Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Epicureanism & Masturbation

posted by David Klinghoffer
Epicurus

Some readers doubted my characterization of Epicurean philosophy as, among other things, advocating masturbation over sexual love between men and women. Perhaps it would have been more strictly accurate if I had attributed this teaching to Epicureanism, rather than to Epicurus. That’s the idea that’s at stake here, after all. It’s what is meant by the heresy that the Talmud calls being an apikoros. The historical person of Epicurus is of secondary interest to the philosophy that bears his name.

Anyway, you want proof?
Not much survives of Epicurus’s own voluminous writings. Instead, his philosophy was popularized by the 1st-century BCE Epicurean poet Lucretius, a Roman, who wrote the epic poem On the Nature of Things. Lucretius advised men, “Ejaculate the liquid collected in the body and do not retain it.” In his book Moral Darwinism, Benjamin Wiker explains that under the Epicurean way of thinking, since there’s no design in nature, there is no normative way of using and/or taking pleasure through the human body. There is nothing naturally “right” about linking sexuality with procreation. In the search for tranquility, Epicureanism sees sex as something to be avoided. Relationships expose us to the risk of pain. Rather, “it is fitting to flee images [of the beloved] and drive away fearfully from oneself the foods of love, and turn the mind elsewhere.” At which point, relieve yourself in a solitary fashion.
Lucretius is better known for articulating a startlingly detailed proto-Darwininian idea of life’s development through random variation and natural selection.

Incidentally, last night I remembered that when I was in college I actually had the opportunity to visit Epicurus’s birthplace, the island of Samos off the Turkish coast, a quick boat ride from Ephesus with its impressive ruins. I was recalling the first night I spent there. Unable to find a hotel with an unavailable room, I slept sitting up in a hut on the beach. The next night, one hotel took pity on me and put me in a room sleeping in the same bed (!) as a young woman about my age from Belgium. We had dinner that night and she told me about her father who was a Belgian politician who sparked controversy by being a Freemason. Strange, right?
After a somewhat awkward night, I woke early the next morning to visit Ephesus. When I got back to the hotel at the end of the day, I saw that either she or someone else had looted some items from my backpack. That’s my memory of Samos.
Of course this sheds no light on Epicurus.


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Turmarion

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm


David: Perhaps it would have been strictly more accurately if I had attributed this teaching to Epicureanism, rather than to Epicurus.
Well, yes, it would have been more truthful, er, accurate.
Epicurus believed that the highest pleasure was friendship, since unlike physical pleasure, friendship could not be diminished. He was also very suspicious of extreme pleasures, since in modern parlance, the higher the high, the lower the lower afterward. Thus, contra the English implications of “Epicurean”, Epicurus himself tended towards the ascetic side. For all these reasons, I’d be skeptical that Epicurus himself advocated masturbation, or sex at all, for that matter. That Lucretius did, I have no doubt–but how accurately he presents the ethic of Epicurus is of course up for debate.
Anyway, it’s like arguing that the teachings of a 4th Century AD Neo-Platonist necessarily represent the thought of Plato nearly three-quarters of a millennium earlier, or that a Supreme Court ruling of 2009 represents the intent of the Founders over 220 years ago. You need to be careful what you attribute to whom!
Actually, I don’t think it was an accident, but an ad hominem against a dead ancient philosopher, sort of a snickering, leering way of discrediting him by showing what a dirty old man he was. Not that I agree with Epicurus’ philosophy either, but I could find more dignified ways to argue against him.
The reason the Epicurean-Darwin connection is bogus is this: Epicurus and his disciples derived their metaphysics (a purposeless, random cosmos) based upon presuppositions (the need to avoid pain and fear and the belief that the gods were indifferent), and not based upon any observational science.
Evolutionary biology, by contrast, is based on observation and experimentation, and has no necessary metaphysics attached to it at all. In other words, as I’ve said a zillion times, there is no metaphysical materialism that is necessarily implied by evolution. Both anti-evolutionists and Dawkins-types who assert this are wrong. One could attach an Epicurean metaphysics to evolution, but one could equally well attach a Christian metaphysics (or Daoist, or many others, for that matter).



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Turmarion

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm


Oh, and while I’m at it:
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.
Getting tired enough of this to answer yet?



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm


Turmarion, what’s the question about Maimonides again?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:47 pm


David: What does Maimonides say “Man was made in God’s Image” mean?
I’ve already quoted it, but we’d like to hear you acknowledge it.
To the topic of this post, when are you going to get around to mentioning that Epicurus insisted that gods must exist?



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alex

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:48 pm


“Evolutionary biology, by contrast, is based on observation and experimentation, and has no necessary metaphysics attached to it at all.”
Philosopher Michael Ruse says otherwise (on that second point) at http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or151/mr93tran.htm
After observation and experimentation, I’d add “story-telling.” Don’t deny it.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:49 pm


From Lucretius, On the Nature of Things:
http://classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things.1.i.html
Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands- for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-
Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,
Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,
For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,
For thee waters of the unvexed deep
Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky
Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
For soon as comes the springtime face of day,
And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred,
First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee,
Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine,
And leap the wild herds round the happy fields
Or swim the bounding torrents. Thus amain,
Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee
Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead,
And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams,
Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains,
Kindling the lure of love in every breast,
Thou bringest the eternal generations forth,
Kind after kind.
Sounds JUST LIKE DARWIN!



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David Klinghoffer

posted August 13, 2009 at 9:54 pm


Gabriel, re the existence and irrelevance of the gods, see my first post.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 10:07 pm


alex:”Philosopher Ruse” ALSO says (from your link)”
As I hope I said right at the end, I don’t come here preaching creationism or preaching, you know, some message of negativism: folks give up, modern philosophy of science is now showing that science is just as much a religion as creation science, so frankly folks there’s nothing that you could do, and if I could go back ten years to Arkansas I’d just reverse everything. I think that you can do it. I mean I think you can’t do it in just a gung-ho, straightforward, neo-Popperian way: here we’ve got science on the one side, here we’ve got religion on the other side, evolution falls on the science side, creationism falls on the other side, and, you know, never the twain shall meet. I think you’ve got to go at different ways, things like, as I mentioned, pragmatism, for instance. Taking some sort of coherence theory of truth, or something like that. I still think that one can certainly exclude creation science on those grounds…. Let me end certainly by saying that although I got on quite well with Johnson at the personal level, I still think that his book is a slippery piece of work. And you’re absolutely right that he, like any lawyer, is out to win. That’s the name of the game in law. And certainly he can get points by shifting back and forth on meanings of naturalism, or if he can get a report on what Ed Manier and I were doing, and then sort of take it out of context, I’ve no reason to think that he wouldn’t do that sort of thing. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying, I’m not denying the power or the importance of the sort of thing he’s doing, or the importance of combating that sort of thing. What I am saying, nevertheless, and I will sit down now, is I don’t think that we’re going — well, I don’t know whether we’re going to serve — I mean, the easy thing is we’re not going to serve our purpose by — let me just simply say that I as a philosopher of science am worried about what I think were fairly crude neo-positivistic attitudes that I had about science, even as much as ten years ago, when I was fighting in Arkansas. This doesn’t mean to say that I don’t want to stand up for evolution, I certainly do. But I do think that philosophy of science, history of science, moves on, and I think it’s incumbent upon us who take this particular creationism – evolution debate seriously, to be sensitive to these facts, and not simply put our heads in the sand, and say, well, if we take this sort of stuff seriously, we’re in deep trouble. Perhaps we are. But I don’t think that the solution is just by simply ignoring them.
Ruse predicted that people like you would quote mine him, alex.
All he’s saying is that philosophy of science is a lot more complicated that scientists think, and he’s right.
He’s not saying evolution isn’t science, like you tried to make him sound like he was saying.
If you had the truth on your side, why do you have to lie?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm


