Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


A “Heretic” in Jewish Terms? Someone Who Denies Intelligent Design

posted by David Klinghoffer

Last week some readers of this blog had a hard time accepting that the rabbinic term “apikoros,” a kind of heretic, denotes someone who rejects — if I may use the contemporary term — intelligent design. One fellow, by a rigorous Google search, even believed he’d found Internet-based proof that an apikoros designates a Christian! Um, no.

The Mishnah uses the word without explanation, for a category of persons who have no share in the World to Come. The Talmud links it with insolence either to the face of the Sages or in their presence. (See Sanhedrin 90a, 99b.) Maimonides finds an etymological connection to an Aramaic word for “disparagement.” But what of the idea content of the term? In the Mishnah’s context, it’s linked with other heretical ideas. The apikoros is listed alongside other heretics, those who say the resurrection of the dead has no support in the Torah and those who deny the Torah’s divine origins. These are intellectual matters, not merely ones of temperament or manners. In a Hebrew dictionary, it is defined as an “atheist, freethinker, heretic.”
Rabbi Joseph Albo, a medieval luminary, explains the term as referring to the Greek philosopher Epicurus (born c. 342 BCE) and his school (Sefer ha-Ikkarim 1:10). In Hebrew, Epicurus is “Epikoros.” In case you’re curious, Apikoros and Epikoros are spelled the exact same way, though for some reason the traditional Talmudic pronunciation, unlike modern Hebrew, gives the initial vowel sound as an “a” rather than an “e.” In popular English usage today, an “Epicurean” means someone  who seeks pleasure in fine food or wine, but that’s not what Epicurus himself was about. Epicurean thought does stress the pursuit of pleasure but not the short term kind. Rather, it urges us to avoid pain and think in terms of longer term, though not eternal, happiness. Among other things, to escape emotional pain, Epicurus advocated masturbation over sexual relationships.
Part of Epicurus’s program was to eliminate fear of divine justice. The gods, he explained, were off in their distant celestial realm, indifferent to our world. In line with this, the philosopher taught that human life is a purely material affair. Even the soul is made of physical matter. There’s nothing to fear from the gods in part because once you’re dead, your dead. There is no afterlife. This is understood to be a comfort.
Reality, he taught, is purely material, composed of “atoms.” The universe came into being through the unguided colliding of these atoms. “The world is, therefore, due to mechanical causes and there is no need to postulate teleology”  — purpose or design — summarizes Frederick Copleston in A History of Philosophy. For the rabbis, this last point is the key to what’s wrong with Epicureanism.
In the classic medieval philosophical work Kuzari, which takes the form of a dialogue between a rabbi and the king of the Khazars, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi makes this explicit. In the Fifth Essay (5:9, 5:20), the rabbinic protagonist teaches,

We perceive [divine] wisdom in many creations, and the necessary purposes they serve….This wisdom was alluded to by King David in the Psalm [104], “How great are Your deeds, God.” He wrote it to refute the arguments of Epicurus the Greek, who believed that the universe came about incidentally [b'mikreh, lit. by chance]….

HaLevi explains:

All phenomena are traceable back to the Primary Cause in one of two ways: either directly from God’s will, or through intermediaries. An example of the first way is the order and assembly that is evident in living creatures, plant life, and celestial spheres. No intellectual person can attribute this to happenstance. It is rather attributable [directly] to the design of the wise Maker.

Emphasis added. 
Hear that? No intelligent person would deny the evidence of design in living creatures. That is, nobody would do so unless he was an Epicurean, against which teaching the Jews are called to stand as a witness:

The Jewish people provided every nation with a refutation against the Epicureans, who follow the beliefs of Epicurus the Greek. He said that all things happen incidentally, and that nothing in this world shows evidence of intent from a [higher] sentient being. His colleagues were called hedonists because they believed that pleasure is the ultimate objective and the principal good.

I’ve strictly adhered to the excellent new translation by Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin. But if you look at the Hebrew (itself a translation from the original Arabic), you’ll see that the Hebrew word that Rabbi Korobkin translates as “design” (kavanah) in the second passage quoted above, he translates as “intent” in the third. You could just as well translate that penultimate sentence as, “[Epicurus] said that all things happen incidentally, and that nothing in this world shows evidence of design from a [higher] sentient being.”
Rabbi Korobkin clarifies in a footnote,

Because of his radical beliefs and the wanton behavior of some of his followers, Epicurus was viewed by the Sages as one of the most morally destructive of all Greek philosophers.

The full intellectual line of descent from Epicurus to Darwin is traced with brilliant clarity by Benjamin Wiker in Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists.
Any questions?


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Glen Davidson

posted August 12, 2009 at 8:36 pm


Big problem with that, once you’re away from faulty religious “authorities.” There simply is no fundamental difference between evolutionary science and “other science,” rather evolutionary theory is what brings biology into the same realm as physics.
This is what tells you that David doesn’t deal properly with these matters:

The world is [in Epicureanism], therefore, due to mechanical causes and there is no need to postulate teleology” — purpose or design — summarizes Frederick Copleston in A History of Philosophy.
Or this:

He said that all things happen incidentally, and that nothing in this world shows evidence of intent from a [higher] sentient being.

