Evolution Basics: Evolution as a Scientific Theory

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February 21, 2013 Tags: History of Life

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

Evolution Basics: Evolution as a Scientific Theory

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 discuss what a scientific theory is, and how scientists use them to make predictions about how the world works.

Not a hunch, just a theory

In common English usage, “theory” means something like “guess” or “hunch”. It means something speculative, uncertain. In science, however, the meaning is almost exactly the opposite. In science, a theory is an idea that has stood the test of time. This difference between the common usage and the scientific usage of the word is a frequent source of confusion for nonscientists. In science, a theory is a well-tested idea – an explanatory framework that makes sense of the current facts available, and continues to make accurate predictions about the natural world.

Theories get their start as merely an idea, or hypothesis (plural = hypotheses). This literally means “less than” (hypo) a theory (thesis)”, and the name is appropriate. What scientists call a hypothesis is basically what nonscientists call a “theory” in the common English sense we discussed above. It’s an idea that makes sense, and fits with what we already know, but as such does not yet have much (or even any) experimental support. Here is where science departs from other approaches to knowledge: the key feature that distinguishes science from other activities is hypothesis testing. Rather than merely entertain a hypothesis as an interesting idea, scientists use a hypothesis to make specific predictions about the natural world, and then test to see if these predictions can be supported with experimental evidence. If the prediction is supported by the results of one experiment, scientists will use the same hypothesis to make (and test) more predictions. If the hypothesis is in fact an accurate idea about the way things really are, then this hypothesis will continue to make accurate predictions. Over time, as the idea gains more and more experimental support, scientists eventually drop the “hypo” prefix from hypothesis and start referring to the idea as a theory – a well-tested explanatory framework that continues to make accurate predictions about the natural world.

Theories: well-tested, but provisional

Despite being well-tested ideas, however, theories in science are never accepted as absolutely true. During hypothesis testing, only two results are possible: the scientist can reject the hypothesis if it did not make an accurate prediction, or the scientists can fail to reject the hypothesis if it did make an accurate prediction. The important point is that the scientist cannot accept the hypothesis. Put another way, science can show that certain ideas are “wrong” (in that they cannot be used to make accurate predictions about the natural world), but science cannot show that a given idea is “right” or “true.” To say that a hypothesis is “right” would be to imply that it will withstand all future tests of predictions it makes – something that is not possible, since there are always more tests that can be done. All science can say is that an idea has not yet been shown to be wrong. As such, all theories in science are seen as provisional, and are revised as new information comes in. The point here is this: theories in science remain theories – they don’t graduate to become something else (like a “law” for example).

So, a theory is an interesting entity in science – at the same time it is known to be both a powerful explanatory framework and a provisional one, subject to future revision (or even abandonment, should an even better idea be found). In practice, some scientific theories are so well supported that it is highly unlikely that their core ideas will be significantly changed in the future. These theories are ideas that are very close approximations of the way things really are, and as such they won’t change appreciably.  Once a theory gets to this level, science accepts it as a given and moves on to other areas, nearer the fringes of what we do not know.

Learning from the past

Perhaps an example from history would be useful here. Take the theory of heliocentrism – the idea that the sun is the center of our solar system. (If it surprises you to hear this idea referred to as a theory recall that we are using the scientific meaning for theory here. Obviously heliocentrism is a very well-supported idea, and it’s not likely going to change in the future, but it remains a theory in the scientific sense). When heliocentrism was first conceived as an idea in contrast to an Earth-centered solar system there was precious little evidence to support it. Indeed, it had popularity only among mathematicians, who were attracted to the idea based on its simplicity and elegance. Once the idea was articulated, however, evidence came to light that supported it: Galileo’s observation that Venus had phases, like the moon (an observation incompatible with the standard geocentric model of the time) and his observation that Jupiter was orbited by four moons (a model in the heavens of bodies in motion around a larger body).

Now, Galileo’s observations allowed science to discard the standard geocentric model, but not an alternative geocentric model advanced by Tycho Brahe. Heliocentrism did make a key prediction, however. In Brahe’s model, like all geocentric models, the earth was predicted to be stationary. In the heliocentric model, the earth was in motion, orbiting the sun. This key prediction (and, at the time, the lack of evidence supporting it) was not lost on those commenting on this issue in the years after Galileo:

Again, I argue thus, the Motion of the Earth can be felt, or it cannot: If they hold it cannot, they are confuted by Earth-quakes … I mean the gentler Tremblings of the Earth, of which there are abundant Instances in History, and we our selves have had one not long since; so that by too true an experiment we are taught that the Earth’s Motion may be felt. If this were not a thing that had been frequently experienc’d, I confess they might have something to say, they put us off with this, that it is not possible to perceive the moving of the Earth: But now they cannot evade it thus; they must be forc’d to ackowlegd the motion of it is sensible. If then they hold this, I ask why this Motion also which they speak of is not perceived by us? Can a Man perswade himself that the light Trepidation of this Element can be felt, and yet the rapid Circumvolution of it cannot? Are we presently apprehensive of the Earth’s shaking never so little under us? And yet have no apprehension at all of our continual capering about the Sun?1

Unfortunately for Galileo, direct physical evidence of the earth’s motion would have to wait until the 1720s, when stellar aberration (the effect of the earth’s motion on starlight) was first observed. It would take over hundred years more (the 1830s) for the first successful measurement of stellar parallax, the slight shifting of the relative positions of stars as observed from earth due to our change in perspective as the earth moves through space. By the time this observation was made, heliocentrism was a theory—a well-tested framework that made accurate predictions, including predicting stellar parallax. Of course, by the 1830s, heliocentrism had come a long way from its humble beginnings, and it continued to be modified in accordance with new evidence afterwards as well. Still, as an idea, it stood the test of time since it was a reasonably accurate representation of the way things really are. We accept it (yes, provisionally) since it is a productive, useful framework. Its core ideas are not likely to change, even if we add nuances to it now that Galileo could not have imagined. While it’s difficult to imagine, we might even discard it some day, should an even better framework come along—but any competition will have a very tough battle ahead of it. 

Evolution as theory

So, what does any of this have to do with evolution? Simply this: despite what many evangelical Christians have been told, evolution is a theory in the scientific sense. It started off as a hypothesis, and scientists have been trying to reject that hypothesis to no avail. In the present day evolution is an explanatory framework that has withstood 150 years of testing, and continues to make accurate predictions about the natural world. Like heliocentrism, our ideas about evolution have developed significantly since the 1850s. In the next post in this series, we’ll sketch out some of the lines of evidence that Darwin offered in his Origin of Species, before going on to examine the state of the evidence in the present day.

Notes

  1.  Edwards, John. A Demonstration of the Existence and Providence of God From the Contemplation of the Visible Structure of the Greater and Lesser World. London, 1696, pp. 45-47. 

 


Dennis Venema is Fellow of Biology for The BioLogos Foundation and associate professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signalling.

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Leigh Copeland - #76860

February 22nd 2013

Would it be fair for me to claim, in a discussion with skeptical Christians, that evolution is as well established a theory as heliocentrism? 


brutewolf - #76867

February 22nd 2013

Leigh, you certainly can. Evolution is as established as atomic theory, germ theory, and gravitational theory. (No one’s ever seen an atom…“just a theory”.) Evolution is, in fact, much better understood than gravitational theory. Gravitational theory had a major “oops!” about a hundred years ago that Einstein uncovered, and was thrown further into disarray with quantum mechanics. If there were theological implications to this, we’d likely have a host of “Anti-Newtonian” websites who would grouse that physicists can’t decided what they want to believe.

When I’m talking to my fellow Christian friends, I always, always, always, begin the discussion with heliocentrism. There are over sixty verses in the Bible which reference either a moving sun, a solid firmament, or a fixed earth. Zero verses imply heliocentrism. And while people since Augustine have pondered an ancient universe, NOBODY saw heliocentrism coming for fifteen hundred years.

It could have (and some wished it would have) destroyed Christianity in the Middle Ages. Instead, our forbearers simply reworked their theology, and now we sit back in marvel and wonder at a pretty amazing universe.

The sad part is that it took about three hundred years for Christians to become comfortable with heliocentrism. (There are still some hilarious geocentric posters from the late 1800’s.) It may take three hundred years for Christians to become comfortable with evolution.

We’re halfway there.


Carla Porchetta - #76964

February 28th 2013

Geocentrism was believed by einstein hubble and hoyle to work but as hubble said he chose heliocentrism since he did not want to let the Divine foot in the door.

Google  - galileo was wrong the church was right  - to see there are many scientists who accept geocentrism - Sugenis’s website is interesting since it has a moving model of both systems.   So the Bible is right and you are wrong.


Ted Davis - #77196

March 7th 2013

HELLO?

If you’re still following this thread, Carla, I would appreciate having a reference to  your statement about Hubble, heliocentrism, and a divine foot coming over the doorstep. Where exactly did Hubble say this?

In a brief search for information, I ran across this statement by “Third Day,” who urges everyone to “Convert to Geocentrism.” Third Day says, “I am convinced that the sole reason the theory of heliocentrism is taught as dogma is to remove God. Earth as a favored position in the universe implies that God put the earth where it is and for the atheist that is intolerable and the idea must be removed.”

http://www.true2ourselves.com/forum/christianity-science/7242-convert-geocentrism.html

This is one of the funniest things I’ve read all year—funny as in irony. Here’s the irony unpacked for readers. (1) One of the great modern myths, akin to the ridiculous story that Columbus had to convince everyone in his day that the world is spherical rather than flat, is the claim that Copernicus “demoted” humanity by moving us out of the astronomical center. In fact, Copernicus had no such notion in his head, and in his day the very center of the universe—namely, hell—was not exactly a glorified location. Fortunately, humans were in this life located a few thousand miles from there, near the center but not quite in it (yet). Furthermore, the best place to be, the most glorified location, was as far as possible from the center. Arisotle taught that the realm below the moon is imperfect and mutable, whereas the heavens were perfect and immutable. Christians generally agreed with that, and for them the best place was the empyrean heaven, the place outside this world where God dwells. IN OTHER WORDS, the center was a lousey place to be located in Copernicus’ day, when geocentrism was the universally received view.

(2) Only about 100 years after Copernicus did people invent the idea that Copernicus had “demoted” us by moving us from the center. In modern astronomy, this myth has a very wide following and is often used as the first card in a 3-card play, as follows: Copernicus “demoted” us astronomically; Darwin demoted us biologically; Freud demoted us psychologically.

(3) Now I see where some Christians today are trying to put humanity back in (or near) the astronomical center, allegedly b/c the center is “a favored position in the universe” and “God put the earth where it is and for the atheist that is intolerable.”

Oh my. Oh my. Oh my.

Anyone interested in the myth of demotion should look for Dennis Danielson’s article, “The Great Copernican Cliche” in the American Journal of Physics.


lancelot10 - #77213

March 7th 2013


lancelot10 - #77215

March 7th 2013


lancelot10 - #77221

March 7th 2013

I traced the quotes from hubble einstein and hoyle but it would not let me post for some reason.  Geocentrism is to do with relativity - I think you mixed up part of third day with hubbles thoughts - but you can get these quotes on “galileo was wrong the church was right”.

If you choose heliocentrism you are saying the bible has myths and lies - such as Joshua stopping the sun - Hezekiah asking for God to make the sun go backwards - and the psalms and job.


lancelot10 - #77222

March 7th 2013

The bible does not say the earth was flat - neither did humans think it was flat

they could see the spheres in the sky.   A bit of a straw man - but the bible does say the sun moves and the earth is still.


Ted Davis - #77197

March 7th 2013

For comments on modern geocentrism (an oxymoron, but yet a reality), see my column http://biologos.org/blog/galileo-and-the-garden-of-eden-part-2.

