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Surprised by Jack, Part 4: Mere Evolution

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December 13, 2012 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by David Williams. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Surprised by Jack, Part 4: Mere Evolution

Note: Earlier in this series, we learned how C.S. Lewis viewed the inspiration of Scripture, the interpretation of Genesis, and the doctrine of the Fall. Today David Williams concludes this series by countering recent attempts to depict Lewis as a private skeptic of biological evolution and a firm believer in a literal Adam and Eve.

Mere Evolution: Lewis on Evolutionary Science versus the Myth of Evolutionism

For many American evangelicals it will come as a surprise to realize just how little Lewis thought was at stake in the scientific question of our biological origins. As we have seen, Lewis had no objection to the notion that “man is physically descended from animals.” Four years after admitting to being shaken by some of the writings from Bernard Acworth’s Evolution Protest Movement, Lewis could still write in a private letter, “I don’t mind whether God made man out of earth or whether ‘earth’ merely means ‘previous millennia of ancestral organisms.’ If the fossils make it probable that man’s physical ancestor’s ‘evolved,’ no matter.”1 So far as we can tell, Lewis never took the view that belief in mere Evolution, “Evolution in the strict sense,”2 “the Evolution of real biologists,” which he took to be “a genuine scientific hypothesis” and “a purely biological theorem”3 was necessarily at odds with a belief in mere Christianity.

Indeed, the final chapter of his classic book Mere Christianity, “The New Men,” assumes an evolutionary picture of life’s origins and development throughout.4 He writes,

Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea best if he takes it in connection with Evolution. Everyone knows about Evolution…: everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life.5

While Lewis acknowledges that “some educated people disbelieve [the theory of Evolution],” he gives no hint throughout the rest of the chapter that he is one of their number.6 In fact, throughout the rest of the chapter he seems to simply assume a broadly evolutionary picture of natural history (as he does in The Problem of Pain and elsewhere). So, for instance, he writes:

Thousands of centuries ago huge, very heavily armoured creatures were evolved.7

At the earlier stages living organisms have had either no choice or very little choice about taking the new step [of development]. Progress was, in the main, something that happened to them, not something that they did.

Century by century God has guided nature up to the point of producing creatures (humans) which can (if they will) be taken right out of nature, turned into “gods.”9

And he says much more in that vein. While it may be possible to read Lewis as invoking Evolution for purely illustrative purposes without actually believing in it, such a reading seems less than likely given his statements in this chapter and elsewhere. In fact, Lewis offers no hint anywhere in his public writings that he regards evolutionary theory as either untrue or conflicting with mere Christianity.

What Lewis did believe to conflict with Christian faith was what he called the great “Myth” of “Evolutionism” or “Developmentalism.” But this is not the same as evolutionary theory per se. “[We] must sharply distinguish between Evolution as a biological theorem and popular Evolutionism or Developmentalism which is certainly a Myth,” he writes in his essay “The Funeral of a Great Myth.”11 Lewis believed that the great myth of “Evolutionism” conflicted not only with the Christian faith, but with Reason itself, undercutting the grounds for believing in human rationality and, therefore, in any human rationale that could be offered for believing in Evolutionism in the first place. According to Lewis,Evolutionism’s chief premise, namely, Naturalism, invalidates human reasoning itself, amounting to “an argument which proved that no argument was sound—a proof that there are no such things as proofs—which is nonsense.”12 “All possible knowledge…depends on reasoning,” he writes in chapter III of Miracles.13 “We infer Evolution from fossils: we infer the existence of our own brains from what we find inside the skulls of other creatures like ourselves in the dissecting room.” All sciences, including evolutionary science, depend upon the validity of human inference for their own validity. “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”14 Naturalism, however, with its grand Myth of Evolutionism explains all of reality, including human reason, in terms of non-rational natural causes and effects, reducing all human reasoning to being no more than the accidental byproducts of chance, matter and time, and thereby undercutting the validity of reasoning itself.

However, if one allows, as Lewis apparently did, that God guided the evolution of humanity so as to make us reasonable creatures, then humanity’s descent from the animals in no way undermines the validity of human reasoning. By maintaining the distinction between Evolution as a scientific theory and Evolutionism as a popular Myth it becomes possible for one to be a full-blooded theistic evolutionist with both a robust belief in God and a robust belief in evolution. The distinction frees Christians to accept evolutionary science without knuckling under to reductionistic Scientism. Thus, in the very essay where Lewis most acerbically attacks Evolutionism, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” Lewis also clearly allows for a form of theistic evolution. Lewis writes:

I am not in the least denying that organisms on this planet may have ‘evolved.’ But if we are to be guided by the analogy of Nature as we know her, it would be reasonable to suppose that this evolutionary process was the second half of a long pattern—that the crude beginnings of life on this planet have themselves been ‘dropped’ there by a full and perfect life.15

As Lewis makes clear in another piece, “Two Lectures,” the “full and perfect life” by which “this evolutionary process” was “dropped” exists outside of Nature, which is to say, exists outside of the purview of the natural sciences. “Is it not…reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?” he asks.16

Lewis, however, was no Deist. He clearly did not believe that the “crude beginnings of life” were simply “dropped” by God so that the “evolutionary process” would do what it would. Lewis seems to have thought that God at least superintended the evolution of humankind, particularly humanity’s cognitive capacities, in a rather hands-on manner:

For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.17

Whether this picture of hands-on divine guidance is friendlier towards present day Intelligent Design theory or towards theistic evolution, a la BioLogos, will be a matter for debate. Lewis does not draw the distinctions that are customary in contemporary debates surrounding evolution—macro- versus micro-evolution, Evolution qua mere common descent versus Evolution qua wholly unguided, random process, and so on—making it difficult to say with certainty what he would say if he were here today. It seems likely, however, that Lewis would not have expected the natural sciences to be able to detect God’s supernatural guidance of man’s evolutionary path any more than he expected the modern archaeologist to be able detect the moment when our ancestors crossed the threshold from beast to man, and that likelihood might count as a strike against the ID movement’s claim on Lewis. In any case, Lewis plainly outlines a view that is quite compatible with the standard evolutionary picture of common descent and that hardly amounts to Scientistic reductionism. In short, Lewis made it quite clear in his writings that he believed that there is no real conflict between mere evolution and mere Christianity.

Surprised by Jack

Whatever Lewis may have believed in private, as a spokesperson for the faith, Lewis consistently allowed that mere Christianity was compatible with mere evolutionary science, and he even took the trouble to articulate his understanding of the Fall in such a way as to harmonize it with his belief in human evolution. While some recent writers have attempted to wield Lewis as weapon in intra-Evangelical debates around Evolution, to wield a thinker is, as Martin Buber says, to treat that thinker as an ‘It’ rather than as a ‘Thou,’ to treat him as an object to be used rather than as person with the right and capacity to defy our expectations.18 We evangelicals have become so accustomed to inserting quotable quotes from Lewis’s corpus into our sermons, books, power-point presentations, Facebook walls, and Twitter feeds that we drowsily pass over the surprising elements of his thought—the elements not easily reconciled with our clean-cut theological shibboleths—without even noticing. This is an intellectual habit ripe to be broken, and it is high time we allowed the real Jack to shatter the cultural icon—indeed, the mirror—we have made out of him. At this watershed moment in the history of the Church, when so much seems to threaten to upend the faith once delivered—whether scientific or archaeological discoveries, cultural trends, or newfangled philosophies—there is doubtless much that the greatest modern exponent of mere Christianity can teach us to help us navigate these troubled times. But it is only by opening ourselves to being surprised by Jack that we will be capable of actually learning something from him.

Notes

1. C.S. Lewis to Joseph Cranfield, Feb. 28, 1955, unpublished letter, Wade Center Collection, Wheaton College, as cited in West, “Darwin in the Dock,” 113
2. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?,” in The Weight of Glory, 137
3. Lewis, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” 85, 86
4. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 185-91
5. Ibid, 185
6. Ibid
7. Ibid, 186
8. Ibid, 187
9. Ibid, 188, my italics
10. Ibid
11. Ibid
12. Ibid, 24
13. Lewis, Miracles, 23
14. Ibid
15. Lewis, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” in Christian Reflections, 91
16. Lewis, “Two Lectures,” in God in the Dock,
17. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 68
18. Buber, I and Thou, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996)


David Williams is the campus staff for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate & Faculty Ministries at NC State University, Meredith College and Campbell Law School in Raleigh, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, David earned his MAR from Westminster Theological Seminary and his ThM from Duke Divinity School. He has taught students from grade school to college at St. David's School and Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, respectively. In April 2012 David organized the symposium Biblical Faith in an Age of Science: Adam and Eve, Evolution, & Evangelicalism at NC State University, which was cosponsored by InterVarsity and Ratio Christi. As a part of his ministry, David works to encourage healthier and better-informed conversations about the Christian tradition and modern science in both the university and the local church. You can follow him on his blog at www.resurrectingraleigh.com.

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Eddie - #75260

December 13th 2012

“Lewis consistently allowed that mere Christianity was compatible with mere evolutionary science”

Yes.  But the “mere” in “mere evolutionary science” is very important.  Theistic evolutionists in the past 20 years or so have almost uniformly defended an evolutionary science that is not “mere” but very specifically neo-Darwinian, with its assumption of mutations that are random with respect to outcome (as TE Ken Miller informs us), and its belief that “natural selection” can somehow sculpt the results of these random mutations into radically novel biological forms.  There is no place in his writings known to me where Lewis affirms that this specific model of evolution is compatible with Christian faith.  And certainly he never affirms that Christians simply must accept evolution as an established fact of modern science and therefore must read the Bible in a way that harmonizes with it.