And what does biological evolution state? Nothing about “the world” or “the universe,” it only explains the features in life that we see that comport with evolution and not with design. Biological evolution could then be part of a kind of Epicureanism, but by no means could it by itself speak to whether or not the world, or universe, has a telos to it.
You might as well blame Newtonian mechanics as Epicureanism, or claim that anyone who accepts that lightning is a “natural phenomenon” not requiring Thor or angels is an Epicurean, as to suppose that someone who accepts biological evolution in its evidence must be Epicurean.
Indeed, many who accept a fully non-teleological biological evolution yet believe that the universe has a purpose to it. Collins does, definitely, and Ken Miller makes claims upon “cosmological ID,” although he says it’s just for believers (no, I won’t try to sort that out).
Evolutionary theory by itself is utterly silent about whether or not there is purpose in the universe, or whether or not there is a god. And I am largely unconcerned about religious authorities who make claims that science cannot support.
I have no idea if Jews (or Jews in certain branches) are supposed to accept those authorities or not, so the status of ID as “Jewish” or not is nothing to which I can speak, nor a personal concern of mine.
To claim that, simply allowing that evolution is due to known “secondary causes” whose effects are unmistakably found in life is “Epicureanism,” is clearly wrong if it is simply considered rationally, however.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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bryce

posted August 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm


Some may wish to distinguish “I.D.” from “i.d.”
I know several people who really dislike the Discovery Institute, but who do believe the world was intelligently designed. I’m not saying I’m one of them; I’m just sayin’.
Concerning “[Epicurus] said that all things happen incidentally, and that nothing in this world shows evidence of design from a [higher] sentient being.”
— Some say that several things in nature are POORLY designed (sometimes called dysteleology), which is somehow immediate proof that NOTHING was designed. Gotta love that logic.



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Glen Davidson

posted August 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm


Or in other words, David’s continuing the DI’s old despotic tactic of implying that theistic evolutionists are really serving atheism.
That’s why they trot out “Epicureanism” in the first place, to use labels where they can’t provide evidence, or make a valid logical distinction between evolutionary theory and “the rest of science.”
They remain committed to destroying science where it disagrees with their a priori beliefs.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Glen Davidson

posted August 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm


– Some say that several things in nature are POORLY designed (sometimes called dysteleology), which is somehow immediate proof that NOTHING was designed. Gotta love that logic.

Sorry, most do, and all should, put “poor design” in scare quotes. I always mean to do so, and I can’t recall any time when I have not.
But then, I’ve never seen IDists characterize the opposition honestly, so what’s new?
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Kauko

posted August 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm


The problem is, as others have pointed out already, that you’re setting up a false dichotomy in which evolution always indicates, atheism, meaninglessnees, randomness and that’s just not implied in evolution, whereas people like you will offer up some other ‘theory’ that you falsely make out to be the only possible religious one. As Glen said above, “Evolutionary theory by itself is utterly silent about whether or not there is purpose in the universe, or whether or not there is a god.” So sure if you are an atheist and believe in evolution you won’t attribute any kind of guiding force to it and may believe the whole universe is just random. But there are also religious people who accept the theory of evolution and believe it was initiated by a deity. Evolution keeps its mouth shut on that part, it doesn’t concern itself there as a scientific study, because those kinds of questions are outside what evolution is about.
And, if we’re to accept you whole post that would pretty much make most Jews heretics since most Jews, including Orthodox ones, don’t share your problem with evolution.



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 12, 2009 at 9:23 pm


Hi Kauko, I’m not judging anyone. God forbid. I’m just here to report the facts.



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Kauko

posted August 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm


But you’re not reporting facts, you’re reporting the opinion of one Medieval Rabbi, that does not constitute a fact. The truth here is that in the history of Jewish literature many rabbis wrote many (sometimes contradictory) things. I could as easily find Rabbinic support for an opposing view to yours. I mean the largest body of Orthodox Rabbis in the world, the Rabbinical Council of America has said that, ‘evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.’



