Abusing Science

Number 45 of a series

Abuse of science is also manifests in arguments for religion as a way of knowing. An instance of this is an item from the Magis Center:

Physics, Philosophy, and Free Will

by  | Aug 2, 2019

“But today it is very hard for a scientific man to say where the supernatural ends and the natural begins, or what name should be given to either.”  -G. K. Chesterton, “The New Jerusalem”

Well, no. G.K. Chesterton notwithstanding, it is in no way difficult. For those not acquainted, Chesterton was an excellent writer, penning the Father Brown series and also The Man Who Knew Too Much, which title was the inspiration for [the title of] two Alfred Hitchcock films. Chesterton was wrong, and Maggie Ciskanik is wrong. She further writes:

We are standing at the edge of physics, the cliffside dwelling of quantum mechanics. From this height it appears that science gives us a limitless view and understanding of the natural world. For many, the amazing achievements of science mean there is no mystery, no “supernatural” realm, nothing beyond what we can see and measure.

There is no God. There is no one but us.

Regardless of what Ciskanik says, science does not purport to give us limitless views. Some more from Ciskanik:

But this limitless quality of science is also the source of its limitedness.

Current scientific theories reflect only what we know about matter in the universe at this time. Really, there are no “final” or complete physical theories. This opinion was expressed recently by Templeton prize winning physicist Marcelo Gleiser, but it was obvious after the astounding revelations of the 20th century concerning time and space.

If you are not familiar with the Templeton Foundation, you might want to read up on its founder, John Templeton. The foundation awards grants to credible scientists who work to reconcile science and religion. For example:

Some organizations funded by the Foundation in the 1990s gave book-writing grants to Guillermo Gonzalez and to William Dembski, proponents of intelligent design who later joined the Discovery Institute. The Foundation also gave money directly to the Discovery Institute which in turn passed it through to Baylor University, which used the funds to support Dembski’s salary at its short-lived Michael Polanyi Center. The Foundation funded projects by Bruce L. Gordon, associate director of the center, after the center was dissolved. Some media outlets described the Foundation as a supporter of intelligent design during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District litigation in the mid-2000s, a charge which the Foundation denied. The Foundation “explicitly warns intelligent-design researchers not to bother submitting proposals: they will not be considered.”

There is a quote from Martin Heisenberg. Martin is the son of Werner Heisenberg, who first made us aware that physics operates absent determinism at the base level.

“Although we do not credit animals with anything like the consciousness in humans, researchers have found that animal behaviour is not as involuntary as it may appear. The idea that animals act only in response to external stimuli has long been abandoned, and it is well established that they initiate behaviour on the basis of their internal states, as we do.” –Martin Heisenberg (Nature, vol. 459, 2009, p.164)

She makes a number of valid observations on the value of philosophy but begins to wrap up with this odd reference.

We might do well to keep in mind William Henry Bragg’s observation“From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it.”

No, again. We do not get purpose from religion. Religion is an outgrowth of aspects of human purpose. To obtain purpose from religion the religion much have existed prior to the purpose. Observation and rigorous analysis indicates the purpose is there, and people contrive a religious basis to justify the purpose.

Getting back to the initial point of this discussion, there is a clear demarcation between the natural (the domain of science) and the supernatural. If something can be studied by science, then it is no longer among the supernatural. From all appearances and experience, the supernatural exists only in the thinking of people—a human invention.

The Magis Center piece provides some background on the writer, giving a hint at her underlying thinking:

Armed with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in science, Ciskanik landed in a graduate nursing program. With the support of her enthusiastic husband, an interesting career unfolded while the family grew: a seven year stint mostly as a neurology nurse, 15 years as a homeschooling mom of six, and a six year sojourn as curriculum developer and HS science teacher (which included teaching students with cognitive differences). These experiences added fuel to her lifelong interest in all things related to God’s creation and the flourishing of the human spirit—which has found a new home on the Magis.

[Emphasis added]

Nondeterministic Reasoning

Deep Knowledge, Broken Logic

I don’t remember what got me onto this book. Likely something posted on Facebook. Anyhow, I was on a long flight and got around to finishing the Kindle edition. It’s Does the Atom Have a Designer, and it’s by a knowledgeable physicist by the name of Lakhi Goenka. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. Full disclosure: I attended that place of learning, but I only obtained a B.S. in engineering. Anyhow, Goenka’s degree field is fluid dynamics, not necessarily related to the subject of the book. That said, before anybody can get a Ph.D. in physics from UT Austin they have to learn a lot of advanced stuff, and the author exhibits deep knowledge of atomic physics.

The problem with the book is not so much the science, which to my mind seems solid. What should concern the serious reader are the logical conclusions the authors draws from the science. I speak of his understanding of the science from the viewpoint of a person who took a graduate course in quantum mechanics and obtained a grade of B for my effort.

This is a short book—88 pages, including an appendix with references. I highlighted interesting passages, and I will print a few excerpts and post some comment. Start with this.

The Why Questions related to the Atom are discussed in depth using Aristotle’s four causes.  The question: “Does your kitchen table have a Designer?” does not require a scientific or a mathematical explanation.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 9). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

This is from a synopsis at the beginning, and yes, Geonka will invoke Aristotle’s four causes:

  1. Material cause: “that out of which a thing comes-to-be and which persists is said to be a cause, for example, the bronze is a cause of a statue, the silver is a cause of a bowl, and the genera of these [is also a cause].”
  2. Formal cause: “the form or paradigm, and this is the formula of the essence … and the parts that are in the formula.”
  3. Efficient cause: “the primary starting point from which change or rest originates; for example, someone who has given advice is a cause, the father [is a cause] of a child, and in general what does [is a cause] of what is done and what alters something [is a cause] of what is altered.”
  4. Final cause: “[something may be called a cause] in the sense of an end (telos), namely, what something is for; for example, health [is a cause] of walking.”

The author first gives us a lesson in some fundamental principles. The atom is the basic material entity apparent to people. All the material stuff in our lives is made from atoms, and some very basic physics determines the relationships involving the very lowest physical entities. Nobody knows why. These things just act this way. All physicists can do is to figure out how these entities interact and then explain it to others. Quite often the way the basic particles work together can provide us with ideas as to how to exploit these interactions to make science work wonders for us. For example, the so-called Bose quantum principle gave us the idea we could use the effect to build electrical switches operating on Bose statistics, and the result was solid state physics and the transistor and miniature computers and also smart phones.

There are also photons, which are Bose (named after Satyendra Nath Bose) particles. Bose-Einstein statistics is a quantum mechanical concept developed by Bose and Albert Einstein. Photons are unlike fermions, particles that exhibit Fermi statistics and named after Enrico Fermi, who developed the concept and headed up the team that produced the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. The difference between bosons (Bose particles) and fermions is that fermions cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Fermi statistics is the principle that prevents all matter from collapsing into a single point in space. Bosons can pass through each other with ease, typically without interacting, and bosons can pass through matter.

