Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


A Fog Over the Intelligent Design Debate

posted by David Klinghoffer

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A pair of dueling websites, one that just went live, are engaged in an important argument over whether religious believers should continue to be fed the “opium of the people.” That’s the famous phrase Marx Karl used to deride all of religion. One kind of faith actually deserves the description, however. It’s called theistic evolution, a convoluted justification for thinking that belief in God and belief in Darwin’s mechanism of blind, churning, unguided, and purposeless evolution can be meaningfully reconciled.
The new website is Faith and Evolution, from the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. It features all kinds of resources — writing and video, debates, questions and answers, and much else, including a number of contributions from yours truly. Do check it out and let me know what you think. 
Faith and Evolution presents a strking contrast with Dr. Francis Collins’s theistic evolution site BioLogos, courtesy of the Templeton Foundation. Dr. Collins and his associate Karl Giberson also blog here at Beliefnet. At F&E, you’ll find my analysis of Dr. Collins’s ideas on religion and evolution. One very useful thing about F&E is that it highlights debates both on the science of evolution and on the social impact of Darwinism, whereas BioLogos is more like a single-perspective sermon.
Collins and Giberson are sincere Evangelical Christians — as far as I, a Jew, can tell — and undoubtedly innocent of all guile, but they represent an insidious trend in religious and intellectual life. This genuine opiate of the masses works as a stupor-inducing fog, enveloping the debate about intelligent design versus Darwinism. The fog lulls you with the thought that between the idea of design in nature, and that of no design in nature, there is actually no need to make a choice.

The human genome, for example, is written in the “language of God,” as Dr. Collins wrote in the title of his bestselling book. Yet the genome is riddled with “Junk DNA” just as you’d expect from the product of a Darwinian process, driven by randomness and guided by no design or intelligence. Language of God? Language of Junk? Both are right! School’s out! Everybody celebrate!
Not only is this theologically, intellectually and scientifically vacuous. Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad. It would not qualify as insidious. What does qualify is the way this fog-generating machine of theistic evolution, its influence spread by the media, has given to countless otherwise thoughtful people intellectual permission to turn off part of their brains, lowering their defenses. This is just what the Darwin Lobby needs, people of faith complacently casting their vote for a cultural force that undermines faith. Lenin is said to have called such people “useful idiots.” He was not a very nice person.
You see the effect most poignantly in religiously and politically conservative circles. Conservatives should be the first to grasp that “ideas have consequences,” as Richard Weaver put it. Darwinism’s corrosive effects on faith, on belief in human dignity and the sacredness of human life; the sinister way Darwin’s theory has had of inspiring social movements of organized evil — these are solid reasons to go back and look again critically at the science. Does natural selection operating on random mutations really explain the history of life without the need for a guiding spiritual force outside nature? Did the software in the cell, DNA, really write itself?
For many of us who should know better, it’s easier, whether intellectually, socially, or both, not to come too close to the edge of the sacred mountain of Darwinism.
My image is from Exodus 19, which Jews will be reading in synagogue tomorrow for the festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost. When God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai, he warned that the people should “Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall surely die” (v. 12).
“Descend, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to see, and a multitude of them will fall. Even the priests who approach the Lord should be prepared, lest the Lord burst forth against them” (v. 21).
This was on the third day of the Israelites’ preparation for receiving the Sinai revelation, when “there was thunder and lightning and a heavy cloud on the mountain” (v. 16).
Something of this same sacred awe surrounds Mt. Darwin, its holy peak lost in cloud and fog. People are afraid to violate its borders to see, lest the prestige of the Darwinian idea burst forth against them, and a multitude will feel socially humiliated at being associated with the phantom menace: “creationism.”
I invite you to investigate for yourself. Faith and Evolution provides some very apt and accessible resources. Contrary to myth, this mountain may be ascended, the fog dispersed. 


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Brian Beckman

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:01 am


I like to think of the relationship between the physical and the spiritual by analogy to the relationship between computer hardware and computer software. Whereas a computer, animated by software, can interact with the physical world — factories are full of computerized robots that build things, even other robots, and whereas software routinely and easily creates more software, a piece of computer hardware cannot, in any way that I know, create a piece of software. That first spark of the spiritual that brings a computer to life must come from someplace other than the lump of physical hardware



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Brian Beckman

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:13 am


To be more clear, in my post above, I should have written “a piece of hardware _by itself, bereft of software_, cannot, in any way that I know, create a piece of software.”



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Your Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:16 am


Theistic Evolution is an intellectual hybrid. Just as hybrid vehicles help in our transition away from fossil fuels TE helps us transition away from fossilized ideas.
We know creationism is false no matter how metaphorical or allegorical you make it. We know that evolution is true.
However many people, especially Americans, are quite resisitent to an origens concept that does not require input from a god.
Theistic evolution makes the concepts of evolution palatable to a wider group of people. Once they are more comfortable with the idea of evolution it will be easier to cast aside all the false supernatural notions of origens.