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Kauko

posted August 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm


If you want the RCA’s full statement:
“In light of the ongoing public controversy about Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design, the RCA notes that significant Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.
There are authentic, respected voices in the Jewish community that take a literalist position with regard to these issues; at the same time, Judaism has a history of diverse approaches to the understanding of the biblical account of creation. As Rabbi Joseph Hertz wrote, “While the fact of creation has to this day remained the first of the articles of the Jewish creed, there is no uniform and binding belief as to the manner of creation, i.e. as to the process whereby the universe came into existence. The manner of the Divine creative activity is presented in varying forms and under differing metaphors by Prophet, Psalmist and Sage; by the Rabbis in Talmudic times, as well as by our medieval Jewish thinkers.” Some refer to the Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah 3:13) which speaks of God “developing and destroying many worlds” before our current epoch. Others explain that the word “yom” in Biblical Hebrew, usually translated as “day,” can also refer to an undefined period of time, as in Isaiah 11:10-11. Maimonides stated that “what the Torah writes about the Account of Creation is not all to be taken literally, as believed by the masses” (Guide to the Perplexed II:29), and recent Rabbinic leaders who have discussed the topic of creation, such as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, saw no difficulty in explaining Genesis as a theological text rather than a scientific account.
Judaism affirms the idea that God is the Creator of the Universe and the Being responsible for the presence of human beings in this world.
Nonetheless, there have long been different schools of thought within Judaism regarding the extent of divine intervention in natural processes. One respected view was expressed by Maimonides who wrote that “we should endeavor to integrate the Torah with rational thought, affirming that events take place in accordance with the natural order wherever possible.” (Letter to the Jews of Yemen) All schools concur that God is the ultimate cause and that humanity was an intended end result of Creation.
For us, these fundamental beliefs do not rest on the purported weaknesses of Evolutionary Theory, and cannot be undermined by the elimination of gaps in scientific knowledge.
Judaism has always preferred to see science and Torah as two aspects of the “Mind of God” (to borrow Stephen Hawking’s phrase) that are ultimately unitary in the reality given to us by the Creator. As the Zohar says (Genesis 134a): “istakel be-‘oraita u-vara ‘alma,” God looked into the Torah and used it as His blueprint for creating the Universe.”



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Turmarion

posted August 12, 2009 at 10:06 pm


The post that keeps on giving (and on and on and on, as long as David stays mum….):
David, in his post on Francis Collins: “On the other hand, that life has an evolutionary history including billions of years of change — that is unassailable as science and unobjectionable to me as a Jew.” Please explain to me how this is one whit different from theistic evolution. David, you said on that same post that you’d like to see someone debate Collins or ask him some pointed questions; yet you resolutely avoid all such questions and attempts at debate here. This one, which seems to me a statement of what almost anyone would refer to as theistic evolution, is especially egregious.
Finally, you still have never given a real response to what we’ve been asking you about Maimonides (as I said above, a one-sentence quote from an author of a biography about him isn’t arguing his philosophical statements!). We’re still waiting. Also, I’m still waiting to hear you speak to the issues of randomness [I'll modify this since you suggested the West articles, but you haven't answered my critique of them yet] and alien intelligence vis-à-vis the “image of god”.
I know this is getting repetitive, but I think anyone reading this will agree that I’m not using nasty language and that I’m being perfectly polite. Don’t you think the civil thing is at least to acknowledge the questions, even if for some reason you don’t want to answer them? And if you don’t want to answer them, you might at least give us an idea why not.



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Turmarion

posted August 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm


Where to start….
Among other things, to escape emotional pain, Epicurus advocated masturbation over sexual relationships.
Just on the basis of a few searches and from what I’ve read on Greek philosophy, I’ve never heard of this. I’m not saying it might not be true, but given the track record here, I’d really like a citation. Aside from this, I must give you kudos for a reasonably accurate portrayal of Epicurus’ philosophy–something you haven’t always done here regarding those whose views you disagree with.
The Mishnah uses the word [apikoros] without explanation, for a category of persons who have no share in the World to Come. (emphasis added)
So by your extension, those who accept evolution are hell-bound?
The apikoros is listed alongside other heretics, those who say the resurrection of the dead….
Like the Sadducees of old and an awful lot of Reform Jews now, huh?
HaLevi explains: All phenomena are traceable back to the Primary Cause in one of two ways: either directly from God’s will, or through intermediaries. (emphasis added)
Things that make you go hmmm….
An example of the first way is the order and assembly that is evident in living creatures, plant life, and celestial spheres.
As usual, you’re misrepresenting theistic evolution. Theistic evolution argues that the universe as a whole was created and “designed”, if you will, by God; some would see evidence of such design in the fine-tuning of the constants (gravity, charge on the electron, etcl) in the cosmos, e.g. However, TE argues that the order is such that once set up, it runs by natural law, not requiring “tweaks” as ID tends to imply. I think this sentence could be embraced as much by a theistic evolutionist (for lack of a less cumbersome term, though it’s not really a good one) as by an IDer, but interpreted very much differently.
Speaking of the celestial spheres, as I’ve pointed out at greater length before, BTW, Aristotle, as a result of an error in his physics, thought it necessary to postulate that intelligences moved the planets. Physics as he understood it had no other way to explain continual regular motion. The Medievals took this over with the intelligences being understood as angels created by God for this express purpose. Well, of course we all know what happened to that theory after Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and finally Newton with his law of gravitation. How is this any different from the “removal” of God from direct action in nature by evolution? Most people, however, didn’t argue this, but accepted that God set up gravitation and let it work on its own. How is theistic evolution any less valid than this? An actual response might be nice….
Frankly, you have never given a clear and coherent reason for your rejection of theistic evolution and why it is incompatible with Judaism or Christianity or Islam. Nor, for that matter, have you explained how your own stated view, as pointed out in my previous post, is in fact one iota different from theistic evolution. You simply cannot expect anyone to take you seriously on these matters until you deign to do so.
A piece of friendly advice, BTW: You might want to consider reading up on your philosophy and theology a little more. I’m not a philosopher nor do I have formal philosophical training (I imagine that’s true for most of us here), but I’m conversant enough with it as an interested amateur that I can argue these issues without having to list quote after quote after quote, or saying, “Go read this book (conveniently linked to Amazon)–it explains what I mean!” I list references every now and then to prove I’m being accurate, and sometimes I’ve put in a book link where I think it has something interesting to say in general; but I don’t make my arguments this way. In fact, on this thread as so many, your mode of “argument” is merely to give numerous quotes from one or more authority with teeny brief comments between them, and then a link to a book by (surprise!) a DI fellow. None of the rest of us here seem to feel the need to sell books, or seem to find it necessary to yank quotes in lieu of making arguments.
Let me be clear: I’m not trying to be ugly. However, if you’re going to post on an issue that deals with science, philosophy, and theology, you ought to be conversant enough with the subjects in question to be able to argue cogently for yourself. I get that you’re not trained as a scientist; but that’s no excuse for the theology and philosophy, which you can easily read up on and study on you own time. When you have to fall back on others’ quotes and those arguing against you don’t, it doesn’t improve your credibility. Hell, if you don’t know, then say “I don’t know!” That’s what I do. But that makes it harder to keep making these arguments, doesn’t it?
The full intellectual line of descent from Epicurus to Darwin is traced with brilliant clarity by Benjamin Wiker in Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists.
You know, many of us pro-evolution people have argued on the basis of the work of atheists, agnostics, Christians, and yes, Jews. We have suggested books, articles, and arguments by people from vastly different religious and ideological backgrounds (heck, we ourselves are from vastly different religious and ideological backgrounds). However, every time you recommend a book or cite an article, it’s always by a DI fellow or on one of DI’s websites or affiliated websites. If you could suggest other people who buy this stuff, it might make you more credible, you know. Just sayin’.
Kauko: Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thank you for the RCA statement! Oh, I guess by David it should be ARC–Apikori Rabbinical Council…. ;)