Anyhow, the foregoing discussion is not included in the book, but I added it because it will be good to know when reading the remainder of this review.

The author quickly gets to the point of the book, that point being the existence of God.

The commonly cited objection “Then who designed the Designer?” is also addressed in the book.  The controversial and unverified Multiverse Hypothesis, often used against a Design argument, is also discussed.

And yes, your kitchen table does have a Designer.

(Note that this is an argument based on Design, and not on fine tuning.)

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 10). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Goenka adds this last bit to assure us his is not a recap of a book titled The Privileged Planet, by creationists Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. That book has been previously reviewed. The Gonzalez-Richards book is all about fine tuning as evidence for a creator.But this book is one long argument for the existence of a creator, and Goenka is not shy on this point. He starts this way:

Even the simplest of atoms, Hydrogen and Helium, consist of numerous subatomic particles such as quarks, gluons, and leptons that interact together in complex ways.  These subatomic particles represent a fine balance of forces, have special quantum properties, interact together in complex ways, follow complex laws, and obey multiple rules of order, all to ultimately provide function.  Atoms don’t simply follow laws—they provide function.  Atoms are a fundamental system of parts (subatomic particles) that dynamically interact together to provide multiple levels of functionality.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 15). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

And gets around to this:

And while many things may be unfathomable to us in this world, including in Physics, we can at least show that our Universe does have a Designer.  This would perhaps be the case even in the unlikely event that the controversial Multiverse Hypothesis was someday experimentally validated.

So what do theologians mean by God?  The belief in a Creator God is well supported by the Big Bang Theory, which postulates that Space, Time and Matter all came into being temporally out of nothing right at the Big Bang.  God, who always existed outside of our Space and Time, created the Universe.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (pp. 78-79). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

He hangs his argument on the ex nihilo concept of the origin of the universe. Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss deals extensively with this in his book A Universe from Nothing, previously reviewed. As I understand the concept, there was nothing. No matter. No space. No time. Then there was something. First explain how that came to be. Worse still, explain why.

To explain how, you have to stipulate conditions prior to the origin of the universe. Cosmologists make a go at that. No scientist attempts the why. Goenka wants to explain why. Or possibly he does not. His explanation is God. He ultimately gets around to making this disclaimer:

Note that while the Atom points to a Creator, it does not necessarily point to any particular religious belief (such as the belief in a Personal God).  However, it does serve to reinforce the concept of God.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 82). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

There is little doubt Goenka is a creationist. You do not have to invoke Genesis to be a creationist. The term applies to anybody who stipulates non-natural causes—especially a sentient being—behind the creation. From his background we can sleep securely believing Goenka is a creationist of the first kind—a creationist who believes all this is the work of the God of Abraham.

Taking that into account, where does Goenka’s argument take him? It does not take him to the divinity of Christ (Jesus). Winning the argument that a sentient being created the universe does not logically lead to that entity being the God of Abraham. That concept will always remain in the realm of mythology. The goal of creationists on this point is to convince others of the existence of a creator, for from that point it is easier to move the uninitiated to belief in the divinity.

I will not recap Goenka’s reasoning, but he argues the intricacy of the relationship between fundamental particles is such that no accident of nature can account for their all this. One way to look at this reasoning is to realize it is founded on thinking which arises in the universe under discussion. The argument is an attempt to take everyday observations and even deeply technical observations, and work them into a basis for explaining something that does not exist within our ability to observe. My analogy is clumsy to the extreme, but I liken this to an attempt to peel an apple using a ball peen hammer. We can explain, for example, fire, by invoking chemical and physical principles we have discovered by clever means, but we reach a point where we will be unable to make explanations which are compatible with things we observe.

The concept of a god creator is the god is an transcendental entity that exists outside time and space. Since time and space are what scientists have to work with, they are not going to make much headway explaining transcendental entities. Such things have to be imagined, or not even that. They may have to be supposed and nothing more.

Science failing to explain everything, the theologians feel free to jump in. The problem with theological explanations is that they generally boil down to speculation and nothing more. At the upper end of theological explanations are some argued philosophically. Philosophy is a powerful tool, giving us the means by which we move from observation to unforeseen conclusions. When philosophy is employed to move from supposition to conclusion it serves only to provide a smokescreen to an abuse of the intellect.

Goenka addresses the question concerning who or what created the creator:

In order to answer such questions, we first need to clarify what we mean by “God.” If God is just another one of the causes within the system of causes that science explains, then we would need to search for a cause for God as well. But if God is something fundamentally different from the created order (what theologians call “transcendent”), then our demand for a cause of God’s being is confused and misapplied.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 67). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

A popular notion, held by the unsophisticated faithful, is that the God of Abraham, having nothing better to do, decided to create the universe and people, as well. I don’t hold to this God business, so it is difficult for me to imagine the thinking of such people. I have supposed they imagine God doing the creation as a hobby, such as somebody building a model ship. When much thought is applied, this becomes a difficult sell. Logically I would not suppose a being that exists outside time and space would have much interest in hobbies or even serious construction projects. Those are human activities (beavers, as well). The argument that a sentient, transcendental entity decided to create the universe does not have a sound philosophical basis.

At a higher lever, consider that God is not a sentient entity. God could then be a set of basic principles, unknown and possibly unknowable to us. The universe is a consequence of these principles. This answers the question put by the creationists: “From whence came the intelligence (information) to construct the universe as we know it?”

This interpretation takes investigation of the origin of the universe out of the hands of the theologians, and it is not going to get much support among that crowd.

In order to answer such questions, we first need to clarify what we mean by “God.” If God is just another one of the causes within the system of causes that science explains, then we would need to search for a cause for God as well. But if God is something fundamentally different from the created order (what theologians call “transcendent”), then our demand for a cause of God’s being is confused and misapplied.

God is not just the explanation for the beginning of the universe, but for the existence of anything at all—whether past, present, or future.  These things are contingent; that is to say, they don’t have to exist, and so because they do exist, we are right to ask for the causes of their existence. But theologians have understood God to be a necessary being. Asking for a cause of a necessary being is like asking how much the color blue weighs — it is a category mistake.

Goenka, Lakhi. Does the Atom Have A Designer? (p. 67). eThermal, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I’m not buying much of that, and you should not either.

I don’t make this stuff up.