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akhter

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:50 am


Mohammad , an illetrate 14000 years ago gave the ultimate meaning of Monotheism in just four lines, CAN ANY ONE BE SAME OR BETTER HIM , HERE WE GO=
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only!
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not nor is He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him.
– translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali



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Glen Davidson

posted May 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm


…”opium of the people.” That’s the famous phrase Marx Karl used to deride all of religion. One kind of faith actually deserves the description, however. It’s called theistic evolution,…

Perhaps it does deserve that description. However, nothing attempts to drug the mind more than ID does, since it would place magic on the same footing as physics.
Whatever one thinks of Collins’ theistic evolution, clearly a stance that is at all open to evidence is less of a mind poison than the ID stance which is opposed to solid evidentiary procedures.

Darwin’s mechanism of blind, churning, unguided, and purposeless evolution

You know what would really show up those “Darwinists”? Evidence that evolution is not unguided or purposeless. You can’t produce the required evidence, can you? And no, I am not interested in being directed to junk written by DI flacks, as that has been long demonstrated to be faulty on numerous grounds.
But Darwin’s mechanism is not blind, whatever Dawkins’ book title states. It simply cannot see into the future. It is fairly sensitive to present pressures, however. So of course it is incumbent upon you to come up with evidence against what you oppose, yet not to your particular caricature of it.

The fog lulls you with the thought that between the idea of design in nature, and that of no design in nature, there is actually no need to make a choice.

Of course there isn’t, because you and your ilk haven’t even begun to produce any evidence that there is design in nature. You’d need to show at least some rational thought behind life, or at least purpose (real purpose, not a christening of evolutionary predictions as “design”), and you can’t.

One very useful thing about F&E is that it highlights debates both on the science of evolution and on the social impact of Darwinism, whereas BioLogos is more like a single-perspective sermon.

Actually, that’s just evidence that your site is a pseudoscientific site interested in an agenda, not science. Collins comes closer to dealing with the science (with a lot of apologetic nonsense thrown in, true), which is for what we are fighting. You have to get rid of science in order to make space for scientifically useless, but politically expedient, claptrap.
In other words, of course it is useful to you, because you’re fighting against science with its standards. Talk about a fog over science!
This is an amazing admission:

…Theistic evolution…has given to countless otherwise thoughtful people intellectual permission to turn off part of their brains, lowering their defenses

Oh no, people turning off their defenses against science and evidence. How horrible. OK, it is horrible for those who want to obscure empirical matters for the sake of their own agendas.

Something of this same sacred awe surrounds Mt. Darwin, its holy peak lost in cloud and fog.

How clueless one has to be to make that claim, after lamenting that people don’t have their defenses up against “Darwinism.” Your contradictions belie your intended message, David.
What we have found is great opposition from those who have stayed away from studying the issues, such as from David. We’re inviting people into the water to feel it, while David is claiming that science is a mountain against which one’s defenses must be strong.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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My Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm


Too bad there is not a single piece of evidence or a single hypothesis in support of anything but evolution.
Tell people you don’t believe in a god and they scorn. Tell people evolution describes the adaptivity of species over time and they scoff. Tell them that evolutionary theory is responsible for countless vaccines and treatments and they love it.
For people who are supposed to embrace an afterlife, they really welcome the thought of a longer life expectancy.



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DML

posted May 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm


Call me crass, but evolution is such a solid theory that you really can’t be taken seriously if you oppose it. So yes, opposing it is a modern day equivalent to hiking up Mount Sinai, stealing a peek at God’s face, reaching out to keep the Arc from falling over, etc.
Although I’m not convinced that theistic evolution is really that viable, it is way more credible than young earth creationism.
I find the injection of communist rhetoric really silly also. Discovery Institute-ism and Lysenkoism are two sides of the same coin.



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Brian Beckman

posted May 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm


Glen writes … “Evidence that evolution is not unguided or purposeless. ”
Glen, I can provide a _definition_ of “purposefulness,” the opposite of purposelessness, based on Dawkins. If you’ll permit me a paraphrase based on memory (I don’t have the source works at hand):
Dawkins writes that Darwinian systems act AS IF they had a purpose, that being primarily to pass on their genes (and memes), but there are all kinds of ancillary sub-“purposes” such as developing better eyes, bigger brains, yadda yadda. Now, of course, our adduction of “purpose” is just a turn of phrase, since we’re really just engaging in ex-post-facto examination of the results of the Darwinian trials, that is, looking at the winners and “pretending” that they “tried” to win. But it’s a useful shorthand to think this way.
But, here’s the bomb, Dawkins writes that the “simulation” of purpose is so profound that we are completely justified in using the full language of teleology to describe the behavior of Darwinian systems; so profound, in fact, that we can just _define_ purposefullness, intentionality, teleology to be that which (supposedly fictitiously) propels Darwinian systems to accrue better designs. In other words, the fiction of purpose might as well be the truth. At which point, where’s the justification for calling it a fiction?
This may seem a bit circular, but I find it no worse than the Anthropic Principle in that regard.
I realize that this is not “evidence,” but a philosophical definition, so might not reach your criterion, Glen. I also realize that one may think it leads to a view closer to theistic evolution than to intelligent design. I have some thoughts on that for another time and place.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm


