Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Where Theistic Evolution Leads

posted by David Klinghoffer

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Some readers thought I was unfair in a previous entry explaining the difference between my perspective on evolution and that of my fellow Beliefnet blogger Dr. Francis Collins over at Science and the Sacred. Am I really not being fair? Well, let’s test that hypothesis by picking out one idea from Dr. Collins’s book and from his website BioLogos. It’s his treatment of the idea that somehow a moral law in every heart points us to the existence of God. 
Because BioLogos — or theistic evolution, however we may designate the general approach — surrenders so easily to naturalism, it must be willing to accommodate Darwinism’s explanation of where that moral law comes from. Dr. Collins thinks radical acts of altruism may defy an evolutionary explanation, or maybe not. Thus quoth BioLogos

Even if a purely natural account of moral development could be found, the simple fact that morality has evolved is something that would be expected in a world created by a just and loving God.

On the contrary, it would be another indication that religion is superfluous in our quest to grasp the answers to life’s ultimate questions. Dr. Collins merely holds it out as a possibility that an evolutionary understanding of moral development could possibly be solidified. But other prominent Darwinists seem confident, as Darwin himself was, that the evolutionary explanation is already in hand.
A recent forum “Evolution and the Ethical Brain” explored the issue in honor of Darwin’s 200th birthday. You can watch the video online or read the transcript. It was sponsored by the opulently endowed Templeton Foundation, which by the purest coincidence also funds Dr. Collins’s BioLogos. With New York Times columnist David Brooks leading the amiable discussion, three evolutionary scientists explored their conclusion that morality is a human capacity whose development is no more mysterious than the evolution of adult lactose tolerance.

Literally, lactose. The example was given by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Dr. Haidt also said at one point that “[A]s we know from domesticating animals, in a few dozen generations you can create a new species.” Which is, not to put it too indirectly, an eyebrow-raising untruth. Nobody has ever generated a new species.
In any event, Professor Haidt’s thesis, agreed to by his colleagues in the Templeton forum and by David Brooks, is that the moral sense is really just like the aesthetic sense. It may itself be a kind of aesthetic sense. You observe an action, find it morally pleasing or repugnant, then generate reasons justifying your gut-level response. Some moral instincts go back as far as mammals do. Others are more recent developments — such as our “ideas about purity and divinity” which “are probably very, very new.”
Nothing in Dr. Haidt’s discussion points to anything transcendent behind those ideas of the pure and the divine. The same unguided, unplanned, unexpected process that gave many of us lactose tolerance also gave most of us a belief in God. The same process that gave each of us our individual tastes in art or food gave us our individual tastes in morality.
There may be hinted at here the broad outlines of a general body of moral guidelines. Some things — well, most people just find them yucky. Like chicken-flavored ice cream, for instance. Or incest. But other things are just a matter of taste. In the same way that it would be absurd for me to judge your taste in music as somehow violating absolute norms, it would be absurd to judge anyone’s moral ideas.
Most importantly, it would be absurd to judge yourself and your own actions by such a yardstick. How could a person ever justify telling himself no?
Far from my being unfair to anyone, these are inescapable extensions of the discussion at the Templeton event. From the perspective of theistic evolution, or BioLogos, I don’t see how they can be avoided except by wishful thinking. This is the road down which the surrender to naturalism eventually leads. It is the road to relativism.
For a group of academics with tidy, functional lives, the message may be harmless enough. Their gut tells them to continue being productive, orderly members of society. Lucky for them. For much of the rest of humanity, the same idea — Do what you feel! — if it were disseminated and truly taken to heart, would be catastrophic.
Incidentally, see this smart comment by Carol Iannone at National Review Online on the hopelessness of reconciling Darwin and religious faith. Sincere, believing Christian that he is, Dr. Collins still fails to see this.