The printed source described at the end of that column goes into this in depth.


Carla Porchetta - #76968

February 28th 2013

Can you give just one clear example where evolutionary theory or hypothesis has been proven ?


lancelot10 - #76971

February 28th 2013

Psalm 19:5-6 – “In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridgegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.  Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.”

Psalm 104:19 – “Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.”

Eccles. 1:5 – “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.” 

Wis. 13:2 – “but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.”


lancelot10 - #77019

March 1st 2013

Yes - I too would like to see just one clear example of evolutionary evidence - in all my years of blogging no one has even a clear opinion on how evolution works since Darwin was pre DNA.    This DNA strand  7 feet long coiled up inside a sperm or egg cell has to be hit by cosmic rays or other such damage as to change it into the DNA of another creature.   Whats more the “damage” which will produce another creature has to be ongoing in the same direction ???  Evolution does not even have a tenable theory.

But lets see if their is evidence that it is happening - so waiting for just one example from anyone.


Carla Porchetta - #76967

February 28th 2013

Leigh - heliocentrsim is not well established - neither is evolution - see below


Mike Beidler - #76864

February 22nd 2013

I appreciated your discussion of the difference between hypothesis and theory, Dennis.  Will you be discussing in a future post what a scientific law is, in contrast to the other two terms?

As well, you may be moving toward this conclusion, but we could easily replace Galileo’s theory of heliocentrism with Darwin’s theory of evolution in the last two sentences of your penultimate paragraph:  “Evolution’s core ideas are not likely to change, even if we add nuances to it now that Darwin could not have imagined. While it’s difficult to imagine, we might even discard it some day, should an even better framework come along—but any competition will have a very tough battle ahead of it.”


Richard Penner - #76889

February 25th 2013

Dennis Venema wrote:

The point here is this: theories in science remain theories – they don’t graduate to become something else (like a “law” for example).

Mike Beidler asked:

Will you be discussing in a future post what a scientific law is, in contrast to the other two terms?

A scientific law (or empirical law) tends to be an empirically tested and reliable rule-of-thumb, with a domain of applicability much smaller than that of a scientific theory. Typically, many “laws” turn out to be consequences of wider theories applied to a special case, thus theories help make sense out of a collection of laws.

An example of this is Dalton’s law of partial pressures which is explained by atomic theory ( or the latter kinetic theory of gasses) where there is always a pressure low enough so that one may neglect atomic size and interactions and thus partial pressures sum as Dalton found.

Biological laws, like Mendelian inheritence in bisexual eukayrotes or metabolic scaling of land animals, tend to be sloppier than physical and chemistry laws, with exceptions and weak predictive power, because of noisy biological processes and what Darwin called “variation”. DNA replication is a stochastic process, the working of the cell are less machine-like than portrayed in pop-science sources, some individuals and species are metabolically far from the land animal norm, etc.


Merv - #76868

February 22nd 2013

Mike, I too appreciated the emphasis on the permanently contingent nature of theories.  A BJU chemistry text I am familiar with even refers to laws as being contingent on further discovery, and correctly describes the fluid nature of science as a strength.  Nonetheless I have made the error as a science teacher of presenting a ‘law’ as a ‘theory that has withstood the test of time”.   There is no ‘graduation’ to a permanent status in science.  Nonetheless we continue to use the term ‘law’ in science education circles.  But even some of these have needed revision.  E.g.  matter conservation now has to have the caveat that matter can be turned into energy and vice versa. 

 It sounds to me like the term ‘law’ is not appropriate at all in technical discussion and perhaps should even be dropped in the looser jargon of general science education.   It creates and fosters too much misconception that we then may need to spend the rest of a student’s science education trying to undo. 

 Dennis wrote:

…and scientists have been trying to reject that hypothesis [evolution] to no avail.

This is in marked contrast to what evolution skeptics claim –that scientists bend over backwards to try to preserve the theory, dismiss any contrary data, or insist only on interpretations of data that are friendly to evolution.

 One of the major challenges that continues to need addressing is whether or not there is a huge conspiracy or even a loose conspiracy afoot.  If anti-evolution Christians were really convinced that science has been doing its level best to critique aspects of evolutionary theory, they would be in a better position to appreciate the resilience of the evolutionary explanatory framework.   I know that such conspiracy theory has been addressed in other posts and need not be focused on here, but I just bring this up to point out that the suspicion of such conspiracy prevents many Christians from accepting, much less appreciating this claim.

 -Merv


melanogaster - #77139

March 5th 2013

“This is in marked contrast to what evolution skeptics claim –that scientists bend over backwards to try to preserve the theory, dismiss any contrary data, or insist only on interpretations of data that are friendly to evolution.”

What evolution deniers (“skeptics” is too mild) claim has little or no basis in reality.

“If anti-evolution Christians were really convinced that science has been doing its level best to critique aspects of evolutionary theory, they would be in a better position to appreciate the resilience of the evolutionary explanatory framework.”

True except for one very, very wrong word choice. Science isn’t about critiquing theories, it’s about testing them empirically. There aren’t two sides doing that in the field of evolutionary biology, which is probably what drove the wrong word choice on your part.


Chip - #76874

February 22nd 2013

Maybe this is to come later, but a definition of evolution has to be considered at least as important as a definition of theory.  So I’ll jump-start the discussion by offering Dawkins’ definition below.  Would you consider this to be accurate, and if not, why not?

When cascades of small chance steps accumulate, you can reach prodigious heights of adaptive complexity. That cumulative build-up is evolution. Its guiding force is natural selection…. Evolution by natural selection is the only workable theory ever proposed that is capable of explaining life, and it does so brilliantly.


Carla Porchetta - #76969

February 28th 2013

natural selection does not guide evolution it merely selects the fittest genome ( such as a fit antelope) for its environment - it would not select the genes to make a new creature since it (selection) has no intelligence.  The existing genome of a creature like say a dog can only lose information by selective breeding - this is why dogs are always dogs and bacteria are always bacteria no matter how many mutations occur.  The laws of probability will not allow small chance steps of mutations to produce a new kind such as a bird from a mouse - nor is there any evidence that the necessary billions of intermediate transitional species ever existed even though each progression would have to survive in each of its stages.


melanogaster - #77140

March 5th 2013

Chip, that’s not a definition. It’s also important to grasp that evolutionary theory is about the mechanisms underlying evolution.


Jon Garvey - #76883

February 24th 2013

brutewolf

Evolution is as established as atomic theory, germ theory, and gravitational theory.

Is it not wise to define what exactly one means by the evolution that has been as clearly confirmed as heliocentrism? Franscisco Ayala, for example, who has written for BioLogos, is very clear that Neodarwinian evolution, understood as a process of chance and necessity, renders untenable any idea of final causation/external teleology.

He follows this through to the extent that it is not only mistaken, but even blasphemous, to attribute to God’s creating will the “pervasive” dysfunctions of life, such as the human jaw and birth canal, and even more morally repugnant manifestations of life such as (his examples) the flesh eating habits of apes, the destructive lifestyles of parasites, the cannibalistic mating habits of spiders, mantids and midges etc. These, he says, are “not compatible with special creation by the omniscient and omnipresent God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” They are design without a designer c- and they make up a good chunck of living creation.

Following this reasoning, the same must necessarily be true of all evolved life. it must be equally inappropriate to attribute to God’s purpose the more benign or beautiful living forms and behaviours we see, which must also arise from chance and necessity, as also must be the superbly balanced ecological systems in which all of these, including the parasites and flesh-tearers, participate. The bird of paradise, truffles, your true love’s facial features, and Yellowstone National Park can be no more or less fortuitous than the Ichneumonidae, and no more or less worthy of praise to God.

Is it this view of evolution that is as thoroughly confirmed as heliocentrism? If so what do you say to Christians who, for example, find instruction in 1 Timothy 4.4:

For everything God created [though he left it all to chance and necessity] is good [though it shows pervasive incompatibility with his goodness], and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving [thanks for what, exactly?] because it is consecrated by the word of God and with prayer.

And how major an adjustment needs to be made to John 1.2:

Through him (the Logos - the Son who is the loving reason, wisdom and executive will and power of God) all things were made; and without him nothing was made.

What confort are Jesus’s assurances that he will clothe me when his Father clothed the lily of the field only by chance and necessity?


brutewolf - #76887

February 25th 2013

John,

I’m in the middle of patients, so I won’t be able to respond as robustly as I would like, but I guess that forces me to attempt a more pithy response.

We all agree that there are profound unknowables about our God. We only disagree, in these circles, on what is unknown.

I’ve frankly never understood the concern with randomness in evolution from Christians who simultaneously affirm Romans 13:1: “...for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

The world is deeply infected with evil people who achieved power in evil ways. We even have good people who rose to power through evil circumstance. What message was God trying to make with Pol Pot? I can’t think of one…which means, as a Christian I CAN think of one: God is God. I am not.

How is God interacting with us today? I don’t entirely know. Does he travel with my laser beam into the patient’s eye (I’m an ophthalmologist) to relieve the pressure, or does he simply stand at my shoulder and affirm his natural laws. But if he travels with the laser, does he also travel with the bullet that shears the aorta of a night shift convenient store clerk?

I don’t know. I’ve only got two or three decades left to figure it out, and I’m not sure that I will to my satisfaction.

And when you read John 1:2 do you feel that it means he made you too? That’s how I interpret that verse. I am a wonderful creation of God. I believe I was knit together in my mother’s womb, but I’m not concerned that we haven’t discovered amniotic yarn.


Aniko - #76884

February 25th 2013

I appreciate this thorough treatment of what a scientific theory is and how a hypothesis can become one. The historical example of the switch from a geocentric to a heliocentric model is especially revealing, and the point about the logical impossibility of declaring any theory “final” and a perfect description of how things are is important, especially when talking to people who reject religion in the name of science without understanding the nature, scope, and limitations of the latter.

I do find, though, that few sophisticated anti-evolution debaters rely on the “it’s just a theory” cliché these days. What is often claimed instead is that evolution is not testable and falsifiable the way a scientific theory should be because it’s not directly observable. They’re not confusing the colloquial meaning of “theory” with the scientific one,  in other words, but denying that evolution is a scientific theory as defined here. I assume such objections witlll be addressed later.


Richard Penner - #76890

February 25th 2013

Aniko wrote:

What is often claimed instead is that evolution is not testable and falsifiable the way a scientific theory should be because it’s not directly observable.

Nothing is directly observable in science. We use records of past and distant events, we use instruments, we use our imperfect senses to gather evidence. Our brains interpret the signals given by our senses to determine what it is that we see. This is a process which is improved with education. I am told that early film patrons panicked at the screening of an oncoming train for their uneducated state left them convinced them that they were in mortal peril. Events in the past, like the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and supernovae leave traces and records which last into the present, like the isotopic ratios of meteors and planetary nebula and neutron stars. So it is important if someone makes a claim of what a historical person thought or what the backside of the moon looks like is to ask them by what means do they know that. If the person cannot answer, then perhaps you should consider the claim as baseless. If the person points to some authority, you should ask that authority how that authority knows. If you do not understand the answer, then perhaps you need to put in effort and study to address the claim. So if the evidence of an event or phenomenon is reliable, we call it a fact. A fact gets to be justly considered evidence for a theory, if it fits with that theory and not with competing theories. (This and Occam’s razor that we should prefer theories with less invisible moving parts are central to science.)


Aniko - #76894

February 25th 2013

All of that is true, Richard, and part of the answer we need to give when that claim about the 
“unscientific” or “speculative” nature of evolution is made. Curiously (or perhaps predictably) most people who doubt the observability of evolution have little problem with other sciences that involve studying past events through their observable effects in the present, though I suppose there are a few who consider paleontology and much of geology a sham. 