I have not been one who considered Dawkins to be very good at discussing these matters. He says that things “appear designed,” when few people thought so prior to the industrial revolution–and many do not think so since Darwin, for good reason. And yes, to say that organisms act AS IF they have a purpose–which to me appears like evolutionary functionality–that of passing on genes, seems to me a very poor way to state matters.
I mean, would anybody say that the “partial solutions” evolving due to a genetic algorithm’s functioning appear AS IF they have a purpose, that of surviving and reproducing (if it’s set up to do both) under evolutionary pressures? To me, Dawkins’ way of discussing these things seems to ignore important facts. How does something that is predicted for “solutions” of genetic algorithms, or for biological evolution, also “look as if” they are purposeful or designed?
Who has ever designed organisms to have the purpose of passing on genes anyway? How can something never observed to be a designer’s purpose suddenly “look as if” they are designed for that “purpose”?
The upshot for me is that Dawkins is not a philosopher, nor a scientist very knowledgeable of philosophy (his “meme” concept is hardly new to philosophy, historical analysis, or to science, it is only a very reductionistic version of more sophisticated ideas), hence he does not discuss these issues very well. To be sure, he’s not very knowledgeable of religious ideas either.
As far as teleological language goes, it is rife in science. Here’s one not involving biology:

We’re now trying to prove that our molecule wants arsenic more than things in your body want arsenic,” says Johnson.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041116215318.htm

Is it justified, or not? I would state that in the case of, say, chemistry, “wants” describes the very real attraction better than does anything that happens due to natural selection, which is a conservative “force.” What is more, evolution has no “end state,” while chemistry does have at least “end states” or equilibria.
In the end, though, this is all semantics. We can use teleological language if we wish, yet it is not justified by evolution or by physical attraction, nor do these justify our language choices. We justify our language choices. Dawkins might have one “physical” argument in a subset of cases of the “purposefulness” of evolution, namely that intelligent organisms do in fact have “purposes” in mating choices. Unfortunately, he seems not to restrict his teleological language to that, so I can see no very good excuse for his desire to define purposefulness, etc., to be that which propels evolution–given current language usage.
Probably the main reason for using teleological language in biology is simply that it is convenient, as it sometimes is in other sciences.
To me, Dawkins’ discussion of teleological language use (as related by yourself) is not very philosophical at all, since philosophers would generally not smile upon implying purpose where a “purposing mind” cannot be demonstrated to exist. Philosophy would not preclude teleological language from being used, since language is rather arbitrary in many of its aspects, and purposelessly changing itself, yet it desires (teleological language shows up with respect to non-animate “philosophy”, too) that language remain meaningful, hence teleological language in the absence of any obvious telos is to be taken metaphorically.
Dawkins is not obviously much of an authority on language use, and, even if he were, he would not thereby be correct.
Above all, finding some kind of purpose behind life that is not simply a function of evolution is what might indicate design, or some sort of transcendence. This is why I included a parenthetical caveat in the following sentence:

You’d need to show at least some rational thought behind life, or at least purpose (real purpose, not a christening of evolutionary predictions as “design”), and you can’t.

For I know that when “purpose” comes up the supposed “purpose” of surviving and reproducing is brought up by the various creationists. If it differs not a whit from what is expected from non-teleological evolution, though, how could any such “purpose” indicate design or transcendent process?
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Brian Beckman

posted May 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm


Dawkins aside, then, let me pose a few questions:
“teleological language in the absence of any obvious telos is to be taken metaphorically” That’s fine, I see how in all the cases from chemistry to evolution to even turning the crank on a Turing machine that couching the actual action of a system in teleological language is metaphorical. But how would we know an “obvious telos” from a metaphorical one? What’s an example of a system that has a non-metaphorical telos? Looking at a particular entity, how could we decide between the alternative that it’s acting AS IF teleological (for certain discussion purposes) and the alternative that it actually IS acting teleologically? Is there a set of tests we can apply, in the sense that a non-metaphorical telos would have to pass all of them to qualify?
I brought up the Turing machine on purpose, because it’s an example of something that performs (metaphorically?) logical calculations, or might look like it’s providing rational thought on some level. I prefer to discuss things in terms of the equivalent lambda calculus, but such systems suffice to model a huge amount of (metaphorically?) logical processes, including the whole Godelian tower. In a set of parallel questions to the above, then how could we decide that a Turing machine (say propelled by a millwheel or a solar panel) doing calculations all day long is only metaphorically modeling a “logical or rational mind” and not embodying one? How can we tell real rationality from only metaphorical rationality? What’s the list of tests? If we ran across a supposedly “rational mind,” how could we tell that it isn’t just a Turing machine running some incredibly sophisticated software, and thus (presumably) not really a rational mind, just an amazing simulation?