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 13, 2009 at 12:07 am


Kauko, of course it makes all the difference in the world what you mean by “evolutionary theory.” The phrase from the RCA that you quote is hopelessly vague. ID is one way of understanding evolution.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 13, 2009 at 1:28 am


“ID is one way of understanding evolution.”
Wow, those goal posts got moved at light speed! Bit I’ll go there with you.
Let’s expand on the evolutionary theory the RCA was referring to: Common ancestry and common descent, explained by well understood natural laws requiring no supernatural interventions.
ID denies common descent.
ID denies common ancestry.
ID requires supernatural interventions.
So, yeah, ID is one way of understanding evolution–just like the “Bible Code” is one way of understanding theology.



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 13, 2009 at 1:35 am


Unapologetic: common descent and common ancestry are the same thing. Most people I know of in the ID community are comfortable with them/it. See the work of Michael Behe on this.



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John Pieret

posted August 13, 2009 at 7:49 am


“Most people I know of in the ID community are comfortable with [common descent]. See the work of Michael Behe on this.”
Then why was Casey Luskin making ludicrous “arguments” against the transitional status of Tiktaalik (for one example among many)?
blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2008/07/14/746/
ID, since it is NOT a coherent scientific or philosophical position, but, instead, holds only that “somehow, some way, something is wrong with evolution” and which, for tactical reasons, tries to maintain a “big tent” with YECs and other deniers of common descent, has always been highly inconsistent in its approach to that issue. Citing Behe does nothing to counter that fact. Cite to where there is some statement of consensus among IDers that common descent, particularly of H. sapiens, is a sound scientific conclusion.



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bryce

posted August 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm


“Then why was Casey Luskin making ludicrous “arguments” against the transitional status of Tiktaalik (for one example among many)?”
Maybe because the status of Tiktaalik as a missing link is on such shaky ground.
See: Boisvert, Mark-Kurik and Ahlberg, “The pectoral fin of Panderichthys and the origin of digits,” Nature 456, 636-638 (4 December 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07339. “…demonstrates that the fish-tetrapod transition was accompanied by significant character INCONGRUENCE in functionally important structures.” (emphasis added)



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm


John Pieret, I think the difficulty you’re having here lies in your expectation that ID should be a religious-style dogma as Darwinism has become. But it’s not that. When I say that most in the ID community are “comfortable” with common descent, I only mean that they see evidence of it, not that they venerate the idea as an unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence, in the manner that Darwinism tends to do.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm


“Unapologetic: common descent and common ancestry are the same thing. Most people I know of in the ID community are comfortable with them/it. See the work of Michael Behe on this.”
No they’re not. Learn your biology.
Common descent is the shorthand for the priciple that all life on earth today is desceded from a few earlier forms. Common nacestry is the priociple that humans and other primates share a common ancestor andhumans were not specially created.
The sole person in the ID movement hwo accepts these two priciples “might be” Behe.
As to others?
Certainly not Luskin, Dembski, John West, Phillip Johnson, Nancy Pearcey, Bruce Chapman or you.
Go ahead and list those “most peopele’ here:
1. Behe
2. “crickets chirping”
3. chirp
4 chirp



