Interesting Debate (I think at least)

I just posted a couple of long and involved responses to comments on two of my previous posts, this one about the Creation Museum and this one about my Great Prayer of Thanksgiving I use at my internship site. I’ve found them interesting and engaging so far, and I figure, rather than write two new long posts, I’ll just refer you all to the writing that’s going on in the comments sections of those two posts.

If things continue, I’ll probably end up posting about some topics that are coming up for a new volley of comments. We’ll see.

20 thoughts on “Interesting Debate (I think at least)

  1. Doug,As an amateur theologian and a highly trained scientist, my position is that Intelligent Design, or Scientific Creationism, or whatever other name anybody comes up with is non-science and really really bad religion. The most definitive and objective statement on the subject that I know of came from Judge Jones who ruled on the Kitzmiller vs Dover School District case. You can find all the original court documents at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District_trial_documentsIt’s a pretty devastating ruling against the proponents of ID as being anything but religion. But he does not render an opinion on whether it is good or bad religion. I think it is bad religion and bad theology because it tries to force God into the confines of His creation in such a way that science ought to be able to measure. God is not part of creation. The whole reason we call the incarnation a mystery is precisely this point. It is a complete misunderstanding of both God and faith to resent science for not being able to measure God or deduce faith. To sit there throwing rocks at science and saying “aha, you don’t know everything therefore God is” violates creation and sets up faith to be destroyed the moment an answer is actually found. The real criminals are the pseudo scientists who sit there with scientific credentials trying to pass off a particular type of religion as science. They are literally bearing false witness for the purpose of fooling people who are not trained in science and who can’t tell the difference. They are on record committing perjury and the judge was not amused. They make a mess out of science and make a worse mess out of faith. To what purpose I have no idea.I am pretty sure one day we will learn precisely the mechanism by which apparently lifeless atoms came together to form life, and I am pretty sure we will find that given the right conditions life is as inevitable as gravity. Just like a child matures from a single undifferentiated cell into a fully grown adult with hands that look nothing like a heart, and replicates and ages and dies, so is all of life. It starts with a few atoms that can’t help but come together in a certain way, and it grows into creatures that look nothing like each other, and others that look very much alike, who replicate, age and die. Life and evolution of life is just as inevitable as any other property of the universe. And it is way too cool.Jodie

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  2. Jodie,As an amatuer theologan and higly trained contractor, my position is that I.D. has not claimed to be science, nor has it claimed to be religion. It has claimed that things that appear to have been designed, may in fact have been designed. Regarding the ststement by the judge, we all know that judges are never biased and that their opinions are always completely impartial, and the U.S. legal system is unfailingly honest.Finally, the point that most who believe in creation are making is that God transcends his creation. I fail to see how that puts God in a box if he is beyond what was created. However to say that matter or the material world is all that ever existed and that that is the only place from which we are able to seek answers simply excludes God from the box entirely. Maybe it puts him in another box, but it limits him in a way defined by man. While there are some who may be content to sit and simply throw rocks at science most of us who are struggling with this issue see questions that scientists can’t or won’t answer. I.D. proposes another answer. The scientific community of course has never lied, never printed false evidence in textbooks, and certainly never started their resarech with a materialist presupposition. Their obviously are presuppositions on both sides of this and part of the problem is that one side won’t admit theirs. You could almost call what you’ve described in the last paragraph a miracle. Maybe someday science will be able to test for miracles.Craig

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  3. Jodie,Based on my little bit of reading and whatnot, I maintain that ID and creation science are essentially Christian apologetics. They don’t seem to be science in the usual sense. A science based on miracles would be very very difficult to apply to anything at all, and reverts to a debate over Biblical interpretation. For me, ID is only meaningful if we’re looking thoroughly for Designers. ID theorists should be looking through creation myths throughout the world and analyzing them, as well as supporting SETI and that sort of thing. If you’re in favor of an old-earth creationism, the Hindu myths are really the best candidate, since they posit a succession of universes lasting billions of years in their writings.Obviously, my bias is to talk about the Christian God as the creator, but every religious person will have that bias, so I’m not sure how much weight it should have if we’re really theorizing about intelligent design.

