Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Buy "The Science Guy"

I have nothing personal against Bill Nye, "The Science Guy". I remember watching parts of his program when our kids were younger and I found them enjoyable and informative. However, if you have any interest whatsoever in knowing the truth about the world and/or speaking coherently, consistently, and intelligently about seeking the truth about that world, please watch this 2:32 minute video and think about what he is saying. It really is beyond me how someone who is sold as such a scientific sage and articulator of the the truth could deliver such a bumbling, nonsensical connection of incoherent platitudes ... and then finish them off by admonishing the morons (defined as a parent who does not agree with Bill Nye, "The Science Guy") to shut up and leave the education of their children to the real scientists -- like him.

There are a few facts about Mr. Nye that I find directly applicable to the list of assertions (definitely not an argument) he brings us. For starters, one would think that someone who is touted in the media as a "science guy" -- especially a guy who would challenge your parenting skills if you don't buy into the widely accepted "fact" of evolution -- would, at a minimum be -- Oh, I don't know -- an actual scientist. Given the topic of this video in fact, we might assume that our "science guy" would have some kind of background or advanced degree in the life/biological sciences.

Well, Bill Nye, "the science guy," actually has nothing of the kind. Mr. Nye's education consists of a Bachelor of Science ... in Mechanical Engineering. His expertise consists of: developing a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing; being a student of Carl Sagan (a shocking revelation in light of the content of this video); receiving two Honorary Doctorate Degrees because he gave a couple of commencement addresses (long after his popularity on being "the science guy" had been established); and (probably the most relevant fact in relation to this discussion) a career that began as a stand-up comedian in Seattle.

I couldn't make this up.

With this as his background, "the science guy" wants to lecture the rest of us about how ridiculous we are to not believe in evolution but he makes absolutely no distinction about what he means by "evolution." Does he mean that we ridiculous people deny that species change and adapt to the environment? If so, he is just plain wrong. However, since it is the case that most who defend "evolution" are referring to a specific theory that all life is the result of a purposeless, materialistic process that began by a random accident and can account for all variations of life from that first self-replicating, single-celled organism (I refer to this as Big 'E' Evolution), I will assume that is what he means.

As we examine his case, it is important to recognize a couple of things. First, just because Mr. Nye's credentials as a "science guy" are lacking, that doesn't mean we should dismiss him out of hand. We should give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives us reason not to. Second, we need to recognize the difference between an assertion and an argument. Anyone can make assertions but no one should be compelled to accept them unless they are supported by evidence, logic and good reasoning. Mr. Nye gives none of these. He simply offers a rambling set of assertions that completely collapse when you take the time to think about what they are. So, in the interest of deciding who is actually being ridiculous, let me break down the case Mr. Nye makes.

"Denial of evolution is unique to the United States ... we are the world's most advanced technological society ... people move to the United States because of our general understanding of science."

Beside the fact that this a baseless and demonstrably false assertion (I know of plenty of folks who live all over the world who do not accept Evolution because they have not seen any credible evidence to support it), let's just say Mr. Nye is correct; the only people who don't believe in Evolution are Americans. What does this prove? Does the geographical location of those persons who believe in an idea determine the truth content of the idea itself? To ask the question is to answer it. As a side note, does Mr. Nye really believe that the reason people immigrate to the United States is because of our general understanding of science? The utter inanity of these assertions defies all logic.

"When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in Evolution it holds everybody back."

How, exactly, did Mr. Nye come to this conclusion? My undergraduate education is in aerospace engineering. I learned how to design airplanes and then how to fly them. I don't accept Evolution. So I would like Mr. Nye to explain to me exactly how I am "holding everybody back." I don't think he can. And let's turn this one around. Suppose I claimed that those who do accept Evolution are holding everybody back. Would Mr. Nye accept this as a valid argument against Evolution? It would be ridiculous if he did.

"Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science ... [Not believing in it] is analogous to doing geology and not believing in tectonic plates ... you're just not gonna get the right answer. Your whole world is just gonna be a mystery instead of an exciting place."

Before he said this, Mr. Nye had only demonstrated a lack of logic and reasoning. But here he completely invalidates his claim to be a "science guy." Whatever one thinks of the concept of Evolution, it can only be understood as a process that explains the emergence and diversity of life on the Earth. It is a noble attempt to explain the nuts and bolts of just how chemical elements that existed on the early Earth combined and interacted with one another to produce complex biological systems that live and grow and reproduce. It is the process that is at the heart of Evolution, not the parts that are used by the process. Yet Mr. Nye believes that tectonic plates -- which are nothing but giant hunks of rock that get pushed around by geological processes -- are analogous to the process of Evolution. He fails to understand the very basic concept that he is comparing completely non-analogous categories of things. If he can't distinguish such a fundamental concept as this I'm not sure why anyone thinks we should take him seriously as a "science guy."

"Once in a while I get people who don't really -- who claim -- they don't believe in evolution. My response is, 'Why not?' Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution."

Notice that Mr. Nye believes that no one could really disbelieve in Evolution; they only "claim" to do so. He also fails to offer the responses he receives to his "Why not?" question. Who is he asking? Why does he dismiss them? We can't really know how to evaluate their answers unless we know what evidence they are citing and the actual reasons they are giving. The fact that Mr. Nye doesn't accept their responses is hardly a reason for us to reject them, especially having established that his reasoning is demonstrably lacking in support of Evolution. I also fail to see any connection between my denial of Evolution and the complicatedness of the world I am living in as a result. This assertion comes completely out of left field as an irrelevant non sequitur.

"Here are these ancient dinosaur bones ... radioactivity ... distant stars ... the idea of deep time ... billions of years ... if you try to ignore that your worldview just becomes crazy"

Just like most "young earth creationists," Mr. Nye is equating non-acceptance of Evolution with belief in a young universe (or, conversely, acceptance of an old universe as an equivalent acceptance of Evolution). Once again he is confusing categories. How in the world does Mr. Nye equate non-acceptance of Evolution with a belief in a young universe? These two topics are completely separate. One is about biology and the other is about cosmology. All one would have to do to show that this assertion by Mr. Nye is false is declare themselves to be an "old universe, non-Evolutionist." How would he respond to that? By failing to recognize this difference, he not only demonstrates his lack of a basic understanding of science, but also shows the failure of the argument most young Earth creationists use against those of us who believe the universe is old. I wonder how Mr. Nye would react when someone pointed out to him that his thinking is exactly equivalent to the young Earth creationists he so abhors.