David, the part I quoted sounds like what you sometimes say intelligent design means.
Epicureans may not have had a transcendent God, but few ancient religions did.
for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun

Come on, this is just like when you pretended Hitler didn’t believe man was made in God’s Image despite his explicitly saying so.
It seems it doesn’t matter how long a man’s been dead; you still can’t represent his views without distorting them.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm


The views of Epicurus and Lucretius are just inconveniently nuanced for you, David.
If you represented them fairly, you couldn’t attempt parallels with modern science. So you misrepresent them.
And if you’re TOO simplistic, people are going to think that since this Epicurus guy figured out atoms AND evolution two thousand years before anyone else, there must be something to what he thinks.



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Carl Sachs

posted August 13, 2009 at 10:54 pm


I’m not sure the passages you’ve quoted are sufficient to show that Epicureanism recommends masturbation over sexual relations — at best they show that one shouldn’t obsess over the beloved and torment oneself with ‘images’ of him or her. (Though much depends on how the ‘images’ are to be understood — ordinary images, like pictures? Or the images that come in through the senses, i.e. ‘images’ are perceptual experiences as such?)
I am quite willing to accept that a fundamental flaw with reductive naturalism in general, and perhaps Epicureanism is captive to this flaw, is the thought that normativity — our capacities for deliberate, reasoned reflection and for free, self-determined action — are absent from the natural world, if the natural world is conceived of as reductive naturalists do.
However, I am not so sure how much of a problem that should be for you, David. Maimonides wanted to be both a Orthodox Jew and an Aristotelian, and this synthesis is not without its tensions. One of the key differences between Epicureanism and Aristotelianism is that the latter insists on seeing normativity as built-in to the natural order, and the former sees in nature only ‘chance’ and ‘necessity’, not normativity. But the Halakhic tradition, understood in what seems to be the ‘natural’ way, consists of elaborating upon the claim that normativity is not natural, but rather a gift from the Creator to those beings created in His image. So whereas the Aristotelian tradition sees normativity as immanent to nature, the Halakhic tradition sees normativity as transcendent to it. Maimonides wrestles nobly with this tension, but I am not so sure how seriously you take it.
That is, someone who accepts that normativity is grounded in the Creator’s gift to us should have no problem at all with the Epicurean notion that nature, taken by itself, lacks normativity. One could say, rather, that nature lacks norms, so if there were no other source for norms, then there wouldn’t be any, but since there is another source for norms, then Epicureanism draws the wrong conclusion (that there are no norms at all) from the correct premise (that nature is norm-less).
From where I stand, someone who wanted to embed Darwinism within a broader metaphysical framework could do so as an Epicurean, as an Aristotelian, etc. and someone who is concerned with the status of normativity (of reason and freedom) vis-a-vis nature could see normativity as immanent or as transcendent to nature. So nothing here really stands in the way of a contemporary Maimonidean or Thomist from accepting Darwinism. Ken Miller is, I think, a good example of a Darwinian Thomist — though I wish that someone with his media exposure had a better grasp of the underlying philosophical problems and concepts.
But what doesn’t work, so far as I can tell, is to argue that the decline of traditional forms of authority is caused by the widespread acceptance of Darwinism-cum-Epicureanism. They are surely correlated, but the cause could just as well be some third thing, such as the rise of industrial capitalism and the dislocations of rural life that it brought in its wake.



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Turmarion

posted August 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm


Turmarion, what’s the question about Maimonides again?
I’d actually prioritize an answer to my question about what you mean by “ID” and “theistic evolution”, exemplified in your quote about Francis Collins above. I’d also prioritize any response you might have to my evaluation of West’s articles and at least summarizing what we discussed about it here.
However, regarding Maimonides, back here you cited Collins as saying, “Maimonides is often cited here as a reason to assume that if you have a conflict between science and the Torah, there’s been an error and a misinterpretation, not that science is evil.” You argue that this is “mangling Maimonides”. I then posted this:
“Read Rambam’s discussion of the incorporeality of God. Scripture clearly attributes a body to God. This is also clearly against reason. Maimonides goes on to argue that God is not corporeal.
From Interpreting Maimonides, by Marvin Fox, p. 40, courtesy of this site:
‘For Maimonides, however, the matter [of God's incorporeality] can be settled finally and definitively only by an appeal to reason. His guiding rule is that what reason finds incorrect and unacceptable cannot be the meaning of Scripture, no matter what it appears to say. In a move not unlike that of Zeno and the whole classical rationalist tradition, he in effect asserts that what reason finds to be impossible cannot be the case in Scriptural reality.’ (emphasis added)
From the Amazon site, regarding the author: “Marvin Fox is Philip W. Lown Professor Emeritus of Jewish Philosophy at Brandeis University and professor of philosophy and religion at Boston University.” Thus, I assume he knows what he’s talking about!
Once again, from The Guide for the Perplexed, M. Friedman translation, 2:25, emphasis added:
‘If, however, we accepted the Eternity of the Universe in accordance with the second of the theories which we have expounded above (ch. xxiii.), and assumed, with Plato, that the heavens are likewise transient, we should not be in opposition to the fundamental principles of our religion; this theory would not imply the rejection of miracles, but, on the contrary, would admit them as possible. The Scriptural text might have been explained accordingly, and many expressions might have been found in the Bible and in other writings that would confirm and support this theory. But there is no necessity for this expedient, so long as the theory has not been proved. As there is no proof sufficient to convince us, this theory need not be taken into consideration, nor the other one; we take the text of the Bible literally, and say that it teaches us a truth which we cannot prove; and the miracles are evidence for the correctness of our view.’
He’s saying that an eternal universe per se is not a problem, only the Aristotelian verson of it–the Platonic version is OK. He goes with the Scriptural version of creation since an eternal cosmos can’t be proved, but it is clear that he’s saying that if it could be proved it can be reconciled with Scripture.”
One could argue that Collins is a scientist, not a philosopher; but it seemed to me now and seems to me then that Fox would understand Rambam better than Kraemer, whom you also cited, or Collins, or either of us, and Fox pretty much says of Maimonides exactly what Collins said. Moreover, the quotes directly from Guide for the Perplexed that I cite here back that view up, too.
By the way, way back here, you accused me of “cherry picking” a quotation from Guide for the Perplexed, suggesting I read the whole chapter and referring me to this article of yours in the Jerusalem Post. Ironically, in your article there, you give as direct quotes from Rambam one measley sentence and four words from another! So who’s “cherry picking”? Anyway, the quote I gave above is, in the translation I’ve got, nearly one sixth of the entire chapter, and I think it is clear that it says the opposite of what you represented it to mean by using one sentence (i.e., Rambam says that certain interpretations of an infinite universe are compatible with Scripture, and allows that if it were proved that it would be necessary so to interpret Scripture). In any case, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve given enough here that anyone reading can make up his or her own mind about it.
My point is not so much a question, but a challenge: you use Maimonides to argue for ID, but you do so by very, very selective quote mining, ignoring context, and misrepresentation of what Rambam says. You also try to interpret him by quoting biograhers (not professional philosophers who specialize in Jewish philosophy) and a small number of Rabbis whose views of him seem to be eccentric or non-mainstream. In light of what I’m pointing out here, can you at least acknowledge that Collins’s (and my and Fox’s) intepretation of Maimonides’ position is at least legitimate (to say nothing of correct, which I think it is)?