Number 15 of the series

 

Thanks to the world’s creationists I don’t have to make a bunch of stuff up. When it comes to making stuff up, these people stand head and shoulders above your average fool and liar. Take the example of Minnesota school board chairwoman Sue Kern. This from DeadState:

MN public school board chairwoman: Evolution is outdated because ‘it was discovered in the 1800s’

Before this goes any further I need to tip my hat to the creationists on this one. I mean, this evolution stuff was invented in the 19th century, and that was back when people didn’t know nothing, so why are we still using it and not replacing it with some 20th century (21st century?) concepts? I’m telling you this. After reading that bit of wisdom I immediately threw over all pre-conceived notions I had about human origins and wrapped myself around the truth of creations. Well, not so fast.

Then I remembered Benjamin Franklin formulated a concept of what electricity is back in the 18th century, and we are still using it. And it’s already the 21st century. Wait, some more. I realized the concept of creationism was laid out back in the negative 9th century, so it is long due for an overhaul. Maybe Kern needs to rethink her argument. Not going to happen.

“Never been proven.” Amazing! Let’s look at some other things that have never been proven:

  • Somebody created everything about 6022 years ago in a record-breaking six days.
  • Somebody got pissed off at the human species and flooded the entire planet, killing everybody except for a family of eight. All the animals, too.
  • A guy got crossways with the Roman government about 2000 years ago, and they strung him up to bleed to death and then took the body down after which the guy’s body was stuck into a cave from which the guy extricated himself and walked and talked among others for 40 days before launching himself into outer space. Not an ounce of proof has ever been offered.

Anyhow, Kern needs to wise up and get a grip on what is common practice with proving things. I recall rule number one is don’t go around making stuff up.

I don’t make this stuff up.

Number 14 of the series

No, none of this comes from me, and for that I am thankful.

The above showed up on my Facebook feed. It demands investigation. Here is the story from DeadState:

 

Megachurch pastor: The effort to impeach Trump is actually an effort to impeach Christian values

People who know me will tell you I have a low view of “Christian values.” This sets a new low. And I didn’t have to make it up.

Abusing Science

Number 42 of a series

Discovery Institute to the rescue again. Here is something recent from their Evolution News site:

Walnuts: Intelligent Design in a Nutshell — Literally

Evolution News @DiscoveryCSC

September 19, 2019, 4:46 AM

Thank you to Paul Nelson who points out a paper in Advanced Science that is both nutty and not nutty at the same time — nutty, because it concerns walnuts; not nutty, because there is nothing silly or unintelligent about the way walnut shells are designed.

“The outer protective shells of nuts can have remarkable toughness and strength,” say Sebastian Antreich and six others in the paper. Considering that walnuts are widespread and commercially important, they decided to look at the nuts in detail. They found a unique architecture in the shell called “interlocked packing” that resembles a 3-D puzzle.

Follow the link. Read the entire post, which concludes with:

The stately English walnut trees with their thick, white trunks provide another unusual benefit to man: furniture and fine art. Some walnut trees respond to mold or insect infestations at ground level by growing thick, dark “burls” around the site of injury, surrounded by tough bark. Walnut burl wood, with its deep red color and complex swirled grain, is highly prized for making coffee tables, guitar inlays, gun stocks, jewelry and other artistic creations. Some burl items can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Walnut trees are good for the economy!

So what’s not to love about walnut trees? They provide nutrition, art, exercise, shade, lumber, and now another benefit: a biomimetic model for materials science. Like the Moringa tree discussed in an earlier post, some plants seem to give much more than they take to for mere survival. It fits with the ID view that a designer had the Foresight to equip the world with good resources that would be needed and appreciated by the most exceptional beings of all: humans. A friend of Evolution News grew up on a ranch with a walnut grove and supplied the wonderful accompanying photos. Enjoy!

I may be wrong, but I suspect the conclusion the writer wishes to leave is there is a benevolent, transcendental being who loves us and wants us to be happy. For some people, this is science.

Abusing Science

Number 41 of a series

Once again I have the Discovery Institute to thank. They are a source that never falters. Here is the latest from their Evolution News site:

Physics Nobel Prize Invites Snark from the Anti-ID Peanut Gallery

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

October 9, 2019, 5:00 AM

Congratulations to Princeton cosmologist James Peebles, who shares the Nobel Prize this year for physics. His work, as the Wall Street Journal summarizes, “developed precise models of cosmic creation, transforming cosmology ‘from speculation to science,’ the [Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences] said.” A frequent if not obsessive ID antagonist, Kevin Williamson, seizes upon this as an occasion for a swipe at intelligent design and a put-down directed at all those rubes (presumably including subscribers and readers of the magazine where he writes, National Review) who would seriously entertain the idea.

I will leave it to readers to decipher that passage, and I will get to the meat.

The Irony, Please?

Yet, insofar as Peebles’s work helped to strengthen the evidence for a cosmic beginning, it is actually part of the argument for intelligent design made by, among others, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer in his next book, The Return of the God Hypothesis. As Meyer and fellow ID proponents have shown, a starting point to physical existence, which is what the Big Bang represents, is among the most persuasive evidences against a materialist perspective on reality. Taken together with the remarkable fine-tuning data, it suggests a purposeful cause operating intelligently outside nature, responsible for creation. That is why materialists resisted it until the gathering evidence, developed in Peebles’s field, made it impossible for them to do so any longer.

I have no idea what view Professor Peebles takes on these grander ramifications. But as another Nobel Prize-winning physicist, the late Charles Townes, put it, “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real.” Nor is he alone. Physicist Brian Josephson, another Nobelist, says he is “80 percent” confident that intelligent design is correct. As the odds go, that’s not bad. How about giving the snark a little rest, Williamson?

For more on intelligent design and the arguments from cosmology, see Episode 4 of Science Uprising:

What I find most stunning is this snippet of text: “Yet, insofar as Peebles’s work helped to strengthen the evidence for a cosmic beginning, it is actually part of the argument for intelligent design made by, among others, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer in his next book, The Return of the God Hypothesis.” The awful truth is any notion that the output of Stephen Meyer is in the same league with that of James Peebles is pure fantasy. While Peebles spent decades observing the cosmos and applying mathematical analysis and reasoned insight, Meyer has dedicated the past two decades to convincing others the universe and all life resulted from the musings of a transcendental being. The ultimate insult is having somebody such as Stephen Meyer attempt to hitchhike on the work of real scientists.

If the term “peanut gallery” puzzles you, then Google is your answer.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

Not a joke this time, rather a collection from a pamphlet titled Atheists Say the Darndest Things.

  1. A belief is not true because it is useful: Amiel Journal
  2. A casual stroll through a lunatic asylum shows faith does not prove anything: Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. Ignorance is the mother of true piety: Henry Cole, Dean of St. Paul’s 1559
  4. When we talk to God, we’re praying. When God talks to us it’s schizophrenic: Lily Tomlin
  5. To all things clergic, I am allergic: Alexander Woolcott
  6. “God” is a three-letter word meaning “I don’t know:” anonymous
  7. Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by the dozens: Montaigne
  8. Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the Unknowable: Ambrose Bierce

The National Divide

Number 15 of a possibly infinite series

This series highlights the observation that a hard line divides the nation. People will eventually need to decide which side of the line to take. Choices are becoming ever more clear.