Richard Penner - #76895

February 25th 2013

Aniko wrote (in part):

What is often claimed instead is that evolution is not testable and falsifiable the way a scientific theory should be because it’s not directly observable.

Evolution is falsifiable because there exist whole catagories of hypothetical facts that if true would demonstrate that common descent with modification was false, just like the theory of heliocentrism would not survive in the absence of the abberation of starlight. Evolution makes many predictions, including that subsets of lineage changes lead to similar reconstructed histories, and these predictions not only can be tested but are tested because biology is a science. Natural selection, Darwin’s biggest idea in the umbrella of “evolution”, may be difficult to fully test specifically because it specifies adaptation in the absence of intervention by an agent. But it is tested by unwitting experimentation, as in industrial melanism, glyphosate-resistant weeds and anti-biotic-resistent bacteria strains. Man alters nature and populations of organisms adapt in ways that man did not intentionally cause.


Aniko - #76935

February 27th 2013

Yep, all true, again, Richard. 

(My point was that those were the objections raised by people who reject evolution but have gone beyond the confused “it’s just a theory” cliché - which is most of those you can actually have a discussion with. I expect that they will be thoroughly addressed in further articles, but if you want to do it yourself here, go ahead.)


Jon Garvey - #76900

February 26th 2013

brutewolf - I have to say your moniker amused me: “Who’s lasering my retina today nurse?” “Oh, it’s Dr Brutewolf.” I actually stopped seeing patients four years ago (general practice/backs), which is why I have leisure to think deeply about these issues more or less full time.

Agnosticism about God’s activity may be warranted sometimes, but my point was that Ayala’s TE, as an example, leaves no room for it. In his eyes, design (in the broad sense of final cause/external teleology) cannot coexist with chance/necessity, so he specifically places all God’s “design” in the fine-tuning of the Universe. God’s purpose is thereby limited to “A Universe that is congenial to life”, since Ayala specifically (in another place) says that the death and suffering on which all evolution depends is incompatible with the activity of the Christian God of love.

His reasoning, followed through with care, accords with a piece in the WSJ by “accommodationist” atheist Lawrence Krauss:

Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions.

Now not all TEs think this way, obviously: for example R J Russell calls that (he says prevalent) view “statistical deism”, but he has to do more than simply say “God can both will final causes and not will final causes” to be coherent - he personally favours quantum control of mutations - that’s design.

D L Wilcox also believes in divine action in evolution on the simple basis that he can’t envisage it working out so beautifully without - but to the extent he does so he is, make no mistake, invoking design (in the sense above) and cutting across chance and necessity - unless (as you hint) both chance and necessity are authorities under God, which is to make them agents of design and directly to contradict the many followers of Ayala’s type of TE.

Your example of Pol Pot is admirable: whole swathes of Scripture show that tyrants are indeed authorities under God (Daniel’s whole message), but that often only God knows how and why. Similarly, though the Bible is silent on laser-guidance, it does speak of arrows fulfilling prophecy when fired “at a venture”. To refuse to claim knowledge of God’s purposes in these things, but to affirm his sovereignty in them, is not agnosticism but faith. To deny, or doubt, his control of them is not agnosticism either, but a straight denial of Scriptural teaching that must be justified.

To summarise, there are those in TE (agreeing with many in secular science) who say that God’s active purpose in evolution isn’t unknown - it was chance and necessity that knit you together, not God, external teleology being excluded on principle, as Darwin also stated clearly. So my original question remains: what version of evolution has been proven like heliocentrism? Darwin’s/Ayala’s/Krauss’s? Or Russell’s/Wilcox’s/Warfield’s? Or some lesser proposition, like mere descent with modification?

Fudging the distinction won’t impress the skeptical Christians Leigh Copeland posited.


Chip - #76903

February 26th 2013

So my original question remains: what version of evolution has been proven…?

As always, Jon’s restatement of the quesiton is more eloquent than mine, but essentially the same.  “Evolution” IMHO is quite malleable, has multiple definitions, and it’s advocates often engage in what I would consider to be equivocation.  It’d be nice—no, necessary really—if Dennis would be explicit about what he has in mind when be presents his discussions. 


beaglelady - #76905

February 26th 2013

Dennis has already explained what he has in mind!  In part one of this series,  under What you can expect, he wrote:

The goal of this course is straightforward: to provide evangelical Christians with a step-by-step introduction to the science of evolutionary biology.  This will provide benefits beyond just the joy of learning more about God’s wonderful creation. An understanding of the basic science of evolution is of great benefit for reflecting on its theological implications, since this reflection can then be done from a scientifically-informed perspective. From time to time we might comment briefly on some issues of theological interest (and suggest resources for those looking to explore those issues further), but for the most part, we’re going to focus on the science. For folks interested in the interaction between science and Christianity, I heartily recommend Ted Davis’ recent series as a fabulous introduction to the topic.

 

So it appears that he will be focusing on the scientific theory of evolution with some theological reflection. 


Chip - #76909

February 26th 2013

Let’s say you were thumbing through a university catalogue and you came across a course titled, “The Scientific Theory of X,” but were not clear on what X meant—or perhaps more specifically, you weren’t clear on the school of thought that the course’s professor subscribed to.  In your informed opinion, what might be a good question to ask? 


beaglelady - #76911

February 26th 2013

Have you ever seen a course so titled?  Anyway,  reading the course description would be a good place to start.   Knowing what school it is and who the professor is would certainly not hurt. 


Chip - #76913

February 26th 2013

Have you ever seen a course so titled?

You mean besides the one referred to in 76905?  The one with the bold text.  Remember who wrote that?

 


beaglelady - #76914

February 26th 2013

The course is called “Evolution Basics: A New Introductory Course on Evolutionary Biology.”  The current post, which is part of the course,  is called “Evolution Basics: Evolution as a Scientific Theory.”  Okay? Your question pertained to courses.

 


brutewolf - #76915

February 26th 2013

To refuse to claim knowledge of God’s purposes in these things, but to affirm his sovereignty in them, is not agnosticism but faith.

I like that, Jon. I’ll be pasting it into my TextEdit of Wisdom. It nicely summarizes my sentiments. Seeing the universe through God’s Spirit is to see purpose everywhere. I see God in a baby, in a rainbow, in a Coldplay piano solo, and in Australopithecus. 

As for evolution being as solidly proven as geocentrism, I think the original article nicely summarizes the provisional nature of science. And as Karl Giberson defends in his book “Wonders of the Universe” science, and knowledge itself, are only as solid as the consensus of those most qualified.

The jury is still out on heliocentrism…maybe it’s a “theory in chaos…about to be abandoned”. Just head over to geocentricity.com if you need proof!


Jon Garvey - #76916

February 26th 2013

brutewolf

Entirely endorse your para 1 - the universe glows and pulses with meaning, as is inevitable since it was the work of Christ… I’m afraid I’ve yet to hear the testimony: “I used to love all nature, but then I became a Christian, received the Spirit, and suddenly I saw chance and necessity so clearly!” But I may be in the wrong church, of course…

As for geocentricity, they are fools and idiots - everyone knows the centre of the Universe is just a bit to the left of Mars.

Have a good day.


Eddie - #76921

February 26th 2013

Hello, brutewolf.

On Giberson’s idea of “the consensus of those most qualified”—while the notion sounds commonsensical, it can be abused, and in Giberson’s case, it is.  Giberson’s notion of “consensus” was ably challenged on this site by Mike Gene, gingoro and others, under his series of columns on scientific expertise.  Unfortunately, BioLogos has recently chosen either to delete or to suppress all the comments on earlier columns, so that new readers, going back, can read only the columns, not the discussions of them.  This is too bad, because Giberson hardly replied to the challengers at all, and such replies as he offered were unsatisfactory.

The difficulty is, who determines who is qualified?  I’m sure that palm-readers have views on which palm-readers are qualified.  But what if palm-reading itself is nonsense?    

In evolutionary theory, in the 20th century, those who persuaded the public that they were the “experts” or “most qualified” to talk about evolutionary theory were:  (1) population geneticists (Mayr, Dobzhansky, etc.); (2) paleontologists (Gaylord Simpson, Gould, etc.).  But recently challenges to the neo-Darwinian consensus have come from others:  molecular biologists, physicists, engineers, computer programmers, information theorists, etc.  And predictably, the population geneticists and paleontologists, defending their turf, have arged that the critics aren’t “qualified” to talk about evolution.  Of course not—when evolutionary theory has been defined in terms of the expertise of the current guardians!

Thus, on this site, Shapiro, one of the leading evolutionary biologists in the world, has not been asked to write a column, nor has any column been written about his ideas, nor have his ideas even been alluded to.  He apparently isn’t what Giberson would consider “qualified”—even though he is a professor of Molecular Biology at Chicago, and has published numerous articles in journals of evolutionary biology and a book which Karl Woese (discoverer of the Archaea) has described as a “game changer” in evolutionary theory.  Similarly, the work of the Altenberg group, many of whose members are critical of neo-Darwinism, has not been discussed.  Discussions of science and faith on this site thus take place outside of an informed discussion of the latest changes in evolutionary theory.  The working assumption is that the 20th-century neo-Darwinian synthesis is basically the correct account of how evolution happens (albeit some other mechanisms may be allowed as minor adjuncts).  Basically we have here a narrowing of who counts as “qualified”—those who accept the neo-Darwinian approach (with or without minor modifications).  This has the effect of excluding of the newest, most vibrant ideas in evolutionary theory.  

By this approach, the alchemists could have stopped modern chemistry from being born, by ridiculing the idea of “atoms” as coming from those who were “not qualified,” and refusing to grant degrees to those who believed in the foolishness of “atoms.”

I think that part of the problem is that TEs have seen their main foe as creationism—which denies that evolution has even occurred.  Most of the columns on this site focus on trying to convince creationists—by arguments from population genetics and paleontology—that evolution has in fact occurred.  But for some us, the real theological action is over the mechanism of evolution.  That is, some of us don’t find “evolution” offensive to Christian faith, but doubt whether the essentially stochastic understanding of evolution given in neo-Darwinism is compatible with Christian affirmations of God’s sovereignty and governance.  Non-stochastic understandings of evolution—such as one finds in Shapiro and some of the Altenberg people—might help in the harmonization of science and faith.  But as far as this site is concerned, such understandings of evolution are invisible.  They aren’t part of the consensus of the “qualified.”  So we continue to be presented with a notion of evolution based on random mutations and natural selection, and with theological speculations striving to harmonize randomness with Christian faith.  I think this is a major defect of the science/theology discussion here.

 

 


Chip - #76933

February 27th 2013

BioLogos has recently chosen either to delete or to suppress all the comments on earlier columns,

Wow, bummer.  Did they really purge dissent? 


Jon Garvey - #76936

February 27th 2013

They probably just got charged extra on the server - you now have 179 days to read this…

Still, a shame not to be able to check back on stuff from the distant past… though I believe 1% has been preserved as fossils.


Chip - #76938

February 27th 2013

lol. 

Too bad.  It’s generally the comments—some of them anyway—that make BL a worthwhile place to stop.


hanan-d - #77122

March 4th 2013

Eddie,

There always seems to be this back and forth. Now you bring up Shapiro, correct? But when googling Shapiro, you can get something like this:

 

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/james-shapiro-goes-after-natural-selection-again-twice-on-huffpo/

So, who is a layman supposed to trust on these issues?


Eddie - #77129

March 4th 2013

hanan-d:

The blog site you list is Jerry Coyne’s.  Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.  In his day he produced respected work of the standard neo-Darwinian type.   But lately he spends more time blogging, doing popular talks, writing diatribes against religion, etc. than doing technical scientific research.