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Glen Davidson

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:56 pm


“teleological language in the absence of any obvious telos is to be taken metaphorically” That’s fine, I see how in all the cases from chemistry to evolution to even turning the crank on a Turing machine that couching the actual action of a system in teleological language is metaphorical. But how would we know an “obvious telos” from a metaphorical one?

Well, it’s done all of the time in archaeology, forensics, and anthropology. First off, rationality often betrays telic thoughts. Also, the known capabilities of humans and of animals are used to distinguish between “accidental” and “purposeful” actions and their results.
This is something that IDists like to point out, while typically ignoring the very real match-up between specific causes and specific effects that goes into identification of “obvious telos” in actual science, concommitant with the lack of similarly specific and identifiable causes within their own “model”.
As far as I know, Turing machines are not causing problems with identifying a telos in any “natural science.”

What’s an example of a system that has a non-metaphorical telos?

An automobile.
The Greeks understood these matters fairly well, although they considered animal parts to have tele. However, it should be noted that Aristotle considered the telos of physis to be significantly different from the telos of techne. He, of course, had no non-telic physics with which to explain function, or even the movements of heavy objects and those of light objects.
We would understand the telos of techne in most cases, of course, while we no longer understand “physics” or “physis” to simply result from the internal “desires” of organisms and of inorganic materials. In other words, it is evolution that opens up the “black box” that various creationists wish the “mind” to be, as an internally-caused and fundamentally unable to be understood entity, much as Aristotle understood his physics which considered “final causes” to drive physical objects.

Looking at a particular entity, how could we decide between the alternative that it’s acting AS IF teleological (for certain discussion purposes) and the alternative that it actually IS acting teleologically? Is there a set of tests we can apply, in the sense that a non-metaphorical telos would have to pass all of them to qualify?

How could that be so? After all, we would not even consider the telic thoughts of humans to be “merely about the telos,” rather we explain purpose according to evolutionary drives, as far as we can.
Indeed, telos is not one of the causes in physics any more, as you well know. Nevertheless, we do not deny “purpose” in human thought, as we are a long way from fully explaining the psyche, and evolved beings do make things “for a purpose.”
And no, we really have no problem with the idea of agency, as opposed to the claims of the IDists. We have a problem with the idea of agency when it cannot be demonstrated, and especially when agency is credited for doing what no agent is observed to do.

I brought up the Turing machine on purpose, because it’s an example of something that performs (metaphorically?) logical calculations, or might look like it’s providing rational thought on some level.

Yes, but I mentioned rationality as a mark of design, and not “rational thought” as such a mark.
Evolution has rather more the opposite problem in any case, for it is not the sort of process that has any evident rational input or purpose (save in the choices of some more intelligent animals–plant and animal breeding have produced traits which would at least suggest purpose), instead the changes appear to be contingent, “selected” by immediate factors, and quite limited by heredity.
Rationality is not something limited to living things, however most of us understand that a Turing machine (at least one of any complexity) would imply living causes at some point, for the chances of complex logical processes arising without evolution are not very good in a limited space and time.
Whether or not a computer that acts as a Turing machine has “purpose,” by contrast, seems to be a non-issue. “Purpose” would seem to have meaning in the context of evolved organisms, while we do not know how it could mean anything to unevolved intelligence.
I brought up purpose because it is one of the ways that we can divine whether or not an object was designed. It was not mentioned as some universal test for design. Rationality appears to more universally mark what many of us would call “design”–possibly not in every case, but at least in the vast majority of cases.

In a set of parallel questions to the above, then how could we decide that a Turing machine (say propelled by a millwheel or a solar panel) doing calculations all day long is only metaphorically modeling a “logical or rational mind” and not embodying one?

What is “a mind”?
A Turing machine will be doing what brains do, at least when they are undetectable from their informational output. I’m thinking “Chinese room” types of Turing machnies. Perhaps it would not be “really doing what brains do,” but what is epistemically known about brain output (depending on limits to knowledge about the Turing machine, of course).
And if the Turing machine designs (or “designs”), will it not be with “obvious telos”? It is working toward a “goal” as much as an evolved brain is–at least as far as we know. Ultimately, one supposes that any “goal” of a Turing machine or of a “human mind” can be broken down to “physical causes.” Regardless of the foregoing, I still fail to see Turing machines as impeding any science that detects designs (actually, “design” is not a very specific term, and not what most scientists would claim to have found in most cases (certain features would be called “designs”), but I use it primarily with reference to ID).
Still, as I implied, I consider “purpose” itself to be quite meaningful within our context, and likely in any alien life forms that is not too unlike ourselves (not where technology has advanced enough to seriously blur the differences between life and machine), without being “basic” in any fundamental sense at all.
Rationality, on the other hand, is my preferred test for “design,” and a Turing machine should be able to “design” like a human, if properly configured. Again, I don’t see this as any kind of problem, since the absence of both evident rationality and evident purpose (save where animal purposes have affected evolution) is the problem for ID, while “non-design” processes are for what we find evidence over the course of evolution.

How can we tell real rationality from only metaphorical rationality?