President Trump has for months stepped into a series of legal cow patties. His most recent may not have been the last straw. It appears to be the last load of concrete.

Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church, located in mid-town Dallas, has come to embrace this president and continues to excuse his malfeasance. A recent blowup highlights the divide.

Trump attacks whistleblower and Schiff, tweets impeachment would cause ‘Civil War-like fracture

Pastor Robert Jeffress said he is “afraid” impeachment “will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.”

Derived from this:

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews

8:11 PM · Sep 29, 2019Twitter for iPhone

First dispel any notion Pastor Jeffress claimed impeachment will result in civil war. He said it would produce a civil war-like fracture. Pastor Jeffress, you are a few days late on this. The fracture is here,  and it is for all to see.

This is what Robert Jeffress endorses. I am going to request he stand on one side of the divide, and I will stand on the other.

Abusing Science

Number 37 of a series

If the truth be known, I was unaware of C.S. Lewis prior to watching his portrayal by Anthony Hopkins in the movie. I have learned little since. However, the Discovery Institute is now promoting a book by Michael D. Aeschliman titled The Restoration of Man. The subtitle is  C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism. From the D.I. site:

C. S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia tales and Christian apologetics, works that have sold more than 100 million copies. But Lewis was also a trained philosopher and a professor at Cambridge and Oxford. An intellectual giant, he fiercely and extensively critiqued the fashionable dogma known as scientism—the idea that science is the only path to knowledge, and matter the fundamental reality. Michael Aeschliman’s The Restoration of Man ably surveys Lewis’s eloquent case against this dogma, and situates him among the many other notable thinkers who have entered the fray over this crucial issue. Aeschliman shows why Lewis’s case for the human person as more than matter—as a creature with inherent rationality and worth—is a precious resource for restoring and preserving our culture’s sanity, wisdom, and moral order. This newly revised and expanded edition of Aeschliman’s celebrated study includes forewords by three distinguished writers—James Le Fanu, George Gilder, and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Reading this I now know C.S. Lewis fiercely and extensively critiqued the fashionable dogma known as scientism. I had a prior concept, that scientism was some sort of worship of the scientific method, but now I learn it is really “… the idea that science is the only path to knowledge, and matter the fundamental reality.” I already knew science is defined as the search for knowledge, generally knowledge about the natural world, but since extended to knowledge about other things. We call the study of how to perform tasks using computers “computer science,”  and I have one of those degrees.So if science is not the only way to knowledge, then there must be others or at least one other. We might demand to know what other.

A look at Lewis’s thinking on scientism indicates the D.I. interpretation is less than strict.

Some critics have incorrectly regarded That Hideous Strength as an attack on science. In this regard Faye Ann Crowell correctly draws attention to Lewis’s unpublished (in his own lifetime) reply to Professor J.B.S. Haldane’s highly critical review. Lewis answered Haldane’s criticism by explaining just what he was attacking: “Firstly, a certain view about values: the attack will be found, undisguised, in The Abolition of Man,” Lewis’s 100-page work of nonfiction on the same subject. The latter essay addresses the dangers Lewis saw in the twentieth century abandonment of traditional, objective values. Lewis’s second aim in That Hideous Strength was to illustrate the folly of devoting one’s life to gaining the power and prestige of belonging to a ruling clique or inner circle. Finally, Lewis continued, he was attacking not scientific planning, as Professor Haldane had thought, but the kind of planned society which first Adolf Hitler and then European Marxists had instituted: “the disciplined cruelty of some ideological oligarchy.”

Lewis aside, consider the practice of science is a method. Then by what other means are we to gain knowledge? We can go to our imaginations, and we can gain wondrous things—music, poetry, flights of fiction. However, these are not strictly new knowledge. Knowing the Discovery Institute, I would expect they want us to explore ancient philosophy to probe matters such as the origins of life. There is more.

How should governments government, and how should people conduct personal relationships. We see groups, the D.I. included, advocating for philosophies extracted from ancient texts. Marriage is defined, lifestyles need to conform to tradition, and prescribed rituals are to be followed. The source of this thinking is not reason and pragmatism but the ancient texts. But not, in fact, the ancient texts. The ancient texts are to be interpreted by those very ones who perceive reliance on science a threat. We suspect this reasoning is driven by personal preference. It is rule by edict in bald disguise, and it is definitely an abuse of science.

Abusing Science

Number 36 of a series

Once again I need to post an item on the topic of Abusing Science, and once again I turn to that reliable source, the creationists of Discovery Institute. Here is something directed to me from their Center for Science and Culture. The email service arrives regularly and is titled “Nota Bene.” Make what you want of the title, but here is a link from the email:

WHY CAN’T MONKEYS TYPING FOREVER PRODUCE SHAKESPEARE?

Before communication can begin, there must be an intention to communicate

BY RUSS WHITE ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

If you give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters and allow them to type freely, will they eventually produce the works of Shakespeare? Call this the infinite monkey theorem (IMT), widely attributed to Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), best remembered today as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution. In 2000, a tongue-in-cheek “protocol” for such an experiment was developed. Independently, in 2003, enterprising researchers gave a group of monkeys keyboards, in what they were willing to discuss as a test of the theory:

It is a shopworn challenge, and it centers on the random mutation aspect of Darwinian evolution. How, creationist argue, can a random process using finite resources produce well-crafted organisms? Richard Dawkins addresses the argument in his book, The Blind Watchmaker.

The resemblance of a cloud to a weasel is only mildly diverting, barely worth calling to the attention of our companion. Moreover, we are quite likely to change our mind about exactly what the cloud most resembles.

Hamlet. Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

Polonius. By the mass, and ’tis like a camel, indeed.

Hamlet. Methinks it is like a weasel.

Polonius. It is backed like a weasel.

Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (pp. 65-66). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Dawkins discusses how random permutation of a sequence of letters can eventually form Shakespeare’s line, “Methinks it is like a weasel.” He produced a computer simulation that did exactly that. However, his process incorporates a selection mechanism as required by Darwinian evolution. Dawkins’ process permutes letters in the initial string until a letter fits the required pattern, then the process stops permuting that letter and continues with the rest. In short order the process produces “Methinks it is like a weasel.”