I am not saying that you have said otherwise about Lewis; but it’s important for readers here to be aware that the “non-committal” version of theistic evolution offered by Lewis is different from the “committed” version of theistic evolution that is championed on BioLogos, by the TEs of the ASA, by Ken Miller, by Francis Collins, by Denis Lamoureux, by Denis Alexander, etc.  

This is why the book edited by West is important.  While it grants virtually everything you say about Lewis’s openness to evolution within a Christian framework, it qualifies all of Lewis’s positive and neutral statements on evolution very carefully, so that no reader of Lewis could walk away from the book unaware of the difference between the tentative and guarded position of Lewis about even the fact of evolution (let alone the mechanism) and the boisterous and confident position of, Van Till, Falk, Giberson, Venema, Ken Miller, etc. regarding both the fact and the mechanism.

I agree that it would be wrong to “claim” Lewis for the ID side.  But it would be equally wrong to “claim” Lewis for the TE side.  I don’t think you are arguing against my view here, but I state it, to give you a chance to disagree with me, if you do.    

I add that I suspect that Lewis would have thought that the cleavage that has occurred between ID and TE has been based on a series of misunderstandings about the nature of both science and theology, and that if both ID and TE proponents had done their homework in the Christian tradition (and in the history of science, and in the history of philosophy) before taking up their culture-war positions, the division could have been avoided.  


David Williams - #75264

December 13th 2012

I agree that it would be wrong to “claim” Lewis for the ID side.  But it would be equally wrong to “claim” Lewis for the TE side.  I don’t think you are arguing against my view here, but I state it, to give you a chance to disagree with me, if you do.

Actually, Eddie, I wholeheartedly agree with the above statement.  I think both sides can find a lot of support in Lewis, though not in their disagreement with one another.  As I pointed out above, Lewis does not make the distinctions that are at the heart of the current ID/TE debate.  And while Lewis does not affirm the Neo-Darwinian synthesis—which, as you rightly point out, has become generally accepted by TE advocates and is one of the main bones of contention—he does not reject the Neo-Darwinian synthesis either.  Lewis seems to have taken the discussions about the precise mechanism of evolution to be a technical in-house conversation for “real biologists” and so declined to comment (as evidenced by the fact that he nowhere comments on it).  It’s not that the issue is unimportant, it’s just that Lewis didn’t say anything one way or the other about it.

My issue with West’s essay in The Magician’s Twin is that—far from saying what you said about neither IDers or TEers having exclusive claims on Lewis—West leverages Lewis to paint the BioLogos bunch as “heterodox” (West’s word, not mine).  Not only is that a very serious (not to say slanderous) charge, but it cuts precisely against the grain of Lewis’s entire career.  So much for “mere Christianity.”

I add that I suspect that Lewis would have thought that the cleavage that has occurred between ID and TE has been based on a series of misunderstandings about the nature of both science and theology, and that if both ID and TE proponents had done their homework in the Christian tradition (and in the history of science, and in the history of philosophy) before taking up their culture-war positions, the division could have been avoided.  

I tend to be hesitant about venturing guesses about what deceased thinkers would have thought, so I’m not going to say what Lewis would say if he were here today.  He would have access to a lot of information that he never had access to in his lifetime and who knows what sense he would have made of it?  We’re probably safe in supposing that whatever he would have said would have been lucid.

But as to your basic point, I think you’re right.  The ID/TE debate has become an institution (as has the Creationism versus Evolution debate and others) and that is a recipe for talking past one another.  I, for one, am less interested in one side or the other “winning” than I am in urging both sides not to excommunicate one another.  I’m reading Del Ratzsch’s The Battle of Beginnings and keep wishing that he could have written that book post-Behe to help keep our conversations with each other honest.


Eddie - #75276

December 13th 2012

We are largely in agreement.  I have, however, a further question.

West’s book contains a number of essays, and not all of them are on ID vs. TE or Darwinian evolution.  Many of them are about more general matters—Lewis’s views on science, scientism, technology, magic, ethics and so on.  Are you planning, here or elsewhere, to write an appraisal of the West book overall, as a contribution to the understanding of Lewis’s thought in these areas?


David Williams - #75284

December 13th 2012

I would like to write a review, though I’m not sure that BioLogos will be the venue for that (I hope it is).  For the record, I think that most of the essays are good, some of them are great, and all of them are worthy of serious engagement.  I don’t think that really came across with our first edition of my first installment in this series, mainly because I focused on West, with whom I have the sharpest disagreements.  But even there I found a lot to appreciate.  I don’t think West is completely out to lunch in his reading of Lewis by any means.  I just think that he has misread Lewis on a few key points and misused Lewis by using him to paint TEs as “heterodox.”

Anyways, as I said, I think The Magician’s Twin deserves a solid review from BioLogos. I actually wonder if a shared appreciation for Lewis and his legacy might not be a good starting place for a meeting of minds and for more generous interaction between Discovery Institute and BioLogos?


Bilbo - #75270

December 13th 2012

David:  “While Lewis acknowledges that “some educated people disbelieve [the theory of Evolution],” he gives no hint throughout the rest of the chapter that he is one of their number.

Yes, but the very fact that Lewis thought it was important to at least mention that doubt in Evolution could be intellectually respectable is itself important in understanding Lewis.  He wouldn’t have excommunicated TEs.  But then he wouldn’t have excommunicated IDists, either.  He would have insisted on respect for both positions.  You’re right that IDists are guilty of not showing that respect to TEs.  But then, neither do TEs show that respect to IDists.  Lewis would be saying “Shame on you, BioLogos,” just as much as he would be saying, “Shame on you, Discovery Institute.”

But thank you for what I consider to be a rather faithful representation of Lewis’s thought.


PNG - #75302

December 14th 2012

When Lewis was alive the evidence for evolution was in the details of comparative anatomy,  physiology and biogeography of current and fossil organisms, and since few outside of professional biologists knew much about those topics there was more room for doubt by the non-specialist. Now we have genomes, and that makes the situation different. The evidence is much more straightforward and accessible to anyone who will read a book on the topic. (I just finished reading Relics of Eden by Daniel J. Fairbanks and it is a good place to start, focusing on evidence in the human and other primate genomes.) I don’t think that doubt about whether evolution happened has the same intellectual respectability today that it did when Lewis was alive. Things are just too clear.


Seenoevo - #75307

December 14th 2012

“Now we have genomes, and that makes the situation different. The evidence is much more straightforward and accessible… I don’t think that doubt about whether evolution happened has the same intellectual respectability today that it did when Lewis was alive. Things are just too clear.”

Evolution is clearer, more straightforward, and has greater intellectual respectability, because we now know about genomes?

Is not the genome like a tool? Is not a specific genomic tool unique to a specific organism?

Are not chisels and paint brushes artisan tools? Does knowing about chisels and paint brushes lead one to think that a chisel could one day produce the Mona Lisa or that a paint brush could produce The Pieta? (Or think that a chisel could become a paint brush?)

If “Things are just too clear”, could you be more clear?


PNG - #75326

December 15th 2012

Genomes are of course unique to a species, but closely related species have closely related genomes. Genomes contain the results of countless complex mutations or series of mutations and millions of these are seen in parallel at orthologous (corresponding) locations in 2 or more species. Dennis Venema describes some of the specifics in his papers in the Resources section of this site. Another good source is the book Relics of Eden by Daniel Fairbanks. I’ve never seen it in the local Barnes and Noble, but I ordered a copy from Amazon and read it recently. The author uses most of the specific examples that I have accumulated myself from the literature over the years and he had some that I wasn’t aware of. For a summary and diagram of one major form of evidence (transposon insertions) see http://artofthesoluble.blogspot.com/


Keith Elias - #75330

December 15th 2012

If “Things are just too clear”, could you be more clear?

 

Hi SeeNoEvo;
 
I would like to restate PNG’s argument (from msg #75326 that genetic evidence supports the truth of biological evolution and specifically common descent) in a somewhat wider context:  
 
The strongest single class of evidence supporting the truth of common descent is the nested hierarchy of shared derived characteristics within groups (showing they are related by common descent).  
 
In plain language this means that if you take two groups of distantly related organisms they will have a short list of shared characteristics.  So if you compare say dogs with some bacteria, just about the only thing they will have in common is their shared DNA alphabet which contains the instructions for producing RNA and proteins.  
 
At the other end, if you compare dogs with one of the fox groups the list of shared characteristics is so long that even specialists may sometimes have difficulty determining which group they belong in.  
 
Globally, as you move away from the stem of the tree of life along any set of branches the number of shared derived characteristics increases, so all_animals have a few shared characteristicss, vertebrates more, tetrapods even more, mammals yet more, and so on.  
 
When this pattern is first presented to a creationist, the usual reaction is, but that isn’t evidence of evolution, that’s evidence that God gave each group the characteristics they needed to survive!  
 
However there are at least two clear problems with this explanation:  
 
1) Needed characteristics are not distributed on a need basis they are distributed by lineage, so some bats would clearly be better off with feathers for flight and warmth, while Nighthawks would clearly benefit from the ability to echolocate, but feathers are unavailable in the mammal lineage while echolocation has evolved nowhere in the bird lineage.  
 
2) As is central to PNG’s argument; Many characteristics that are shared within a lineage are unrelated to any function.  So birds have DNA in their red blood cells, and sex is determined by a singleton W gene in females, while mammals (with only 3 exceptions) have seven neck bones with sex determined by a singleton Y gene in males.  
 
