.  So we’ll just conclude that Christians are dummies. 

hanan-d - #80956

June 12th 2013

>So we’ll just conclude that Christians are dummies. 

You can conclude anything you want. The question remains why a vast majority of evolutionary bioligists are atheists. 

Lou Jost - #80959

June 12th 2013

“So we’ll just conclude that Christians are dummies.”

I don’t conclude that. Many of the commenters here are clearly very well-informed and intelligent. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding why they remain believers. From my perspective, they seem able to compartmentalize their very sharp critical faculties, creating a “no-fly zone” around their religious beliefs. Perhaps this zone is so strongly bound to cultural and personal identity that it is psychologically very difficult to penetrate.

Eddie - #80966

June 12th 2013

Lou:

I agree with you entirely about the dangers of compartmentalization.  Indeed, this is why I object to most versions of TE that exist nowadays:  they are based on compartmentalization.  The standard TE line goes like this:  “As a scientist, I affirm that there is no need for any special guidance or planning to achieve evolutionary results; randomness relative to outcome, combined with natural selection, with a bit of “drift” thrown in, is adequate to explain everything we see.  But as a theologian, I affirm that God is the creator and that the process is purposive and end-directed.  And there is no contradiction between these two truths because science and religion do different things.”

I think this sort of thinking simply avoids the fact that God is redundant as an explanatory factor.  He isn’t needed.  All you need is chance and natural laws.  And they might have existed for all eternity without God, for all we know.  What it means is that a neo-Darwinist like Ken Miller holds the same view as a neo-Darwinist like Dawkins, except that Ken Miller adds in the wholly private and philosophically gratuitous idea that God somehow, in some vague way, has something to do with the evolutionary process.  Miller needs Dawkins’s science to be correct, to maintain his own view; but Dawkins doesn’t need Miller’s private theology to be correct, to maintain his view.  From Dawkins’s point of view, Miller is expendable.

The ID folks don’t compartmentalize.  They don’t think that design is redundant as an explanatory factor, and that belief in design is merely a choice of faith.  They say that, in addition to chance and natural laws (the existence of which ID folks don’t deny), intelligent design would be needed to produce what we see.  Now you can disagree with ID’s conclusion, but you can’t say that their thought compartmentalizes.  You can in principle test ID thought.  You can put 500 billion trillion bacteria without flagella, without even the genes that we think (based on our current knowledge) are responsible for flagella, in a tank, and set up conditions in the tank that would make it extremely useful for bacteria to have flagella, and uncomfortable for them not to have flagella.  You can run the experiment for 50 years if need be, until you have as many generations as there have been, say, between reptiles and mammals, or artiodactyls and whales.  You can see if random mutations and natural selection will produce flagella, or any other device for greater mobility.  If they can, in a time frame compatible with Darwinian claims, then ID is simply falsified.  

TE, on the other hand, can never be falsified.  If life is produced in a test tube by sheer accident in 5 minutes, proving that no divine intervention or even planning is necessary for the first life, TEs will just say that God’s involvement in the origin of life is a theological truth, not a scientific one.  If Hawking’s claim that universes can be produced out of nothing could ever be proved, the TEs would never concede that belief in God as creator was unreasonable; they would just say that God in his divine wisdom wanted universes to be produced without any involvement on his part at all.  TEs will maintain their faith/science bifurcation under all circumstances; they never have to give it up.  And I don’t like views that can’t under any circumstances ever be falsified.

So I at least am not guilty of compartmentalization.  I grant that if it could ever be proved that “molecules to man” requires no intelligent planning or guidance whatsoever, atheism (or some form of pantheism that was religiously little different from atheism) would be the most reasonable conclusion.  That is why I much prefer the view of Bertrand Russell to the view of Francis Collins or Karl Giberson.  Russell doesn’t equivocate and doesn’t try to make his position invincible by making it unfalsifiable.  I see the main event as ID (which can be given an evolutionary interpretation) versus aimless evolution, and I see TE (in most of its forms, though defensible forms are possible) as a distraction which clouds the issues with deliberate vagueness designed to preserve a secure abode for faith at the cost of theoretical clarity.

A decision has to be made.  Either God does something in evolution that actually makes a difference to the outcome, or he doesn’t.  The only leading TE known to me who has affirmed clearly that God does something that makes a difference to the outcome is Robert Russell.  The rest do everything they can to avoid answering the question.  You, Lou, must have seen, over and over again, how I have been unable to get a single TE here to answer the question without fudging.  So has Hanan.  So has Jon Garvey.  All we get is evasion.  And the theoretical basis of the evasion is the NOMA-like compartmentalization you are complaining about.  