Of course, nature does not act this way. Nature is likely to continue permuting a letter that already fits the expected pattern. Besides, nature does not have an expected pattern as a goal. And that is a thing that bothers the creationists. There must be a goal, or else Darwinian evolution cannot work. It is inside that goal Intelligent Design lives. The “intelligent” part of Intelligent Design has nothing to do with smarts. It’s all about goals. Goals are fed into the process from an external source—a source of intelligence.

And that gets us the the crucial part of White’s thesis. After some lead-up he gets around to:

These issues speak to intent. It is not enough to form symbols; it is not enough to form words; it is not enough to form sentences. Before communication can begin, there must be an intention to communicate which results in the creation of dictionaries and grammars which interact with one another and are often layered in complex ways. Intent, then, is a critical component of communication.

At this point I need to call a halt to a serious misconception by White and others seeking to use information theory to argue against Darwinian evolution. There is a basic misunderstanding of what communication is. I state without authority the following:

  • At the base level information is the entity that mediates cause and effect.
  • At the base level communication is a manifestation of cause and effect.

All higher levels of communication we experience—talking person to person, watching a game on TV—they all distill down to the bullets above. Further justification on request.

White writes, “Before communication can begin, there must be an intention to communicate…,”  and he says this without justification. He wants to construe communication in the same sense as people talking on a telephone, where intent is an ingredient. Intent is not a requisite for communication. But what is intent, and does it exist?

Stating without authority, intent is a feature of living organisms, and it is particularly a feature of animal life forms. Animal life forms move about and do things, and their actions are driven by intent. Let that be the working definition of intent.

Where does intent come from? We are born with it. Without it most animal forms would quickly perish and would not reproduce. Darwinian evolution has produced intent on this planet. Some elaboration.

A baby mammal is born. If it is born without the intent of seeking its mother’s nipple, then it will not live to reproduce. Animal life is driven by goals, the substance of intent. The animal is hungry. The animal seeks food. The animal (often without much thought) seeks to reproduce. Intent is essential to the promulgation of a species.

But whence intent? On this planet before there was life there was no intent. Creationists want to argue there was intent, and, further, that intent came from a transcendental being that exists outside space and time. You can see I am making a bunch of this stuff up.

Ultimately White’s argument appears to go nowhere. He concludes:

Neither of these approaches, however, will ultimately work — real communication requires intent, not only in the communication itself but even in the creation of the shared framework (dictionaries and grammars) in which communication takes place. Ultimately, then, thinking through the IMT shows us that artificial intelligence cannot produce the works of Shakespeare. There can be an illusion of intent but the original intent required to communicate just is not there.

He says much, but tells us nothing. What we are observing is a horrendous abuse of science.

Abusing Science

Number 33 of a series

Resuming after taking four weeks off.

Abuse of science has long been, and remains, pernicious in modern society. Few sources exceed creationism in the practice.  The Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture is a mother lode if abuse of science is what interests you. I receive their mailings, giving me front row access. Here is something recent:

A Scientific Method for Design Detection

These are innovations known to be the product of human activity—human intelligence. He will come around to equating marvelous natural traits to results of an intelligent process. He states, “A unique property of intelligent minds is the ability to produce statistically significant levels of functional information as defined in the literature.” There is enough vagueness in that statement to allow the imagination to roam. He introduces “functional information” and links to papers by Jack Szostak, with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and by Robert M. Hazen, et al., published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The critical wording Durstan may want his readers to come away with is in the first paper by Szostak:

The information content of biopolymers is usually thought of in terms of the amount of information required to specify a unique sequence or structure. This viewpoint derives from classical information theory, which does not consider the meaning of a message, defining the information content of a string of symbols as simply that required to specify, store or transmit the string. Thus, the unannotated human genome sequence can be encoded in a 750-megabyte file, but this could be greatly reduced in size by the application of standard data-compression techniques to account for internal repetitions.

If Durstan is attempting to get across that there is a lot of functional information in a genome, then his point is well-made. But Durstan and other Intelligent Design proponents want you to know this information cannot come by accident, by natural processes alone. There must be an unseen and supernatural source for this information, and an intelligent source is implied.

Pause for a moment to dissect the term “intelligent.” Opponents of Intelligent Design point to some really stupid designs as evidence there was no intelligent designer at work here. They misconstrue the creationists’ use of the term. By “intelligent” they do not mean the designer is smart. They mean the intelligent designer has prior knowledge that will be imparted to the design. They mean the intelligent designer has purpose, intent.

Done with that, we get to Durstan’s critical point. How do we determine an intelligent agent is at work?

  • Step One: Evaluate the level of functional information required to produce the effect.
  • Step Two: Determine if the level of functional information is statistically significant.
  • Step Three: If it is statistically significant, then we can infer that intelligence was required to produce the effect.

Intelligent Design people will insist Darwinian processes cannot account for the degree of functional information in life forms. There are two key points they will advocate.

  • The principle of Kolmogorov complexity applies. Kolmogorov complexity is a real and valid concept. In brief it states you can’t get more out of a process than you put in. The existence of elaborate and novel feature is compelling evidence an outside source of information is at work.
  • Darwinian processes are inadequate to produce elaborate and novel features. You can’t get a lot of good stuff by shaking a box full of random parts and allowing things to assemble accidentally.

Durstan denies his is the “God of the gaps” argument. To wit, “We don’t know how it could have happened, so it must be God did it.”

The scientific method I presented above is obviously devoid of such a premise. We actually know what can produce functional information — intelligence. It is an observable fact. We do it all the time whenever we send a text, write an essay, or build something. It is the only empirically verified option that science has today; other scenarios still remain in the category of unverified science fiction. Functional information is a positive indicator or “fingerprint” of an intelligent mind.

It is impressive that in the foregoing he appears to present his argument at proof: “We actually know what can produce functional information — intelligence.” If he is saying that only intelligence can produce functional information, then his argument is thoroughly circular. This is something that needs to be proved, and it is also something that is yet to be proved.

Durstan next exhibits the astronomical probabilities required for the accidental production of essential molecules of life, and he concludes:

The markers (fingerprints) of an intelligent mind are all over the genomes of life. Life tests positive for intelligent design when we utilize the scientific method outlined above. We can conclude, therefore, that DNA is intelligently designed.

For this to be an argument with a scientific basis an essential ingredient is required and is also lacking. How? By what process did the intelligent designer do this work? Real scientists are concerned with how things work. No good scientific theory (explanation) is complete without some proposed mechanism, excepting perhaps quantum mechanics. Durstan talks of improbable protein sequences. An intelligent source is required to achieve the critical form. So how does the designer ensure the proper sequence? Molecules are waiting to be formed into the essential protein. The proper form will not be achieved if nothing is done. Does the designer reach down with magical hands and stick the molecules together in the proper sequence? Inquiring minds want to know. This has all the markings of a God in the gaps argument.