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  4. Craig,You point out in your first paragraph precisely why the “debate” between ID and Evolution isn’t a debate at all. Because properly speaking ID isn’t even competing in the same arena. It says that things that “appear” to be designed are. Appear to whom? In what way? How can you extrapolate from a life form anything at all about a designer? And How can you test those extrapolations?Answer: you can’t.Therefore, ID belongs in philosophy or religious studies, but it doesn’t belong in biological discussions. I’m all for questioning the presuppositions of others, and even shooting holes in the scientific method. I think there are all sorts of problem with an empirical/materialist worldview. However, that doesn’t itself discredit the theories, ideas and products that have come out of that worldview. Neither do flaws or hoaxes do much damage to a theory which has been broadly debated, questioned and tested by thousands and thousands of biologists for the past century and a half – many of whom have been theists.Aristotle, Plato, the Bible, the Ancient Babylonians, and virtually every other culture group have forwarded possible explanations for the origin of human life. None of them were scientific in the modern sense. It is fine to subscribe to one or the other explanation as the most persuasive to you. It is not fine to trot out an explanation as if it were something it clearly is not.

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  5. Aric,Interesting response, In my career of 27 yeasr as a contractor I am quite capable of determining design. If have seen for years what happens if one doesn’t design a component to perform a specific function. So it seams like a logical conclusion that purpose and design can be inferred if not actually determined by examining how well something performs its intended purpose. My contention is not that I.D. is intrinsically right or that evolution is intrinsically wrong, it is that the people who define what evolution/science is refuse to conside all possible answers. I realize that things that are outside of the material realm aren’t testable according to the scientific method, neither is much of the evolutionary hypothesis. This doesn’t mean that one or the other isn’t true, just that we can’t test them accordingto the scientific method. As to your contention that science and faith are in two different realms I would refer you to Francis Scheaffer’s excellent writings on this arbitrary dualism or Nancy Pearcy’s treatment of the same. They say it much better than I can paraphrase them.I would agree that flaws or hoaxes would normally do little damage to a hypothesis if they are found and corrected. However much of the popular case for evolution is built on this false (in at least one case intentionally so) “evidence”. How seriously can an honest inquirer take a group of people who refuse to repudite falshood. Could you direct me to the multiplicity of test results that you are referring to that confirm the hypothesis. I mean even Francis Collins is questioning the Darwinist orthodoxy. I don’t subscribe to theistic evolution, it seems like the worst of all possible explainations, but to the majority of the scientific community who define evolution as unsupervised or unguided bringing God into the matter at all will cause problems.You are of course correct in that all cultures have explanations for the origin of life. The problem that we encounter is that at some point one of them (or possibly one yet undiscovered) will accuratelt represent what happened. That brings me to the reason why this matters ultimately this is the Search for Truth. No matter what we think might have happened, of how we feel about it, or what the theory du jour might be, as long as any one reasonable possibility(reluctantly I will include the recent proposition that life on earth is the result of aliens or some such) is excluded from consideration then the debate will not be complete.You are right it is fine to subscribe to whatever hypothesis you would like. It is certainly not fine to portray something as fact when it clearly is not. It’s also not really about what we believe to be true it’s about what is True.Craig

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  6. No Craig,In speaking of allowing for God to direct evolution as a scientific alternative you said“as long as any one reasonable possibility(reluctantly I will include the recent proposition that life on earth is the result of aliens or some such) is excluded from consideration then the debate will not be complete.”There is no debate Craig. There are only religious folks trying to re-define science to include religion to the detriment of both science and religion.Science (and all scientific inquiry) stops being science the moment you appeal to divine intervention (or magic) to explain something you don’t understand. Aliens could still do the trick but not God. Even if you look at nature and see what you are sure is a designer fingerprint (and we often call her ‘mother nature’), for science to work you have to keep your nose to the grind until you find another explanation. By definition. Were it not for that rule we would still be lancing your veins to cure you from the common cold, and you would have to respond to this post by pony express.Jodie