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Turmarion

posted August 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm


My last post of necessity had a large number of links, which is why I assume it hasn’t come through. If you could get it up here, I’d very much appreciate it.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:20 am


Turmarion:you use Maimonides to argue for ID, but you do so by very, very selective quote mining, ignoring context, and misrepresentation of what Rambam says.
The DI project in a nutshell. They, and the “scientific creationist” movement before it (though they’re not really intellectually distinct) have been doing this for about 50 years, both with Biblical and secular sources; hence the “Quote Mine Project” at talkorigins.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/project.html
If they had the truth on their side, they wouldn’t have to lie about what people say.



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Glen Davidson

posted August 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm


The big difference between the Epicureans and those who see no support for god in the sciences (hardly just evolution) is that “no gods” was an a priori assumption by the Epicureans, and is an a posteriori claim by Dawkins and Jerry Coyne.
What’s funny in arguing these matters out is that often your religious person will claim that Christianity alone, or in combination with Judaism and Islam, is responsible for science–and then they argue (in essence) that this means that we should avoid normal scientific inference where it disagrees with a certain religious doctrine.
Of course the valuation of, especially, rationalism, and also empiricism to a lesser degree (Aristotle certainly had a place for it), comes largely from the pagan Greeks, and the Abrahamic religions inherited such ideas. They probably did manage to take out some of the pagan elements, which helped. Either way, however, the idea of the rational mind being in charge is largely Greek in origin, and Epicureanism is pretty much merely a part of that conception.
The trouble with David and his type is that they are wholly inconsistent in their valuation of rationalism and empiricism, insisting on it where convenient, and denying its soundness where it offends their religion. David’s an “Epicurean” by his own standards on most scientific matters, and denies same once life is found to exist by the same rules as the rest of the universe (even there he’s inconsistent, not arguing for vitalism (though it lurks within ID, don’t you doubt it), but deciding that magic is responsible for the marks of evolution found in life (at least the origin of the conserved elements is magical in their view).
The only “principle” we can get from the DI and ID is inconsistency, then.
And of course evolution is story telling. We have a story to tell, since we follow the evidence in order to reconstruct the story of evolution. Forensic science is equally good at story telling, but if we followed ID’s claims, we could never distinguish between biologic material and designed objects and arrangments.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm


Glen:is that “no gods” was an a priori assumption by the Epicureans
The Epicureans believed in gods. Gods were part of the natural order, though.



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Glen Davidson

posted August 14, 2009 at 5:57 pm


Oh, right, what I meant to say was something like “no gods creating the world.”
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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alex

posted August 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm


Glen Davidson wrote: “The big difference between the Epicureans and those who see no support for god in the sciences (hardly just evolution) is that “no gods” was an a priori assumption by the Epicureans, and is an a posteriori claim by Dawkins and Jerry Coyne.”
I guess you take Dawkins and Coyne at their word.



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Turmarion

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:24 pm


alex: Glen Davidson wrote: “‘[N]o gods’ was an a priori assumption by the Epicureans, and is an a posteriori claim by Dawkins and Jerry Coyne.”
I guess you take Dawkins and Coyne at their word.
Dawkins et al believe that evolution logically entails atheism, and thus that atheism is indeed a posteriori. You might think that they are mistaken in that assessment (which I do), but that’s not the point. They didn’t start out (as did Epicurus) with the assumption that God doesn’t exist (or exists but doesn’t interfere), but derived their atheism, rightly or wrongly, from their scientific studies.
Analogy: There is some evidence that aluminum in the human diet is correlated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. If I study the evidence, find it credible, and assume that aluminum consumption does indeed tend to cause Alzheimer’s, then this is an a posteriori (“after the fact”) assumption. That is, “after the fact” of looking at the evidence, I decide that aluminum correlates to Alzheimer’s.
If I held an a priori (“before the fact”) belief, it would be like this: I’ve always been convinced that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s, and when I see the study, I say, “Aha! I knew it all along!”
The difference is great. A posteriori beliefs are usually at least based on some perusal of the evidence. With a priori beliefs, a person is in effect shopping around for a way to prove something he believes already. For reasons that should be clear, the first method is usually more reliable.
Of course, it can be wrong, too. It may be that the aluminum/Alzheimer’s link is wrong; further evidence and research may show the supposed link to be spurious. This is why I must be open to new or conflicting evidence.
Thus, though I think Dawkins and co. are incorrect in asserting that evolution logically leads to atheism, at least they’re going in the right direction. Presumably they weren’t just atheists who went into evolutionary biology to “prove their point”. Whatever one might think of Epicurus’ philosophy, his view of the gods is indeed a priori and suspect for that reason.
Ironically, anti-evolutionists, young-Earthers, and IDers are the world’s biggest practitioners of having a priori beliefs and then shopping around desperately for “proofs”. I may disagree with Dawkins on the existence of God, and agree with IDers and anti-evolutionists that God exists, but at least Dawkins is going about it in the right direction, whereas the others have it exactly backwards!