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that is completely inconsistent with the universe, that's fine ... but don't make your kids do it ... because we need them ... we need engineers who can build things and solve problems ..."

Now Mr. Nye has stepped out of a scientific critique (if you could consider to him to have ever been inside one) and into the arrogance of supposing he has the right to tell anyone what they should be allowed to teach their children. This is the impulse of a statist mindset that thinks it can determine what people should be allowed to think. Those of us who honor scientific objectivity, free thought, and academic tolerance need to recognize this kind of talk when we hear it. People who think like this are the most intolerant kinds of people and they are destroying the concept of free thought in the academy. It is intellectually dishonest and it can become dangerous for those who don't think the "right way."

I would also like to point out that Mr. Nye (once again) demonstrates his failure to understand basic logic when he ties belief in Evolution to our ability to produce "engineers who can build things and solve problems." It seems fairly obvious that one can be a perfectly competent airplane or bridge designer/builder not only without holding an opinion about Evolution, but with being completely ignorant about the very concept of Evolution. Mr. Nye proved that himself when he designed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing.

Finally, Mr, Nye insists that we must overcome those who disbelieve in Evolution because "... we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers." By examining the case he makes in this video, I think it should be fairly obvious that, if scientific literacy became a prerequisite for voting and paying taxes, "the science guy" would have to stay home on election day.


  1. Well said! This biologist doesn't believe in [macro]evolution and it's a rare point of view, but there are some of us out here! Mr. Nye is a great actor, but ever since I saw a video he did which was akin to dawkins-worship, I decided to look elsewhere for educational videos to show my students.

  2. I think what we have here is a jumbled catalog of opinions that all branch off the same root: an utter rejection of the God of the Bible.

    It's similar to the wacko Left, which reflexively sides with Islam every chance it gets, even though life under Sharia would be utter hell for them. They hate the West in their bones, so any power on Earth opposed to the West must be promoted.

    In Nye's case, "evolution" is a comprehensive alternative to the worldview of Judeo-Christian civilization. It's like a black box in a function diagram: in go the old, hated, assumptions about reality the bible informs; out emerge wonderfully transformed, modern pieties. No thought is involved. Black boxes are magic.

    Thus, he magically lumps together assumptions about the age of the universe with assumptions about continental drift, and the origins of life. It's a one stop shop for dethroning everything the God of the Bible tells us is true. It's all "evolution" because "evolution" is scientific proof that "religion" is superstition: it's a comprehensive catch-all that need not be examined.

    In other words, "evolution" is everything people like Nye scoff at the Bible for being.

    Incidentally, I challenge anyone to read Walt Brown's book of pure science, "In the Beginning" (http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/index.html) and come away believing that the Earth--indeed the universe--is old.

    1. Patrick -- I agree that Mr. Nye seems to lump anti-theistic assumptions together under the word "evolution." That is an excellent way to put it and I doubt that he is even aware that he is doing that ... which is further proof that his status as a "science guy" is seriously in question.

      As for your final paragraph (above), I challenge anyone to read Hugh Ross's book about the scientific support for the claims of Scripture, "The Creator and the Cosmos," and come away believing the universe is young.

      Further, I challenge anyone to read the Bible itself and come away believing it demands that we adopt either view.

    2. good one, BobO

  3. Thank you for the post - I was hoping someone would do it!
    Regarding the challenges over Wlat Brown and Hugh Ross (which I think is really YEC vs. OEC) I think its deeper than that. Both sides claim exegetical superiority, so I think a better challenge would be a challenge to decide who is right. They can't both be! In other words, its not about YEC vs. OEC, its about who understands the Scripture the best. Personally, I think ministries such as Answers in Genesis, ICR, and even the Master's Seminary get ridiculed for simply attempting to understand Scripture the best.
    Food for thought. Thanks again for the post!

  4. Biological evolution of species on this planet, as described by Darwin, is a fact of science. The evidence is beyond all reasonable doubt. And the only people on planet Earth who seriously question that basic fact are religious nutbags like yourself.

    You write "Faith has gotten a bad rap. It is active trust bases on evidence and reason."

    Good grief!!! So please tell me all about the astounding "evidence" that a barbaric blood sacrifice in the Middle East desert 2,000 years was offered up to the invisible man in the sky and actually atoned for your sins. Sins that were incurred when a man picked some magic fruit from a magic tree in a magic garden 6,000 years ago. After being encouraged to do so by a woman who had a conversation with a talking snake!!!

    That is nothing less than Stone Age bullshit that any thinking human today should be beyond embarrassed to believe!!

    1. Well, L.W. Dickell ... You bring up a couple of points that are definitely worth discussing. But first I'd like to note that you don't defend Bill Nye's amateurish, incoherent, lame attempt to convince anyone that what he's saying is true. That tells me that you are a serious thinker -- at least serious enough to recognize Mr. Nye's drivel for what it is. But second (and maybe you can explain this to me), you, like Dawson and many others seem to be awfully angry at a God you claim doesn't exist. You seem to be saying, "There is no God and I hate him!" I honestly don't get the anger. Why would you be so angry about "an invisible man"?

      You may be surprised to know that I agree with you about the bizarre practice of animal sacrifice the Israelites practiced in the desert for thousands of years. It has always been a question for me as to how one would think that worked. But, if you read the history, you will learn that even though it seems bizarre to us, this was an ancient way seen to separate the people (the definition of "holiness") of God from the surrounding nations whose behavior was even more violent, sadistic, cruel and perverted by orders of magnitude. You have to look at the whole show before you can pass judgment on the part you don't like.