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Turmarion

posted August 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm


David: ID is one way of understanding evolution.
????!!!!
And I guess geocentrism is one way of understanding Copernicus’ theory.
When I say that most in the ID community are “comfortable” with common descent, I only mean that they see evidence of it, not that they venerate the idea as an unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence, in the manner that Darwinism tends to do.
1. As per Unapologetic Catholic above, I doubt that most of the ID community are “comfortable with” both common descent and common ancestry. Moreover, I would bet my eyeteeth that if you looked at all people outside of organizations like the DI who are sympathetic to ID or who deny evolution or common descent or ancestry to one degree or another, you’d find that the vast, vast majority are young-Earthers. You and Michael Behe and a few others may be non-young-Earthers and simultaneously anti-evolution, but those two positions don’t go together well, and very few hold them.
2. No good scientist “venerates ideas as unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence”. This indicates a profound misunderstanding of science in a couple of ways. First, no scientist argues that any theoretical framework is perfect and all-encompassing. Certainty may be attained to 99.99999…% probability, but the final decimal is never broached. The true scientist has an attitude of humility. Relativity, for example, doesn’t explain everything about the cosmos (e.g. quantum gravity remains elusive). Quantum theory (or at least its proper interpretation) has been controversial from the git-go. However, saying “we don’t know with absolute certainty” is not the same thing as saying “we don’t know at all” (that would be the fallacy of the beard). The fact that evolutionary theory can’t perfectly explain every single thing about the development of life with no uncertainty whatsoever doesn’t mean it’s wrong any more than such similar failures invalidate relativity or quantum theory. BTW, lest anyone say that relativity is abstract and doesn’t affect us, consider that GPS systems must take account of it because of the speeds and distances involved. Google it. In any case, it is just false to say that “Darwinism” (as you insist on using the term) venerates ideas as unquestioned doctrine.
The problem here, David, is that you simply refuse to come clean about what you mean. You’ve posted to this thread, so I know you saw my first comment, but as usual you not only don’t answer but ignore it altogether. When it suits your purposes, you come out sounding like a theistic evolutionist: “Of course I believe the Earth is billions of years old and that organisms change!” Then, you turn around and tar theistic evolution as heresy, dishonesty, a front for evil materialist thought, etc. When pressed as to what you actually mean by the terms “intelligent design” and “theistic evolution” you won’t give a clear or coherent answer.
So let me challenge you again: Can you explain the difference? Compare and contrast? In clear and unambiguous terms?
I have asked you again and again and again many of these questions, and the result is crickets. Yes, you sent me the links to West’s articles after a long period of prodding, and I gave you my evaluation of them. Both in the emails and here on the blog I’ve urged you to address this directly by posting the discussion and responding to my evaluation of West. Once again, crickets.
Anyway, if you refuse to respond, you could at least explain why you do so. If you ever expect to get a hearing for yourself from the other side, you have to practice what you preach when you talk about “dialogue”.



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John Pieret

posted August 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm


“I think the difficulty you’re having here lies in your expectation that ID should be a religious-style dogma as Darwinism has become.”
In other words, it is exactly what I said it was, neither a coherent scientific or philosophical position, but, instead, merely the a priori denial of evolution where even YECs can’t completely deny the science.
“When I say that most in the ID community are “comfortable” with common descent, I only mean that they see evidence of it, not that they venerate the idea as an unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence, in the manner that Darwinism tends to do.”
When evidence is overwhelming, scientists and any rational being not only acknowledge the evidence but accept it. It only looks like dogma when you insist that, despite the evidence that cannot be denied, it must somehow be wrong anyway. But what you’re seeing is simply the reflection of your own dogma. When you produce real evidence, rather than handwaving like Meyer’s “it’s sooo complex it must be designed” bafflegab, you’ll get a hearing in the scientific community.



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John Pieret

posted August 13, 2009 at 2:54 pm


bryce:
Quite apart from the fact that quote mining scientists and misinterpreting their results is hardly evidence against Tiktaalik’s transitional nature:
pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/10/the-rise-of-ign.html
… the fact that debate, sometimes vigorous, over the evidence (that in this case supports evolution either way it turns out) continues in the scientific community, directly contradicts David’s claim that science has “unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence.” You can’t have it both ways. Either the scientific community doesn’t follow the evidence, in which case, why cite scientists who supposedly contradict the evidence, or it does follow the evidence, and why are you claiming dogmatism?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm


Turmarion:Anyway, if you refuse to respond, you could at least explain why you do so. If you ever expect to get a hearing for yourself from the other side, you have to practice what you preach when you talk about “dialogue”.
David does not practice dialogue. He practices what can at best be described as apologetics and what I call propaganda.
The ambiguity in his statements is quite deliberate.
Reality, he taught, is purely material, composed of “atoms.”
Atoms in scare quotes, forsooth! “Darwinism” is just the tip of the iceberg of this materialist conspiracy! I knew David and his fellows were going to work their way to doing to physics what they do to biology!
One fellow, by a rigorous Google search, even believed he’d found Internet-based proof that an apikoros designates a Christian! Um, no.
David, people can read what I wrote for themselves–why would you bother to distort what I said? That’s very silly. It’s just a couple of posts down.
Here it is again:
“Apikoros” is often used to mean “Christians”, isn’t it, David:
And then I gave a citation, and said
So it’s not really honest for you to use the word here like it only applies to “Darwinists” or secularist or atheists. It applies just as well to the other DI fellows.
Did I say “exclusively”? No. Just pointed out that some Jews have historically used the word this way, and not to mention it was deceptive.
I has another question you didn’t answer in that post, naturally. Does the Mishnah sanction lying about what an Epicurean says? If I find any I’ll give them a heads up.
Since I’m not an Epicurean, perhaps there is an exception in my case.