I’ve seen his unprofessional and ill-mannered slams against Shapiro on his site.  Shapiro is also at Chicago—a professor of Molecular Biology, specializing in evolutionary mechanisms.  He’s every bit as well-qualified as Coyne, and much better mannered.  He doesn’t sneer at colleagues who disagree with him, but meets their arguments.

The fact that Coyne takes shots at Shapiro in a popular medium, a blog site which he controls, rather than challenges Shapiro to proper scientific debate in a room full of evolutionary biologists, tells you a lot about how strong his position is.  

I don’t “Google” people to get information about them.  I read what they argue themselves.  I’m almost finished Shapiro’s book, Evolution, now.  I’ve also read his exchange with Dembski and some of his other popular expositions of his thought.  Don’t rely on the characterizations of people by their enemies!  Read the original sources!  And regarding anything to do with evolution or intelligent design, don’t rely on Wikipedia!  At Wikipedia, those topics are locked up under the control of a cabal of Darwin-worshipping ID-haters, who prevent anyone from editing what they’ve written.

I think I already gave you a long list of useful readings, did I not?  If not, here are some good starting points:  (1) Darwin’s The Origin of Species; (2) Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker; (3) Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box.  Get those under your belt; then you will be in a better position to detect the biases in Coyne’s attack on Shapiro.  

Books are the meat and potatoes of learning.  The internet is the dessert.  You shouldn’t rely on dessert for your main nutrition, and you shouldn’t rely on partisan blog sites to learn about evolution, intelligent design, etc.  Read good books and use them to judge what you see on the internet, not the other way around.


hanan-d - #77132

March 4th 2013

No, you have and I thank you, but my main point was this: I can read Mr. X with his credentials and his evidence. I can then read Mr Y. with his credentials and evidence. You can keep going with this with many different people but at the end of the day, one has to make the choice who made a more convincing case. Now, to a layman such as I, these topics can go well over one’s head. So in the end, I think people fall upon consensous of the scientific community. Because one asks oneself “Are ALL these scientists just wrong?” 


hanan-d - #77133

March 4th 2013

And don’t forget, it is very difficult to unlearn what one has already learn. So one can go read a book by Behe, but it’s near impossible to remove all the scientific criticism that has been leveraged against him out of your head. 


Eddie - #77136

March 4th 2013

Exactly!  That’s why you should make it a rule, from now on, regarding any controversial topic, always to read the author of the controversial work before you read criticisms of the work.  You may not always be able to follow this rule with complete strictness, e.g., you may read a negative book review of Behe which first alerts you to his existence; but one negative book review won’t be enough to taint your understanding if you have a fair mind.  But if you read Panda’s Thumb for six weeks, and then Wikipedia, and then watch podcasts where Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala are dumping on Behe, etc., then yes, of course, it will be hard to achieve a “clean” read of Behe.  So the moment you feel prejudice making even slight beginnings, you drop all reading of secondary sources—book reviews, blog posts, internet debates, etc.—and read the book the argument is about.  If you make that your rule in all intellectual matters, you will be in good shape to minimize prejudices.

So, for example, I’ve warned you about Wikipedia.  So, if you are already tainted by Wikipedia’s slams against Behe, don’t read what it says about Wells, Meyer, or Dembski.  Go out and read, Wells, Meyer, and Dembski.  Then, if you read Wikipedia (but why you waste time reading lies and slanders written by amateurs with an atheistic axe to grind?), you will see clearly how slanted and biased and distortive the treatment of these authors is.  

You’re aware of the problem; I’ve given you the solution.  Read primary sources first—slowly, carefully.  Take notes.  Write down things you don’t understand.  Look up words in dictionaries or other reference books.  Study the diagrams.  Try to form your own conclusions before reading anyone else’s opinion.  Then go read the debates, pro and con.

You will be amazed how much more intellectually in control you feel—how easy it is to tell when partisans of both sides are twisting facts, taking quotes out of context, etc.  —how easy it is for you to resist bullying and innuendo and unfair arguments.  Because you will know what the author has actually argued, and will recognize caricatures and mean-spirited misrepresentations of the argument.

This is the only path to intellectual freedom.  Merely listening to warring parties talk about a third person’s views imprisons you within the intellectual and moral limitations of the warring parties.  Knowing your text liberates you.   Best wishes.


melanogaster - #77164

March 6th 2013

Wow—the projection in this is astounding…

“That’s why you should make it a rule, from now on, regarding any controversial topic, always to read the author of the controversial work before you read criticisms of the work.”

Yes, this is why you should have read the primary literature in P. falciparum resistance, HIV evolution in real time, motor proteins, eubacterial flagellar assembly, E. coli evolution, etc. BEFORE you read Behe’s criticisms of all of that work in a book aimed at incurious laypeople.

You not only haven’t done that, virtually all of the evidence points to the conclusion that Behe himself never bothered.

“You may not always be able to follow this rule with complete strictness, e.g., you may read a negative book review of Behe which first alerts you to his existence; but one negative book review won’t be enough to taint your understanding if you have a fair mind.”

But your understanding of evolutionary theory and the evidence supporting it has been completely tainted by Behe.

“But if you read Panda’s Thumb for six weeks, and then Wikipedia, and then watch podcasts where Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala are dumping on Behe, etc., then yes, of course, it will be hard to achieve a “clean” read of Behe.”

If you haven’t examined the evidence (no longer in books, but OoS is a hefty exception), your mind is tainted by Behe’s presentation.

“So the moment you feel prejudice making even slight beginnings, you drop all reading of secondary sources—book reviews, blog posts, internet debates, etc.—and read the book the argument is about.”

Behe’s argument isn’t about a book. It’s about a massive amount of evidence that you are afraid to examine for yourself.

“If you make that your rule in all intellectual matters, you will be in good shape to minimize prejudices.”

Why should one read books and arguments instead of directly examining the evidence, Eddie?


Eddie - #77168

March 6th 2013

hanan-d:

I’ll comment on the above interruption to our conversation:

Fruitfly (aka melanogaster), the man who claims to be a scientist, and to have enough scientific knowledge to refute Behe, and who has on this site publically accused Behe of academic dishonesty, but who lacks the courage to stand behind that charge and look Behe in the eye, man to man, scientist to scientist, by revealing his own name and scientific qualifications, wrote:

“But your understanding of evolutionary theory and the evidence supporting it has been completely tainted by Behe.”

Utterly false.  I first read Behe in 2005.  By that time I had been reading about evolutionary theory for approximately 40 years.  In fact, I was a devotee of neo-Darwinism in my early years, and only abandoned it (which does not mean that I abandoned evolution), without any religious motivation (I was agnostic at the time), when I realized how weak a scientific theory it was.  

So before any encounter with Behe I knew what neo-Darwinism said.  That’s why I didn’t make the blunder about “random mutations” that Fruitfly made, here on this site, a couple of years back, when he falsely claimed that the term was used only in creationist literature; fortunately another poster (I think it was James, but it’s so long ago it might have been someone else) hammered him with quotations containing “random mutations” from the mainstream scientific literature, so that readers here came to realize that Fruitfly was entirely bluffing.   

Regarding “directly examining the evidence”—I have.  And there is no evidence that neo-Darwinian mechanisms are by themselves capable of effecting major structural changes in animal form.  Anyone who believes that they are capable of this has to provide plausible evolutionary pathways.  Fruitfly has never done this, and never will; his field isn’t evolutionary biology.  And of course, among the most advanced evolutionary biologists, the stock of neo-Darwinism has been rapidly declining.  But Fruitfly is determined to stick with the population-genetics brand of evolutionism he learned in his intro “Genetics and Evolution” course in the 1980s or 1990s.  Well, if he wants to embrace scientifically lost causes, that’s his business.  My money’s on the direction staked out by Shapiro.  And Shapiro knows the literature of evolutionary biology far better than Fruitfly; and more, Shapiro has actually contributed to that literature.  Fruitfly is a mere cheerleader, not an active participant, in the field.  If you want to know what’s going on in evolutionary theory, hanan-d, consult the big boys, not the drugstore cowboys who play scientist pseudonymously on blog sites.


melanogaster - #77188

March 7th 2013

“Utterly false.”

You’re avoiding what I wrote, which is clearly true: this is why you should have read the primary literature in P. falciparum resistance, HIV evolution in real time, motor proteins, eubacterial flagellar assembly, E. coli evolution, etc. BEFORE you read Behe’s criticisms of all of that work in a book aimed at incurious laypeople.

“I first read Behe in 2005.  By that time I had been reading about evolutionary theory for approximately 40 years.”

Reading about evolutionary THEORY doesn’t cut it, Eddie, when the issue is EVIDENCE.

I suspect that you’ve never read a single smidgen of primary literature on the subjects Behe chooses for mounting his criticisms. You have to acknowledge that he’s merely an armchair critic, as he advances no testable hypotheses himself.

“In fact, I was a devotee of neo-Darwinism in my early years, and only abandoned it (which does not mean that I abandoned evolution), without any religious motivation (I was agnostic at the time), when I realized how weak a scientific theory it was.”

But you still haven’t read the primary literature in P. falciparum resistance, HIV evolution in real time, motor proteins, eubacterial flagellar assembly, E. coli evolution, etc. BEFORE you read Behe’s criticisms.

“So before any encounter with Behe I knew what neo-Darwinism said.”

Sorry, you’re still going on and on about hearsay and avoiding evidence. Why would you advise the evidence-free approach that you did?

“Regarding “directly examining the evidence”—I have.”

If you had, you would have:
1) Not run away from Lou Jost’s pointing out that Behe is blatantly wrong about fixation of deleterious mutations; and
2) Not run away from explaining how many “protein binding sites” differ between species/genera/families etc., as that empirical assumption (deceptively presented as fact) underlies Behe’s whole thesis. It’s interesting that you abandon it below:

“And there is no evidence that neo-Darwinian mechanisms are by themselves capable of effecting major structural changes in animal form.”

That’s insane. There are mountains of evidence that SINGLE-NUCLEOTIDE SUBSTITUTIONS are by themselves capable of doing exactly that! How many “protein binding sites” are required for a “major structural change,” btw?

This is where you change the definition of “major structural changes” btw…

“Anyone who believes that they are capable of this has to provide plausible evolutionary pathways.”

No, anyone who cares can examine the evidence in the developmental biology literature. Clearly, you haven’t, and you just advised someone to avoid the evidence. Why?

“Fruitfly has never done this, and never will; his field isn’t evolutionary biology.”

What’s Behe’s field again?

“My money’s on the direction staked out by Shapiro.”

The guy who clearly writes, “Evolution occurs naturally, without supernatural intervention.” He doesn’t support ID. Is it because he claims that an amino-acid substitution is Darwinian while exon shuffling is not, and you love using “Darwinian” as a Humpty Dumpty word?


Eddie - #77190

March 7th 2013

Fruitfly:

I use “Darwinian” and “neo-Darwinian” as Shapiro uses them.  Clearly you haven’t read his new book on evolution.  

I don’t have time to deal with your doctrinaire Darwinian cliches.  You will go on believing in the undergrad version of evolutionary theory you were taught 20 or 30 years ago until the day you die.  The “evidence” you keep talking about will make no difference to you.  Others, such as Margulis, Newman, Shapiro, have dealt in detail with the “evidence” and moved on to other theoretical frameworks.  And, unlike you—who have not a single paper on evolutionary theory to your name—they are recognized in the scientific world as competent in the field.