      But really, that has little bearing on the BIG questions that come into play regarding: the origin of the universe, the origin of life, consciousness emerging from a material world, and the universal recognition we all have that there are moral obligations we hold between one another.

      Your materialistic view says that the entire physical universe came into existence from nothing without a cause (Krauss, Hawking) -- unlike any other phenomenon in history. Surely you would mock me if I claimed this kind of cause for any other effect, yet you apparently believe it is perfectly acceptable to defend it against the most monumental effect of all.

      Your materialistic view says the the complexity and information we find in even the simplest single-celled organism go there by a "fortunate" (big understatement) series of purposeless, random events that even the world's greatest scientist cannot reproduce -- on purpose. The more we study the origin of life, the more maddeningly difficult it is becoming. That's not my opinion, that's the opinion of origin of life researchers.

      Your materialistic view says that our consciousness somehow "emerged" out of the clashing of molecules in a completely materialistic, consciousLESS universe (which, if true, makes me wonder why one would expect me to take anything anyone says as being worthy of consideration).

      Your materialistic view has absolutely no explanation (indeed there is no hope for one even in principle) for how molecules clashing in the universe are sufficient to explain how moral principles are grounded (not known, grounded)

      These are all things the most important things that we recognize about the world we live in and yet your worldview cannot account for a single one of them. We're just supposed to accept them on "faith" I guess. Well, I have to say it requires more irrational faith to believe that than it does to believe anything I defend. We can share confusion on ancient middle eastern atonement systems and maybe talk about them to try to make sense of them ... but no amount of blind faith can convince me that any thinking human should accept the your solutions for questions that are far more important than that.

    2. Bobster, I'm no more angry at your invisible man in the sky than I would be at the tooth fairy.

      I do get a little angry at the mind-boggling stupidity of deluded religious nutters like yourself due to the fact that you seem to enjoy spreading ignorance and lies.

      "You have to look at the whole show before you can pass judgment on the part you don't like."

      And Bob, I've looked at the "whole" of the Christian doctrine of blood atonement. And you know what? Like every rational, thinking human being on planet Earth I have found it to be the most ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, evil, wicked, sadistic, vile, sickening pile of Stone Age donkey shit that the human mind has ever concocted in our entire existence as humans.

      And everything that you wrote about my "materialist view" is so astoundingly ignorant and stupid that it is difficult to even know how to respond.

      First, you seem totally ignorant of the points that Krauss and Hawking are making regarding the universe coming into being. They don't say that there was no cause or that there was ever a complete state of "nothingness" as most people would commonly state it. Did you actually read these books? If you did, you apparently didn't understand a goddamn thing that they wrote. Or else your deluded Jesus-brain is simply unable to understand actual rational discourse.

      And the rest of your statements look like they were written by a 3rd grader from a school for the mentally challenged.

      You in your deluded ignorance seem to think that because we don't have answers for some mysteries at the present time that somehow science is invalided and your asinine religious doctrines must surely be true. Are you really this astonishingly ignorant? Because while there are certainly many things that are unknown to us right now, that in no way means that scientists will not have an explanation for these things in the future.

      Science has answered many, many difficult questions over the last few hundred years. How man serious, important questions has your silly, pathetic holy book of virgin births, demon possession, talking donkeys, and blood sacrifices ever answered?

      That would be zero, bobster!!!!!

    3. My bad, L.W. Dickell ... I guess I was overreacting when I said you sounded angry. Not sure why I thought that.

      I normally don't allow profanity-laced, name-calling rants that contain no substance on my blog but I thought I would make an exception this time so readers could compare, and be able to recognize, what counts for an "argument" from some these days. I think they can see who offered a reasoned response that was worth engaging and compare it with, well, ... with what L.W. offered. To be sure, there are folks on my side that "argue" like L.W. Dickell, I just try to disassociate myself with them. I would also not that I completely disagree with "tildeb" but at least he demonstrates some class in his disagreement.

      I also appreciate the opportunity to point out what might constitute a conversation between the Brilliant Scientist (on the order of L.W. Dickell) ... we'll shorten it to "BS," and someone from the moronic Creationist camp ... we'll shorten that to "ME."

      ME: I think the evidence from Big Bang Cosmology, the 2nd Law, and philosophical arguments about "actual infinities" all infer that the cause of the universe must be outside the universe and incomprehensibly powerful. I can't prove this is God but it is perfectly consistent with what the Bible says about God.

      BS: You're a deluded ignoramus. The cause cannot be God. God is a figment of your imagination. The universe needs no "cause."

      ME: Well, what is the alternative? Something had to cause it. Either everything came from something or everything came from nothing. Which is it? Why does the universe get a pass on the cause and effect thing?

      BS: Everything came from nothing without a cause.

      ME: How does that work?

      BS: Well, we'll find out some day but for now we know that there had to have been some kind of vibration in the quantum gravity field ... the gravity wave did it.

      ME: But that's not nothing.

      BS: Your mind-boggling stupidity apparently doesn't allow you to see the nuanced view of "nothing" that I'm using.

      ME: Probably so. I'm not as smart as you. But where did the quantum field and/or the gravity wave come from?

      BS: You're an idiot. Science will tell us that. Your invisible flying spaghetti monster never will. You people are irrational and dangerous and should not be allowed to have children ... or at least teach children.

      With this, the BS walks away shaking his head about the utter stupidity of the creationist nut job and comforts himself in knowing that his explanation for the beginning of the universe is infinitely more reasonable and rational. As he leaves, he yells back over his shoulder, "How man serious, important questions has your silly, pathetic holy book of virgin births, demon possession, talking donkeys, and blood sacrifices ever answered?

      That would be zero, bobster!!!!!"

      That's when he knows he has won the argument. He congratulates himself accordingly.

  5. Bob, you sometimes find religion without creationism but you never find creationism without religion. This a clue...

    By rejecting evolution as an explanation how human life on earth has developed, you are not simply rejecting this particular foundational conclusion of modern biology: you are rejecting the very same method of science that also happens to inform your profession.