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Kauko

posted August 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm


“Kauko, of course it makes all the difference in the world what you mean by “evolutionary theory.” The phrase from the RCA that you quote is hopelessly vague. ID is one way of understanding evolution”
As far as I can tell ID is nothing but pseudo science attempting to ‘prove’ that God is somehow involved in the creation and ongoing development of the world. ID advocates may try to hide the religious roots of their ideology by not outright saying God, and only that nature shows that there is some intelligent force, some makers behind it, but to any honest person here its obvious they mean God. That’s not science, as science doesn’t corrently have the ability to prove or disprove any God currently, scientists have to put God aside from the question of evolution and stick to physical evidence. If someone wants to ask questions about God and evolution, that is a theological or perhaps philosophical matter, not scientific.
Your statement that ID is one way of understanding evolution is completely at odds with your near daily posts that consistently attempt to demonize evolution. I mean, you have to make up your mind. This is the kind of intellectual dishonesty that makes rational people have no respect for advocates of ID. Your posts about evolution don’t promote honest discussion about evolution, they stifle it with desperate attempts to cast all believers in evolution as atheistic, immoral, nihilistic, serial killers or ‘heretics’. You can’t have honest discussion with any one when you so completely dismiss them from the start.



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bryce

posted August 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm


Turmarion writes: “No good scientist “venerates ideas as unquestionable doctrine to be maintained even in the face of counterevidence”.
Well, Richard Lewontin is a fantastic scientist, yet look what he writes:
“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 the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, 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 for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow 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 explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. ”
And John, you claim I quote-mined and misinterpreted, but you didn’t back it up.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 4:14 pm


bryce:
When your car breaks down do you seek an exorcist? What about when you get sick?
Do you assumed that your car is intelligently designed to break down and intelligently designed to get sick?
No? Oh, so you’re a methodological materialist, then. I thought so.
Well, so are scientists. We work with the natural world, not the supernatural one.
We can’t analyze a Communion wafer and find the Body of Christ in it.
Doesn’t mean it’s not, somehow, THERE. Just means that, scientifically speaking it’s not there.
Your intelligent designer is God. It is never intended to be anything else, despite what you might say in court about it. We know what human capabilities and human desires are, so we can scientifically evaluate human designs. We have no idea what God’s intentions or limitations are, so unlike human designs, with which we are familiar, we cannot address God’s designs scientifically, any more than a scientist can exorcise the demons clogging up your fuel injection system, or absolve you of sins..



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alex

posted August 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm


Gabriel Hanna wrote: “we cannot address God’s designs scientifically,”
Ahh, but science can, and often does, address WHETHER something has been designed. Just not in biology. Well, hardly ever, that is.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 5:45 pm


alex: science can, and often does, address WHETHER something has been designed. Just not in biology.
If you had read my post, you would have seen:
We know what human capabilities and human desires are, so we can scientifically evaluate human designs. We have no idea what God’s intentions or limitations are, so unlike human designs, with which we are familiar, we cannot address God’s designs scientifically…
Nice quote mine though.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 5:47 pm


alex, when did you see a non-human intelligence design something? You can’t generalize from a sample of one.



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Carl Sachs

posted August 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm


A few minor points:
1) the doctrine that masturbation is preferable to sex is a part of Cynic doctrine but it is not, so far as I know, a part of Epicureanism. Epicurus taught to avoid ‘pain,’ which is brought about both by excess and by deficiency. “All things in moderation” is the essence of Epicureanism.
2) Whether or not someone who accepts non-teleological macroevolution (NTMaE)must also accept Epicurean metaphysics is a wide-open question. Clearly there are some who do (Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity being perhaps the best contemporary example) and there are others who don’t. (Miller and Collins, for example, are not Epicureans, either ethically or metaphysically.)
3) But more to the point: even if there were something ethically or metaphysically objectionable about Epicureanism, that would not tell us anything one way or the other about NTMaE. For one thing, the underlying logic of the two is quite different, as helpfully explained by Eliot Sober in Evidence and Evolution, pp. 122 and following. They are quite different hypotheses that specify quite different expected observations.



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John Pieret

posted August 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm


bryce:
Actually, I gave the url to a demonstration that you were quote mining and misrepresenting but, in any event, you then went on to do it again with Richard Lewontin. Here is the paragraph before the one you quote:
“With great perception, Sagan sees that there is an impediment to the popular credibility of scientific claims about the world, an impediment that is almost invisible to most scientists. Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn’t even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity ‘in deep trouble.’ Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.”
What Lewontin was talking about was a committment to the methodology of science even when it produces “counterintuitive” results. But that methodology ends as soon as you say “God did it,” since that puts the cause of the phenomena beyond empiric investigation and means that we cannot count on the phenomena’s regularity as a basis for prediction. Science requires natural causes in order to work.
But, heck, if you don’t want to believe that pictures can come from the Moon or that natural causes can explain the development of life on Earth, you’re free to not to do so … just don’t try to tell us your belief is science.