Abusing Science

Number 31 of a series

 

Science receives no more diligent assault than from creationists. The modern creationism has been labeled Intelligent Design, solidly underwritten by the Discovery Institute. The DI Center for Science and Culture propagandizes relentlessly for a supernatural explanation for the universe and the existence of life on this planet. Their Web site, Evolution News, posts a steady stream of argument against natural causes. Here is a recent sample:

“We Hold These Truths”: On Design of the Cosmos, Science Uprising Updates Thomas Jefferson

David Klinghoffer does not seem to have any academic credentials related to science, but Wikipedia notes this:

David Klinghoffer is an Orthodox Jewish author and essayist, and a proponent of intelligent design. He attended Brown University in the eighties. He is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the organization that is the driving force behind the intelligent design movement. He was a frequent contributor to National Review, and a former columnist for the Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward, to which he still contributes occasional essays.

He has this to say in the referenced posting:

On Independence Day, Evolution News traditionally republishes a wonderful post by Stephen Meyer. Dr. Meyer, the author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, explains how the philosophy of human rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is grounded in recognizing intelligent design. Regarding the “sources of our rights as citizens”:

Here is a portion of the Stephen C. Meyer quote:

There is one source that is more basic than any other, yet that receives less than the attention it deserves. I refer to the idea that there is an intelligent creator who can be known by reason from nature, a key tenet underlying the Declaration of Independence — as well as, curiously, the modern theory of intelligent design.

The birth of our republic was announced in the Declaration through the pen of Thomas Jefferson. He and the other Founders based their vision on a belief in an intrinsic human dignity, bestowed by virtue of our having been made according to the design and in the image of a purposeful creator.

As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” If we had received our rights only from the government, then the government could justifiably take them away.

And that is so very odd. The idea is, perhaps, to argue science for Intelligent Design, but what Klinghoffer, through Meyer, falls back on is a political statement by the author of the Declaration of Independence. Actually, science is not supposed to work that way. Science works by examining the thing you want to study, in this case the origin of the universe and life on this planet, and base conclusions on what is learned. I may be an amateur scientist, but the statements of a historical figure have no bearing on this field of scientific study.

Klinghoffer continues:

Truths like the ones Jefferson articulated are truths forever, but we need to update the idiom to suit the times. Dr. Meyer’s work, including his upcoming book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, powerfully details the current scientific evidence that supports what Jefferson called the “conviction of design” in biology and cosmology. A serious volume like that is written to nail down the science conclusively. But a related purpose is served, using a different, punchier idiom, by the new Science Uprising series, and in particular Episode 4. At just 8 minutes in length, it’s concise and provocative:

There follows a link to this video.

Abuse of science does not require misstatement of scientific principles. In many cases it boils down to a drumbeat of propagandizing.

Abusing Science

Number 29 of a series

The Discovery Institute continues its campaign to paint Intelligent Design as a valid scientific enterprise. A recent post to their Evolution News site highlights their approach:

Watch: Stephen Meyer Expertly Punctures the Rule of Methodological Naturalism

Following on chemist Marcos Eberlin’s comments yesterday about intelligent design and the definition of science, watch philosopher Stephen Meyer expertly puncture the idea that science requires an approach of methodological naturalism (MN):

[Link to the video]

The rule, as he explains, is arbitrary. True, the designing agent inferred by ID theory is not directly observable, but neither are the elementary particles. Both are inferred. And the so-called demarcation criteria that would exclude ID as science would, if applied consistently, also exclude Darwinian theory. Most fundamentally, MN shuts down on principle what ought to be the goal of all science: objectively seeking the truth about nature, whatever that truth might be.

Particularly galling is the assertion “True, the designing agent inferred by ID theory is not directly observable, but neither are the elementary particles. Both are inferred.” What may not be obvious to David Klinghoffer is that while the “designing agent” is inferred (conjectured, postulated, imagined), elementary particles are not. Not, that is, unless the definition of the word “inferred” has been changed.

The designing agent, although proponents may be reluctant to admit so, is the god of Abraham. There is no physical evidence for the existence of this entity, and no manner of approach for probing its existence has been proposed.

Fundamental particles include protons, neutrons, electrons, muons, and such, and their properties and their presence are routinely studied. These things have mass, and they can do real damage when flung about. The notion that the fundamental particles of physics are on the same level as an imagined transcendental being speaks to the abysmal level of scientific thinking among fans of Intelligent Design. If you want to see abuse of science done so ineptly, here it is.

Abusing Science

Number 28 of a series

The above meme is supposed to be an argument for Intelligent Design, a modern form of creationism. A similar argument is the one that invokes fine tuning:

The Radio at the Edge of the Universe

Some atheists have been crowing lately about the rise of the “nones.” Many of those “nones” aren’t atheists, and the trend toward atheism is greatly exaggerated. But the way many scientific materialists talk, anyone capable of walking while chewing gum must see the “overwhelming evidence” that “God is dead.” 

Wait. That’s just the intro. Here is the meat of Marcos Eberlin’s argument:

Think of a radio dial that needs to be set at precisely the right frequency — “tuned” — to find the desired station. If the universe were a radio and the desired setting allows for life, it would have dozens of dials for setting the values of the universal constants. Muff even a single of these dial settings at the beginning of the universe, by even a tiny bit, and the result is a universe that can never host life. 

Confronted by this, distinguished physicist Fred Hoyle commented, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

Failing to comprehend the circumstances underlying our existence, more so the existence of the Universe, we must fall back on legends perpetrated by Bronze Age tribesmen living on the eastern region of the Mediterranean Sea. I am thinking Eberlin expects too much of me. Here is some background:

Marcos Nogueira Eberlin (born 4 March 1959) is a Brazilian chemist and professor at the Institute of Chemistry of the University of Campinas. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and received the Brazilian National Order of Scientific Merit in 2005 and the Thomson Medal in 2016.

Eberlin discovered the Eberlin Reaction during his work on gas phase ion chemistry, and he and his research group introduced EASI (Easy Ambient Sonic-spray Ionization), an ionization technique used in mass spectrometry.

Eberlin is an advocate of intelligent design in Brazil, a pseudoscience on which he also lectures and he has signed the Dissent From Darwinism statement. He is a creationist also, and has said that evolution theory is a fallacy.

There is more. He is the author of Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose. The notion that wacky ideas about science are relegated to back stream advocates such as William Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer needs to be extinguished. Eberlin continues:

But in fact, intelligent design is testable. Also, if the above definition were the proper definition of science, only one worldview would be allowed in science: naturalism. And that biased restriction would mean that evidence of apparent foresight in the universe and life must be ignored or explained away.

He bemoans restricting science to naturalism. The problem is that beyond naturalism we have the supernatural. The supernatural exists in a realm where anything can happen, and by this means anything can be explained by made-up stories. Read his posting.