You and I differ in our conclusions, but we think more alike, have more in common with each other’s reasoning process, than either of us has in common with the reasoning process of the TEs.  Best wishes.

melanogaster - #81050

June 14th 2013

“Can anyone here name me 5 (five) full-time biologists *who specialize in evolutionary theory* (not in genetics with a popular side-interest in evolutionary theory) who are Christian?”

Why would they need to be theorists, Eddie? What’s wrong with experimentalists? Can’t you bring yourself that evolutionary biologists far outnumber evolutionary theorists?

Or are you still clinging to the lie that empiricism isn’t important because no one in ID is an empiricist?

Eddie - #81063

June 14th 2013

Experimentation, outside the context of theory, is not science.  It’s mere playing with equipment, pretending to be a scientist.  Your crude Baconianism, which you’ve expressed so many times—data, data, data, ad infinitum—is laughed at by all serious historians and philosophers of science, who actually know what science has been and done all through its history.  No serious investigator into any science can operate without a great deal of theory, and in evolution theory is all the more necessary, since 90% of the “science” of evolution is speculation and hypothetical model-building based on theoretical assumptions anyway.  The paleontologists are more empirical, of course.  But even they make use of a great deal of theory.

You’d understand the interplay between theory and experiment better if you would read Shapiro’s book.  But you refuse to do so.

melanogaster - #81111

June 16th 2013

Eddie, you’re desperately promoting the lie because admitting the truth would reveal the cowardice and lack of faith of you and everyone else in the ID movement.

Just because you are afraid to test your hypotheses doesn’t mean that I don’t formulate hypotheses AND test them empirically. It’s your job to explain why you are too cowardly to engage in the empirical half and continue to pretend that rhetoric is everything, instead of your frankly dishonest approach of misrepresenting my position.

I’ve read Shapiro’s papers and I’m unimpressed. Tell us all how the book titled “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century” is so much different from the paper titled “A 21st Century View of Evolution” or his other papers with similar names. Here, of course, you have to promote your phony claim that books, not the primary literature, are the meat and potatoes of modern science.

Why aren’t you joining Shapiro as a postdoc or grad student? Why doesn’t Shapiro buy into ID?

Eddie - #81120

June 16th 2013

Fruitfly:

I’ve read Shapiro’s book and it’s superb.  He shows a phenomenal grasp of both primary and secondary literature, and a good understanding of the history of evolutionary theory, and his discussions of evolutionary mechanisms are more detailed, more precise, and more complex and sophisticated than anything I’ve ever seen in any of your posts here.  (Or for that matter, in any of the columns by biologists here.)  You could learn a lot from Shapiro.  Especially since your field is not evolutionary biology and his is.  In any case I don’t intend to reply further to your belligerent and ad hominem remarks against me.

Eddie - #81104

June 15th 2013

Lou:
 
I’m replying to your 81095 above in a new sequence, because everything is getting too skinny.
 
First, however, note my reply 81100 above: we agree on the fundamental issue. I reserve this reply for some less important differences.

On “zombies,” I have to know exactly what you mean by “clearly not historical.” Do you mean that the author clearly did not intend the zombies to be understood historically? Or that the author intended them historically, but we clearly know that the event never happened? My response depends on your answer.

I think a similar question needs to be answered before I can deal with your comment on Luke. I understand “history” as a particular genre, and if Luke understood himself to be writing a history, then whatever “sources” he may have had don’t affect the genre. If he is using, say, a parable that he misunderstands as chronicle, then, if the parable later is shown not to correspond with fact, his history will to that extent be false history. More generally, if he asks the world to judge his work as history, his misunderstanding of the original genres of his sources is irrelevant, just as, if I unknowingly pass you a counterfeit bill, and you discover that it is bogus, the fact that I honestly thought it was a legal bill is irrelevant; you still can’t spend it. If you don’t agree with all of this, I suspect that we are using the word “history” in two different ways.

Yes, Homer’s poetry includes historical facts. But it is not a crude, ad hoc mixture of “historical statements” and “epic poetry statements.” The historical facts are there because they are relevant. In the Mark passage, the “historical statements” and the “parabolic statements”—on the hypothesis (not my hypothesis, but perhaps beaglelady’s) that they are meant to be distinguished—would appear to be in a literary jumble, as if Mark didn’t know whether he was doing a parable or a chronicle, and kept changing his mind every sentence or two. If the genres were intelligently mixed, I might be able to apply the suggestion to Mark. But I don’t see the intelligence of the mixture in that case.