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  7. Jodie,Maybe you didn’t read what I wrote, or I didn’t explain it well enough. I am not claiming that God creating the world falls under the category of science. What I am claiming is that it is no more improbable than the Alien hypothesis. They may be verifiable (or not) in different realms but that does not mean that they could not ever explain the origins of the universe. We all are free to look in what ever box we want for the answer, and able to do with that what we will. You (I mean this in the universal sense) do not have the standing to tell anyone that what they believe about an unprovable hypothesis is wrong. You may think, like many in the scientific community do, that people who believe in creation are stupid, deluded, insane, or evil. That is your perogative. The other option is that they/we are honestly seeking the Truth. However, to allow for that and stop demonizing would take some grace. A concept that evolution would be hard pressed to explain. Further we both know that no materialist scientist would ever make room for God directed evolution, for precisely the reasons that you have given. As far as your assertion that if we keep our nose to the girndstone we will find the answers, by all means, keep looking, knock yourself out, have a ball, good luck, when you find the answer that can be verified by the same standard you use for creation let us know. I can’t wait. As to your earlier post reagrding trying to force God into the confines of his creation, that sounds more like panthesim than anything else. But if I am trying to put God in a box (and I’m sure we all do insome way) I want my box to be as big as possible. I want to allow for the possibility that “God spoke and the unverse came into existance” I want to allow for the fact that He could have arranged things just so. I want to allow for the fact that in the process of that arranging, that God left fingerprints for us to discover. I want to allow for the fact that “the heavens (do in fact) declare the glory of his name. I want to allow for the fact that when I see the sun rise over the mountains (Haiti, and CO are my preferences) that it’s not an accident. I want to allow for the fact that the same God who did that knew me in my mothers womb. That he knows the number of hairs on my head, and of my days. I want to allow for the possibility that that God entered time and space to give us a chance be be in a right relationship with him. If that makes me stupid, or misguided, or deluded, or insane or evil then so be it. Sorry for rambling but I believe in a big God and it bugs me when people try to put Him in a smaller box than He deserves or worse exclude him from the box altogetherCraigP.S. In what discipline and capacity is your scientific experience

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  8. Craig,You said “I want to allow for the fact that in the process of that arranging, that God left fingerprints for us to discover.” I appreciate that, but it seems God wants to hide in the randomness of nature. Faith, it turns out, is a matter of choice, not data processing. The only fingerprint you are going to find is the one on your heart.My scientific background is in physiology, biomedical engineering, and satellite communication systems (I took my time in college).But the Church is my family’s business on both sides for several generations. Jodie

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  9. Craig,You said “I want to allow for the fact that in the process of that arranging, that God left fingerprints for us to discover.” I appreciate that, but it seems God wants to hide in the randomness of nature. Faith, it turns out, is a matter of choice, not data processing. The only fingerprint you are going to find is the one on your heart.My scientific background is in physiology, biomedical engineering, and satellite communication systems (I took my time in college).But the Church is my family’s business on both sides for several generations. Jodie

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  10. Jodie,The thing that suprises me th emost about your limited response is that when you look at nature you see randomness. When I look at nature I see order. The other comment is that is said I want to ALLOW for the possibility… You can believe what you want, and it may not be “science” but I have learned to never sumarrily dismiss anything no matter how unlikely. God has definately left a fingerprint on my heart also.Craig

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  11. craig,You see randomness too: “I have learned to never summarily dismiss anything no matter how >unlikely< . "That’s a probabilistic statement based on the common experience of the randomness of nature. It extends all the way down to the sub-atomic level and it is the basis for the working of your computer. How tall are people. How long do they live? What colors are their eyes?Order in nature is as much a projection of our own minds as it is real. When you stand back from a lithograph you think you see border lines, but when you get up close you see disconnected and messy dots. That’s where you find God, between the page turns of us, this book he has written. In the size of a wave that should never have been there, but which got lost in all the waves that should have. In the moments of time that come after the before and before the after. Jodie