The Kansas Board of Education has defined science as a human endeavor aimed at explaining the natural world, though they added one sweeping restriction: It can only appeal to natural forces. “Science is restricted to explaining only the natural world, using only natural cause,” the board wrote. “This is because science currently has no tools to test explanations using non-natural (such as supernatural) causes.”

But in fact, intelligent design is testable. Also, if the above definition were the proper definition of science, only one worldview would be allowed in science: naturalism. And that biased restriction would mean that evidence of apparent foresight in the universe and life must be ignored or explained away.

Follow the link to another Evolution New post regarding testability of Intelligent Design. I will cover that in a future item for this series.

Abusing Science

Number 27 of a series

The above image is from an item posted to the Evolution 2.0 site. The page title is “Information Theory and the Trinity.”

Information Theory and the Trinity

Here is a transcription of the Facebook post.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb September 21, 2014

INFORMATION THEORY is the new central discipline. This graph was from 20y ago in the seminal book Cover and Thomas, as the field was starting to be defined. Now Information Theory has been expanded to swallow even more fields.

Born in, of all disciplines, Electrical Engineering, the field has progressively infiltrating probability theory, computer science, statistical physics, data science, gambling theory, ruin problems, complexity, even how one deals with knowledge, epistemology. It defines noise/signal, order/disorder, etc. It studies cellular automata. You can use it in theology (FREE WILL & algorithmic complexity). As I said, it is the MOTHER discipline.

I am certain much of Medicine will naturally grow to be a subset of it, both operationally, and in studying how the human body works: the latter is an information machine. Same with linguistics. Same with political “science”, same with… everything.

I am saying this because I figured out what the long 5th volume of the INCERTO will be. Cannot say now with any precision but it has to do with a variant of entropy as the core natural generator of Antifragility. [Revised to explain that it is not *replacing* other disciplines, just infiltrating them as the point was initially misunderstood…]

And that’s something to digest. You need to read the item, but here is the gist:

All communication systems that we know the origin of are designed. This suggests that consciousness comes first in the universe. Consciousness first, matter second. Not the other way around. (If anyone solves the Evolution 2.0 Prize, and I hope they do, they’ll solve it by starting with consciousness and working from there. My 2 cents.)

You cannot create messages or communication by blind material processes, so far as anyone knows thus far. Information always starts with consciousness. Which is the thesis of my Evolution 2.0 book.

What he is saying—see the diagram above—is that we marvel at the employment of DNA to encode and reproduce life forms, but DNA is merely the telephone line in a communication system. To explain the origin of the message (the structure of novel life forms) you need to invoke outside intelligence.

Perry Marshall is the author of the book and presumably the posting. He wants to stretch the analogy of an information transmission system into the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is a stretch too far.

Abusing Science

Number 25 of a series

Twenty-seven years ago I attended a presentation by health quack Charlotte Gerson. It was an interesting audience. I got into a conversation that came around to homeopathy. Homeopathy, it was explained, works by quantum mechanics. And that was it. Not many people understand quantum mechanics. In fact top physicists remind us that maybe nobody understands quantum mechanics. And that’s the allure. Something this dark and mysterious can be used to explain all manner of questionable proposals. One of these might be transubstantiation.For the uninitiated, transubstantiation is associated with the Eucharist of the Catholic faith. The little wheat wafers, presumably blessed by the church, literally become the body of Christ. How does this work?

According to the Magis Center, quantum mechanics is at the heart. I won’t recap the posting , but the headline catches my attention:

Quantum Mechanics and the Real Presence: What Reality Should We Believe?

After some background we get to the heart of the matter:

First, quantum mechanics is itself a mystery: as the great physicist Richard Feynman remarked, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Second, the theory gives probabilities for alternative results of experiments, probabilities that are confirmed to a high degree of accuracy (much like actuarial results—one may not know when any given person may die, but one does know that among a large number of 70 year old men, a well-defined percentage will die in the coming year).   Even though quantum mechanics is deterministic in a statistical sense, this probabilistic character bothers many physicists. Einstein himself opposed the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, insisting that “God does not play dice with the universe.

Third, from the beginning of quantum mechanics, scientists have posited a connection between the conscious mind and the role of the observer in determining quantum mechanical outcomes in experiments. As d’Espagnat puts it, “The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.” The conscious mind of the observer plays a role in making a choice of experiments and what is to be observed.

This last part, “… scientists have posited a connection between the conscious mind and the role of the observer in determining quantum mechanical outcomes in experiments,” is problematic. While it is literally true that observation of an outcome, especially one involving quantum-level activity, does make the outcome irreversible, the notion that the observation must be human is imaginary. A classic case is the thought experiment involving “Schrödinger’s cat.” The experiment goes like this.

Put the cat in a closed box. Nobody can see in. Inside the box is a deadly poison, set to be released by a quantum event, e.g., alpha decay. Did the decay occur? If it did, then the cat is dead. If not, then the cat is alive. But until we open the box (as the protocol describes) the cat is in an undecided state. Until we observe the dead/alive cat, the alpha decay happened/did not happen.

The problem with this description is the requirement for human observation. Until we open the box, we may not know whether the alpha decay happened. But the cat does. Actually, any number of irreversible conditions can remove the alpha decay from the undecided state. The alpha decay happens, the alpha particle exits the nucleus. No matter how many cats are involved, the alpha particle is not going back into the nucleus. The outcome becomes final before any cat dies.

Religious hard cases become distressed at the failure of faith to accomplish anything material, anything of substance. Others perceive what is called science envy. If science can be invoked to substantiate religious conjectures, then wanderers can be coaxed back to the faith. Science is having none of that. The claims of the supernatural posited by religious zealots are never going to pass any sensible evaluation for merit. This kind of stuff is, at its base, an abuse of science.

The Magis Center post references the late French physicist Bernard d’Espagnat, who made contributions to this subject. An item I posted back in my college days commented on the so-called EPR paradox and referenced d’Espagnat’s work. Here is a link to a page that’s all about the mysteries of quantum mechanics. John Gribbin’s book In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat is a comprehensive read on the subject.

Breathtaking Inanity

Number 14 of a continuing series

This is shocking news. How much lower can people go?

Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates: Prepare To Be Shunned And Ridiculed For Being Christians [VIDEO]

May 12, 2019

Pence, who has been facing criticisms of his own religious views recently, warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left. “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence said. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”

 Imagine the level of humiliation these graduates from arguably the most Christian of all universities will face. Consider the degree of derision that will confront them when future co-workers learn of their deep commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. What if…

Wait! Additional breaking news has just landed on my desk. Without digging deeper into it, I’m going to put it out for you now. There is no time to waste. Here it is.