On Exodus, you seem to be presuming a process of transmission and composition which is at best debatable. I don’t know how to respond, because I do not claim to know how Exodus was transmitted or edited into its final form, and I don’t think anyone knows that (though many Biblical scholars may pretend that they do).

But my point regarding Exodus would be: it is wrong to say “Science tells us that the waters couldn’t have parted like that, and therefore the Biblical author (final editor, if you please) couldn’t have meant the water-parting story literally; we must interpret it symbolically.” We can’t limit what the Biblical author might have meant by our modern scientific conceptions. For all we know, he might have intended it straight-up literally. And if he did intend it literally, then it is either a true or false story.

Your “fourth option” above does not apply to the Mark story. If the narrator had just said, “and the moment Jesus cured the madman, a herd of swine ran into the sea and drowned”—that would be “honest reporting.” But the narrator doesn’t just report the events. He reports the cause of the events. And he reports the cause with the same certitude as he reports the events themselves.

Mark doesn’t say “And some say that the madman was possessed by demons, and that the demons when driven out took possession of the swine.” That is how Herodotus might have told the story. But not Mark. Mark knows that it was demons in the pigs that made them rush into the sea. So you don’t have the option of “an honest mistake.”

And this applies to most Biblical stories, actually, because they are generally told by what in literary theory is known as “the omniscient narrator.” The narrator purports to know not only the actions of people, but even words that he would not have been standing close enough by to hear, and even the thoughts of the actors, including the thoughts of Jesus, and even the thoughts of supernatural actors such as demons and God. To “believe that the Bible is true” (in the traditional Protestant evangelical sense, which is what BioLogos nominally endorses) requires trusting the narrator when he makes these “omniscient” reports.

Beaglelady does not trust the narrator of Mark. She thinks he is in error when speaking about demons. She thinks that he believes that demons exist, but that he is wrong. So if BioLogos is right that all of the Bible is divinely inspired, then a divinely-inspired Mark is apparently capable of holding delusions about demons. Now, would God entrust the writing of one of his Gospels to a man with delusions? A man whom he knew would spread those delusions to 2,000 years of Christians? Would he “inspire” a writer to tell socially damaging (as beaglelady claims, citing her video) falsehoods? How could the Gospel of Mark be fully inspired if demons do not exist? Someone is wrong here, either beaglelady, or BioLogos, or both.
Lou Jost - #81107

June 16th 2013

Eddie, I think this is an important area for discussion, and has been under-discussed as we often argue about consequences of our interpretational principles rather than the validity of the principles themselves.

I have to take a break to do some work today, but will be thinking about this and answer in detail shortly. Meanwhile, to clarify my statement about Matthew’ army of the walking dead, I think the author surely intended them historically, but we can also be pretty sure that the event never happened.

Also I’d like to note that the hypothesis of divine inspiration is not an all-or-none proposition, though some  people start by assuming that it is. I think the hypothesis that it is completely divinely inspired is falsified, and this is especially true of the gospels, since we have multiple contradictory descriptions of the same events. The contradictions are minor and some would say of little theological importance, but some are not that minor, especially for the people of the time they were written. For example the placement and timing of post-resurrection events, and the ascension, are significantly different in the gospels that mention them. These details may be minor to us, but at least the earlier gospels were supposedly written while some witnesses were still alive. Residents of Galilee and Jerusalem would still have memories or loral histories of some of these events, if they really happened. If some of these contradictory details are false (and at least some of them have to be false), people still alive could have noticed them and denounced the stories as myths. Why would an omnipotent god not fix such details?

Back to the demons, we already know that god did not correct widepread cultural myths such as those associated with the middle-east cosmology. Belief in demons, and belief in first humans Adam and Eve, was widespread, and I don’t see that their inclusion is any different than inclusion of flat-earth references.

Eddie - #81117

June 16th 2013

Good, Lou.  I am glad we agree on the importance of discussing interpretive principles.  I’ve been following the ID-TE-YEC-OEC-atheist debates over evolution for a few years now, and I’m struck by how often people jump from isolated proof-texts, or from at best a very simplified discussion of interpretive method, to specific conclusions supporting what they already believe about common descent, Adam and Eve, etc.  Thus, the Bible becomes a quarry of quotations and themes to be used in a propaganda war.  But this is academically irresponsible.

Thanks for your clarification of the Matthew story about the walking dead.  I suspect that beaglelady has the same view of it that you do.  The difference is that you can say outright:  “This story is not true; therefore the Bible at this point says something that is false, and is at this point not divinely inspired.”  Beaglelady will not say this in so many words; like so many other TEs, she will only intimate rather than say that parts of the Bible are false.  It’s this habit of TEs that I’m trying to expose.