Ah, well, that wasn’t what I said. I called teleological language for non-agency causes (yes, I know that machines blur the issue) “metaphorical”. Anything that is producing rational output is simply rational, and not metaphorically so, at least in the general sense. A computer is rational, is it not? At least I understand it to be so, and not “metaphorically so.”

What’s the list of tests? If we ran across a supposedly “rational mind,” how could we tell that it isn’t just a Turing machine running some incredibly sophisticated software, and thus (presumably) not really a rational mind, just an amazing simulation?

Again, “mind” appears to be a semantic issue. A Turing machine is a rational processor. I am perhaps the last person to claim that human “minds” must be unique and necessarily distinguishable from machines through all time.
I would repeat that the problem for finding purpose in or rationality behind evolution is not that the output of Turing machines or of known organic intelligences are in evidence and we can’t tell the two causes apart. The problem is that we don’t find rationally produced organisms (other than the readily explainable exceptions), nor do we find recognizable purpose in evolution.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Mike McCants

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:20 am


“the sinister way Darwin’s theory has had of inspiring social movements of organized evil — these are solid reasons to go back and look again critically at the science.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Just because the science has potential political implications does NOT mean that the science is wrong. Sure, you are welcome to “look again critically at the science”, but all of your previous “looks” have been found to be obviously irrational.
“Does natural selection operating on random mutations really explain the history of life without the need for a guiding spiritual force outside nature?”
Of course it does.
“Did the software in the cell, DNA, really write itself?”
Your silly strawman is ignored.
“Faith and Evolution provides some very apt … resources.”
Nope. Very biased resources.



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George

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:14 am


“the sinister way Darwin’s theory has had of inspiring social movements of organized evil — these are solid reasons to go back and look again critically at the science.”
If this is going to be our criteria for judging the effect of any teaching, then I would expect Mr. Klinghoffer’s next article to propose looking critically at all three monotheistic religions, and point us to Richard Dawkins’ website for “some very apt and accessible resources” to understand those religions.
The theory of evolution certainly has inspired less atrocities than the god of the old testament, the christian god who inspired the inquisition and crusades, and the muslim god who is inspiring the current wave of world terrorism.



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Brian Beckman

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:31 am


Apologies, Glen, I still need more clarity to understand your points above. Permit me to pose even more concrete questions:
A sodium atom “seeking” a chlorine atom exhibits only metaphorical telos.
A single-celled alga or paramecium or whatever “seeking” and moving toward light exhibits only metaphorical telos.
My cat seeking and moving toward her food bowl — is she exhibiting metaphorical or “real” or “obvious” telos? Her other behaviors are often very rational-seeming: the rate at which she must be calculating sines and cosines when she chases a toy at full speed amongst the legs of tables and chairs is really impressive. But when she seeks her food, is she just a dupe slave to the mindless pseudo-telos of her genes to survive, no different in kind from a light-seeking alga, or is she over the line into real telos?
My daughter deciding to study veterinary medicine instead of business law — is this metaphorical or real telos? One could argue that she is just exhibiting more sophisticated epiphenomenal behaviors proceeding from the blind pseudo-telos of her genes: empathy to animals resonates with maternal instincts more than does hair-splitting over corporate tax laws. But there is arguably rational agency behind the decision, too.
The automobile is the most puzzling case. Do I read you correctly as saying that an automobile has (a slot for only) real telos, even though it can do nothing on its own, precisely because it must have a rational agent to put the real telos in the slot? In other words, because an automobile has no possibility of metaphorical telos, it can only have real telos, even if it’s just a slot into which real telos goes?
I guess I tend to see little to no difference between metaphorical and real telos, rather just a continuum of sophistication of behaviors from the atomic level to the human level. Likewise, I tend to see little to no difference between the logical calculations of a math machine and human cognition, just a continuum of sophistication from arithmetic to consciousness. Doubtless there are “tipping points” in these continua at which discontinuities in emergent capability emerge, such as the Godelian threshold. But I’m willing to be disabused if I don’t see things correctly. I just need more clarity, more concrete examples (because it’s much easier for me to see the abstract given the concrete then it is to induce the concrete from the abstract)



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Turmarion

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:19 am


David: Conservatives should be the first to grasp that “ideas have consequences,” as Richard Weaver put it. Darwinism’s corrosive effects on faith, on belief in human dignity…these are solid reasons to go back and look again critically at the science.
I posted this elsewhere, but I’m posting it again, with additions. Moreover, I’ve made this argument several times on this blog. I think it is highly debatable that the effects you describe are indeed attributable to Darwinism. However, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they are.
I won’t rehash the argument, but as I’ve pointed out more than once, there is evidence that the shift from the geocentric cosmos to the heliocentric cosmos had psychological effects that to some extent were negative in the post-Enlightenment era. Moreover, no one contests the heliocentric solar system. Now, you’ve said in the past that the (as you perceive it) negative socio-cultural effects of evolution merit a second look at the science behind it. Logically, shouldn’t the same criteria apply to the heliocentric cosmos?
More broadly, are you arguing that socio-cultural effects of ideas should be the court of appeal in scientific discussion? In other words, if the effects of scientific idea X are held to be negative, is that sufficient cause for us to re-evaluate the scientific underpinnings of X, rather than reasons based on scientific evidence?
I think, given the Cold War, the nukes that are currently unaccounted for, the dangers of North Korea and Iran, to name a few, that one could cogently argue that the effects of nuclear physics have been more negative than positive. Does that mean we should re-examine whether nuclear physics is correct? Wouldn’t that be absurd?
Finally, David, what if we do “go back and look again critically at the science” and find that it’s correct, after all. What then?
I’ve asked these questions many times, and never received a response. If we’re trying to have good-faith dialogue here, I think we need to hash out issues like this. Otherwise, my conclusion has to be that “Darwinism has negative consequences so we need to look at the science” is just a talking point.