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Alex

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:10 am


Gabriel asked: “alex, when did you see a non-human intelligence design something? You can’t generalize from a sample of one.”
Well, there’s a spider’s web right outside my front door, and a nest in the tree across the street. And somewhere, I once saw a beaver’s dam. Would you like to reword your question?



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D

posted August 14, 2009 at 1:25 pm


Proverbs 14 :1 – “The Fool hath said in Heart there is No GOD.”



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm


alex:Well, there’s a spider’s web right outside my front door, and a nest in the tree across the street. And somewhere, I once saw a beaver’s dam. Would you like to reword your question?
So, where are the beaver’s blueprints? Beavers and spiders are “intelligent” now?
Way to totally not read a question and move the goalposts! You’re so full of WIN.
Beavers, in fact, build a dam by throwing wood on when they hear water running. You can play a tape of water running and get them to do it.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm


Let’s try it again, Alex, and use some reading comprehension this time:
“when did you see a non-human intelligence design something? You can’t generalize from a sample of one.”
You know, you even QUOTED my sentence, and then you act like I’m the stupid one?
Now you are on record as saying that beavers and spiders are “intelligent”. Smooth move.



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Alex

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Gabriel, I answered your question and offered you to reword it — all without an attitude. Sorry you felt like I had one.
Would you like to be on record as saying an unintelligent process can create an intelligent process?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Would you like to be on record as saying an unintelligent process can create an intelligent process?
Yes or no alex: are beavers intelligent and design their dams?
We have to figure out what you mean by “intelligence”. If spiders are “intelligent” then what isn’t? Rocks?



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Dennis

posted August 14, 2009 at 5:09 pm


Heretic comes from the Greek “hairetikós, able to choose” i.e., one who has an alternative, one who is free. Think about it.



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Your Name

posted August 15, 2009 at 11:42 pm


OK, I’m game Hanna. I’ll go on record saying that spiders and beavers and birds have some sort of intelligence. At the very least, they have some sort of volition. “alex, when did you see a non-human intelligence design something? You can’t generalize from a sample of one.” — Well, now I have a sample of four. Atheists, who believe that at one point in time, nothing had volition, but one of these things produced (eventually) something that did, can’t find anything in the world that works this way, so they need to generalize from a sample size of zero.



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alex

posted August 16, 2009 at 10:39 am


The “Your Name” above was obviously from me.
Dennis, the etymology of heretic is indeed interesting, but when words are chosen to name groups, only sometimes do they describe what the facts really are, since it really depends on who came up with the name. (Example: Mitnaggids did not come up with the word mitnaggid; the opposition did.)



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 16, 2009 at 1:03 pm


Moving the goalposts, Alex. Are we talking about “intelligence” or “volition”?
When you talk about DNA you say we need some kind of fantastically foresighted Designer with more than human capabilities, and you have never seen such a thing. Forgive me if I say beavers and spiders don’t cut it.
Atheists, who believe that at one point in time, nothing had volition, but one of these things produced (eventually) something that did, can’t find anything in the world that works this way, so they need to generalize from a sample size of zero.
Nonsense. Does an fertilized egg or a strand of DNA have “volition”? Yet you can watch it develop into something that does.
“Volition” is an emergent property of special arrangements of matter; if you think otherwise, that there’s some kind of magic that distinguishes life from non-life, then you can hardly pretend ID is science, can you?



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alex

posted August 16, 2009 at 5:49 pm


I’m sure everything you typed above was forced out of you by the location and movement of subatomic particles in your brain, and there was nothing “you” could do about it. So I forgive your snottiness.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 12:05 am


I’m sure everything you typed above was forced out of you by the location and movement of subatomic particles in your brain, and there was nothing “you” could do about it. So I forgive your snottiness.
Fine, don’t answer the question.
In the meantime, other people who are trying to figure out what evolution is all about are going to see what you wrote, and conclude that you have no idea what you are talking about.
If you want to discuss, do so, if the organization of subatomic particle in your brain permits you to respond intelligently to questions.
First, we need to figure out if we are talking about science, or mystical life-force mumbo jumbo. If the latter, I need to bow out, since I have no degrees in baloney.



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alex

posted August 18, 2009 at 9:50 am


Let me explain how you are generalizing from a data set of zero, by quoting Thomas Huxley:
“But though I cannot express this conviction of mine too strongly, I must carefully guard against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis ever has taken place in the past, or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call “vital” may not, some day, be artificially brought together. All I feel justified in affirming is, that I see no reason for believing that the feat has been performed yet.
And looking back through the prodigious vista of the past, I find no record of commencement of life, and therefore I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the conditions of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense of the word, is a serious matter, and needs strong foundations. To say, therefore, in the admitted absence of evidence, that I have any belief as to the mode in which the existing forms of life have originated, would be using words in a wrong sense. But expectation is permissible where belief is not; and if it were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter. I should expect to see it appear under forms of great simplicity, endowed, like existing fungi, with the power of determining the formation of new protoplasm from such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthy phosphates, and water, without aid of light. That is the expectation to which analogical reasoning leads me; but I beg you once more to recollect that I have no right to call my opinion anything but an act of philosophical faith (pp. 255-257).