I continue to disagree with you about the demons.  I’m surprised you don’t see the massive difference between the flat earth references and the demon passages.  The flat earth references are few, and clearly incidental, more like unconscious assumptions that occasionally peek out into consciousness, but the demon passages are responsible for the plot of whole Biblical episodes lasting several verses, and the demons’ presence is constantly alluded to in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament.  And the Gospel writers frequently distinguish between the healing of illnesses and the casting out of demons, making clear that they are two separate activities (though of course both are performed by Jesus and sometimes by the disciples).  And scholarship has made it clear that belief in demons was central to the thinking of early Christianity.  (I recommend the four-volume series on The Devil by the historian Jeffrey Burton Russell, especially the first two volumes, on this subject.)  So we are not talking about the mere “inclusion” of a background belief in demons.  The demons, and their master Satan, are major players in the Gospels and the New Testament.  To say that demons do not exist is to say that the New Testament writers were deluded, confused, and generally speaking, that they were wrong about something that they deemed important.

And it does no good to say the Gospel writers may have honestly believed mistaken oral or written traditions about demons.  They take up those traditions for themselves, and by repeating them without hesitation or qualification, take responsibility for their propagation.  Whether the error (supposing for the sake of argument that it is an error to say demons exist) originated with them or with their sources, it remains an error, and the consequences are the same:  the Gospels are not entirely reliable, and therefore not entirely divinely inspired—contra the official position of BioLogos and of many TEs.

Speaking for myself (and not pretending to represent the views of any other Christian), I agree with you that the Bible does not necessarily have to be uniformly divinely inspired.  Indeed, I do not find much that seems “inspired” in Ruth or Ecclesiastes or Esther or the later New Testament letters.  The conversation between Priam and Achilleus at the end of the Iliad is several spiritual levels higher than anything in those books.  And even in Biblical books which seem to me to be rich with inspiration, there are passages which strike me as the human, all-too-human wisdom of carnal man, with his political and social concerns placed above the concern to represent the idea of God in all his purity.  And I think it is possible to be a good and faithful Christian (maybe not an orthodox Protestant, but a good and faithful Christian) while holding this view of the Bible, as a collection of writings that contains inspiration, even indispensable inspiration, but is not inspired from start to finish.  

But BioLogos says that the Bible is uniformly divinely inspired in its formal statements, while casting doubt upon that claim in all kinds of ways, from its treatment of Adam and Eve onward.  I’d like to see consistency between theory and practice.  I’d like BioLogos and TEs generally either to drop the claim that the Bible is entirely inspired, authoritative, and true, or else to live out that claim, and stop tolerating TEs who are loosey-goosey when it comes to demons, miracles, etc.  But I think that American TEs are unwilling to meet the demand of consistency here.  They seem to want to have everything both ways.  When talking to the moderate evangelicals and conservative evangelicals, TEs press all the right buttons to sound like traditional Protestant evangelical believers in a perfect Bible; but when talking to liberal evangelicals, TEs make it known—though they are careful not to say it directly because the moderate and conservative evangelicals are listening—that they are too sophisticated to take the Bible in the old way.  

I can get along well with just about anyone who has a clear and principled position.  I can get along with a gentlemanly atheist like Carl Sagan (though a Neanderthal like P. Z. Myers is another matter).  I can get along with the old-time Protestant who thinks the whole Bible is inspired, and guides his life (including his interpretation of scientific and historical findings) by that assumption.  Some of the finest people I have known hold this position.  I can also get along with the liberal who is openly liberal, who openly embraces the Enlightenment, science, Biblical criticism, etc., and freely declares, without shame or guilt, that Christianity has to change, that some parts of the Bible and tradition are wrong and have to be dropped.  I have also met fine representatives of that tradition.  But I can’t get along with people who, out of intellectual or spiritual insecurity, or to safeguard themselves from criticism from people in their churches and denominations, or to secure funding for their activities, equivocate between the latter two positions.  This is doubtless why certain TEs don’t like me very much, and bristle whenever I post here.  They aren’t used to practicing the intellectual probity that I’m demanding.

beaglelady - #81128

June 16th 2013

I’d like to see consistency between theory and practice.  I’d like BioLogos and TEs generally either to drop the claim that the Bible is entirely inspired, authoritative, and true, or else to live out that claim, and stop tolerating TEs who are loosey-goosey when it comes to demons, miracles, etc.


What about William Dembski, who publicly said  that he took Genesis figuratively, and then backed away only when his more conservative employers cracked down?   He’s the very model of consistency and courage! 