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Your Name

posted May 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm


Many of you have given me the impression that you consciously regard consciousness as an chemomechanical ‘thing’, eventually to be fathomed by the ever so clever brain in the final realization that mind is merely a chimerical epiphenomenon arising like vapor from a vat of heated potions of an accidental nature, … our accidental nature. When we die, the heat goes away and the vapor, and so too whatever it is we were. Maybe DesCartes’ definition of an animal is equally applicable to the self-assumingly paragon of animals. If any of you know what mind or consciousness really is, please tell me. I suspect that, from among you, the materialists, whether blatant or subliminal, will be quick to respond. There are minds which are reading this, I am sure, not machines who opine otherwise. And, by the way, the ultimate inference, God, a critical topic of Beliefnet concern, seems to have left your present concerns. Herein you have written so much, and sometimes so well, and have served to pique my interest. I too like to think, tho often not so deeply. But would you not say, metaphors notwithstanding, that the ultimate referent is ineffable? The mystics of the mysteries knew this. They would close their eyes in prayer, and their mouths and thoughts in the silence of the realization of … what?. The mundane would make the mistake of mistaking mystical taciturnity as an expression of arrogance.
Fortasse Abambagibus.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm


A single-celled alga or paramecium or whatever “seeking” and moving toward light exhibits only metaphorical telos.

Well, probably. We’re not likely to know for sure, although we presume that they’re pretty much automata.
But since I don’t find that “telos” evidently exists in any absolute sense at all, it is not going to be cut and dried, not in my view.
That’s why I wrote of “obvious telos.” A term such as that one is not meant to be a hard and distinct category as you seem to be taking it to be. I wrote “obvious telos” because I know that there can be questions of whether a beaver dam can be thought to have a telos, and didn’t wish to get into, well, a discussion over the ambiguities. I’m saying that a car has an obvious telos or end to its existence (of course such a claim refers back to our purpose for it), and a cat does not have an “obvious purpose” (although they have been bred somewhat for our use).

My cat seeking and moving toward her food bowl — is she exhibiting metaphorical or “real” or “obvious” telos? Her other behaviors are often very rational-seeming: the rate at which she must be calculating sines and cosines when she chases a toy at full speed amongst the legs of tables and chairs is really impressive. But when she seeks her food, is she just a dupe slave to the mindless pseudo-telos of her genes to survive, no different in kind from a light-seeking alga, or is she over the line into real telos?

You’re conflating “real telos” and “obvious telos.” I’m saying, find telos that is obviously telos, and we can at least talk about “design.” Since a cat is generally not thought to be a designer, at least not one worth mentioning, I was excluding the cat from “obvious design” or “obvious telos.”

My daughter deciding to study veterinary medicine instead of business law — is this metaphorical or real telos? One could argue that she is just exhibiting more sophisticated epiphenomenal behaviors proceeding from the blind pseudo-telos of her genes: empathy to animals resonates with maternal instincts more than does hair-splitting over corporate tax laws. But there is arguably rational agency behind the decision, too.

What does rational agency have to do with purpose or telos? Something, yes, since we don’t typically recognize purpose as it is normally understood when the organism lacks the rationality to bring a purpose to fruition.
But you’re putting “purpose” and “rationality” together, when I consider the latter a more important mark of design, especially since rationality would probably be recognizable often when purpose is not. I conceded “purpose” as a mark, even though I know that’s a more confused idea, primarily because many do discuss it when design is mentioned.
And again, I said “obvious telos” because there is no point in bring disputable telos into the “evidence for design.” “Real telos” isn’t even in my vocabulary, except as metaphor, or probably more accurately, as loose talk.

The automobile is the most puzzling case. Do I read you correctly as saying that an automobile has (a slot for only) real telos, even though it can do nothing on its own, precisely because it must have a rational agent to put the real telos in the slot?

You are not using words as they are understood in philosophy. Daniel Dennett is not a favorite philosopher of mine, but I believe he captures the meaning of “telos” (and the way I have generally been using “purpose”) here:

There is no controversy about the telos of a hammer: it is for hammering in and pullying out nails. The telos of more complicated artifacts, such as camcorders or tow trucks or CT scanners is, if anything more obvious. But even in simple cases, a problem can be seen to loom in the background:
p. 24 Darwin’s dangerous idea tinyurl.com/meelhs

So yes, a tow truck and an automobile each has a telos (a purpose–to us), the latter for driving humans and things from one place to another. Dennett does go on to explain difficulties in this understanding, but this should do.