 
Thus the argument that PNG presented here:  
 
http://artofthesoluble.blogspot.ca/  
 
fits within the larger context of characteristics that are known to be completely useless that have been inherited down a line of evolutionary descent.  No special creation model can account for this evidence.  

Keith Elias


HornSpiel - #75313

December 14th 2012

Bilbo, PNG, David

“While Lewis acknowledges that “some educated people disbelieve [the theory of Evolution]”

Disbelieving the theory is not the same as disbelieving the facts. As  PNG points out, the facts are much clearer now than in Lewis’ day. At the same time the theory has more facts to account for, so is even more complex. I am glad Lewis did not spend his time trying to become a specialist, but rather “seems to have taken the discussions about the precise mechanism of evolution to be a technical in-house conversation for “real biologists” and so declined to comment.”

So when it comes to the ID /TE debate, I think his position on evolution is a “good starting place for a meeting of minds” on the subject of evolution with those who doubt its compatibility with Christianity. But not all ID folks have a problem with evolution. It is a conversation that could happen in the ID camp as well. So it is not the central issue dividing “the Discovery Institute and BioLogos.”

What would interesting to explore is his opinion of science and its role and influence in society. In the Space Trilogy fantasy, particularly the last volume That Hideous Strength, if memory serves, Lewis casts science in quite a negative light. It is a critique, I believe, of scientism. Scientism is ultimately revealed as a religion empowered by demonic forces. The force of his arguments is not unlike some that ID proponents make. This  goes more directly to the heart of the ID/TE dispute, which is about how science should be perceived and pursued—what its authority in society should be.

Since Lewis seems to be a figure of high regard by all sides, I think such a discussion could be quite fruitful.

By the way, does this sound more like an ID or a TE statement? “God has guided nature up to the point of producing creatures (humans)...’” I do hope it is something we can all agree on.


Eddie - #75322

December 14th 2012

HornSpiel:

Strictly speaking, many of what you are calling “facts” are only inferences.  Some of them are fairly strong inferences, others weaker.  But still, weak or strong, they should be distinguished from “facts.”  Thus, “water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level” is a fact; “whales evolved from land mammals” is an inference.

Regarding your last statement—it is something that ID people could agree on; but many of the leading TEs, including some who have written many columns here, would choke on the word “guided.”   

I agree that Lewis is someone that both TE and ID leaders could learn from.


Keith Elias - #75336

December 15th 2012

Eddie;

Concerning your statement:

Strictly speaking, many of what you are calling “facts” are only inferences.  Some of them are fairly strong inferences, others weaker.  But still, weak or strong, they should be distinguished from “facts.”  Thus, “water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level” is a fact; “whales evolved from land mammals” is an inference.

 

“water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level” is (or was) a definition and thus is a fact in the same sense as “bachelors are unmarried men”.

 

So to avoid confusion I will use the even more obvious “fact” that “the boiling point of water is above its freezing point”.  This fact was determined by observation, and is thus an inference from observation.   Since science is based on observation, all scientific facts are simply very well supported inferences.

 

It follows that “whales evolved from land mammals” is also a fact.

 

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75340

December 15th 2012

Keith:

“Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level” is a proposition or assertion, not a definition.

What you are probably trying to say is that the scale of measurement by which the boiling point of water is set at 100 degrees is purely conventional.  As indeed it is:  on the Fahrenheit scale the boiling point is 212 degrees.  So your idea might be phrased as:  “The boiling point of water at sea level is set, by convention, at 100 degrees on the Celsius scale.”

However, once the scale is established, that water boils (at sea level) at a certain temperature on that scale is a fact.  That is freezes at a certain temperature on that scale is a fact.  That is will remain liquid in between those two temperatures is also a fact.  That mercury will be liquid within a certain temperature range (different from the range for water) is also a fact.  Etc. 

On a further point, no inference is needed to know that the boiling point of water is above its freezing point.  Only observation is needed.  You are misusing the term “inference.”  

It is certainly not true that all scientific facts are simply well-supported inferences.  Many scientific facts are simply the result of direct observation.

It is true that scientists often treat inferences as factual, in order to further extend their conclusions.  For example, we see certain spectral lines in light from Saturn, and infer certain gases in Saturn’s atmosphere.  That inference is taken, for practical purposes, as established “fact” on which scientists can base future work.  But the cautious scientist will always keep track of which results were determined by observation, and which by inference.  

“Whales evolved from land mammals” is an inference, based on a number of assumptions, including the assumption of pure naturalism in origins and the assumption that morphological and genomic similarities betoken historical relationships.  I was neither contesting nor affirming the inference, but merely noting its inferential character.

The problem with treating such inferences as “fact,” of course, is that then the facts change when the inferences change.  At one time whales were thought to have descended from wolflike ancestors; now they are thought to be have descended from deerlike ancestors.  In each case the belief was an inference.  If it was also a fact in each case—and to be a fact, something must be true—then both fact and truth changed when the inference changed.  But this is nonsense.  There can only be one “fact” about whale ancestry.  Inferences, however, may be many, the question then being which inference is likely closer to the fact.

Confusion in terminology is highly undesirable.  That’s why I try to use terms (a) precisely; and (b) in line with normal usage.  


Keith Elias - #75344

December 16th 2012

Hi Eddie;
 
Thanks for responding.   

However, once the scale is established, that water boils (at sea level) at a certain temperature on that scale is a fact.  


  So in addition to observation, facts require a scientific framework?  
 

That i[t] will remain liquid in between those two temperatures is also a fact.  

 
How do clouds form then?  
 

On a further point, no inference is needed to know that the boiling point of water is above its freezing point.  Only observation is needed.  You are misusing the term “inference.”

 
What is required are *repeated* observations.  As the number of observations increases our confidence that the observations will remain the same in the future increases.  That is: we infer future events from repeated past tests.  
 
Then repeated observations in other areas, together with creative thinking, allow us to construct (infer) a theoretical framework, permitting us to infer causation rather than mere correlation, and to otherwise assure ourselves that we have not misunderstood or biased the observations.  
 
A well known example of misunderstood observations leading to false inferences may help here:  
 
The ancient Hebrews (and all the other groups that lived around them) observed that the earth below them did not move, and that the sun above moved across the sky. They thus inferred that the earth was fixed, and the sun moved around the earth.  
 
 
1 Chronicles 16:30 “Tremble before him, all the earth: The world also is established, it shall not be moved.”  
 
Psalm 104:5 “He laid the earth upon its foundations: it shall not be removed for ever.”  
 
Ecclesiastes 1:5 “The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth.”   
 

Confusion in terminology is highly undesirable.  That’s why I try to use terms (a) precisely; and (b) in line with normal usage.  
 

I try to look carefully at what is going on in the real world so that words as normally used (or misused) do not mislead me.  
 
Thus I maintain that all scientific facts are inferences from repeated observation.  
 
 
Keith Elias


Eddie - #75352

December 16th 2012

Hello, Keith:
 
All right; I see the communications problem here.
 
The inferences you are talking about is what I would call a “meta-inferences”—the sort of inferences that have to be allowed in order for science to take place at all.  Thus, we have to assume that certain regular sequences of events indicate some principle or “law” that makes those sequences reliable, in the past, present, and future.  We have no observational proof of that—the very next case may violate the expected sequence—so we are merely making an assumption.  If you wish, you can call this assumption of regularity an “inference” from repeated observation.
 
I was speaking about a lower-order level of inference—particular inferences which are not automatically entailed by what I have called the “meta-inferences” which make science possible.  Such inferences, unlike the meta-inferences, are falsifiable without the unpleasant consequence of making all natural science impossible.
 
So, for example, chemists once inferred the existence of “phlogiston,” and the existence of Piltdown Man and Brontosaurus were inferences from fossil bones.  All of these inferences turned out to be false, i.e., all inferred non-existent entities.  They did not point to facts.
 
Now, the result of a meta-inference, when applied to particular cases, is what we call a “fact” of nature.”  For example, chicken eggs always produce chickens, never turkeys, let alone lizards or cats.  It is therefore a “fact”—in everyday parlance, and in normal scientific parlance as well, to say that a member of any species will produce an offspring of the same species (albeit there may be slight variations).  No scientist would write, in a book or scientific paper, a sentence such as:  “After careful study, I have inferred that chickens always give birth to chickens.”  The thing would be treated as a given, a fact.
 
So, if I say that every blue whale now swimming in the ocean had parents who were blue whales, I am stating a fact.  That fact cannot be denied, without denying the regularity of the reproductive process—as the human race has witnessed it since the time of the Sumerians and presumably in prehistoric times as well.
 
But if I say that every blue whale now swimming in the ocean ultimately descended from a deer-like artiodactyl that lived many millions of years ago, I am drawing an inference—a particular inference, above and beyond the general or meta-inference about the regularity of the reproductive process.  And that particular inference, if it turned out to be false, would not destroy the meta-inference (that in any given generation, species will breed true to type) that makes a science of inheritance possible.  So, for example, if it were proved that whales descended from wolflike animals instead, science would not be threatened.  Nor, if it turned out that all land mammals descended from whales, would science be threatened.  Nor, if it were proved that neo-Darwinian processes alone could not have turned a land mammal into a whale, and therefore some other causes were operating, would science be threatened.  Do you see the point?  Any one of these lower-order inferences could be invalid, i.e., could lead people to believe a wrong “fact,” with the true “fact” remaining unknown.
 