    The science that informs modern biology uses the identical scientific method that informs your engineering. As you know, this method produces technologies, applications, and therapies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. This method - and utilizing its reliability - is not a trivial achievement for our species. Yet you are willing to reject this method when it comes to a very specific contrary religious conclusion that goes against the foundation of your religious belief. But rather than have confidence with what you know works for everyone everywhere all the time and produces stuff that works reliably and consistently well, you side with your Iron age religious beliefs in this one particular case. Yet you know they are factually and historically false (I'm referring specifically to the myth of Genesis and the interpretation of its central theme of creation as an allegory absolutely vital to your religious beliefs to justify the death and resurrection - and thus godhood - of Jesus).

    Using the method of science, we know there is no evidence for the allegory to work in reality, that there is no evidence from reality to link some agency of POOF!ism with our life form, no global flood, no Adam and Eve, no ark, no six day creation, and so on. All of these are signposts in Genesis that we are dealing with a myth and not an allegory but, hey, children indoctrinated into religious beliefs are not taught to respect reality's role in arbitrating religious truth claims made about it; they are taught to privilege their religious beliefs to arbitrate reality in specific case... and then to respect this intentional inversion under the banner of 'Faith'. This is why geography - and not respect for what's true for everyone everywhere all the time - is by and large what determines your religious beliefs.

    No one born in Riyad finds evidence from reality to become an evangelical christian any more than someone born in Reno finds evidence from reality to become a hindu. These allegiances to religious brands come from some kind of local indoctrination by local believers... specifically parents. When we understand that a spokesperson for science like Bill Nye tells us that we do children no favour in an ever-growing scientifically literate world to indoctrinate them in profoundly anti-scientific religious beliefs like historical creationism, it is expected that the backlash will come from only one direction: the religious. But in the same way that geological reality cannot be scientifically understood without 'accepting' plate tectonics, so, too , modern biological reality cannot be scientifically understood without 'accepting' evolution... evolution meaning common decent by NATURAL selection. The capitalized word is also a clue... which has no scientific relationship to religious beliefs.

    No matter how muddled the apologetic religious compromises really are, reality tells us that evolution is a scientific conclusion that works for everyone everywhere all the time, and an understanding that produces technologies, applications, and therapies that have the temerity to actually work in spite of religious claims that it cannot, should not, or ought not work. Reality, not belief, arbitrates what's true about it. Eventually, all creationists will have to cope with this most distasteful fact whether they wish to believe evolution is true or not. Why create another generation that has to suffer again from this misunderstanding?

  6. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, tildeb. I'm not sure why you would think my rejection of 'E'volution (which needs to be more accurately defined because I do accept some definitions of evolution) would also preclude my acceptance of the scientific method. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as I'm sure you are aware, the scientific method was developed by Christians who believed the world was orderly, rational and knowable precisely because God's hand was in it. I find it ironic that you slap the face of those who developed the process you hold so dear. There is no reason to reject the scientific method if I hold that the Creator is responsible for not only nature itself, but everything we learn about nature. So, yes, I do accept the scientific method and I believe that science has, does, and will continue to uncover evidence for a non-natural cause for the universe and for life.

    What I reject is the philosophical assumptions that one is forced to accept in order to be in the good graces of Bill Nye "the science guy." As an example: It is the scientific method that has revealed the fatal flaws in the abiogenetic-molecules-to-man-Evolution model. "Evolution" is the theory that's never wrong. Darwin insisted that all biological diversity was the result of gradual change. When the fossil record proved this to be wrong, Stephen J. Gould introduced "punc eq"and the theory rolls on as "fact." Yet none of the iterations of the every-evolving Theory of Evolution (pun intended) can serve to explain such a glaring defeater of the theory as the Cambrian Explosion.

    Similarly, it is the scientific method that been used to discover the actual purposes of non-coding DNA when the philosophical assumptions of naturalism insisted that it was all "junk."

    Likewise, I completely agree that reality trumps religion. Absolutely. That is why the fortunate (or unfortunate) location of one's birth is irrelevant when it comes to the truth claims of a religion. If I were born in Riyhad, I most likely would have been indoctrinated into the precepts of Islam ... but examining those precepts against reality would show that Islam does not correspond to reality (the definition of truth) so, whether I continued to believe them or not, I would be wrong. My challenge to you is to examine the truth claims about the big picture issues of reality against the same claims of Christianity and let me know where you find some disconnect that we can discuss.

    Your a priori rejection of supernatural reality does not mean that it is irrational to hold that the claims of the Bible square with our findings about nature.

    Finally, I think you missed my point in the original post. I most certainly do accept the reality of the process of plate tectonics. My point was that Bill Nye does not seem to grasp the fact that there is a difference between plate tectonics and tectonic plates. His analogy in the video was to compare evolution to the latter. As a thinking person, I also hope that you can recognize the abject failure in logic and coherence that Bill Nye demonstrates in this video ... even if you agree with his overal point of view. His background and delivery demand that those on his side need to find a more competent spokesman.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and for the dialogue. Don't be a stranger ...

  7. What I reject is the philosophical assumptions that one is forced to accept in order to be in the good graces of Bill Nye "the science guy."

    The philosophical assumption is called methodological naturalism. That's what you use in engineering and I don't see your philosophical concerns playing much of role there.

    As an example: It is the scientific method that has revealed the fatal flaws in the abiogenetic-molecules-to-man-Evolution model.

    Now you're breaking the ninth commandment. Nowhere in evolutionary theory as common decent by natural selection is there any mention of abiogenesis. Every evolutionary biologist I've ever asked tells me the same answer about abiogenesis: "I don't know." This answer is true for you, too, Bob, in the area of theology (not that it slows any creationist down from proclaiming an answer!) but given the choice only between the natural formation of RNA into amino acids versus POOF!ism of creationists, I tend to lean towards the former as more likely because we do find amino formations in glacial ice melts.