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Brian Beckman

posted May 19, 2009 at 10:57 am


Consider the laws of physics, which, so far as anyone can tell, have not budged an iota for billions of years.
Over time, human understanding of those laws has evolved, usually from bad to better, from grayer to more black-and-white, but sometimes in the wrong direction, toward grayer, more ambiguous, erroneous understanding. An external observer watching the “evolution” of human understanding of the laws of physics might not be able to tell whether the laws themselves are changing, or only the current state of understanding of those laws, especially if that observer had no independent knowledge of the laws of physics.
Could something analogous be happening in the moral realm? Could it be the case that actual immutable laws DO exist and we are only observing the evolution of the state of human understanding of those laws? Or could it be that the laws themselves are a mere human invention and we are watching the evolution of the laws themselves?
In the case of physics, the laws exist, unchangeably, indepdently of anyone’s understanding them to any degree.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm


Let’s see, theistic evolution leads, often, though not always, to an honest evaluation of the evidence. ID leads to endless evasions of the truth, attacks upon theistic evolutionists for being honest with the evidence, and to demands that the way that courts and science use evidence be relaxed so much that just about anything could be considered to be science.
Being honest with the evidence has often been hard on religion, from Galileo’s time on down. Holding to beliefs despite the evidence typically leads to persecution of ideas and to using government to support nonsense like Lysenkoism and ID. While I might sympathize with religionists who lose their preferred beliefs, I certainly find them to be more noble and less threatening than those who cling to demonstrably bad ideas like ID.
Religion might indeed survive by demanding that their ideas be taught regardless of the evidence. No desirable spirituality could, however.
David’s complaints about what theistic evolution lead to are essentially the same as what heliocentrism were said to lead to. David may be right, but he’s certainly not consistent in the way that earlier anti-science theists were. A consistent stance would ignore science with respect to the movements of planets, the age of the earth, and yes, evolution, while magical “reasons” for why everything appears to be different would be invoked across the board.
As it is, evolutionary theory happens to bring biology in line with physics, no more, no less. Because many theists could not bear having everything under the aegis of physics, they rebelled when evolution showed that life is consistent with physics–in addition to the fact that many myths were especially concerned with life, which also concerned many theists. Yet evolution is not inherently more or less “god-denying” than is physics, biochemistry (remember vitalism?), or neuroscience (which has no place for traditional “free will” or the “soul”). It is attacked because evolution leaves no room for miraculous phenomena (at least to many minds), which is hardly a scientific fault at all (and no, David, we are not opposed to evidence of miracles, we simply do not have convincing evidence of such).
Einstein, while still a theist, had a solution that some find to work:

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Collins appears to be able to think in that manner, but it is a difficult worldview to maintain in this heavily desacralized world. Nevertheless, there is nothing inherently illogical or empirically incorrect in seeing everything as a miracle, and I would suppose that the “truly spiritual” can get past the desacralized view that has many theists desperately clinging to “special miracles.” Nevertheless, many cannot, and they rubbish the science that they know works, but whose conclusions are unacceptable to their minds.
I know no way of settling anything in these matters, because clearly many theists have a need for special miracles that science cannot provide, and which all of physics–including the physics of evolution–militates against. Thus they despise the science that they focus in upon as leaving no room for miracles, without at all reconciling their own reliance upon that same science. Meanwhile, some apparently do consider everything to be a miracle, and these people come under attack from those lacking in their spirituality.
Basically, it appears to be a battle of those who want spirituality against those who don’t want it, and against those who have it and don’t need a petty god creating human malaria and intestinal parasites. Those who do worship such a “god,” however, are neither getting the spirituality that they crave, nor satisfaction from the secular democracies which safeguard their own freedoms.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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DML

posted May 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm


Again, I think we must give BioLogos the benefit of the doubt. The slope between belief and science-induced non-belief can be quite slippery, but given what we know about biology and other sciences, we will have to bring our faith and science into some sort of equilibrium. Entrenched fundamentalism might feel good to some, but we should face up to reality.
Personally, I have found the scientific approach helpful not just from understanding ourselves at products of natural selection, but also in the pursuit of an accurate understanding of scripture (the Documentary Hypothesis, Israel Finkelstein’s work on the early history of Israel come to mind.)