This is what I meant by saying the boiling point of water is a “fact” whereas the particular evolutionary claim about whales was an “inference.”  I’m hoping that you now see, given my terminology, why I would have said that; and I’m hoping you now see that there is an epistemological difference between the two statements.  I can state what the reading on the thermometer will be when the water starts to boil, with very great confidence; it is with less confidence (how much less is debatable, but certainly somewhat less) that I can say that whales all descended from land mammals.  My point is not that the inference about whale evolution is false; my point is that it is a particular inference, above and beyond the minimal “meta-inferences” necessary for science to operate, and to challenge it is not to challenge science itself. 

Keith Elias - #75468

December 19th 2012

Hi Eddie;


All right; I see the communications problem here.

The inferences you are talking about is what I would call a “meta-inferences”-the sort of inferences that have to be allowed in order for science to take place at all.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I see the problem differently.

If I am interpreting your position correctly you believe we can use an on/off, facts versus falsehoods description of reality.  For some philosophical purposes, and perhaps within some mathematical or logical systems, that’s fine, because no doubt there must be some facts out there.

But science is about what we can know from observation. The same idea can also be expressed as:

All scientific knowledge is generated by induction.
In science there are NO a priori truths/facts that exist independently from observation.

Since any set of observations could (at least in principle) be the result of a huge statistical anomaly, or observational bias, or a misunderstanding of what is being viewed (like the observation that the earth is fixed) all scientific conclusions without any exceptions are tentative.

Thus “facts” are expectations that are very likely to be met and consequently there can be no fundamental distinction between highly likely inference from observation and fact.

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75495

December 19th 2012

Keith:

Notice that in my above discussion I tried to “meet you halfway” by translating your language into mine and trying to show how, definitional differences taken into account, our accounts could be compatible.  But in your answer you have not tried to meet my discussion in this manner, but simply asserted something different, as if what I said was irrelevant.  This makes dialogue difficult.

There are certainly a priori truths in science, or, to be more precise, governing science:  for one, the assumption that there exists something called “nature” that is regular and therefore lends itself to “natural science” is an a priori truth, taken for granted by all scientific work, but which cannot be proved by science.  In fact, it was denied by some of the leading Muslim theologians, which was why Muslim science, after taking an early lead, fell behind European science.

However, since you believe that “all scientific conclusions without any exceptions are tentative,” you must accept that even the conclusion of common descent, which you have vigorously argued for here, is tentative.  Do you accept that? 

To come back to the main point, regarding facts and inferences, you simply did not listen carefully to my discussion.  I won’t repeat it, or try to alter it to get through to you another way, since I sense I am up against a dogmatic position.  I’ll just reaffirm that the melting point of mercury (given a set of standard conditions, pressure etc.) is X degrees Celsius (or Kelvin, or Fahrenheit, or whatever scale you wish to use).  That is not an inference.  That is a fact.  It is determined entirely by repeated observation, and not a smidgin of inference is employed.  One simply notes the reading on the thermometer when liquefaction is achieved.  You may use words otherwise, but the usage of the entire human race—including that of all practicing scientists—is against you.  Walk up to any ten scientists and ask them if the melting point of mercury is a fact or an inference.  Then report back and let me know what you found.

I wonder what you would say if you were falsely accused of murder, and put on trial, and found yourself up against a prosecuting attorney who told the jury that “there can be no fundamental distinction between highly likely inference from observation and fact,” and that therefore they must conclude that your fingerprint on the victim’s clothing, combined with witness reports of an angry argument you had with the victim, and the fact that you were the beneficiary of the victim’s life insurance policy, makes it a “fact” that you committed the murder.  I expect that you would wish your defense attorney to point out the distinction between a fact and an inference in that case.  But perhaps you would rather stick to your epistemological principles, and hang?


Keith Elias - #75518

December 19th 2012

Eddie;

There are certainly a priori truths in science, or, to be more precise, governing science:  for one, the assumption that there exists something called “nature” that is regular and therefore lends itself to “natural science” is an a priori truth, taken for granted by all scientific work, but which cannot be proved by science.

I suppose it could be said that there are a-priori “truths” about how science itself proceeds, although I’m not sure philosophically minded scientists would agree even to that.  However, the intent of my assertion that all science is tentative concerns the findings of science, not its process or governing principles.

However, since you believe that “all scientific conclusions without any exceptions are tentative,” you must accept that even the conclusion of common descent, which you have vigorously argued for here, is tentative.  Do you accept that?

Absolutely.  When I tell a creationist (as I often do) that he can change my beliefs by presenting plausible evidence for his position, I am being completely honest.  However, I can honestly say the same thing to someone trying to convince me that the sun orbits the earth.  Which is more likely: geocentrism or creation of all organisms within the last 10,000 years; hard to say


You may use words otherwise, but the usage of the entire human race-including that of all practicing scientists-is against you.

The entire human race?  Well maybe most of it.  Practicing scientists?  Not very many that have been educated in western universities.  See (on science as tentative):

http://ncse.com/evolution/science/what-is-science

http://www.teacherlink.org/content/science/class_examples/Bflypages/nos.htm

http://physics.about.com/b/2011/09/24/scientific-truths-are-tentative.htm

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75531

December 19th 2012

Keith:

On your last remark, I never contested the view that science was tentative, nor am I surprised to find many scientists saying so.  What I said was that most scientists would not agree with your claim that a fact cannot be distinguished from an inference.  I think most would say that the two are quite distinguishable.  Let me know the names of all the scientists you can find who say they are indistinguishable.  Let me know the names of all the scientists you can find who say that determining the melting point of mercury requires inference, rather than merely reading the thermometer when liquefaction occurs.  I’d be surprised if you could find even one.

I notice that HornSpiel, whose remarks sparked this conversation, is not interested in pursuing it.  So I’ll drop this conversation now.


Keith Elias - #75549

December 20th 2012

Eddie;

I never contested the view that science was tentative

you did say:

However, since you believe that “all scientific conclusions without any exceptions are tentative,” you must accept that even the conclusion of common descent, which you have vigorously argued for here, is tentative.  Do you accept that?

All scientific conclusions including those designated as facts are tentative because they are the results of inference from (and statistical analysis of) observation.

Note that my position was the same as yours three of four years ago.  My position changed because working and retired scientists (mostly biologists, but also a few geologists) beat me up on the issue.

 

Obviously this isn’t a big issue, but I hope you will continue to reflect on it.

 

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75563

December 20th 2012

Keith:

Your quotation of my remarks establishes nothing that I hadn’t already conceded.  In the quoted passage I did not dispute the tentative nature of scientific findings, but merely attempted to get you to apply your principle to your own firm-sounding conclusions about common descent.  Since you have since agreed that your principle does apply to the conclusion of common descent, we have no disagreement.

As for the main point, since you remain obdurate—with I, and all lay people, and all scientists known to me, affirming that the melting point of mercury is a fact, not an inference, and you alone (claiming to represent sound philosophy of science, and claiming to represent scientists, even though you have not been able to find a single Ph.D. in any science in the world support you in the case of melting or boiling points of any substance)—there is nothing more to say.  It has been demonstrated to you that there is no inference involved in determining melting and boiling points, and you have no scientific authority to back you.  You rely entirely on your own cobbled-together philosophy of science.  But against your own jerry-rigged structure, the force of demonstration and the practice of real scientists is overwhelming, and the structure collapses.  The melting point of mercury remains a fact, not an inference, and you can huff and puff at this house, but it’s made of bricks and it won’t come down.

I notice that the “retired and working scientists” you called upon were in the historical sciences—biology and geology.  What would expect, but that the historical sciences, which rely inordinately upon inference (as opposed to the experimental sciences, which rely much more on measurement), would try to abolish the distinction between inference and fact?  It is in their professional interest to make Darwin’s and Lyell’s conclusions seem as as “factual” as those of Newton and Boyle and Mendeleev (or to downgrade the conclusions of the latter to mere “inferences” so that biology and geology don’t look shaky by comparison).   Always take into account the motives of “experts.” 

Best wishes.


Keith Elias - #75582

December 21st 2012

Eddie;

Your quotation of my remarks establishes nothing that I hadn’t already conceded. In the quoted passage I did not dispute the tentative nature of scientific findings

 Could you explain to me how you can agree that
 - ALL scientific findings are tentative but
 - scientific findings of facts are not tentative?

 Remember this quote
 ”All scientific conclusions are tentative”

 from here:
 http://ncse.com/evolution/science/what-is-science


As for the main point, since you remain obdurate-with I, and all lay people, and all scientists known to me, affirming that the melting point of mercury is a fact, not an inference,

The above implies that facts and inferences are incompatible opposites. Here is Michael Shermer’s definition:

Fact—A conclusion confirmed to such an extent that it would be reasonable to offer provisional agreement.

 from here:
 http://spider.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/jarrett/talks/LiU/sci_method_2.html


 Gould’s definition is:

“fact”—“confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.”

Note that using these definitions fact and inference from repeated observation are not incompatible.


not been able to find a single Ph.D. in any science in the world support you in the case of melting or boiling points of any substance)

Everyone including me agrees that it is a fact that (for example) Mercury melts at -38.87 degrees Celsius.

has been demonstrated to you that there is no inference involved in determining melting and boiling points

If the melting point of mercury is not an inference from repeated observations then how was it determined?


I notice that the “retired and working scientists” you called upon were in the historical sciences-biology and geology.  What would expect, but that the historical sciences, which rely inordinately upon inference (as opposed to the experimental sciences, which rely much more on measurement), would try to abolish the distinction between inference and fact?

Again: (from the last phrase) How can facts not be strong inferences if ALL scientific conclusions are tentative?

Within experimental science: When relativity replaced Newtonian mechanics it became obvious that facts sometimes needed to be replaced by other facts in the light of new and improved observations.