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 10:59 pm


Turmarion:Ironically, anti-evolutionists, young-Earthers, and IDers are the world’s biggest practitioners of having a priori beliefs and then shopping around desperately for “proofs”.
One of the reasons I call the Discovery Institute fellows dishonest is that they claim to care about the science–but they make no efforts to refute the young earth creationists who make up the bulk of their supporters.
Young earth creationism is so scientifically disreputable that no one who cares about science should have any truck with it. But Discovery Institute is more than happy to take their money and their political clout. Which indicates two things:
1) DI is taking advantage of them, and so for tactical reasons does not wish to argue with them
2) DI’s emphasis on science is a smokescreen, intended to get a foot in the door to one day reestablish young earth creationism
I think both of these are operating to some extent. Of all the DI fellows, as far as I know only Michael Behe believes that humans are related to the other primates, and not a special creation. There is a wide range of views, among cdesign proponentsists, on how much of biology to believe. This explains David’s studied refusal to expound on what his version of evolution is. If he does, he alienates some of DI’s supporters and steps on the toes of some of the other DI fellows.
Young earth creationism is breathtaking in its bogosity. If it is right, then nuclear plants shouldn’t work, we shouldn’t be able to other galaxies, etc. There is so much science that is known to be right, which would have to be wrong, and the only reason young earth creationists can expound young earth creationism with a straight face is because of their almost complete scientific ignorance.
And DI won’t say boo to them. Yet they claim–in court, not in church of course–to be motivated by their concern for science.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:08 pm


For example, if for some reason quantum mechanics were under attack from the academic community (sometimes physical sciences do inspire animosity from humanities departments; supposedly physics is inherently racist and sexist, according to a few), there is no way I would accept support from, or condone the nutty beliefs of, people like Deepak Chopra who think that quantum mechanics gives you magical powers.
That’s because I care about science.



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Turmarion

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:16 pm


Great post, Gabriel–I’m in complete agreement.
This explains David’s studied refusal to expound on what his version of evolution is. If he does, he alienates some of DI’s supporters and steps on the toes of some of the other DI fellows.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what I think, too, but pressing him to do so couldn’t hurt.
I just don’t get Behe. As bogus as young-Earth-ism is, at least I can give a YEC type credit for intellectual consistency. If someone is so bought into a literal reading of Genesis that he thinks any other interpretation is a tool of the Devil, and science is just another of Lucifer’s instruments, then at least from that (admittedly cracked) perspective, rejection of science tout court at least makes “sense”.
Behe, though, in effect says “I believe completely in evolution except here, here, and here, where I don’t.” To which one can only say, WTF??!! He seems to be sincere about it, too (though I’m willing to be corrected). That he belongs to the Catholic Church, which (except for a few on the loony fringe of Traditionalism) has no problem with evolution makes even less sense.
I guess there’s no accounting for the jumble of contradictions that even intelligent people sometimes believe.



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Turmarion

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm


On a totally goofy note, it occurs that the title of this post should have been “Epicurus and Onan–Together at Last!” ;) Makes as much sense as David’s argumentation here….



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:10 am


at least I can give a YEC type credit for intellectual consistency.
I can’t. They accept the products of science while trying to destroy its methodology. There are some nuts out there who won’t accept blood transfusions or will see an exorcist instead of a doctor, but they all seem to drive and have TVs. Science can’t function with its guts ripped out, and engineering can only go so far without new scientific theories.



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alex

posted August 16, 2009 at 7:34 pm


Gabriel wrote: “If (Young earth creationism ) is right, then nuclear plants shouldn’t work, we shouldn’t be able to (see?) other (very distant?) galaxies, etc.”
I’m no YEC, but I disagree with both of your assertions.



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Turmarion

posted August 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm


alex: Gabriel wrote: “If (Young earth creationism ) is right, then nuclear plants shouldn’t work, we shouldn’t be able to (see?) other (very distant?) galaxies, etc.”
I’m no YEC, but I disagree with both of your assertions.
1. The age of the Earth can be determined with pretty good accuracy by the rates of radioactive decay. The amounts of uranium 235 and the lead isotope into which it decays, as well as of non-radiogenic lead, are consistent with an age of 4.5 billion years or so for Earth. Since YEC assumes the Earth to be only about 6000 years old, it is unable to explain the proportions of these isotopes. Either God created it to look like Earth is immensely old when it’s not (making Him a faker), or there is something about how radioactivity works that is different from our understanding of it. In short, it would be hard to see how nuclear power plants work, since uranium shouldn’t be acting the way it is observed to act.
2. Given that the speed of light is a universal constant, if Earth is 6000 years old, we shouldn’t be able to see anything further away than 6000 light years. Since we see things much further than that, either the speed of light has changed (which is bogus and ad hoc, as well us unprovable in principle, and non-falsifiable, thus non-scientific), or God made the light already “on the way” from distant objects (making Him once more a faker).
Thus, Gabriel is right on both points.
For an excellent and far more detailed discussion of this, I’d recommend Kenneth Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, which has an entire chapter on this issue.



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Your Name

posted August 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm


For #1, you wrote, “Since YEC assumes the Earth to be only about 6000 years old, it is unable to explain the proportions of these isotopes. Either God created it to look like Earth is immensely old when it’s not (making Him a faker)” You should at least acknowledge those works that explain how God made the world look old WITHOUT turning God into a faker. I’m not saying their explanation is correct; I’m saying that with their explanation, they can explain how nuclear reactors work. Kapeesh?
For #2, kindly see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_speed_of_light
Concerning Kenneth Miller? Great scientist, but not without serious flaws as well.
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/03/a_list_of_selected_responses_t.html



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Turmarion

posted August 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm


Your Name, or alex, if it’s you: For #1, you wrote, “Since YEC assumes the Earth to be only about 6000 years old, it is unable to explain the proportions of these isotopes. Either God created it to look like Earth is immensely old when it’s not (making Him a faker)” You should at least acknowledge those works that explain how God made the world look old WITHOUT turning God into a faker.
If God created the cosmos 6000 years or so ago, but made the ratios of various isotopes of uranium, lead, etc. such as to make the Earth appear to be billions of years, then it would seem that He deliberately created the world to appear deceptive, right? Or what other interpretation would you give to it? Seems like a faker to me. The same argument used here could equally be used to say that God created the universe last Thursday.
I’m not saying their explanation is correct; I’m saying that with their explanation, they can explain how nuclear reactors work.
If you assume that God created the world with uranium 235 with the half-life it has but in quantities that make the Earth seem billions of years older than it is, then yes, that would explain how reactors work–in fact, that’s the only way YEC could explain it. Such an argument, though, would be akin to saying that God made the Earth to seem far denser and more massive than it is, though it’s really hollow, so the Hollow Earth theory is actually correct. Neither argument could be falsified (which makes them not scientific) and both imply a Deity who is deliberately deceptive of His creatures–not the kind I’d believe in.
As to 2, I am aware of such theories. Two points: One, variable speed of light (VSL) theories were not proposed as ad hoc solutions to why we can see objects more distant than 6000 light years in a young cosmos–if you read the article you linked to, they were derived to solve other observed problems such as the uniformity of the cosmos. Such theories, like any other in science, will rise or fall on the basis of tests, experimentation, and their consistency with other areas of science, not on the basis of whether or not they jibe with Genesis. Second, I’d have to study these ideas in more detail (since the Wikipedia article is perforce brief), but I’m not getting that any of these physicists think their idea supports the idea of a young Earth.
E.g., if, as one of these theories holds, c was at one time 60 times greater than it is now, and even if one assumed that this persisted until historical times (which the theories don’t hold–they say this increased value for c was in the time right after the Big Bang), that would still make the most distant stars about 183,000,000 years old, still far, far more than the 6000 years of YEC.
BTW, if you’re not saying the explanation is correct, if you’re not a YECer, then why spend so much effort to defend their views? It’s not just a matter of radiation and the speed of light–for YEC to be true, almost all of modern science, directly or indirectly, must be wrong.
As to Miller, on the link you post, every single person criticizing him is a DI fellow. If you find some criticisms of his science from other sources, we’ll talk.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm


Your name:I’m not saying their explanation is correct; I’m saying that with their explanation, they can explain how nuclear reactors work. Kapeesh?
Nuclear fission might be possible if nuclear physics is wrong.
But nuclear reactors, as constructed today, are predicated on the existence of the decay products predicted by nuclear physics.
If uranium did not decay the way physics says it does, our nuclear reactors would not work and radioactive dating using uranium would also not work.
You can’t have one without the other. Sorry.
Otherwise you have to explain why God decided to make a universe which the laws of physics He decreed make the universe appear older than it really is.



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Your Name

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:51 am


“Seems like a faker to me. ”
Turmarion, I don’t mean to sound rude, but that’s what a superficial analysis yields.
“BTW, if you’re not saying the explanation is correct, if you’re not a YECer, then why spend so much effort to defend their views?”
Turmarion, I have spent very little effort on it.
“But nuclear reactors, as constructed today, are predicated on the existence of the decay products predicted by nuclear physics.”
I believe that even fundies believe that these products decay.
“Otherwise you have to explain why God decided to make a universe which the laws of physics He decreed make the universe appear older than it really is.”
Gabriel Hanna, You’re absolutely right, and I admire the polite way you put it. But it was not my goal to give the explanation, only to point out that others do explain it, to THEIR satisfaction.
(For what it’s worth, sometimes “Your Name” appears instead of “alex.” I believe others have had similar problems on this blog.)



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alex

posted August 18, 2009 at 11:53 am


“As to Miller, on the link you post, every single person criticizing him is a DI fellow. If you find some criticisms of his science from other sources, we’ll talk. ”
Turmarion, when you’re willing to put aside your dismissal of anything DI writes, and read those articles, then we’ll talk.



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Turmarion

posted August 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm


alex: “Seems like a faker to me.”
Turmarion, I don’t mean to sound rude, but that’s what a superficial analysis yields.
OK, so what would be your perception of a God who creates a universe that contains false evidence of age? To say “His motives are inscrutable” is a cop-out, since any believer thinks that some things about God can be known. I follow Descartes in believing that God does not deceive–we may not understand Him, but he doesn’t tell lies. I can’t see how creating a 6000-year-old universe that gives every appearance of being 15 billion years old can be construed as anything but a lie. However, if you can give some more charitable interpretation, I’d certainly like to hear it.
As to tone, I’d draw a distinction. I actually know some people who are YECers, and I am infallibly polite to them. They are good people. Unless a context came up in which it was relevant, I’d never even bring it up the age of the cosmos as a point of argument. My attitude is that it’s their business what they believe, and believing something as absurd as YEC doesn’t ipso facto make them stupid or bad people. I would always treat such people with the same respect with which I treat anyone.
However, I feel no constraint to treat the idea with respect. A person who sincerely and invincibly believes that 2 + 2 = 5 might be a wonderful person, maybe a better one than I am; but the belief that 2 + 2 = 5 is absurd and deserves no consideration at all. If someone were trying to get that idea into a math curriculum, I’d have to oppose it, since it would be attempting to teach falsehood. Maybe the motives of the people pushing it might be good, but that doesn’t change the objective fact that they’d be pushing error.
Likewise, there is not one shred of remotely plausible evidence to support YEC, no more than there is to support 2 + 2 being 5. The people who hold YEC may be nice people, and as long as it’s their opinion, that’s fine, but when they try to influence education or public policy to accept falsehood (e.g. the Kansas Board of Education a few years back), they must be opposed.
As to your seeming defense of YEC, maybe I’m not getting your motives. If you think that the people who hold the belief should be treated with respect, I fully agree–maybe that’s your point. If you think the belief itself deserves respect and equal hearing in the public square, well, I’m sorry–it is no more worthy of such than the flat Earth theory. If you are not a YEC, but think the idea deserves respect or equality, I’d sure be interested to know why.
“Otherwise you have to explain why God decided to make a universe which the laws of physics He decreed make the universe appear older than it really is.”
abriel Hanna, You’re absolutely right, and I admire the polite way you put it. But it was not my goal to give the explanation, only to point out that others do explain it, to THEIR satisfaction.
See, this is another example of your being frustratingly unclear. Of course YECers explain such things to THEIR satisfaction. So do those who believe in the hollow Earth, UFO’s, pixies, fairies, or any other, ahem, fringe belief. There are some things where reason and empiricism can’t say yes or no–e.g. the existence of God, which strictly speaking can’t be proved or disproved, but for which their are persuasive (but not conclusive) philosophical arguments. Others, though, such as the shape and age of the Earth, are well-established by reason and science. Anyone is entitled to any wacky belief he wishes to hold, but beliefs that directly contradict observed reality deserve no serious hearing in the public square. Or if you think so, it’s your burden of proof to explain why.
Turmarion, when you’re willing to put aside your dismissal of anything DI writes, and read those articles, then we’ll talk.
I’ve read enough by enough DI fellows to have very little confidence in them. Also, if you know anything about science, the debates within the scientific community, evolutionary biology included, are as sharp and vehement as anything between them and ID. Thus, the fact that no one outside the DI seems to take issue with Miller’s science is telling.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm


Gabriel Hanna, You’re absolutely right, and I admire the polite way you put it. But it was not my goal to give the explanation, only to point out that others do explain it, to THEIR satisfaction.
Right, but we were talking about what IS and IS NOT science.
If God created the Universe 6000 years ago and made it look old, science cannot tell you that.
In addition, God might have created the Universe FIVE MINUTES AGO, including our memories of this discussion. Science cannot tell you that either, and YECs cannot refute it.
If you take a position that flies in the face of ANY evidence at all, you have no way to disprove an even more ludicrous suggestion.
The result is a sort of mental abdication from ever knowing anything but what you want to believe.