It must be frustrating for someone like you, having been thumped in debate on this site by Rich, James, and Kirk.  You want everyone here to take you as an expert on these matters, but whenever it’s got down to nitty-gritty—about chimp genomes or random mutations or bioinformatics—you been shown to be wrong in public.  And you can’t toss it all back in their faces by triumphantly announcing who you are, because knowledge of who you are would expose many statements you’ve made about yourself—both about your expertise and your religious position—as less than wholly true.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

You aren’t man enough to name yourself before publically accusing other scientists—Behe and Meyer—of academic dishonesty.  If we were playing Clue, Col. Mustard would be the character with the right shade for you.

I have no more time for poseurs and bluffers.  Play your schoolyard head-games with someone else.  In the meantime, evolutionary theory will carry on without you, as it always has.  You will be a scientific legend only in the comments section of BioLogos—and in your own mind.

 


beaglelady - #77203

March 7th 2013

It must be frustrating for someone like you, having been thumped in debate on this site by Rich, James, and Kirk.

 

But you, JamesR, and Rich are all the same person!  You get booted for being rude, and then come back under a different name.  If that isn’t it, then you are channeling them.   It’s been the same old same old.


Eddie - #77204

March 7th 2013

beaglelady:

There is no evidence that James was banned “for being rude.”  In fact, the comments of several on the site at the time he was banned—including some with whom he was having intellectual disagreements—indicated surprise, as they could see no reason for the banning.   In fact, one of them even suggested that the management should post an explanation for the banning—an explanation which was never forthcoming.  So unless you can read minds, or wrote personally to the management and got an explanation for the banning, you aren’t in a position to state the cause. 

It is odd, however, that you express such concern about people who are rude, when you have steadily supported melanogaster—who, especially in his two earlier incarnations on this site, has been the rudest person posting, regularly calling people liars, hypocrites, cowards, academically dishonest, etc.  If you cared so much about rudeness, you would have dressed him down for un-Christian dialogical spirit many times by now.  Best wishes.


beaglelady - #77210

March 7th 2013

Actually, in your James incarnation you were bullying  Roger.   Melanogaster is blunt, but not rude.


Eddie - #77225

March 7th 2013

beaglelady:

Your statement is false.  You don’t have the facts even nearly straight.  James’s banning occurred on or just after January 17, 2012.   The red light appeared after his last few comments in Part 6 of the Hutchinson series.  James’s last comment was 67193 which was addressed to penman, not Roger; James’s previous comment to Roger (67196) was not bullying, but cordial (it even started out with an apology for being slow to reply to Roger’s question).  It was likely the contents of 67193 and 67190 (the latter addressed to Merv and Jon Garvey, not Roger) that led to the banning.  The remarks in these posts were not personal attacks on penman, Merv, or Jon, or on any other commenter; there was nothing rude in them.  They were, however, firmly critical of certain tendencies in TE writing, and suggestive of intellectual defects of TE on the theological/philosophical side.  It was then that the red light appeared.

Immediately after it became apparent that James was gone, several commenters (Hornspiel, Merv, penman and Jon—the former two of whom had recently been in intellectual disagreement with James, and therefore would have had motivation to complain about him if he had been rude) wondered aloud where he had gone, and stated that they could find no BioLogos rule that he had violated, and one or more of them called for an explanation from the management.  No explanation was offered.  

You are suffering from invented memories, beaglelady.  It pleases you to imagine that James was banished for rudeness to other commenters, rather than exiled for insufficient deference to TE views.  But in fact there is not a shred of evidence in the location to indicate that James was banned for rudeness to any commenter. 

On the other hand, you suffer also from deleted memories, having forgotten all the times that melanogaster directly accused people of lying, hypocrisy, dishonesty, violating the commandment not to bear false witness, cowardice, etc.—and all the times that melanogaster (then under another name, which you know) was upbraided for his insulting manner, both by the people he offended, and by third parties.  You remember what you want to remember, and forget what you choose to forget.  But the record tells us what actually happened.  And it shows that grossly un-Christian manners were tolerated on the site if they came from someone violently assaulting ID people and creationists, and defending neo-Darwinism, whereas very minor violations, or no violation at all, of good manners could get an ID or creationist person banned—as many were.  The “dialogue in a Christian spirit” principle was never evenly enforced in those days.  Hopefully the new management will be more consistent, and punish both Darwinians and anti-Darwinians in accord with a single standard, not a double one.


beaglelady - #77233

March 7th 2013

I was told that James was bullying Roger. 


Eddie - #77236

March 7th 2013

So you repeated in debate what you were told, as if it were a fact!  There’s good, solid, scientific epistemology, beaglelady.

I hope hanan-d is observing, because that is pretty much why most people accept neo-Darwinism as “fact”—because they were told to.


beaglelady - #77259

March 8th 2013

James was banned because the moderator felt that he was bullying Roger.  That is obviously what I meant.   Why do you like to twist everything I say?   I hope hanan-d is observing too.   


Eddie - #77270

March 8th 2013

beaglelady, you wrote:

“James was banned because the moderator felt that he was bullying Roger.”

Do you not understand that I have just shown, at great length, that the words because the moderator felt are entirely a conjecture of your own?  

The moderator did not explain why James was banned.  So unless you wrote to the moderator yourself, and asked the moderator why James was banned, you cannot possibly have this information, and you are offering a mere conjecture as fact.

(Much in that way that neo-Darwinism offers conjecture about the power of random mutations filtered by natural selection as fact.)

Why don’t you just admit that you are simply offering an unsupported opinion about the motives of the moderator, and leave it at that?


melanogaster - #77245

March 7th 2013

“I use “Darwinian” and “neo-Darwinian” as Shapiro uses them.”

Does he use them as others do? I asked a much more specific question. Why are you dodging it?

Do you agree with Shapiro’s conclusion? “Evolution occurs naturally, without supernatural intervention.”

“Clearly you haven’t read his new book on evolution.”

Back to books. Why are they so much more important than evidence? Why should someone study diagrams from books instead of the reality of the data?

“I don’t have time to deal with your doctrinaire Darwinian cliches. You will go on believing in the undergrad version of evolutionary theory you were taught 20 or 30 years ago until the day you die. The “evidence” you keep talking about will make no difference to you.”

There’s no need to put scare quotes around evidence. Why does rhetoric count for so much more with you? You have a fundamental disagreement with the good Christians who run this site and organization. Why not explain it and defend it instead of all this bobbing and weaving and ad hominem smokescreens?

“Others, such as Margulis, Newman, Shapiro, have dealt in detail with the “evidence” and moved on to other theoretical frameworks.”

It’s interesting that you leave Behe out. Are you finally admitting that he did not deal with the evidence relevant to his claims?

“It must be frustrating for someone like you, having been thumped in debate on this site by Rich, James, and Kirk.”

More of your violent fantasies again! Anything but an explanation of why rhetoric trumps evidence, eh?

“You want everyone here to take you as an expert on these matters,…”

No, Eddie, that is completely false. I want everyone here to put evidence above rhetoric, which is congruent with what Biologos wants. You want the converse. Why?

“…Oh, what a tangled web we weave.”

How many “protein binding sites” are required for a “major structural change,” btw?

“You aren’t man enough to name yourself before publically accusing other scientists—Behe and Meyer—of academic dishonesty.”

Now we add sexism to the list of ad hominems you spit!

“I have no more time for poseurs and bluffers.”

Then why do you defend Behe’s evidence-free bluffing on HIV, and malaria, and fixation, etc.? And why put rhetoric above evidence, when the latter is the best defines against posing and bluffing?


Eddie - #77248

March 7th 2013

‘Do you agree with Shapiro’s conclusion? “Evolution occurs naturally, without supernatural intervention.” ‘

I couldn’t care less whether evolution involved supernatural intervention or was wholly natural.  The point is that it wouldn’t have happened without design of some kind.  And there I do disagree with Shapiro.  Or rather, I would criticize him for his apparent lack of interest in where the amazing “self-engineering capacities of the genome” came from.  But his criticism of neo-Darwinian biology is right on.  And the fact that no one from BioLogos has even addressed his argument, when his book has been out for a couple of years now, indicates that they have no adequate reply to it—or that they haven’t read it.  And not to have read probably the leading theoretical book on evolution in the past 20 years (called by Karl Woese a “game changer”) is nothing less than academic and intellectual negligence in the context of a site which claims to be offering a harmonization of Christian theology with evolutionary biology.

You find the expression “man enough” sexist?  Very well; I’ll rephrase:  “You are too much of an invertebrate to identify yourself before publically accusing other scientists—Behe and Meyer—of academic dishonesty.”  Will that do?  And you should like that, because it’s what you call a “testable hypothesis.”  You can easily refute the hypothesis, by stating your name and qualifications, and then repeating your charges of academic dishonesty against Behe and Meyer.  After confirming your identity and qualifications, I will then admit that my claim has been falsified, and that you are a vertebrate after all.  You can’t get more scientifically honest than that.


Eddie - #77249

March 7th 2013

“How many “protein binding sites” are required for a “major structural change,” btw?”

You tell us; you are the one defending the unlikely proposition that a deerlike animal could produce a population of whales via neo-Darwinian mechanisms.  After I have the entire list of morphological and other organism-level changes you deem necessary, and after you have specified how many “protein binding sites” (or other changes at the DNA/protein level) you think would be necessary for each of these organism-level changes, I’ll pass your numbers along to my friends who have detailed knowledge of evolutionary biology, and ask them if the numbers work out.  Then I’ll get back to you and tell you if you’ve scored a run or struck out.  



beaglelady - #77260

March 8th 2013

If you aren’t Rich/James, why would you spend hours reading his posts and internalizing his opinions, personality, background, etc.?  On point after point after point you ape him.

Sometimes it happens that a person is convinced that he is some famous person who lived long ago, but your case is unique.


hanan-d - #77268

March 8th 2013

Hey Eddie,

I would say there seems to be a problem with scientific consensus. If Behe was correct, wouldn’t there be major scientific consensus backing him? Why would Collins be against his findings - regarding irreducable complexity? 

Im going to apologize for quoating wikipedia, but here goes: 

 

In the years since Behe proposed irreducible complexity, new developments and advances in biology, such as an improved understanding of the evolution of flagella,[112] have already undermined these arguments.[113][114] The idea that seemingly irreducibly complex systems cannot evolve has been refuted through evolutionary mechanisms, such as exaptation (the adaptation of organs for entirely new functions)[115] and the use of “scaffolding”, which are initially necessary features of a system that later degenerate when they are no longer required. Potential evolutionary pathways have been provided for all of the systems Behe used as examples of irreducible complexity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objections_to_evolution

Ok, so scientists (including theists) have found explanations for everything Behe has presented. Has Behe countered? Just to clarify, I have no personal beaf against Behe. If he is right, then he is right, but so far, the consensus (from all Biologists inluding people of Faith) has been that the evidence is stacked against him….that instead of positive evidence for his theory, he is merely suggesting a sort of “god-of the gaps” which, I think you would agree, is rather dangerous. 


Eddie - #77272

March 8th 2013

hanan-d:

Yes, Behe has countered, and in great detail.

There is a huge store of his detailed replies to the reviewers of The Edge of Evolution under a special section of the site Uncommon Descent:

http://behe.uncommondescent.com/

The point about exaptation he has replied to  many times, in various places.

Ken Miller’s criticism regarding the bacterial flagellum is given in an essay in Debating Design (ed. Ruse and Dembski) and in that same volume, Behe’ s reply to Miller refutes Miller’s objections, while showing also where Miller has misunderstood or misrepresented Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity.  (This  essay has been pointed out to beaglelady before, but she ignores it.)