    Punctuated equilibrium in no way counters common ancestry by natural selection; it supports it. Non activated DNA supports it. The Cambrian explosion (roughly 60 million years in duration) supports it. Every criticism you raise has been critically examined by those who have dedicated their lives to the study of biology (and paleontology) but all these trivial misrepresentations creationists use that have long been debunked over and over again by these professionals fails to do anything other than support and refine evolutionary theory as reality reveals to us. That's why it's a theory, Bob; it has already passed all these tests. But you know this... if you understand the method of science.

    I reject lots of stuff right off the bat just like you. Not for a moment do I think you have examined in detail a majority of human religions to conclude christianity is the best any more than I have. And we haven't because of a very good reason: there is no compelling evidence from reality that we should do so.

    Non belief is our default to all of these extraordinary claims about supernatural causes that have failed to be linked to natural effects. The blame for our non belief does not lie with us: the burden of proof has not been met by those who DO believe. They don't believe because of evidence gathered from reality; they believe because they've been told to, and find it to their advantage for a variety of reasons to go along. Whether or not the belief is true is secondary to supporting religious faith. This makes the inquiry into what's true in reality - a rather central feature to the method of science I'm sure you will agree - not the point for those who argue that evolution is not true; the point creationists want to make is for their belief to be a legitimate substitute. It isn't because this alternative isn't equivalently true for everyone everywhere all the time (like evolution) but is fractured into thousands of competing and often conflicting alternatives. Mind you, if you followed the same methodology you allow for your religious beliefs in the workplace, you'd be fired for incompetence. The rest of us know that your belief is not a conclusion at all but actually an a priori position for which you then cherry pick whatever data seems to support your beliefs while pretending that the inconsistencies and conflicting data don't really matter. What matters is trying to portray evolutionary science as insufficient when by any honest comparison to any other science we use it isn't. In fact, it is much stronger than all other scientific theories.

  8. tildeb:

    The philosophical assumption is called methodological naturalism. That's what you use in engineering and I don't see your philosophical concerns playing much of role there.

    I am aware of the definition of methodological naturalism, understand what it means, and agree with it to the extent that one uses it to test a hypothesis, analyze the data it generates, and then draw conclusions from it. What I do not accept is the metaphysical naturalism that you insist goes along with it. It is the a priori assumptions of metaphysical naturalism that disallow certain implications of the data before the evidence is even gathered. If you think that ruling out some conclusions before you take the data is consistent with open inquiry, you don't know the definition of open inquiry. And to claim that there is any equivalence between the role played by metaphysical naturalism in the design of an aerospace vehicle and the origin of the universe is at least naive, and maybe a little ridiculous.

    Nowhere in evolutionary theory as common decent by natural selection is there any mention of abiogenesis. Every evolutionary biologist I've ever asked tells me the same answer about abiogenesis: "I don't know." This answer is true for you, too ...

    Ah yes, It didn't take long to hedge your case on the removal of abiogenesis from the discussion. Obviously, "Evolution" does not include the origin of life ... but that doesn't mean your worldview is exempt from providing a fully orbed explanation for what we see in reality. You don't get to play football until you have a kickoff. Why does evolution get a pass?

    No, I don't "know" the answer to how life began. But the question is whose explanation is more plausible? I offer a cause sufficient to explain the effect. You take a pass at worst, or offer a "science of the gaps" promise for the future at best. That's a copout. You may not agree with my inference to divine intervention but that does not make it unreasonable -- unless one begins with the assumption of metaphysical naturalism. It's easy to say, "that explanation is not allowed," but that doesn't make it more acceptable. It's just circular reasoning -- "This cannot be the cause, therefore it is not the cause." And you call that science?

    The efforts of brilliant scientists like Craig Venter only prove my point (Will Venter Create Artificial Life?). While he may succeed in producing "life" in the lab, if he does so it will only be because of the intervention of highly skilled and exceptional scientists reverse engineering a system they already have before them ... and then insisting that that system was produced in the first place by a blind, purposeless process that had nothing to work with but molecules randomly colliding with one another. Which of us is practicing wishful thinking?

    Not for a moment do I think you have examined in detail a majority of human religions to conclude christianity is the best any more than I have.

    Actually, you have no idea how I have reached my conclusions (or that I have!) so that is a pretty presumptuous statement on your part. I won't bore you with the story, but my dive into defending the Christian worldview began precisely because I began to have doubts about whether or not I believed it simply because I was raised in it, or because it was actually true. You claim (without evidence) that I've reached my conclusions about the Christian worldview because of an a priori position. The irony of that statement exists not only because it is false, but because it is precisely what you have done with Evolution based on your prior commitment to metaphysical naturalism ... pot calling the kettle black and all that.

    1. What I do not accept is the metaphysical naturalism that you insist goes along with it.

      I insist on no such thing. Again, I go with methodological naturalism because I respect reality (and not the strength of my philosophical or religious beliefs) made about it). Once you remove reality from arbitrating these claims about reality, you're left with no means at your disposal to check if they are true. This is the exact problem the religious face (and metaphysicians of all stripes) as they argue that we should move away from a methodology that relies on reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it and into metaphysical imaginings that are detached from reality. That's why your insistence that some goddidit creationism is any kind of explanation is actually detached from any way to check its value for being true in reality. This is not a small problem to overcome.

      In other words, goddidit is not an explanation but an evasion; creationism is not an alternative to evolution but a dismissal that we need to even look (because the answer to all questions about all topics will always come down to goddidit... which 'answers' nothing because it explains nothing). POOF!ism is a metaphysical assertion detached from reality. And this is exactly what we find from all religious claims made about reality: not on jot, tiddle, or speck of knowledge about reality has ever been produced by this metaphysical approach. Goddidit is an inquiry killer, a dead end to honest pursuits of knowledge about the reality we share, a means to insert superstitious nonsense immune from reality's role to arbitrate if it is true; in comparison, methodological naturalism is the epistemological gift that keeps on giving. Hence, the scientific revolution crowded with technologies and applications that work versus the explanation of goddidit that has produced... no applications, no therapies, no technologies, and not even a whiff of new knowledge. Ever. This lack of knowledge production is another important clue about its merit to describe and explain the reality we share...