So again:

ALL scientific findings are tentative.


Eddie - #75592

December 21st 2012

The melting point of mercury is not an inference from repeated observations.  It is a repeated observation, period.  No inference is involved.

If you think there is an inference involved, you should be able to write out the steps by which you get from observation to inferred conclusion.  Consult Copi’s book on Logic to learn how to do this, then come back to me with the stepwise presentation of the inference, properly formalized.  Until then, I stick with my position that the melting point is determined purely by observation, and won’t respond again. 


Keith Elias - #75636

December 22nd 2012

Eddie;

The melting point of mercury is not an inference from repeated observations.  It is a repeated observation, period.  No inference is involved.

When I got up this morning I observed that the earth was fixed.  I have repeated the same observation every morning since my childhood.  No inference is involved.

Observation and inference (in science) are defined in one of the pages I provided a link to earlier in this discussion:

http://www.teacherlink.org/content/science/class_examples/Bflypages/nos.htm

Observations.

“When we describe an environment based on our five senses, it is called an observation.  For example, “Upon magnification, the painted lady eggs appear bluish and barrel-shaped.” Observations are direct enough that most would make the same observation in the same situation.”

Inferences.

“When we bring our past experience [emphasis added] into making a judgment based on an observation, it is an inference. For example, “The caterpillar appears as if it is about to form its chrysalis” is an inference, because you are interpreting observations according to knowledge from past experience. Inferences are important in science in making explanations, but one must be careful not to confuse observations with inferences when conducting a study.”

Note first that you can not observe “the melting point of mercury”. What you can observe are instances of a silvery material melting and hardening while at the same time watching something like numbers on a screen.

You infer that the numbers on the screen are causally connected to the state change you are watching, presumably by the temperature change the thermocouple (or some other technology) is measuring.

Fundamentally you infer that since you and others have made the same observation in the past, others will always be able to make the same observation in the future.  “The melting point of mercury” is an easy to use shorthand expression of this longer statement.  (That is you infer that this property [melting temperature] is not something that is going to spontaneously change, like regular observations of green leaves all summer followed suddenly by yellow leaves in fall.)

Yet further many of the fundamental observations which underlay the “melting point” - for example that there are pure substances and they have fixed properties and temperature changes alter only certain properties, while leaving the substances unchanged, are now culturally (or institutionally) embedded (principles inferred from other past patterns of observation).

For this reason ancient peoples certainly could not have made any observations about melting temperatures because viewing the world as composed of things like earth, air, fire and water they lacked an understanding of what pure elements or substances are.  As well only at the beginning of the 19th century did people begin to understand that heat, motion and radiation were linked as forms of energy.

Culturally dependent knowledge required to know the melting temperature of a material is a type of collective past experience and thus is more evidence that a melting point is an inference, not an observation.


Keith Elias


Eddie - #75641

December 22nd 2012

It seems to me that you did not carefully read, or else did not understand, my post #75352, far above. 
 
I granted in that post that observations are set in a context of understood regularity in nature.  Obviously if we could not assume the existence of a stable entity called “mercury,” with certain properties, our observations of “mercury” would be paralyzed.  And obviously, if we cannot assume cause-and-effect relationships, natural laws, and so on, we cannot do science at all.  I made this very plain.  I even allowed your term “inference” in connection with this, though I suggested that really you were talking about meta-inferences or foundational assumptions.
 
I then went on to say that, even granting all of this, there is still a fundamental epistemological difference between a statement such as “the boiling point of water at sea level is 100 degrees Celsius” (or “monotremes lay eggs” or “uranium makes a Geiger counter tick”) and “whales evolved from deerlike land animals.”  The first sort of statement involves no inference beyond the meta-inferences or assumptions which I gladly granted you as belonging to all science; the second sort of statement involves a specific inference beyond those meta-inferences or assumptions.  The first sort of statement, when made with due care, cannot be wrong, unless our senses are deluded or the laws of nature are fickle and change without warning; the second sort of statement could easily be wrong without threat to any basic premise necessary to natural science.

The first sort of statement I therefore call “factual” and the second sort “inferential.”  But you can substitute any other set of terms that you like.  Replace “factual” by “observational”—I have no problem with such a modification.  The point is that the two kinds of statement—about mercury and about whales— are very different.  You deny this difference; you think they are exactly the same kind of statement.  This is where you fail to perceive something very important.  I said all this clearly once before, days ago, and now you have made me repeat it.  That is why I judge that further discussion is not profitable.
 
I can reasonably say that I “know” that the melting point of mercury at sea-level is X degrees.  You cannot reasonably say that you “know” that whales evolved from deerlike land mammals.  I can—provided that we agree on the definition of “mercury” and “melting point” and employ the same measuring devices— demonstrate the former; you can only make a plausibility case for the latter.  That’s what our dispute boils down to, and your attempt to cloud the issue with your own idiosyncratic understanding of the epistemology of science cannot conceal this.
 
By the way, I looked at your source for your definitions.  The author of the website is someone studying to be a high school science teacher, i.e., not even a science teacher yet, let alone a practicing scientist or philosopher of science!  In contrast, a good part of my doctoral work involved studying the philosophies of nature and notions of science held by Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, etc., and reading major works in the history and philosophy of science by people like Kuhn and Koyre and Cassirer.  So, if I may speak candidly, I think my sources are better than yours.  I now take my leave.

Keith Elias - #75653

December 23rd 2012

Eddie;

Beginning from the end of your post:


... your own idiosyncratic understanding of the epistemology of science ...

 

By the way, I looked at your source for your definitions.  The author of the website is someone studying to be a high school science teacher ...

The article is on the official site of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and includes special thanks by the author to: Southwest Texas State University’s Science/Math/Technology Education Institute.

If it is my view that is idiosyncratic then why is it being taught to high school teachers?


The first sort of statement I therefore call “factual” and the second sort “inferential.”  But you can substitute any other set of terms that you like. Replace “factual” by “observational”-I have no problem with such a modification.

Part of the reason I began my previous entry with an illusory observation (that the earth is fixed) was to demonstrate that observations are not facts and cannot be substituted for facts.

That’s part of the reason why even facts drawn directly from observation are inferences.

The first sort of statement involves no inference beyond the meta-inferences or assumptions which I gladly granted you as belonging to all science; the second sort of statement involves a specific inference beyond those meta-inferences or assumptions.  The first sort of statement, when made with due care, cannot be wrong, unless our senses are deluded or the laws of nature are fickle and change without warning; the second sort of statement could easily be wrong without threat to any basic premise necessary to natural science.

The above statement includes three suspicious qualifiers:

 1) meta-inferences (inference by another name?)
 2) with due care
 3) unless our senses are deluded (as our senses and memory often are)

If you could accept that scientific facts are on a continuum of truth ranging from extremely likely to be true to probably true then odd looking qualifications to categorical statements would not be necessary.

You have already accepted that scientists view all scientific conclusions as tentative or provisional.  Is it possible that all really means all?

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75654

December 23rd 2012

There is no parallel between the apparent fixity of the earth and the thermometer reading when mercury liquefies.  (“You think that the sun is moving around the earth, but in fact the earth is moving around the sun” is perfectly possible; “You think the thermometer reading is 20, but really the reading is minus 37” is rubbish.)

The revolution of the sun about the earth is an unconscious inference that seems like an observation.  The reading on the thermometer when mercury liquefies is an observation that seems like an observation.  One can be deluded about the implications of an observation, but not about the observation itself (e.g., that the heavenly bodies do in fact appear to move).  Thus, one cannot be deluded about a repeated thermometer reading.  And therefore one cannot be deluded about the melting point of mercury. 

As for your last question, there is a difference between scientific conclusions and scientific observations.  You think that because all scientific conclusions—which by their nature require inference—are provisional, that all scientific observations are also all provisional.  But this indicates a category confusion.  

Monotremes lay eggs.  That is not a provisional scientific conclusion.  It is a repeated observation.  It is also a scientific fact.

Beavers build dams.  That is not a provisional scientific conclusion (as if we might, by staying up really late one night, catch some Chinese engineers sneaking into the country and building the dams, and thus disprove the “beaver inference”).  That beavers build dams is a scientific fact.  

Mercury, under standard conditions, always liquefies at temperature X.  That is not a provisional scientific conclusion.  It is a scientific fact.

What is not a scientific fact is that whales evolved from land mammals.  That is a scientific inference or conclusion.  It may be a true conclusion.  I certainly have never contested it here.  I simply pointed out that its epistemological status differed from that of certain other statements that scientists make.

I strongly recommend that you read some of the authors I named in my previous post, before you go about “correcting” anyone in philosophy of science again.  Best wishes, Merry Christmas, etc.


Keith Elias - #75655

December 23rd 2012

Eddie;

There is no parallel between the apparent fixity of the earth and the thermometer reading when mercury liquefies.  (“You think that the sun is moving around the earth, but in fact the earth is moving around the sun” is perfectly possible; “You think the thermometer reading is 20, but really the reading is minus 37” is rubbish.)

Possibly correct for that exact anology.  A more plausible doubt would be of the form:

Current inference: temperature causes change of state.
Deeper truth:      temperature and state change are both caused by third factor.

However my ability to come up with an almost plausible alternative explanation is not the reason that the melting temperature of murcury is an inference, because there could be a deeper explanation that I am unable to imagine.

It is an inference because, as you have already accepted: All scientific conclusions are provisional because all could be false.

Thus, one cannot be deluded about a repeated thermometer reading.

Ponds and Fleishman will be pleased to hear this.



Monotremes lay eggs.  That is not a provisional scientific conclusion.  It is a repeated observation.  It is also a scientific fact.