In other words, because an automobile has no possibility of metaphorical telos, it can only have real telos, even if it’s just a slot into which real telos goes?

I never said “real telos,” since, as I explained last time, I do not think it to be more than epiphenomenal (if not with that word). That it describes a range of mental states involved with actions (such as making a car) or which have a use in mind for the result of those actions (driving the car) is undeniable. Since it is not “fundamental” in any demonstrable way, however, one goes for “obvious telos” to avoid endless attempts to wedge “purpose” into areas where none is clear.

I guess I tend to see little to no difference between metaphorical and real telos, rather just a continuum of sophistication of behaviors from the atomic level to the human level.

Then why is is difficult to see why I would only accept “obvious telos” rather than “non-obvious telos”? It’s a matter of having sufficient evidence.
Again, you’re shifting the language. I wrote “obvious telos” in part because “real telos” is only problematic. That you’re sticking with the problems reveals this to be so.

Likewise, I tend to see little to no difference between the logical calculations of a math machine and human cognition, just a continuum of sophistication from arithmetic to consciousness. Doubtless there are “tipping points” in these continua at which discontinuities in emergent capability emerge, such as the Godelian threshold. But I’m willing to be disabused if I don’t see things correctly.

Well let’s see, last time I wrote:

Ah, well, that wasn’t what I said. I called teleological language for non-agency causes (yes, I know that machines blur the issue) “metaphorical”. Anything that is producing rational output is simply rational, and not metaphorically so, at least in the general sense. A computer is rational, is it not? At least I understand it to be so, and not “metaphorically so.”

So why you’re asking me to defend a position I have never taken is not something that I understand–any more than I did last time.

I just need more clarity, more concrete examples (because it’s much easier for me to see the abstract given the concrete then it is to induce the concrete from the abstract)

What you need is to understand that I wrote “obvious telos” because the telos of a car is indeed obvious enough, while I would leave out questionable examples as having insufficient clarity. If I were to disallow “obvious telos,” I would not be fair to ID and its claims, but if I were to allow “non-obvious telos” (or today, Aristotle’s belief that physis is its own telos (the short version)) I would not be upholding the standards of science.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Glen Davidson

posted May 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Actually, I shouldn’t have called “purpose” epiphenomal, but rather a “higher order” function that should be considered to be a “naturally” selected function.
That I used the term should indicate that I tend not consider it very important “in itself,” however.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Your Name

posted May 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm


Congratulations to you – and your fine colleagues at the Discovery Institute- on your stalwart efforts to debunk the conspiracy which goes by the name of the theory of evolution.
For this you have been nominated for the Sheikh Harami Interfaith Trophy.
The Quran records – in a tale connected to a rabbinic midrash (see Jerusalem Studies in Arabs and Islam (1991), pp. 162-175)- that, for their disobedience, some Jews were turned into apes/monkeys and pigs (2:65, 5:60, 7:166) . Being regarded as the offspring of pigs and monkeys has served as an ongoing source of shame and ignominy for generations of Jewish people.
So, in the nineteenth century, a remedy to lift this burden arrived in the form of a bright, young explorer returning from an expedition to the Galapagos Islands, where he had made some intriguing observations: Charles Darwin.
Darwin – either a crypto-Jew himself or an individual with sympathy for the Jews- seized upon this opportunity, perhaps even massaging his data (as Friar Mendel must have done in his well-known experiment).
When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible; similarly, if all of humankind descends from the animal world (especially, from monkeys), then no one group- such as the Jews- can be singled out for stain and stigma.
Thus, in one stroke, in the name of science, the burden of Jewry’s shame and disgrace is obliterated once and for all.
(Or, alternatively, according to this view, we are all Jews now.)
Well done, Daud, in exposing this junk science and the propaganda fraud which is evolutionary theory!
Rabbi Meyer Schiller would be so proud.
DELETING this post will simply confirm the truth of its contents.



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Brian Beckman

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm


Thank you, Glen … To be clear, I’m only after clarity at this point, I’m not making any assertions or counterassertions, not attacking and not defending. My questions are genuine and not rhetorical (in general, I find rhetoric, but especially rhetorical questions, to be an impediment to clarity.)
Perhaps I understand better, now. I think I was confusing “telos” with “intentionality,” if I understand telos to mean “the purpose of a thing (X) in the sense that an agent (A) might want to apply X to that purpose” and the latter to mean “the purpose of a behavior (B) of a thing (X) as observed by another agent (A), in the sense that A watches X and infers that X has a purpose or goal in its behavior B”.
It’s on the latter I was trying to focus with my sequence of increasingly sophisticated behaviors of (X = atom, alga, cat, girl), and that’s why the example of the automobile didn’t fit in the category I was trying to formulate because it doesn’t have any independent behaviors. Another way of stating what I’m trying to understand are the cases where X is itself an agent.
And that’s how I see rational processes coming in. The agent A who is either intending to use a thing X for a purpose or who is watching X do stuff and inferring that X has various intentions must have some sort of thinking process to do its intending or inferring. And only in the latter case does X need some sort of thinking processes that X is making inferences about.
Did that get us anywhere closer to clarity, or am I only more confused, now?