Eddie - #81131

June 16th 2013

By that logic, if someone else cheats on his income tax, it would be justified for you to do so, too.

I wouldn’t say it’s ever a good thing to cave in to pressure, but at least caving in for the sake of an income to feed one’s family is understandable.  Are you in danger of losing your livelihood if your employer knows your theological position?  And how would your employer know your theological position if you go by “beaglelady”?

beaglelady - #81169

June 18th 2013

I doubt Dembski and family would have starved had he chosen to take a stand.     

Eddie - #81171

June 18th 2013

I see.  And would you and your family starve if you chose to take a stand on the question asked?  And just to remind you, the question asked is  “Does the Bible sometimes teach things that are false”?  That’s the general form.  And more specifically:  “Does the Bible teach something false when it teaches that demons can possess people, be exorcised out of people, and be sent into animals such as pigs?”

If you aren’t willing to answer these questions publically, then you aren’t in a moral position to condemn Dembski for lack of forthrightness in his public statements.

beaglelady - #81187

June 19th 2013

Well, if the Bible teaches that stars are stuck in the firmament, with a heavenly sea above it, does it teach thngs that are false?  

Eddie - #81189

June 19th 2013

Again you answer a question with a question!  You have done that maybe 200 times since you started posting on this site.  Do you really believe that no one notices that you never answer?  Do you not realize that everyone can see that you evade all the hard questions, all the questions that would involve committing yourself theologically?

Not that it matters.  In context, your evasion implies an answer, and everyone can see what the answer is.

beaglelady - #81115

June 16th 2013

Beaglelady does not trust the narrator of Mark.

Eddie does not trust the author of Genesis.

She thinks he is in error when speaking about demons.

He thinks Genesis is in error when speaking of the firmament.

She thinks that he believes that demons exist, but that he is wrong.

He thinks the author of Genesis believes that the firmament exists but that he is wrong.

 How could the Gospel of Mark be fully inspired if demons do not exist?

How could Genesis be fully inspired if the firmament does not exist?

Eddie - #81121

June 16th 2013

beaglelady:

See my replies to Lou for a full exposition of my position, and a full explanation of why your parallels above do not work.  But I’ll briefly restate:

Genesis 1 was (in my view) never intended to be a historical account (not even a mixed account with a bit of history and a bit of other stuff).  Mark’s account of the Gadarene demoniac, on the other hand, appears to be intended as a historical account.  Therefore, if Genesis 1 says something that does not match our understanding of events, there is no difficulty.  But if Mark’s account does not match our understanding, then either Mark is wrong, or our understanding is wrong.  Now Mark, along with the other Gospel writers, believed that demons possessed people and that Jesus exorcised them.  He also believed that Jesus had conversations with demons and sometimes recorded those conversations.  He also believed that demons caused the pigs to run into the sea.  You believe that Mark was deluded and in error.  I wish you would just say outright:  “Mark was deluded and in error, and to the extent that he was, the Bible teaches something that is false.  We should not believe the Bible at that point.”

Also, if I may make a more general point to help conversation along:  you could save a great deal of time and friction, beaglelady, if you would articulate your positions more fully, laying out your belief on the authority and inspiration of the Bible (all of it is inspired? or only some of it?) and explaining your hermeneutical principles (how can we tell when the Gospel writer is speaking historically, and when he isn’t?).  Then we could discuss rather than argue.  You seem to think I’m out to persecute you; but I’m not.  I’m trying to find out what you think, but all you will share is what you object to.  That doesn’t provide much meat for discussion, and forces me to negate your negations, when I would rather try to affirm some of your affirmations—if I could ever find out what they were.

Lou Jost - #81116

June 16th 2013

Usually interpreters of the bible will distinguish between parts that are meant as history and parts that are meant figuratively. Many assign the gospels to the former category and Genesis to the latter category. But I think these are not black-and-white distinctions, and we are introducing an important element of arbitrariness into the decision to treat  one entire chapter as figurative and another as historical.

And then there is still the possibility that an author who thinks he is writing literal history is not very selective of his sources. In this respect the gospel writers were very poor historians, since they never discuss the sources of their observations, or mention contrary views (unlike Herodotus).

Eddie - #81122

June 16th 2013

Lou:

I agree with you that decisions about genre etc. are in principle debatable, and I have no objection if anyone wants to argue “Genesis 1.15-1.20 was meant as history, but the rest of Genesis 1 was meant as a temple symbol” or “The Resurrection in Mark 16 was meant as history, but Mark 5 was not meant as history, and the whole story of the Gadarene demoniac is just a parable,” etc.  I’ll listen to arguments about specific literary decisions with an open mind.