      This is why any explanation about ancestry and how biological life changes over time that proposes a metaphysical epistemology is already junk. We need pay it no mind after several thousands of years producing nothing. After all, doesn't it meet some definition of 'crazy' to suddenly expect a different result from the same action? Metaphysical ontology is therefore fatally broken because its method substitutes supernatural - meaning outside of the natural - imaginings as premises assumed to be true (goddidit), thus starting with the very conclusions one hopes to reach (Did god do it?). This approach has never worked in the past to produce knowledge about reality and we can safely assume it will not in the future regardless of how many earnest and optimistic pious people wish it to be so. This is how I know you can not have reached your religious conclusions by honest inquiry into reality because reality plays no part in assuming the premises of supernaturalism (and thus must be beyond the purview of methodological naturalism) are actually true; for that, you require faith. Faith of the religious kind. This kind of faith is not - and cannot be - a deduced conclusion from reality because that would make it evidence-based science. If if it were evidence-based science, what need for faith?

    2. tildeb:

      First, let's remember that this discussion began with a critique of the nonsense spouted out by "the science guy," who is neither a science guy nor a very good defender of your view. He makes your side look bad and, because I believe that intellectual honesty requires that we face the best arguments on the other side, I was simply suggesting that you need a better spokesman. Your unwillingness to defend his position is admirable (since it is indefensible). I also accept your avoidance of the origin of life issue as an admirable concession of that point. But, all that said ...

      You seem to think that your view is superior to mine because you "accept reality" -- as if I don't. You seem to think that repeating the tired old "goddidit" meme defeats my arguments when I could just as easily accuse you of retreating to a goddidn'tdoit meme because you have no other reply to give.

      Just to be clear (again), I do accept reality. I accept the reality that Big Bang cosmology infers a beginning to all physical reality and therefore a Beginner. I accept the reality that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics also infers a beginning. I accept the reality that philosophy denies an actual infinity -- and therefore also infers a beginning to the universe. I accept the reality that the specified, complex information we find in computer code is exactly the kind of information we find in DNA -- and that there has never, ever, been a computer code that appeared without being written by an intelligent agent.

      You deny that reality by repeating "goddidn'tdoit" to yourself.

      That's fine. But please don't accuse me of being irrational or unreasonable because I draw a different conclusion from the same evidence that you have decided a priori cannot be allowed to infer certain conclusions. You are the one denying all possibilities, not me.

      You also seem to think that your scientific evidence operates in a vacuum. But the vacuum you want to operate in fails to explain the most important parts of reality ... such as the undeniable reality of a grounding for (not a knowledge of) moral obligations. Your scientific vacuum cannot account for things like that even in principle ... yet you accuse me of denying "reality." Contrary to what you seem to believe, science is not the only way to deduce truths about reality. You are the one limiting your worldview to scientific answers, not me.

      For the record, I don't claim that any of these things "prove" God. That would be as ridiculous as you claiming they "disprove" God. All I am saying is that all each of these is perfectly consistent with the claims of the Christian Scripture and that these, along with other evidence from archaeology, history, textual criticism etc. are perfectly compatible with the idea that this Scripture correctly describes that reality. You don't have to accept that view but that doesn't mean I am denying or avoiding reality.

  9. "... imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the Sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this World was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for." (cited by Dawkins in his eulogy for Adams)

    The best method we have for avoiding this anthropocentric bias - and its inherent dangers when applied to the natural universe we inhabit - is science that adduces evidence from the natural universe what is true about. As soon as we allow notions we might favour of causation from what might lie beyond this natural universe for effects we find in it, then we have made an epistemological allowance to go right back to assigning anthropocentric bias to suit our other notion rather than reality itself - the very thing we are trying to avoid!

    There really are compelling reasons why nearly 97% of university tenured biologists reject all forms of creationism; the assumption of supernatural causation is not borne out by information we adduce from this natural universe. In fact, the overwhelming mutually supporting evidence from independent lines of research all point in one direction: common ancestry by natural selection.

    The important aspect here is often ignored by those who cling to creationist beliefs: the evidence did not have to be this way, yet it is! Genetics could have pointed to a single founding couple. Yet it does not. Geology could have pointed to a single creation event. Yet it does not. Topography could have pointed to a global flood. Yet it does not. Radioactive dating could have shown a uniform age of sedimentation. Yet it does not. Physiology could have shown distinct and separate ancestry. Yet it does not. Astronomy could have shown our solar uniqueness. Yet it does not. Physics could have shown exemptions were possible from natural laws. Yet it does not. Chemistry could have shown us cellular rejuvenation through intercessory prayer. Yet it does not. Biodiversity could have shown us stable population dispersal. Yet it does not. Over and over again, opportunities to adduce creation events are plentiful. What's strikingly absent from all this evidence is any indication for a creationist event.

    It's not evolutionists (read scientists) who are skewing the evidence or who have some agenda other than trying to make sense of what the natural universe is telling us is true about it (which may explain why applications that utilize evolutionary theory work for everyone everywhere all the time). To assign motivation of anti-religious sentiment to the adduced conclusions offered by those who point out what the universe is actually telling us is rather a questionable if not dishonest tactic, don't you think?

    1. Had to cut this response into two parts for character count limitations on comments. Part I:

      There really are compelling reasons why nearly 97% of university tenured biologists reject all forms of creationism...

      Correct. It’s called groupthink. There really were compelling reasons why nearly 100% of university tenured scientists rejected all forms of heliocentrism before Copernicus proved their geocentric view was false. There really were compelling reasons why Einstein (et al) rejected the notion of an expanding universe because they "knew" the universe was static and eternal.

      Your appeal to authority does nothing to change the fact that the sudden appearance and expansion of the universe implies an external cause.

      ...the assumption of supernatural causation is not borne out by information we adduce from this natural universe. In fact, the overwhelming mutually supporting evidence from independent lines of research all point in one direction: common ancestry by natural selection.