This leaves you with the white swan problem.  It’s either a definition or might not be true.

What is not a scientific fact is that whales evolved from land mammals.

Hmm.  Are you studying for your PHd in a Christian College?


Best wishes, Merry Christmas, etc.

Thanks

I likewise hope you enjoy your Christmas and New Years.  My son is flying in tonight, and then in a few days we have a huge family party.

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75656

December 24th 2012

You keep trying to divert the discussion to scientific explanation, when I’ve made clear to you that I am talking about scientific observation.  I did not raise the question of the cause of the liquefaction of mercury.  I reported the observation that mercury—under standard conditions—liquefies at temperature X.  That is consistent with temperature being the sole cause of the liquefaction, but I did not go on to make that inference.  I simply reported the experience of laboratory scientists.  They would say, without hesitation, “It is a fact that mercury—under standard conditions—liquefies at temperature X.”  They never say “We infer that mercury, under standard conditions, liquefies at temperature X.”
 
As for your white swan argument, it is very easy to adjust a generalization in science to take into account exceptions that are discovered later.  One can, on the basis of experience, go from “mammals bear their young alive” to “mammals bear their young alive, except in the case of the monotremes,” without throwing animal classification into chaos.  And one could go from “beavers build dams” to “beavers build dams, except for one rare species in Burma which lives in caves,” without creating any perplexity.  If your only point is that some of our empirical generalizations might some day prove to be untrue, I grant it, but that is such a trivial point that I’m surprised you think it’s worth raising.  If your son asked you:  “Daddy, is it a fact that beavers build dams?,” would you say:  “I don’t dare commit myself to that, son, because some day someone might find a beaver species that does not build dams, and I can’t take the risk of telling you something is a fact that might not be true”?  Would you be that silly?
 
No, I am not “studying” for my Ph.D.  I earned it decades ago.  In fact, it was in the area of theology and science.  And it was not in a Christian college, but in a secular university.  The statement I made about whale evolution I made on entirely secular grounds.  As I’ve stated elsewhere here, I see no fundamental objection to evolution from a Christian theological point of view.  But that does not change the fact that “whales evolved from land mammals” is an inference, not a fact.  Regard it as a very strong inference if you like; make it 99% certain if you like.  But it is not a fact.  And by that I don’t mean it is not true.  I mean that its epistemological classification is “inference” not “fact.”  That water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level, on the other hand, is properly classed as a “fact.”  And now these replies are looking ridiculously narrow on the page, so I’m outta here.  Best wishes.

Keith Elias - #75660

December 24th 2012

Eddie;

 

You keep trying to divert the discussion to scientific explanation, when I’ve made clear to you that I am talking about scientific observation.  I did not raise the question of the cause of the liquefaction of mercury.  I reported the observation that mercury—under standard conditions—liquefies at temperature X.  That is consistent with temperature being the sole cause of the liquefaction, but I did not go on to make that inference.  I simply reported the experience of laboratory scientists.  They would say, without hesitation, “It is a fact that mercury—under standard conditions—liquefies at temperature X.”


You should have taken more time to think through the implications of my explanation that an independent cause could be responsible for the state change and separately the temperature change.  In science this (if true) would be established by confirming tests.  In most (perhaps all) cases that would mean being able to produce a change of state without changing the temperature.

That’s an aspect of the reason why in science observations (which can be misunderstood) are not facts and facts remain forever tentative - subject to correction.

Scientists do not believe they have access to eternal truth.


But that does not change the fact that “whales evolved from land mammals” is an inference, not a fact.  Regard it as a very strong inference if you like; make it 99% certain if you like.


The number is not 99% but a number that is more similar to the fact or inference that earth orbits the sun.  As I’ve already pointed out, for science:  strong inference and fact are two ways of saying the same thing.  Since any scientific conclusion (including a presumed fact) is provisional it can potentially be overthrown.  Consequently there is no other coherent way for scientists to look at things.

Keith Elias


Eddie - #75665

December 24th 2012

Keith:

You wrote:  

“You should have taken more time to think through the implications of my explanation that an independent cause could be responsible for the state change and separately the temperature change.”

No, Keith— you should have taken the time to read what I wrote more carefully.  I said in plain English that I was not making any statement about the cause of the state change.  I was making a statement about the uniform observation of scientists regarding when (not why) liquefaction happens.  Under “standard conditions” liquefaction happens at temperature X.   Since you continue to deny that the observation is what it is, you are not being rational, and we cannot hold a conversation.

But I will for the moment say something about the question of causality.  You write as if we were dealing with only the isolated case of mercury.  That shows that you have no understanding of the everyday world of physical science.  I have on my bookshelf a massive reference volume called Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (chock full of information which modern scientists count as facts established by observation and experimentation —and accompanied by no statement that all of these facts are merely inferences).  If you examine the book, you will see that chemists and physicists and metallurgists and so on have exercised tremendous observational and experimental care to obtain the melting points and boiling points of a vast range of natural substances.  So if are you are seriously going to argue that some unknown cause (i.e., a cause other than temperature) makes the thermometer reading and the melting of mercury to align in a regular way, you are going to have to argue that a similar unknown cause is causing the thermometer reading and the melting of ice, iron, lead, etc. to align in a regular way.  And this means that, if you persist in your extreme Academic skepticism, ultimately you are going to have to resort to the hypothesis of a deceptive demon or deceptive God who tries to fool human beings by luring them to affirm rationally persuasive but false causal relationships. 

(This is exactly the charge that is brought by Darwinians against creationists who argue “common design” rather than “common descent”—that their hypothesis ends up implying a deceiver-God who makes his designs look like random genetic mistakes.)

Academic skepticism of the sort you are advocating would stop natural science dead in its tracks.  Every time a scientist said:  “I believe that X causes Y” the skeptical machine would swing into gear, showing why the affirmation was unwarranted.  But to leave aside the question of causality, and return to the minimalist position for which I was actually arguing, I respond to your penultimate paragraph as follows: 

I did not say that scientists “believe that they have access to eternal truth.”  I said that scientists know the  #%&*(!  melting point of mercury!

And this is about the dumbest argument I’ve had in a long time.

I’ll say Merry Christmas one last time, while I am still Merry!  And if you’d like the last word, have it—and if you use the opportunity simply to rehash the same position, just presume that my response would have been a boisterous seasonal HO-HO-HO.


Keith Elias - #75669

December 25th 2012

Eddie;

... if you’d like the last word, have it ...

I’m much too hung over for that.

Last words will have to remain with you.

HO HO HO


wesseldawn - #75314

December 14th 2012

Obviously C.S. Lewis came to be regarded a defender of the faith - but what faith? If he was not a creationist and neither I.D. then what was he?

Growing up, I enjoyed his books as much as anyone but does the ability to tell stories automatically relegate someone to church father? Give it a few hundred years and I may yet end up there too!!


Merv - #75316

December 14th 2012

Obviously C.S. Lewis came to be regarded a defender of the faith - but what faith? If he was not a creationist and neither I.D. then what was he?

A Christian.

-Merv


Eddie - #75324

December 15th 2012

Nicely put, Merv; nicely put.


Seenoevo - #75319

December 14th 2012

Although it involved other subject matter, one of C.S. Lewis’s titles, The Great Divorce, brought to mind a question I’ve asked here before but have yet to receive a meaningful and substantial answer.

Choosing an interpretation of a given Scripture verse or chapter which differs from traditional interpretation raises the possibility of other non-traditional interpretations. Considering that possibility, and considering Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and especially 1 Corinthians 6:9,

what do BioLogos participants think about the “salvation status” of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?


Merv - #75342

December 16th 2012

Are you worried about this, Seenoevo?  If you are concerned about your own or some friends salvation status, then don’t stop reading at 1 Corinthians 6:9.  Even just a couple verses later:  ”... you were washed, you were santified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jess Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

And if you worry about the ‘persistence’ of some sin condition (i.e. that somebody has remarried and stays that way) then study more of Paul’s writings (especially the last half of Romans 7)  Just because we ‘turn a corner’, accepting Christ doesn’t mean that we no longer will be needing God’s grace, mercy, and continual washing.  It isn’t just adulterers.  If you want to pick on sins, at least note that these lists also include greed, slander (and gluttony in other lists).  You and I are not immune.  If adulterers are permanently locked out, then you, I and everybody else is too.

-Merv


Merv - #75343

December 16th 2012

Oh—and just in case you or I wanted to join the Pharisee at the front of the temple to declare proudly to God  “Well, at least I’m not an adulterer like that poor sap in the back there” then that means you didn’t ponder what Jesus said just a few verses before your Matthew 5:32 reference:  “Anyone who even looks at a woman lustfully ...”

If that can’t drive the point home, then I don’t know what will.  Filthy rags.  Worn by all of us.

-Merv


Seenoevo - #75349

December 16th 2012

“Do you not know that the unrighteous WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts” 1 Cor 6:9

 

“Are you worried about this, Seenoevo?”

If anyone, Christian or otherwise, continued in immorality or idolatry or adultery (among other things), then

Why wouldn’t anyone be worried?

 

Does everyone here share Merv’s view?


Seenoevo - #75350

December 16th 2012

Could the belief in evolution be evil?

Does the theory of evolution incorporate principles which run contrary to common philosophical and Biblical principles?

We can fairly define evolution as the process of all living things descending from the same thing, can’t we?

Has evolution (i.e. macroevolution) ever been observed? If not, then does not belief in evolution necessitate “faith” in the following?

- Constant, and ultimately colossal, “change”, where

- “Change” is not growth and not development, but rather transformation from one kind of thing to another kind of thing.