Still, I’d ask you to try to bear in mind that I’m focusing this discussion on the TEs and and I’m therefore trying to employ some TE premises as at least starting-points for discussion.  Now the TEs here, especially the columnists of the past (Enns, Lamoureux, etc.) all seem to be telling me that Genesis 1-3 are not meant literally, but are symbolic descriptions of nature as a temple, or an origin myth using Garden symbolism, etc.; well, they shouldn’t then object if I agree with them that Genesis 1-3 need not be read literally.  And we are told quite frequently by TEs here that Wright and other New Testament scholars have “proved” or “shown” that the Gospels (especially the story of the Resurrection, but often the argument seems more general) show by their literary character that they were intended as history, not myth or legend or parable etc.  So again I’m trying to play along with the premises for the sake of argument.  And beaglelady has said that she accepts individual sentences from my passage from Mark as historical statements.  So I’m playing along with that.  And then, given all those premises (supplied by TEs, not by me, though at least in the case of Genesis I would concur with the TEs), I’m trying to show that there is massive confusion in the way the question of demons is being handled.

There are only two consistent ways of dealing with the “demons” references, if you think that demons don’t possess people, or herds of pigs:  (a) the passages have some parabolic or other non-literal significance; (b) the author of the passage was deluded and in error.   Now, beaglelady has said repeatedly that she doesn’t think that demons possess people or herds of pigs (or if she doesn’t mean that, she sure hasn’t been very clear in her writing).  So if I have her premise right, then she either believes Mark was using some sort of metaphoric or parabolic device in talking about demons and pigs, or she believes that Mark was deluded by his ignorance of natural causality.  She has said nothing so far to indicate that she thinks there is anything parabolic, symbolic, etc.  (You have suggested that as a possibility, but she hasn’t.)  Rather, she has said that ancient people didn’t understand mental illness and thought demons caused it.  In other words, Mark was deluded, and passed that delusion on to the readers of the Gospel, who believed it for nearly two millennia until modern psychiatry came along.

So if beaglelady is right, God “inspired” a book that contained a major mis-description of reality.  It follows that the Bible is not fully inspired or reliable.  But beaglelady will not acknowledge that this follows from her admissions.  That’s where the matter between beaglelady and myself sits, regardless of whatever other differences you and I may have on the subject.

As for your last paragraph, I’ve already dealt with that.  If the Gospel writers use older sources, it is right to assume they agree with those sources, unless they include remarks indicating the possible weaknesses of those sources.  Mark narrates the Gadarene demoniac story without any reference to sources, so either he created the story himself, or he vouches for the earlier sources and agrees with them; or at least, if he has any doubts about them, he suppresses those doubts, and he knows that if he suppresses those doubts the readers will take his account as true.  So he remains 100% responsible for persuading the reader that demons were exorcised from the madman and entered the swine.  He can’t blame his sources for the impression he willingly creates in his readers’ minds.    

That said, I agree with you that if the Gospel writers were intending to be historians, they were poor ones.  But I’ve given beaglelady an opening here:  if she wants to say that the Gospels are not history as we understand it, but some other genre, she is free to define that genre and list its salient characteristics.  I will listen with an open mind.  But then I will expect her to apply her definition of the genre to the Mark passage, or some other passage containing demonic posssession.  I’m trying to be reasonable here, but I’m getting stonewalled by beaglelady’s refusal to address the hermeneutical issues head-on.

beaglelady - #81186

June 19th 2013

There is a teeny-tiny problem taking Mark’s account of pigs literally running into the sea.    Gerasa is over thirty miles from the Sea of Galilee.  The alternative reading, Gadara, is six miles from the sea.   Did the pigs really tumble into the sea from a hillside so far away?  

Mark is writing about historical events; Jesus really heals a sick man.  But Mark is not a modern guy, he is a man of antiquity, and a reasonable person doesn’t  expect him to write as if he’s a reporter for the AP.  He is able to weave theology into his narrative.  Pigs are unclean; the powers of darkness are defeated.

Eddie - #81190

June 19th 2013

Don’t try to make this into a discussion of possible errors of Mark in geography.  You know perfectly well that we are discussing demons.  The question is whether Mark made an error about demons.  The question is whether he teaches anything false about demons.  And you won’t directly state your view.

Your account isn’t even consistent.  Above, you have implied that the demons are in there because Mark didn’t know modern science and therefore attributed mental illness to possession by unclean spirits.  Now you say that the demons are in there so that Mark can “weave some theology into his narrative.”  So are the demons and their possessions a fictional device for a deliberate literary purpose, or are they an erroneous belief that Mark held quite non-deliberately, because he was a scientifically ignorant child of his time?  If the former, he probably entirely invented the episode with the pigs; if the latter, we should take his account of the possession quite literally.  And you can’t make up your mind which.