      And while you continue to pretend the origin of life is irrelevant to the worldview you are defending, I will continue to insist that you have to explain it too. Even if universal common ancestry is true, it does nothing to explain the origin of complex, specified information in DNA. Nothing.

      Genetics could have pointed to a single founding couple. Yet it does not.

      Well, actually it might seem far-fetched to think we could find “proof” of the first couple, but you also might be interested to know that research indicates that modern humans can be traced back to a single location while mitochondrial DNA analysis points to a single woman as its source. I guess the fact that the science community nicknamed her “mitochondrial Eve” is just coincidence. {Sources: Linda Vigilant et al, “African Populations and the Evolution of Human Mitochondrial DNA,” Science 253 (1991); M. Hasegawa and S. Horai, “Time of the Deepest Root for Polymorphism in Human Mitochondrial DNAs,” Journal of Molecular Evolution …There are more but I’m running out of space.}

      Geology could have pointed to a single creation event. Yet it does not.

      Well, actually that is kind of silly. Scientists who are looking at the “single creation event” are astronomers and cosmologists, not geologists. While geology might show traces of evidence for how the Earth formed and for what has happened to it since, it won’t really tell us much about the “single creation event.” For that, see Einstein, Hubble etc. Or, are you suggesting (like many young earth creationists) that the Earth was created before the Sun and the galaxy in which we reside? :-)

      Topography could have pointed to a global flood. Yet it does not.

      I agree. That’s why I don’t accept the idea of a global flood (defined as one that covered the entire earth). Go here for my explanation: The Extent of Noah’s Flood

      Continued ...


    2. Continued from above ...

      Radioactive dating could have shown a uniform age of sedimentation. Yet it does not.

      Once again, I agree! See how similar we are?! But that does nothing to undermine the case for a Creator. It only goes to undermine the case for young earth creationism which, I think you would agree, is nonsense.

      Physiology could have shown distinct and separate ancestry. Yet it does not.

      Well, actually that is not true either. Recent studies of human DNA distribution (2002) compared 377 DNA regions for 1,056 individuals from 52 different population groups and found 93-95% of all genetic variation occurs within all populations and only 3-5% of genetic variability occurs between populations. In other words the human genetic unity is very unusual. {Source: Noah A. Rosenberg et al., “Genetic Structure of Human Populations,” Science 298 (2002)

      Astronomy could have shown our solar uniqueness. Yet it does not.

      Apparently you missed (non-Christians) Ward and Brownlee’s, Rare Earth. No time to go into it here but you can read the book ( Rare Earth) which, to summarize, makes exactly the opposite point of your assertion here.

      Physics could have shown exemptions were possible from natural laws. Yet it does not. Chemistry could have shown us cellular rejuvenation through intercessory prayer. Yet it does not.

      So, like many materialists, you seem to believe that science can disprove miracles. The glaring problem in that assumption is that it makes a colossal and inappropriate category error. In what alternate universe do you think science (the study of the material world) could prove or disprove miracles (which are, by definition, not material)?

      Over and over again, your attempt to deny reality comes back to bite you. Over and over again you fail to see the myopic view you (along with Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”) are attempting to defend has glaring holes in it that you refuse to acknowledge. Hopefully, you have something to think about now ... if you're honest with yourself that is...

    3. Bob, you seem to assume that I have some a priori anti-supernatural axe to grind. I don't. I would be very excited to find amputated limbs growing back instigated by prayer! I really would. I would thrilled to find compelling evidence that some interventionist creative agency was real, that it had real effect in the real world, one that I too could appeal to. And I would love it because I love a good mystery. I would want to find out how to link supernatural cause with natural effect. That link would really be something special in the field of physics. But, alas, in every case of supernatural intervention, it turns out that there are pretty boring natural explanations, explanations that don't break natural laws, explanations that leave physics alone.

      The upside, of course, is that we can have a great deal of confidence in technologies and applications and therapies that assume these remain stable and are not randomly subject to miraculous suspensions.

      But on the downside, it means the universe we inhabit is fundamentally understandable if we put in the required work to do so, and this means taking on board a rather strict methodology that provides provisional conclusions.

      I know a lot of people who don't want to be sceptical. They want a religious authority to assure them what is and is not true, some measure of certainty in an uncertain world, a wish that all of this counts for something lasting well beyond the lifespan we have. But in exchange for replacing these highly biased methods with one that works, we do have the opportunity to open ourselves and our intellectual curiosity to the marvels of how nature actually operates, to really appreciate how behaviours following simple local rules translate into awesome displays of grandeur that appears complex and designed, why linking cause with effect by means of a natural mechanism continues to produce practical and reliable knowledge. That's just the way it is, and it’s worth understanding.

      To dismiss the consensus of so many biologists as some cabal of like-minded people would be very amusing to those of us who know real life biologists. A comparison to herding cats is not a bad analogy. Specifically, to try to insert geneticists into the same camp might cause you some embarrassment at the next faculty dinner. You do this by pretending the genetic information about an original couple does not align perfectly with evolution... especially considering our mitochondria Eve had to wait some 50,000 years for our Adam to show up for date night! In the meantime, the smallest human bottleneck in our genetic history was in the vicinity of 1200+ (different from the post, I know, but still a work in progress).

      So no, there was never any historical Adam and Eve in human ancestry. This is a genetic fact the christian religion has yet to wrap its collective head around... reliant as it is on an historical founding couple to produce the Fall necessary for a redemptive messiah. If the science of genetics is true - and it seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time - then this religious tenet is at best a metaphor. Getting an historical figure to literally die for a metaphor is rather wasteful, would you think? But hey, we can get over the 60 some odd biblical references to a factually wrong geocentric universe, so I'm sure there will emerge a way to get over the loss of an Adam and Eve in our assumed ancestry. Eventually, all religious folk will get over the notion of an interventionist creative agency for which there is even less evidence than these other inaccurate religious assertions. Parents could help shorten this process by following Nye's advice not teaching their kids these same inaccuracies they themselves were taught.