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm


by quoting Thomas Huxley:
There have been about 150 years more research since then.
First, the idea of “protoplasm” has been discredited for years, not by anyone at Discovery Institute but by biochemists.
Thomas Huxley didn’t have electron microscopes or even the atomic theory of matter to work with (not finally established until Einstein); “philosophical faith” was all he had to work with.
Darwin and Huxley knew nothing about how cells or heredity worked. Chemistry then was a purely empirical pursuit that had no theory behind it.
And yet their theory has continued to be valid despite how much more we know about life at the basic chemical and physical level.
Incidentally, there are organism that live on “such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthy phosphates, and water, without aid of light.”
They have a hydrogen-sulfide based chemistry, and support an ecosystem which is not based on sunlight.
But this is all a distraction. If you don’t believe life is based on chemistry, than what DO you believe it is based on?
You can’t replace something with nothing. The biochemical basis of life is well supported. With what do you intend to replace it?



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alex

posted August 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm


“The biochemical basis of life is well supported.”
A one time emergence of life from non-life is well-BELIEVED, but not well-supported. You must have the same philosophical faith as anyone else out there.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm


A one time emergence of life from non-life is well-BELIEVED, but not well-supported. You must have the same philosophical faith as anyone else out there.
Alex, you don’t get it.
What makes a cell–REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE MAY HAVE BEEN–alive instead of dead?
CHEMISTRY.
Agree or disagree?
I’m not talking about origins. I’m talking about life that is here now.
What distinguishes life from non-life? I say, physically speaking, nothing, because living things operate on chemical and physical processes.
Agree, or disagree? Do living things operate on some basis that is not physical law?



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Your Name

posted August 19, 2009 at 5:13 am


As soon as chance enters a theory in a fundamental way, one should fear that knowledge is not complete. It appears that QM would tell you differently, but precisely in QM you see the principle clearly: A subsystem of a pure-state system cannot be fully described in isolation, even if it is spacially isolated (EPR paradox).



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Your Name

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:33 am


@GH: “What makes a cell–REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE MAY HAVE BEEN–alive instead of dead? …
I’m not talking about origins. I’m talking about life that is here now.”
You started on this topic right after my Huxley quote, which was about origins, so excuse me for thinking that we were talking about origins. And I don’t know the answer to your question. But I think you seem to know it much too confidently.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm


And I don’t know the answer to your question. But I think you seem to know it much too confidently.
It might have something to do with having degrees in physics and in having studied the physics of cells.
Fine, you admit you don’t anything about the physical basis of life processes and you are open to the idea that cells run on some kind of magic.
How are you then qualified to know if abiogenesis is reasonable or not?
If you don’t know what cells need to function, and if you don’t know what natural laws allow, then you have no scientific basis for an opinion, and no business pretending that your views are more “scientific” than those of scientists.
Huxley has been dead for about a hundred years now. What do biologists TODAY know about the physical basis of life processes and what they have to say about the probable origins of life?
You don’t seem to feel under any obligation to find out, but you feel free to say they must all be doing it wrong.



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alex

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:19 pm


“Fine, you admit you don’t anything about the physical basis of life processes”
Anything? No, I didn’t admit that, G.
“you are open to the idea that cells run on some kind of magic.”
I wasn’t even trying to address how they run. I was trying to address how EVERYONE, from Huxley to today, really don’t know how life came to be. And that it’s more a philosophical position, not a scientific argument.
Man, you misquote and misdirect more than Kenneth Miller.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm


I was trying to address how EVERYONE, from Huxley to today, really don’t know how life came to be.
But you think the people who study it for a living are no better informed than those who don’t, or why are you bothering to comment on this?
Your statement is false, anyway. Nobody has seen it with their own eyes, but plausible hypotheses, grounded in the scientific evidence you refuse to examine, are much better than uninformed speculation like yours. It’s not true that scientists “have no idea”. They have more than one, well grounded in current scientific knowledge.
You want to go back to how beaver “intelligently design” their dams and spiders “intelligently design” their webs?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm


See, Alex, you’re just moving goalposts.
Cdesign proponentsist: Science cannot explain blah blah blah.
Scientist: Here is a possible explanation for blah blah blah consistent with current scientific knowledge.
Cdesign proponentsist: You can’t prove that ACTUALLY HAPPENED THAT WAY! You’re telling a “just-so” story”.
But you see, the goalpost was moved. First, the statement was according to science blah blah blah COULD NOT have happened at all. Then, the goalpost was moved to “okay, you can explain it, but now you have to prove it happened the way you said it did”, but without acknowledging the change.
People who don’t know anything about biophysics and biochemistry have no qualification whatever to discuss life’s origins intelligently. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings but there it is.



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