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Luis

posted May 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm


“Nobody has ever generated a new species.”
This is not correct. Although rare, speciation has been observed multiple times in the lab. This is a fact well-known to most biologist, which is probably why Dr. Haidt’s comment did not raise too many eyebrows.
See the following studies:
Weinberg, J. R., V. R. Starczak and P. Jora. 1992. Evidence for rapid speciation following a founder event in the laboratory. Evolution. 46:1214-1220.
Gottleib, L. D. 1973. Genetic differentiation, sympatric speciation, and the origin of a diploid species of Stephanomeira. American Journal of Botany. 60: 545-553.
Soans, A. B., D. Pimentel and J. S. Soans. 1974. Evolution of reproductive isolation in allopatric and sympatric populations. The American Naturalist. 108:117-124.
Rice, W. R. and G. W. Salt. 1988. Speciation via disruptive selection on habitat preference: experimental evidence. The American Naturalist. 131:911-917.
Also, look up a genus of salamanders named Ensatina for an example of speciation in action in the wild.



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Your Name

posted May 19, 2009 at 5:59 pm


How are you supposed to recover the wisdom of the hebrew bible when clearly you have no wisdom whatsoever?



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Tom Clark

posted May 19, 2009 at 6:30 pm


“This is the road down which the surrender to naturalism eventually leads. It is the road to relativism.”
That naturalism might be the road to relativism doesn’t reflect on its truth, which is independent of its imagined consequences. It turns out, however, that we are not bereft of objective moral standards under naturalism, since we have a robust, shared moral sense bequeathed us by evolution. Moreover, the scientific understanding of ourselves accepted by naturalism undercuts the non-empirical, sometimes religious justifications for discrimination against classes of human beings traditionally denied equal rights, e.g., women, minorities, gays and non-believers.
regards,
Tom Clark
Center for Naturalism
http://www.naturalism.org/morality.htm



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David Klinghoffer

posted May 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm


Luis, not so fast! From my colleague Jonathan Wells:
“The details are important. New species in plants HAVE been produced through hybridization followed by chromosome doubling; this is known as ‘secondary speciation,’ but it is not what Darwin’s theory requires. Darwinian evolution requires ‘primary speciation’ — the splitting of one species into two by variation and selection. And this has never been observed.
“I suggest you refer your reader to Chapter Five (‘The Ultimate Missing Link’) in my Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, where I discuss this issue. Among other things, I discuss the reports (mentioned by your reader) of Weinberg et al. (later retracted) and Rice and Salt (who never claimed to observed the origin of a new species).”