Again, above you were arguing that the episode with the pigs is entirely plausible because pigs do stampede at loud noises; now you are arguing that the episode is implausible because the water was too far away.  So is the incident with the pigs a historical event, or not?  You change your position like a yo-yo.

Pretty incoherent Biblical hermeneutics here, I would say.  But that is always the case when Biblical interpretation is being driven by an extra-Biblical agenda, in this case, the Enlightenment dogma that demon-possession is pure superstition from a benighted age.  In all such instances, the Bible has to be desperately adjusted to fit the pre-ordained theological conclusion that the interpreter wants to get out of it.  But let’s leave this pointless discussion behind.  You don’t want to answer, so keep your secrets.  Peace.

beaglelady - #81217

June 20th 2013

Oh dear!  I thought we were discussing a particular passage in Mark.  And I confirmed that much of it is historical and that the man really was healed by Jesus.  I questioned whether the sick man was possessed by demons.    I never said that demons do not exist.  

I would think you’d be happy to discuss why Mark doesn’t know the sea is so far away.  Or did God move it closer for the occasion? 

 

Eddie - #81228

June 20th 2013

“And I confirmed that much of it is historical and that the man really was healed by Jesus.  I questioned whether the sick man was possessed by demons.”

Mark’s words about demons are given in no uncertain terms.  They are not presented as conjecture but as fact.  You present Mark’s words as debatable, and as very probably wrong due to his ignorance of the causes of mental illness.  You are denying Mark’s reliability as a reporter of facts, at least when those facts concern demons.  You are therefore denying the reliability of Mark’s Gospel on a matter of religious importance.  End of story.  Let’s move on.  Next topic!

Lou Jost - #81200

June 19th 2013

Surely both of you must agree that the authors of the gospels sometimes said false things. Why not just say so directly and move on?

 

Eddie - #81204

June 19th 2013

Lou:

I agree that the Bible contains some falsehoods that are incidental to the point of any of the stories.  For example, Genesis alludes to waters above a domed heaven and windows through which the rain comes.  This is a false picture of the world.  However, the story of the Flood does not depend on this false picture of the world.  If one substituted an account of evaporation, clouds, etc., for waters spilling through windows, the story becomes:  “God made innumerable great clouds, and made it rain for a long time because he wanted to destroy all life on earth because of man’s wickedness.”  Thus, the cosmography is incidental.  It doesn’t matter how rainfall is generated for the story to make sense.

On the other hand, in the case of some (not all, but some) of the stories of demon-possession in the New Testament, if the statements made about demons are false, the whole story either breaks down or is severely crippled in meaning.  We have not even begun to consider the details of Mark 5 in any depth, and already such details as I have presented show this.  I could adduce scores more, but since beaglelady is unresponsive even to the textual points I’ve already introduced, I will not waste energy doing so.

I believe—and a good number of New Testament specialists, as well as Christian theologians and others, believe—that the demons are no mere incidental local belief, akin to windows in the heaven or a flat earth, but are central elements in the spiritual teaching of the New Testament.  You cannot drop them (as you can drop the heavenly windows from Israelite religion) without drastically altering New Testament religion itself.  So if anyone says that demons do not exist, or that they exist but do not posess people and cannot be exorcised from people, that person is saying that a number of stories in the New Testament are false and that part of New Testament religion is false.  

The same would apply to major doctrines such as Resurrection, Atonement, etc.  If you remove these things (as based on primitive scientific ideas, etc.), you gut the faith, and might as well scrap it.

The only possible argument against my position would be a successfull textual exegesis of passages such as Mark 5, which take into account all the details of the text, and show that the whole thing can be read as a parable, allegory, etc.  Then the New Testament would not be false at that point.  But beaglelady has already ruled this out by indicating that key elements of Mark 5 are not allegorical or parabolic, but historical. So then she would have to provide a “combination exegesis” which balances historical and non-historical elements.  This would require several hundred focused and tightly  organized words to do in even a sketchy and inadequate fashion.  She hasn’t produced such an account and apparently has no intention of doing so.

I’ve said over and over again that I will not condemn beaglelady for saying:  “Parts of the Bible contain false teachings about religious matters.”  I just want her to confirm that, in the case of demons, this is what she believes, i.e., that Mark and other writers teach something that is false, and that on the subject of demonic possession and exorcism, the New Testament is not inspired and has no authority over Christian belief or conscience.  If she will openly say this, then I have the admission I wanted.  And if she won’t, I have no more time to induce her to do so.  But I am virtually certain of what she in fact believes, and her attitude toward demon stories goes a long way toward explaining her attitude toward many other things.