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alex.

posted August 18, 2009 at 6:42 pm


“Thus, the fact that no one outside the DI seems to take issue with Miller’s science is telling. ”
I was mainly talking about how he misrepresents ID, over and over, an issue very few scientists are willing to point out.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm


I was mainly talking about how he misrepresents ID, over and over, an issue very few scientists are willing to point out.
IDists themselves can’t agree on what it is. David Klinghoffer believes in evolution but refuses to discuss details. Bill Dembski says intelligent design is just the Logos of the Gospel of John recast in the idiom of information theory, and that Christ is the completion of all scientific theories. I’ll bet David doesn’t agree. Dembski rejects the common descent of humans and primates but Behe accepts it.
So who is to say what “ID” is?



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alex

posted August 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm


Ugh.
On the things that the IDers agree on, Miller screws up on.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm


On the things that the IDers agree on, Miller screws up on.
What exactly do the IDers agree on?
Don’t they agree that there is some sort of empirical evidence that shows that God–oh all right “the Designer”–is responsible for what biologists claim is accomplished by natural processes?
But none of them can agree on what that evidence would be or what it would apply to–Dembski says humans didn’t evolve and Behe says they did. They’re both looking at the same thing and they both believe in ID.
I have no confidence that any of them are trying to do science. They are trying to give religion a scientific fig leaf, that’s all.



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alex

posted August 19, 2009 at 1:03 am


Gabriel, you’re going too deep into something very simple. Just look at that link I gave and see for yourself if you think Kenneth Miller isn’t guilty of misrepresenting his opponents.
As far as “giving religion a scientific fig leaf” why not check out atheist Bradley Monton’s book at http://spot.colorado.edu/~monton/BradleyMonton/ID.html



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Turmarion

posted August 19, 2009 at 9:19 am


Just to be sporting, I took up your challenge re the link you gave, alex. Get ready for a long post.
Re the Luskin article: The whole thing is a smokescreen about the words “random and undirected” in Miller’s textbook. As I’ve pointed out at length before, something can be “random” and still be “directed” by God, for whom nothing is random. Also, people misunderstand “random”. If it rains, the pattern that streams form is “random” in the sense that nothing is directing them, but not “random”, since they always flow downward, and around large obstacles. “Random” doesn’t mean “anything can happen”. In any case, I agree with Miller that “random and undirected” isn’t a strictly scientific statement, but since what seems “random and undirected” to us isn’t so to God, I don’t have a problem with such a phrase. It is more compact than saying something like, “Evolution is a process which to all appearances from the perspective of limited human observation seems to be random and undirected, but which could be, from the point of view of theists, directed by God, for whom nothing is random.” I might also point out that the entire article is about the words “random and undirected” and when they were in the textbook, but do not in the least address Miller’s actual arguments! I mean, give me a break!
Re the Well article on moths: check this out. If you note, one of the critics of Kettlewell was Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist who opposes ID. The issue wasn’t whether evolution happened, but whether the pepper moth studies were properly structured. Note that Majerus himself pointed out later, better studies, and argued that the creationist community was misinterpreting the situation. Also note that Majerus, Coyne, and others all agreed that Judith Hooper’s book about the whole brouhaha was “littered with errors, misrepresentations, misinterpretations and falsehoods”. BTW, I might also point out that this is an example of what I mean. As exemplified by Coyne vs Kettlewell, there are often very sharp and sustained disagreements in evolutionary biology, as in any vital branch of science. This is how science advances. In ID, no one ever seems to disagree, at least in public. This in itself is suspicious.
Re Behe: I’m not a molecular biologist, but it seems here to be a matter of interpretation. He does not deny “micromutations” as he says, but essentially argues that since the setup was in a lab, it is “stitched together by intelligent intervention”. Of course, all laboratory experiments by definition result from “intelligent intervention” (measuring devices don’t exist in nature!), but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the conclusions. If I drop an object in a lab and measure it, concluding that the acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 meters per second per second, the venue is “artificial”, but that doesn’t mean the measurement is wrong! Likewise, the adaptive pressures produced in the experiment were artificially produced, but the mutations were of a type that would presumably equally well be possible in nature, under the right circumstances. Adaptive evolution by mutation has been observed in the wild, too, but IDers don’t want to accept that, either.
Re the Dembski article: A very interesting quote, emphasis added: “Miller is convinced that intelligent design must be after logical certainty and mathematical proof in eliminating natural mechanisms for the emergence of certain types of biological complexity and that if ID proponents cannot attain that level of certainty, then our efforts are wasted. What’s more, Miller rightly maintains that no logical impossibility prevents the Darwinian mechanism from bringing about Behe’s irreducibly complex biochemical systems — taken as a mere conceptual possibility, the TTSS might be a precursor to the bacterial flagellum via a Darwinian evolutionary pathway (absent any details, just about anything is after all logically or conceptually possible). Thus, if strict logical certainty were our aim, our case against Darwinian evolution would indeed “collapse,” much as any putative theorem in mathematics would “collapse” if the justification offered did not follow as a strict logical deduction from accepted axioms or premises. But logical certainty or mathematical proof were never the issue.
Kinda shoots his own case in the foot, huh? If “mathematical proof” were the issue, then why is Dembski, a mathematician, not a biologist, even involved in this?
I’d point out two further things: one, Dembski has never published any major papers in his mathematical field (even non-ID-related) in any major journal. Two, there have been plenty of mathematicians who have debunked the arguments Dembski makes in No Free Lunch and elsewhere–here’s an example.
Re Behe’s article on blood clotting: I won’t go into detail–once more, I’m not a molecular biologist. However, two things: One, many have pointed out that Behe’s “irreducible complexity” has no real robust definition. Over the years, on some issues, Behe has retreated on some specific claims as to what is “irreducibly complex”. Since this is the crux of his argument here, I think it is very weak. There is one interesting statement that Behe makes that he, as a PhD in biology, should know better than to make: “However, if a trait is neutral, providing no advantage, it is far, far less likely to spread….” (emphasis added) Now this is simple statistics. A helpful trait will be selected for and thus will tend to spread in the population, and a harmful trait will be selected against, and thus tend to die out in the population. By definition, a neutral trait is neither selected for nor against. Thus, there will be a 50% chance that it will pass on, and the same that it will not. Fifty per cent is hardly “far, far less likely to spread”–it’s even odds!
Re the Witt article: Miller isn’t inaccurate here. As Gabriel points out, ID is all over the place on what it says. The fundamental point (which, as you say, that all IDers agree on), which is that an intelligent Designer is behind life, is not, in fact, falsifiable. On the other hand, ID has from time to time made a few predictions–a good example is in Miller’s book, in which he cites, I think, Behe himself (I’ll have to go back to the book and check to be sure), as saying that a transitional form of whales from land to sea-living wouldn’t be found. However, such a form has been found. Since the predictions like this have proved wrong, then to the extent that ID has made predictions, it is indeed both falsifiable and falsified.
alex: Just look at that link I gave and see for yourself if you think Kenneth Miller isn’t guilty of misrepresenting his opponents.
The articles on the aspects of the trial are the typical DI smokescreen about technicalities of the law, whether the Santorum amendment was interpreted right, etc. Please note: none of this has one iota of relevance as to whether the science behind evolution is correct or not! If I were testifying at a trial against someone who thinks the Earth is flat, it wouldn’t matter if I misunderstood the law, or misrepresented aspects of what my opponent says (e.g. thinking he says the Earth is a flat square rather than a flat disc), or such–the fact remains that the Earth is a sphere, not flat, and no amount of legalities will alter that fact. Just scanning through, it doesn’t seem to me that Miller is in fact misrepresenting his opponents, but once again, this is a smokescreen.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll touch on it briefly again. Lemaître came up with the Big Bang theory, which was initially opposed in the physics community because it smacked too much, to them, of the traditional idea of creation (most physicists then held that the cosmos was eternal), and becasuse Lemaître was a Catholic priest. However, Lemaître and others did research and made predictions, and guess what? Those predictions were borne out by Hubble and others. Guess what else? When the evidence was overwhelming, even the atheists and agnostics came around to the Big Bang (if not theism). When ID can set out actual predictions and hypotheses beyond the unfalsifiable “designer” hypothesis, and when those predictions start getting confirmed, then they’ll get a hearing, just as Big Bang proponents did. Until then, no dice.
As far as “giving religion a scientific fig leaf” why not check out atheist Bradley Monton’s book….
From the website you cite, emphasis and comments added: “Monton does not defend intelligent design as true–he thinks it is most likely false. Instead he defends it as a hypothesis worth taking seriously. He argues convincingly that it can be formulated as a scientifically testable hypothesis [if this is true, then refer back to my previous paragraph. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there has been no substantiation for ID yet], and that there is some evidence for it–not as much evidence as its supporters claim there is, but some evidence.”
Sounds like damning with faint praise. BTW, he’s an analytical philosopher, and I’ve always been rather suspicious of analytical philosophy anyway, for reasons there’s no time to explain.
I don’t really have the time, energy, or motivation to evaluate the rest of the articles. After this many, they’re all falling into the same dreary pattern.
By the way, you never had anything to say about my response re YEC.