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Turmarion

posted May 19, 2009 at 8:28 pm


The original post was “held for approval”, probably for size, so I’m trying again, breaking it in two.
OK, I’m going to be conflating some stuff from last thread and this, since I think they go together, and trying to unpack some of the issues.
David: Thanks for the good challenges, Turmarion. As always, I appreciate your civilized tone.
You’re very much welcome. No matter any disagreement, debate should always stick to the issues. I think we’re definitely agreed about that.
You ask if I’m a literalist on the age of the earth. No, that would not be remotely supportable from scientific evidence nor does Judaism require it.
Glad to hear that. There’s no conceivable way literalism works for Judaism or Christianity, and the great exegetes of both faiths were not bound by literalism. Once again, we agree.
It’s not about whether we can still read Genesis in a simple minded literal way…but instead whether God has a creative role to play at all in guiding life’s history. In any sense, is He the creator?
Well, we are still in agreement. Of course God is the Creator. Even compatibilists and theistic evolutionists are “creationists” in that we certainly believe that God created the cosmos. “Creationism” has come to be used to refer to those who are literalists or who while not literalist, deny some aspects of Darwinism or who reject it tout court. Perhaps it’s better (to avoid confusion) to use the term “compatibilist” to refer to all those who do not believe that evolution is intrinsically incompatible with theism/belief in God/Judaism/Christianity, and “incompatibilist” as those who disagree. This way we avoid calling someone “anti-” this or that, and put the issue of creation per se aside.
If somehow it could be shown that God did not play such a role, that would indeed cast serious doubt on Judaism and Christianity alike.
Still in agreement. A God who creates the universe and then has no “creative role” or interaction with it or humankind is the Deist God, not the Jewish-Christian-Islamic God. One could base a religion on such a concept, as some have done, but it would be nothing like historical Judaism or Christianity.
I guess maybe what we’re disagreeing about is what we mean by “creative role” or “interaction”, and the extent (if any) to which these are compatible with theistic religion. Let’s look at some of the issues you raise in light of this.
I read the Iannone article, and quite frankly, while he is probably correct in attributing his views and motives to many biologists, I think he’s mistaken in asserting that evolution and religion are incompatible. Really, both those who reject evolution and those who reject religion are incompatibilists; in this respect Iannone has much in common with ID supporters. It makes it hard for those of us like Collins in the middle, since both sides tend to look at us as gullible stooges trying to hold together totally contradictory views. Nevertheless, I think incompatibilists on both sides are wrong.
I start off on a cosmic scale. Given such things as the fine-tuning of the cosmos for life, the anthropic principle, and the unlikliness of the universes’s being a “necessary being” (see Mortimer Adler’s excellent How to Think About God), I think it quite reasonble to assert that only a Creator can account for the existence of the cosmos. This gets us only as far as Deism, but it’s a big leap over atheism or agnosticism.
Next, based on concepts in information theory and math (e.g. Gödel’s Incompletenes Theorem, the fact that we can grasp the absract concepts of math at all, and the ability for us to grasp universals–see Adler’s Intellect: Mind over Matter, also excellent), I think it also reasonable to assert that the human mind is immaterial; or, to put it another way, that immaterial souls are real and do exist. Obviously, such souls must be attributed to God’s intervention, as the immaterial cannot be explained by the ordinary actions of matter and energy.
Now, see where this puts us: I think that one can demonstrate (not conclusively, but beyond reasonable doubt) the existence of God, that He created the universe, and that He still interacts with it. All this without reference to scriptures of any religion or any kind of biological theories! My training, as you may have guessed by now, is in physics and mathematics. I find it interesting that there seem to be more eminent mathematicians and physicists who are believers than biologists. My take is that biologists are dealing with a much narrower field, missing the big picture. To use an analogy, if I found a rusted washer, I might be able to explain it as naturally occuring, a fluke of chance. If I found a rusted Cadillac, that would be much harder to attribute to chance! Biologists are looking at washers (life), physicists at everything (all processes in the universe), and mathematicians are looking at the amazing order underlying all of this.



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Turmarion

posted May 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm


OK! Part 2!
I guess, David, what you’re saying is something like this: If everything can be explained without reference to God’s continued actions in the cosmos, doubt is cast on religions such as Judaism and Christianity, since they both assert a direct, ongoing role of God in the world, at Sinai and (for Christians) in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. On the other hand, if there are areas that necessitate some sort of ongoing action, space is left in which one may validly claim God’s interaction with us through the Tanakh, the Gospels, the Koran, or other scriptures, dependin on our faith. Guess what? You’re right! I agree!
I think our disagreement is not one of principle, but of level. You would argue that God must be active biologically in designing creatures and humans. Any view that attributes life and species of life to natural, material causes edges God out of the picture, leaving no room for the involvement with the world that believers assert. On the other hand, I think that the mere existence of the universe itself, coupled with the existence of the human soul, is sufficient evidence of God as Creator and Sustainer, who makes His world and continues to interact with it. Given that God’s continued creative role, in my view, is confirmed at the most “macro” of macroscopic levels, the more “microscopic” by comparison (how species got here or how life formed) isn’t really that much of an issue. The issue is no longer “does the way life developed confirm or refute a role for God”, since a role for God has already been confirmed; the issue is, “based on available evidence, how did life form and develop?”
I think that how it formed is an open question. God may indeed have made life appear directly. Certainly no current hypothesis has come anywhere close to shedding light on the original formation of life. However, since in my view the case for God is already settled, it would not be a problem for me if it could be conclusively shown that life was formed by some “natural” process–keeping in mind that God is behind all “natural” processes, anyway.
I think this is maybe where there is misunderstanding on your part, by the way, when you say that if morality evovled, it is evidence against God. Actually, I’m inclined to think that while primate studies give credence to some aspects of morality evolving, other aspects of it cannot be explained by material causes (so it’s another area of at least partial agreement between us!). However, if it could be conclusively proved that morality did evolve, still no problem. Think of it like this (analogy borrowed with modifications from C. S. Lewis): Did Romeo visit Juliet under the balcony because he loved her, or because Shakespeare wrote it that way? Well, of course, this is a ridiculous question; the answer is “it depends on what sense you mean,” or, more succinctly, “both”. From the perspective of the characters–that is “within” the play–it’s of course because Romeo loves Juliet that he hangs out under the balcony. From the perspective of the creation of the play, of course Shakespeare wrote it that way, and as a brilliant dramatist, did so while allowing each charactert to be him or herself.
So, are we moral (or bipedal, or whatever) because we evolved that way, through seemingly random processes, or because God made us that way? The answer is “Yes!” For that matter, did my car break down because the alternator went kaput, or because of God? Yes! In other words, God presumably didn’t smite my car; but if it was part of His plan that I be carless on a particular day, He could certainly have ordered the universe in such a way that that particular alternator in that particular car on that particular day went kaput for purely “natural” reasons–no smiting necessary! Likewise, any processes that may have brought about morality are as much under God’s ultimate control as those that knocked out my alternator. No conflict, no problem!
Now materialists, naturalists, atheists, and agnostics may knock my analysis to this point, although I think it is correct. The fact is (and you’re correct in asserting this, too, David) that both sides have agendas driven by a priori beliefs. I think it is intsructive to look at two quotations. One is here from the evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin, evolutionary biologist, with emphasis added:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community of unsubstantiated just-so stories [in evolutionary biology] because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material causes, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who believes in God can believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.”
The other is here, by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, emphasis also added:
“It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
Having pointed this out, from my understanding of biology (and I’m not a biologist), I don’t see any serious evidence disproving the neo-Darwinian evolutionary synthesis. Certainly, I have not seen any evidence provided by ID or other incompatibilist groups that is sound enough to topple evolution. However, that’s not a problem for me, since for the reasons I’ve outlined (at great length–sorry about that) I don’t see that as jeopardizing God’s existence or activity in creating, ordering, and maintaining the world.
I imagine you still will disagree with me on many aspects of this, but do you at least see what I’m saying?