  10. Well, tildeb, I share your awe at the grandeur of the universe but that doesn't mean I reject the advances and improvements that science/technology have brought us. Somehow, many of us (Christians included) have bought the myth about a supposed war between science and religion when there should be no such thing. You ignored the point I made a while back about the fact that the scientific method was developed by scientists who were Christians because they believed in the continuity, order and rationality of a world that was created by God.

    Just so you know, I am equally repulsed by Christians who promote the "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" mentality that science is the enemy of faith. I am of the opinion that if this universe was created by God, we will never find anything through our study of nature that will contradict the Bible ... and vice versa. I welcome the scientific enterprise and support it wholeheartedly ... right up until it starts inserting philosophical assumptions as a prerequisite -- not for doing the science -- but for drawing conclusions from the science.

    Your snide comments about Christianity notwithstanding, I respect your point of view and wish you would not lump all us Christian believers together in the same young-earth, evidence-be-damned, you'll-go-to-hell-if-you-disagree-with-me crowd. Those kind people drive me just as crazy as they must drive you (OK, maybe not just as crazy). Maybe that is who Bill Nye, "The Pseudo-Science Guy" was referring to but part of my mission here is to destroy the idea that we are all like that.

    I doubt you'll ever agree with me but I would hope you can at least respect where I'm coming from.

    Cheers ...

    1. Oh, I suspect we would agree on almost everything - like family and friends and jobs and the cost of living and health concerns and so on... right up until you tried to have your religious beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others or if I argued to keep true to the secular ideals of personal autonomy!

      But, to be clear, there is a fundamental conflict between religion and science that cannot ever be bridged - regardless of the best of intentions - without one side or the other either capitulating or giving ground. Right now, it's religion giving ground. This is an epistemic problem that cannot be dismissed or ameliorated (although that doesn't stop many accommodationists from trying quite unsuccessfully).

      Unlike confidence in science, belief backed by faith (in the religious sense) belongs solely in the private domain where each of us has the personal authority to influence our behaviours accordingly. But we do not have the equivalent authority to dismiss scientific consensus in public matters because of these contrary personal beliefs. In other words, we don;t have the right to make up our own facts.

      Global warming is a primary example; by all respected metrics it's real, it's here, it's now, and private beliefs do not counter the accumulated scientific consensus that we need to publicly respond to this preeminent problem for our species. Private belief also plays a central role in diverting public investment away from best practices in medical science and into 'alternative' woo. This shift away from best practices is also being legislated in areas of law, education, defense, and foreign policy. Public research and investment is being diverted on the basis of private religious beliefs of legislators and administrators and professionals and captains of industry that are misapplied from the private to the public domain. In many of these areas, I suspect we might also disagree about where the boundary between private and public resides; my experience is that religious beliefs (and those who hold them) tend not to recognize ANY boundary that might in any way curtail the authority presumed from holding those beliefs. The camel's nose of religion seems to be under every tent of the public domain as if belief is accompanied by knowledge. If anyone can show me knowledge produced by religious belief alone (as a method of inquiry), then I will revisit my opinion that it produces none ever.

      As for your point about the scientific method, let's be clear: it is not enhanced in any way by the privilege that religious belief presumes it is due. Those who developed it were not today's christians by any stretch of the imagination but remember that just because some priests are pedophiles does not mean that pedophilia is therefore compatible with the priests' religious faith.

      All religious claims for historical creationism are equivalently based solely on belief. At best - like abiogenesis - we should agree that neither of us knows and hold that opinion until such a time that reality offers us compelling evidence to adduce a change. Belief of the religious kind does not produce knowledge and certainly doesn't fill in gaps where we currently have none. Yet far too often, this is exactly where religious belief stakes out its ground. As if this weren't bad enough, too often the conclusions deduced from these beliefs are then imposed on the rest of us by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, public education, and so on. Nowhere is this more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality... but that's for another day.

  11. Speaking of best arguments against design, let's look at a rather old - but recently popular (so I naturally was reminded of our exchange - short clip from Neil deGrasse from a cosmologically informed point of view why creationism makes no sense:


  12. Well, tildeb, if you really believe this constitutes a "best argument against design," you really are admitting the vacuousness of the materialist view of reality.

    This is nothing but a petty rant by someone who should be above such a thing ... but I do thank you for it as it gives me more fodder and material for a future post.

    Cheers ..

    1. You started this post with questioning Nye's scientific credentials... as if that academic state in some way cast the scientific conclusions he espouses that creationism is equivalent to make believe into doubt. So came across de Grasse's little video and thought I should share it with you and your readers to show that the scientific conclusions you seem determined to reject from Nye remain the same for de Grasse... showing that academic status of evolutionary proponents is not the criteria you should be basing your doubt on; it's wholly a lack of understanding because of contrary religious belief why evolution by natural selection is true - adduced by overwhelming evidence from reality - that is obviously the central issue here, and the one major factor - religious belief - that underpins ALL creationist beliefs.

    2. tildeb, your characterization of my post is false. Yes, I pointed out Nye's lack of credentials but only to inform people (myself included) who have grown to know and trust "the science guy" as a credible source of information when he is no such thing. Then, I went on to say: "just because Mr. Nye's credentials as a "science guy" are lacking, that doesn't mean we should dismiss him out of hand. We should give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives us reason not to. Second, we need to recognize the difference between an assertion and an argument. Anyone can make assertions but no one should be compelled to accept them unless they are supported by evidence, logic and good reasoning."

      When we analyze Nye's evidence, logic and reasoning, the case doesn't get any better. Worse, I would argue ... unless (like you) one is predisposed to dismiss the evidence before they consider it.

      As I said, if you think the childish video rant by de Grasse helps your case, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, a couple of points he makes (that the universe is meant to kill us off .. paraphrased) are so ridiculously ignorant of the actual arguments, he actually makes the very point Intelligent Design proponents are making themselves.

      It would be funny if it wasn't so sad ... and rude.


Though I do not moderate comments, I reserve the right to delete any comment that I deem inappropriate. You don't have to agree with me, but I don't tolerate abusive or objectionable language of any kind.