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  12. Jodie,I have no idea what in the world your are talikng about. I presume you mean the subatomic randomness that just happens to arrange our DNA in the right order. Or the randomness that causes the sun to continually “rise” in the east and “set in the west. Or the randomness that keeps us from colliding with Mars. Quite frankly, the more I am involved in this discussion the more confused I get. First Doug takes me to task for suggesting that randomness is a part of the evolutionary process. Now you take me to task for failing to see randomness in the midst of all of the appearant order. I get the impression that information in the digital realm (ie computers) is much more precise than in the analog realm. (I’ll ask my resident computer engineer friend tonight) If it’s not why do so many musicians(Leny Kravitz is one of the most vocal, but many artists prefer recording in analog and then transferring to digital to edit) prefer vaccum tube gear to digital? In the digital realm it is possible to seamlessly edit music down to a millisecond. This would not seem to be possible in a realm defined by randomness. I may be mixing apples and oranges but all this stuff is computer driven. By the way if my computer is based on randomness how come it does what I expext it to do?Anyway, at the risk of repeating myself, I simply want to allow for all possibilities in this debate, God, Science, TYUIFGYUGPIUG, YIGUGP:UHGOIHih(sorry, just some random options thrown in so I don’t leave anything out or offend anyone.Craig

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  13. Craig,I attempted to take you to task for referring to evolution as entirely random, which is what I thought you were trying to say in one of our many discussions of this topic. I would never intentionally claim that evolution involved no randomness whatsoever, I simply am not moved by the polemical argument that evolution can be defined as a “random” process.

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  14. Craig,“why do so many musicians(Leny Kravitz is one of the most vocal, but many artists prefer recording in analog and then transferring to digital to edit) prefer vaccum tube gear to digital?”Thats a very interesting question. For reasons I miss, people get very emotional about the subject too. I suspect it has to do with the human brain’s ability to learn how to pick up certain sounds, and the fact that quantization noise produced by analog to digital converters is objectionable but it can be suppressed by first adding White noise to the recording as you get quite naturally with analog recordings. White noise is random noise with a Gaussian distribution function. The hush sound of white noise is like that of the waves of the sea, and it is quite soothing to most people. Quantization noise is clicky, and even though the total noise may by way less than with an analog recording, the brain magnifies it because it’s so annoying. Same is true for vacuum tube amplifiers. They create even harmonic distortion, which can sound even pretty. The piano resonates at even harmonics. But transistors create odd harmonics, and the ear hates them. Even if they are way low, the ear can pick them up. Some people can really hear the stuff, and the more you look for it, the more you train your ear to hear it, and once you hear it, you can’t un-hear it. Makes for interesting metaphors.The operation of transistors relies on the fact that if I run full force into a brick wall, there is a finite probability that I will materialize on the other side of the wall unscathed. While the probability of that actually happening to me is vanishingly small, (it would take a huge amount of energy and luck to pull it off) the chances are actually pretty good when talking about sub-atomic particles smashing into metal walls. Sometimes, often enough, they just show up on the other side. We can control how often by applying a voltage across a transistor, so that it works like a valve. By turning the valve ON I can get a 1, and by turning the valve OFF I get a zero. That in a nutshell is why we make computers out of transistors. Millions of them on a tiny little chip turning off and on at breathtaking speeds. There is something else we learn from quantum physics. The objective nature of something depends on the way we look at it. It can appear to have two mutually exclusive properties and the one you see depends on how you look at it. Reality may in fact have a dual nature. If you look at it from the point of view of science you get one answer, and if you look at it from the point of view of religion you get a different answer. They are entitled to appear mutually exclusive yet both be verifiably true within their own contexts. It just depends on how you ask the question. Science has known this for over a hundred years, but theologians, in spite of the fact that they invented the doctrine of the Trinity, have not yet fully grasped the significance of this point.With that in mind it is perfectly OK to say that God created the universe and all that is in it by the command of his voice and Adam from clay that he breathed on, and also say that humans evolved naturally over millions of years from tiny little mammals that walked on all four, and before that from creatures that evolved into ants, fish, and humans.It just depends on whether you are asking a scientific question or a religious one. (and if you try to blend them into one question you just get garbage back) Jodie