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Albert the Abstainer

posted May 19, 2009 at 10:50 pm


My current view is that what is labeled God is of necessity virtual, much the way that an object is until it is instantiated. The universe reflects or expresses the is-ness of God in a space-time envelope. God the eternal is the set of limits what is expressible in the universe, much the way a fractal equation defines the limits of what can be expressed through the instantiated and iterating fractal. God is the boundary state, the event-horizon as it were of this universe, and we view it from the other side of how we would view a black hole. This is how I currently analogize and conceptualize it, and like any other conceptual frame for God it is insufficient, though it does provide an interesting view and is excellent mind candy.



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Luis

posted May 20, 2009 at 12:19 am


On Wells’ response:
1. Even if one were to completely accept Wells’ argument, you are still wrong about nobody having “ever generated a new species”. Wells mentioned secondary speciation in plants, which serves as a counterexample. He is correct that “details are important”, but this applies to you as well. So you must admit, the blanket statement, “Nobody has ever generated a new species,” is wrong.
2. I concede the point about Weinberg et al. I was not aware that Weinberg had retracted his claim, and Wells’ characterization (in his Politically Incorrect Guide…) of the retraction is accurate.
3. Wells’ dismissal of Rice and Salt is completely unconvincing. In Guide, he writes: “Within thirty generations the flies had sorted themselves into two populations that did not interbreed, but Rice and Salt claimed only ‘incipient speciation that we believe to have occurred.'” Wells does not elaborate further. Suggesting that “incipient speciation” does not count as REAL speciation is like saying an “incipient pregnancy” does not count as a REAL pregnancy. In his note to you he writes that Rice and Salt “never claimed to observed the origin of a new species”. This seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. Rice and Salt claimed to produce reproductively isolated groups of Drosophila. Sexually-reproducing animal species are defined via Mayr’s biological species concept, i.e., “species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such group”. Thus, Rice and Salt’s claim that they produced speciation is equivalent to a claim that they produced new species.
On your (mis)characterization of the forum:
“[T]hree evolutionary scientists explored their conclusion that morality is a human capacity whose development is no more mysterious than the evolution of adult lactose tolerance. Literally, lactose. The example was given by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt.”
Dr. Haidt never makes the claim that the evolution of morality is “no more mysterious” than the evolution of lactose tolerance. He does suggest that some aspects of human morality may be quite young by evolutionary standards, and points out the well-known example of lactose tolerance as a pervasive human trait that evolved relatively recently (since the advent of agriculture). He does not offer an opinion on whether the development of morality is “more mysterious” than that of lactose tolerance. Please correct your article.