The fact that a scientific establishment reacts strongly to criticism is nothing new.  In fact, hanan-d, if you have any experience of human life (and I don’t know how old you are, so I don’t know how much experience you have), you will know by now that not just in science but in any human endeavor, those who have long been the guardians of a supposed “truth” react angrily against critics of that truth.  Their anger is no proof that the old “truth” is right and the new “truth” is wrong.  In fact, the more wild the anger, the more you should have reason to suspect that there is something valid in the criticism.  Criticism of the established view that is merely quackery gains no notice; it is ignored, or perhaps briefly ridiculed, then ignored.  But when you see a concerted public attempt by the holders of the status quo to annihilate the critics—when you see scientists resorting to personal insults and other ad hominem remarks (as many have, in the case of ID), when you see them trying to block dissent by appearing in a court of law (as happened at Dover), when you see scientists neglecting their serious research to go on the road and give popular lectures against the new ideas, you know that the new ideas have hit a raw nerve.  That should make you suspicious.

ID is not a God-of-the-gaps argument.  This has been explained in detail in many places, and very well in Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell.

Francis Collins’s view of ID is biased, and based on very little acquaintance with what ID actually says.  He has given ID writings at best only a superficial glance, and he has more or less followed Ken Miller’s biased critique of ID in his response to it.  Further, even before he was head of NIH and hence was free to engage in public controversy, Collins refused every single invitation to debate ID proponents publically, whether on stage, on the radio, etc.  Yet he made public comments against ID.  To comment publically against something, and then refuse to debate with its proponents (when they have Ph.D.s as valid as one’s own), is a clear sign of weakness.

Bear in mind also that while Collins is a great scientist, and a competent geneticist, he is not an evolutionary theorist; like Ken Miller, he is a layman in that area.  He does not keep up with evolutionary theory, any more than Miller, beaglelady, or Fruitfly does.  His representation of evolutionary theory has the flavor of 1972 about it.  I’ve told you what you need to read to keep up with what is actually happening in evolutionary theory: Shapiro, the Altenberg people, etc.  And you won’t hear about any of them on this site.

Wikipedia is useful for learning the height of Mt. Rainier and the date of birth of Abraham Lincoln and who won the Academy Awards in 1939.  It is dangerously unreliable for any controversial topic, because it is written by amateurs who frequently have an axe to grind.  Most university professors penalize students who use Wikipedia articles as sources in their essays.  Stay away from Wikipedia; it’s an intellectual cesspool, except for quick reference purposes.  Read good books written by qualified authors.


beaglelady - #77274

March 8th 2013

hanan-d:

May I suggest a book for you to read also? The book is “Nonsense on Stilts: How to tell science from bunk” by Massimo Pigliucci.  Pigliucci is the organizer of the Altenberg conference. The book is available on Amazon.

You could always check with Eddie to see if he wants you to read it.


Eddie - #77280

March 8th 2013

hanan-d:

beaglelady wants you to read the Pigliucci book because Pigliucci is opposed to ID.

I have nothing against your reading the Pigliucci book.  I have nothing against your reading any anti-ID book, as long as you balance your reading with pro-ID books.  

Beaglelady was once asked on this site how many ID books she had read straight through.  She would not answer.  

You should also read Darwin, The Origin of Species.  Over 95% of Ph.D.s in biology today have not read it.  I have.  Great book!  I disagree with much that is in it, but it’s very well argued, and Darwin was a much more scientifically honest man than his modern defenders—at least, the ones who are loud in the public debates over evolution and ID.  He would have deplored the rage, the insults, the attempt to close down on discussion, and the general bullying that is carried out in his name.

You should also read some of the later writings of Alfred Russell Wallace, Darwin’s colleague in evolutionary theory.  Wallace over time came to disagree with Darwin over a number of things.  But you don’t hear the Darwin propaganda machine talking much about Wallace.  (The fact that Wallace was a religious believer, and Darwin wasn’t, has a great deal to do with this.)

Back to Pigliucci.  What beaglelady doesn’t tell you (and this is a standard tactic of Darwinians today, to withhold information) is that, while most of the Altenberg group are opposed to ID, many of them are strongly critical of the neo-Darwinian account of evolution supported by beaglelady, Fruitfly, Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Jerry Coyne, etc.

There is a long interview of Altenberg contributor Stuart Newman in Suzan Mazur’s book, The Altenberg 16.  I recommend you read that interview.  It’s mostly Newman, with very little Mazur, and  Mazur’s few questions and comments can easily be ignored.  I can also point you to online remarks by Lynn Margulis which savage neo-Darwinism.  (Margulis, unlike anyone you will read in the comments section here, has actually made major contributions to evolutionary theory.  As has Shapiro.) 

Sorry to batter you with more stuff, hanan-d.  I’m just trying to press home the point: I don’t care if you agree with me, but make sure, whatever you end up believing, that is is based on a balanced reading of the different positions in these debates.  And on a reading of good books and articles, not biased blogs and Wikipedia articles and pseudonymous comments here and so on.

I believe what I believe based on the reading (not skimming) of approximately 10,000 pages of books and articles on ID, Darwinism, TE, and other things over the past several years—not to mention thousand of pages of internet debate.  What frustrates me is that so many of the anti-ID crowd seem to have read very little ID material, and seem to go on rumor and hearsay.  And that they don’t, as I have done, go out of their way to read a lot of material from the side they disagree with.  That tells you something about the intellectual integrity of their position.


hanan-d - #77293

March 8th 2013

Thank you for your replies Eddie,

I am a young and fresh 33 year old , so while I don’t have as much experience as you do, I can understand how people and groups react to specific criticisms. On the other hand, it seems then that you are inadvertently claiming some pan consipracy agianst ID for who they are, as opposed to critics of ID actually finding faults with their whole edifice. The ID objections are out there to test. So surely if the objections had legs, SOME scientists would say something like: “crap, the ID has a valid point here”

 

Also, regarding those that are agaisnt neo-Darwinism (Shapiro, etc.), let’s say they turned out to be correct about their interpretation of evolution, ok, so what? How does this change anything in the wider dicussion of TE or unguided evolution?

 

thanks


Eddie - #77301

March 8th 2013

Thanks, hanan-d.

I didn’t actually use the word “conspiracy”—prejudices can dominate a field without there being any conscious conspiracy.

Of course, there is actual conspiracy in some local cases, where we know that certain people at certain universities and other institutions have gone out of their way to make sure that certain ID-sympathetic people don’t get jobs, tenure, etc.  

But more often it’s just the prejudice that accumulates with any long-entrenched paradigm.

I’m familiar with both patterns—actual conspiracy, and just plain intellectual inertia combined with ego in the service of an existing paradigm—because I’ve spent most of my life in and around academia, and I know from close up and personal how academics behave, in both the natural sciences and the “arts.”  I’ve known university profs far too long to have retained my childish idealism about the intellectual integrity of professors.  By and large, I’ve found academics to be the most dogmatic and partisan sector of the general population.

In answer to your remark, plenty of scientists have said that ID “has a valid point there” regarding its critique of neo-Darwinism.  Many of them are leading evolutionary biologists who aren’t religious.   I’ve indicated many of their names to you.  If you want some other names of scientists who thought ID “had a valid point” here or there, you could consider the late renowned chemist Phil Skell, a member of the NAS (America’s elite scientific society), and Lyle Jensen, one of the discoverers of X-ray crystallography and one of the workers on the Manhattan project that produced the first atomic bomb.  These were not scientifically incompetent people.  They knew solid theorizing from shabby theorizing.  That led them to doubt neo-Darwinism and to be open to ID.  And of course Michael Denton, an Australian medical geneticist (with both M.D. and Ph.D. to his name, and many publications in areas such as the genetics of retinal cancer), is a bona fide scientist who very much thinks there is something to ID.  You can read his views in his book Nature’s Destiny.   The same is true of John Sanford, who taught for years at Cornell, a major, Ivy League school; an accomplished geneticist with many genetic patents to his name, he supports ID as well.

So please don’t go around saying—or even implying—that such scientists don’t exist.

As for the rest, surveys show that something like 90% of full-time evolutionary biologists self-identify as atheist/agnostic.  A similar survey figure obtains for what are called the “elite” scientists (NAS members, etc.) in the USA.  Now both the evolutionary biologists as a group, and the “elite” scientists in various configurations, have on various occasions loudly denounced ID.  Do you honestly think that in groups like that there is likely to be no personal resistance to the idea that some aspects of life were designed?  And that these scientists are so perfectly objective that they would never let their personal religious beliefs (or unbeliefs) affect the way they approach the question of evidence for design in nature?

Just to be clear, I am not saying that scientists should not criticize ID.  They can criticize it as thoroughly as they see fit, and I’m not offended by that.  I’m merely pointing out that a very large number of scientists would not accept ID in any case, because for them it is ultimately not a question of evidence, but a question of world view:  there is no God, things aren’t designed, they just happened.  And it’s a very rare individual who will put his or her world view at risk on the altar of evidence and argument.

Finally, you ask about TE and unguided evolution.  I"m not sure what your question is.  Are you saying that you would really like to be a TE, but find it difficult to be one, because you think evolution is unguided?


hanan-d - #77342

March 10th 2013

Thank you Eddie,

You said this:

In answer to your remark, plenty of scientists have said that ID “has a valid point there” regarding its critique of neo-Darwinism.

That isn’t what I meant. It’s not a critique of neo-Darwinism that I meant, but whether scientists have   “converted” so to speak, in his analysis that intelligence is needed, particularly in regards to “irrudicible complexity (IC).” I think you would agree that it is quite irrelevant of someone is an atheist or theist. IC is something that can be falsified no? The claim of intelligent design stems from IC no? So hasn’t scientific consensus falsified IC already? 

I agree that an atheist biologist is very unlikely to accept the notion of design, but surely, coming about it from a scientific hypothesis - IC- which can be tested, SOMBODY, would have been swayed toward Behe if indeed it passed scientific testing. So it’s not that they would first accept design and then IC. No, why would they? But if IC was shown to be scientifically correct, THEN someone might say that perhaps there IS design. Has this happened?

This brings us back really to the whole issue of scientific consesus. Yes they are all a bunch of atheists, but even an atheist has to deal with the evidence at some point. 

You said:

 

That led them to doubt neo-Darwinism and to be open to ID.  And of course Michael Denton, an Australian medical geneticist (with both M.D. and Ph.D. to his name, and many publications in areas such as the genetics of retinal cancer), is a bona fide scientist who very much thinks there is something to ID

Well fair enough, but you DID if i recall above criticize Collins for being just a geneticist and therefore not really someone to take word from regarding evolution.

 

You said:

Finally, you ask about TE and unguided evolution.  I"m not sure what your question is.  Are you saying that you would really like to be a TE, but find it difficult to be one, because you think evolution is unguided?

No, what I meant was, if Shapiro is right, and neo-Darwinsim is wrong…..how does it help with TE? It’s not like Shapiro for example is claiming TE or guided evolution. He is simply stating there is another mechanism. 

As a side note, the terms TE and ID are a bit misleading don’t you think? After all, don’t TE believe in an intelligent designer and guided evolution? That the purpose of evolution was for man to come about? Collins states that God is above time and nature, therefore when using evolution he knew perfectly what was going to come about. So how isn’t that intelligent design?


Eddie - #77352

March 10th 2013

hanan-d:

This is getting too skinny again.

See my reply below.

 


melanogaster - #77395

March 11th 2013

“IC is something that can be falsified no?”

IC is a definition that Behe has changed, not a hypothesis. Behe’s hypothesis, which he lacks the faith and courage to test, is that IC structures require some sort of intelligent design.

“The claim of intelligent design stems from IC no?”

In Behe’s mind a while ago, yes. But in his most recent book, he switches to another hypothesis that he lacks the faith and courage to test.

“So hasn’t scientific consensus falsified IC already?”