Her attitude is straight out of the Enlightenment, and thus is in line with the strong Enlightenment streak in modern TE.  There is nothing necessarily evil about a person who accepts the Enlightenment, but there is something intellectually dishonest (or at least intellectually inadequate) about someone who does not admit the profound tension between the assumptions of the Enlightenment and the assumptions of the Bible and traditional Christianity.  Any science and theology discussion that does not acknowledge this elephant in the room is intellectually irrelevant.

beaglelady - #81218

June 20th 2013

Yes, although the Gospels are historical,  the authors often wished to make theological points.  The Gospels should not be seen as a newspaper.

 

Eddie - #81230

June 20th 2013

As far as I can see, the narrative statements about the demons are stated in the same tone and Greek style as the narrative statements about the Resurrection, walking on water, feeding the 5,000, etc., all of which you have said elsewhere that you accept as historical.  Further, in some cases they are woven into the plot of the passage in such a way as to be apparently inseparable from it.

This puts the onus on you to list the criteria by which one can discern which narrative statements in the Gospels are “historical” and which are only “theological” in intention.  And to carefully apply those criteria to the passages on demons, starting with the Mark passage.  When I see such a list, and such an application, I will return to the discussion.  Until then, I take my leave.

Lou Jost - #81229

June 20th 2013

I’d go a step further. The gospels should be read like any other book of the time. The hypothesis that they are inspired by a supernatural being is very hard to support from the text itself. I’d love to hear some argument for why anyone should believe that the gospels are inspired (even slightly and imperfectly) by a god.

Eddie - #81335

June 25th 2013

beaglelady:

I’ve abandoned hope that you will engage with me on detailed discussion of the New Testament text regarding demons and exorcism, but I thought you might want to know the position of your own Church—the one in which you worship every week, according to your own biographical statements—on the question.  

From the Episcopal web site:

’ Exorcism:  The driving out of evil spirits from persons or places with authority derived from Christ. The NT records exorcisms performed by Jesus, e.g., Mk 5:1-13, and by the apostles, e.g., Acts 16:18. The BOS does not provide a rite of exorcism, but it gives these guidelines: “Those who find themselves in need of such a ministry should make the fact known to the bishop, through their parish priest, in order that the bishop may determine whether exorcism is needed, who is to perform the rite, and what prayers or other formularies are to be used.” ‘

Notice:

1.  The Mark passage we have been discussing is cited here.  According to your Church, it “records” an exorcism performed by Jesus.  Not “the healing of a mentally ill person by Jesus, which the writer misinterprets as the exorcism of demons.”  What is “recorded” is an exorcism.  And “exorcism” cannot occur where there has not first been “possession.”  The Gospel therefore teaches that there are demons which can possess people and need to be exorcised.  So says your Church.

2.  Regarding the possibility of modern cases, the BOS guidelines imply that in at least some cases (however rare) exorcism will be needed.  I.e., it implies that even today, in some cases, demons do possess human beings and have to be driven out of them.  No ridicule of the notion, and no skepticism about it, appears here.  To be sure, it is implicit in the wording that not all cases of strange behavior are caused by demons, and the suggestion is that most examples of such behavior have natural rather than supernatural causes; nonetheless, the reality of demon-possession is admitted.

Now, the Episcopal Church of today is, by most measures, a quite liberal church.  If we turn to a Church which is generally thought of as more conservative, i.e., the Roman Catholic Church, we find that belief in demonic possession and exorcism is more strongly pronounced.  Information on that can be found in many places, including this article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8416104/Surge-in-Satanism-sparks-rise-in-demand-for-exorcists-says-Catholic-Church.html

So it seems that two major Churches, one liberal, one conservative, alike affirm that the Gospels teach the reality of demon-possession and exorcism; therefore, any member of either of those Churches who denies the reality of demon-possession and exorcism is (from the point of view of those Churches) denying a teaching of the Gospels.  

So not only the text of the Bible, but even leading Church interpretations of that text (including the interpretation of the largest and oldest Christian Church in the world and the interpretation of your own Church) goes against your position.  It appears that your view doesn’t have a theological leg left to stand on.

And it’s not me saying this:  it’s the text and the Churches.  So don’t be upset with me over it.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  Take your disagreement to the source.  Challenge the teaching of the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Gospels on this subject.  Best wishes.

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