- Where this change , especially when viewed over time, necessarily means a living thing is never really “itself“ (i.e. a uniqueness of type of being), for “it” is constantly becoming “something else”, with the “something else” likewise never really becoming itself, ad infinitum.

 

Philosophical questions:

- Does not knowledge necessarily involve making distinctions and defining things?

- Can “time” be simply but fairly defined as “a measure of change”? If so, and

- If, in evolution, the definition of a particular living thing (i.e. the description of the uniqueness of a type of being) is dependent on time, then

- Can any living thing ever be a distinct type of being? Can it ever be “itself”?

- Considering the above, can we ever really “know” anything?

 

Biblical questions:

- Does Genesis 1-2 show God “creating” living things, “each according to their kind”, or does it show him “transforming” living things?

- Assuming constant evolution, will humans still be in the image and likeness of the unchanging God a billion years from now?

- Does the New Testament say Christ “became” flesh or does it say Christ “transformed into” flesh?

- If we’re called to true love, and true love involves relationship, and in this relationship one sacrificially acts for the “other’s” good, but no constant and definable “other” ever exists, then, can we exercise true love?

  

“Literary” musings:

- Isn’t it odd that evolution literature so often use the word “descent” (e.g. Darwin’s The Descent of Man) but perhaps never “ascent”?

- Is not the evolution story like a dark mystery or fantasy novel, describing deception everywhere, where nothing is as it seems? Where nothing is anything, because anything and everything is no”thing”?

 

Does not belief in evolution require a faith in constant change, in a “blurring” of being, in a dissolving of differences? Whereas, does not the Bible emphasize the importance constancy/fidelity and the making of distinctions – distinctions between living things (e.g. male vs. female,  cattle vs. people) and other things (e.g. wheat vs. chaff, good vs. evil)?

Could the belief in evolution be evil?

Why not?


Keith Elias - #75353

December 16th 2012

Hi SeeNoEvo;

I’m interested in the physical evidence, so I’ll skip the philosophical questions.


We can fairly define evolution as the process of all living things descending from the same thing, can’t we?  

That statement is a (conceivably false) extrapolation of one part of the Theory of Evolution (TOE) namely descent with modification.  I say conceivably false because it is imaginable that some life exists that does not use the standard pathway:  

right handed DNA -> RNA -> 20 Amino Acids -> fold into protein -> make stuff  

If microbial life is found on Mars it is assumed that it will not use this path and that will be evidence that it evolved separately.  Similarly, life using alternative pathways could have evolved separately on earth, and (if not out-competed) could someday be found here.  

In short, the protein folding pattern described above is good evidence that all known life descended from a *single* common ancestor, but a single ancestor is not fundamental to the TOE.  

Biologists usually describe evolution as a group of interlocking processes consisting of (in summary):  

1) Naturally occurring variations  
2) Positive selection of some more adaptive characteristics  
3) Inheritance of the selected characteristics  

As a result of these three processes; separate breeding populations gradually change over time until they become so different that the young of a mixed union are no longer viable.  At that time they are separate species (think horses and zebras or black, brown, and polar bears).  As more time passes a mixed union produces no offspring at all (consider cats and civets or ducks and geese) and so on. 

Has evolution (i.e. macroevolution) ever been observed?  

In my experience when creationists use the term “macroevolution” they  

1) mean any evolution that I cannot demonstrate beyond doubt or  
2) mean observations which are not even theoretically possible or  
3) won’t tell me where the line between micro and macro evolution is  

and frequently all three.  

Recently in msg #74976 here:  

http://biologos.org/blog/confronting-our-fears-part-2  

I asked Edward:  
Which of the following would count as micro-evolution for you:  

1) All cats (house cat to lion) have a common ancestor?  
2) All carnivores (cats, dogs, weasels) have a common ancestor?  
3) What about if you add seals (pinnipeds) within carnivores?  
4) All mammals (dogs, bats, cows, whales, etc) have a common ancestor?  
5) All tetrapods (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians) have a common ancestor?  
6) All vertebrates (tetrapods, fish and sharks) have a common ancestor?  
7) All animals (vertebrates, arthropods and molluscs) have a common ancestor?
8) All eukaryotes (plants and animals) have a common ancestor?  


He wouldn’t reply.  

I realize that you may not be sure exactly where the line between macro and micro evolution is, but if you’ll humor me by showing which of the above you’re sure about (one way or the other).  I’ll present you with evidence that (from the known models) can only be explained by descent with modification as described by the TOE.  

Note, if you think all eight above are microevolution, then from my point of view, you (like Michael Behe) are already an evolutionist  

I look forward to hearing from you.


Keith Elias


lancelot10 - #75385

December 18th 2012

Evolution has no mechanism and the evidence is it has never taken place and is certainly not happenning now.

To think that cosmic radiation randomly bombarding DNA in a pig or deer like land animal’s testicles can change its 3 billion DNA code into the DNA of an ocean going whale would require more blind faith than the most fervent christian would need.

Anyway if this fantasy happened where are all the intermediates ? which had to survive the millions of years necessarily to successfully pass on their miraculously

irradiated genes - that amazingly gave the whale its sonar device by accident.


Keith Elias - #75473

December 19th 2012

Hi Lancelot10;

Evolution has no mechanism and the evidence is it has never taken place and is certainly not happenning now.

All sorts of bacteria are developing resistances to anti-biotics.  That’s happening right now.

 

Horses and Zebra’s are different but obviously related species.  Same for Lions and Tigers.  Since both sets can sometimes mate and produce non-viable but living offspring, each pair obviously has a common ancestor.   That’s evidence, and there’s lots more.

 

Concerning mechanism:  Are you asserting that random variations do not occur in populations? or are you asserting that a deer (for example) that has a good immune system is just as likely to survive and breed as one that’s sick all the time?  What part of Natural Selection is wrong?

Concerning intermediares:  What’s wrong with Archaeopteryx or Hyracotherium?

 

Keith Elias


2cortenfour - #75356

December 16th 2012

Seenoevo

Great points on how evolution suggests that every living thing is necessarily in a state of flux.  It requires that everything is in the process of being “redefined”. I think it is no coincidence that this evolutionary description of the physical world has a parallel in the philosophical world - namely postmodernism and relativism, where there is no bedrock Truth or ultimate certainty.
As you point out, even the concept of the “image of God” is in transition. 
So I think your points here highlight the great danger in the advancement of the idea that an evolutionary view of the world can be harmonized with the biblical model of origins and the theology drawn from it.
They are opposed to one another. Again: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. These attempts to reconcile these diametrically opposed ideas might grow out of noble intentions, but if biblical truth is sacrificed, how do these efforts honor the Author of the Word? 

Psalm 11:3 “When the foundations are being destroyed,what can the righteous do?”


Joriss - #75351

December 16th 2012

Seenova,
Yes, I share Merv’s view.

The Bible self gives a crystal clear answer on your question, in the OT as well in the NT.

In the Old Testament when we read the history of David and Bathseba in 2 Sam. 11 and 12, we see that David - the man after God’s heart, who called God intimately his shepherd! - committed a horrible series of sins.

1. He committed adultery with a woman, knowing that her husband, Uriah, a loyal subordinate in the army of David, was far away in the war, fighting for the sake of David and Israel. Despicable!

2. After Bathseba told him she was pregnant, he tried to hide his crime by sending Uriah to his house to lie with his wife, after making him drunk, but Uriah,  BECAUSE OF HIS LOYALTY TO THE SAKE OF ISRAEL, refused. Even more despicable.

3. Then David did the most despicable thing: giving the command to let Uriah down by leaving him alone in the battle so that he might be killed. Most despicable and treacherous deed! A deliberate murder on a loyal servant in the army.

And after Uriah’s death, when Bathseba had mourned over him David married her.

So how many times worse is this than divorce and remarriage?

If we could - so to say - give 100 points for this sin of David, I suppose we should give less than 20 points for divorce and remarriage. Or even less than 10.

And we know that, when David repented, God forgave David’s sins. Almost unbelievable! Nevertheless the consequences for his family-life were very negative, as Nathan prophesied in ch. 12.
BUT DAVID DID NOT LOOSE HIS SALVATION.

In the New Testament Jesus assures us that(Matthew 12:31) “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people ( .....)
The only unforgivable sin is the blasphemy of the Spirit, but that’s totally out of the picture here.

1 John 1:7 .........if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So also the New Testament assures us that, if we repent and confess, we will ALWAYS have forgiveness, whatever we have done, so that includes the case of divorce and remarriage.
So it is very clear that this sin can be forgiven and makes us not loose our salvation, although we will have to bear the consequences.


Seenoevo - #75354

December 16th 2012

“…Which of the following would count as micro-evolution for you …”

I try not to use the term “microevolution” as it’s ambiguous, and suggestive of a statement of belief in evolution. I prefer something like “variation within kinds”. We observe, and sometimes deliberately cause, such variations (e.g. yellow and white Chrysanthemums, white and brown rabbits, Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela).

From the list of 8, I’d say only #1 looks like “variation with kind”.


Keith Elias - #75413

December 18th 2012

Hi SeeNoEvo;


My apologies for not replying sooner, but I was nonfunctional Monday after a lost night of sleep due to the events in Connecticut, although in truth I am often tardy.  


From your msg #75354 (referring the family cats excluding the order carnivores):  


From the list of 8, I’d say only #1 looks like “variation with kind”.

Thanks most helpful.  


From your msg: #75350  


We can fairly define evolution as the process of all living things descending from the same thing, can’t we?  