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Bjørn Østman

posted May 20, 2009 at 2:03 am


For a group of academics with tidy, functional lives, the message may be harmless enough. Their gut tells them to continue being productive, orderly members of society. Lucky for them. For much of the rest of humanity, the same idea, if it were disseminated and truly taken to heart, would be catastrophic.
David, how is this known? I don’t think you have any evidence whatsoever that this would be the case. In fact, there is evidence from very orderly societies prior to the origin of the Hebrew Bible, pointing to the fact that morality is not divine, but that it is an inherent, evolved, instinct of humans.



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Your Name

posted May 20, 2009 at 11:25 am


The example was given by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Dr. Haidt also said at one point that “[A]s we know from domesticating animals, in a few dozen generations you can create a new species.” Which is, not to put it too indirectly, an eyebrow-raising untruth. Nobody has ever generated a new species.
I fully agree with David here – species arise by chance and natural forces. I’m a little surprised that a fellow of the Discovery Institute is taking this position, however.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm


I find it interesting that there seem to be more eminent mathematicians and physicists who are believers than biologists.

The reason physicists are more likely to be “believers” is probably the fact that they are more aware that nothing “fundamental” is really explained by science, that the mysteries of existence are still just that. I don’t mean that science lacks important answers, I mean that it remains phenomenology, so to speak, and that physicists have to be much more cognizant of the fact that they are dealing in models, not in any kind of “absolute truth.”
Evolution, like the rest of biology–by contrast with physics–is really not very iffy or unsure at all That is, it finds near certainty within its own framework. It lacks the arguments regarding realism and non-realism found in physics, and everything seems more or less cut and dried. Not that many important questions do not remain, it’s just that biology appears to lack the deep mysteries that physics continues to have.
I would add that I cannot see any way that the mysteries of physics point to religion or to god. What seems to affect physicists is that matter and the universe remain mysterious, so entertaining mysterious ideas like god are not out of place for them.
Biology has no room for “the mysterious” as such, though, so the idea of a mysterious cause does not comport with the way that they think.
Of course, there are outspoken atheistic physicists, and there is not a large fraction of traditional believers in physics. The triumphs of physics do not, however, banish the persistent mysteries of “what things really are,” however, while biology often assumes that physical models “really are” what is, and therefore does not see what remains mysterious. Thus the psychology of physics is more open to “mysterious causation” than is the psychology of biology.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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island

posted May 20, 2009 at 4:06 pm


Glen Davidson said:
“The reason physicists are more likely to be “believers”…
Geez Glen, they aren’t more likely, and I can’t even believe that you said this.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 20, 2009 at 4:48 pm


I’m not certain about your objection, island. Are you denying that physicists are more likely to be believers than are biologists? Because clearly that was what I was saying, in context:

I find it interesting that there seem to be more eminent mathematicians and physicists who are believers than biologists.

The reason physicists are more likely to be “believers”…

If you are, either you know of statistics that are contrary to mine, or you don’t know the statistics that I have encountered:

But let us examine Leuba’s figures more closely. Taking the greater scientists (more than a thousand in number), Leuba found the following believers in a God: physicists, 34 percent; historians, 32 percent; sociologists, 19 percent; biologists, 16 percent; and psychologists, 13 percent.
You will notice that our theists, in seeking support for their position among the scientists, usually draw on physicists like Millikan and Eddington. These men are not competent to render a conclusion with the same authority as a biologist or a psychologist. Theistic questions do not enter their sphere. At certain points, these questions do concern the psychologists. When the theist argues that man has a religious instinct, psychologists recognize that this argument is to be tested in their field of research. As students of the emotions and instincts, they seek for this “instinct” which theists attribute to man. But they cannot find it. And it is among these psychologists that we find only thirteen percent who accept theism. So that argument fails.
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/e_haldeman-julius/is_theism_logical.html

I do not think that you have reason to fault this source, or the one from which they draw their numbers.
If, by contrast, you are simply claiming that physicists are not more likely to be believers than just anybody, you have taken my words out of the context in which I carefully placed them.
The only evidence I have encountered regarding theistic (or deistic, etc.) beliefs among scientists do indeed back up my claim. If you have evidence showing otherwise, I’d be interested.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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island

posted May 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm


“Are you denying that physicists are more likely to be believers than are biologists?”
Yeah, it’s pretty much the same mentality across the scientific board.
34%… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Okay, I should have said that I can’t believe that you’d give that statistic air time.
I do not think that you have reason to fault this source…
And I think that you’re cracked in the head if you buy it.