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Turmarion

posted August 19, 2009 at 9:27 am


One thing I just can’t resist. On the blog at Monoton’s site, he quotes Michael Behe thus (emphasis added):
“Those who worry about ‘interference’ should relax. The purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of the natural laws. (Behe, Edge of Evolution 232)”
Gee, that’s what I’ve been saying for months–sounds like theistic evolution, not ID! Your thoughts on this, David?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 11:56 am


Gabriel, you’re going too deep into something very simple. Just look at that link I gave and see for yourself if you think Kenneth Miller isn’t guilty of misrepresenting his opponents.
Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t, but his opponents cannot agree on what “represents” them, alex.



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alex

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm


” BTW, he’s an analytical philosopher, and I’ve always been rather suspicious of analytical philosophy anyway, for reasons there’s no time to explain.”
And I’m suspicious of scientists who are clueless about philosophy.
“By the way, you never had anything to say about my response re YEC.”
I thought I did. This post his huge; which response?
“Maybe (Miller) is and maybe he isn’t, but his opponents cannot agree on what “represents” them, alex.”
Take it on a case by case basis, please (Like Turmarion attemted to, but kept missing where Miller screwed up). Example: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/08/ken_miller_attacks_a_straw_man.html#more



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm


Sorry, Alex. Behe WROTE the chapter of Of Pandas and People which said
“When a container of liquid, like a can of soda, springs a leak, the fluid quickly drains out. However, when a person suffers a cut it ordinarily bleeds for only a short time before a clot forms to stop the bleeding. Soon the clot hardens and eventually the cut heals over. Blood clot formation seems so familiar to us that most people don’t give it much thought. However, biochemical investigation has shown that blood clotting is a very complex, intricately-woven system containing a score of interdependent protein parts. The absence or defective operation of any of several of these components will cause the system to fail, and blood will not clot at the proper time or at the proper place.”
He’s not misrepresenting Behe at all. Behe said somethig he’s had to take back, because it’s wrong, and Luskin and Behe are trying to accuse their critics of misunderstanding them instead of owning up.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm


Compare that passage with Darwin’s Black Box:
““When a container of liquid – like a carton of milk, or a tank truck filled with gasoline – springs a leak, the fluid drains out. The rate of flow can depend on the thickness of the liquid (for example, maple syrup will leak more slowly than alcohol), but eventually it all comes out. No active process resists it. In contrast, when a person suffers a cut it ordinarily bleeds for only a short time before a clot stops the flow; the clot eventually hardens, and the cut heals over. Blood clot formation seems so familiar to us that most people don’t give it much thought. Biochemical investigation, however, has shown that blood clotting is a very complex, intricately woven system consisting of a score of interdependent protein parts. The absence of, or significant defects in, any one of a number of the components causes the system to fail: blood does not clot at the proper time or at the proper place.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:46 pm


Miller’s rebuttal is here:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2009/01/02/smoke-and-mirrors-whales-and-lampreys-a-guest-post-by-ken-miller/
First, there’s a perfectly good reason why I compared the clotting treatment in Pandas to Darwin’s Black Box (DBB). They are indeed nearly identical, and that’s because Behe himself wrote both of them. Second, Behe actually did state that the entire pathway is irreducibly complex in DBB. Casey might have skipped over those pages, but I didn’t. Third, as a result, the absence of any components of the cascade in any organism is indeed a direct contradiction of Behe’s formulation of ID. And finally, even Luskin’s “irreducible core” has fallen apart as the result of the most recent research findings on the system.
Casey seems to forget — or to ignore — the fact that Behe has never even attempted to do any scientific research to show that he is right. He ignores the fact that ID’s critics have produced a boatload of research showing Behe to be wrong while Behe himself has done no research on the system that might support Luskin. As a result, his attempts at rehabilitating the clotting cascade as an “icon” of ID are a complete failure….
…So, where did I get the idea that Behe’s argument for ID actually included the whole system, just like Pandas’s treatment? Easy. Unlike Mr. Luskin, I read Behe’s whole book — including the parts before and after page 86, and I took Michael Behe at his word, as you will see.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm


Alex, don’t you mind being conned by these people? Casey Luskin lied about what was in Behe’s book and lied about what Miller said about it!
Aren’t you irritated with them?
You can see that the passages in the two different books are almost identical and that they say exactly what Ken Miller said they said.
Anyway, coming from people who routinely “quote” people by stringing together individual “words” with sentences they “made up”, I am reminded of the habitual liar who is so indignant when something he said turns out to be true and people didn’t believe him.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm


More from Miller:
Just keep reading. He doesn’t actually limit his “irreducible core” at all in the way that Luskin now pretends. Instead, on the very next page [p. 87] he discusses the hopelessness of evolution being able to change even a “slightly simplified system” gradually into a “complex, intact system.” Why? Because adding even a single step to the pathway is beyond the range of evolution. As Behe puts it, “From the beginning, a new step in the cascade would require both a proenzyme and also an activating enzyme to switch on the proenzyme at the correct time and place.” Then he drops the bombshell that Luskin seems not to have noticed (or, at least he wasn’t willing to tell his readers about):
“Since each step necessarily requires several parts, not only is the entire blood-clotting system irreducibly complex, but so is each step in the pathway.” [DBB, p. 87]
Got that? The “entire blood-clotting system” is “irreducibly complex,” and “so is each step in the pathway.” Which Michael Behe should we believe? The pre-Dover trial one who described the whole magnificent system as an argument for ID? Or the one who flip-flops to a tiny core of just four proteins? Or the one who flip-flops again a page later, and once again says that the “entire blood-clotting system” and each of its steps are irreducibly complex?
I wasn’t blowing any “smoke” when I characterized Behe’s views as pertaining to the entire clotting pathway in both books. What I was actually doing, unlike Luskin, was taking Behe’s claims in their totality. Behe really did argue that the whole system is irreducibly complex, and that it would be impossible for evolution to add so much as a single step to it. That’s why I testified to the effect those missing clotting factors in the pufferfish were a fatal blow to Behe’s argument. And so they are. The only mirror I held up to the Court was the one that reflected Behe’s own written arguments in Pandas and DBB.



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Turmarion

posted August 19, 2009 at 1:10 pm


alex: ” BTW, he’s an analytical philosopher, and I’ve always been rather suspicious of analytical philosophy anyway, for reasons there’s no time to explain.”
I hold to this, but I’ve looked at Monton’s website and blog, and the book might be worth taking a look at. He certainly doesn’t seem to be in favor of ID per se.
And I’m suspicious of scientists who are clueless about philosophy.
To some extent you have a point, but in fairness, it’s not a scientist’s job to philosophize. There are those who write on the philosophy of science, who are often conversant with both. As long as there is fruitful dialogue between the two realms, I don’t think that each individual scientist necessarily needs to be competent in philosophy.
“By the way, you never had anything to say about my response re YEC.”
I thought I did. This post his huge; which response?
You kept saying I was being rude to say that a God who creates a 6000-year-old world that looks billions of years old is a faker. I asked what other kind of interpretation one could give that, and also explained why though I can respect YEC people, the theory deserves no respect.
Take it on a case by case basis, please (Like Turmarion attempted to, but kept missing where Miller screwed up)
Look, as I said, I’m not a molecular biologist and I don’t have Behe’s or Miller’s books to hand so I can go through them in detail to check references, so I can’t really comment meaningfully on the post you give here or the others by Behe. It seems that the argument in the current link you give is over which part of the clotting process Behe is claiming to be “irreducibly complex”, and whether Miller is accurate in which part he says Behe says is IC.
As I pointed out, there are biologists, mathematicians, and other scientists that have argued that the very concept of “irreducible complexity” is bogus, being incapable of a clear, robust definition, and thus incapable of meaningful proof or disproof. For example, see here and here. If the concept of IC as a whole is untenable, then it doesn’t matter which part of the blood clotting process is supposedly “irreducibly complex”, right?
Once more, this is a typical DI article. Rather than dealing with actual experimental evidence, it endlessly parses words: “He said I said this in my book, but this is what I really said!” If Behe et al would spend more time doing actual research to prove their points, like Lemaître did, rather than argue about whether they were quoted right, maybe they’d get a hearing.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm


It seems that the argument in the current link you give is over which part of the clotting process Behe is claiming to be “irreducibly complex”, and whether Miller is accurate in which part he says Behe says is IC.
Miller is 100% accurate about what Behe said, THEN.
Now he’s backpedaling and pretending that it is somehow Miller’s fault. Oh, it is to laugh.
Some philosophy for Alex:
What does “irreducible core” mean?
It means that when your opponent shows that a part of your “irreducible core” isn’t necessary, then you claim the REMAINING parts now form the “irreducible core” and that your opponent has misrepresented your position all along.
And when your opponent shows another part is unnecesary, you do the same thing again with fewer parts. Presumably the process continues until you get down to an “irreducible core” of ONE part, which clearly cannot be removed, and you triumphantly claim victory while abandoning all of your previous positions.
We call that “special pleading”.



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Turmarion

posted August 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Gabriel, thanks for the heavy lifting on the Behe-Miller thing. I suspected Behe was being slippery but I didn’t have the materials at hand or the time to check it out. Of course, the whole concept of “irreducible complexity” is slippery, so even if Behe had been right, it wouldn’t matter. If your argument is based on something bogus, it doesn’t do to argue as to which part of it is based on bogosity. It’s like a flat-Earther getting riled because his argument that the Earth is a flat disc was misrepresented as being that the Earth is a flat square!



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Your Name

posted August 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm


“I don’t think that each individual scientist necessarily needs to be competent in philosophy. ”
Yeah, me neither. Just the ones who publish books arguing the topic of evolution.
“You kept saying I was being rude to say that a God who creates a 6000-year-old world that looks billions of years old is a faker. I asked what other kind of interpretation one could give that, and also explained why though I can respect YEC people, the theory deserves no respect. ”
I don’t think I ever said you were rude. I did say that I wanted to leave the answer to your question to those who’ve already answered it. Off hand, I can’t remember the name of the philosophers who have done so, sorry.
“As I pointed out, there are biologists, mathematicians, and other scientists that have argued that the very concept of “irreducible complexity” is bogus, being incapable of a clear, robust definition, and thus incapable of meaningful proof or disproof. ”
Lots of things in science lack robust definitions. Like “species,” or even the word “science.” (I’m not sure if I should add the word “too” to the first sentence. (smirk))
“Once more, this is a typical DI article.”
Sounds like of an echo of a typical evolutionist’s article.
“Miller is 100% accurate about what Behe said, THEN.
Now he’s backpedaling and pretending that it is somehow Miller’s fault. Oh, it is to laugh.”
Do you have proof to that?
Gotta say g’bye to you folks. I have more productive things to do, and I’ve decided to go do them.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted August 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm


Alex:Do you have proof to that?
Yeah, three or four posts you pretended not to see, at 12:52 pm and a few farther back.
If I got got in as big a whopper as you just did, I’d leave too.



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frank

posted August 21, 2009 at 12:13 am


“Casey Luskin lied about what was in Behe’s book and lied about what Miller said about it! Aren’t you irritated with them?”
Luskin explains here how he did not lie, and lays into Kenneth Millerr
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/08/ken_millers_double_standard_he.html#more



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