Scientific consensus can’t falsify anything—data falsify hypotheses. The scientific consensus is that IC structures are easy to evolve by known mechanisms. Experiments have shown this for Behe’s initial definition, so Behe moved the goalposts.


Eddie - #77400

March 12th 2013

“The scientific consensus is that IC structures are easy to evolve by known mechanisms.”

Which is false, and entirely lacking in evidence.



beaglelady - #77341

March 10th 2013

Suzan Mazur? LOL!  What do you think of her? This is so funny, because Pigliucci talks about her in his book. He calls her a pseudo-journalist. He granted her an interview, but she ignored almost everything he said and just made up a lot of stuff for her writings! hanan-d,  Pigliucci talks about her in Nonsense on Stilts, so you might want to check out his book if you want to know more.   Pigliucci was the organizer of the Altenberg meeting, so he just might know a thing or two about it!


Eddie - #77343

March 10th 2013

It’s typical of your biased scholarship, beagelady, to dismiss a book you haven’t read.  Unfortunately for you, I have read Mazur’s book.

It’s true that Mazur is a journalist trying to create an exciting story and that she doesn’t have the deepest understanding of evolutionary theory.  I don’t take anything she says about evolution as very important.  But the largest part of Mazur’s book consists of lengthy interviews with various evolutionary theorists.  In most of these interviews, she asks a few questions, but the bulk of the text is the theorist speaking, not Mazur.  And it is easy for any competent reader of English to see where she is engaging in journalistic “slanting” of her questions, and to ignore her slant, as her interviewees politely shove her words aside and say what they think is true about evolution.  

The critiques of neo-Darwinism of Margulis and Newman, for example, come across very clearly in the book.  But you won’t read those critiques.  You won’t read anything that you haven’t checked out in advance as being on-side with your position.

Oh, you’ll listen to a ten-minute talk by Sternberg and take potshots at it; but to actually conduct a balanced scholarly study of any of the issues?  Read a 400-page book by Behe, a 500-page book by Dembski?  Read Behe’s detailed responses to his critics?  Read what Wells writes about junk DNA before reading and embracing the nasty things the anti-ID crowd have said about his book?  You’re far too partisan for that.  And, I would guess, too intellectually lazy. 

 


beaglelady - #77348

March 10th 2013

I’m sure that book by Suzan Mazur has brought  real depth to your knowledge of evolution!    Yep, I’m so lazy that I read Pigliucci’s book instead.

As for Sternberg, if he claims that a mammal’s tail can’t move up and down, you can bet I’ll take pot shots at it!


hanan-d - #77350

March 10th 2013

Beaglelady, 

As I read your comments I am trying to pin you to a particular camp (no offense meant). You certainaly aren’t an IDer. So are you a TE like Collins or none of the above like Melanogaster?


beaglelady - #77369

March 11th 2013

I am an orthodox, believing Christian and attend weekly services.   I also  accept the scientific theory of evolution.  I suppose that would make me a TE.


Eddie - #77373

March 11th 2013

I don’t question your faith, but some of your views on the divine governance of nature and on the creation of man, as expressed in many discussions here, hardly seem to me to be orthodox.  Jon Garvey’s site has a number of excellent columns on creation theology which are useful on these subjects.


beaglelady - #77411

March 12th 2013

Jon Garvey’s site also  has an article he wrote where he claims that the 9/11 attacks were a judgement by God upon Manhattan.   He also has it in for the Japanese architech of the World Trade Center,  which he compares to the Tower of Babel. That is evil and pure Westboro Baptist thinking.  My own Connecticut town lost 6 people to the 9/11 attacks.  


Eddie - #77415

March 12th 2013

So basically, beaglelady, you are saying that if you take a dislike to a person’s views on any subject, that warrants your rejecting his views on the subject at hand?  So by that reasoning, you must reject neo-Darwinian biology, since in the past some neo-Darwinians promoted eugenics.

It seems that all your thoughts are controlled by your visceral reactions.  You aren’t able to suspend your passions long enough to examine things fairly.


Eddie - #77351

March 10th 2013

Yes, you read a book of which you knew—in advance of reading it—that it would support your position.  How many books have you read that you have known in advance would oppose your position?  From what I’ve been able to determine from your replies on this site over the past few years, the answer is:  “Zero.”


beaglelady - #77370

March 11th 2013

How many books have you read that you have known in advance would oppose your position?  From what I’ve been able to determine from your replies on this site over the past few years, the answer is:  “Zero.”

You seem to think that this site = real life.  I don’t read books according to whether I think they will be in accord with my views, and I’m not militant about it (oppose my position?!).  I will read a book if it looks interesting and has quality content.  


Eddie - #77372

March 11th 2013

And coincidentally, no pro-ID book seems to you be either interesting or to have quality content, whereas lots of atheist and TE books do.  Right.  Got it.


beaglelady - #77381

March 11th 2013

I read all sorts of books, and usually, but not always,  I’m not interested in the author’s religion. It’s funny how you’ve framed your comment…

ID books vs Atheist/TE books. I thought ID wasn’t about religion! LOL


Eddie - #77386

March 11th 2013

My contrast didn’t imply that ID was about religion.  It merely implied that the position (regarding the source of apparent design in nature) of Behe and Dembski differs from the positions of Collins, Miller, etc. and Dawkins, Coyne, etc.  ID people say that intelligence is inferrable; TE and atheist folks say it’s not.  And you won’t read books by the first group—obviously because you don’t like their conclusion.


beaglelady - #77412

March 12th 2013

On his web site, Pigliucci linked to a book review,  Self-exposure — a journalist out of depth  , about Mazur’s book. Can you understand why I wouldn’t be interested in reading it?


Eddie - #77414

March 12th 2013

beaglelady, did you not grasp what I said?  Since a huge part of the book consists of long answers from the people Mazur is interviewing—leading evolutionary biologists on Pigliucci’s level—one can learn a lot from the book even if one ignores all of Mazur’s leading questions.  But you don’t want to look at the book because you know that it contains criticism—by leading evolutionary biologists—of your sacred neo-Darwinism.  You stop your ears and close your eyes.  That’s called prejudice.


melanogaster - #77359

March 11th 2013

“Ok, so scientists (including theists) have found explanations for everything Behe has presented.”

Careful, hanan, you’re accepting Eddie’s phony framing. Scientists have found EVIDENCE to contradict virtually everything Behe has presented. That evidence stands independently of anyone’s explanations. It’s also important to realize that Behe routinely fudges the objective facts underlying his rhetoric. He also routinely presents his assumptions as facts. At some level, Eddie understands this, which is why he pretends that rhetoric outweighs evidence.

“Has Behe countered? Just to clarify, I have no personal beaf against Behe. If he is right, then he is right, but so far, the consensus (from all Biologists inluding people of Faith) has been that the evidence is stacked against him….”

Here’s another useful metric: has Behe lifted a finger to do any experiments or fieldwork to test his hypothesis (not a theory, as it hasn’t been tested at all)? Actions speak louder than words.

“that instead of positive evidence for his theory, he is merely suggesting a sort of “god-of the gaps” which, I think you would agree, is rather dangerous.”

It’s horrendous theologically as it leads to a smaller and smaller God.


beaglelady - #77276

March 8th 2013

I’ll pass your numbers along to my friends who have detailed knowledge of evolutionary biology, and ask them if the numbers work out.  Then I’ll get back to you and tell you if you’ve scored a run or struck out.  

But we can guess who these knowledgable friends are, and we know what their answers will be!  



Eddie - #77281

March 8th 2013

You have no idea who they are, beaglelady.  You have no idea who I know, and what their qualifications might be.  But of course you can “guess” [your word] all you like.  As you guessed what the moderator was thinking when James was banned.  Guesses are cheap—and epistemologically worthless.


melanogaster - #77337

March 10th 2013

Me:
“How many “protein binding sites” are required for a “major structural change,” btw?”

Eddie:
“You tell us; you are the one defending the unlikely proposition that a deerlike animal could produce a population of whales via neo-Darwinian mechanisms.”

No, Eddie, there’s no evidence that any deer-like animal reproduced by parthenogenesis. Evolution occurs at the population level.

YOU are the one claiming that Behe is the primary literature. YOU are the one who claimed, “Regarding “directly examining the evidence”—I have.”

You haven’t. You’re afraid. You have zero faith.

“After I have the entire list of morphological and other organism-level changes you deem necessary, and after you have specified how many “protein binding sites” (or other changes at the DNA/protein level) you think would be necessary for each of these organism-level changes,…”

I think that zero are necessary, you nut! But then I examine the evidence for myself, and as you demonstrate again below, you don’t.

Behe’s thesis depends completely on them being necessary, but he has no intention of looking for them, much less documenting them.

‘I’ll pass your numbers along to my friends who have detailed knowledge of evolutionary biology,…”

Behe’s assumption is addressed by the evidence produced by molecular and developmental biology. Everything you write confirms your desperate need to put opinion above evidence, because you know the evidence doesn’t support your position.

“… and ask them if the numbers work out.”

So you put opinions of your friends above evidence! You are nothing if not predictable in your fear.

“Then I’ll get back to you and tell you if you’ve scored a run or struck out.”

No, you won’t. Besides, if you had faith that the evidence supported your position, you’d pick a pair of animals with a vastly larger database—both genetic and transgenic. Are you aware enough of the evidence to even have a clue which two species those would be?


Eddie - #77344

March 10th 2013

Thanks for conceding that you don’t have the slightest idea what the steps in whale evolution might have been at the molecular/genetic level. But then, given that you are a scientific fraud, I didn’t expect that you would be able to come through with the goods, anyway.


melanogaster - #77349

March 10th 2013

How did I concede that, exactly? I am pointing out that of the ones with which I am familiar, there are no new binding sites involved!

What a silly misrepresentation to avoid evidence.


beaglelady - #77211

March 7th 2013

hanan-d,

May I suggest a book for you? 


hanan-d - #77289

March 8th 2013

I’m always opened to book recomendations. 


beaglelady - #77326

March 9th 2013

Here you go:

Nonsense on Stilts: How to tell science from Bunk

It’s by Massimo Pigliucci, the organizer of the Altenberg conference.  You can hear the real story of the Altenberg conference, learn about the history of science, and much, much more!   It will be a real eye-opener.


hanan-d - #77290

March 8th 2013

Ah Massimo’s book? I frequent his site often


melanogaster - #77360

March 11th 2013

“But lately he [Coyne] spends more time blogging, doing popular talks, writing diatribes against religion, etc. than doing technical scientific research.”

False. Here are three recent examples that falsify your claim:

Science 17 September 2010: 329:1518-1521
A Test of the Snowball Theory for the Rate of Evolution of Hybrid Incompatibilities
Daniel R. Matute, Ian A. Butler, David A. Turissini, Jerry A. Coyne

Evolution. 2010 Apr 1; 64:903-20
Intrinsic reproductive isolation between two sister species of Drosophila.
Matute DR, Coyne JA.

Little effect of the tan locus on pigmentation in female hybrids between Drosophila santomea and D. melanogaster.
Matute DR, Butler IA, Coyne JA.
Cell. 2009 Dec 11; 139:1180-8

Gee, Eddie, why don’t you show us just one example of Behe doing “technical scientific research since 1995?

“I’ve seen his unprofessional and ill-mannered slams against Shapiro on his site.”

It seems that with Eddie, “ill-mannered” is synonymous with “correct.”

“Shapiro is also at Chicago—a professor of Molecular Biology, specializing in evolutionary mechanisms. He’s every bit as well-qualified as Coyne,…”

Not at all. It seems that the last “technical scientific research” paper he authored was in 2007. Since then, all I could find was rhetoric.