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Brian Beckman

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:50 pm


oops, one but last paragraph, should have written
“…thinking processes of X that A is making inferences about.”



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Glen Davidson

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:54 pm


It sounds good to me, Brian.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Thomas Malloy

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:18 pm


Believing in spontaneous biogenesis, spontaneous specization, or any other part of Evolutionary Darwinism requires a lot of faith, blind faith.
As for junk DNA. If I took apart a machine which I didn’t understand, and was then unable to determine what most of the parts did. Labeling these parts junk would be chutzpah on a grand scale. This nonsense grows out of dialectical materialism they ignore the spiritual and other non material things.



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curt

posted May 30, 2009 at 9:33 am


Thanks to “Your Name – Congratulations” for providing vital info about the origins of the theory of evolution.
I did not realize that it was a Jewish conspiracy.



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tm61

posted May 30, 2009 at 11:05 am


..And still – no one has responded to Turmarion’s excellent comment:
“I think, given the Cold War, the nukes that are currently unaccounted for, the dangers of North Korea and Iran, to name a few, that one could cogently argue that the effects of nuclear physics have been more negative than positive. Does that mean we should re-examine whether nuclear physics is correct? Wouldn’t that be absurd?
Finally, David, what if we do “go back and look again critically at the science” and find that it’s correct, after all. What then?”



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PsiCop

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm


Believers have a lot of misconceptions about what science is and isn’t, and some of these are betrayed in the article.
First, there’s no such thing as “Darwinism.” No one worships Charles Darwin as a prophet. There is, of course, the evolution model, which he famously proposed in “On The Origin Of Species” (paralleling the work of others at the time), which has changed since his time and can no longer be called uniquely “Darwin’s” model any more.
Second, the idea that any area of science is a “religion” is inherently faulty. Science is continuously correcting itself, unlike religion, which changes only when someone gets a “revelation” and amasses enough followers to force a change or establish a new religion. There is no such thing as “peer review” in religion … whereas it’s central to science. That there are scientists who are arrogant about their science, to the point where they resemble the arrogance of believers who assume themselves to know “the Truth” and have a mandate to force their beliefs on everyone, is really just a form of projection (i.e. projecting their own beliefs and motivations on others).
Third, believers keep confusing the evolution model (which explains how life forms change over the passage of generations) and biogenesis (which is the process by which life first came into existence). Evolution says NOTHING — repeat, NOTHING — about biogenesis. That believers consider them the same thing, does not mean they are. It just means they’re ignorant of the difference.
Fourth, that science has led to things like the atom bomb, has nothing to do with if or how they’re used. That is decided by society at large, not by scientists. Scientists don’t decide what’s done with what they discover; such decisions are not part of science itself.
Fifth, the idea that science “devalues” life, is laughable and ignorant. There is a very large area of science known as “medicine.” It owes its existence to a desire to improve life. The idea that there can be “scientists” devoted to improving lives, but “science” devalues it, is obviously flawed.
Sixth, the crux of all the above is that religionists tend to view science in exactly the same way they view their own metaphysical beliefs. Unfortunately for them, they accept this as axiomatic. Metaphysics of any kind has no resemblance to anything scientific. To use metaphysically-oriented thinking to view science, is doomed to failure.
It’s OK for religionists not to like what science has discovered. But it’s not OK for them to lie about science in order to discredit those discoveries. That religionists feel it necessary to lie about science in order to support their beliefs, says much more about them, than it does about science … and what it says about them, is distinctly unattractive.



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Dan

posted June 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm


I was somewhat mystified by the blogger’s injunction to make a choice because “ideas have consequences”. That’s definitely true, but part of that set of consequences stems from whether or not the idea is actually correct. One can’t choose a scientific outcome because it would be more convenient for one’s moral stance. One has to choose the one that the data backs, that is predictive, that is more than words on paper. Intelligent design, whatever the consequences to one’s moral outlook might be, fits none of these criteria.
IMO, what is perhaps the biggest fault of intelligent design is its uselessness as a model. One can’t *do* anything with it. It’s a dead end that looks pretty on paper if you happen to be starting from the right preconceptions. It doesn’t open any new avenues of research, provide any new tools of inquiry, present any sort of novel experimentation, or really open any sort of new window whatsoever. It just sits there uselessly, and that’s why evolution by natural selection has blown it out of the water.
If ID’s proponents really want intelligent design to gain traction over natural selection in the scientific community, they need to spend less time on letter writing campaigns and school board meetings and more time showing us what an intelligent design model can do in a functional sense that its competitors can’t.



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