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Glen Davidson

posted May 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm


OK, you’re just a troll, island.
I’ve wasted more time on you than your mental incapacity deserves. But I could only know that when you showed what a mindless buffoon you really are.
Just be happy that you’re dumb enough to laugh maniacally due to your own incomprehension of the obvious.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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island

posted May 20, 2009 at 6:26 pm


The statistic makes no sense because physicists can’t find evidence for god without making an unfounded leap of faith beyond the evidenced expectation for a natural solution, so you won’t find many physicists who are “believers” that weren’t believers before they were scientists.
You think that things are so “mysterious” to physicists, but even if it were true it would have no bearing on the fact that we have only natural causes for every effect for which the cause is known, so you can’t get there from here without abandoning the most natural scientific expectation for continuity.
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg18825305.800.html
Amanda Gefter:
If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?
Leonard Susskind:
I doubt that physicists will see it that way.
Ya… that’s the understatement of the new millennium, even though Lenny thinks that “we will be hardpressed to answer the IDists” if his multiverse turns out to be his wildest imagination.
He’s bailing on the scientific method to make the leap of faith to say that physicists wouldn’t recognize evidence for god if he bit them in the ass.
And he’s right.



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island

posted May 20, 2009 at 6:31 pm


Yeah Davidson, you get your info from ideologically warped freaks and I’m the troll… uh huh.
Just like our last conversation, you are not qualified to speak on the subject, because politicians like you can’t think like a scientist.
http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/cold-fusion-at-20-healthier-that-intelligent-design-featured-on-60-minutes/#comment-71089
http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/cold-fusion-at-20-healthier-that-intelligent-design-featured-on-60-minutes/#comment-71100



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David Klinghoffer

posted May 20, 2009 at 6:44 pm


Now, children, no fighting, no biting please!



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Glen Davidson

posted May 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm


Here are the more recent figures on belief in God among NAS members:

Our chosen group of “greater” scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality). Overall comparison figures for the 1914, 1933 and 1998 surveys appear here:
http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Scientists_and_atheism

Which, from my perspective, is all for the best, since I don’t see any real reason for astronomers or physicists to believe in god, either. Nonetheless, any of the figures support what I said. BTW, I’m the one who bothers with figures, while island simply is capable of ad hominem attacks and lies.
It is a point of pride with many of us who care about truth and for honesty in teaching biology that biologists are the least likely to believe in “design” or “designers,” as this cuts more deeply into ID claims than would the other figures.
One has to wonder at “island,” who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, is incapable of any kind of intelligent argumentation, and who fails to address the person who first made the claim. I was simply responding to Turmarion’s technically correct statement, although with the statistics I quoted above it’s hard to take even the difference between biologists and physicists (plus astronomers) very seriously. Few theists are among the top scientists, really.
That mathematicians are rather higher means little to the empirical sciences, although few enough of them are theists as well.
And don’t pretend, David, that there’s any similarity in what I’ve written to island’s idiotic attacks. I made a reasoned post, and he attacked with no reason, no honest figures, and no intelligence. Lord knows how the buffoon could ever suppose I was a politician, but that’s part and parcel of his dishonesty.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Glen Davidson

posted May 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm


Does anyone have any idea why the mindless “island” links to a discussion about “cold fusion”?
I have never believed in it. Perhaps he’s stupid enough to think that my joke on Pharyngula today about Ida (a lemur-like animal that has been dead for 47 million years) demonstrating a car that runs on cold fusion was serious.
If so, he’s got more wrong with him than just his lack of intelligence.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