My plan (already stated in Msg#75353) is (using your definition here) to present evidence that (from the known models) can only be explained by evolution.  For clarity I will mostly refer to “Descent with Modification” (DwM) although Descent with modification of shared inherited characteristics is more complete.  

_____  

OK.  You seem pretty knowledgeable, so I assume you’ve had discussions like this at least dozens of times before, so I’ll quickly set up my argument and then come back in future posts to patch where misunderstandings appear.  

If Descent with Modification (DwM) is true then all organisms share a common biological ancestor.  For closely related species the ancestor is near in time and for more distantly related species the common ancestor will be further back in time.  Since characteristics are inherited and (according to evolution) gradually added, lost, or modified; the DwM model predicts the following pattern of shared inherited characteristics:  

1) closely related organisms will share almost all their characteristics.  
2) more distantly related organisms will share somewhat fewer characteristics  
3) the most distantly related organisms will share the fewest number of characteristics in common, and those characteristics will tend to be the most fundamental (difficult to change without rendering offspring nonfunctional)  

- further (for future reference) modified characteristics in closely related (sexually reproducing) species will invariably be modified versions of existing characteristics from within that group.  


This pattern of shared and inherited characteristics is exactly what we see in organisms living today.  Since it is a necessary consequence of descent with modification as described by evolution we see the clearest image that is theoretically possible of evolution at work.  


For the visually oriented I found a couple of diagrams which outline a tiny section of the tree of common descent:  

http://understandingscience.whirl-i-gig.com//media/2/85597_evo_resources_resource_image_251_original.gif  

http://www.freethoughtdebater.org/images/cladogram.gif  


To the best of my knowledge this pattern of descent with modification of shared inherited characteristics cannot be explained by any other model except as something like an amazing coincidence or deliberate deception by a creator with inexplicable motives (which are not explanations).  Can you provide an explanation other than common descent?  

Keith Elias


Seenoevo - #75355

December 16th 2012

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people… if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light…So also the New Testament assures us that, if we repent and confess, we will ALWAYS have forgiveness…”

 

In “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light…” what does “walk” mean?

 

In “if we repent and confess”, what does “repent” mean?

 

Why all the “If”s?

 

Why isn’t the full content of John 8:10-11 “Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” ?


Joriss - #75365

December 17th 2012

Seenova,
Of course there is always an if. And ofcourse the woman could not go on in adultery in her further life.
And if we do not repent and confess our sins and turn our back on our old sinful life, we will not be forgiven!
But Jesus did not say to the woman: you are forgiven as long as you don’t fall into sin! So woe to you if you ever in your life commit a sin again, then be sure, I will condemn you!
If He had said so, we’d better throw our bibles away and enjoy every lovely sin we like, as long as we live, before we all go to hell!

The difference is how we sin.  Compare sin with water.

If we fall into the water from the waterside, we will climb out of the water as soon as possible, go home and put on dry clothes.

If we swim in the water, we enjoy ourselves and say: nice, right temperature, I feel good.

That’s the whole difference.
The second category has sinning as daily practise without objection, the first category can fall in sin, perhaps many times - Jesus speaks of seven times a day, Jacobus speaks of stumbling many times every day - but will always “climb” out of the sin - which is repenting, confess their sin, and come back to God again. That’s what walking in the Light means, a walk not without any sin,  but a walk in forgiveness and with the heart open to God.
A christian is not without sin, but he’s at war with it.



Merv - #75363

December 17th 2012

Seeno, if your in the business of trying to get Heaven’s doors slammed shut against certain people (and really against all of us, though you haven’t here acknowledged that you understand this), then I’m surprised you don’t just jump to some singular verse like I John 3:6:  “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”  And notice it didn’t say adultery or whatever favorite wicked group we wish to get ourselves stirred up in a self-righteous froth over.   Just SIN.  Harsh verse that one, and it isn’t just an isolated thought.  BUT you can’t just grab one verse and then build up a theology (especially a condemning one!) around it.  At least just study the rest of what the very same Apostle wrote elsewhere.  (I John 2:1-2) “... but if we do sin, we have an advocate…   ... a propitiation ... and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”

Joriss also gave you an excellent example to consider.  What is David’s status?  A man after God’s own heart.  The line of Christ himself.  Author of much of the psalter.  Adulterer.  Where will David’s eternity be spent, Seeno?  (as if it is any of our business to pretend we can discern such things.)

You haven’t given any answer to all these Scriptural challenges on this; you just came back with a truckload of more questions.  How do you answer the questions put to you?

-Merv


Merv - #75364

December 17th 2012

Make the first ‘your’ in my post:   you’re 

I really do try to follow proper grammar and spelling conventions, but my rebellious fingers didn’t get the message.


Seenoevo - #75369

December 17th 2012

“Seenova, “Of course there is always an if. And ofcourse the woman could not go on in adultery in her further life. And if we do not repent and confess our sins and turn our back on our old sinful life, we will not be forgiven!”

Then, if that adulteress did not repent, and turned back to her old sinful life, and died in that old sinful state, would she be forgiven?

If you think she would not be forgiven in that circumstance, then

what would be the “salvation status” today of a Christian who is divorced and remarried? Isn’t such a person continuing in adultery?


Seenoevo - #75370

December 17th 2012

“Seeno, if your in the business of trying to get Heaven’s doors slammed shut against certain people (and really against all of us…)… BUT you can’t just grab one verse and then build up a theology (especially a condemning one!) around it.”

Where have I slammed shut Heaven’s doors or preached condemnation?

Is it inappropriate for me to ask about matters which the Bible says are even more important than (earthly) life and death?

Is it wrong to ask on an evangelical website what evangelicals think about what the Bible says God says about shutting Heaven’s doors and condemnation?

“What is David’s status? A man after God’s own heart. The line of Christ himself. Author of much of the psalter. Adulterer. Where will David’s eternity be spent, Seeno?”

Would David ultimately be described more accurately as an adulterer or as an ex-adulterer?


Merv - #75376

December 17th 2012

Is adultery a worse sin than other sins?

How many times does somebody get to be an ‘ex-adulterer’ before God’s grace has been completely exhausted?

If somebody becomes a Christian (repenting of their sins in the process) but then lapses back into sin again are they now a hopeless case because they only got one ‘Use God’s grace’ card and they already used it up?  (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Do you know anybody who had repented of a sin, but then needed to repent of it again at a later time?

If that sin didn’t involve adultery, is it a lesser sin in God’s eyes?

If it is, where do Scriptures teach this approach to our condition?

-Merv


Seenoevo - #75378

December 17th 2012

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts” 1 Cor 6:9

Who was Paul speaking to? Wasn’t he speaking to the members of the church at Corinth? If so, why would he say this?

 

Who knows, maybe many more are going to hell than we think?

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Mat 7:13-14

“It is certain that few are saved.” Augustine

“Those who are saved are in the minority.” Thomas Aquinas


lancelot10 - #75384

December 18th 2012

Since a christian must believe that God can instantly raise between 15 - 20 billion dead on the last day and in all the instant creative miracles in the Bible how can they believe in evolution which requires unlimited time and chance.  How can God be an all powerful creator who also needs evolution trial and error -  does God need to learn anything??

All the miracles were instant creation - such as cooked loaves and fishes - the raising of lazarus from dust (death) - and in the resurrection of Jesus himself - when God made Jesus’s resurrection body it was instantaneous  - how could a believer believe in the resurrection of Jesus but not in the first miracle of adam - instantaneous creation from dust.

By not believing that God can instantly create we are on the dangerous ground of not believing Jesus’s miracles all of which are creative.

Evolution is not science but a hypothesis without even a rational mechanism so why try to change the bible to suit athiest fantasies.  There is also no simple to complex life - everthing is complex and scientists cannot create one single atom or living cell.


Joriss - #75387

December 18th 2012

Seenova,
If a christian man - let’s give him a name: Barry - decides to divorce, and he knows that God doesn’t want him to, and then marries a woman - we call her Shirley - who is in the same circumstances, they both are committing a sin.
It is a period in their life that they don’t live in fellowship with God, just as David, who knew God well, didn’t live in fellowship with God at the time of his sin with Bathseba.
Now Barry and Shirley are married, but although they love one another, they feel not as ease, because they miss the fellowship of God, because of their sin, that separates them from God. They are accused by their conscience.
Finally Barry and Shirley decide to humble themselves before God, confess their sin to God and ask forgiveness.
What will God do? If we know the bible - and also have a personal relationship with God, we know the answer: God will forgive, just read psalm 51 and the first chapter of 1 John and many other texts.

So now Barry and Shirley are forgiven, how further?

What I have read from you thus far I suppose you would say: they live now in a state of continuous adultery, so to prove there repentance is sincere, they’ll have to divorce again! If you think so, you are deadwrong.
The situation is bad enough. Another divorce would do no good to anybody, it would be committing another sin and make things even more worse and confused. Divorce and remarriage do great harm, also to children,family, friends. Would you have it a second time?
God’s mercy and grace are abundant, also after confessed sins he wants to bless and restore, though some consequences will be felt a lifetime, see David’s familylife after his sin.
So Barry and Shirley can stay married without loosing their salvation and even be blessed, but will also see spiritual damage as a consequence of their sin and as a big warning not to fall in such a sin again. Christians can’t sin without great costs.

As for the woman in the temple, we cannot know for sure, but I can hardly imagine that after the tender way Jesus approached her, defending her against all the hardhearted pharisees’ condemnation - only to catch Jesus in a trap - she would continue a sinful way of life. I think she will have joined the 120 waiting for the Holy Spirit or the 3000 who were added to the church in Acts 2.


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