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  15. Jodie,You used in interesting word in your response as to the randomness of computers “control” once you introduce control you eliminate some or all of the randomness, In essence you can look at it as though you have “trained” the sub atomic particles to behave in the way you wish. You can also look at is as though you simply sift out the particles that don’t behave the way you want. Either way the randomness factor is at the least down played if not removed intirely.As to the music issue, you made my point, musicain don’t like digital because it is too precise. They (we) like the “messiness” of analog. Alalog distortion sounds awesome, digital distortion sounds aweful. Except however what you digitally model analog(tube) distortion. This does beg one (or more than one) further question. What is the meaning of it all? How is it possible to gain meaning from randomness? How can two mutually exclusive ideas be true?Craig

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  16. Craig,“once you introduce control you eliminate some or all of the randomness”I think the proper term is “take advantage of” It’s what engineers do. Physicists (and biologists) discover the rules, and engineers play by those rules to make cool things. (that’s a big difference between the metaphor of Designer posed by the ID folks and the designer they imagine from their experience looking at things designed)“How can two mutually exclusive ideas be true?”It is completely incomprehensible even to those who fully understand it. The usual way out is to recognize that the intuition we get from every day life of what it means to have mutually exclusive things be simultaneously true simply does not apply outside of every day life.So what does it all mean? It means things are not what they seem. It means that our vocabulary is not adequate to describe even that which we can easily grasp. How then can we expect it to grasp the concept of God? We should be a whole lot more humble when arguing about “Truth”. We have proof that we have no idea what “Truth” is. Our dogmas, our doctrines, and our confessions are big and empty words. They grasp nothing, they mean nothing, and even if they did, we have no idea what that meaning really is. However God grasps us. We have meaning to Him and that will have to be enough.It’s called living by faith.And we must really, and I mean fully really, live by Grace. And that same life we live teaches us to give others the grace to live their lives as well.At least that is what it means to me.Jodie

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  17. Jodie,Now i’m really confused, randomness has rules. Doesn’t the idea of randomness rules kind of undermine the concept of randomness. I’m not sure what you meant about ID folks and their metaphor of a designer. It seems as though a designer is someone or something who designs. As far as the last part it sounds as though you are saying that nothing means anything, and even if it did we can’t understand it if we tried. Sorry but that sounds like a really hopeless way to go through life. Finally, there is either Truth or not, and unless we can comprehend what truth is then there can be no basis for anything pure unadulterated Darwinian survival of the fittest. Doesn’t sound like a pleasant place to live to me.I do agree that despite our limited understanding God does grasp us and we do mean something to Him. The reason for that is that he created us to be grasped and to interact with Him. If we are simply a result of random mutations and time then why would God care about us, and how would we know that Gods care was not simply another manifestation of random mutation? People only care about that which has value. Therefore we must have walue to God. Why then does God place such a high value on us?Craig

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  18. Craig,Faith is what allows us to live in the dark and know that its OK. Living by faith is usually reported to be a positive and hope filled experience. Yes, randomness has rules. Ask any poker player. What numbers to you get when you throw dice? Can you get a 10? Can you get a 1 nine times out of ten? As far as the other stuff I am talking about its really pretty basic stuff that you can learn by taking continuing ed classes at just about any college.I think you would enjoy the experience.

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  19. Jodie,I did a quick search and came up with the followingran·dom /ˈrændəm/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[ran-duhm] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation –adjective 1. proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern: the random selection of numbers. ran·dom (rān’dəm) Pronunciation Key adj. Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective: random movements. See Synonyms at chance. random “having no definite aim or purpose,” 1655random adjective lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance; “a random choice”; “bombs fell at random”; “random movements By definition random lacks order or purpose how can something without order or purpose have rules, why would it need rules, how do you applly rules (oreder) to purposelessness (randon spelling?) Sorry, but I can buy the whole order from disorder, or purpose from randomness arguments. It doesn’t conform with what we see in life. It certainly conflicts with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Although I am sure that there is some theory that supposes that the 2nd law doesn’t apply at the subatomic level or that chaos theory might someday supplant the 2nd law (providing someone figures out what chaos theory means and how it might work). But for now, as I understand it, a scientific law trumps a hypothesis or theory.Faith is only as positive and useful as the object of that faith. So faith in a limited God will of necessity be a limited faith. Craig

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