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Turmarion

posted May 20, 2009 at 11:01 pm


Glen: Excellent posts, though I apparently disagree with you regarding God’s existence.
The percentages aren’t that high, as you point out, and I was aware of that. Of course, God’s existence isn’t established by polls, anyway. If all scientists believed in God, that wouldn’t mean He did exist; just as if no scientist believed in God, that wouldn’t mean he didn’t exist. My original points were as follows:
1. The different rates of belief in different scientific disciplines indicates that it is incorrect that “science” in some generic way falsifies religion. Obviously the different perspectives of different fields lead, at least to some extent, to different views on the existence of God.
2. My point to David was that defending God’s existence or interaction with the cosmos based on biology is a bad idea, since as you correctly say, the evidence for evolution is pretty much cut-and-dried. I pointed out that an argument for God’s existence is better based on the cosmos as a whole rather than on biology.
On a side note about mathematicians, the greats such as Gödel, Cantor, and others spoke of the experience, when contemplating mathematical concepts, of dealing with things that were objectively real, though immaterial. They are thus not “invented” or “constructed”, but found. Though on a far lower level than they, I have had that experience myself many times. In light of such experience (which for those who have it is one of great certainty), it is not at all hard to conceive of an immaterial Deity who can be known to us through means outside ordinary empirical methods. Not all mathematicians agree, of course, but I think this is the perspective of those who do.
Of course, strictly speaking, the existence of God can neither be “proved” nor “disproved”. I do think it can be shown to be reasonable and likely, however.
I think that while science and the scientific method are powerful tools, they are just that–tools which are useful, but which do not encompass all of reality. Philosophical and other methods are equally valid within their sphere, albeit different. Those committed to the view that only the material exists, or to the view that the scientific method is the only criterion of truth (which view is better referred to as “scientism” rather than “science”) will disagree with this, of course. It is in this context that in my original post I quoted Lewontin and Nagel, who were refreshingly honest about the a priori nature of their atheist beliefs.



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Another view

posted May 21, 2009 at 11:43 am


There is another view, that of pandeism (pronounced pan-DEY-ism), which brings together all of these strands of thought into a cohesive spiritual viewpoint which is also scientifically and mathematically sound. Pandeism combines the most defensible aspects of deism and pantheism, holding that the Universe was designed by an intelligent and powerful creator (the Deus) which not only designed the Universe but in fact became the Universe, transferring all of its energy into the creation of the Universe and ceasing to exist as a separate being. In short, pandeism demonstrates that a deistic entity became what is presently a pantheistic Universe.
This is a Universe in which science is accepted as showing the true mechanisms of creation itself, and where the creator is held in such high regard that we are able to believe that it is not deceiving us through a creation myth that counters science, but showing us the truth through what science reveals.
Pandeism also offers a superior moral basis to theisms. In the end, the Universe will return to its original state, and the Deus will be reconstituted. Everyone and everything that has ever existed will continue to exist within that paradigm, and all will share the collective experiences of the Universe, including those resulting from their own conduct. Those who cause others to suffer will experience that same suffering, as they share in the experience. Those who give others joy will experience it likewise.



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Turmarion

posted May 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Another View: The idea you put forth is interesting–it seems similar to what Scott Adams develops in his book God’s Debris. Of course, pandeism would be irreconcilable with any theistic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or others). Also, it is no more provable (or disprovable) than theism. As to whether it is superior to theism (or theisms), that is a matter of the temperament, taste, and beliefs of the individual. Some might find it more appealing, whereas others would not. In any case, an interesting post.



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Another view

posted May 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm


I think Adams has since said in interviews that God’s Debris is intended as a variation on pandeism. Traditional pandeism has the Universe somehow return to being the Deus by collapsing on itself as it finishes running its predetermined course; Adams thought that humanity evolving into a reconstructed God was a faster route.
But does it matter whether pandeism is reconcilable with theisms? Relativistic mechanics is irreconcilable with Newtonian mechanics, but more accurately describes the Universe, so the former has displaced the latter. Perhaps it will be so with more advanced strains of religious thought overcoming more primitive ideas that fail to comport with scientific reality.
I would also observe that pandeism really encompasses and accounts for phenomena attributed by theistic faiths. All the miracles or revelations or answered prayers in the world could most easily be explained by a pandeistic Universe which is unconsciously responsive to the human will.



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