College President Deke Jorgensen Cautions Graduating Class

Dr. Deke Jorgensen, president of Fordlee Clown School, spoke to the graduating class today, and he gave them an urgent warning. “Be prepared to be laughed at,” he cautioned students.

See what I mean? It’s a heartless world out there.

Abusing Science

Number 23 of a series

On Sunday, 19 May, Liam Feldman will host a reading/review of Why Intelligent Design Fails by Matt Young and Taner Edis. The meeting will be at Barnes & Noble 321 NW Loop 410 #104 in San Antonio, starting at 3 p.m. Feel free to come out and join the discussion.

With that in mind, the topic of this post is a book by the Discovery Institute, the leading promoter of Intelligent Design. It’s Science and Human Origins, compiled by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. They are all associated with the Discovery Institute. From Amazon:

Evidence for a purely Darwinian account of human origins is supposed to be overwhelming. But is it? In this provocative book, three scientists challenge the claim that undirected natural selection is capable of building a human being, critically assess fossil and genetic evidence that human beings share a common ancestor with apes, and debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.

This is an interesting stance for Intelligent Design, because the philosophy was resurrected 30 years ago to pull the creationist movement away from biblical  origins and to disguise it as a science-based endeavor. Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture were supposed to acknowledge inescapable science and get people to thinking an unknown creator is behind this science. UC Berkeley law professor (now  retired) Phillip E. Johnson is credited with giving Intelligent Design new life and is considered the godfather of the modern movement. Jon Buell is president of the Richardson, Texas, based Foundation for Thought and Ethics. FTE is publisher of the creationist book Of Pandas and People, made famous in the Kitzmiller court case. Both attended a symposium titled ” Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference?” at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, March 26-28, 1992.

It was an opportunity to ask the pivotal question, and I did. Did these two educated men agree the earth is billions of years old and that humans share a common ancestry with other life forms? Both agreed. The ground may have shifted since then, because outpourings from the DI seem to have dropped the facade of scientific literacy. The book that is today’s topic bears that out.

Reviewing books such as this and picking them apart on inconsistencies and obvious wrong facts is a bunch of fun, but I have no experience in the related science, so it’s best if I fall back on others who do. Someone who seems to have given this book a close look is Paul McBride. From a post by Richard P. Hoppe on the Panda’s Thumb site:

Fortunately for me, I’m spared the chore of reading and critiquing the book. Paul McBride, a Ph.D. candidate in vertebrate macroecology/evolution in New Zealand who writes Still Monkeys, bit the bullet and did a chapter by chapter (all five chapters) review of the book. The book doesn’t come out looking good (is anyone surprised?). I’m going to shamelessly piggyback on McBride’s review. I’ll link to his individual chapter reviews, adding some commentary, below the fold.

The book has five chapters, and the one I appear to have found most interesting is chapter 5, “The Science of Adam and Eve.” I am guessing by he title that all pretense of scientific rigor has been discarded. We are back to Genesis with a bang.

My copy of the book is a Kindle edition, and one thing you can do with these is highlight sections of text. I notice I highlighted entire paragraphs when I first went through the book. Here is one section.

Using population genetics, some scientists have argued that there is too much genetic diversity to have passed through a bottleneck of just two individuals. But that turns out not to be true.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Here is another.

Now, I am a scientist, and not a theologian, but I feel obligated to speak. The challenge being posed to two first parents is a scientific one, so it deserves a scientific response. My purpose in this chapter is not to engage in Biblical interpretation or to pass judgment on the various views Christians hold about Adam and Eve. Instead, I propose to focus on the scientific argument and its validity.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

And there it is. Genesis is true, and Adam and Eve were real people, and we all sprang from this single pair.

But wait! Real scientists hold a similar view. Richard Dawkins, no friend of the Bible, agrees that today’s human population sprang from one woman, exact identity unknown.

The second conclusion of the Berkeley group is less controversial. No matter where Mitochondrial Eve lived, they were able to estimate when. It is known how fast mitochondrial DNA evolves; you can therefore put an approximate date on each of the branch points on the tree of divergence of mitochondrial DNA. And the branch point that unites all womankind—the birth date of Mitochondrial Eve—is between a hundred fifty thousand and a quarter of a million years ago.

Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden (Science Masters Series) (pp. 52-53). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The difference is Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman. Some elementary mathematical analysis will demonstrate to you that, given the branching inherent in sexual reproduction, any two people alive today should be able to trace their lineage back to a point the paths intersect. Dawkins goes further. He uses the rate of mitochondrial mutation to compute an approximate date of our common ancestry, in the female line of descent.

On the matter of common descent, I first noticed a divergence in thinking among the new creationists at a conference in Dallas in November 2003. Ray Bohlin was there, along with creationist Ide Trotter. Bohlin holds a  Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and he is also a key person at Probe Ministries in Richardson, Texas:.

Raymond G. Bohlin is Vice President of Vision Outreach with Probe Ministries.

A plenum session gave participants the opportunity to ask questions and to make statements. Ray Bohlin announced to those present he believed all life forms on this planets have a common ancestry. Except humans. People have a different line of descent.

Creationists Ide Trotter and Ray Bohlin in 2003

I yield the remainder of your time to reading Paul McBride’s more thorough examination of this creationist book. Get a copy for yourself if you are interested. It’s a grand exemplar of the abuse of science.

Graham

Number 5 of a Continuing Saga

Stuff like this takes some getting used to:

Franklin Graham to Buttigieg: Homosexuality ‘sin’ to be ‘repentant of’ not ‘flaunted’

The evangelical preacher Franklin Graham has taken aim at presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a self-described gay Christian.

Specifically:

Presidential candidate & South Bend Mayor is right—God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by. God doesn’t change. His Word is the same yesterday, today & forever. 1/3

Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women. 2/3

The core of the Christian faith is believing and following Jesus Christ, who God sent to be the Savior of the world—to save us from sin, to save us from hell, to save us from eternal damnation. 3/3

The Reverend Franklin Graham has some history. For example:

I appreciate Reverend Graham’s observation concerning “numerous instances from the Bible where people turned the tide of history by prayer.” Here’s one from Ezekiel 9:

Which refers to:

Ezekiel 9:4-6 King James Version (KJV)

And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

“God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by….” The god that commanded, “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women …” Yes, this is the god we should follow. I’m feeling more comfortable already.

It’s also the same god, according to Franklin Graham, that “says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.” Actually, that god does not say any such thing.

2 Samuel 5:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.

But that’s the Old Testament. Graham is a follower of Jesus, who was decidedly against homosexuality. Here is what Jesus had to say about homosexuality.

Anyhow, true Christians know marriage is between one man and one woman:

“When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.

If you think Reverend Graham is making stuff up, you are in good company.

And the horse you rode in on.