“The fact that Coyne takes shots at Shapiro in a popular medium, a blog site which he controls, rather than challenges Shapiro to proper scientific debate in a room full of evolutionary biologists, tells you a lot about how strong his position is.”

When has Behe challenged anyone to a proper scientific debate in a room full of evolutionary biologists? Doesn’t he restrict himself to media that he controls?

What’s a “proper scientific debate” anyway?

“I don’t “Google” people to get information about them. I read what they argue themselves.”

But you’re afraid to examine the evidence for yourself. In real science, data trump arguments every time.

“Don’t rely on the characterizations of people by their enemies!”

Rely on the evidence! Why don’t you?

“Read the original sources!”

That would be the evidence, but I suspect that you can’t grasp that examining the evidence isn’t about reading the words in a paper.

“I think I already gave you a long list of useful readings, did I not? If not, here are some good starting points: (1) Darwin’s The Origin of Species; (2) Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker; (3) Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. Get those under your belt; then you will be in a better position to detect the biases in Coyne’s attack on Shapiro.”

Only one of those is evidence, and it’s ancient. Why not examine the modern evidence?

“Books are the meat and potatoes of learning.”

Not in science. The evidence is the meat and potatoes.

“Read good books and use them to judge what you see on the internet, not the other way around.”

Why not examine the evidence and see if the books are consistent with it first (Darwin is an exception, of course, because it has a great deal of evidence)? What are you afraid of?


Eddie - #77363

March 11th 2013

Fruitfly:

1.  2010 is not “lately.”  My statement about Coyne remains true.

2.  So if Behe “dun wrong” by not debating someone publically, that justifies Coyne for avoiding public debate with Shapiro?  One wrong justifies another?  Oh, yes, I forgot.  In Fruitfly ethics, one wrong does justify another (Behe’s alleged scientific wrong justifies Abbie Smith’s utterly gratuitous and spiteful personal wrong).  Funny, I thought this was a Christian web site, where that ethical stance wouldn’t apply.

 


melanogaster - #77394

March 11th 2013

“1. 2010 is not “lately.””

It’s much later than 2007 (Shapiro) and much, much later than your hero Behe (1995).

“My statement about Coyne remains true.”

It’s far more true for Shapiro and Behe, so you are being hypocritical about applying your alleged standard.

“2. So if Behe “dun wrong” by not debating someone publically, that justifies Coyne for avoiding public debate with Shapiro?”

You really have a problem with basic logic. YOU are the one claiming that Coyne’s behavior is wrong, therefore YOU should have a big problem with Behe’s behavior. *I* find your ranting about “public debate” to be insanely out of touch with reality!

For example, here’s the last big meeting I attended that had simultaneous sessions:
ascb.org/files/Past-AM-Meetings/2012ASCBFullProgram.pdf

Which sessions did I miss that had the “proper scientific debates,” Eddie? I’ve attended three meetings without concurrent sessions since then and not a one of them had a debate.

“One wrong justifies another?”

No, your hypocrisy is wrong.

“Oh, yes, I forgot. In Fruitfly ethics, one wrong does justify another (Behe’s alleged scientific wrong justifies Abbie Smith’s utterly gratuitous and spiteful personal wrong).”

It’s already been explained to you that Behe’s lack of scholarship justifies being mocked by an undergraduate who is more familiar with reality.

“Funny, I thought this was a Christian web site, where that ethical stance wouldn’t apply.”

Funny, I thought that Jesus Christ went on some great rants about hypocrisy.


Eddie - #77401

March 12th 2013

My original words:

“But lately he spends more time blogging, doing popular talks, writing diatribes against religion, etc. than doing technical scientific research.”

And given that by “lately” I meant “in the past year or two” this statement was entirely correct.

Nor did I assign any blame to Coyne for his choice of time allocation.  The criticism was regarding his unprofessional manner of speaking about Shapiro on his blog site.  But you wouldn’t know anything about professional manners, Fruitfly, or manners of any other kind.  I don’t know what the hitch in your upbringing was, but whatever it was, it left you incapacitated for normal social interactions.

Nothing justifies the mockery employed by Abbie Smith.  No Christian would issue such mockery, and no Christian would justify it.  But of course, that all fits with what I already knew about the people involved in both cases.

I wish you would not use the words “Jesus Christ” or “God” on this site.  The purely polemical way in which you call upon the Divine Names profanes them.  You should use them in fear and trembling, not as verbal weapons.


Jon Garvey - #76928

February 27th 2013

Lawrence Krauss, “accommodationist” atheist, wrote:

Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions.

Whose view is he referring to here as “compatible”, and is he right? Not to Creationists; not to IDers but clearly to some kind of theistic evolution. Is it “our” view (I speak directly to Evangelicals here)?

It would fit R J Russell’s description of “statistical deism”, which he says is the predominant TE view, in which God sets up the laws, and chance and necessity produce a “statistically satisfactory” result of a random suite of organisms plus a lot of horrors. Are we OK with that type of TE?

It also seems to fit to a tee Francisco Ayala’s view of TE, in which God’s final causation (ie any teleological purpose) is specifically excluded from evolutionary history, restricted to the initial creation. Life’s “pervasive” errors and morally repugnant features must not be attributed to the Christian God - but since death and waste underlie evolution itself, that is alien to God’s nature too, even if his purpose were not already excluded in favour of chance and necessity guided only by natural law and initial conditions. Is that our kind of TE?

What if Krauss is accurate, but linguistically biased? Does it help Christianity to rebrand “merely establishing the universe and letting it proceed from there” as “granting nature freedom to create itself”? Does calling chance “non-coercion” accommodate Ayala’s formulation of evolution to basic Evangelical doctrine, or even to core Christian teaching?

If not, how would we differentiate and distance our theistic evolution from the type Krauss condescendingly mocks? How could we rationally include God’s purpose anywhere in evolution after the Big Bang without (as Krauss’s quote continues) “squaring physics, chemistry, biology, and a basic understanding of probabilistic reasoning with a raft of patently ridiculous, Iron Age convictions.”

A lot of questions here - none are intended to be rhetorical, but to prompt thought. If there is no distinction between Theistic evolution and Krauss’s Atheistic evolution other than a vague and irrelevant deity (and maybe pietistic personal devotion), then it really serves no distinct purpose other than proselytising YECs and IDs to deism.


Chip - #76932

February 27th 2013

C’mon Jon.  Beaglelady’s already answered all these questions above.  Why must you continue in your stubborn recalcitrance? 


hanan-d - #77376

March 11th 2013

Replying to Jon Garvey #76928

Does anyone on Biologos EVER attempt to answer this question?


hanan-d - #77377

March 11th 2013

By the way Jon, it seems Biologos is STILL attempting to answer that question

 

http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-divine-action

 

I am still waiting for the “details.” Will someone ever finish writing that article? 


lancelot10 - #77216

March 7th 2013


lancelot10 - #77217

March 7th 2013


lancelot10 - #77218

March 7th 2013


lancelot10 - #77219

March 7th 2013


GJDS - #77234

March 7th 2013

Eddie, (# 77225 )

On this point I would agree with you. It is clear to me that monstrously bad manners are tolerated (and by default encouraged) by BioLogos, so long as these people dogmatically and uncritically support whatever version of Darwin’s idea(s) they is put forward. I can only conclude that the Christian teaching of examining all things (critically) and accept only that which one concludes is true, evaporates with these people – support Darwin or else be prepared for monstrous responses. If you are an atheist or whatever, so be it. We even have a person who is now taking a 101 course in her subject who can decide who is and is not a scientist (did someone say hubris?).


Eddie - #77353

March 10th 2013

hanan-d (re your 77342):

OK, several points:

1.  It’s not clear what you mean by “falsifying” IC (irreducible complexity).  From your discussion, I have the impression that you are running together two distinct claims:

a.  Some biological systems are in fact irreducibly complex.

b.  It would be, though perhaps not impossible, at least very difficult, to arrive at such systems by an evolutionary process which is limited to Darwinian (and similar stochastic) means.

I don’t believe that the majority of biologists have denied that there are irreducibly complex systems in organic nature.  Irreducible complexity is meant by Behe as an engineering term, not a term of evolutionary theory, and it describes a system in which all the parts are necessary in order for the system to perform its particular function.  I think that most biologists grant that such systems exist in cells and organisms.  

I think that the biologists have focused their critique of ID on the second proposition, and argued that irreducibly complex structures can in fact evolve through Darwinian means.  And in this, they are simply following Darwin, whose whole point (as is well stated by Dawkins) was that an unintelligent process can simulate the results of design.  Thus, you would never find a clock or a computer that has been put together without intelligent design; but living cells, organisms, organelles, systems, etc.—all of which are more complex and more tightly integrated in their complexity than any clock or computer—could have come into being without design.  That was the claim of Darwin; that has been the claim of neo-Darwinism, and of most of modern evolutionary biology.

In the popular anti-ID literature, the two proposals often get confused.  Ken Miller has confused them in his arguments with Behe over the flagellum. 

2.  Behe agrees with you that his thesis can and should be tested.  That is why he keeps talking about Lenski’s experiments, and keeps recommending that scientists perform other such experiments.  He agrees that if you could put a bacterium without a flagellum—and without the genes necessary to make a flagellum—into a huge tank, and over 100,000 generations, making use only of Darwinian mechanisms (random mutation plus natural selection) it acquired a flagellum, then his argument against Darwinism would be defeated.  But no one has made a flagellum, or any other irreducibly complex new organelle or organ or system—by such experiments so far.

3.  Regarding the qualifications of Denton and Collins, you had asked me only for “scientists” who were persuaded by ID arguments, not “professional evolutionary biologists” specifically.  If you are going to change your request to the latter, then Denton might not count by his original training, though over the past 20 years he has increasingly been researching in evolutionary biology.  But if you are going to insist on “professional evolutionary biologists” then be aware that 95% of the columnists on this site don’t fit under that classification, and most TE scientists elsewhere don’t fit under it, and many of the leading critics of ID—Miller, Myers, Shallit, Rosenhouse, Mooney, Scott, Dennett, Sean Carroll (the physicist, I mean), etc.—don’t fit under it.  And of course, on the other side, don’t forget that Sternberg is a professional evolutionary biologist who has been persuaded that ID claims have some value, and he has worked closely with ID people on some projects.

(continued in next post)


Eddie - #77354

March 10th 2013

hanan-d (continuing from 77353 above):

4. I agree with you that Shapiro is not a TE and is not claiming guided evolution. My point about Shapiro is that he thinks that neo-Darwinism is mostly wrong, yet most TEs embrace neo-Darwinism with fervor. So TE is trying to harmonize “science and religion” with a “science” that, according to some leading practitioners, is out of date!

5. Your last paragraph asks good questions. As I think I’ve already indicated, TE thinking on the relationship between God and the evolutionary process is extremely unclear. Collins, and most TEs, are Christian scientists, but not very competent theologians. (And the very few exceptions to that statement are almost all physicists, not biologists.) One point I would make is that to say that God foresees the results of evolution is not the same as saying that he guides the process. The term “guidance” usually implies a hands-on involvement which Collins would vehemently deny. And most of the TE columnists on this site would also vigorously deny “guidance” in the sense of steering, adjusting, nudging, etc. Or else would be extremely vague and elusive if you asked them if the evolutionary process was guided to certain outcomes. There are many reasons, both political and theological, for this elusiveness, but I’ll leave the discussion at that for now.

6. I thought—perhaps mistakenly—that your original questions here on this site indicated a certain existential struggle, a certain personal difficulty in retaining your Christian faith in the light of evolutionary biology. Did I misread you? If so, you have probably been misunderstanding most of my comments to you, since they have been aimed at helping you work through such a struggle.


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